Government Affairs Program

Government Affairs Program Advisory Committee Meeting Report

April 2, 2000
American Geological Institute Headquarters
Alexandria, Virginia


An agenda with links to background materials and cover memo accompany this report.

Attendees

Murray Hitzman, Chair, Golden, CO
Joseph Briskey, Society of Economic Geologists, Reston, VA
Carol Bowers, Geo-Institute, Reston, VA
Virginia Colten-Bradley, The Clay Minerals Soceity, Alexandria, VA
Thomas Dutro, Association of Earth Science Editors, Washington, DC
Karl Glasener, Soil Science Society of America, Washington, DC
Page Herbert, American Institute of Professional Geologists, Myersville, MD
Mary Anne Holmes, Assication for Women Geoscientists, Lincoln, NE
Blair Jones, The Clay Minerals Society, Reston, VA
Margo Kingston, American Geophysical Union, Reston, VA
Gordon Matheson, Geo-Institute, Bethesda, MD
Clint Moore, American Association of Petroleum Geologists, Houston, TX
Thomas Moore, Society for Sedimentary Geology, Bartlesville, OK
John Padan, Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration, Montgomery Village, MD
Jamie Robertson, Association of American State Geologists, Madison, WI
Barbara Wainman, US Geological Survey, Reston, VA

Alison Alcott, AGI/AAPG Policy Intern
David Applegate, AGI GAP Director
Margaret Baker, AGI GAP Staff Associate
John Dragonetti, AGI GAP Senior Advisor
Julie Jackson, AGI Outreach Coordinator
Eileen McLellan, 1999-2000 AGI Congressional Science Fellow
Russell Slayback, AGI President

1.0 Introductions and Preliminary Business

The report from the September 1999 GAPAC meeting was approved. GAP finances were reviewed, including a table of member society contributions.

Staff Action Item: Send contribution letter to the Paleontological Society Secretary.

Staff Action Item: Distribute electronic copies of member society contribution table to SSSA and SEcG.

2.0 Update on Recent GAP Activities

Applegate provided an update on the upcoming Science-Engineering-Technology Congressional Visits Day event, which a number of committee members were attending later the same week. He also reported on plans for AGI to participate in the Coalition for National Science Funding's annual congressional exhibition and asked the committee to let him know of any research projects that would make a good presentation for a lay audience. Applegate and AGI/AAPG Intern Alison Alcott gave a progress report on the survey being conducted by AGI staff of public policy activities by IUGS member societies. Fourteen organizations had responded so far, and the results are being tabulated.

Staff Action Item: After the results are tabulated, discuss with IUGS President Robin Brett whether to do another iteration before releasing a final report.

Alcott also gave a presentation on her activities as an AGI/AAPG intern, describing the range of energy and environmental issues about which she had researched and written web updates. Committee members asked what the reaction was to her taking the internship by other students and faculty at the University of Utah, where she recently defended her master's thesis. Alcott responded that the reaction was generally positive but with some curiosity.

Applegate described AGI's congressional testimony and other advocacy related to fiscal year 2001 appropriations for the geosciences, including support for the National Science Foundation's Earthscope initiative. In discussing AGI's testimony before the VA, HUD & Independent Agencies appropriation subcommittee, the question was raised why AGI does not comment on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's budget, also funded by that bill (along with NSF and NASA). Colten-Bradley noted that several EPA offices undertake earth-science research and related activities but that the agency's priorities are given over to administration initiatives, congressional mandates, and court deadlines. Although much of the research focuses on toxicology, earth-science activities include the Office of Surface Water's mandates for liners using geologically based materials.

Committee Action Item: Let staff know what earth science activities take place at EPA.

Staff Action Item: Have a person from EPA come talk to the committee at its next meeting. A similar suggestion was made with respect to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The committee discussed the various means by which GAP communicates with the geoscience community -- website, e-mails, and Geotimes. In discussing the need for greater Geotimes readership, Briskey suggested getting professors to encourage students to subscribe to Geotimes and also encouraged Geotimes to make some mention of AGI on the front cover [this is being done, beginning with the May 2000 issue].

