Terry H. Schwadron
We joined the March for Science yesterday, some 40,000 on this gray day in New York City gathering with signs and heightened feelings alongside Central Park to make clear that President Trump’s campaigns against the environment, climate change, and data-based thinking are hollow and wrong.
We were with energized and educated cousins in their 80s, who wanted to join with schoolchildren, and both younger and older adults, white, black, Asian, into another huge, diverse weekend sea of voices that all point to Trump policies as bankrupt and shortsighted. Together, we know many who will be losing their work or their jobs in teaching and research, in the arts and humanities as well as the sciences, who are less worried not about themselves than about the effects of the setbacks from cutbacks.
The message of the march was simple logic: America First + federal spending cuts + a lack of empathy for people will make for a bad future. Cutting out basic science advances nothing; ignoring the dangers of climate change as political ideology simply dooms us and cedes leadership in these areas to places like China and India.
Wild guess: If you had asked these tens of thousands a couple of years ago to go to the streets in favor of Science Learning, they would have looked at you as if you had three heads, or at least certainly, not very scientifically. So, what a weird thing this was: People marching in favor of science and data, in favor of logic. It wasn’t even overtly partisan. It was completely refreshing, and somehow inspiring.
It was about policy and approach, not personality. With bevies of signs that ranged from entertaining to parody, from plaintive to rude, the periodic roar of the crowds was remarkable only in its lack of remarkableness. We should care about facts, we should learn from our mistakes, we should commit to trying harder. It’s not the message we hear from a White House that sees the world as dark and foreboding.
Indeed, as the women’s march, and other more pointed gatherings to criticize health care policy changes, national priorities and a general pursuit of peace rather than conflict, this was another march duplicated from Washington, across the country, across the globe. Everywhere but in the White House, people seem to agree that we need to think about the health of our planet as well as the health of our neighbors and ourselves.
From the White House, the President deafly issued a statement that tried to coopt the message, by blandly stating that he cares about the environment, even as he acts to gut its rules, and that we need our scientists, even as he fires them from the government and cuts money for basic scientific research.
You wonder out loud whether Ivanka Trump wrote the bromide for her dad to issue. She or whoever did deserves a clap on the back for paying attention, at least, just as Mr. Trump deserves a kick in the rear for saying one thing and doing another. Maybe he just needs a time out in the corner.
Still, as the rain began to fall, and the ink on signs dripped, you had to wonder whether the message is getting through to those who refuse to listen.
How many weekends since last November have tens of thousands of citizens hit the streets to show in a literal and visceral way just how upsetting these nationalistic, anti-environmental, anti-people policies are. How many home visits do congressional members need to gather (or ignore) to learn that there is no support for wiping out Obamacare. How many court decisions must come for administration members to recognize that their overall actions are seen as without ethics, in violation of human caring, and even appropriate legal justification?
Clearly, we cannot stop participating, cannot stop uttering out loud that these policies are noxious. The early response in the recent special congressional races show that there will be serious attempts to connect all this to the type of electoral politics that actually will draw the attention of the Washington elite.
To Team Trump, caring about environment means not caring about jobs. It’s a formula that doesn’t add up. Caring about the environment should spawn additional scientific research and sociological adaptation, create new jobs in new industries, should help drive a need for more education and even work to meld internationalist, shared concerns about the world’s health.
Yes, doing business while paying attention to cleaning the air and water costs more, and may delay building projects a bit. Those regulations do need review.
But throwing regulation out wholesale, wiping all references to climate change from federal agencies and websites, eliminating jobs in science related to science that Mr. Trump has decided he does not accept — this is the work of a petulant, overbearing ideologue who cannot handle anything more complex than a slogan.
Here’s a slogan: Climate Change is Not a Hoax.
Deal with it.