Thousands of scientists, would-be scientists, students, and their supporters descended on Washington Saturday and hundreds of cities worldwide to declare science "under attack" and to protest what they see as a growing trend by government to ignore scientific evidence when making policy.
While billing itself as nonpartisan, the March for Science movement, including rallies and marches in more than 600 communities, clearly sees the Trump administration, which has expressed skepticism about man's role in climate change and has eased regulations on coal and oil production, as a threat to science.
Of particular concern to critics is the Trump administration's budget that calls for sizable cuts in funding for the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Energy's Office of Science.
“We didn’t choose to be in this battle, but it has come to the point where we have to fight because the stakes are too great,” said outspoken climate scientist Michael Mann.
Satellite marches were held nationwide in cities big and small, including Auburn, Ala., Valdosta, Ga., Honolulu, Clearwater, Fla., Cleveland, Dallas, and Green Bay, Wis., and at Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park.
Rallies were also being held worldwide, including Australia, Germany, Croatia, Switzerland, and New Zealand.
Organizers of the march encouraged scientists in their ranks to wear their lab coats, goggles, stethoscopes, field gear and other work clothes to make their presence known among a group that frequently shies away from public political displays.
"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," organizers of March for Science said on their website.
A good-natured crowd huddled under drizzly skies, cheering the speakers, musicians and TV personalities who drove home the message to speak out for science.
“We are at a critical juncture. Science is under attack,” said Cara Santa Maria, a TV host and science communicator who served as an emcees of the rally and concert beside the Washington Monument. “The very idea of evidence and logic and reason is being threatened by individuals and interests with the power to do real harm.”
The promoters expressed some ambivalence about how much the scientific movement, which normally focuses on measurable facts and figures, should take on a more overtly political role.
Organizers said the march "has generated a great deal of conversation around whether or not scientists should involve themselves in politics. 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?"
Rush Holt, a former physicist and Democratic congressman who runs the American Association for the Advancement of Science, said scientists find it appalling that "evidence has been crowded out by ideological assertions.”
“It is not just about Donald Trump, but there is also no question that marchers are saying ‘when the shoe fits,” he said.
One sign that reflected the sharper political bent said simpl: "Smash Pipes, Break Walls, Fight Trump"
Despite saying the march was not partisan, Holt acknowledged it was only dreamed up at the Women’s March on Washington, a day after Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20.
“It’s not about the current administration. The truth is we should have been marching for science 30 years ago, 20 years, 10 years ago,” said co-organizer and public health researcher Caroline Weinberg. “The current (political) situation took us from kind of ignoring science to blatantly attacking it. And that seems to be galvanizing people in a way it never has before.... It’s just sort of relentless attacks on science.”In Washington, the events -- timed to coincide with the 47th anniversary of Earth Day -- featured a morning rally, plus concert, and was to end with a march t the Capitol.
Despite the rain, participants stood in lines 45 minutes long outside the two bag-check security checkpoints along the grounds of the Washington Monument.They carried an array of handmade and pre-a to printed signs representing every scientific discipline.
Michelle Smith's read, "Are Marches Effective? Ask a Sociologist.""Indeed they are, but there are a lot of variables," said Smith, a 53-year old community college teacher from outside Cleveland, Ohio. "The sustained effort is critical. And I think we have that. It's not only happening here, but throughout the world."
The mood was decidedly upbeat despite the drizzle and included plenty of nerdy humor. One marcher carried an erasable lab-room whiteboard for posting his signs, so he could erase them and update as warranted.Obscure scientific references abounded, such as a 7-year-old’s “No Taxation Without Taxonomy.” Taxonomy is the science of classifying animals, plants and other organisms.
One marcher said he planned to nerdify an old style anti-war chant:"What do we want?"
RIGOROUSLY TESTED HYPOTHESES!"When do we want them?
AFTER THEY'VE BEEN PEER REVIEWED!
Show me a Nation with a science-hostile government, and I'll show you a society with failing health, wealth, & security.— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) April 22, 2017
In Asheville, N.C., several hundred people from various parts of Western North Carolina gathered for a local march.Two brothers from Hickory, N.C. said they drove back from spring break with their family a day early to participate in the march.
Brian Schoellner, 11, said he is here for the National Parks. "I love animals and want parks to stay around for years to come," he said.
In Geneva, marchers carried signs that said, “Science — A Candle in the Dark” and “Science is the Answer.” In Berlin, several thousand people participated in a march from the one of the city’s universities to the Brandenburg Gate landmark. “We need to make more of our decision based on facts again and less on emotions,” said Meike Weltin, a doctorate student at an environmental institute near the capital.
In London, physicists, astronomers, biologists and celebrities gathered for a march past the city’s most celebrated research institutions. Supporters carried signs showing images of a double helix and chemical symbols.
Speakers were to include Dr. Nancy Roman, chief of NASA's Astronomy and Relativity Programs, Jonathan Foley, executive director of the California Academy of Science; artist and environmentalist Maya Lin, who designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall; Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, the pediatrician who drew public attention to the water crisis in Flint, Mich.; musician Questlove Gomez; and TV personality and science educator Bill Nye.