Thanksgiving in March

March 14, 2017 · 0 comments

by Keith Seitter, AMS Executive Director

The past few months have been a period of increased anxiety for many of us in the weather, water, and climate community as we contemplate how changes in the nation’s administration will impact agencies and programs, and, ultimately, how well our science and the services based on it can move forward. Despite the fact that we work in disciplines that routinely deal with uncertainty, it is not easy for us to deal with the particular flavor of uncertainty we have been facing, or to keep it from being deeply unsettling.

At AMS, we have focused on being even more vigilant in working to defend the integrity of the scientific process and in trying to ensure that the best peer-reviewed science is brought to bear on issues facing our country and the world. Recognizing the importance of those efforts—and even with occasional successes in them—does not keep one from becoming disheartened in dealing with our “post-fact world.”

I was feeling particularly discouraged recently as all this weighed on me, and then I realized that what I should be doing is creating the kind of list many of us do on Thanksgiving. Here it is:

  • I’m thankful to be part of a community whose work really matters. And that people become part of this community because they know how much this work matters and they bring dedication and passion to it every day.
  • I’m thankful that the general public appreciates and depends on the work of our community. They look to us every day to help them make decisions both big and small, and put their trust in us to keep them out of harm’s way (even though they may, at times, complain about our efforts).
  • I’m thankful that we can—and do—rely on a scientific process to discern how our environment works so that we can speak with confidence. It is not what we believe, but what we can observe, measure, and objectively model based on known physics that guides us.
  • I’m thankful I work at an organization guided by a Council made up of gifted and dedicated volunteer leaders, and that I can spend my time working with an incredible professional staff.

By the time I got to the end of this list, I was no longer feeling discouraged but, instead, was energized and ready to keep working toward making sure that the best available scientific knowledge and understanding was getting into the hands of policymakers at all levels. We may be in the midst of particularly challenging times, but AMS, as a very highly respected “honest broker” covering the science and services of the weather, water, and climate community, is in a position to be particularly effective in working through those challenges.

(A version of this post appeared in AMS Executive Director Keith Seitter’s “Letter from Headquarters” column in the February 2017 BAMS.)