There was an eclipse today in north America. The last total eclipse was on July 11th, 1991 (wikipedia). People have been aware that eclipses can hurt your eyes for some time, and there were people across the country going to the emergency room, but there’s been some counterpoints online (Oremus). The idea behind this pushback is that basically, some people have looked at eclipses and not been totally fucked, or even had their vision permanently damaged. The article also explains that some people received eye treatments following their eclipse gazing. This country was drastically underprepared for the eclipse, and it didn’t seem many people knew about it until right as it was within eye-searing range.
But how did we get here? Is it because we’re a scientifically ignorant society? Scholars from many different backgrounds agree that a society which is scientifically literate is an important part of having a well informed public (Kehaulani Goo, Funk 2). There hasn’t been a lot of news written about it but I feel like I’ve seen enough at the local level to say that there’s got to be some quotient of people in America who had to go the hospital for staring at the sun, I haven’t seen any reporting on numbers or any actual data, but since there have been many warnings against looking at the sun during the eclipse without proper protection, we might be able to assume many people have gotten the message. I, however, have the feeling that just because something is popular on social media doesn’t mean that the majority, or even a truly strong minority (say 35-40%?) are aware of the dangers. Most local networks seem to be stressing the need for eye protection, but how many units of glasses have sold? How many people were even aware they need to wear glasses?
This might seem like a small issue, but it exists inside a larger point. I’ll admit that I wanted there to be some strong link between scientific literacy and a belief in climate change. I guess I wanted it because I wanted there to be a solution to problems like climate change, and the massive amount of collective damage which people did to their eyes today. I was hoping that if we simply took the right precautions and followed the right steps we could insulate ourselves from error. I was hoping we could build a society which understood what was best for itself and would make the ‘right’ choices, but part of society is that people don’t have the same access to information. Some people have a lot easier time getting what they want to know, and I’m basically the most spoiled person I know in this regard. I have the internet, I have all the years I spent at pretty good public schools learning how to gather information, I’ve spent the last 4 years working on a bachelor’s degree in English, which involved hundreds, possibly thousands of hours researching, reading, and writing. But there are people in my exact position who still have an opinion which you could call ‘the opposite’ of mine. I see combating ignorance and helping people to come to a more accurate understanding of the world around them as the greatest task of our time because we’re at a crossroads as a species. The next 100 years could be the beginning of a golden age of progress for humanity, and believe it or not we’re basically more united than ever, if only because it’s so easy for someone in one part of the world to connect with someone in any other part of the world. But there are many problems. Climate change threatens our existence and overcrowding will cause many other problems. We need to set upon the task of building a better thinking public.
Eustachewich, Lia. “Trump Looked Directly At The Solar Eclipse Without Shades”. The New York Post.com. Published 8/21/2017, accessed 8/21/2017<http://nypost.com/2017/08/21/trump-looked-directly-at-the-solar-eclipse-without-shades/>
Teller, Danielle. “There’s a good reason Americans are horrible at science”. Quartz.com. Atlantic Media co. Published 1/9/2016, accessed 8/21/2017<https://qz.com/588126/theres-a-good-reason-americans-are-horrible-at-science/>
“List of solar eclipses visible from the united states 1951-2000”. Wikipedia.org<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_solar_eclipses_visible_from_the_United_States#1951-2000>
Cary Funk, Sara Kehaulani Goo. “A Look at What the Public Knows and Does Not Know About Science”. Pew Research Center.com. Pew Research Center.com. 2017 Pew Research Center. Published 9/10/2015, accessed 8/21/2017.<http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/09/10/what-the-public-knows-and-does-not-know-about-science/>
Oremus, Will. “How Bad is it to Look at the Eclipse, Really? What About a Quick Peek?”. Slate.com. The Slate Group. Published 8/21/2017, accessed 8/21/2017.<http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2017/08/21/solar_eclipse_viewing_how_bad_is_it_really_to_look_at_the_sun_without_glasses.html>