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Inequality Series Pt. 2: The Intersection

… of scientific literacy and the inequality of eco-friendly expectations.

Let me start out by saying two things, 1) I am sorry this took so long, things have (obviously) been extremely hectic on my end and I’m sure on y’all’s too, so I doubt anyway was waiting in vain for this post, and 2) all the information is this post is either appropriately cited or is my own opinion/experience.

So, we’ve talked a fair amount about scientific literacy and how eco-friendly expectations can put people into an unfair bind. But we’ve yet to really tie them together. So, what is a post about inequality doing on a science literacy blog? I’ll explain.

It makes sense to assume that a group's general literacy levels would reflect their levels of scientific literacy and access pretty accurately. Basically, we know that in low income areas (across geography and demography), students are often highly underserved, which can result in stunted or stymied progress across all academic areas, particularly reading.

Using Gapminder’s plotting tool, we see that there is a positive relationship between income and literacy (according to the data for youths and adults). Of course, this is not a hard and fast rule, and does not reflect the efforts made by communities to properly educate and serve their children. It is the result of an unfair, unequal, skewed system (IMO). This information is probably not shocking to you, but the scope of it should be. With decreased literacy comes a slew of other issues; including lower income return on average, which just fuels this awful - at times, predatory - cycle.

Now that we’ve established the issues related to literacy that are at play in low income or impoverished areas, let’s connect that back to policy and scientific discovery (as it relates to policy changes). When low literacy levels prevail, communities lose access to information. Whether it’s voting dates or locations, local or federal political platforms, or any other number of important events/pieces of work that don’t reach the eyes of that community, they still end up paying the price. Sometimes literally.

As scientists, we advocate for environmental protections, and rightly so! This planet is our one and only home and it’s brimming with unfathomable discovery; if we destroy it, we’re done for too. So it makes sense that the scientific community is pushing for anti-waste, pro-recycling, etc. legislation; but we often fail to consider the damage it may be doing to our fellow humans. Lack of literacy can make it difficult to argue for oneself or one's community (which should not be the case, but unfortunately stigma exists), so scientists and policy makers should be doing their part to make sure low income communities are included in these important conversations and initiatives.

But what can non-scientists or lawmakers do? Well, we can vote! Annnnnd, we can increase our own scientific literacy so that we can share information with those whose access is lesser than our own. Use your privilege to empower others! That’s where the intersection of this really lies: in using our own scientific literacy and access to address/call out/eliminate the inequities that result from eco-friendly expectations.

Thanks, as always, for reading! I’ll post a new poll to pick my next topic on my Instagram tonight or tomorrow.

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