3.0 Reports from Member Societies

Applegate distributed a report by SVP representative Ted J. Vlamis, who could not attend the meeting:

Ted J. Vlamis (SVP) written report -- 1) We continue to be concerned about the protection of fossils, especially vertebrate fossils, on federal public lands. In October SVP and the Paleontological Society adopted a Joint Statement regarding Paleontological Resouces on Public Lands. We would very much appreciate feedback from all member societies on this joint statement. While paleontological resources may not be of direct concern to all member societies, paleontology is a gateway which attracts many people into the Earth Sciences. We hope that the broad concepts embodied in this statement can be supported by all member societies. Thanks in advance for sending your feedback to me. Ted J. Vlamis, 6 Brookfield Rd., Wichita, KS 67206, (316) 685-2266 (w), (316) 683-5520 (h), tjvlamis@aol.com

2) SVP is awaiting a report from the Department of the Interior regarding the Management of Paleontological Resources on Federal Public Lands. We believe the conclusions of this report will have important public policy implications for how these resources should be managed.

Mary Anne Holmes (AWG) -- Reported that the priority advocacy issues for AWG are science education and affirmative action.

Gordon Matheson (Geo-Institute) -- The Geo-Institute is seeking to develop a more pro-active role in trying to assist AEG promote state registration of geologists; they also support efforts to establish a congressional natural hazards caucus. A current concern is the trend in environmental projects toward pay-for-performance contracts in which the contractor is paid when cleanup levels are met. This method is being widely applied by EPA, whereas the G-I view is that it should have limited application with many exceptions because it can lead to over-simplicity of subsurface characterization.

Slayback noted that registration bills were moving in New York and New Hampshire.

Tom Dutro (AESE) -- Tom stated that he will continue to encourage the paleontologists to be involved with this committee, it is just a matter of finding the right person. AESE is concerned about the lack of good editing and publishing on the web and encouraged the other societies to develop readable, well-designed websites. He discussed recent position statements from geoscience societies, expressing concern about the AGU statement on the teaching of evolution but support for the 1981 AGI statement on that subject [both endorsed by the AGI Executive Committee in January 2000]. He encouraged both organizations to keep thinking about a better statement. He also noted that the AGI evolution brochure revision was still in the works. He then turned to the SVP/PS position statement on fossil collecting, noting that there was still a lack of agreement among the paleo societies or among the land management agencies. He noted that the principal decisionmaking power resided in regional land managers and encouraged paleontologists to get beyond their fears of professional collectors.

Joe Briskey (SEG) -- Joe stated that he did not have an official report. SEG just moved into its new headquarters in Littleton CO. The society has taken an official position on evolution, endorsing the AGI/AGU statements. Brian Hull from the University of Witwaatersrand was recently hired as SEG Executive Director with expectation he would be more active with public affairs and outreach.

Jamie Robertson (AASG) -- AASG continues to be actively engaged with the federal government, having just completed their most recent semi-annual Washington visits. Thirty state geologists were in town for the second annual presentation of the AASG Pick and Gavel award at a Cosmos Club ceremony. The award is an attempt to recognize proponents of science in support of public policy that in turn supports the geosciences. The award went this year to Rep. Jim Gibbons (R-NV), the only geologist in Congress, and NSF Director Rita Colwell. AASG’s activities focus on the National Geologic Mapping Act. The programs that it authorizes include USGS, state surveys, and universities still primitive enough to support geologic mapping. In the FY 2001 USGS budget request, geologic mapping is up for a $8 million increase.

Clint Moore (AAPG) -- Clint reviewed the AAPG position papers and described the new statements either recently approved or awaiting approval from the AAPG Executive Committee. AAPG is considering whether to weigh in on the Texas registration bill since one-third of its membership is in Texas. A major obstacle has been a geologist, Perry Bass, who is strongly opposed to registration and has spent a considerable sum of money to block the bill. He described the backroom deals that ultimately did in the legislation. Clint announced that he was recently elected district director for the North Harris County Water Authority, which serves a large segment of the Houston area -- four million people. On the national front, many in the oil patch were shocked to see the Clinton Administration embrace the expensing of geological and geophysical costs, which would help domestic production. Hearings are being held on the recent spike in oil prices and there is a general swell of interest in energy policy. He described the tremendous natural gas potential unavailable due to the offshore moratorium along the eastern US seaboard, noting that 0.5 bcf of natural gas from Canada’s Sable Island development is coming into the US in addition to the TransCanada system into New York.

