“The U.S. used to be a world leader in all areas of science, but now other countries are investing much more money in science. Our government needs to support its researchers.” Gloria Muday Director of the Center for Molecular Signaling at Wake Forest University
There is no planet B.
Once the world’s resources are dried up, they’re not coming back, said Susan Fahrbach, biology department chairperson at Wake Forest University.
“We have to take care of this beautiful planet that we have before it’s too late,” said Fahrbach, also a professor of developmental neuroscience. “Certain aspects are not sustainable and the only way to interface with reality is scientific investigation.”
Fahrbach, who lives in Winston-Salem, will be one of the thousands of marchers expected in Washington, D.C.
Following in the footsteps of the January Women’s March, more than 500 science marches are planned around the world.
According to organizers, the goal of the march is to celebrate science in a political climate that is dismissive of climate change and acknowledge the vital role science plays in daily life.
The unprecedented gathering treats “science” as an all-inclusive term that encompasses climate change proponents to computer scientists.
“It’s a march ‘for science,’ not ‘by scientists’ so we’re hoping for a very large turnout from people from all walks of life,” said Fahrback, whose husband, a retired theater professor, plans to participate. “We all need science.”
At least eight North Carolina cities will hold rallies, including Greensboro, Raleigh, Asheville, Charlotte, Wilmington, Beaufort, Washington and Morganton.
The international series of marches coincides with Earth Day, an observance established in 1970 to celebrate environmental protection and recognized by 193 countries.
Wake Forest professor of biology Gloria Muday said she hopes Saturday will be a chance to celebrate the earth and preservation efforts, reinforcing the importance of scientific advancements.
“Are you using your cell phone? Have you taken a prescription medication lately?” said Muday, who will be attending the march in the nation’s capital. “Science makes our world a better place. It’s about thinking for the future, not tomorrow.”
Preceding this afternoon’s Washington, D.C., march, a teach-in on the National Mall will include speeches and training with scientists and civic organizers.
Bill Nye “the Science Guy” is set to be one of the headline speakers and marchers in D.C. alongside Mona Hanna-Attisha, the doctor who helped expose lead poisoning in Flint, Mich., and Lydia Villa-Komaroff, a molecular biologist who helped develop the technique for making insulin.
“The U.S. used to be a world leader in all areas of science, but now other countries are investing much more money in science,” said Muday, director of the Center for Molecular Signaling. “Our government needs to support its researchers.”
On March 28, Trump signed an executive order to roll back climate change protections and halt attempts at curbing American carbon dioxide emissions. Trump also proposed to slash the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget by 31 percent, according to the New York Times.
NASA data shows the average surface temperature has risen about 2 degrees Fahrenheit since the late 19th century. The past five years have been the hottest on record, Muday said.
“We have strong, indisputable data in support of climate change, the safety of genetically modified foods and the importance of preserving our planet,” she said. “This should be a bipartisan matter.”
Much of her research focuses on how plants can survive and provide food and oxygen in light of an ever-changing climate, she said, as high temperatures kill pollen.
Fahrback said many of her colleagues who work in climate change or atmospheric fields have faced more roadblocks and have been denied funds when they needed it most.
She hopes the march will circle back to the idea that science doesn’t have a political party.
“Presidents come and go, but the real hallmark of the U.S. has been a strong consistent support for science, so it would be a shame to lose that,” Fahrback said.
Muday said in recent years she has seen a decline in the number of grants awarded.
While the grant success rate used to be about one in four, many of the panels she has seen recently turn down 93 percent of grant requests, she said.