The March for Science celebrated its anniversary today. And although the turnout around the world was significantly smaller than last year, supporters haven’t lost any of their energy.
The global grassroots movement has evolved from having a million people take to the streets in 2017 in more than 450 cities to year-round advocacy for science and for evidence-based policies by government officials. But 14 April is still the big event for many local groups.
Below are some of the highlights from events around the world, including the flagship rally in Washington, D.C.
In Washington, D.C., fewer marchers but still fired up by Trump policies
At today’s march and rally on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., the flagship event of the day’s global series of rallies, the crowd that gathered under sunny skies was considerably smaller than at the inaugural March for Science a year ago, when attendees packed the same space, a wide expanse near the Washington Monument, in the rain.
“It’s disappointing to see so few people” at the rally, said John Cosgrove, a retired high school science teacher who traveled from Easton, Pennsylvania, to attend, as he did last year. “It’s waned a little bit, but the energy is still there.”
Science organizations that partnered with today’s March, among them AAAS (the publisher of Science), aimed to promote a nonpartisan message of support for science and its use in public policy. That message was echoed by today’s speakers, who included internet pioneer Vinton Cerf; public health expert Susan Sorenson of the University of Pennsylvania, who spoke about the need for research on gun violence; and David Titley, a professor of meteorology at Pennsylvania State University in College Park and former chief oceanographer of the U.S. Navy. Titley led a Navy review of the effects of global warming on the Arctic, and said that when it comes to climate, “Ultimately the facts on the ground and the evidence win.”
But national politics and the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump were very much on the minds of many in the crowd.
“Since Trump got into office, Scott Pruitt [administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency] has been rolling back environmental regulations,” said Dianne Holland, who lives in northern Virginia and whose husband works for a government science agency. She attended last year’s March for Science, and since then, “I think what’s been happening with the administration has gotten worse. But I think the activism for science has improved.”
For example, she said, attending last year’s rally helped encourage her to work in her state to support petitions to ban offshore drilling for oil and natural gas. “I am more aware of the details of what’s happening than a year ago.”
Cosgrove, who carried a sign reading “Science: a candle in the dark”—an homage to a Carl Sagan book by that name —said he worries about efforts in states to remove the science of climate change from school textbooks. He also fears the Trump administration is ignoring science in decisions such as withdrawing the United States from the Paris accord to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Jenny Kolber, an 11-year-old from Point Pleasant, New Jersey, carried a sign that said: “I can’t believe I’m marching to save reality.” She was supposed to attend school today, in a make-up session for a series of winter snow days. But she and her mom drove to Washington, D.C., for the march instead because science is her favorite subject and she’s concerned that scientific facts are being denied. “I love school, but I’d come here every day.” After a brief pause, she added: “If my parents let me.”
Children also took center stage at the podium. Max Schill, a 9-year-old from Williamstown, New Jersey, who has a genetic condition called Noonan syndrome, spoke about the need for more funding to fight rare diseases. Research to find cures can cost billions, he said, and he doesn’t have that kind of money in his “big blue piggy bank.”
After the speeches, several hundred marchers walked along Constitution Avenue from the Washington Monument to the U.S. Capitol, led by organizers carrying the same “March For Science” banner as last year. The march route was packed with onlookers—mostly there to see the cherry blossoms, visit museums, and otherwise enjoy the nice weather—and many stopped to watch the marchers pass by. Outside the National Gallery of Art, one man took photos and shouted “Science is cool! Go science!” Nearby, a woman asked her companions: “Can we get in?”—Katie Langin and Jeffrey Brainard