Committee Action Item: Let Hitzman or Applegate know if there is anything AGI should be doing to help AIPG and other groups involved in state registration. In the past, there have been Geotimes editorials on registration, should a Comment be sought?

A general discussion ensued on registration with support being voiced with the caveat that these laws should not be compulsory for practicing petroleum geology. Matheson noted that many engineers are not registered, for example those in government or teaching -- the only reason to be registered is if you are doing public liability work, thus registration for geologists is a benefit if you are doing groundwater studies so that geologists can go toe to toe with professional enginers. It reflects state recognition that a person is a legitimate professional. Robertson noted that in public policy efforts, one’s credibility as a geologist is often the first thing they will go after. Slayback noted a damaging trend toward licensing "site professionals" or "environment professionals," allowing soft science people to qualify for that licensee and then make decisions about groundwater flow despite little or no training in that area.Another noted that Certified Groundwater Professional is not recognized as a professional entity. Within states, registration is not enough. For example, Virginia has PG registration but without teeth -- there is nothing that a geologist can sign that a PE can't sign. In Pennsylvania and Delaware, the geologist registration laws have teeth -- engineers can’t sign for groundwater hydrology studies. As an exception, Herbert noted that there are Army Corps projects in Virginia where PG's can sign for certain things that PE's cannot.

Blair Jones (CMS) -- CMS has its annual meeting in June. Their emphasis is on societal interest in K-12 education. CMS has significant interest in the role of clays in environmental issues, also exploitation of clay mineral deposits. They are wrestling with how to better educate the public about what we do as geoscientists. He noted that OSHA is about to lower municipal exposure level on crystalline silica, which will impact minerals-related industries. The crystalline silica litigation could be even worse than asbestos. He also noted the Libby, Montana vermiculite mine asbestos controversy. OSHA redefined asbestos in 1992 -- at the time, mineralogists did not do a good job of defining what asbestos was.

Hitzman noted that there is little funding for geoscience research into crystalline silica, an area where we do not have the data and it will come to bite us. He emphasized the importance of health and geoscience issues and the need to characterize material before being used in toxicological studies. Jones noted that AGI Executive Committee Member-at-Large Larry Wilding worked on silica in soils and may be a good resource.

John Padan (SME) -- SME Executive Director Gary Howell was very pleased to be represented and to receive e-mails from GAP but did not have any issues to raise. The principal concern for the local SME section involves outreach, education of very young kids, and judging county science fairs. The second issue is a core repository but has received no recent feedback

Staff Action Item: Check with Marcus Milling about whether there has been any further interaction with the mining community on the AGI data repository effort.

Tom Moore (SEPM) -- Tom reported that he had run into a brick wall with respect to SEPM policy activity, reflecting the society’s international membership. The current president is from the Netherlands and is not interested in US policy issues and views SEPM as a non-political organization.

Page Herbert (AIPG) -- He distributed a one-page handout on AIPG issues (attached). They are pushing on registration. Robertson noted that AIPG and AASG are again doing a joint booth at the National Conference of State Legislatures annual meeting, where last year they set the hook by hacking off pieces of a huge gypsum crystal from Nevada and then handing them out

Karl Glasener (SSSA) -- A current issue is the Clean Water Act regulations being implemented by EPA under court order, requiring comprehensive nutrient management plans for livestock operations including nutrients, soils, and transport. A constant challenge is getting people to recognize the important role of soils in many environmental issues.

Margo Kingston (AGU) -- Gave her presentation later in afternoon. Since the last GAPAC meeting, AGU has adopted position statement on the teaching of evolution and the verifiability of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). AGU’s Spring Meeting is being held in Washington DC and will take advantage of the location to hold a number of public policy sessions and events, including sessions on NSF at 50, science on the campaign trail (featuring former House Speaker Newt Gingrich), coastal issues, and the Kyoto treaty. There will also be a workshop on communicating with Congress to be held in the Senate.

