Or at least it wasn’t intended as a joke — and certainly not at the expense of the speaker. His name is Michael Mann, and he is a professor of Atmospheric Science at Penn State University. The unfortunate reference came in an address to students graduating Vermont’s Green Mountain College.
“Never before have we witnessed science under the kind of assault it is being subject to right now in this country,” Mann said at the commencement ceremony Sunday, according to remarks he published online.
Mann made his name in climate science for creating the “hockey stick” graph, which he said proved that current global warming “is unprecedented as far back as we can go.”
Researchers hotly criticized Mann’s work, including a scathing 2009 report by Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick showing that the hockey stick study “does not provide reliable evidence about climate change over the past millennium, because their data are inconsistent and their confidence intervals are wrong.”
Mann said he embraced his role as a political activist after years of being attacked by “fossil fuel interests.” He said humanity faced a “stark choice, between a future with a little more climate change that we will still have to adapt to and cope with, and one with catastrophic climate change that will threaten the future of life as we know it.”
“And so here we are, at a crossroads,” he said.
It was at this point that Mann went on to add:
I will borrow and adapt — for our current time and place — the words of Martin Niemöller, a prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps:
First they came for the immigrants and I did not speak out —
Because I was not an immigrant.
Then they came for the scientists, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a scientist.
Then they came for the environmentalists, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not an environmentalist.
Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.
Niemöller was a Lutheran pastor who initially supported Hitler, but came to oppose the Nazi’s influence over German churches. He cofounded the Confessing Church — a coalition of churches that opposed the Nazi effort to create a single, unified Protestant Reich Church.
For his activism, German authorities sent Niemöller to two concentration camps between 1937 to 1945. He escaped execution and eventually became a prominent anti-war activist in the 1950s.
Niemöller is best known for his “First they came” poem, which criticizes the reluctance of German intellectuals to stand up against Nazi oppression until it was too late.
Mann used it as a call to action in his speech to college graduates.
“Those of us who care about science and the role that science plays in our larger public discourse and those who care about environmental stewardship and a sustainable path forward must now make our voices heard,” Mann said.
This report, by Michael Bastasch, was cross-posted by arrangement with the Daily Caller News Foundation.