March For Science Scheduled For Earth Day, But Will It Be Political?

Lorenzo Tanos - Author

Feb. 4 2017, Updated 2:40 p.m. ET

Despite how President Donald Trump received flak for choosing known climate change doubters to serve in his Cabinet, this April’s March for Science ideally won’t have any political agenda attached to it.

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A report from the Washington Post detailed what’s planned for Earth Day 2017, which falls on April 22 and also marks the chosen date for the organizers of the March for Science. Original plans for the march were first made on the heels of the success of the Women’s Marches that took place on the weekend of Trump’s inauguration as president, and those plans began to crystallize as the Trump administration asked government researchers not to speak to the general public. The report noted how quickly this initiative gained a groundswell of support, starting with simple Reddit posts, but piquing the interest of scientists from all over the world.

According to the Post, there may be many related marches on top of the planned demonstration in Washington, D.C. – organizers from over 100 cities in more than 10 countries are planning satellite marches in relation to the main protest. The March for Science also has the support of one key political mover and shaker – Vermont Senator and onetime Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders.

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Considering the Trump administration’s perceived doubt of climate change, as well as how Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway’s mention of “alternative facts” created instant buzzwords, many have wondered whether the March for Science would have a political agenda, or whether it would specifically criticize the Donald Trump administration. But that’s not how many scientists planning to attend the march see it.

Speaking to the New York Times, Jonathan Berman, University of Texas Health Science Center postdoctoral fellow, stressed that the march won’t be colored by any kind of political opinions. He is one of the protest’s lead organizers, as well as the person who first noticed an off-the-cuff comment on Reddit, suggesting that a “Scientists’ March” on Washington may be necessary.

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“Yes, this is a protest, but it’s not a political protest. The people making decisions are in Washington, and they are the people we are trying to reach with the message: You should listen to evidence.”

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In an interview with the Christian Science Monitor, Dana R. Fisher, University of Maryland professor of sociology, added that the March for Science isn’t meant to be a “critique of the Trump administration.” But she also acknowledged that the desire to protect science from political meddling does constitute a political position, albeit one that may “cross party lines.”

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“There are many conservatives in the United States that believe science should be free of political pressure.”

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However, there are also organizers who believe that, as scientists, they have an obligation to speak up on certain hot-button issues relating to the Trump administration, including the recent travel ban affecting people from seven predominantly Muslim countries, and the potential removal of climate change information from the Environmental Protection Agency’s website.

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“We feel that the time has passed for scientists to, in good conscience, stay out of this fight,” Caroline Weinberg, the March for Science co-organizer and science writer told the Washington Post. “There is no need to be partisan — politicians on both sides of the aisle are guilty of positions that fly in the face of scientific evidence — but it is not possible to ignore policy when it affects not just your jobs but the future of your field.”

Speaking separately to the New York Times, Weinberg also lamented how the Trump administration seems to be veering toward an “anti-science direction.”

Although the March for Science does not lack for supporters in and out of the field, there are some scientists who don’t expect much from the planned protests. William Happer, a Princeton University physicist, who is reportedly in consideration as the president’s science adviser, warned that scientists may be at risk of losing their public support, and stated that most Americans might not get what they are fighting for.

“It’s quite possible that this kind of public exercise could actually be bad for science — it’s like the toddler banging his spoon in the highchair,” added Happer, expressing his doubts on the March for Science. “It may not turn out to garner a lot of sympathy.”

[Featured Image by Mario Tama/Getty Images]


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