The spirit of innovation and discovery have always been the driving forces in the growth and progress of our state, from NASA to our Military Complex to investments in finding cures. Science and Technology have always been the cutting edge of that innovation and should be encouraged and supported wisely by the government. State and National support for applied science as well as fundamental research is crucial to keeping our state and country moving forward. Invest through educational institutes is key to better students and a better Texas.
Human caused climate change is real, we have seen it here in draughts, flooding, and coastal wear. The quicker we get past this fake controversy the better we can mitigate these effects: By enforcing rules and regulation through tougher penalties that at least cover the State’s cost in healthcare service. By continuing to grow our electrical grid into the wind, solar & hydro fields. By encouraging research into new problems of electrical storage, similar to Australia working with Tesla Corp. By making sure that Texas’ finite oil supply and the oil industry are cleaner, more efficient, and used effectively.
A comprehensive cyber security policy is critical. Though we have an existing cyber security council now, we must continue to bolster this important defense. We must implement a system to secure our public and governmental networks while maintaining the robust flow of information that our country and civilization has come to rely upon. Particular attention must be paid to the rights and privacy of individuals as we do this. We cannot sacrifice freedom and privacy at the altar of security. It will not be a simple task but Texas has shown we are already ready to pursue it. Our nuclear power plants have already been through this assessment. I will continue to work with the Federal Government (National Cybersecurity Protection Advancement Act (H.R. 1731) 2015) and our Cyber Council, in making sure that what has started in San Antonio continues to grow.
We must make mental health services affordable and available to all Texans. Diagnosing and treating mental health issues early prevents suffering and prevents greater problems if left untreated. Even though we have taken great strides during the 85th Texas Legislature (about 10 bills dealing with mental health were passed), there is much more that can be done. We must fund mental health services just like any other health related service. I firmly believe healthcare is a right, not a privilege.
T‐STEM is an ever‐growing part of Texas education along with a balance of a well‐rounded programs that include critical thinking, language, history and culture. I will continue the Governor’s Science & Technology Champions Academy and Summer Merit Camps through The Texas Workforce Commission. I will also bring in more participation from the Private Sector. Apple is helping to develop code programs/classes in Austin, so why can’t we get Dell, Exxon and other companies to help drive students into fields that they will need filled in the future. We need to encourage the next generation of teachers are obtaining their STEM Certifications too.
Our state depends on an abundant supply of clean water. Implementing a recent study can assure that through responsible conservation by cities and rural farmers, smarter reuse programs, larger/more surface retention, and by reinforcing, expanding and modernizing the infrastructure to deliver it can make sure every Texan has clean water. Texas must also take steps to mitigate the pollution or our waterways from agriculture and industry. I would like to see a quicker path from the Municipalities to start projects, if we could cut start time down to 2 years instead of 5, we would be much more proactive. Some Proposition 6 projects haven’t even started.
Texas is a leading producer of agricultural products. We produce more livestock than any other state and is second in the country in total agricultural products. Texas also has more women and minority farm operations than any other state in the nation. We must maintain our agricultural industry but do it in a sustainable way by continuing our research programs in our colleges. Relying on excessive antibiotics has led to unexpected super‐resistant diseases. Use of antibiotic on Texas livestock needs to be examined and perhaps regulated. Our Grants and Programs should continue, and hopefully we can expand the Organic Cost Share Reimbursement Program.
Texas has a deep connection to space research and exploration. The benefits of the past robust space program have been positive for our state. I believe we must invest more time and effort into continuing space exploration using both private and public funding. Replacing our ageing satellite infrastructure is key to maintaining ongoing weather and climate research, and working toward more manned space exploration may be the future of our long‐term survival.
Texas is blessed with the sixth longest coastline in our nation. The health of the oceans is vital to not only Texas fisheries but to our health and welfare. I will make sure that those who are impacted by the rules and regulations of shrimping, crabbing and oyster culls, etc., will have input and receive the same information we have, this way we can help each other’s bottom line. We must avoid over‐fishing and monitor the health of the Gulf of Mexico. We must reduce offshore drilling pollution and for a state like Texas that will be a big step. I would like to see the continual restoration of our reefs. We need to invest in finding better biodegradable plastic, and limit the use of plastic bags and six pack holders. We need to examine the impact of plastic glitter in our Texas waterways, and beach fronts.
Politicians have no business trying to control scientific inquiry simply because the outcome might disagree with their beliefs. Scientists should be free to pursue and report their findings without fear of reprisal by politicians. A robust program of state and privately funded science will assure that our state is a leader in knowledge and innovation. People need to know that without scientist, we would have not been to the moon, we will not have shrimp to eat, we will not have prepared employees coming out of our schools, nor we will have the ability to adapt to the ever‐changing energy sector. With the new standards, “Fostering Integrity in Research” coming out, scientist should have a better sway over politicians and their own credibility. When we have an open and honest public discussion with scientist, then I feel both sides gain integrity.
James Cargas :
Innovation is an American value! It is integrated in the foundation of our nation’s fabric. Thomas Jefferson was a strong advocate for science and technology and believed “Innovation” can ignite social change and grow our economy. His words are engraved at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C.: "As new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must also advance to keep pace with the times."
Here are my priorities for promoting science, technology and innovation in Congress:
1) I promise to make funding for biomedical science research one of my top priorities in Congress. I will work hard to fully fund biomedical research, both basic and applied, the STEM sciences, and research on the environment and climate change. Only the Federal Government can support innovation as a long-term investment. For example, the internet evolution in the 1990s was based on scientific investments in the 1970s and 1980s. Thus, our government needs to provide constant and consistent support for research and development, rather than a pattern of feast or famine. Here are my past statements on funding for science:
(a) Importance of increasing funding for research video
(b) Need to defend against drastic cuts to research funding video
2) Educate the public about issues in science and technology, because the public should know where tax dollars are spent and the successes and advancements made as a result.
