Report from the March for Science by Joshua Turner
The March for Science in Washington D.C. should, on the face of it, seem rather odd; why would people need to march for something as universally accepted as science? Even a cursory glance at modern society will reveal the extent to which science has impacted the way we live our daily lives. And yet, on 22 April, in the pouring rain no less, 40,000 people, and thousands more in cities across the country, gathered to rally and march in support of science.
The question of “should scientists be engaged in political activism?” was a central theme. Many speakers, most of whom were scientists employed by universities or private companies, broached the issue outright, arguing that while scientists did not have to be ideological, they did need to make sure that all politicians knew that funding cuts and doubt in the face of overwhelming scientific consensus are dangerous. Most speakers went through pains to point out that although it may have been the current administration that galvanized the rally, their message was for all members of Congress regardless of party.
While one can draw a direct line from the Trump administration’s seeming denial of climate science and proposed cuts to major scientific initiates and agencies as an impetus for the march, the event itself was not as political as one might have guessed. There was certainly a clear anti-Trump bias from those in attendance, with a few signs here and there depicting the 45th president in unflattering ways, but on the whole President Trump was largely ignored on a personal level, specifically by those who were invited to speak. During my time at the rally, I never heard a speaker refer to Trump by name, though there was plenty of finger pointing at the government generally.
Instead, the march had more the feel of a comic-con rally, with many coming in costumes or dressed in lab coat and with signs that were much more likely to be positive in their support of science rather than negative against the administration. I would describe the atmosphere as being joyful in a celebration of science and scientific principles.
This was encouraging. Activism that is positive in support of something has a better chance of lasting as opposed to negative anger that is likely to die out once there is a change of government. If the March for Science is to be truly effective, it will need to inspire people to march even when there is a friendlier government in office.
Joshua Turner is the creator and editor of The Hitch