Demonstrators at Raleigh March for Science call for bipartisan support of science's role in public policy
The event joined the National March for Science in Washington, D.C. and similar marches across six continents.
Raleigh participants met at Shaw University on Saturday morning — Earth Day — and walked to Moore Square, where a stage for speakers and a science fair was set up by different organizations.
Molly Paul, an organizer of the event and a first-year UNC chemistry and biology major, said the march welcomed everybody — regardless of political affiliation.
“I wish things like education and the environment were not as polarizing as they’ve become, especially lately,” Paul said. “And I am very concerned about the future of our natural world as well as how research will be under this administration; and what we’re doing is not anti-any one specific politician.”
Heather Durand, a microbiology researcher at Duke University, said she is concerned with the current presidential administration, climate change and the general future of the planet.
“The environment is nondiscriminatory: It doesn’t care what race you are, what sex you are, what your political affiliation is,” she said. “We all live here and we’re all going to be affected no matter what.”
Science should not be denied for the sake of party loyalties, Durand said.
“You should be loyal to humanity and loyal to our planet, because again, it’s on all the T-shirts and buttons, we have no ‘planet B,’” she said.
Morgan Zemaitis, a senior environmental science major at UNC, said the environment should not be a political issue.
“Richard Nixon created the EPA; he was a Republican,” Zemaitis said. “It used to be a bipartisan agreement that we have to save our environment — that we have to change our reliance on energy to be domestic but clean.”
Scott Pope, a march participant from Raleigh, said science was important for civilization — and each scientific discovery creates jobs.
“There are environmental issues that need to be addressed immediately and can’t wait for a new presidential administration to come to power,” he said. “I have a 7-year-old son who’s going to have to live in this world, so I hope it’s a happier place for him.”
Politics might be cyclical, but climate change is not normal, said Jean Carter a march participant from Roanoke Rapids.
“Climate change and the earth is not cyclical — if we mess this up there’s no going back,” Carter said. “It will profoundly (affect) our lives, our children’s lives, the earth and humanity.”
Mitch Franklin, a participant from Cary, said it was offensive to have Scott Pruitt, a climate change denier, as the head of the EPA.
“It’s like putting the wolf in charge of the hen house,” Franklin said.
And Rick Perry, the U.S. Secretary of Energy, is not qualified for the role, he said.
“In terms of Rick Perry, he’s now heading a department that he forgot that he wanted to eliminate,” Pope said. “He didn’t even realize that the Department of Energy handled our nuclear stockpile, so someone who doesn’t know what the job is probably shouldn’t be in that job.”
He said he hopes the march will drive political action and communication with local representatives.
“Get involved with the process, and ultimately vote in the 2018 elections, and get some opposition in Congress to Trump’s agenda.”
Paul said she remains positive about the growth of science fields in North Carolina, especially considering the march’s momentum.
“I’m optimistic that this will kind of be a good push to finally get closer to those goals we’ve been asking for: just evidence-based policy, diversity and inclusion in the field of science, and the freedom for scientists to share their research without fear,” Paul said.
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