3.1 CoFARM Presentation by Karl Glasener

The agriculture research community is faced with 10 years of flat funding for federal research. As a result, they have formed the One-Voice Coalition with NASULGC. The focus is on achieving a substantial increase in federal funding to support agriculture research. They are seeking to break the divide and conquer mentality that has dominated the agriculture community, where energy has been focused on killing each other’s programs, circling the wagons and shooting in. The unified approach takes a page from the biomedical research community’s playbook. NSF supporters have also gone a similar route. Agriculture is a part of every aspect of our lives and ag research could be a part of every appropriations bill, not just the US Department of Agriculture. The next step is to convene a One-Voice Coalition workshop to develop a plan making a strong case for emerging needs and push for a doubling in agricultural research funding within five years, then implement the plan with the help of other groups, including universities, commodity groups, industry, natural resources groups, environmental groups, consumer groups, federal agencies, Congress, and others. An important part of this effort is to end the antagonism with environmental groups since whenever the ag community goes head to head with the environmental community, we always lose. A new message is needed: the old message of safe abundant affordable food supply does not resonate with the public. The coalition will select funding priorities for the first year (FY 2002) and from that develop a single message pushing a limited number of priorities. They will identify specific appropriations objectives by agency and compare them against specific appropriations bills and general policy issues. The goal is to identify one major appropriations issue on which to focus activities then determine short- vs long-term issues. As part of its strategy, the coalition will get a lobbyist who knows everybody in the ag industry. The coalition would like AGI and its member societies to be involved in this process.

Holmes noted that on the issue of carbon sequestration, there has not been a lot of communication between soil scientists studying modern soils and geologists studying paleosols, yet there is much to be learned from greater interaction between these two groups.

4.0 Update on Earth Science Week and AGI Outreach Plans

AGI Director of Outreach and Communications Julie Jackson brought the group up to speed on AGI’s outreach efforts and invited everyone to participate in Earth Science Week 2000. She thanked GAP and the state surveys for their efforts to get official recognition for Earth Science Week, which included proclamations from nearly 40 governors as well as city mayors. There has been increased international interest with activities in Australia and 25 other countries, much of the communication over the Internet.

Staff Action Item: Pursue international recognition of Earth Science Week.

One challenge has been getting reports back on what people are doing. Sustainability and growth of ESW programs depends on our ability to demonstrate impact. AGI is trying to get more information up on the web on activities at the local level. Plan for 2000 is to focus on earth science achievements of the 20th century. ESW 2000 is co-chaired by AAPG President Ray Thomasson and Research Systems CEO David Stern. A question was asked about national media coverage to which Julie responded that the first need is to capture local media, but AGI is also trying for an article in Parade magazine and the Mini Page. The possibility of photo opportunities with the Gore and Bush campaigns was raised since education is a big campaign issue as is the environment.

Committee Action Item: Need examples of photo-op ideas that might interest the Gore and Bush campaigns.

Kingston noted the upcoming AGU session on science on the campaign trail as an opportunity to ask more about that topic. Jackson described other outreach activities including the AGI Environmental Awareness series and accompanying posters and bookmarks. AGI is trying to riase funds from member societies and geoscience agencies to participate in the AIP Discoveries and Breakthroughs in Science (Inside Science) television news programming project. AGI participated on a pilot basis in 1998-99, doing five TV news stories. Under the new plan, stations will pay for regular science news stories. Jackson also described the Earth Science World website, designed to be a broad-based inclusive portal site to help people find their way around no matter their interest in the earth sciences.

Committee Action Item -- Take a look at Earth Science World website (http://www.earthscienceworld.org) and let Jackson (jaj@agiweb.org) know what you think.

Moore asked whether AGI had considered having an annual theme for Earth Science Week.

5.0 Congressional Natural Hazards Caucus Developments

Applegate described current activities underway to establish a congressional natural hazards caucus. Co-chairs have been identified in the Senate -- Senators Ted Stevens (R-AK) and John Edwards (D-NC) -- and a broad coalition of supporting organizations are helping to plan the initial caucus event slated for early summer. Applegate encouraged any member societies not already involved to get in touch with him if they are interested.

Committee Action Item -- Let Applegate know if your society is interested in becoming involved with the natural hazards caucus work group.

