9 Reasons to March for Science This Earth Day

by Tim Donaghy

April 21, 2017

Donald Trump has the potential to inflict serious harm on the practice of science in the United States, but this weekend scientists (and science lovers of all stripes) will be showing the president what resistance looks like.

Stand Up for Science

Photo by Peg Hunter / Flickr.

This Earth Day, April 22, Marches for Science will take place in DC and countless cities across the country. Here are some reasons to grab a sharpie, make a sign, and show up at your local march.

1. The universe is amazing and beautiful — and we can figure out how it works.

When I was a graduate student, I carried a beeper. For my research, I worked on an international satellite collaboration studying gamma-ray bursts — once-mysterious events that we now know come from the explosive deaths of massive stars so bright they are visible across the universe. Whenever a burst of light from a dying star bonked into our detector, I got a beep. My job was to take the detector data, calculate the location of the burst on the sky, and share the information publicly to allow for follow-up observations.

Dragging myself out of bed after a 3am beep was not always easy, but being there for the delivery of a message across billions of light-years was awesome. When gamma-ray bursts were first discovered, some people worried that they were evidence of secret Russian underground nuclear testing. The truth turned out to be much cooler. Over the following decades, astronomers and physicists slowly unraveled the mystery of gamma-ray bursts via a constant back-and-forth dance between observation and theoretical understanding.

For whatever reason, the universe follows patterns and laws that we can tease apart and discover — and put to use to make life on our planet better.

2. We’re going to need science now more than ever.

Climate change presents an immense challenge: how do we disentangle our economy from fossil fuels while also ending energy poverty and improving lives around the world? There is a road to get there, but it won’t be simple. A movement of people calling for change, smart policy, and continued scientific innovation are all necessary pieces of the puzzle.

We need to foster and promote the values of the scientific method — openness, curiosity, collaboration, and respect for evidence — if we want a chance at limiting global warming.

3. Trump is lying to us.

Trump lies constantly, effortlessly, and without shame, usually with the goal of protecting his ego. And now that he’s president, elected officials and the media are amplifying his message and scrambling to explain away his more bizarre statements.

House “Science” Committee Chairman Lamar Smith even said that the public should get their news “directly from the president,” as the only way to get the “unvarnished truth.”

4. Climate change deniers have seized the reins of government.

Climate change deniers have never had as much power in DC as they do under this administration. Trump’s EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt actually went on TV to say that he doesn’t think carbon dioxide is the primary cause of global warming. This isn’t an accident, but the result of a long-term strategy executed by a network of well-funded conservative operatives.

Trump’s election gave them a chance to strike a blow against protections for the environment and public health — and they are taking it.

5. We need more investment in scientific research — not less.

Trump’s proposed budget would decimate critical scientific research in the United States. Earth systems research at the EPA, NASA and NOAA (including crucial satellite observation programs) would see massive cuts. Government support for clean energy research could disappear. Even medical research at the NIH is on the chopping block.

All of these cuts are shockingly short-sighted, and they could mean that the United States will no longer be on the cutting edge for certain fields of research.

6. We need a strong federal scientific workforce.

From CDC experts tracking disease outbreaks, to NOAA’s hurricane-hunters and FWS’s wildlife experts, the federal government is the place where scientific knowledge gets put into action.

We rely on these scientists to protect our shared environment, keep us all healthy, and ensure that the government decision making runs on credible information — not wishful thinking.

7. We need strong science-based policy-making.

Under the Bush administration, political appointees interfered with the work of federal scientists in order to influence policy outcomes. President Obama put in place policies to protect the scientific integrity of government science, but we are starting to see some of the same problems surface again under Trump.

Science is never the only ingredient in smart policy making, but the integrity of science in that process must be protected from political interference.

8. Science has not always been a positive force, and we can do better.

The March for Science has brought forward important conversations about equity, diversity, inclusion, human rights, and social justice within the the scientific community. Too often, science has not been a welcoming field for women and people of color, and incidents like the U.S. Public Health Service’s shameful Tuskegee Study have shown that science can only function and be broadly trusted when it is inclusive.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights lays out a goal for science when it states that “everyone has the right to … share in scientific advancement and its benefit.”

9. Science is under attack like never before, and scientists taking to the streets is a necessary act of resistance.

Let’s be clear — the politicization of science is happening whether we like it or not, driven and funded by powerful interest groups.

A strong democracy needs science, just as science needs a strong democracy. And in a democracy, there’s really no shortcut to speaking your mind and resisting when necessary. This weekend, scientists — like many of us in the age of Trump — will be out on the streets showing us how it’s done.

Tim Donaghy

By Tim Donaghy

Tim Donaghy is a Senior Research Specialist with Greenpeace USA. He writes frequently about climate change, offshore oil drilling, energy production, and the Arctic.

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