The March for Science was a moment for scientists and their allies to express their views candidly to bring science to the forefront of U.S. politics. Nearly 600 demonstrations took place around the world—with the primary march being in Washington D.C.—called for public action to defend “science that upholds the common good” and encourage “policy makers to enact evidence-based policies in the public interest”. This event was organized in response to the Trump administration’s intended budget cuts for many scientific agencies and an anti-science agenda that has persistently rejected climate change.
This movement was largely successful, as it undoubtedly inspired thousands of civilians—lay and professional—to appreciate science and to communicate their frustrations with current political circumstances. But by emphasizing the political climate, the march fails to emphasize the lack of scientific literacy and personal accountability among civilians across the nation— two qualities that limit our ability to function as a pro-science society.
The Marchers Left Little Room to Promote Widespread Scientific Literacy
The demonstrations were far too politicized to emphasize the notion of improving scientific literacy. Very often, large scale demonstrations of this manner become public gatherings of random expression. Some people were there to sincerely promote scientific education considering decreased, bureaucratic attention, whereas others wanted to show off their obnoxious signs. In many ways, this random, disorganized expression of pro-science voices caused these demonstrations to lack direction. Without a clear direction that emphasizes and promotes scientific literacy in the communities, the demonstrations were nothing more than a hodgepodge and safe space for pro-advocates to speak up.
More Personal Accountability Needs to Happen
Being a supporter of science means being an advocate for all the disciplines. But sometimes, an opinion does not translate to an appropriate action. The March on Science were effective at calling out Trump, but is Trump responsible for society’s collective, environmental irresponsibility?
It is safe to say that not every person that attended the March for Science was an environmental conservationist. People who attended the demonstrations still choose to drive Hummers (or other gas guzzlers), use plastic bags at grocery stores, and consume beef with no regard for the environment. Trump is certainly not the reason why any of these activities still occur, yet Trump was the main person being targeted during these demonstrations. Hence, not calling out civilians, many of whom have very large carbon footprints, was a missed opportunity for scientists to go and send a message to everyone while under a global spotlight.
Had scientist marchers had been candid about both the bureaucratic negligence and the collective irresponsibility of the American people—something more permanent, longer lasting– then perhaps the scientific community would have had a clear victory. As for now, I believe that the first March for Science events was a learning experience for everyone that participated, and I anticipate that they will be more organized in future events.
If you would like to follow up with the writer with any comments about this article, you may reach him by email at Omair_Ali@ben.edu