Committee Action Item -- Encourage your senators to join the caucus.

6.0 Position Statements and Their Implementation

Hitzman and Applegate initiated a discussion of how AGI develops position statements, citing the process used for the recent climate statement, which was subsequently endorsed by 16 member society presidents. The question was raised how best to develop statements that reflect the broad interests of the geoscience community. AGI has also developed a page on its website that seeks to include all member society position statements.

The recent AGI Executive Committee endorsement of the 1981 AGI statement on evolution as well as the new AGU statement was discussed. As noted earlier, the Society of Economic Geologists has endorsed the AGI and AGU statements. Tom Moore described the recent events in other states besides Kansas, particularly the trend in southern states toward placing disclaimers in high school biology textbooks. A handout was distributed that he prepared on new approaches to opposing evolution, including the disclaimers used in Oklahoma and Alabama textbooks (attached below).

Staff Action Item: Distribute AGI Executive Committee action on AGI and AGU evolution statements to member society presidents for their consideration and endorsement.

Clint Moore noted that most of the AAPG position statements have focused on economic issues and thought it unlikely that AAPG would take a position on evolution. He noted that letters to AAPG Explorer in the wake of an article on this issue were split for and against creationism. He emphasized the need to work with mainstream churches and perhaps put their endorsements of evolution up on the AGI website. Having worked with the conservative Christian faction of the Republican party in Texas, he knows that their goal is to eliminate evolution from the textbooks. A good strategy is to separate the hard-liners from the mainstream of the American people who are at peace with both the evolution and their religion.

Clint Moore also noted that the AAPG process for taking positions had worked well to date, guided by the focus of the AAPG constitution on advancing the well-being of the society's members. They plan to package their statements as a national energy strategy proposal.

Robertson supported AGI's role as a clearinghouse for information and member society interests.

Staff Action Item: Get AASG position statements from Jon Price. Get Geo-Institute position statements on the web. Add both to AGI website list of member society statements.

Committee Action Item: Let Applegate know if your society's position statements are not on the AGI site: http://www.agiweb.org/gap/position_statements.html

7.0 Transition to a New Administration -- What Should AGI Do?

With a new U.S. president taking office in 2001, the committee discussed what AGI should do for the incoming Administration. The focus was on two areas: development of an AGI white paper and nominees for presidential appointments that matter to the geosciences. A white paper was attempted for the incoming Clinton/Gore Administration in 1992 with a conference convened at AGI, a draft report developed, but no final report due to dissension. The group agreed that were such a white paper to be undertaken again, the group brought together would have to be member society representatives.

Robertson suggested that the white paper was not worth doing, but that AGI could guide member societies in their own efforts both in presenting position documents and in proposing nominees. AGI can help people understand the process, where the pressure points are and who are the key people. He suggested looking at the new administration and identifying people who could be put forward as nominees that would be sensitive to geoscience issues. Briskey noted that there was a window of opportunity during the campaign before the issues are settled. Padan noted that every transition team is chock full of people who worked on the campaign.

Committee Action Item: Let Applegate know by May 15th which federal appointed positions have an impact on your society. Set deadline of September 1st for compiled list.

Staff and Chair Action Item: Develop a set of topics for which position documents could be developed.

8.0 AGI Congressional Science Fellowship

Applegate reported on his recent presentation to the AGI Foundation, which has provided support to initiate the fellowship and fund its first four years. Slayback noted that there was strong sentiment within the foundation that this is a program they wish to keep funding, and he has proposed a strong push to create an endowment that would more permanently fund the fellowship.

Robertson initiated a discussion of how to maximize the value of the fellowship by leveraging the post-fellowship experience. Applegate reported that AGI's first fellow, David Wunsch, had recently proposed a post-fellowship speaking tour and was using AGI matching funds to visit member society meetings and universities to spread the word. McLellan suggested that another approach would be to develop traveling workshops that could be given at the state level.

Staff Action Item: AGI needs to consider developing policy workshop involving fellows. [Note: AGI assisted in such a workshop at the Spring AGU meeting, which was held in Washington DC; a number of former fellows participated in a workshop at the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing room for meeting participants interested to learn more about how to interact with Congress.]

