Living in the House That Science Built
The March for Science is coming. It’s happening this Saturday, April 22nd—Earth Day—in towns and cities around the world, and very likely, in a community near you (find out here).
There is a lot of excitement about this march, much of it from non-scientists. Look at the list of groups who are joining Saturday’s march: fishermen, faith communities, poets, teenagers, labor groups, zoos, museums, teachers—and yes, professional scientists by the thousands.
Why? Because science is for everyone.
The building where I work on 20th Street in Manhattan is like a House of Science: on the first floor is a branch of the NY Public Library, a temple of knowledge and a place that serves people with impaired sight to give them access to information. Above that is data in a large repository of Library holdings, a treasure for people seeking knowledge.
The middle floors are for teachers who are conduits of that knowledge and who go forth into communities in need of well-qualified instructors. They serve the next generation and equip them with the skills they’ll need to lead us into the future.
And on the top floors lives the Natural Resources Defense Council, or NRDC, where we work toward this mission: to safeguard the earth—its people, its plants and animals, and the natural systems on which all life depends. Our working community includes scientists, attorneys, experts on policy and communication, and people with skills in everything else it takes to run a non-profit group. We have over fifty scientists who work in more than a dozen program areas. We partner with businesses, elected leaders, and community groups on the biggest health and environmental issues we face today. But make no mistake: we couldn’t do what we do without the foundation represented by our neighbors in the building: knowledge, access, data, and science.
Science shows us the ways to protect human health, nature’s health, and the economic health of our communities, but now Science needs our protection. The 2018 federal budget proposal devalues science: it drastically cuts the United States’ scientific research budget, with no big strategy for funding science.
We march because we care about health, well-being, prosperity, justice, knowledge, and progress. We talk with our friends, family, and co-workers about how science, research, innovation, learning, data, and creative thinking make every day healthier, fuller, and more secure in our communities, businesses, and homes.
You can tell your elected reps how important Science is to you, ask them to robustly fund agencies like the National Institutes of Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Department of Energy, and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Everyone wants the best that science has to offer when they learn they have cancer, or when their drinking water has an odd chemical taste in it, or when a train derails on the edge of town and something starts leaking into the air. Science saves lives, millions of lives over the years.
Science lets us all benefit from our best collective achievements. Why would we let science wither on the vine as we move into an uncertain, challenging future? Science also provides all of us with a sense of wonder, discovery, and possibility. NRDC Science Center Director Tina Swanson evokes this in her new blog, with a beautiful video by NRDC’s Perrin Ireland.
Let’s protect the next, new, life-saving discoveries that are about to be made—and be counted as defenders of science by marching this Saturday.