3) The Federal Government has failed to adapt to the rate of technological change as it relates to globalization of the economy, new chemical hazards, and more efficient technologies. Laws and regulations can quickly become outdated or no longer serve their intended purpose. Congress must keep updating laws and requiring agencies to update regulations. As a member of the North American Energy Standards Board, I know how vitally important and sometimes unappreciated this work is to a healthy population and economy.
4) The Federal Government must support open immigration because it supplies highly skilled scientists and researchers. It is a well-known fact that scientific and technological leadership in the United States is fueled by the contributions of foreign-born scientists and engineers, whether they are in the country with a permanent or temporary visa. The visa process for these skilled scientists needs to accelerate and become more efficient, as currently it can take several months or years for a scientist to be given a visa to join a higher academic institution or industry. Time is extremely important in making breakthroughs in science and technology. We are losing our edge with our competitors in China and Europe. Our immigration system must better support international scientific cooperation and collaboration rather than impede it.
Jason Westin :
The history of America is the history of scientific achievement, from Ben Franklin and the kite, right up to today curing disease once thought incurable. We are stronger because of science. The government plays an important role to stimulate innovative science and technology in three ways.
James Cargas :
One of the few positive impacts to come out of the devastation from hurricane Harvey in 2017 is that more people in the Houston area now accept the science of climate change. Harvey drowned the area in a record-breaking 51 inches of rain in just a couple of days. This deluge was possible because the Gulf of Mexico was significantly warmer at depth. Normally, when a hurricane enters the Gulf and turns up the cold deep Gulf water, the storm loses strength. When Harvey entered the Gulf and turned up warmer deep water. It grew in strength and landed as a Category 5 storm.
Many people in Houston were previously flooded in the Memorial Day Flood of 2015, and again in the Tax Day Flood of 2016. Deniers can point to one unusual event as a random act of Nature. However, when an area and homes that have been safe for decades are flooded annually, with tragic social, environmental and economic impacts, they finally agree with scientists that man- made climate change is real and must be addressed.
When I worked in the Clinton-Gore White House at the President’s Council on Sustainable Development two decades ago, we warned about the impacts of climate change and worked to implement solutions. Prior to that, in 1992, I participated in the first Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro with the Center for International Environmental Law. Today, as the Senior Assistant City Attorney for Energy for the City of Houston, I am in a unique position to make the Energy Capital become the 8th largest purchaser of renewable energy in America ( https://www.epa.gov/greenpower/green-power-partnership-national-top-100).
Climate change is problem, and clean renewable energy is the greatest solution. Houston is the Energy Capital of the world. In the past that’s meant the oil and gas industries. However, Houston is transforming into the renewable energy capital. The same human talent that brought fossil energy to the world in the 20th Century is now bringing renewable energy to the world in the 21st Century. Energy delivery is complex, especially electricity. Success depends on financing, engineering, marketing, and favorable regulatory policies. In 2018, Texas and the United States enjoy three out of four.
Energy policies like tax credits, fair trade agreements, job training programs, and new regulatory regimes, must all be updated to reflect the new reality that large scale and distributed renewable energy require. There should be a new emphasis on affordable and safe transmission of clean energy from where it is generated to where it is needed. Smart grids have the ability to use and transmit energy more efficiently, but they are not everywhere and are not being fully utilized.
Additionally, America has made significant progress on energy efficiency thereby reducing the demand for energy. More progressive and modern energy policies are needed. LED light bulbs have become main stream but many homes and appliances are still inefficient. Greater energy efficiency also means reducing the cost of production and increasing the competitiveness of American-made products.
I have dedicated my life to implementing clean renewable energy as the best solution to counteract the impact of climate change, and welcome the opportunity to address the policy barriers in Congress that are limiting clean energy’s full potential.
Jason Westin :
The science is clear: The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which reviewed all the available information, concluded that it is extremely likely that human activities have caused more than half the increase in global temperatures, that it is virtually certain that global temperatures have increased since 1950, and that each of the past three decades has been the warmest ever recorded. We must do two things immediately.
James Cargas :
We must protect net neutrality on private networks. This means access to the internet is regulated like other essential utility common carriers, like energy or telecommunications. The Federal Government must play a leading role in protecting our Nation from cyber-attacks. As more hostile nations and terrorists find ways to cripple our economy, invade our privacy and steal our confidential and proprietary information, we must come together as Americans to defend ourselves. When our personal information is held by the government, the Constitution contains privacy protections. However, the most damaging cyber breaches involve our personal information held by private companies.
This Plan empowers Americans by enhancing the security measures available to them, like fingerprint passcodes and using multi-factor identifications. It’s success will come from the new National Cyber Security Alliance partnering with leading industries such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft, as well as financial services companies such as Visa, PayPal, etc.
I will also support the bipartisan Digital Security (https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2016/02/09/fact-sheet-cybersecurity-national-action-plan) Commission Act (HR 4651, 114th Congress), creating the National Commission on Security and Technology Challenges to assess, and make recommendations for policy and practice concerning, the issue of multiple security interests in the digital world, including public safety, privacy, national security, and communications and data protection ( https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/4651).
We must begin treating cyberattacks just like any other white-collar crime or attack on a nation, and we must invest in cyberspace and national infrastructure as part of our national security. When we do so, we must have the Constitution’s guarantees of privacy and civil liberties be translated into the cyber environment.
I will work on optimizing the Cybersecurity National Action Plan (CNAP) first proposed by the Obama Administration the goals of which have been to improve Government IT and national cybersecurity.
