Scientists Will March on Washington for Earth Day
This Earth Day, scientists plan to take Washington by storm with a march highlighting scientific contributions to society. Although the March for Science is ostensibly apolitical, with a positive focus on celebrating the sciences, others argue that it’s an inherently political response to the Trump administration. And some see that as a bad thing.
First, the basics: The March for Science includes both a march and a teach-in on the National Mall on April 22, 2017. Scientists plan to stand up and be counted in large numbers, with satellite marches across the country. While the details are still in the works, the core values of the march include the following statement:
The mischaracterization of science as a partisan issue, which has given policymakers permission to reject overwhelming evidence, is a critical and urgent matter. It is time for people who support scientific research and evidence-based policies to take a public stand and be counted.
The concern that science may be pushed to the wayside by the current administration is valid. For example, many prominent politicians are climate change deniers, including the president.
Furthermore, Congress has pledged to push back on attempts to protect the environment and conserve natural resources, including efforts to curb climate change. The president has also nominated a number of anti-science figures to key cabinet positions, and several government agencies have been threatened with gag orders and directed to remove scientific data from their websites.
Scientists argue that this isn’t just about whether the government will welcome science itself. They maintain that diversity is critical for conducting research, and that a robust, lively scientific community includes people from a broad spectrum of cultural, social and national backgrounds. Collaboration as researchers is important for producing better science.
So is the march political?
Some organizers insist that it’s not. They claim that the initiative is about supporting science, not getting involved in partisan politics — though they do admit that the administration’s stance will affect the ability for scientists to do their work.
Others are more hesitant to state that the march is without political intent. Certainly the timing can’t be a coincidence — you don’t schedule a march on Earth Day without considering the implications.
But is that a bad thing?
Some say yes, arguing that the march will polarize science even further and jeopardize their work. But many scientists believe that it’s important to send a political message supporting science. And some think it’s not political enough.
The level of politicization may depend on which march you attend. While satellite marches share common values with the parent march, their organizers will also bring different experiences and values to the table.
Some scientists may feel uncomfortable at any march, for a variety of reasons, but others want to be involved on the local level in building a cause that better suits their political beliefs — whether that be a radically confrontational political march, or a strictly nonpartisan one.
Non-scientists, of course, are welcome as well. Everyone has a stake in the sciences and in maintaining the American reputation for scientific excellence, and there’s plenty of room at the march for people from all backgrounds — including many conservatives who are eager to protect and support the sciences.
Photo credit: Alisdare Hickson