March for Science

Put April 22 in your book!  If you took part in the Women’s March on Washington there or in any of the 673 sister marches around the planet, then you know the excitement, the camaraderie, the common purpose.  If you’ve been to the airports to support those caught in the web of xenophobia incarnate now in the Trump Administration, you understand the importance of being there, of making a statement with your presence, your voice.  If you’ve been involved with constituent meetings to tell your elected representatives that you won’t stand for democracy and the social compact being torn apart by the bestiality of the morally bankrupt in power, then you are well and truly in tune with hundreds of millions of your sisters and brothers around the world.  And, if you haven’t yet experienced the empowering, life-affirming coming together of people to express their common humanity and innate sanity, then here’s a great opportunity.

April 22, Earth Day, will see the March for Science in Washington, but in at least 226 satellite locations on all six of the populated continents (and maybe Antarctica too).  The aim is to raise awareness of the importance of science and to support its critical role as a tool to guide smart public policy.  “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.” (That number is probably much higher.)

I wrote in my book, that “We enjoy a vast architecture of science—peer-reviewed journals, conferences, research institutions, and graduate schools, plus government, foundation, and corporate funding to support it all. We have come to rely on science to inform us about dangers to public health and the health of our ecosystems, to provide cures for many of our ills, including fixes for the ills we have brought on ourselves through industrial pollution. Further, we rely on science to inform public policy so that we will better know where to devote the finite resources at our disposal for maximum benefit to ourselves and to posterity. Responsible policy makers have long since become confident in the knowledge that they can depend on expert scientific testimony to help guide them.”

All that has been under threat for some time.  The new version of the Inquisition has been well in train for at least the last decade.  Chris Mooney, wrote The Republican War on Science, over a decade ago.  (Chris is now a science reporter for the Washington Post.) Climate denial has been red meat for the reactionary right wing since at least 1988 when the climate crisis became all too real, not, of course, just for scientists, but for the general public and policy makers around the world.  The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was brought into being in 1988 by the UN General Assembly and its first report, in 1990, set off alarm bells that, among other things, led to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992.  All this science, the policy advances, and the political action terrified the fossil fuel industries and so was set in motion an extremely well-funded campaign of disinformation and assault on climate policy* that has culminated in the selection of the worst conceivable phalanx of people possible to lead key US agencies, like Interior, Energy, EPA and State.

It is important that you express your concern, whether you are a working scientist, a naturalist, an environmentalist, or none of the above but believe that public policy needs to be grounded in the realities of the physical universe.  Sign up here for the March for Science.  See you there!

Update:  The always-excellent InsideClimate News reports here that the venerable Union of Concerned Scientists has created a communication link, a sort of underground railroad for scientists and environmental professionals in the federal government to report abuses by the Trump Administration.  They provide a compendium, as well, of ways of undermining “science-based policymaking and public access to scientific information,” so that federal environmental officials and others can be alert to those. See the UCS blog for more.


*Key sources on all this include Dark Money by Jane Mayer, Merchants of Doubt by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway, and Private Empire:  ExxonMobil and American Power by Steve Coll.  See also “Science and policy: Crossing the boundary” from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists here.

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