It’s been an exhausting two weeks.
Since Donald Trump was innaugurated, many of us have marched in what was probably the largest protest in US history, and scientists nationwide were jolted into action when the new administration froze grant funding at the Environmental Protection Agency, clamped down on public communication by Federal scientific and conservation agencies, and imposed an almost certainly unconstitutional ban on immigration from a selection of Muslim-majority countries, destroying the travel and career plans of scientists and medical professionals. Many of us have gotten a crash course in calling our Members of Congress, too. All of this has been making a difference — most recently, as of this writing, a House bill to privatize millions of acres of public lands has been withdrawn, and the EPA funding freeze is supposed to lift today. Still, there are plenty of continuing reasons for concern — as of this writing, the travel ban is still in place, the Senate committee charged with vetting the head of the EPA has just bypassed normal procedures to move forward with an avowedly anti-environment nominee who seems likely to dramatically reduce the agency’s staffing and support.
So, what are your plans for Earth Day 2017? Quickly after the science agency gag order last week, scientists and science supporters began mobilizing for another big, international march. The March for Science is now scheduled for April 22, in Washington, DC and at sites across the US and the world. Though it’s had all the growing pains of a large event put together rapidly, the March’s stated mission is one we can all get behind:
The March for Science champions publicly funded and publicly communicated science as a pillar of human freedom and prosperity. We unite as a diverse, nonpartisan group to call for science that upholds the common good, and for political leaders and policymakers to enact evidence-based policies in the public interest.
Scientists are often politically minded — we’re people, just like everyone else — but we don’t like to think of the work we do in the lab and field as political. (In fact, it’s arguable that the worst misuses of the scientific method have happened when scientists couldn’t see past prevailing social attitudes.) Still, we’re not the ones who have decided that the facts of climate change, medecine, and basic biology are politically charged. As meteorologist and climate journalist Eric Holthaus lays out in his ringing call to the March for Science, the independence of empirical fact itself is what we now must defend:
We are now living in a country where our head of state routinely utters falsehoods about even mundane things — about things that can’t possibly have happened the way he says they did. As a scientist and journalist and someone who has dedicated my life to pursuing truth, it is deeply, deeply offensive to me that the idea of truth itself is being called into question. How are we supposed to carry on as normal? The answer is that we don’t. The answer is that we march.
So that’s your action item at the end of this grueling introduction to the new normal: sign up for updates, and start planning your trip to Washington or pick a satellite march closer to you. We’ll see you on Earth Day.