This blog is written by Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Posts appear Monday & Wednesday.
Ecology professor’s political opinions published repeatedly in scientific journals.
William Ripple is a professor of ecology in the Forestry College at Oregon State University. He is also the lead author of the 11,000-name climate emergency statement/petition that became headline news last week after it was published in BioScience.
Ripple has been on the payroll of Oregon State University since he completed his PhD in 1984. That’s thirty-five years of steady work. Wikipedia says he’s now 67. In the foreseeable future, therefore, his handsome paycheque will turn into a gold-plated pension from the Oregon Public Employees Retirement system.
In a world in which young people struggle to land full time jobs, and in which few of us spend an entire career with a single employer, Ripple has led a charmed professional life. How strange that he fancies himself a risk-taker.
According to journalist Bob Weber, of the Canadian Press, Ripple recently declared:
I’m willing to take the risk to speak out and talk about the implications of the science that we’re seeing and how that could potentially affect the citizens of the Earth. [bold added by me; backed up here]
Does this man really consider himself a maverick? Does he really imagine he’s swimming against the tide? That he’s a rebel violating some kind of taboo?
Al Gore. David Suzuki. Leonardo DiCaprio. James Hansen. Greta Thunberg. Has Ripple never heard of those people? Enough UN officials to fill a cruise ship, plus thousands of professors, celebrities, business leaders, and politicians from one end of the globe to the other have been talking incessantly about the environment. For decades. Thousands of green groups have been doing nothing but. Tens of thousands of scientists have participated in the 30-year-old Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
How can this man imagine he’s being courageous by organizing yet another public statement by ‘scientists’?
It turns out, Professor Ripple has been speaking out a lot lately. Not about science, but about how the world would look if he were in charge.
In 2014 he was the lead author of a commentary/opinion piece published in the journal Nature Climate Change. Together with five other academics he set his sights on livestock farmers, people who experience actual, life-and-death risk. For the good of the planet, declared these academics, farmers should raise fewer animals and ordinary people should eat less meat.
Within a six-month period in 2016-2017 Ripple was the lead author of two articles, described as a viewpoint and a counterpoint, published in BioScience. Along with 40 other academics he outlined an ambitious, 13-point plan to save the world’s megafauna (large animals). These articles quote Martin Luther King Jr. regarding “the fierce urgency of now.” They talk about new funding mechanisms, mustering political will, and raising public awareness. They also cite a report by the activist World Wildlife Fund (WWF) as if it were reputable, neutral science.
In mid-2017, Ripple was among nine people who signed their name to a letter published in BioScience calling for a conservation master plan for all of North America. While neglecting to even mention that pesky term national sovereignty, this letter decried “weak government leadership dominated by growth interests” – and said success would depend on “a good understanding of how power works and a lack of fear in using it.”
In late 2017, Ripple was once again the lead author of a BioScience viewpoint titled World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice. In that instance, eight co-authors claimed their text had been endorsed by “15,364 scientist signatories from 184 countries.” It said humans need to:
restrict the number of children we have
drastically diminish our “consumption of fossil fuels, meat, and other resources”
and revise “our economy to reduce wealth inequality”
In early 2018, Ripple’s name was listed first under a letter published in BioScience regarding the above Warning to Humanity. That letter restates Ripple-the-ecologist’s stance on economic matters by declaring that “transformative change is essential, whereby humanity abandons the pursuit of economic growth as the overarching guide to public policy.”
In late 2018, Ripple’s name was listed second on still another viewpoint published in BioScience. This one protested a US-Mexico border wall. Amongst the 18 co-authors was ecologist Paul Ehrlich, whose career has long featured faulty predictions about the future, paired with advocacy of coercive policies in the name of protecting the environment.
The text of that document was apparently endorsed by more than 2,500 scientists. Its four pages insist that “National security can and must be pursued” in a manner that places a higher value on “natural heritage” than on other concerns.
Similarly, the September 2019 edition of Nature Reviews Microbiology contains an 18-page ‘Consensus Statement’ titled Scientists’ warning to humanity: microorganisms and climate change. Ripple’s name appears second on a list of 33 co-authors. The abstract begins by declaring that we live in the Anthropocene – a made-up, political term that lacks proper scientific standing.
Page 14 of this consensus statement includes a box titled “A call to action.” One of the 10 bullet points advocates:
The introduction of teaching of personally, societally, environmentally and sustainability relevant aspects of microbiology in school curricula, with subsequent upscaling of microbiology education at tertiary levels, to achieve a more educated public and appropriately trained scientists and workforce.
Personally relevant microbiology. I have no idea what that means.
In any case, let’s sum up. One appearance in Nature Climate Change. One in Nature Reviews Microbiology. And, counting last week’s petition, seven appearances in BioScience alone since 2016.
An examination of Ripple’s lengthy CV suggests he performed useful, scholarly research earlier in his career, advancing our understanding of trees, wolves, and other topics in which he has relevant expertise.
Lately, though, he has started telling farmers how to do their jobs. He has expressed strong opinions about how much meat you and I should eat, how many children we should have, how much fossil fuels we should burn, and what we should be taught in schools. He has expressed strong opinions about matters involving the economy, national security, and national sovereignty.
Ripple has no formal expertise in any of those topics. These are all political opinions that reflect his own, personal value system. Yet somehow, he has managed to get these political opinions published again and again in scientific journals.
While the public pays his salary.
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