Marching to defend science
Hundreds of events held around the world will tomorrow highlight the role science plays in our lives.
The March for Science movement emerged in the immediate wake of President Trump’s inauguration as he moved quickly to curtail the power of the Environmental Protection Agency and limit the ability of government agencies to communicate scientific evidence.
Since then it has broadened to “champion robustly funded and publicly communicated science as a pillar of human freedom and prosperity”.
A main March is planned for Washington DC on Saturday April 22, with around 500 satellite Marches planned around the world, including in Auckland, Palmerston North, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.
Writing on Sciblogs, the New Zealand organisers of the March for Science outlined their reasons for joining the movement.
Animal welfare technician and Palmerston North march organiser “Erin”, wrote that she marched to stand with scientists “who have been gagged, fired, or dismantled due to their scientific observations not appeasing a regime".
“I lived my first 20 years in America, none of my local rivers were swimmable, they had no fish, they were stinky. I’m marching because the NZ government has recently decided to further lower our freshwater standards to similar standards that I grew up in,” she wrote.
“The government believes they are improving freshwater, yet they aren’t utilizing NZ freshwater ecology research outputs or freshwater scientists for these decisions. I’m mad, and I’m marching."
But many have expressed confusion over the aims of the march and the proliferation of issues it encompasses.
Also writing on Sciblogs, Dr John Pickering observed that legitimate concerns about the Trump administrations treatment of science had been seized on to raise a grab bag of issues.
“My first thought is that if people want to protest the government’s actions with respect to water quality – then please do so. But, please don’t dress it up as a 'March for Science' as if NZ politicians are inherently anti-science,” he wrote.
“It comes across as a belief that the NZ Government is tarred with the same brush as the Trump administration with respect to its treatment of science. I don’t think that comparison is fair.”
NZ Herald science reporter Jamie Morton also posed a series of questions to prominent Kiwi scientists about the march.
Full details for the New Zealand marches planned for tomorrow are available here.
The Washington DC march will be live streamed here.