Why I’m taking to streets to march on behalf of science
Editor's note: This op-ed by Fellow Shaye Wolf (above in purple raincoat) originally appeared in The Mercury News.
Last year, when our daughter was four, we camped in central California at a spot known for its family of rare long-eared owls. As we slept, owl parents diligently delivered food to their hungry babies.
The next morning, my daughter discovered with delight that the baby owls had dropped leftover food bits under the tree. These were mostly kangaroo rat parts, and she spent the morning collecting and sorting them into categories on the picnic table: four kangaroo rat heads, five tails and a pile for sundry mouse parts.
This activity might not be every parent’s cup of tea, but I was thrilled. I’m a scientist, and here was my daughter expressing the scientist in her. She was experiencing the joy of scientific discovery: asking a question — what are these owls eating? — and answering it through careful observation and attention to evidence
I was reminded that there’s a scientist in all of us that is curious about the world and loves the pursuit of the truth. At that moment, the world seemed rich for scientific discovery.
A year later, the atmosphere in our country for science feels distinctly different, and darker. We have a president and White House that ignore clear evidence in favor of alternative facts. Scientists at our public agencies are reportedly being censored. Our president’s first budget proposal calls for massive cuts to our nation’s core science and health agencies.
Most frightening for me, our president and other top government officials are pursuing a dangerous strategy of denying the scientific reality of climate change. Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency entrusted with protecting our environment, has denied fundamental scientific facts about climate change.
While the scientific community and the rest of the world recognize climate change as an urgent threat requiring decisive action, the Trump administration has purged nearly all mention of climate change from the White House and State Department websites. And the administration is busy dismantling science-based climate policies.
Trump’s executive orders have already started the roll-back of the Clean Power Plan, lifted the federal moratorium on coal leasing on public lands, and green-lighted the disastrous Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. This puts us all at risk — and it keeps me awake at night.
At times like these, I find it helpful to think about the role science plays in our daily lives. And I realize how much is at stake.Last year, after our trip with the owls, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I went through surgery and hard months of chemotherapy. But because of a proactive doctor and breast cancer screening made possible by science, we caught it early and I’m in a better position now. Thanks to science, I have a good chance of being around to help raise our daughter. And I can continue the scientific work I love to increase understanding of climate change and fight for bold climate action.
That’s why, on Earth Day, I will join many others around the country in the March for Science to stand up for the vital role that science plays in our lives. Science has intensely personal consequences for our health, our families, and our world, no matter what political party we belong to. We all need it — and now we have to fight for it.