In the next few weeks, millions of people will mobilize to take part in several marches, two most notably: The March for Science (on April 22, 2017, in Washington D.C. and 450 other cities around the world) and the People’s Climate March (on April 29, 2017, in D.C. as well as in cities all over the country). People that are familiar with the objectives of the marches may empathize with the worthy calls to action, but after the comments from critics in response to the Women’s March in January, many of them women (i.e. “I don’t need to march to know that I’m a strong woman”; “Do these women really have nothing else to do; "How can these women be protesting for the right to kill their babies"; etc.), we see that not everyone understood the reasons for the march.
Inevitably, the Science and People’s Climate marches will also have its critics. Yet the misunderstanding of what the Women's March was really about has made us recognize that in order for the marches to resonate with not only activists but also with those that may feel left out of the political discourse, communicating their objectives and importance is key. Being able to demonstrate and defend the logic behind the marches (in a cool-headed way) is just as important as actually showing up. As such, this piece is not only for those who do not plan on participating and who may not be convinced that these marches are important but also for those who do plan on participating and those that are full- fledged advocates for these causes.
So why are the marches important?
What happens when policies aren't based on scientific research and evidence? Unfortunately, we are seeing the U.S. legislative and executive branch implement more and more policies that are not based on science but rather on partisan politics and special interests. As a result, our own lives and health (as well as the environment) are negatively impacted. Some of the most recent examples, among many others, are the executive order to roll back on climate change mitigation, the EPA's permitting of the use of chlorpyrifos, despite findings that the pesticide is unsafe to human health and can impair cognitive development in children, and the undoing of the Stream Protection Rule that prevents mining pollutants from entering waterways.
Governmental agencies and policies must not restrict scientists, their research, or their ability to communicate their findings to the public. Moreover, these findings must not be ignored or eliminated but must be used to effectively design policies to keep the public safe and healthy. Science should neither serve special interests nor be rejected based on personal convictions or politics. The March for Science's website states that “the March champions robustly funded and publicly communicated science as a pillar of human freedom and prosperity. We unite as a diverse, nonpartisan group to call for science that upholds the common good and for political leaders and policy makers to enact evidence-based policies in the public interest.”
Thus, the core principles of the March on Science, include:
- Science that serves the common good
- Evidence-based policy and regulations in the public interest
- Cutting-edge science education
- Diversity and inclusion in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)
- Open, honest science and inclusive public outreach
- Funding for scientific research and its applications
The goals of the Science March are to:
- Humanize science
- Partner with the public
- Advocate for open, inclusive, and accessible science
- Support scientists
- Affirm science as a democratic value
(From March for Science website)
The first People’s Climate March occurred on Sept. 21, 2014, where 400,000 people marched through the streets of New York City. Hosted by the Peoples Climate Movement, this march is intended to shed light on the need to reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs) and act on climate. It’s not just about future generations or polar bears: Climate change will (and does) impact the average person now, as our series Why You Should Care About Climate Change highlights (if you haven’t seen it yet, check out our 3-part blog series to see how we are all impacted by climate change). Nor do we march for a "war on coal." Many communities and livelihoods have been dependent on coal's extraction, and acting to combat climate change isn't meant to take away the main economic means of these communities. Rather, it's to help the switch to a better and healthier economy.
In participating in the People's Climate March, we call for the creation of good paying jobs and happy communities, for the right to clean air, water, and land, for healthy ecosystems, and for racial, social and economic justice, as many of those that are most impacted by climate change are also the ones most affected by socio-economic inequality.
It's valuable to point out that no movement can succeed without a strong platform. The People's Climate Movement acknowledges this and has developed a detailed platform:
- Directly and rapidly reduce greenhouse gas and toxic pollution to successfully combat climate change and improve public health
- Mandate a transition to an equitable and sustainable New Energy and Economic Future that limits the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels
- Provide a just transition for communities and workers negatively impacted by the shift to a New Energy and Economic Future that includes targeted economic opportunity and provides stable income, health care, and education
- Demand that every job pays a wage of at least $15 an hour, protects workers, and provides a good standard of living, pathways out of poverty, and a right to organize
- Ensure that investments are targeted to create pathways for low-income people and people of color to access good jobs and improve the lives of communities of color, indigenous peoples, low-income people, small farmers, women, and workers
- Make bold investments in the resilience of states, cities, tribes, and communities that are threatened by climate change
- Reinvest in a domestic industrial base that drives towards an equitable and sustainable New Energy and Economic Future, and fight back against the corporate trade-induced global race to the bottom
- Market- and policy-based mechanisms must protect human rights and critical, native ecosystems and reduce pollution at source (From People’s Climate March website)
Lastly, whether you plan on participating or not, remember that we march to protect our right to a free press, right to protest and to free speech. We march for a healthier and more sustainable society. But it starts with us as individuals acknowledging, understanding, and defending why and for what we march.