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A greenhouse in the White House

Photonics Spectra
Jan 2009
Diane Laurin

Here’s a cheerful tidbit. Last month when U.S. President-elect Barack Obama named Harvard physicist John Holdren and marine biologist Jane Lubchenco as his top science advisers, science took back its rightful position in the White House.

For the first time in eight years politics will consult with science on solutions to global warming and energy dependency. And not a moment too soon.

Holdren will be Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Lubchenco will head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the first woman to do so. Both are world-renowned experts on climate change who have shown little patience with the Bush administration’s listless response to global warming. Thankfully, Holdren and Lubchenco have the spirit it takes to direct the nation toward more aggressive environmental policies.

Holdren also would direct the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology with co-chairs Harold Varmus, a Nobel Prize winner and former Director of the National Institutes of Health, and Eric Lander, an MIT professor and specialist in human genome research.

Shortly before these announcements, Obama named Nobel Prize winner Steven Chu as energy secretary. Chu has been director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, where he has aggressively pursued research into alternative energy.

That’s five insightful, forceful science authorities on the government’s watch. How’s that for a green march on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue?

“Whether it's the science to slow global warming; the technology to protect our troops and confront bioterror and weapons of mass destruction; the research to find life-saving cures; or the innovations to remake our industries and create 21st century jobs – today, more than ever before, science holds the key to our survival as a planet and our security and prosperity as a nation,” President-elect Obama said in a radio speech in early December.

“It is time we once again put science at the top of our agenda and worked to restore America's place as the world leader in science and technology.”

As we wave goodbye to the elusive environmental policies we’ve kept company with for too many years, we can look forward to the discipline that is our newest national resource.

Louis Pasteur’s words bear repeating today: “Science is the highest personification of the nation because that nation will remain the first which carries the furthest the works of thought and intelligence.”


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