Briskey initiated a discussion asking the group to re-examine the purpose of having a congressional fellows program, specifically whether the fellow is to represent the broader geoscience community, how to get distribution across disciplines. He asked whether there were other considerations beyond the standard scientific credentials, policy experience, and communication skills that should go into the fellow's selection. Padan stated that since congressional offices do not have multiple scientists, that sending a good communicator to the Hill, one who can work across many issues, should be adequate. Kingston noted that at AGU, they do not look at the discipline so much as the candidate's ability to represent the various geophysical sciences. Briskey also brought up how to deal with the fact that some, by the nature of their profession, will have more demonstrated policy experience than others. Tom Moore argued that these are valid considerations but that the selection committee should not be strapped. Holmes stated that AGI should select the best person and not try to pigeonhole disciplines. Slayback added that the key is keeping a breadth of experience on the selection committee. Robertson noted that the prime goal was to get geoscience knowledge on the Hill and emphasized that no office will deal narrowly in one discipline but will require the fellow to go well outside their specialization, making that specialization somewhat moot. He supported having such discussions, noting that it is important to keep asking these kinds of questions, forcing us to re-examine why we are doing this program.

8.1 Presentation by AGI Congressional Science Fellow

Eileen -- she has become THE scientist in the office; issues selected for you by virtue of the office's interests; political divisions within one state; land exchanges to sort out blocks of land to get larger, contiguous parcels; size of timber stands; saw whole process in salmon screen bill, working with stakeholders and witnesses; authorizing: mentally spending your lottery winnings before you buy a ticket; not much focus on hydrology or sediment movement; TMDLs; you have to get to the airplane on time; focus on goal rather than all the things you do that might get you there

AGI’s 1999-2000 Congressional Science Fellow, Dr. Eileen McLellan, discussed her very positive experiences so far working in the personal office of Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR). She reported that she has become recognized as the scientist in the office and thus is asked to handle a range of technical issues, many of them far from the realm of the geosciences. She has recently been working on federal land exchanges in Oregon – the senator’s support of a given land exchange depended on the size of timber stands needed for a viable ecosystem. She has seen the whole legislative process working on a bill on salmon screening, starting with the drafting process, working with stakeholders, shepherding it through the hearing process, and on to a vote. She described the authorization process as mentally spending your lottery winnings before you buy a ticket, that being the appropriations process. She encouraged greater attention on the role of hydrology and sediment movement in addressing salmon restoration. She has also been working on how best to address non-point-source pollution under the Clean Water Act, describing the TMDL (total maximum daily load) approach – which addresses outcomes – as akin to the need to get to the airplane on time, focusing on the goal rather than all the things you do that might get you there.

9.0 USGS Reorganization

McLellan’s presentation was followed by a presentation from recently appointed USGS Outreach Chief, Barbara Wainman, who joined the Department of the Interior two years ago after a long career as an aide to Rep. Ralph Regula (R-OH), chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and Related Agencies. Under the leadership of USGS Director Chip Groat, the survey has recently undertaken a reorganization of its outreach efforts, centralizing congressional and media activities out of the director’s office rather than as isolated operations in the divisions – now have 25 staff. Groat has been very willing to make presentations on the Hill and with stakeholders. The USGS has also initiated a series of listening sessions modeled after the House Appropriations subcommittee's hearings for outside witnesses. The USGS has also initiated a series of Capitol Hill briefings for congressional staff. Upcoming ones will address water issues in the Rio Grande basin, coastal issues, Great Lakes mapping, droughts and floods, and volcanoes tied to the Mt. St. Helens anniversary. Wainman expressed an eagerness to work with the newly formed Congressional Natural Hazards Caucus. The feedback she has received from their Hill contacts has been very positive, and she hopes that the professions of great respect for the survey will be reflected in the appropriations bills.

Kingston commented on the importance of working with the media and asked about the greater outreach role for regional directors. Briskey asked Wainman for her opinion on who would make the most effective science fellow on the Hill to which she responded that it would have to be someone who could handle working for a 24-year-old legislative assistant without an "I'm an important person persona." She added that being thin would help too given the cramped space in House offices! Other questions focused on the need for increased cooperation between USGS and the National Science Foundation. The committee discussed the role of the White House Office of Management and Budget, which has been particularly obstreperous when it comes to increased funding for USGS initiatives related to natural disasters. Wainman indicated that it was important for the community to address its concerns to three places: OMB, the leadership of the Department of the Interior, and Capitol Hill.

