Environment

Demonstrators Take to the Streets in Support of Science

4/23/17
from The Wall Street Journal,
4/22/17:

First ‘March for Science’ part of movement among researchers toward greater public activism.

As Diana and Brendan Sun waited for a subway Saturday in New York, they carried signs urging people to “thank a scientist” if they had ever used a cellphone, computer, or television or taken medicine for diabetes, a cold, or high blood pressure. The mother and son were on their way to the first March for Science, one of a number of rallies intended to defend perceived global attacks on science. The demonstrations—led by scientists and originally proposed online—are part of a movement among researchers toward increased public activism. The Suns were among the tens of thousands who attended the more than 500 rallies world-wide. Among the movement’s goals: to push for evidence-based legislation and to communicate to the public the social and economic impacts of scientific research. Dr. Sun, a dermatologist, and her son also hoped to change the public’s perception of scientists, who have long been portrayed as villains in movies and books like “Frankenstein,” they said.

Anna Parker, a masters student in zoology attending the march in Laramie, Wyo., said she hoped the march would spark conversations among people of different political leanings about the role science has in local communities, including its part in job creation. She said she fears the proposed cuts to research funding will limit her ability to work as a scientist. “I’m not going to be marching against Trump. I’m going to be marching for science,” Ms. Parker said. “I hope that comes through.”

In advance of Saturday’s events, the organizers of the March for Science stressed that the rallies weren’t an indictment of the Trump administration or any one political party. Representatives from scientific organizations like the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science, said during a press conference Wednesday that decades of federal funding cuts for research, scientific misinformation, and world-wide attacks on the free exchange of ideas were drivers for the movement. The march is “international…therefore it can’t just be about Trump,” said Rush Holt, the president of AAAS, a March for Science partner, in an interview. Reducing the marches to that “diminishes the significance,” the physicist and former Democratic congressman added.

Participants and speakers at several of the rallies also said the gatherings weren’t partisan, but they sharply criticized a Trump administration proposal to slash the budgets of federal agencies such as the National Institutes of Health and the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as its stance on climate change.

At the events in New York and Washington, D.C., some attendees carried signs with pro-environment, pro-science and anti-Trump messages. Some demonstrators said they were concerned about the Trump administration’s immigration policies and how they could affect research and the country’s ability to continue to be a leader in science in technology. When the New York march passed by Trump International Hotel & Tower in Midtown Manhattan, protesters booed and chanted “Lock him up.”

Along the march route in New York, where some vendors sold anti-Trump merchandise, James MacDonald, an actuary, carried a sign in support of President Donald Trump. Mr. MacDonald said the protesters were pretending the march was about science, when it really was in opposition to the president and his policies.

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