Thousands of people rallied in Australia and New Zealand Saturday in support of science, the first of more than 500 marches globally, including events in the United States, triggered by concern over the rise of “alternative facts”.
The March for Science demonstrations come amid growing anxiety over what many see as a mounting political assault on facts and evidence and fears that research is being excluded from policy-making.
Vocal protesters in Sydney wearing white lab coats called on politicians to support the scientific community, carrying banners reading “without science, it’s just fiction” and “we need thinkers not deniers”.
Others held up slogans such as, “What do we want? Evidence-based science. When do we want it? After peer review.”
While American organizers have said the marches planned there are non-partisan, they admit the Republican administration under Donald Trump — who has vowed to slash the research budgets of top US agencies — “catalyzed” the movement.
The march in Washington, timed to coincide with the Earth Day environmental event, will put Trump’s questioning of climate change and proposed cuts to federal science programs at center stage.
Guests at the Washington event will include television personality Bill Nye “the Science Guy,” former White House technology aide Megan Smith and Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, a pediatrician who helped expose the lead water crisis in Flint, Michigan.
Fears that science is under political assault in Australia have likewise grown under its current conservative government and demonstrators also turned out in Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and other cities as well as Wellington and Auckland in New Zealand.
Canberra last year reversed a decision to cut hundreds of jobs from the national science body CSIRO after a public outcry. Others worry that the government is not doing enough to protect the Great Barrier Reef, which is under threat from climate change.
Demonstrations are also scheduled in US cities including San Francisco, along with smaller towns like Dillingham, Alaska. Overseas, Brazil, Canada, many European nations, Japan, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria and South Korea are all also planning science marches.