Making, Citizen Science, and the Anticipated EPA Budget Reductions

Making, Citizen Science, and the Anticipated EPA Budget Reductions

I’ve had four things rolling in my head lately:

  1. The end of Dale Dougherty’s book Free to Make, in which he articulates a future for making;
  2. My own nagging sense that making should ideally serve some greater purpose;
  3. Some research I’m doing for another project about citizen science activities, especially those in which low-cost tool alternatives are developed to lower the cost and increase the number of people who can participate;
  4. The severe budget cuts anticipated for government agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency, specifically the 97% cut in funding to clean up the Great Lakes (from $100M to $3M), which I see not only as Michigan’s greatest natural asset for economy, tourism, and out-and-out-beauty, but, because it is 1/5 of the world’s freshwater, and our globe is increasingly experiencing drought, so it’s entirely likely that we’re sitting on the 21st- or 22nd-century equivalent of crude oil and about to let it become contaminated.

So my post today is a quick one: what responsibility do makers have to join with the scientific community to take on environmental activism and/or clean-up in the absence of government interventions? What are the potential advantages? What is the risk of replacing official employees’ work — even a little bit — with volunteerism? What is the long-term potential impact (positive or negative) on lakefront communities if they were infused with citizen science? What is the potential long-term risk of showing politicians we can take on some responsibility as individuals and therefore we don’t need more reliable, systemic interventions or budgetary support? What is realistic? What is completely unrealistic?

What are your thoughts?


Image: Lake Superior. Public domain from

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