Jason Westin :
We have unprecedented information access with the internet and smart phones, but has come at a great cost to our privacy with significant increases in the amount of personal information available to attack. There is also a significant risk that our consumption of information can be compromised by people who wish us harm – the epidemic of false news stories that exploded in the 2016 election. We must do two things
James Cargas :
Mental illness starts early in life: 50% of all serious mental illness begins by age 14 and 75% by age 24. Research shows that when treatment is administered early on when symptoms come about the outcomes are better and the cost is lowered. However, this is not what actually happens in America. Instead, mental health care is typically provided much later when mental illness and its sequelae, such as school dropout, unemployment, substance abuse, or incarceration have taken place.
I will support the following federal mental health care policies:
1) We MUST appropriate funds for mental health care prevention programs including suicide prevention.
2) Protect and expand the Affordable Care Act, because millions of Americans gained coverage for mental health and substance abuse treatment from its passage in 2009. We have begun to see the positive impact it has had, and cannot lose this progress, nor deny it from Americans who are still not covered.
3) Expand Medicaid for mental health care. The biggest threat from proposed Medicaid caps is that millions of people will lose their Medicaid coverage, even for those with the most severe mental illnesses. Budget cuts and caps will force states to ration care for those who remain covered. We need to keep Medicaid financing stable so that we can provide consistent mental health care, which in turn will lower costs and enhance outcomes. Placing a cap on Medicaid is not at all better for the economy. On the contrary, lack of mental health care will reduce spending for Medicaid but it will increase costs in other institutions, such as hospitals and jails.
4) Invest in mental health, neuroscience, and brain imaging research that will allow us to reliably and accurately diagnose, prevent and effectively treat mental health disease.
5) Educate the public that mental health disease is not separate from physical disease. Once we learn to treat mental health disease as part of physical disease we will automatically eliminate stigma, embarrassment, and perceived indignity of people reporting mental health disease. This will allow people to seek prevention and treatment services early.
6) Mental health and substance abuse treatment should not be offered as an optional benefit. We must treat them as part of standard disability insurance.
7) I pledge to oppose any of the following huge reductions proposed by the Trump administration’s FY 2018 budget request: cuts of $5.8 billion from the National Institutes of Health (NIH); cuts of $400 million from mental health and substance abuse programs (including a $116 million cut to the Mental Health Block Grant program); and cuts of $6.2 billion from low income housing programs.
Jason Westin :
Mental health issues are like any other health issues – a matter of biology, and thus should not be treated with a stigma of weakness or blame. We don’t blame someone for having type I diabetes, why should we blame someone for having anxiety or depression which leads to substance abuse? When elected, I would do the following:
James Cargas :
Any child growing up in NASA’s back yard should not only be able to dream of exploring the stars, they should be given the education to make their dreams come true.
Here is my video statement on making education accessible to ALL Americans.
Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics are essential for a good education and for our Nation’s future in the 21st Century. Here are a few important ways STEM education can reach more students and give them the ability to achieve their dreams.
1) Improve equitable access across race, ethnicity, socioeconomic, gender, disability status, and geography. Studies show that 43% of White students and 61% of Asian students score significantly higher in 8th grade math compared to 13% in African-American and 19% of Hispanic students (National Assessment of Educational Progress; NAEP). Twenty-five percent of our nation’s high schools do not offer the core set of high school math and science courses, compounded by further racial inequities (U.S. Department of Education, OCR, 2014). Minimum national curriculum standards with an emphasis on STEM can help bring greater equality to education.
2) Classroom instruction is not enough. Congress should promote out-of-school STEM learning programs, technology tools, and programs that advance STEM learning, internet use and quality of access in an equitable manner. In the past, after-school programs have often focused on sports and athletics. Challenging our youth to compete in robotics, engineering, chess, or other activities that reinforce the lessons of the classroom will prepare them to compete in the business world.
3) Computer science education or computer coding are often optional elective courses that most students skip. Congress and educators should make them mandatory (course for credit) to emphasize their importance to many different career paths.
4) Increase the number of STEM teachers by drawing on the expertise and resources of academic institutions, nonprofits, companies, and government, state, and local education initiatives.
5) Start STEM education early and focus on evidence-based programs through federal grant funds that support state and local efforts to establish STEM programs early, starting in kindergarten.
6) Debunk stereotypes on who can be perceived as a scientist, engineer, astronaut etc. through media campaigns that showcase the racial, ethnic, and gender diversity. This includes continued funding of programs such as Sesame Street on Public Television that portray racial, ethnical and gender diversity.
We need to make challenging curriculums our priority rather than mindless testing. Science, technology, engineering, and math are the skills Americans need for the new economy. When Congress does not invest in STEM education, Congress withholds jobs, careers and the American Dream from the people it is supposed to represent. This isn’t just about investing in individuals – this is about investing in our country. A more educated workforce stimulates the economy and in turn, creates more jobs and more prosperity.
Jason Westin :
We cannot teach our students for the 20th century, we must prepare them to enter the workforce of the 21st century. This means including coding, online security, and a focus on STEM education into our curriculum so that tomorrow’s leaders are equipped for our new challenges.
Joseph Kopser :
The number of STEM occupations in the United States has grown substantially over the past decade, with those working in STEM fields earning 29% more than their non-STEM counterparts. Our new economy will require workers skilled in science and math to maintain and grow our nation’s prosperity, and I believe American students should be adequately prepared to fill these roles.
