Savagely Brilliant

The biggest issue for science communication today is how to get people to accept the science of climate change. Indeed there is a fair argument to be made that the entire history of science communication has been leading up to this moment, and on this the value of the discipline will stand or fall.

However, I think possibly the best thing I have read on this issue does not come from a science communicator. It doesn’t come from a scientist. It comes from a sex educator, Dan Savage. Read it here.

This is brilliant not because it really settles any questions (other than reminding us how truly repulsive the US Right can be) but because it opens up so many new ones. And the biggest (although far from the only) one I have is – how did the AIDS activists turn this around? Because for all Savage’s exhortation of the stupidity and vehemence of those who would not face the threat of AIDS, eventually that threat was faced, at least to a large degree in the developed world (the continuing significance of HIV-denialists in Africa is another matter).

Part of this is of course about the arrival of anti-retroviral drugs. And in Australia the contribution of figures like then minister for health Dr Neil Blewett and various other figures of authority were enormously important. Nevertheless, I’m fairly sure that the Gay community in the US ended up not only facing up to the problem,¬† but leading the solution. How did that happen? How was it that activists were no longer thrown out of bars for distributing condoms, but welcomed?

Because if we can’t learn from the past, we are doomed to repeat it on a much, much wider scale.


About Stephen Luntz

I am a science journalist, specialising in Australian and New Zealand research across all fields of science. My book, Forensics, Fossils and Fruitbats: A Field Guide to Australian Scientists is out now through CSIRO Publishing. I am also a professional returning officer for non-government organisations. I'm very politically active, but generally try to restrict this blog to scientific matters.
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