Global HotSpots, Rethinking America

A (Global) March for Science Against Trump’s “War on Science”

Trump has had a noticeable effect on scientific institutions. To prevent being slaughtered by him one by one, they are getting politically active.

Credit: Gage Skidmore www.flickr.com

Takeaways


  • Scientists and supporters from several countries around the world will come together to support the U.S. event.
  • Whatever China's deficiencies and drawbacks, nobody in power there doubts climate change.
  • Trump, who never seems sure of his political instincts, seeks to curry favor with the conservative politics of his adopted party.

The 45th President of the United States of America seems keen on closing the door on climate research, where his country has long been a global leader.

Not just another Earth Day

Thankfully, the science community has prepared to take its case to the streets. On “Earth Day,” held on April 22nd, the “March for Science” will take place in Washington, D.C.

At first, the event was intended as a march against the Trump-era style of politics in Washington, which U.S. news media describes as a “War on Science.” It was meant to address a form of politics that has turned against science, its right to exist as well as the roots of its self-understanding.

A global effort

In the meantime, this has led to activity around the world, and not just in the sciences. Scientists and supporters from several countries around the world will come together to support the U.S. event. The American event site lists some 520 protest marches worldwide.

The Berlin organisers of the March for Science, for example, indicate that they expect citizens and scientists alike to take part. They are doing so in solidarity with vulnerable scientists and also to stand against the rising tide of populism.

Even the heads of German scientific institutions, have urgently called for engagement in the cause. This has come about after repeated calls and questions aimed at the scientific community by science journalists, asking
“Where are you, professors?”, or “Take to the streets!”.

Yet the Governing Mayor of Berlin will speak and take the mic along with the
Minister of Science of North Rhine-Westphalia in Cologne.

Wake-up call

The scientific institutions, then, are getting politically active. Faced with the Trumpian onslaught, they really have no other choice.

That is the only way they can head off the crisis of confidence that occurs in several Western countries, not only in the U.S.

However, this is not just about Trump or the United States. Given the globe-spanning and intensely collaborative, cross-border nature of scientific work, the U.S. President merely serves as a symbol for a broader development that now needs to be discussed publicly.

An old battle

With his actions, Trump is revivifying an old battle. Conservative Republicans’ desire to attack the established structures of research in the earth sciences, climate and medical research as well as the humanities in general is truly perplexing.

With their overall stance doubting the nature and essence of evolution(!), these politicians and their voters are, in effect, making common cause with others denying achievements of the enlightenment movement.

Deliberately helping China?

Trump, who for all the bravado never seems sure of his political instincts, primarily seeks to curry favor with the very conservative politics of his adopted party. Eventually this has the net effect of his actions is to provide a helping hand to China’s science apparatus.

Whatever China’s deficiencies and drawbacks, nobody in power there doubts that evolution theory and climate change are facts of life.

Given all that, it really begs disbelief that, in his budget proposal, Trump proposed a 30% cut to the EPA’s budget and staff.

Leave it to Trump

It is still rare that established scientists or scientific policymakers take to the streets in order to protest. It is typically students from the left side of the spectrum that get involved. (Or, like in Berkeley recently, the Black Bloc that has become a fixture in the Bay Area).

Conclusion

However, in this weekends marches thousands of people are expected to take part. An event – likely to be one of the largest pro-science demonstrations ever.

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About Denise Feldner

Denise Feldner is the first Secretary-General of U15, the interest group of leading research-intensive universities in Germany.

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