10.0 Review Action Items and Set Next Meeting

Action items were duly reviewed, and the next committee meeting was to be set via e-mail. The meeting then adjourned for dinner at the Peking Gourmet.



American Institute of Professional Geologists
Report to GAP Advisory Committee
April 2, 2000

AIPG, through the volunteer efforts of its members in 33 Sections and AIPG National headquarters, continues its national, state, and local activities aimed at 1) supporting geologists to address professional issues and 2) informing the ‘public’ about the crucial roles geologists fill in society and the economy. A priority for AIPG is to continue supporting an increase in cooperation among sister societies in the furtherance of common professional objectives.

State-level activities through mobilization of Section Members:

National-level actions through mobilization of Members nationwide: Organizational level:

Report Prepared by Tom Moore on the New Approach to Opposing Evolution

Christian fundamentalists have lost a number of battles in court in recent years, including but not limited to the Edwards v. Aguillard decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, that have ruled creationism (in the guise of "creation science") is religion and may perhaps be taught in a comparative religion course but that it may not be used in the science classroom as an alternative curriculum. This has lead the creationists to shift their tactics, rather, to suppress and belittle evolution education by

- disclaimers that single out evolution from all other science precepts and tell the students (and parents) ahead of time that "evolution is a controversial theory" that "some scientists believe", implying that students need not take it seriously;

- pressuring through local school districts to have teachers present evolution as "just a theory"--but they don't mean "theory" as in an explanation of collected facts, but rather as one Tennessee state legislator (who had introduced a bill to require all state teachers to just this) defined "theory" as "a whim".

- demanding that teachers be forced to take the "creation science" precepts and "teach the evidence against evolution" whether that so-called evidence is founded in sound science or not.

In November, 1996, the Alabama State Board of Education in a 6-1 vote approved a policy to insert a 250-word statement into biology texts. A recent imbroglio erupted in Oklahoma when the small, fundamentalist-stacked, Oklahoma State Textbook Committee voted in November, 1999 to attempt the same tactic. Attached below are copies of both the Alabama and Oklahoma textbook disclaimers because it is evident that they are alike enough that it is unlikely that they were approaches developed completely independently. Similar attempts, some at least temporarily successful, have been foisted upon (or driven by) individual school district boards from Georgia to Washington.

Similarly, "just a theory" and "teach the evidence against evolution" initiatives have sprouted up in legislative and school administrative bodies in places one might suspect: North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma, but also well beyond the "Bible Belt" South in school districts in Ohio, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Arizona and Washington, to name just a few. Unfortunately, too many teachers and most administrators don't know enough about evolution themselves to know why the promoted "evidence against evolution" are bogus arguments or why "just a theory" is a weak play on perception of semantics.

Alabama Textbook Disclaimer

This textbook discusses evolution, a controversial theory some scientists present as a scientific explanation for the origin of living things, such as plants, animals and humans.

No one was present when life first appeared on earth. Therefore, any statement about life's origin should be considered theory, not fact.

The word "evolution" may refer to many types of change. Evolution describes changes that occur within a species. (White moths, for example, may "evolve" into gray moths.) This process is microevolution, which can be observed and described as fact. Evolution may also refer to the change of one living thing into another, such as reptiles into birds. This process, called macroevolution, has never been observed and should be considered a theory. Evolution also refers to unproven beliefs that random, undirected forces produced a world of living things.

There are many unanswered questions about the origin of life which are not mentioned in your textbook, including:

-- Why did the major groups of animals suddenly appear in the fossil record (known as the "Cambrian explosion")?

-- Why have no new major groups of living things appeared in the fossil record for a long time?

-- How did you and all living things come to possess a complete and complex set of "instructions" for building a living body?

Study hard and keep an open mind. Someday, you may contribute to the theories of how living things appeared on earth.