Our country has the resources and ability to offer the best education in the world, and yet we rank 22nd in science and 29th in math internationally. Some of our best and brightest will never even be exposed to proper science and math education, as more than 30% of our students attend high schools that do not offer the broadest spectrum of math and science courses (defined as Algebra I and II, geometry, calculus, biology, chemistry and physics). It is unacceptable for America to fall behind as other countries produce the scientists, mathematicians, and engineers that will lead our world into the future.
I am committed to a future in which all American students not only have access to fundamental math and science skills, but access to advanced STEM education. This will require school districts, universities, and STEM industries to support the training and retention of quality STEM educators through rigorous college programs, professional development, partnerships, and shared resources.
It would be a disservice—not only to our youth, but to our entire nation—to withhold from our students the opportunity to explore these promising fields.
We need to do everything we can to make STEM as cool as Taylor Swift or the latest Marvel movie. Only then can we continue to make progress.
Mike Clark :
It took the Soviet Union launching Sputnik to “wake-up” America to the importance of science and math. From that, America was motived to invest in science and technology. It shouldn’t take another wake-up call for us to get re-motived. The current political environment at both the federal and state level in Texas has been to decrease funding for education. This has been detrimental to both the science and the arts. The lack of emphasis on critical thinking in public schools has created a shortfall of thinkers and doers in our workforce. I support federal funding at all educational levels to jump start an eager generation of science and technology innovators. However, funding will need to be complimented by leadership examples, and we will need to use inspirational science and technology innovators in our society to help lead by example and inspire others.
Jon Powell :
First, I advocate for STEAM (A=Arts) recognizing the synergy among science, technology and the arts.
James Cargas :
The City of Houston provides high quality drinking water to approximately 2.2 million residents. Although Houston’s water system is one of the most complex water systems in the nation serving four counties and many neighboring communities, it produces some of the best quality drinking water in the nation. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) rates the City of Houston’s drinking water system as a “Superior Water Supply System,” which is the highest water quality rating awarded to a water utility.
Not every community is so fortunate. Outdated and hazardous water infrastructures for drinking and wastewater systems has resulted in endangering the health of Americans in communities such as Flint, Michigan, and many others across America. As a Nation we must ensure that all communities are provided with clean water.
We can reduce pollution that enters our water systems by maintaining equipment properly to ensure fluid discharges do not enter our waters, and by prohibiting commercial, and industrial development that surrounds a lake or is adjacent to a bayou as it can result in chemicals, fertilizers, pesticides and human waste polluting our water systems. We will achieve this by employing best-management-practices to ensure our drinking water is clean. Congress can play a key role by providing the funds necessary, such as infrastructure improvements and maintenance.
Finally, it is also important to note that climate change results in changes in weather patterns and in turn long droughts which can pose a health risk. We need to invest in infrastructure that will enable us to conserve and reuse clean water as well.
Jason Westin :
Clean water is taken for granted, and lack of it is a common cause of disease and death around the world. Our leaders have not done enough to improve our infrastructure, including water, to modernize America for the 21st Century. Congress must pass legislation requiring that all cities have clean water, and fund repairs needed to ensure Americans do not suffer the health consequences of contaminated or polluted water. We must also ensure we have the infrastructure for our growing population, using technology to have scalable clean water availability.
Joseph Kopser :
Water is not simply another commodity. As one of the most fundamental resources to sustain life on earth, water needs to be considered more of a public resource than private property. America's present water policy faces an enormous challenge due to the fact that current usage models and infrastructure are based upon outdated usage patterns and are in dire need of updating.
Climate change affects every aspect of water as a resource. Many parts of our country have and will continue to face longer, more extreme droughts, storm frequency and strength, crop yield, and more. Quite simply, our past assumptions no longer hold any validity or predictability because of our changing climate.
As we move forward, we need smarter management of our developed water supplies. Further, our water infrastructure, like much of our energy and transportation infrastructure, needs critical maintenance and upgrades.
While the federal government has a limited role in the intricate, overlapping system that is America's water supply, Congress can have a greater impact in improving state water systems. One way to do this is to use the Clean Water State Revolving Fund as leverage to tie federal water assistance to state water reform. Congress should encourage better, more efficient management of state water systems, rather than reactive band-aids and bailouts when problems reach critical mass.
Congress must now strengthen the Clean Water Act. One of the most effective environmental pieces of legislation in American history has constantly attacked and faces serious threats today. A multitude of exceptions to the Clean Water Act via its permitting statutes have been carved out by industry interests in recent years. We simply don't know much of what numerous agriculture, mining, and drilling businesses are doing to our water. This is unacceptable. Toxic spills and drainage kill aquatic life, acutely poison community drinking water, and pose serious health, reproductive, and neurological risks. As a start, we need transparency with regard to such exceptions, and must take all steps to ensure the strength and original intent of the Clean Water Act.
Congress should also work to remove perverse incentives for agribusiness to waste water. As reported by the Texas Tribune during the 2012 West Texas Drought, cotton growers continued to pump water even when it became obvious the crop was a lost cause. Farmers needed to prove they made every attempt to revive a crop before receiving insurance payouts; the incentive was for water to be wasted so farmers could protect themselves. We need common sense solutions to agricultural incentives as part of a comprehensive agricultural reform to prevent such illogical and wasteful outcomes.
