The world’s inaugural March for Science – a concerted effort by the scientific, the sci-curious, and supporters of reason and the pursuit of knowledge – took place last weekend on Earth Day, April 22, and historians are already referring to it as an “unprecedented” call to arms.
Big things have small beginnings. Starting with a discussion on a Reddit thread just a few months ago, and inspired by the Women’s March on Washington back in January of this year, it ballooned almost out of control into an event that hundreds of cities around the world took part in.
The demonstrations certainly left an aesthetic impact on the press and the public, but did it achieve its deeper goals? We spoke to Dr Jonathan Berman, a scientist and activist – and one of the original founding members of the March for Science’s National Committee – and Kishore Hari, Satellite March Coordinator, about the marches and the movement’s future.
“I think that there has been nothing less than a shift in the culture of science,” Berman told IFLScience. “That was already happening, especially with young scientists, but we became the fulcrum.”
“We also got the timing right. We came around at a time when moves were being made that existentially threatened science,” he surmised. “People noticed and wanted to demonstrate their support for science.”
"Noticed" is an understatement. All in all, the centerpiece march on Washington D.C., along with its 600 satellite marches elsewhere, involved hundreds of thousands of protestors – perhaps even a million.
A group of penguins and a surprisingly high number of dogs participated too, and a few scientific explorers in both the South and North Pole managed to show their support. Bill Nye threw everything he had into a march that was practically made for him and his generation of avid followers, and even the current incarnation of the Doctor from Doctor Who turned up at the London event.
“In D.C. only about 30 percent of attendees were scientists,” Berman added. He told us that the majority were people who actually just cared about objective truth and scientific discovery.
“It wasn't just scientists. There were teachers, parents, farmers, factory workers, children, and many more,” Hari added. “What was truly unprecedented was how many people came to stand with scientists.”
Plenty of environmentalists and climate advocates were present and clearly visible in the maelstroms, but the final collection of marchers was incredibly diverse.
Diversity, in fact, was something of a bugbear for certain researchers who declined to participate in the marches. As has been rightly pointed out, the world of academia and industry research is fairly biased, for the most part, against women and those who are not white.
A protester signals their allegiance in Paris. John van Hasselt/Corbis/Getty Images