By Deborah Belle
The Trump presidency has put many things at risk, not least the project of utilizing science for the public good. Scientific research budgets are slashed, and current scientific knowledge is actively suppressed when it conflicts with profits for wealthy individuals and corporations.
On Saturday, April 22, defenders of science spoke out in marches and rallies around the country. In Boston many marchers met at local universities and hospitals, rallied there, and then marched to the Boston Common to join others who had gone to the Common directly.
I joined the Boston March in front of the Metcalf Science Center at Boston University where the focus was on young speakers, many of them undergraduates, who spoke of the value of science, and of getting involved in the political process so that knowledge we have gained through scientific study can be used to save the planet.
One excellent speaker also noted that science is not always utilized for the public good, that scientific theories have been used to disempower already marginalized people. Scientific knowledge is a tool that can be used in many ways, and it is up to us to make sure that it is used to benefit all of us, not simply the wealthy few. Other speakers remarked on the necessity of making our scientific workforce increasingly diverse, so that the insights and life experiences of all can help create a science that truly works for all.
We set off down Commonwealth Avenue toward the Boston Common to the accompaniment of a great HONK-style band. Spirits were high, as people recognized friends in the crowd, and enjoyed the creative signs of fellow marchers. In the light drizzle, the colors on my SCIENCE NOT SILENCE poster, drawn in erasable marker, began to run, forming what many described as a Monet-like impressionist painting. No matter, there were plenty of legible signs left, and the music was great.
At one wonderful moment the Cambridge contingent from Harvard and MIT joined with us, the currents of marchers combining beautifully. We crossed the Public Garden and strode on to the Common. The crowd that met us there was large and continued to grow as we listened to speakers and cheered at every pause. A few in the crowd wore pink pussy hats, a reminder of the great Women’s March in January. Some also wore hats ingeniously knitted to suggest brains.
One focus of the day was children, who seemed to be everywhere, sometimes serving as delightful props as well as participants. One expressive infant was with a poster proclaiming, “Born to Discover.” Another was wrapped in the words, “Save the earth for me.” Others were dressed as astronauts with their own rocket-ship decorated strollers. Children spoke from the speakers’ platform, reading their award-winning essays on the importance of science and its relevance to them. A clear message was the need in all our political decision-making to think of future generations.