Oklahoma Textbook Disclaimer

A message from the Oklahoma State Textbook Committee:

This textbook discusses evolution, a controversial theory which some scientists present as scientific explanation for the origin of living things, such as plants and humans.

No one was present when life first appeared on earth. Therefore, any statement about life's origins should be considered as theory, not fact.

The word evolution may refer to many types of change. Evolution describes changes that occur within a species. (White moths, for example, may evolve into gray moths.) This process is micro-evolution, which can be observed and described as fact. Evolution may also refer to the change of one living thing to another, such as reptiles into birds. This process, called macro-evolution, has never been observed and should be considered a theory. Evolution also refers to the unproven belief that random, undirected forces produced a world of living things.

There are many unanswered questions about the origin of life which are not mentioned in your textbook, including: Why did the major groups of animals suddenly appear in the fossil record, known as the Cambrian Explosion? Why have no new major groups of living things appeared in the fossil record in a long time? Why do major groups of plants and animals have no transitional forms in the fossil record? How did you and all living things come to possess such a complete and complex set of instructions for building a living body?

Study hard and keep an open mind. Someday you may contribute to the theories of how living things appeared on earth.



Memo Accompanying Distribution of Draft Report

June 28, 2000

To:     Government Affairs Program Advisory Committee Members
            GAP Advisory Committee Meeting Attendees
            AGI Executive Committee

From: Dave Applegate, AGI Government Affairs Program

Re: Report from April 2000 GAP Advisory Committee Meeting
 

The draft report from the April 2000 Government Affairs Program Advisory Committee (GAPAC) meeting, held at AGI Headquarters, is available on the committee's web site at:

http://www.agiweb.org/gapac/report0400.html

Action items follow in this memo. Please note that there are both staff and committee action items.

Please let me or Margaret know if you have any changes or additions to the report or to the action items. Also let us know if you would like to have the minutes sent to you as a Word97 document or in hard copy via snail mail.

The report will be reviewed at the next committee meeting, which will be held over a Sunday and Monday in September or October at AGI headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. Monday will be devoted to visits with federal agencies and congressional staff. Please let Margaret (mab@agiweb.org; 703-379-2480 ext. 212) know which dates work for you: Sep. 10-11, Sep. 17-18, Sep. 24-25, Oct. 1-2.

Action Items from April 2000 meeting:

GAP Staff

Send contribution letter to the Paleontological Society Secretary.

Distribute electronic copies of member society contribution table to SSSA and SEcG.

After the results are tabulated, discuss with IUGS President Robin Brett whether to do another iteration before releasing a final report.

Have a person from EPA come talk to the committee at its next meeting. A similar suggestion was made with respect to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Check with Marcus Milling about whether there has been any further interaction with the mining community on the AGI data repository effort.

Pursue international recognition of Earth Science Week.

Distribute AGI Executive Committee action on AGI and AGU evolution statements to member society presidents for their consideration and endorsement.

Get AASG position statements from Jon Price. Get Geo-Institute position statements on the web. Add both to AGI website list of member society statements.

Staff and Chair Action Item: Develop a set of topics for which position documents could be developed.

AGI needs to consider developing policy workshop involving fellows. [Note: AGI assisted in such a workshop at the Spring AGU meeting, which was held in Washington DC; a number of former fellows participated in a workshop at the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing room for meeting participants interested to learn more about how to interact with Congress.]

Member Society Representatives

Let staff know what earth science activities take place at EPA.

Let Hitzman or Applegate know if there is anything AGI should be doing to help AIPG and other groups involved in state registration. In the past, there have been Geotimes editorials on registration, should a Comment be sought?

Need examples of photo-op ideas that might interest the Gore and Bush campaigns.

Take a look at Earth Science World website (http://www.earthscienceworld.org) and let Jackson (jaj@agiweb.org) know what you think.

Let Applegate know if your society is interested in becoming involved with the natural hazards caucus work group.

Encourage your senators to join the caucus.

Let Applegate know if your society's position statements are not on the AGI site: http://www.agiweb.org/gap/position_statements.html

Let Applegate know by July 15th which federal appointed positions have an impact on your society. Set deadline of September 1st for compiled list.
 


Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Government Affairs Program at govt@agiweb.org.

Uploaded June 28, 2000


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