Roughly 4,000 science supporters gathered Saturday at Civic Plaza to fight for federal research funding and scientific freedom – joining an international movement that staged events in more than 600 cities.
Albuquerque’s March for Science was held before the city’s Earth Day celebration and included environment- and science-focused exhibits, and food trucks. Scientists from the University of New Mexico, Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Nature Conservancy spoke out on their own behalf against a perceived “war on science” waged by President Donald Trump, who has questioned climate change and vaccine safety.
“You may have heard that my field of science is rather politicized these days,” said David Guztler, a UNM climate scientist. “One political party in our country has adopted a policy of simply rejecting scientific evidence on this issue if it does not conform to its political doctrine.”
Theresa Cardenas, Union of Concerned Scientists climate change and energy outreach consultant, joked that she had gone past concerned to “pissed off.”
She decried the threat to federal protections that safeguard air and water quality.
“We’re going to stand up for science,” Cardenas said. “We’re going to fight for common-sense enforcement of rules and laws that prevent children from lead poisoning, that protect Americans from increased levels of mercury, pesticides or unsafe food, drugs or medical devices.”
The large crowd frequently broke out in cheers or chants.
Many people carried signs with colorful pro-science messages: “Grab Em By the Data,” “Ignorance Is Not Bliss,” “Time to Evolve,” “No Science No Beer.”
Neuropsychologist Caroline Parsey attended with her shepherd dog, Rowan, who was decked out in a sign that jabbed the Trump administration: “Cat (Alternative Fact).”
“I’m in the health field, and treatments don’t get better without science,” she said.
Her friend, chemist Daniel Cuthbertson, worried that the United States will fall behind other countries that have more funding for scientific research.
The U.S. may have a strong scientific community now, but that could change, he said.
“It’s hard to build and very easy to lose,” Cuthbertson said. “I hate to see where we’re going – science is a public service.”
In March, Trump’s first budget proposed a $6 billion cut for the National Institutes of Health and $900 million for the Department of Energy. The plan generated an outcry across the country.
The March for Science movement gained a following on social media and quickly spread to six continents.
In New Mexico, events were held in Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Socorro, Las Cruces, Silver City and Clovis.
Karen Wilkirson wanted to take part because she believes Trump’s stance smacks of an all-out war on science.
“I am seriously alarmed,” she said.
Wilkirson, a math teacher at the juvenile detention center, attended the Albuquerque March for Science in an Albert Einstein costume and brought a sign with one of his most famous quotes: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used to create them.”
While Wilkirson said she thinks the Trump administration’s policies are frightening, she was encouraged by the strong backlash around the world.
Albuquerque March for Science organizer Laura Steele echoed that view.
“It was really, really positive to be part of this community today,” she said. “It was very inspiring. It gives me a lot of hope.”