Take the Women’s March on Washington, slash its attendance, throw in Bill Nye “the science guy,” and you have the formula for Saturday’s March for Science, the latest in this year’s series of anti-Trump protests.
Framed as a defense of scientific inquiry, the Earth Day march offered a lesson in political science as speakers urged thousands of rain-soaked attendees to fight President Trump’s “anti-science” agenda by advocating more federal funding for research.
“This is about last November’s election,” said Denis Hayes, coordinator of the first Earth Day in 1970. “Did America somehow vote to melt the polar ice caps and kill the coral reefs and acidify the oceans? Did we vote to reduce the EPA’s research budget by a whopping 42 percent? Did we vote to defund safe drinking water by one third?”
“Well, that’s what we got,” said Mr. Hayes, followed by a chorus of boos.
Thousands gathered in the shadow of the Washington Monument prior to the march to hear from a lineup of speakers that consisted of scientists, progressive activists and at least one poet, while others gathered at more than 600 satellite events across the nation and around the world.
Organizers had insisted beforehand that the march, while political, was non-partisan, an assertion belied by the sea of anti-Trump signs and repeated condemnations of the Trump administration.
The Democratic National Committee War Room sent out a blast Saturday pegged to the event saying, “Donald Trump doesn’t believe in climate change.”
“Today as Americans across the country march for science, say you’re ready to fight against the anti-science GOP,” said the email missive.
Among those in the crowd Saturday was Stephen Meyer, director of the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science Culture, who said the March for Science and its supporters made claims that science alone can’t support.
“They’re conflating political claims about the need to fund the EPA or to prevent the Keystone pipeline with science,” said Mr. Meyer. “They’re conflating religious and philosophical claims about materialism with science. And then they’re conflating particular theories with the practice of science itself, such that if you disagree with those theories, you’re deemed a ‘science denier.’”
“So it’s massive confusion because of the conflation at all three of those levels,”he said.
The crowd was considerably smaller than that of the Women’s March on Jan. 21 but otherwise strikingly similar, with some protesters even wearing pink hats.
The overlap was not lost on some speakers.
“So today we’re back on the mall with a march,” said Megan Smith, who served under President Barack Obama as the chief technology officer to the United States government. “I brought my pink hat, but I also brought my pink lab glasses.”
There were cheers for Mr. Obama after Christy Goldfuss, a former Obama administration official now with the Center for American Progress, said he had protected “more of the ocean than any president in history.”
A trip with the president to the Pacific Ocean reminded her of a popular Disney movie: “Being there, I felt just like Moana, this incredible pull to the ocean, and as Moana says, ‘See that line where the sky meets the sea? It calls me, but no one knows how far it goes.’”
“Well, science tells us how far it goes,” said Ms. Goldfuss.
Rep. Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, challenged the march’s anti-GOP narrative with a list of the panel’s recent passage of bills supporting research on innovation, weather forecasting, and space exploration, as well as legislation promoting women and students in science.
“I look forward to continuing to promote scientific integrity and a healthy, transparent and vibrant research and technology environment in the United States,” the Texas Republican said in a Saturday statement.
Despite being hampered by a spring rain, the march drew a respectable crowd that numbered in the low tens of thousands.
The selection of Mr. Nye, a white male, as an honorary March for Science co-chair ignited a flap last month over diversity, but march-goers greeted him enthusiastically with chants of “Bill!”
“Some may consider science the purview of a special or separate type of citizen, one who pursues natural facts and generates numerical models for their own sakes, but our numbers here today show the world that science is for all,” Mr. Nye said. “Our lawmakers must know and accept that science serves every one of us, every citizen of every nation and society.”
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