March for Science on National Mall Combats Trump Administration Science Policy

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By John McConnell (flag designer) NASA (Earth photograph) SiBr4 (flag image) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

On Earth Day, April 22, protesters gathered on the National Mall, marching to Union Square in support of scientists and researchers whose work would be affected by federal budget cuts to the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Health and Human Services, among others. The protest follows other significant anti-Trump demonstrations, including the Women’s March on Jan 21 and the Tax Day demonstration on Tuesday, April 17. There was also an emphasis on climate science and this administration’s perceived disregard for climate change, exemplified by proposed 12% cuts in the budget of the Department of the Interior and an ambiguous, potentially threatening stance on the Paris Accords, an agreement among several nations through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change that seeks to decrease greenhouse gas emissions.

In addition to the main march in D.C., people in major cities across the country and around the world, with countries such as Australia, France, Germany, Canada, and many others around the globe, protested in support of science and awareness for climate change. According to the official March for Science website, the climate march had 610 satellite locations worldwide, including prominent demonstrations throughout Australia. The march has also prompted introspection among other nations’ policies on science and climate change, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, “In Sydney, former Liberal leader John Hewson told a crowd of about 3,000 people that it should be a global embarrassment that Australian politics had become so opportunistic that politicians seemed no longer interested in the substance of the issues.”

Since his election, President Trump has deemed climate change “a hoax,” according to CNN, and signed an executive order which scales back climate change policy from the Obama administration and works to eliminate the EPA’s Clean Power Plan– a measure that reduces carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.

The march precedes another imminent executive order pertaining to energy, and according to Reuters, “On Wednesday, Trump is expected to sign an executive order related to the 1906 Antiquities Act, which enables the president to designate federal areas of land and water as national monuments to protect them from drilling, mining and development.”

While many signs promoted action against climate change, the Trump administration’s actions related to science and research present other concerns, such as funding cuts for cancer research under the National Cancer Institute branch of NIH. Trump’s science policy has also included censorship of taxpayer-funded research conducted by the EPA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. According to the Scientific American, on January 24, “officials at the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture e-mailed staff to inform them that they may no longer discuss agency research or departmental restrictions with anyone outside of the agency—including news media. Both agencies also told their scientists and other staff that press releases and external communications about taxpayer-funded work would stop until further notice.”

The budget cuts faced by the extensive list of organizations that receive funding from the NIH as well as the cuts faced by other agencies related to public health and environmental support have created uncertainty about the future of research. The Atlantic termed the potential future repercussions of Trump’s budget cuts a “lost generation of science” in America. The march’s website, marchforscience.com, now features a plan for a “Week of Action” for continued resistance after the protest.   

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