Mike Clark :
Climate change has drastically altered out nation’s long term water supplies. Certainly, the Clean Water Act needs updating to address our 21st century needs. Our EPA rules and regulations need to be strengthened and enforced to ensure our water is clean and pure. However, we also need good leadership at the top to make that happen. The lack of focus from top government leadership should not deter us locally from doing the right thing. Reusing gray water in our homes and businesses is a practical conservation way to make the best use of this precious resource. Green buildings that not only reuse their water for irrigation, but also for cooling will lead to significant energy savings, as well. I would support repealing and removing archaic laws and rules that hinder water reclamation efforts. With our increasing dry hot summer months in Central Texas, it is imperative that native plants and native landscapes are used because they are not only naturally drought tolerant, but very water-wise. I would support funding through the Agriculture Department programs that promote and encourage the farming of crops that rely less on water in dry farming regions. This would put less burden on the fragile ground water supplies as well as area lakes. Wetlands naturally cleans our water systems and should be preserved and protected from development. Fracking should also be banned where water is scarce. I would also support funding from Congress to modernizing state and local government water infrastructures for more efficient, reliable, and smart management practices.
Jon Powell :
Security and continued availability of water supplies is an issue that requires oversight and regulation. While we have the CWA and SDWA, with the EPA and state agencies to oversee these regulations, provisions must be put into place to ensure the long term viability of water delivery systems. We also need to protect aquifers and surface supplies to ensure their long term viability.
James Cargas :
Rural America and American farmers are essential to providing the American people with high quality food products! A large part of this success is attributed to the high-tech and high-volume farm operations. It also includes smaller family-owned but still high-tech farm operations. Together large and small farmers export $60 billion worth of agricultural products around the globe, helping feed the world.
I will support the following sustainable agricultural policies:
1) Provide funds for family farms so they can implement a variety of technologies, such as remote sensing, specialized software, high tech irrigation systems, etc. We don’t think of farms as technology intensive operations, but modern, high-yield farms are. Many of these technologies allow farmers to better manage resources like water and farm in a more sustainable manner.
2) Ensure the continued production of certain crops that provide fuel and specifically renewable fuels. For example, corn and soybeans production make biodiesel, which is a renewable fuel. We must advocate for renewable fuels because these fuels not only reduce pollution and purchasing foreign oil, but also generate jobs in rural America and boost our economy. At the same time, care must be taken to not divert these crops away from our food supplies.
3) Enforce pesticide laws and regulations through the EPA, USDA, FDA to ensure that pesticides are appropriately applied to crops and that crops are safe when treated with pesticides. Pesticides need to be appropriately applied because they can cause harm to humans, animals and the environment but they are also essential because they kill organisms and pests that can cause and spread disease. This balance begins with strict adherence to scientifically-based regulation of their use.
4) Enforcement at the production level is not enough. Congress must also conduct oversight of EPA, FDA, and USDA and their efforts to ensure pesticides are not ending up in people or pets’ diets.
5) In addition to vigilance against pesticides in plant products, Congress must also conduct oversight of EPA, FDA, and USDA, to ensure disease is not spread through meat products. For example: (i) products derived from, cattle, mule deer, white-tailed deer, black-tailed deer, and elk can transmit spongiform encephalopathies and variants of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, and (ii) products derived from birds can transmit highly pathogenic avian influenza, such as the H5N1 as well as other viruses and bacteria such as salmonella and E.coli. Congress must ensure these agencies have necessary funds for inspection of the domestic and exported food supply.
6) Eventually, American agriculture should move away from using pesticides so pervasively and towards a more sustainable and organic production. Much of America’s “bread basket” of production drains into the Mississippi River and then into the Gulf of Mexico. The enormous dead zone offshore Louisiana is a direct result of the over-use of pesticides and untreated waste.
Congress should incentivize organic food production, as a means of minimizing air, water, and soil pollution, as well as producing health food for America and the world.
Jason Westin :
The American agricultural system is incredible and highly efficient with use of technology, but we must continue to innovate. Indoor farming with artificial lighting and little to no soil is emerging as an option to produce highly nutritious produce and this should be explored for expansion. The use of genetically modified agriculture to increase yield, nutrition, and decrease pesticide usage has been successful and should be increased in a responsible manner.
Joseph Kopser :
American food policy is grossly distorted by a flood of donations and lobbying money. Like so many other issues, campaign finance reform rooted in public financing, along with stopping the Congressional-K Street revolving door is essential to allowing a more intelligent food policy that works for all Americans.
America is awash in cheap food, and cheap food is easy, good politics. There is no doubt that America's relatively inexpensive bounty is something that, for immediate economic reasons as well as the intrinsic political reasons described above, has made real farm policy reform a third rail.
This cheap food actually comes at an enormous cost. A responsible policy must acknowledge there are significant costs of our food industrial complex to the taxpayer, to the environment, and to public health.
Big agribusiness routinely adds large doses of antibiotics to livestock for non-therapeutic reasons. In recent decades, Americans have experienced repeated outbreaks of foodborne illness linked to new antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. Americans should encourage the Administration to continue the Obama-era efforts to crack down on antibiotics on farms. Further, as plausible, Congress should ban the non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in factory farming immediately.
America also needs a more rigorous antitrust policy with regard to agricultural industrial consolidation, the levels of which are staggering. Four companies process and sell over 80 percent of American beef; Monsanto and DuPont sell a majority of U.S. corn seed; Dean Foods controls a severe majority of the milk supply in many states. Congress has deregulated agribusiness relentlessly for decades, and we can no longer afford to do so.
Perhaps most importantly, we need to look at subsidized crops like corn for what they are. The average bushel of corn costs farmers more to grow it than it sells for. In a rational economic system, farmers should grow less corn, which would then raise the price per bushel. We don't do that. The federal government subsidizes every bushel of corn, and now we plant an area twice the size of New York State across America. Taxpayers are on the hook for $20 billion annually in crop subsidies.
This massive welfare payment benefits an entire industrial complex, from the large processors, the factory farms, and the sugar merchants who rely on cheap corn for highly processed food that makes us fat, conveying a price and access advantage to the foods that are worst for our health and environment, distorting agricultural economic outcomes in a perverse way that benefits the few at the expense of the many—this cannot morally continue.
