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AAAS Plenary Lecture

16 February 2008:

Good evening. I have heard some spectacular plenary lectures at AAAS meetings over the years. The ones that have stayed most vividly in my mind addressed the deteriorating state of our planet….. and the huge inequalities between our way of life and those of the poor in the world’s poorest nations. Some of you may remember Ismail Serageldin’s lecture of a few years ago.

These are lectures that stir the imagination…and the indignation…and a desire to “do something.” But for most of us, the impulse passes. It passes because it isn’t really clear what any one of us can do, even with our marvelous scientific training and skills. The problems seem overwhelming….. Our lives are busy enough….. In the end, we go back to business as usual.

My objective here is to persuade you that it is enormously important that you – as scientists, as members of this country’s extraordinary scientific community – stop going back to business as usual. I will try to tell you why – and I will show you what kinds of things other scientists are doing – and what you can do.