Marchers worried about what they see as an anti-science bias in U.S. administration
Scientists and science enthusiasts gather for London’s March for Science, triggered by concern over mounting attacks on science. (Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images)
Scientists and their supporters marched in hundreds of cities around the world Saturday, including over a dozen in Canada, protesting against proposed U.S. government funding cuts to scientific research and public rejection of established science such as climate change.
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Events in about 600 cities in 68 countries were inspired in part by the Women’s March on Washington, held a day after U.S. President Donald Trump’s inauguration in January.
This series of marches, on Earth Day, puts scientists — who generally shy away from advocacy and whose work depends on objective experimentation — into a more public position.
Canadian cities join the march
People in at least 18 locations across Canada are participating in marches to promote and advocate for science. In Ottawa, organizers scheduled a march on Parliament Hill.
“Some of the signs we’re seeing are spreading the message that science matters, evidence matters,” CBC’s Andrew Foote reported from the Ottawa march.
“They are saying that any politician who tries to undermine science, ruin trust in science, or politically motivate funding of science, particularly climate change, is a risk and they want to speak out against that.”
Foote said participants included a teacher, the father of a burgeoning scientist and students studying biology.
“While climate change is a major issue, they are concerned about a number of Trump’s executive orders and his proposed budget, which proposes massive cuts to scientific research.
“They worry what that means for discoveries in cancer research. As one woman put it, ‘Science equals prosperity.'”
At least 500 people marched toward Science World in Vancouver, reported CBC’s Maryse Zeidler.
In Halifax, protesters turned up near city hall to show their support for evidence-based policy making, some carrying signs like “Defiance for Science,” and “Without Science, It’s Just Fiction.”
Richard Zurawski, a meteorologist-turned-city-councillor who helped organize the event, said it is imperative that politicians combat the creeping influence of pseudo-science at all levels of government.
“If we don’t support our science, we’re going to lose it,” he said. “Everywhere you look, we’re balancing climate change against the economy, which is just nonsense … The environment is way too important.”
Margrit Eichler was one of the many demonstrators who descended on Queen’s Park for Toronto’s local march.
“Without science, we don’t have a modern society,” said the retired professor who taught at the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. “We cannot have a democratic society either because we need to know what’s going on in order to come up with appropriate types of policies.”
“We need to make it clear to politicians that this is something that concerns every citizen,” she said.
Toronto march organizer Evan Savage said as many as 3,000 people attended the event.
Political, not partisan
The main event for science was in Washington, D.C., where organizers said it’s political, but not partisan.
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However, participants who braved the pouring rain in Nashville, Tenn., twisted a Trump catch-phrase, holding signs that said “Make America think again.” Others carried signs that read, “Climate change is real, ask any polar bear” and “There is no planet B.” In Manhattan, the crowed chanted “science, not silence.”
Donald Trump has called climate change a “hoax” and is taking steps to pare back the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as reversing many environmental initiatives undertaken by the Obama administration.
In a statement regarding Earth Day released Saturday, Trump said his administration is “committed to keeping our air and water clean” but that “economic growth enhances environmental protection.”
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“We can and must protect our environment without harming America’s working families,” Trump said in the statement. “That is why my administration is reducing unnecessary burdens on American workers and American companies, while being mindful that our actions must also protect the environment.”
The March for Science attracted several thousand people in Berlin, with people walking from one of the city’s universities to the Brandenburg Gate.
Meike Weltin. a doctorate student at an environmental institute near Berlin, says she’s participating because, “I think that politics needs to listen to sciences.”
Ali Khademhosseini, a Iranian-Canadian professor at Harvard’s medical school, was in Boston to attend the city’s march.
He told CBC News that Trump’s proposed cuts to science funding work “against the benefit of U.S. competitiveness.”
“In fact for every dollar that is spent on science, multiple dollars are added to the economy as a result of the output that is generated, so the funding needs to be protected,” he said.
“Scientific reasoning and thinking needs to aid policy making and this is something that needs to be emphasized to the legislators.”