Politics, Top Story, Metro

Thousands Fill Copley to Stand up for Science

Early Sunday afternoon, crowds of over 5,000 scientists and environmental advocates congregated in Copley Square to stand up for science. Building on an amalgamation of many other scientist-led efforts following the election of President Donald Trump in November, the Rally to Stand Up for Science featured a series of speeches that called out the new administration for their skepticism toward climate change.

Groups of ralliers flocked to the square shortly after 11 a.m. chanting “stand up for science” and engaging in passionate discussions about the environment. Among a slew of anti-Trump posters, demonstrators held up signs reading “science not silence” and “science is real,” pleading for politicians to accept that science must be included in policy making decisions.

The rally united environmental groups like ClimateTruth.org, Union of Concerned Scientists, and 500 Women Scientists, all with the common goal of defending the truth in science. The rally comes at a turbulent time in which many see the new administration as anti-science.

Blue skies and temperatures in the high 50s—unusually warm conditions for Boston in mid-February—reinforced the concern for the fluctuating weather patterns that is evidence of climate change. But even with 2016 being the hottest year on record—the the third consecutive year to break the record—politicians, such as Scott Pruitt, continue to deny the legitimacy of climate change.

In the months following the election last November, protests and rallies erupted throughout Boston. From the Women’s March on Inauguration Day, to protests over the executive order, Bostonians have continued to exercise their right to free speech.

The crowd at the rally included of students, professors, retirees, and scientists who donned white lab coats. For spectator Annie Fuentes, concern over the current political climate and the denouncing of science brought her to the rally.

“I think it’s really important to keep this momentum going,” Fuentes said. “We need to keep up local efforts to make this known as much as possible.”

By noon, thousands of scientists, science advocates, and supporters had gathered in front of a small stage next to Trinity Church, and speeches commenced. Highly-respected and prominent scientists took to the stage to voice their concern that science is under attack.

Astrid Caldas, a Ph.D. Climate Scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, kicked the event off by advocating for the integration of science in the decision making process. Caldas believes that “by not giving science its rightful place in the government policy making” process, that the administration is attacking American democracy.

Jacquelyn Gill, an assistant professor of Paleoecology at the University of Maine and host of the Warm Regards podcast, followed by criticizing the influence of corporate greed in environmental decision making, claiming that, “science has been silent”. Gill went on to emphasize the importance to uphold and defend the rights of scientists with a government that is threatening to censor climate change research.

The rally occurred simultaneously with the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston. This coincidence brought together thousands of other scientists from outside the Boston area, many of whom were in the crowds Sunday morning.

Chiamaka Abilo impressed the crowd as the only high-school-aged speaker, but her message was as important. She spoke about how climate change can transcend generations, becoming a problem for young and old alike. Abilo explained that younger generations need to be “equipped to confront this challenge.” She argued that in this political landscape with alternative facts being presented by the highest form of government, it cannot expected for science to stand alone.

Not everyone who attended the rally, however, came  with preconceived notions. Tiffany Hui, an undergraduate at Boston University, attended the rally to gain information about the industry she hopes to work in.

“As an undergrad studying biochemistry, I’m interested in what the people in the field of science have to say about this,” Hui said.

Geoffrey Supran, a postdoctoral associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and fellow at Harvard University, gave an ardent speech, pointing out that the tax on science is not just a tax that hurts sciences, but also the ability to protect the American people. He went on to criticize Trump’s decision to appoint Scott Pruitt as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, praising EPA workers who protested the decision.

The rally brought attention to the growing threats to scientific research in the United States. Speakers sought to call supporters of science to action, showing that they can no longer sit on the sidelines and ignore the fact that climate change is just as much a social justice issue than it is a scientific one.
The Rally to Stand Up For Science in Boston is just one of a series of rallies and protests confronting the Trump Administration and Congress’ efforts to break up important scientific institutions within the government. These rallies will culminate in the Science March occuring in Washington D.C., and around the world, on April 22.

Featured Image by William Batchelor/ Heights Editor

February 19, 2017