Blog Post

An Earth Day Message

Apr 21, 2017 | Richard G. Newell

April 22 is Earth Day. This year, the Earth Day Network and the March for Science are co-organizing events on the National Mall in Washington, DC, including a march in support of “the vital public service role science plays in our communities and our world.” There will also be speeches by scientists on how science “protects our air and water, preserves our planet, saves lives with medical treatments, creates new industries, puts food on our tables, educates the next generation, and safeguards our future.” And RFF staff members will be in attendance.

Given that environmental and energy issues are so frequently contentious, this year’s Earth Day website also correctly notes that “Science isn’t Democratic or Republican, liberal or conservative.” 

I am in full agreement with the essential importance of science in policy, in business, and in so many aspects of our well-being.

In fact, the application of rigorous quantitative analysis to inform policy decisions has been one of the hallmark principles guiding research at Resources for the Future (RFF) throughout its full 65 years. During that time, we have provided unflinchingly objective analysis of countless issues—primarily on the economics of energy, the environment, and natural resources.

Today, RFF’s research commitments extend to critical challenges ranging from how to incentivize actions that reduce the risks of climate change and invasive species, to helping scientists and policymakers learn how to interact more productively.

And now, we are looking down at Earth from the heavens to inform this work.

We at RFF recently launched a new consortium supported by a grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)—the Consortium for the Valuation of Applications Benefits Linked with Earth Science, or VALUABLES.

Earth observations from space touch all of our lives every single day. They predict extreme weather, help manage transportation networks, monitor the quality of our environment—and so much more. This new consortium will be dedicated to discovering and disseminating the socioeconomic value of space-derived information—information that can directly benefit our personal health, the economy, and our environment.

The consortium’s work will center on new and existing methods in the science of the value of information, an approach widely used in finance, engineering, information technology, risk assessment and management, and other business and scientific domains.

Our efforts will help continue the growth of new, advanced applications of knowledge derived from space-based observations. Today’s applications include prediction of extreme events like storms, droughts, landslides, earthquakes, and volcanic activity. Other uses are teaching us more about the dynamics of disease outbreaks. Still others are improving how we monitor the quality of our air and water, land use, as well as our changing climate. NASA Earth observations are even revealing Earth’s hidden worlds through “space archaeology.” 

The scientific understanding from collecting these data and investigating the benefits to humans is critical to securing a better quality of life for all of us denizens of this “small blue marble.”

It is the application of science and objective analysis that allows us to continue moving forward. This is a lesson worth amplifying—this Earth Day and every day.

The views expressed in RFF blog posts are those of the authors and should not be attributed to Resources for the Future.