Thursday, July 6, 2017

When people can…

As long as I can remember, there were people marching on the streets, either protesting or celebrating or even supporting the topic of the manifestation. It always fascinated me how powerful people can be, when they come together. In cases of manipulation of the public opinion this is of course not good. However, many times this can influence things in a positive way. Coming from a country like Greece, I have to admit that it was fairly frequent for me to see people getting together on the streets for a variety of reasons. Then, when I moved myself and my life to Boston, these events happened less frequently. I remember that I joined a protest in Boston once (although maybe this is not the right time to admit such a thing). It was about the Gulf war and people wanting their children to come back home. The subject of the protest was noble, however only a few people participated. Thus, it was to my great surprise and satisfaction when on April 22nd, 2017 the March for Science was organized, coinciding with Earth Day. A great symbolism could be seen in this coincidence…

The March for Science began hastily in January 2017 with only a few people. However, on April 22nd thousands of people around the world went out on the streets to show their support and simultaneously celebrate science… and life. People in more than 360 different cities on the six different continents were out there, on the same day, at the same time. I have to admit that I am not so knowledgeable about the history of these types of events. I have no idea if something like this has happened before. According to an article by Chris Mooney on April 22nd in the Washington Post*, this event was “pretty unprecedented”; individual scientists usually have strong opinions, but hardly was there before a movement concerning science that attracted so many people. There are very few causes that can actually unite and bring together many people and we all managed to make science one of them. 

In my point of view, this is very important mainly because such movements also have a political meaning. Especially in the present times with the terrorist attacks and the huge wave of refugees, people have become afraid. This fear has many political consequences, as can be observed by the rise of radical left and right parties in many different countries. Nations have become more nationalistic and less open to global communication. It seems like most of the progress we have made as humanity since World War II, is suddenly disappearing and we quickly go back to where we started. That is why a gathering of people brought together by Science, happening at this present time, is a historical moment.

To better understand the importance of this happening, it is crucial to remember some of the goals of the March for Science. To give an idea of what this was about, in my eyes, I selected a few goals to discuss.  This manifestation was just as much a celebration, an encouragement, a support as well as a protest. It was a celebration of “passion for science”, and the “many ways science serves our communities and our world”; an encouragement for “public to value science”, but also for scientists to “listen and reach out to the communities”. It was a support for education and well being, since “science teaches people to think critically, ask questions and evaluate the truth based on the weight of evidence”. And, it was a protest against “policies that ignore scientific evidence” and characterize “science as a partisan issue”. (The goals can also be read on the March for Science website (https://satellites.marchforscience.com/) and their Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/pg/marchforscience/posts/?ref=page_internal).

All these reasons and many more made the March for Science a day to remember. A day on which Science came closer to the people and a day on which people envisioned scientists as one of them. Undoubtedly, no one knows if there will be any direct outcome as a result of the March for Science. However, without doubt many people went to bed a bit happier that day, with a sense of fulfillment that is only given when fighting together for a common cause. We should thus remember this day and repeat the manifestation again when needed. Because people can…

*https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2017/04/22/historians-say-the-march-for-science-is-pretty-unprecedented/?utm_term=.8f2cf3e651bb



Eirini Trompouki, PhD
ISEH Publications Committee Member
Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics
Stübeweg 51, 79108
Freiburg, Germany

http://www.ie-freiburg.mpg.de/trompouki

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