ORONO, Maine — In an effort to bolster support around scientists and their work, people across the nation are rallying on Earth Day to celebrate and promote science and research.
UMaine will host a March for Science, one of hundreds scheduled internationally this weekend, from noon to 2 p.m. on Saturday. Other Maine marches are planned in Portland, Machias and Sanford.
“We are pro science, is what it boils down to,” Brian Toner, a PhD student at the university who is one of the organizers of the event, said.
Toner said that while UMaine’s march isn’t meant to be political, the March for Science movement was inspired in part by concern about an increase in mistrust of scientific findings on issues such as climate change and vaccines, threats to funding and requests from the new administration for lists of government researchers who have worked on issues like climate change.
“The march is not intended to be a protest against any individual or political party, but rather a celebration of science and a demonstration of the ways in which it enhances our lives,” said fellow organizer and UMaine graduate student Amber Hathaway. “Nonetheless, it would be remiss to ignore the circumstances that precipitated the march.”
President Donald Trump’s federal budget proposal includes deep cuts to several federal agencies and programs that focus heavily on scientific research in favor of increased spending on national defense and the military.
“When you don’t like what a group of scientists have to say, sometimes people will plug their ears,” Toner said, adding that “science shouldn’t be a political stance.”
Saturday’s rally will start with a series of speakers representing the National Resources Council, UMaine Climate Change Institute and other state and campus groups. They’ll touch on topics ranging from the economic impact of research in Maine to the importance of science education to the state’s future. After that, participants will march on campus.
Toner said he expects several hundred people to turn out for the event, which will happen rain or shine.
“Science has brought us computers, smartphones and so many other devices that would have seemed inconceivable even 50 years ago,” Hathaway said. “Imagine where we could be 10, 20, or 100 years from now if we continue to invest in scientific research and support scientists.”
More details about the marches are available at www.marchforscience.com.
Follow Nick McCrea on Twitter at @nmccrea213.