The End of Science.

Unless the Change Agent changes

With Climate Change, Science must change. Otherwise, we are looking at the End of Climate Change – and the End of Science.

If economics is a dismal Science, Science is a disillusionment. In the Philippines, the Philippine Rice Research Institute has been here for 21 years; the International Rice Research Institute has been here for 50 years; even longer, the University of the Philippines Los Baños has been here for 100 years. In those times, the Science of rice succeeded in mathematically increasing the yields of rice all over Asia, Africa, Australia and the Americas, but the world has failed in economically increasing the number of families and villages who increasingly profit from such Science. The Science Solution of some is to reduce the number of people, especially the poor. The rich must increase as the poor must decrease?

To simplify, when I say ‘Science’ here, I refer both to software and hardware, knowledge and device, theory and practice, what are commonly referred to as Science and Technology.

In Science I have trusted. In Science they trust, my President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Director General of IRRI Robert Zeigler. I was 1st Year in College when IRRI was 1st Year in Science in 1960, both in UP Los Baños. I have been working in the world of Science since 1967, when I became a substitute lab instructor in the Department of Horticulture of the UP College of Agriculture. Since my BSA, I have been taking and digesting Science information like you have been taking and digesting your snacks. From gathering and working with information in Aquaculture (assistant editor, World Fish Center) to Agriculture (extension officer, UP Los Baños) to Forestry (Chief Information Officer, Forest Research Institute), from working down in swamps to working on farms and gardens in valleys to working with trees up in the mountains, I have seen Science face-to-face, eyeball-to-eyeball. With the last 41 years spent inside and outside the world of Science, including teaching at the College of Agriculture of Xavier University in Cagayan De Oro City in the late 1960s, I can understand theory and practice like I understand that words have sounds as well as meanings.

In Science, we have been half-betrayed. Especially in Agriculture, doesn’t Science today leave everyone holding a half-empty bag? The New Agriculturist pries open our eyes and says Science does ‘continue to frustrate scientists and donors alike, and leave farming communities with little return on the millions invested’ (2008, Science has not been as good as she looks.

Theory: I, Writer say modern Science is a triangle of investment, on one side by the donor or lending body, on another side by the government, and on the third side by the people – not one more important than the other.

Practice: Science insists on blaming the burgeoning population, pointing to the ‘exploding’ population as a major cause of poverty. Doesn’t Science realize that by pointing a finger, 3 fingers are pointing at her? The truth is that despite all those beautiful theories and principles and laws, Science has not caught up with poverty. With Science failing, it is no wonder that the poor we have always had with us.

To succeed, what is Science supposed to do?

The New Agriculturist suggests that there is ‘still a flame of hope’ as long as Science is ‘integrated within a much broader understanding of natural resource systems, the communities that depend on them, and the policies that govern their management.’

That is to say, Science must learn to deal not only with Scientists but also Mother Nature, the Village People, and the Politics of Management.

That is to say, Science has so far failed to do just that. Science is old; has Science outlived its usefulness as old age has overtaken it?

Impact is the operative word, as the New Agriculturist points out based on interviews with scientists belonging to some of the 15 international centers supported by the CGIAR (Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research). The CGIAR centers cited here are CIAT (International Center for Tropical Agriculture), ICARDA (International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas), ICRISAT (International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics), and IRRI (International Rice Research Institute). Thus (

Steve Twomlow of ICRISAT Zimbabwe says:

In the past, we were not asked to have impact. (We were not asked to study) the logjams that prevent people moving forward.

Today, Science is asked not simply for productivity. Dyno Keatinge, Deputy Director General for Research of ICRISAT India says:

In the past, we were merely interested in increasing productivity. Now our goals are more complex. We are aiming at producing sustainable livelihoods, at reducing poverty, and these types of issues are in fact much more complex than the simple task of increasing productivity.

Today, the People matter. Today, Science must consider Society half of the solution, as in her resides Folk Wisdom. As I see it, Science is the confluence of experiment and experience; Folk Wisdom is the confluence of a villager’s experience and that of another and another and another. Science must realize that the two don’t necessarily cancel each other out.

We must take care that Science be not the arrogance of higher and higher education. We must know that Folk Wisdom is the humility of understanding. Science must now bow down and listen to Folk Wisdom.

Jules Pretty of the University of Essex in the UK says:

Just looking back over how much has been achieved in the last ten years, almost despite policies (my emphasis – FAH), communities have taught us an enormous number of important lessons as to how things can change, and if we can help to spread those more widely, then there is the chance for a real sea-change, a movement towards sustainability, which actually brings economic development at the same time.

Irony of ironies, it is Science who has been trying to keep up-to-date with the People.

Adel El-Beltagy, Director General of ICARDA, says:

As well, we listen to the inhabitants about how we can have these (crop) varieties, but with the proper traits which they need. Meanwhile, there is a lot of dialogue with them, of how to utilize indigenous knowledge, which they have, on utilization of water; on how they dealt traditionally with the biodiversity, which is a treasure they have.

Science is a handmaiden of the people, only if the scientists allow her.

Nathalie Beaulieu of CIAT in Colombia says:

The management of natural resources is not just a localized process. It is something that involves a lot of interaction between stakeholders of different economic sectors, and also of different administrative levels. Because, to be able to attain a goal, everybody has to pitch in, and do (his or her) part. If you don’t have a favorable policy or good market links, a local production project won’t make it.

Indeed, please remember that Science is not just solving the problem of productivity. And not just of Gender either.

Science is only now beginning to wizen up. And so are the donors, who are funding less and less of the Science of Productivity. Thus, the US Agency for International Development is threatening to cut off as much as 75% of its past average yearly support to the CGIAR and, therefore, to the 15 CGIAR centers (see my essay, ‘Wars of the World,’

This is a message from donors such as the USAID to Science in general and to the CGIAR in particular (my thoughts exactly):

More crops is only half the answer to the question of sustainable development, which among other things presupposes equitable and sustainable distribution of the benefits of effort and enterprise, brain and brawn.

By and large, has Science in fact proven itself to be pro-rich and not pro-poor? In Theory no, in Practice yes. Science has been the major cause of the People’s poverty – in terms of options. Science hardly teaches the People to generate and consider the options; she almost always provides the option the People must consider.

Science must unlearn to be good only for those who have access to resources as well as who can influence government policy. This is a challenge for the Change Agent to change. Man (embracing Woman) must now create the conditions for Climate Change to occur within the universe of Science itself. First and foremost. If scientists are listening, then we can announce the death of the old Science:

Science is dead! Long live Science!

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