‘Science is not evil': Marching is just the start – Reno Gazette Journal
Scientists and advocates in hundreds of locations around the world – including Reno – will rally Saturday to support the scientific community and showcase the role science plays in everyday life.
Reno organizers are anticipating up to 3,000 participants marching down Virginia Street from California Avenue to City Plaza for a rally. Reno march organizer Ana Casareto said the goal is to meet with fellow science advocates to “show different governments that science is important.”
“Science is not evil,” she said in an interview with the Reno Gazette-Journal on Thursday. “All of us need science to make our lives better.”
While the March for Science is one visible way to show solidarity, scientific and environmental organizations say it’s just the first step in protecting research and its integrity.
Many in the scientific community have been alarmed in the past few months by a lack of respect for the scientific process under the Trump administration, Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said. Proposed budget cuts that specifically target research on key processes, such as climate change, that affect people globally are particularly troubling, he said.
“The other tremendous irony here is the people who are denying climate change often focus, in a misleading way, on the alleged imperfections of the scientific modeling that’s trying to predict the future impacts of climate change. Well, if those models are imperfect, which they are, the best solution is to continue to fund them to make progress,” Kimmell said.
The march comes one month after President Trump, who has called global warming a hoax, signed an executive order aimed at rolling back Obama-era climate change and environmental policies.
Trump said his priority in signing the order was America’s energy independence and job creation. The order would “restore economic freedom and allow our companies and our workers to thrive, compete and succeed on a level playing field for the first time in a long time,” he said.
A role in society
Scientific research has been historically underfunded, said Rush Holt, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. While he sees Trump’s proposed cuts as shortsighted, the larger concern for Holt is that people have been turning away for years from a respect for evidence and the role that science plays in society.
“This didn’t begin with the election of Donald Trump, and it’s not just about the policies of this administration,” Holt said. He said that most people do not even consider what needs to be done to protect scientific integrity.
In order to get the best results, scientists need to be able to conduct their work freely and independently, Holt said. A diversity of opinions and backgrounds is also crucial to determine the questions science needs to ask, he said.
“In the immigration debate, science never enters in, and yet it really is an issue of science,” he said. “If you don’t have free flow of people and free flow of ideas, science doesn’t work.”
Lynn Scarlett, global managing director for public policy at The Nature Conservancy, said her group has worked to try to find the potential overlap between its goals and the administration’s goals to further research in areas like natural infrastructure — landscapes or ecosystems that provide services such as water purification or storm protection without human intervention.
Coastal wetlands can help in flood management while forests cycle nutrients that affect weather patterns. Protecting nature to bolster these infrastructures can provide services in cheaper and smarter ways, Scarlett said.
In addition to fighting for opportunities for new research, many groups are working to protect existing science.
Beyond challenging climate modeling research, Scarlett said the proposed cuts could also threaten multi-decade old databases that provide information on historical measurements such as stream gauges, which help in flood and drought management and weather predictions. “They get to pretty basic things for the well-being of the nation,” she said.
Last month, the Center for Biological Diversity along with two others filed Freedom of Information Act requests in order to protect hundreds of these databases related to energy and climate data, sea-level rise and endangered species. The group is also launching a new media outlet through the center to promote transparency in the sciences, executive director Kieran Suckling said.
His group and others have turned to the court system for more direct action. Suckling expects his organization to file five times the amount of litigation this year compared with last.
“We will throw up a huge and powerful wall of litigation between Trump and the environment,” he said.
Trump’s executive order on energy advised the Environmental Protection Agency to review and possibly revise or rescind President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, a rule many pro-environment groups believe to be based on sound scientific research. The Supreme Court had placed a stay on implementing Obama’s rule until legal battles played out in lower federal courts. However, the EPA must still regulate greenhouse gasses in some way as a result of a 2007 Supreme Court ruling in Massachusetts v. EPA. How specifically the EPA can do that remains in question.
If Trump were to change Obama’s rule or create his own energy plan, it would need to go through the same legal and scientific review process that Obama’s plan underwent. Suckling said this route would face many legal challenges from environmental groups if the rule ignored scientific data.
David Goldston, director of government affairs at the Natural Resource Defense Council, said federal agencies are required to base their rules on the best available science. His group has also brought forward seven lawsuits against individual agency actions or executive orders since the inauguration.
Suckling called recent litigation defensive, a change from environmental groups’ historically offensive approach in the court system.
“We’ve really had to reinvent and reorganize the entire center to position ourselves to defeat these anti-environmental onslaughts,” he said.
Simply communicating the role that science plays in people’s lives serves as a vital step in advocating for science, many scientists say.
Gretchen Goldman, with the Union of Concerned Scientists, said scientists have been hesitant to engage politically in the past, but she now hears them asking what they can do to help science better inform policy-making.
Whether it’s writing op-eds in their local papers, hosting meetings in their congressional district or serving as an eye on the ground at federal agencies to ensure the scientific research is sound, scientists are leveraging their areas of expertise and geographic location to protect their work, Goldman said.
“The most important thing for the scientific community to be doing is to engage, communicate and participate,” Union of Concerned Scientists’ Kimmell said. For him and others, the March for Science is just the beginning of conversations about science’s importance.
March for Science national co-chair Valorie Aquino, a Ph.D. candidate in anthropology at the University of New Mexico, said groups will participate in a week of action following the march, which is being held on Earth Day, to ensure the momentum leads to concrete results.
One key goal: To humanize science through narratives. “Science isn’t finished until you share it,” Aquino said.
For Holt, the march isn’t a protest, but rather a celebration of science and a time to confront the challenges that scientists face.
“It’s a recognition that scientists and friends of science have to come out of their labs and into the public square in order to defend the conditions that science needs to thrive,” Holt said.
Scarlett said she hopes the march will show that science is a non-partisan issue.
“Science is not about politics. Science is about knowledge,” Scarlett said. “And it’s really hard to drive smart solutions on any topic without investing in science.”
If you want to go:
Where: People are marching down Virginia Street starting at California Avenue and ending at City Plaza for a rally
When: 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, April 22
Follow Ryan Miller on Twitter @MILLERdfillmore
‘Science is not evil': Marching is just the start – Reno Gazette Journal