On Earth Day, Saturday, April 22, 2017, scientists across the United States will do something they don’t generally like to do. They will leave their labs, their field study sites, their university classrooms and travel to Washington D. C. or to other cities across the country, including Chicago, to get political. They will be marching for science.
There is even a March for Science website … leave it to the techies among them! And this is what they say about their cause:
“The March for Science is a celebration of our passion for science and a call to support and safeguard the scientific community. Recent policy changes have caused heightened worry among scientists, and the incredible and immediate outpouring of support has made clear that these concerns are also shared by hundreds of thousands of people around the world. The mischaracterization of science as a partisan issue, which has given policymakers permission to reject overwhelming evidence, is a critical and urgent matter. It is time for people who support scientific research and evidence-based policies to take a public stand and be counted.”
If you want to get involved you can donate here, as well as find a local march near you. Actually, there are 228 sites across the United States and around the world where people will be marching, scientists and those who join them in valuing the freedom and findings of science and the importance of keeping those findings free of politicization. In Illinois, people will be marching in Chicago and in Champaign. In France, they will be marching in Lyon, Lille, Montpellier, Toulouse, and Paris. And Canada, our neighbor to the north, will have ten satellite marches in solidarity with the United States! Canadians will march in Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Hamilton, Victoria, Halifax, Vancouver, Prince George, and St. John’s.
If you know Canada’s recent history of attacks on science research and evidence, you’ll understand Canadians’ fierce solidarity with scientists in the United States. With the election of Justin Trudeau to become Canada’s Prime Minister in 2015, the troubling administration of Stephen Harper (2006-2015) came to an end. Harper’s administration was infamous for issuing gag orders, muzzling scientists and preventing them from sharing their findings with the media and the public or with other scientists at conferences. Scientists had to get approval from the government before they could talk with the media, and they were assigned “minders” from the public relations department to manage those interviews. The bureaucratic red tape was onerous and media requests were often denied. Coverage of climate science, for example, dropped by 80% as a result. For an excellent NY Times op ed by Canadian scientist Wendy Palen, associate professor of biology at Simon Fraser University, please click here.
In summary, Stephen Harper is a climate change denier. His government closed research libraries and purged valuable, sometimes irreplaceable records, consigning them to the dumpster, calling that a cost-cutting measure. Harper also cut all funding “for the Experimental Lakes Area, a world-renowned research facility where scientists run experiments on pollution and environmental contaminants in more than 50 small lakes in northwestern Ontario. Other casualties included (Canada’s) northernmost Arctic monitoring station and national census.”
Scientists, who normally prefer to remain apolitical, became outraged and sprang into action when the Harper government passed legislation that eliminated or severely amended the “marquee environmental protection laws” that Canadians prized.
And then this happened:
“Fearing the continued erosion of even the most basic protections for food inspection, water quality and human health, Canadian scientists filled Ottawa’s streets in the Death of Evidence march. That theatrical mock funeral procession became something of a cultural touchstone. It was a turning point that galvanized public opinion against Prime Minister Harper’s anti-science agenda. “
There’s something happening here, but what it is ain’t exactly clear.
But one thing is certainly clear. U.S. scientists are taking a leaf (probably maple) from the Canadian playbook and planning a massive response to the Trump administration’s gag orders, cutbacks in science research funding, scrubbing of climate science data and other science research from government websites, appointment of cabinet members who are hostile to their work, and other constraints on their research, including preventing them from sharing their findings at conferences and with the media and the public.
Scientists and their supporters will be marching on April 22, 2017, and people from around the world will be joining them in solidarity.
In solidarity, Golden Apple STEM Institute will be rescheduling our spring follow-up session from April 22nd to May 6th, because we have schools that will be participating in the Chicago march and some of our teacher participants are planning to march on their own. We will be joining them. STEM Institute coach and faculty member Wayne Wittenberg and his family will be marching in D. C. Some of us will be marching in Chicago.
But there are ways for you to march other than literally going to Washington D. C. or to downtown Chicago on Earth Day.
Every time you create opportunities for your students to understand and appreciate the work of scientists, you are marching for science.
Every time you create a unit, with lessons and activities, to help your students understand that global climate change is largely caused by human activity, and that this is not opinion, not conjecture, but settled science, you are marching for science.
Every time you create after school opportunities for students to do more science and engineering, you are marching for science.
Every time you raise your voice to tell your principal and colleagues that students need more science time, that science must not be marginalized or wait until 4th grade, you are marching for science.
Every time you help a colleague who is struggling to teach science effectively and is not quite sure how to do it, you are marching for science.
Every time you write to your legislators or sign a petition to protect the work of scientists from those who wish to silence them and to demand evidence-based policies, you are marching for science.
But most importantly, every time you inspire your students to develop a passion for science and aspire to become STEM professionals, or at the very least, to become informed, science-positive citizens, you are marching for science.
Will you march for science?
Please leave us a comment to let us know how.
You can read more about Golden Apple STEM Institute here.