Acting on the Science We Already Have

Elise Miller, MEd

“Our own thought process impacts the health of our ecosystem almost more than anything else,” Dr. Virender Sodhi explained at an Indian cooking class I attended last weekend. “The real problem is we most often take action on what we don’t know and don’t act on what we do know.”

His comments reminded me of a simple pie chart representing “our knowledge of the universe” that a professor I had in graduate school presented. One tiny sliver is labeled “what we know.” A sliver about twice the size of the first is labeled “what we think we know.” The next quarter of the pie is labeled “what we know we don’t know.” And the rest is “what we don’t even know we don’t know.”

As I reflected on this, I realized similar categories could be applied to the three CHE national calls we have scheduled this month. The first to be held this Friday, April 15th, might be described as “what we think we [are beginning to] know”—an update on the emerging science regarding environmental contributors to diabetes and obesity. The second call, on April 18th, will focus on “what we know we don’t know [but want to know]”—a forum for soliciting visionary ideas for NIEHS’ strategic planning process. And the third, on April 20th, will illuminate “what we already know [enough about to take action on]”—an interview with Carl Candor, author of Legally Poisoned: How the Law Puts Us as Risk from Toxicants.

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