Earth Day 2017: Science In The Age Of Trump Takes Center Stage

This Earth Day, thousands of people will head to Washington, D.C., for the inaugural March for Science. Though the event is being billed as non-partisan by organizers, its focus on galvanizing public figures and lawmakers gives the march political resonance. Furthermore, the continued news of funding cuts to scientific and research programs by the Trump administration makes this year’s Earth Day one of the most politicized in recent memory.

The convergence of Earth Day and the March for Science comes at a time when weekend protests and rallies have become the new normal. From the Tax March to the Women’s March, people are taking to the streets to voice their displeasure with President Trump.

Illustration with the words "March For Science."
[Illustration by Michele Paccione/Shutterstock]

Now more than ever, scientists and researchers are on edge and concerned about the future of their work. From budget cuts to new restrictions on H1B visa recipients, there is growing concern that the United States is on the brink of a cataclysmic decline in science and innovation, which is why it has become the central focus of this year’s Earth Day.

In less than 100 days, President Trump has managed to make several critical decisions that impact science. For instance, the EPA delayed all action to ban Chlorpyrifos, a pesticide that the Obama administration moved to ban in 2016 due to its adverse reaction in children that causes neurological damage.

The National Institutes of Health, one of the leading sources of biomedical research funding in the U.S., would get a nearly $6 billion decrease if President Trump’s budget goes through Congress intact. The National Endowment for the Humanities, which provides grants in not only the arts and humanities but also social science disciplines, may be eliminated if Trump gets his way.

The threat of losing valuable funding needed to continue research at the nation’s universities and institutions is a major reason why scientists are speaking out.

According to the March for Science website, the event’s mission is to give a voice to scientists, who are often silent in matters of activism.

“People who value science have remained silent for far too long in the face of policies that ignore scientific evidence and endanger both human life and the future of our world. New policies threaten to further restrict scientists’ ability to research and communicate their findings. We face a possible future where people not only ignore scientific evidence, but seek to eliminate it entirely. Staying silent is a luxury that we can no longer afford. We must stand together and support science.”

The Earth Day and March for Science festivities are closely tied together in its core principles and goals. As The Hill reports, the Women’s March was a catalyst for inspiring scientists to plan an event where their agenda could be at the forefront.

“Science activists saw the event as something they could replicate and devised similar action — a large D.C. rally with satellite protests around the country — based on showing general support for science policy.”

Though turnout is not expected to reach the millions that participated worldwide during the March for Women, the March for Science will be central to Earth Day events around the world.

The main march in D.C. will feature the president of the Earth Day Network, Kathleen Rogers, as well as a host of leading figures in the sciences and arts including Bill Nye, Leland Melvin, Tyler DeWitt, and the Tonight Show’s Questlove, who will serve as the co-host of the event.

A graphic depicting the hands of a child and older person holding the earth to symbolize Earth Day celebration.
[Image by Sunny studio/Shutterstock]Featured image credit: Shutter stock

Since its founding in 1970, Earth Day has been an international event that shines a spotlight on environmental-related issues. It is often billed as the largest non-religious holiday in the world due to the massive number of people who participate annually.

It is clear that science is the dominant topic of interest for this year’s Earth Day; However, there is no dearth of agenda items for people to focus on, including tree planting, endangered species, green schools, and more.

This year, events will be tied conceptually to the teach-in, a form of public action that aims to educate on environmental topics. The global teach-in initiatives were part of the Earth Day platform before the March for Science and will focus primarily on climate literacy.

Though issues of climate change will be at the forefront of Earth Day festivities, it is worth noting that a different event called the Peoples Climate March will be held on April 29 and will have an explicit platform that protests against the Trump administration.

[Featured Image by Heidi Besen/Shutterstock]