This Scientist Wants to Bring Star Trek Values to Congress

Vulcanologist Jess Phoenix never expected to be involved in politics. Until recently her life revolved around science—traveling the world to study different volcanoes and running an educational nonprofit. But the environmental record of the Trump administration has motivated her to run for Congress.

“These guys are basically gutting every environmental protection that existed,” Phoenix says in Episode 284 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “It’s a trend we have to stop now. We can’t let this continue.”


Jess Phoenix on climate change:

“My dad was very much into ‘Oh, climate change isn’t real’ a few years back. And I would say, ‘Dad, I’m the scientist. I went to school for this. There’s no conspiracy.’ But then I’m really encouraged, because on his Facebook page he shared something that I did, one of the media appearances that I had—I think maybe it was when I was on CNN International talking about why we need scientists in government, Earth scientists in particular—and somebody on his page said, ‘Oh John, it’s just a conspiracy. Follow the money.’ And my dad was like, ‘Well, my daughter’s not getting paid off for this, so I think there’s something to it. I know she stands firm in her convictions’—or something to that effect. So I think he’s starting to see that [it’s real].”

Jess Phoenix on fundraising:

“Some [scientists] have gotten fairly wealthy patenting their discoveries, but for most scientists—particularly Earth scientists—your biggest disadvantage will be that you don’t have a massive, built-in donor network. Because scientists haven’t been politically active. So if I were to call up—and I’ve done this—if I were to call up 10, or 20, or 50 of my scientific colleagues and say, ‘Hey, donate to my political campaign,’ they’re not used to doing that. Lawyers are used to donating to other lawyers running for office, and the same goes for businesspeople, because they make up 80-plus percent of Congress right now. There’s one physicist in Congress—Bill Foster in Illinois—and that’s it. So you can see we have a hard row to hoe.”

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