Story and Photo by Eric Goodwin / Contributing Writer
Vocal supporters of scientific progress and funding braved the rain Saturday at the Legislative Plaza in Nashville to participate in the “March for Science and Climate Nashville,” which was one of many marches held nationwide.
The march, set to take place on the globally-recognized Earth Day, began with a series of guest speakers discussing the importance of science in the world.
Mark Boothby, a doctor at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine who was recently published in the scientific journal “Nature,” emphasized the role science plays in the progress of humanity.
“For cleaner transportation, cleaner energy (and) a better environment, we’re going to need science to get us there. Science is the endless frontier. Science gives hope, and hope trumps fear,” Boothby said.
Physician Kathryn Edwards talked about the importance of vaccines and their role in eradicating polio, which she said 60 years ago afflicted 20,000 people each summer.
“The power of science is amazing,” Edwards said. “We need to make sure people understand it’s driven by experimentation… and certainly, we all need to work together for a better world.”
The rain held off until the participants, many of whom were carrying signs in protest of anti-science legislation, marched down both sides of Deaderick Street, chanting phrases in unison such as “science, not silence” and “say it loud, say it clear, scientists are welcome here!”
The group walked a few blocks through downtown Nashville as the rain fell harder, and lightning struck not even a mile away from the demonstration. The marchers eventually returned to the plaza where participants quickly sought shelter under the War Memorial Auditorium.
Tedra Walden, a psychology professor at Vanderbilt University and a developmental science researcher, said she marched “because verifiable facts are necessary.”
“I think we need evidence-based policies, not opinion based policies,” Walden said.
Other participants, such as MTSU alumnus Dan Dwyer, echoed similar sentiments.
“I’m really concerned with the flood of legislation that is harming our country. They’re cutting funding to essential research and development that really is the reason we are the global superpower we are,” Dwyer said.
He said, “Our lobbyists are influencing public policy to the point that really dumb things are going through.”
Jake Leys, a scientist, carried a sign referencing recent moves in the federal bureaucracy to slash funding for the Environmental Protection Agency.
“As a scientist myself, I think it’s incredibly important that if we’re going to have any type of political discourse, we absolutely need to agree on what the facts are,” Leys said.
He said that being an academic in the sciences reveals how broad the cuts to federal spending runs, citing lost grants at the National Institutes of Health.
“I think it’s going to be a big hit to a lot of academic funding, and to me personally, as an academic, that’s a little scary,” Leys said.
According to President Donald J. Trump’s proposed 2018 budget blueprint on the official White House website, he intends to “(reduce) the National Institutes of Health’s spending relative to the 2017 annualized CR level by $5.8 billion to $25.9 billion.”
The New York Times quickly published an article March 16, citing the words of Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget.
“As to climate change, I think the president was fairly straightforward: We’re not spending money on that anymore,” he said to the Times.
As the crowds dispersed, some participants hung around, chanting “one Earth, one people.” Elaine Linsky and her daughter, Lauren, traveled from Tampa, Florida, and San Jose, California, respectively. The two decided to participate in the march while visiting Nashville for the weekend.
“I just think that the defunding of research, and… the silencing of scientists is dangerous for us, as a society and as a planet,” Lauren said.
She said that even though the federal defunding of educational and scientific programs does not affect her directly, “it affects all of us indirectly.”
Elaine said she participated in the first Earth Day celebration in Nashville in 1970.
“There’s a lot more people here today,” she said.
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