22 April 2017
MARCH FOR SCIENCE
Scientists in the United States are feeling under threat from all sides as the Trump administration becomes entrenched, with its cadre of moronic climate change deniers filling key cabinet positions. Mining companies are once again legally permitted to dump their effluent into rivers and streams, the very existence of the Environmental Protection Agency is in jeopardy, clean air regulations are being abandoned, international treaties are not being respected, emission standards for vehicles are being weakened, coal mining is being revived....and so it goes.
It is not so long ago that Canada, under the anti-science Harper government, was faced with these kinds of challenges, where science became a political tool for the ruling party and researchers were forbidden from public statements about anything that would challenge the government's position. Science had become a tool of ideology. And if you think that smacks of totalitarianism you are absolutely correct.
At that time, the scientific community in the United States became a staunch ally of embattled Canadian scientists, and supported them in myriad ways, out of reach of the Harper government as it were, and it was time for us to reciprocate. In fact, in major cities all over the world, people came out in droves to March for Science in support of embattled American scientists.
Miriam and I were determined to show our support for evidence-based science and we marked the day on our calendar. Miriam, who is always a little more creative than I am, made herself a two-sided sign and proudly displayed it at the rally.
Early on the crowd started to grow as many like-minded people came together.
We saw lots of friends and fellow nature club members there and Miriam posed for a picture with Michelle Tomins and Jenna Quinn.
There was a festive air about the whole event as people came together to express their passion for science and to know that they were in the company of other citizens who deplore the corruption of knowledge for ideological gain.
The event was jointly m-c'd by our good friend Jon Walgate, an Oxford University physics PhD, and Christina Tan who is double majoring in Environmental Science and Business at the University of Waterloo.
Jon still looks like a young graduate barely out of school - the years have been kind to him!
The logistics of the whole day were put together by Hang Lu, and masterfully done it was. Everything went off without a hitch.
Hang Lu is a BSc honours grad with a major in math and a minor in computer science. She is spending her first postgraduate year pursuing mathematics, engineering and computer science.
One of the featured speakers was the highly renowned Dr. Neil Arya. Dr Arya is Chair of the Canadian Physicians for Research and Education in Peace, and the former Vice President of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985.
People were encouraged to write with erasable chalk, messages that would express the meaning of science for them, and even the youngest members of the audience got into the game. I am inclined to think that this was a pictorial representation of the planet earth!
The crowd had become very large and everyone was deeply appreciative of the inspirational messages delivered by all who spoke, both the featured guests and impromptu comments from the audience. A friend and fellow naturalist, Dawn Miles, delivered an impassioned contribution about the value and role of citizen science. It was unrehearsed, straight from the heart and powerful. Well done, Dawn. (Photo courtesy of Next Cliche Images)
As we scanned around we saw Jim Huffman and Francine Gilbert seated together. Francine looks as though she is about to applaud or is invoking the mythical Gods of Rationality to strike all the naysayers down dead!
Every speaker was of the highest calibre and Bob Lemieux, Dean of Science and Professor of Chemistry at the University of Waterloo, was among them. He said how absolutely thrilled he was to be there and emphasized the founding principle of all science - a curious and inquiring mind.
Cheryl Chan is a Master's candidate in the School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability at the University of Waterloo.
Cheryl spoke with the passionate idealism of a young person embarking on a career and moved everyone who heard her message.
Another impassioned, impromptu contribution was made by our friend and fellow naturalist, a former professor at the University of Waterloo, Greg Michelenko, sporting a very apt tee shirt designed by a friend of his.
An American woman who moved to Canada several years ago made us all begin to believe that perhaps in the not too distant future impeachment charges can be initiated to remove Trump from office. She is convinced it will happen, but as she sadly pointed out, Mike Pence is not much better.
Jonathan Baugh is a faculty member of the Department of Chemistry and the Institute for Quantum Computing at the University of Waterloo, Here he is seen with his partner in research, Debbie Leung.
Our very good friend, Debbie, is a faculty member of the Department of Combinatorics and Optimization and the Institute of Quantum Computing at the University of Waterloo. Public exhortation is unfamiliar to Debbie, but she did a fine job of pleading for fact-based science to prevail over ideology.
The final impromptu speaker was a government scientist who was anxious to make the point that scientists deal with facts, politicians deal with policy, and she implored the public to always differentiate between the two.
As the rally wound down people mingled and chatted, new friendships were made and people proudly displayed their signs.
Even the young scientists-in-waiting are not too young to make their feelings known.
An enthusiastic group of supporters of science marched through downtown Waterloo, much encouraged by words of support from passing motorists.
It was a very worthwhile way to spend the afternoon. The event was well organized, timely and immensely important. Congratulations to all who made it happen; we are confident it will make a difference.