Our agricultural policies have been grossly irrational at the outset and have had unacceptable secondary costs. In addition to making the most unhealthy processed food artificially less expensive than they should be, promoting the public health crisis of obesity, and adding billions to our health care costs, the status quo is doing terrible damage to our environment and our water.
Corn uses more nitrogen-based fertilizer and more pesticide than any other food crop. Runoff from these chemicals in the midwest makes its way into the groundwater and, from there, into the Mississippi River, which carries it to the Gulf of Mexico where it destroys vast areas of marine life. Those chemicals are the product of fossil fuels, and, therefore, massive doses of pesticides and fertilizer require tremendous consumption of fossil fuels. A single bushel of corn requires a half gallon of fossil fuel.
Instead of subsidizing big agribusiness’ continued record profits and consolidation, Congress should work to provide incentives for more sustainable, healthy, and responsible food systems. The food industrial complex has been subsidized from taxpayers, polluting our groundwater and tributaries, using massive amounts of fossil fuels, contributing to the obesity epidemic, and threatening the efficacy of the medical miracle that has been antibiotics. These are the sorts of problems a responsible Congress standing up for the public interest would work to solve, and I am relentlessly dedicated to pragmatically solving these problems by engaging all stakeholders to craft a farm policy that works for all Americans.
Mike Clark :
Yes, it IS true! We are what we eat. In today’s fast food environment, we often forget the value that fresh food has on our health. The high cost of health care can be directly related to what we eat. Your body knows what it needs to sustain you. Knowledge can help counter those cravings and desires to have something other than what you need. Full disclosure on what is in our food is a must. I will support legislation that requires full disclosure of everything, and I mean everything that is in the food we eat. We deserve to know what’s in our food, and we have the right to choose what we put in our bodies. Ingredients must be easily readable and explained. If the CEOs of big food companies don’t know what is in that package of cereal, then why should we eat it?
Funding early childhood nutritional programs and education are crucial to getting children on the right start for a healthy lifestyle. Chronic disease and issues like obesity and diabetes can be avoided or at least minimized simply by adopting good eating habits early in life.
Farming is becoming cool again! I am encouraged that more millennials are starting up farm businesses. Let’s also encourage locally sourced food and make it easier for consumers to access. It’s good for our local economy and good for our health. This is where Congress needs to update our agricultural policies for a sustainable 21st century farming era. It is no longer the 1930’s! My ranching and farming family members would have never grown or raised anything that they would not have consumed themselves. The same can be said for our local farmers. If we live and work in Williamson and Bell County of Texas, then there’s no reason why we can’t easily enjoy the same great foods grown here as well.
Jon Powell :
James Cargas :
Since September 12, 1962 when President Kennedy encouraged us at our very own Rice Stadium in Houston, Texas, to make every effort to go to the moon.
Almost 60 years later, we must still ensure Congress invests in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) existing projects, and in NASA proposals for future exploration and innovation. This includes exploration of our own planet, especially developing a deeper understanding of our thin atmosphere, and our deep oceans. The exploration of Mars and outside our solar system require long-term planning, development and innovation. I am proud to see NASA maintain the necessary bi-partisan support the requires, and I will continue to support NASA, especially programs based in Johnson Space Center.
Jason Westin :
We must continue our progress towards exploring our solar system, and beyond, to both learn more about our universe and how we can improve our lives, and to build the necessary technology for colonization of our moon and other worlds. Public-private partnerships, like that of NASA and Space X, have the potential to reduce costs and drive innovation. America is a country that does big things, like go to the moon, and we are inspired by big dreams. Sending a human to another world would capture the imagination of generations to come.
Joseph Kopser :
Pursuit of the infinite possibilities of space exploration has captured the imagination of the human mind since the inception of the American space program. Space exploration and innovation stemming therefrom, as well as satellite observation and communication, has had an enormously positive impact on human life in the last 70+ years and has broadened our knowledge of the physical universe.
Today, America has a new critically imperative objective of earth observation. Earth’s climate is undeniably changing, and our ability to observe quantifiable truth is critical to a strategy to mitigate the consequences to humanity, and is essential to weather observation and accurate climate modeling.
As questions of the universe transcend national boundaries, space exploration will continue to have an international component and robust cooperation between nations will become increasingly vital. Maintaining America’s role as the global leader in space while fostering international cooperation will have the ancillary benefit of helping rebuild America’s falling standing in the world.
Further, a strong space program has national defense and intelligence applications that must be supported. I believe that we can pursue major projects that stretch the bounds of human exploration and knowledge, such as manned excursions to Mars, through the development of the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft.
Many aspects of space travel and exploration, such as low level orbit, certainly have a place for commercial development and contribution, but projects beyond the scope of present human achievement can only be achieved by sufficient investment in and development by NASA and its international partners.
I was a kid in the 1970s as the Apollo missions were coming to an end. SkyLab was capturing our attention at the time, but it was the birth of the Space Shuttle program that drew me to math and science. To think, even as a kid, that one day I could be a part of NASA and our nation’s space exploration caused me to work hard and study in school. Later, as an Aerospace Engineer at West Point, I spent a summer working at the NASA Ames Research Center and met several astronauts while there. It was a dream come true. I want young people everywhere around the globe to look up into the stars and share the same enthusiasm and wonder that I did when I was young. (And I still feel that way today!)
Mike Clark :
We should set our goals high and achieve greater results. That is how we push the boundaries of space exploration. Aiming for the moon was one such approach by JFK and thus, we set forth tangible and achievable steps to get there. Much of the same can be done for Mars, and beyond the solar system. We have enough smarts, experience, and technology to make space travel safe and economically affordable. All that we lack is the political will and clear vision to make it happen. Such space based investments have benefitted our economy many times over. GPS, Processors, satellite television, heat resistant materials and more are all outgrowths of space exploration.
