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Letter at Length

 Posted: 2:00 AM May 31, 2013

Liberals deny science, too

Liberals love to paint conservatives as anti-science religious fanatics equivalent to the flat-earthers of the Middle Ages. Yet when the liberal position is not supported by the leading science, such as fluoridation of municipal water supplies, liberals suddenly become mute about scientific evidence.

In Portland, a bastion of liberalism and progressive causes, local citizens voted overwhelmingly against fluoridation of their water supply. This was remarkable because of the sound scientific evidence that fluoridation leads to stronger teeth and fewer cavities. Numerous large scientific reviews over more than three decades have found no links between fluoridation and bone fractures, cancer, birth defects, or other negative health outcomes.

Obviously, the citizens of Portland are uncomfortable with the safety of fluoride and with having local decision makers impose fluoridation on the masses. This is entirely reasonable, even if it goes against best science. So why, on issues such as climate change or evolution, for example, do liberals blast conservatives for exactly the same thing?

Consider climate change. Skeptics are concerned that the science on climate change is not sound. And they oppose taxes on carbon because they are concerned that these would have negative impacts on the economy and on their quality of life. These are valid concerns. They need to be listened to and incorporated into any proposed solutions.

Unfortunately, the main difference between fluoridation and climate change is that on the fluoridation issue, citizens of Portland retained their personal choice to fluoridate or not fluoridate. In the case of climate change, a few large industries and gridlocked lawmakers are forcing the entire globe to participate in an unprecedented experiment with the earth's climate system.

Ninety-seven percent of all climate science says climate change is happening and it is human-caused. Yet the only way to prove with 100 percent certainty that humans can cause runaway climate change is to keep emitting carbon pollution and carry the experiment to completion.

But where does that leave us? Potentially with a climate system that no longer supports large-scale food production, that no longer provides reliable water, that displaces millions of people from their homes and that sends us increasingly destructive disasters and other surprises along the way.

The consequences are so large that I don't want to find out who is right and who is wrong on this very important issue. Whether you think the chances of climate change are 2 percent or 99 percent, steps to reduce emissions are warranted as insurance for a livable future. And on top of it all, climate solutions create a better community today, with less pollution, better health, locally sourced energy and cleaner water.

I challenge both liberals and conservatives to work together in mutual respect, to not only reduce climate change but to address our common values — by creating positive, self-reliant and equitable communities. At Southern Oregon Climate Action Now (, which meets each month in Medford, we welcome people of all backgrounds and viewpoints to help develop collaborative and innovative solutions for our region.

Marni Koopman


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