Thousands of people — along with a bevy of dogs — marched Saturday afternoon in Santa Barbara, pronouncing their support for science and calling on the public to stand up for the scientific community under President Donald Trump’s policies.
The rally, emceed by Goleta Union School District board member Susan Epstein, was held at De la Guerra Plaza and coincided with the Earth Day Festival a few blocks north at Alameda Park.
As the marchers lined State Street, the downtown corridor filled with chants of “science is real, science matters.”
The demonstrators held crafty signs to convey the message that science needs society’s support for critical funding and, among other topics, calling for an end to climate change “denial.”
Supporters held cardboard signs labeled “Nerds rise up” and others in the form of a giant lab beaker labeled “We are the solution.”
Event organizers said they estimated more than 3,000 protesters were marching.
Across the globe, millions of demonstrators took to the streets Saturday to counteract what say are attacks against science. March for Science rallies were held in more than 500 cities, and they were to be joined by scientific professional societies.
South Coast residents followed suit.
“This isn’t about making science political or apolitical,” said Raeanne Napoleon, a chemistry professor at Santa Barbara City College. “It’s about getting people involved in what matters.
“There’s a lot at stake. Do you like clean water? Would you like a Zika virus vaccine? Let’s make sure our voices are heard, march posters are read, our marching feet are felt and, most important, let’s make sure anti-science agendas get rejected.”
Napoleon said the march was meant to highlight truth telling about history and to admit science has done wrong by many, and added that scientists are committed to doing better.
“Recent events have mobilized us scientists to take a stand against pseudoscience and false facts,” she said. “In our commitment to accuracy, evidence and truth telling, let us not forget to be cognizant of and vocal about the imperfect histories of our disciplines.
“We gain nothing if we don’t learn from our mistakes and by sweeping our mistakes under the rug, we impede the pursuit of truth.”
Debora Iglesias-Rodriguez, a professor of biological oceanography at UC Santa Barbara, delivered a message about how science affects the quality of human life and protects people’s health.
“Most of us would be dead today if it weren’t for science,” she said. “I’m marching because science is in deep, deep trouble and we need it more than ever. Science keeps us moving forward.”
Iglesias-Rodriguez said Trump’s first proposed budget, released last month, would slash almost $6 billion from the National Institutes of Health, cut spending at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration by 17 percent and reduce the Environmental Protection Agency budget by 31 percent.
“This lays the foundation for a new culture,” she said. “I have seen huge changes in our society and in the way we interact with the environment.”
Trump issued a statement on Earth Day saying “we can and must protect our environment without harming America’s working families.”
“Rigorous science is critical to my administration’s efforts to achieve the twin goals of economic growth and environmental protection,” he said. “My administration is committed to advancing scientific research that leads to a better understanding of our environment and of environmental risks.
“As we do so, we should remember that rigorous science depends not on ideology, but on a spirit of honest inquiry and robust debate.”
Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider spoke at the downtown rally, noting the contributions science has made to the city.
“The city has been relying on science for a whole lot of things,” she said. “You drink water from the city’s water supply and because of science, you’re not dead. That’s a good thing.”
Schneider said individuals, as well as government, must play a role in protecting the planet.
“There is no Planet B,” she said.
The local rally was organized by SBCC biological sciences student Jorie Mitchell and UCSB biological sciences student Hannah Armer.
The event also aimed to emphasize the importance of math and science education in training a globally competitive workforce, as well as communicating the importance of scientific understanding to the public, according to event organizers.
“All of the scientists I know have things in common — curiosity, honesty and critical thinking,” said Denise Knapp, director of conservation and research at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. “You (scientists) are making the world a better place and shaping our future.”
— Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.