Scientists to hit streets in global protest

April 19, 2017

Scientists to hit streets in global protest

Scientists will take part in worldwide marches later this month after their industry came under fire from policy changes in the United States. Photo: ShaneMcC / Creative Commons

The science community will swap their laboratory coats for placards later this month when they march down Queen Street to protest Donald Trump’s policy changes.

The March For Science is a chance for scientists and science enthusiasts to show their support for those working in the field.

Organisers say the marches are a protest against science being viewed as a partisan issue by government.

It follows recent policy changes in the United States which allowed government to reject scientific evidence.

Auckland’s event organiser, Dr Nicola Gaston, is an associate professor in science at Auckland University.

She said although New Zealand didn’t have the same political issues as America, there were still things to be concerned about.

“It’s fairly clear that internationally there is a bit of a trend towards politicians rejecting fact checking and pushing a narrative that undermines science,” Dr Gaston said.

“The dismissal by John Key of fresh water scientist Dr Mike Joy [with] ‘that’s just what one scientist says’ [is a prime example].”

Dr Gaston believed a general mistrust of knowledge and intellectualism was common in political responses.

The Green Party’s spokesperson for environment, Eugenie Sage, supported the march because she said she didn’t believe the current government realised the full importance of science.

“We have seen the Department of Conservation starved of funding for biodiversity.”

Ms Sage was optimistic about what the march could achieve.

“People need to be active citizens.

“Marches like this show what we have in common and the importance of really good policy based on good science,” Ms Sage said.

“You shouldn’t have to be brave to speak the truth about what’s going on.”

Greenpeace senior campaign advisor Steve Abel felt it was important scientists could speak without fear of being vilified by political parties.

“We need scientists who are able to, with scientific authority, tell us what is going on,” Mr Abel said.

He was concerned for those who spoke out at their own peril.

“It’s an unhealthy thing for science. [It’s] a really unhealthy thing for a society,” Mr Abel said.

Environment Minister Nick Smith was unavailable for comment.

The march begins at 1.30pm on April 22 next to the Britomart Transport Hub in Auckland’s CBD.

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