Connecting the Dots:
What to do?
A new approach is needed in the process of making and communicating decisions that protect human and environmental health from chemical substances. The challenge is not doing more studies to generate more data but using what knowledge we have to make decisions that are protective of human and environmental health.
An equal challenge is succinctly communicating the scope and necessity of the decision. A new approach to changemaking, based upon connecting the dots between toxicological sciences, history, and ethics, is needed at this time.
We have tremendous amounts of facts and information. The challenge is connecting the facts together with historical and ethical understandings to enhance decision making. This challenge got me thinking about connecting the dots. This was one of the primary goals of Toxipedia – to present scientific information in the context of history, society, and culture to help people connect the dots themselves, so we could collectively make better decisions.
One important question we can ask of historically destructive or damaging decisions is simply to ask: What was missing from the knowledge base to have made a better decision? Two examples that come to mind are the lead in drinking water crisis of Flint, MI and dropping the atomic bomb on Japan.
Connecting the dots nurtures an in-depth understanding of the issue, and that allows for reasoned and affective action. As an issue grows in importance this processes can become more difficult but even more necessary. Connecting the dots stimulates questions about causation – what caused what? Did some event or long term effort change the direction of this issue? What does meaningful change require us to know or consider?
How do we build and use information / knowledge? How do you actualize what you know? Putting information in a social context requires connecting the dots – linking cause and effect.
To truly understand an issue, we must explore it from different perspectives that may seem only tangentially related to the subject under study. However it's essential for gaining insight and perspective that would not be possible from just a list of the facts.