The benefits of doing your homework

A few weeks ago I retweeeted something to my followers about a product made from neem being patented, and then something created in nature being under ownership of a person. Often when I share something like this it’s as food for thought, as well as something for me to investigate at a later date. In a fit of wanting to clear up my inbox some earlier in the week, I came across one of the comments I received on Facebook.

As you can see from the most basic searching in the link above, this did happen.
In Europe.
In 1995.
And the patent was later revoked.

However, the tweet with this information implied that it was solely a United States case. Not a complete lie, but certainly an instance where it could turn into misinformation. As we have seen in the overall Pagan community, one bad piece of information can be picked up by several different sources and claimed as truth through repetition. I can’t handle misinformation being spread in this matter. And it can become difficult for the truth to be heard when the lies are so much louder.

Is it any wonder that I ended up as a librarian?

“Google can bring you back 100,000 answers, a librarian can bring you back the right one.” -Neil Gaiman

If you are going to be an activist, or even care about an issue, it is essential to have a good background of the material surrounding this issue. Not only will it better inform you as a citizen, it will give you ammunition (though I hate to use the term) when dealing with people opposed to your stance.

1. Read, read, read.

Read everything you can find on the topic. Read blogs, but moreso read books and articles. Read as much as you can. Read opposing viewpoints so you know what other people are saying and thinking about your issue. If it matters to you that much, make the time to learn as much about it as you can.
Also, rely on sources more in-depth than Wikipedia. Any librarian worth their salt now will tell you that the site is a good jumping-off point, but it’s also very easy for misinformation to be spread through its entries.*

2. Talk to people.

This goes hand in hand with the first point. Not only is it an extension of research, the exchange of ideas will help to refine your own stance on the matter. They may know something you don’t know, or they may have another stance on the matter which will either shed light on the subject or help you to hone your own understanding.

3. Share your learning.

Even if it’s just telling one person close to you what you have learned, share it. We live in a culture in which the media outlets are becoming more and more monopolistic and any alternatives can be painted as fringe. Get the information out there.

What prompted me to do this post is a desire to become better educated about the subject of genetic engineering. Ever since I first became aware of the issues in the mid-1990s, many of the topics it brought up did not sit well in my brain. For all my opposition, when questioned it becomes difficult for me to remember all my talking points and I realized I don’t know the material well enough to speak about the topic with authority. I had hoped to do enough research recently to be able to do a post here about genetic engineering, but it’s a big topic. So I am undertaking the very steps outlined above, and hope that next time I’ll be able to show all of you the fruits of my labor.

*I wish I could embed this video!

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