Santa Rosa March for Science expects hundreds to rally in response to President Trump
North Coast residents by the many hundreds are expected to take to the streets Saturday to march in defense of scientists and science as part of a nationwide response to actions by the three-month-old Trump administration.
Critics say those moves, including presidential appointments, executive orders and budget proposals, have called into question the value and integrity of the research behind climate science, vaccinations, environmental regulation and other areas of public policy.
With the flagship march in Washington, D.C., more than 500 events are planned in cities across the nation, including San Francisco, Fort Bragg, Arcata and Santa Rosa, where as many as 1,000 participants are expected to assemble for a different kind of Earth Day celebration.
Don McEnhill, executive director of the Russian Riverkeeper, a nonprofit environmental education and advocacy organization that organized the Santa Rosa march, said he views the event as a way “to really push back on this crazy movement away from science and the laws that protect our health.”
Though Earth Day also will feature cleanup events and other outdoor offerings, McEnhill said it made sense to march this year “given the climate and the attacks on everything we depend on to keep our air and water clean.”
Local scientists are among those planning to participate on Saturday.
“What I've been telling my friends is things are pretty weird when the scientists start marching,” said conservation scientist Lisa Micheli, president and chief executive of the Pepperwood Foundation in Sonoma County.
Scientists, as a group, are “the least activist community,” said Micheli, who will speak at the Santa Rosa event. “I think a lot of us went into science because we thought facts would speak for themselves.”
While ostensibly nonpartisan, the science campaign arose in the days after Trump's inauguration, sparked by removal of the phrase “climate change” from the White House website.
The Trump administration subsequently took aim at a wide range of regulations, policies and institutions, proposing deep budget cuts at the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as well as a pullback in enforcement of Clean Water Act, mining waste restrictions and fuel efficiency standards.
President Donald Trump has signaled his intent to scrap his predecessor's plan to ramp up renewable energy development over fossil fuel production, especially coal-fired power generation, and has wavered on whether the U.S. will remain a partner in the Paris Agreement for climate action.
March organizers said the new policies “threaten to further restrict scientists' ability to research and communicate their findings.”
“We face a possible future where people not only ignore scientific evidence, but seek to eliminate it entirely. Staying silent is a luxury that we can no longer afford. We must stand together and support science,” the March for Science campaign said in a statement on its website.
Adrienne Alvord, western states director for the Union of Concerned Scientists and a speaker at Santa Rosa's event, said there are instances “on both sides of the (political) aisle where the rhetoric can be more about political expediency than rational discussion.”
“I hate to be melodramatic, but this could pose a danger to the future of humanity,” Alvord said. “We're talking about diseases and climate … agriculture. There are very few areas where the explorations of science aren't pretty critical to the future of the planet, so cutting back on science is not just a threat to scientists and their funding.”
Micheli started her career at EPA and counts NOAA and the U.S. Geological Survey as partners in ongoing climate change research at Pepperwood.
She said the federal funding at risk of being cut “seems like a small investment to have quality information that every community in America can tap into.”
McEnhill similarly said his organization's efforts to protect the Russian River and its tributaries stand to become more difficult, as well.
“Science tells us we're going to end up paying a lot more than anything we save on pollution controls in public health costs,” McEnhill said.
You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 707-521-5249