We also stand on the verge of having an amazing technologically efficient system for observing and analyzing the earth. What we lack is the automated analytical systems to process all the data that is collected. Even with every human on earth analyzing all the data, there would be no way to process all that information and come up with results. This is a prime example where investing in artificial intelligent analytics and geospatial technology can have the best benefit to our planet. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) play a critical role in smart decision making when it comes to our natural resources. The science and math are there to make it happen. We just lack the inspiration to make it happen. I had the pleasure of studying under Dr. Bill Muhlberger at the University of Texas and Dr. Victor Whitehead of NASA who trained Apollo and Space Shuttle on earth observations. They were part of the first generation of scientists at figuring out the science of space based earth observations. I’m proud to have followed in their footsteps. My graduate work in GIS and Geology with remote sensing and ground data was a value contribution to the scientific community.
I would definitely support funding the National Science Foundation to continue to spur such innovation in this sector.
Jon Powell :
James Cargas :
The International Program on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) has declared that global warming, overfishing, plastic pollution and acidification are damaging marine life irreparably. Each of these is human-made impact. Therefore, it is up to us to stop and reverse the damage, or we will see our own survival threatened.
American space innovation and ingenuity has made unprecedented strides by reaching the moon, investigating the atmosphere of Mars, mapping the galaxies in the universe, launching and operating the International Space Station – the last one through international collaborative efforts.
As a result of global warming, oceans heat up resulting in decreased oxygen in the water column and in turn elimination of marine life. Here in Texas, we are witnessing the warmer Gulf of Mexico waters – even at a depth of over 200 feet – resulting in stronger hurricanes and tropical storms. The record-breaking 51 inches dumped on Houston from hurricane Harvey is a direct result of global warming.
Ocean health, also impacts our own food supply, since up to 32 percent of the imported seafood comes from pirate or illegal fishing. Pirate fishing puts American fishers out of work and deprives fishing communities of up to $23 billion per year. I will work to strengthen the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and other legislation to end pirate fishing. This will demand working together with the international seafood industry to implement standards for our seafood production and imports. And, it means our military should share information about illegal fishing in much of the same manner the do to stop drug smugglers at sea. Sustainable solutions are possible that allow fisheries to thrive while still meeting our seafood needs.
Ocean health also begins with a more healthy environment on land since chemicals, sewage, garbage and plastics all run off the land and into our oceans. My work for the City of Houston has resulted in an innovative approach to recycling that each year captures more plastics and diverts it from the waste stream. The next evolution will be to reduce the use of long-living plastics to applications with long-term and repeated uses. For example, no more single use forks but more use of plastics in light weight efficient vehicles.
Jason Westin :
This is a challenging subject, as much of the damage done to oceans including increasing temperature and acidification, are due to extra-ocean factors like climate change. Addressing our carbon production and sequestration will have an impact on the health of our oceans. We should invest in creative engineering solutions to deal with ocean acidification. For overfishing, we must ensure that our biodiversity is protected and could do so via taxation of the product of overfished populations to ensure the economic forces support responsible fishing.
Joseph Kopser :
The ocean covers the majority of our planet, controls various weather patterns, provides us with 70% of the oxygen we breathe, and generates trillions of dollars in economic profit. As can be seen from this question, the issues that affect the ocean are abundant, creating a complex challenge that no single person can address. Therefore, the first step in improving ocean health is uniting all sectors in society for that purpose. We must prioritize uniting stakeholders and providing financial support, and we must do so quickly. A vision of long-term improvement must be adopted, as we move away from the focus on immediate returns. Marine protected areas must increase in size and number, and regulations surrounding fishing and recreational aquatic activities must be tightened. While this may limit income for those who rely on the ocean initially, research has shown an increased return over a short amount of time.
Additionally, there must be changes made on land if we hope to improve ocean health. Plastic is among the top objects found in marine debris cleanups. Carbon emissions are increasing the rate of ocean acidification. Agricultural runoff creates a plethora of adverse effects. America must invest in alternatives to plastic and fossil fuels, and create incentives for businesses to switch to environmentally friendly practices. Similarly, corporations should be required to monitor and report their effects on ocean health.
Mike Clark :
Implementing the Paris agreement is a must. Implementing the Carbon Fee and Dividend system must also occur in tangent. Limiting fishing of species that are on the decline in our exclusive economic zone should be a priority. Limiting new constructing of petro-chemical plants is also a must to ensure our rivers and oceans are free of toxic pollutants. We must also ban the dumping of garbage in our ocean and promote more reuse and recycling of our used products. Requiring that many one-time use products are biodegradable is a meaningful way of keeping our oceans from becoming one giant garbage dump. The ocean is losing oxygen at an increasing rate which has contributed to the Giant Coral Reef off Australia dying off. This is having a domino effect on the oceans ecosystem and affects our land ecosystem, too. Let’s think before we act and focus on a sustainable living on land so that our oceans are sustainable with life for future generations.
Jon Powell :
James Cargas :
We must ensure scientific integrity. Without it, there is no science. And scientific integrity can be optimized when we as a society place greater emphasis on the quality of scientific output as opposed to evaluating our scientists on the volume or number of studies or publications. Quantity is impacted by poor scientific quality and we need to lessen emphasis on quantity of scientific output as it can negatively impact scientific integrity. For federal grants, this means an emphasis on scoring innovation over number of publications.
