(ENVIRONMENT/SCIENCE) Today, on Earth Day, tens of thousands are taking a stand against those working to undermine scientific data in the global “March for Science” in Washington D.C. and over 600 other cities across the world.

In the dawn of U.S. President Donald Trump, who’s described climate change as a “hoax” and recently signed an executive order reversing Obama’s environmental policies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, our voices must be heard now more than ever.

The “March for Science” is a call for our politicians to implement science-based policies, and a means of standing up to those who belittle scientists and the role they play in understanding how our human actions impact the Earth’s climate.

Read on to learn more about the unprecedented Science March and it’s global significance. — Global Animal

“There’s no question that the climate is changing, I’ve seen it all over the world. And the fact that people can deny that humans have influenced this change in climate is quite frankly absurd.” — Jane Goodall, famed anthropologist and conservationist 

Photo Credit: Jose Sanchez / AP Photo

Washington Post, Joel Achenbach, Ben Guarino & Sarah Kaplan

Saturday’s March for Science is political, but not partisan. So say the organizers, who insist that they can walk that fine line even in an era of ideological rancor and extreme polarization.

“We’ve been asked not to make personal attacks or partisan attacks,” saidhonorary national co-chair Lydia Villa-Komaroff, in a teleconference with reporters. But Villa-Komaroff, a cell biologist who will be among those with two-minute speaking slots, quickly added: “This is a group of people who don’t take well being told what to do.”

The Science March, held on Earth Day, is expected to draw tens of thousands of people to the Mall, and satellite marches have been planned in more than 600 cities on six continents. The crowd will gather on Saturday near the Washington Monument for five hours of speeches and teach-ins, culminating in the march at 2 p.m. The march will follow Constitution Avenue along the north edge of the Mall to the foot of Capitol Hill. The weather forecast is a tricky one — it’s not an exact science, apparently — but attendees should be prepared for rain, particularly in the afternoon.

Protest marches may be common in Washington these days, but one centered on the value of science is unprecedented. The march is part of a wave of activism in the research community. Scientists are jumping into the political fray by running for public office — such as in southern California, where geologist Jess Phoenix, a Democrat, has announced her candidacy for a congressional seat held by a Republican.

The idea for the event was spawned during a Jan. 21 conversation on Reddit, as millions of people gathered in Washington and cities around the world for the record-breaking Women’s Marches. Valorie Aquino, who is working on her PhD in anthropology at the University of New Mexico, signed on as one of the march’s national co-chairs shortly after. She thought she’d be able to continue her research while coordinating the event, not anticipating how quickly it would snowball.

“This March for Science organizing has consumed my last three months,” Aquino said Friday afternoon. “I’m overwhelmed. I’m inspired. I’m a little terrified. I would love to take a nap but I don’t think it’s going to happen.”

Most mainstream science organizations — such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Geophysical Union, and the American Chemical Society — have signed on as partners of the march, despite their lack of experience in going to the barricades.

Rush Holt, head of AAAS, said there was initial hesitation about whether this was the kind of event a scientist ought to be joining but that members of his association overwhelmingly support the decision to participate.

This is not simply a reaction to President Trump’s election, Holt said. Scientists have been worried for years that “evidence has been crowded out by ideology and opinion in public debate and policymaking.” Long before Trump’s election, people in the scientific and academic community  raised concerns about the erosion of the value of expertise and the rise of pseudoscientific and anti-scientific notions. Science also found itself swept up into cultural and political battles; views on climate science, for example, increasingly reflect political ideology.

Mona Hanna-Attisha, the Michigan pediatrician who sounded the alarm on lead in Flint’s drinking water, is one of the march’s honorary co-chairs. Her experience as a physician in Flint paved the way for her science advocacy, Hanna-Attisha told The Post. “Pediatricians care for a population that can’t speak, can’t vote,” she said, noting that doctors take an oath to protect patients from harm. “It is your role to be an advocate.”

Arthur Edelman, who studies ovarian cancer at the State University of New York’s University at Buffalo, was on the National Mall listening to the main stage sound check with his wife, Enid, on the afternoon before the march. The demonstration tents and the roughly 190 portable toilets had already been set up. (The song the keyboardist played was, naturally, “She Blinded Me with Science.”)

The 71-year-old had not marched since Vietnam, which he did then “because I didn’t want to die.” This march is different, he said. “It’s a struggle that doesn’t have to be such a struggle.” He was marching for “the air we breathe and the water we drink.” Edelman was concerned about the future of his graduate students at a time when the NIH can only fund 9 out of every 100 grant proposals submitted. “That means you’re dead in the water unless you get results,” he said. Edelman will march on Saturday, which is also his birthday.

Under the heading of “What sign should I carry?”, the march’s official website nudges participants to go geeky rather than political: “Do you have a special love for cell biology or physics? Maybe you want to proudly tell the world that vaccines have kept you healthy? Or thank the EPA for keeping your water safe? This could be the right time to declare your support for a well-funded NIH! This isn’t about any one politician — this is about science and policy, scientists and science supporters.”

The line up for the event on the Mall includes some of science and environmentalism’s biggest names. Bill Nye, CEO of the Planetary Society and another honorary co-chair, will speak, as will climate scientist Michael Mann, coordinator of the first Earth Day Denis Hayes, NASA Astronaut Leland Melvin, and the heads of many science and environmental advocacy groups.

But the organizers also aim to buck stereotypes of science as stodgy, academic and dominated by older white men by selecting speakers from a broad range of ages, backgrounds and expertise. The lineup includes Taylor Richardson, a 13-year-old aspiring astronaut who raised $17,000 earlier this year to send other young girls to see the film “Hidden Figures;” YouTube star Tyler DeWitt; chemist Mary Jo Ondrechen, a member of the Mohawk Nation and chair of the board of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society; and Gallaudet University biologist Caroline Solomon, who is deaf.

YouTube star Derek Muller and the musician Questlove are slated to emcee.

Notably, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, the most well-known living American scientist, will not be attending a science march, according to a representative. Tyson did not respond to a request to comment on why.

No politicians have been invited to participate in the march, organizers say, even as they acknowledge that this was inspired by the Women’s March on the day after Trump’s inauguration.

“Science is nonpartisan. That’s the reason that we respect it, because it aims to reduce bias. That’s why we have the scientific method. We felt very strongly that having politicians involved would skew that in some way,” Caroline Weinberg, a public health researcher and co-organizer of the march, said at the National Press Club earlier this month.

Carol Greider, a Johns Hopkins molecular biologist and Nobel laureate, said in the conference call this week that she will bring dozens of students and postdoctoral researchers to the march. “People are actually questioning whether they can even go on and have a career in science,” she said, noting the Trump administration’s proposal to cut nearly a fifth of the National Institutes of Health budget. “Potentially, we will lose an entire generation of people who are now trained and have the talent and are eager to make the next breakthroughs.”

Greider said it’s possible to fight for science without “labeling ourselves” as being on one partisan side or the other. That was echoed by Elias Zerhouni, former NIH head under President George W. Bush: “This is not a partisan issue. This is not one administration versus another … It’s really an age-old debate between rational approaches to the universe and irrational approaches to the universe.”

Not every scientist is convinced. Arthur Lambert, a cancer researcher at the Whitehead Institute at MIT in Boston, said he was initially excited about the science march. But as the event drew closer, it seemed increasingly unlikely that it would appear to be anything but partisan.

Read the full Washington Post article, here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/speaking-of-science/wp/2017/04/20/why-scientists-are-marching-on-washington-and-more-than-400-other-cities/?utm_term=.cb0638a4f27f

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