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Friday, March 25, 2011

Science, people and memorabilia

This may sound odd, but I was delighted yesterday when I heard a team of college students discuss how a flood can wipe out a lifetime of memories. Well, let me put it this way: I found it comforting that these students (a team from all over the globe) thought to include peoples’ memorabilia among the losses in floods that hit my state and neighborhood last year.

It was wonderfully refreshing. Scientists can sometimes be a cold group. Worse, sometimes they think they have no choice but to operate so. I remember fellow college students in the 1980s that seemed to think that suppressing their humanity was the best way to be a good engineer.

But science should not merely be an objective study of data—of statistics, databases, and end notes. Scientists and engineers are first and foremost servants of the common good—of the human person.

And so when floods consume communities along a usually quaint river, the damage can be impressive, expensive and the stuff of future study by people who’ve never walked the streets or spoken with the lifelong residents affected.

But in often small and unnoticed ways, these (increasingly occurring) events also bring heartache to widows who see the house that their husbands built gutted by soiled flood waters, or to low-income renters who didn’t have much to begin with, or to a veteran, parent or coach who’s lifetime of memorabilia in the basement became so much stuffing for a dumpster.

So good job to the students at the Brown Center for Environmental Studies who factored in the human into their equations. That attention to detail did not go unnoticed.

To read the report on Rhode Island’s Great Flood of 2010, visit the Center’s website, or click here to download it. Certainly, these students did a fine job.

May God help them use their educations to assist future generations of humans in keeping safe their earthly memories, their stories and their lives.

Photo: Flood waters in Natick, RI. 2010. Charles Krupa/Associated Press

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