It started as an idea for a March in one city. Within days there were 300,000 followers on Facebook. Now it has grown into a world-wide movement.
The idea is a simple one: A March for Science.
So this Saturday, on Earth Day, there will be a March to stand up for science in the face of the most anti-science US Administration ever. A March to stand up for facts in the Trump post-factual era. To highlight issues such as climate change with a climate denier in the White House.
To stand up for evidence-based decision making as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency rips up decades of scientific progress in favour of his fossil fuel buddies. To stand up for scientific free speech, in a dangerous era of political censorship.
To speak out, when silence is no longer an option. The message is simple: “Science, not Silence.”
But it has grown from one event to hundreds. So on Saturday, there will be an estimated 500 events around the world where people will march for science.
According to the organizers: “The March for Science is a celebration of science. It’s not only about scientists and politicians; it is about the very real role that science plays in each of our lives and the need to respect and encourage research that gives us insight into the world.”
The March will champion “robustly funded and publicly communicated science as a pillar of human freedom and prosperity. We unite as a diverse, nonpartisan group to call for science that upholds the common good and for political leaders and policy makers to enact evidence based policies in the public interest.”
Since the March was announced, part of the backlash is that scientists should not do politics, they should stick to research. However their defence has been robust on this and has to be welcomed. Indeed the March is asking the question whether scientists now have a responsibility to communicate their findings, protect the public and ensure public policy is based in fact, not some Trump-era fake news conspiracy. “In the face of an alarming trend toward discrediting scientific consensus and restricting scientific discovery, we might ask instead: can we afford not to speak out in its defense? There is no Planet B”, the organizers argue.
The March is likely to be the largest ever protest by scientists and its now backed by prestigious organizations such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Geophysical Union. Some 220 organizatons have now lended their support. Bill Nye, the world renowned scientist and Mona Hanna-Attisha, a pediatrician who worked on lead poisoning in Flint, Michigan are honorary co-chairs.
And it is about time scientists spoke out. The Trump administration, filled with cronies and billionaires, is set to slash a staggering $7 billion from science funding, from climate change to cancer research.
Andrew Rosenberg, who spent a decade at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and is now at the Union of Concerned Scientists argues: “It’s important for scientists to get out of the lab and talk about what’s important…I think retreating to your lab and hoping it will all go away is not going to be the best strategy.”
But it will not just be scientists who are marching. Kishore Hari, who does outreach for the University of California, San Francisco, argues that many of the satellite marches will be led by ordinary people. “The idea that scientists are leading the march started to evaporate when these small towns started to show up,” he told the New York Times. “I started to see teachers, farmers and factory workers; nonscientists are leading these marches and that’s uplifting.”
And even before one placard has been waved, the event is already a success as it has started people talking about the role of science in society. As Michael Halpern, deputy director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, argues: “In many ways, the event is already a success: because thousands of scientists are speaking up, millions of people are considering how science actually matters to our lives .. The March for Science has started conversations within many families about scientists as public servants, my own included.”
And it is a conversation that will continue after Earth Day. “We have no intention of letting this stop after April 22,” argues Dr. Caroline Weinberg, a public health researcher and co-chairwoman of the march. “I will have considered it pretty much a failure if after April 22 all of this movement and all of this passion dissipates.”
And there are other things you can do. Oil Change International’s sister organization, Climatetruth.org, is running a petition to “Stand Up For Science!” So even if you can’t make the March you can sign the pledge “to stand up for science” and “pledge to fight back against the denial, distortion, and disinformation that undermine science and block bold action on climate change at every turn.” Sign it here.