Scientific integrity benefits from transparency. Peer review needs not be a blind process. Reviewers should always identify themselves and in turn, their expertise. The blind status quo process is questionable when science is built on well documented scientific evidence. If reviewers can refute or support scientific research based on evidence, why should they be embarrassed to disclose their identity?
Overall though, it is extremely rare that fraud occurs in scientific research, as the vast majority of scientists have high integrity on how they conduct their research. Nevertheless, we should not be complacent.
Government scientists should have civil service protections. If scientists are retaliated against or terminated because their political appointee supervisors disagree with their work, then the supervisor must prove the scientist was grossly negligent before the disciplinary action is allowed to stand.
Jason Westin :
I focused my first campaign video on this subject because I believe that the attacks on facts and science are a crisis for America’s future ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3oz4wg4AqEg&t=21s ).
Facts are facts, and should not be treated as partisan fictions. We must respect and elevate science by having more scientists involved in government and in policy development. It is irresponsible and dangerous to have career politicians with little to no scientific background creating our scientific policy and funding levels.
I am a scientist and a doctor (in addition to my MD, I also have a masters of science degree). I understand and respect the importance of science for America, and would fight to protect and expand its role for our future. My district includes many people who work in the Texas Medical Center, a hub for medicine and innovative research, and thus these issues are critical to our local economy and future. If America falters, other nations will be glad to pick up the mantle of scientific leadership with all the benefits that it entails. For America to remain a dominant force for centuries to come, we must increase our investments in and respect for science.
Joseph Kopser :
The proximate motivation for my campaign was to unseat Congressman Lamar Smith, one of American politics’ principal opponents of objective reality and fact-based scientific inquiry. Even though we have helped Smith see that it was time to retire, as an Aerospace Engineer, and father of three, I cannot stand by in silence and watch our political culture continue to slip into a crisis of doubt where people choose tribal loyalty over facts to base their decisions.
Every facet of quality of human life has been improved through scientific inquiry and technological advances. To devalue the concept of objective reality and to demean or obstruct scientific inquiry, as Smith and the Trump Administration have, is a certain path to slamming the brakes on human progress.
There can be no half-measures here—we cannot begin to address the enormous existential problems we face without agreeing on basic lines of reasoned inquiry. This narrative against science must be attacked on multiple fronts.
First, by instilling inquiry-based education from the earliest years, enhancing STEM education for all students, and offering meaningful experiences for students who show an aptitude and desire to work in STEM, we can build a generation with a stronger and deeper appreciation for the pursuit of truth-based innovation and knowledge.
Second, by increasing investment in technology on multiple critical fronts, from space exploration, to energy storage, production, and efficiency; climate change mitigation; and fronts that we can’t yet imagine, America must resolve to be the tip of the spear to the bounds of both imagination and scientific inquiry, resulting in myriad benefits worldwide.
Finally, one can draw a straight line from donations, spending by lobbyists, and dark money from individual billionaires and corporate hegemonic donors to policies and rhetoric that ignore truth and scientific evidence. So long as billions of dollars flow annually to control the outcome and bribe the actors in the political-industrial complex at the expense of objective, fact-based inquiry and our collective future, we cannot defend against fiction being peddled as truth loudly and often. To truly achieve lasting progress on any of these fronts, we must move toward replacing private financing of elections with true campaign finance reform based on public funding, and we must end the revolving door between Capitol Hill and K Street.
Mike Clark :
The political efforts at denial of science for political gains is destructive for our livelihood and wellbeing. Investing in critical thinking at a young age is a priority if we are to move out of the denial dark ages. Federal funding must be increased and promoted in this area. The methods of scientific inquiry and investigation is what leads us to new discoveries. There is no half-baked solution on this.
Super Pacs and big money are the biggest threats to fact based reasoning. Campaign finance reform is a top priority if we are to get secret money out of politics. Protecting scientists from prosecution and work place retaliation as a response for just reveling the facts must be legally protected in our labor laws.
Leading by example and sharing by example is the greatest way we can foster our scientific culture. There are many tangible benefits that everyday Americans take for granted thanks to science. Highlighting these examples will help educate and promote more science. Let’s make science cool again!
Jon Powell :
Mike Clark :
Cuts in education at the state level have had a negative impact on educating our next generation. This not only affects the quality of life, but also future innovation and economic growth. It will be a mortal wound to our society if we do not restore full funding for education.
The lack of state environmental regulation and enforcement has lead to more air pollution and tainted water. The “look the other way” policies by our state governmental leaders has put profit above safe keeping. The lack of enforcement of environmental laws has further endangered many wonderful species of Central Texas in TX-31, such as, the beautiful Golden-cheeked Warbler that nest only in Texas. This trend must be reversed at the federal and state level if we are to preserve our best natural resources for future generations.
The runaway land development process has caused areas in TX-31 to be more flood prone. With more concrete covering our land, there is less natural open spaces to act like a sponge to soak up rainfall. Central Texas is already naturally known as “Flash Flood Alley” and the deregulated policies of our state has only made flood matters worse. This has caused more loss and has lead to higher insurance rates. Focusing on construction that naturally blends in and works with nature instead of against it is both economical and environmentally sound.
Some of our local cities in TX-31 have acted at the local level to be more environmentally friendly with city growth, but the anti-science state political leaders have passed legislation that limits or bans local community efforts. Help me become your Congressman, and I will commit to having more fact based and scientific solutions at the federal level. But it is imperative to have similar efforts at the state and local levels to make tangible solutions happen.
Organizations Who Developed the Questions: The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the American Chemical Society (ACS), the American Geosciences Institute (AGI), the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS), the American Institute of Physics (AIP), the American Physical Society (APS), the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB), the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), Council on Competitiveness, IEEE-USA, the National Academy of Medicine, the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). Media Partner: Scientific American