Photo by Ken Spencer

Photo by Ken Spencer

Alluvian spoke with Dan Fagin, science journalism professor at New York University, New York Times best selling author, and pulitzer prize winning journalist of the book, Tom’s River about his work a science journalist, environmental contamination, and the importance and future of science communication.

On the difficulties of investigating in Toms River:

“I have biological kids of my own and I would be talking to these parents who had gone through excruciating loss, or —  if their child didn’t die — their child went through so much pain for so many years, and on top of that is the pain of not knowing why, or feeling like they knew why, but couldn’t prove it. So it was very difficult to have those conversations.”

On science communication:

“Facts are not persuasive unless they are presented effectively, unless they are communicated effectively.”

On the current media climate:

“On the plus side, Donald Trump has actually been really good for journalism and for science journalism too. People are just so stunned at what has happened. There is a real recognition that, hey, what we do is actually really important. It deserves support and we need smart young people coming into our field. It’s a combination of both scary and exciting.”

On the difficulties communicating science:

“The problem with science as a subject matter is that it’s knowledge based and somewhat hierarchical. Some people have more science knowledge than others. It’s not a level playing field. It’s difficult to acquire that knowledge, and it’s even more difficult to acquire that knowledge if you are not born with privilege.”

On issue of diversity and environmental disaster:

“Toms River is a very white town. And Toms River was built on exclusion… Toms River would have been really helped, as so many communities, by diversity it never had. Toms River really suffered because of a certain kind of racial and cultural arrogance.”

On privilege and environmental disaster:

“There was sort of an insularity to Toms River. Just sort of the feeling that this can’t be happening here. This is not a place where bad things happen. We’re the “lucky” people…”

On reporting on a climate crisis:

“It is way more likely that an environmental crisis will unfold slowly over a really long period of time. In the beginning there will not be good public knowledge of what’s going on. There won’t even be good knowledge from the polluters… A friend of mine used to say that environmental stories don’t break, they ooze — and I think there’s something to that.”