Anti-vaxxers. Climate deniers.
They are all the butt of internet jokes and memes. They are the focus of (too) many news stories and TV reports.
And their ignorance is going to kill people.
Yes, I said it. People who outright deny the scientifically-proven, data-measured reality that is climate change are either influencing the decisions of politicians or are themselves politicians working to hinder any policy that addresses the global crisis.
From not transitioning to clean energy to removing the United States from international accords and everything in between, climate deniers are setting America further down a path that will only exacerbate our climate problems and lead to a very different planet for future generations.
The refusal of vaccinations is already wreaking havoc across America. Twelve states currently face a measles outbreak. An unvaccinated boy nearly died of tetanus in Oregon.
Disease outbreaks, especially outbreaks of illnesses thought to be eradicated in the U.S., are more common now than they have been in decades.
It is the 21st century and one of the most developed and wealthiest countries in the world is facing diseases it worked tirelessly to never deal with again.
And why is it still considered "okay" to deny climate science?
Because we are afraid. We are especially afraid of things we do not understand.
For many people, science is one of those things we don't understand.
People without a background in science might look at climate reports and not understand a single thing other than the fact that the world is seemingly going to end. Or maybe the only thing they can take away from wordy, technical reports is that we need to completely change every facet of society in order to avoid something 50 years away.
If there is one thing people fear as much as they fear what they do not know, it is change. The future also tends to scare people a lot.
The refusal to vaccinate children also stems partially out of a fear of science. When one report debuts about how vaccines cause autism, the public panics. Why?
Because many people don't understand how vaccines truly work, and we fear what we do not understand.
Now that fear has embedded itself within the minds of too many people, it is hard to explain how vaccines work, and how beneficial they are to society.
Which means our fight to protect the country from previously-gone diseases is really just beginning.
It also means our fight to save the planet from destruction isn't going anyway any time soon, either.
So, this also all means science education needs to exist before college. It isn't enough to have members of society trained as engineers or chemists or environmental scientists or doctors.
It is possible to teach climate science and the basics of how vaccines work, among many other scientific inquiries, in K-12 education. We should learn about our planet and our health from the time we learn about our times tables and our history.
The only defense against ignorance is education.
The only way to combat the societal fear surrounding science is to create a society that is educated enough to not fear the science in the first place.
We need to kill this fear before the fear kills us.