By Guest Author 28/03/2017

From the NZ March for Science Organisers

Since the Science March on DC was first announced in January, after the inauguration of Donald Trump as the President of the USA, scientists and people who care about science in New Zealand have been working together behind the scenes to make sure that when we march for science and knowledge, and against ‘alternative facts’, we march together. Here are some of their stories.

Science is important to me. As a parent, an individual, a woman, a science communicator, science educator and New Zealander, it has become a huge part of my identity as a human being and influences everything I do.

I decided to run the Christchurch branch of the ‘March for Science’ because Science is being attacked and ignored and we are the ones who can and must defend it. We may live on a few islands, far away from immediate danger but we are and will be affected by the decisions and attitudes of the global powers that be. Our geographic isolation is no excuse for complacency – our current government has and continues to be ineffective in defending our native species and environment from danger, they need to know that this isn’t acceptable.

Ignoring scientists is not the way forward, disbelief in empirical evidence is ignorant and inaction towards combating climate change is dangerous.

I will be marching in Christchurch on Saturday, 22nd April because I am a New Zealander who cares deeply about the world in which I live, and the people, animals and environment that I share it with. Just because these issues aren’t hitting me in the face right now, doesn’t mean I should close my eyes to them.

No matter what type of background you come from, or whether you do or don’t agree with me on all these issues, you are invited to March for Science with us on Saturday, 22nd April – to show up in-person and tell the world that you too, give a shit about our planet.

Geni – organizer in Christchurch

Dunedin’s March for Science event will be a rally at the Otago Museum Reserve with speakers from across the spectrum of Dunedin — scientists, historians, techies, environmental enthusiasts, etc.  There will also be food, music, science demonstrations, and hopefully lots of people just having fun and learning.

As for me, I have many hats, including dual citizen of NZ and the USA, registered clinical psychologist, wife of a professor of psychology, mother of two, and concerned member of the human race.  I have always been an activist and have always had questions.  I recently found a great outlet for both of these traits with the election of Donald Trump, for it was then that lots of other folks became energised to stand together to protect all kinds of things that I hold dear — human rights, the environment, freedom to inquire and challenge, and many more.  I participated in the Women’s March on Washington in Dunedin the day after the Trump inauguration, and the power and positivity that came from that experience was truly inspiring.  Soon afterward, I decided to begin organising a Dunedin event to coordinate with the global March for Science.

Our small group hopes that our rally will be a forum in which people from all walks of life can come together to celebrate the quest for knowledge and the use of knowledge to protect and enhance life.  As a clinical psychologist, science informs the work I do with my clients.  As a parent, it informs how and what I teach my children.  As a citizen, it informs how I interact with other people, the government, and the natural world.  I hope that the Dunedin rally can help lots of other people consider the importance of science and knowledge in their lives.

I also have a broader hope that the March for Science Global initiative will empower scientists and other knowledge-seekers to continue their important work and to share it widely, impress policy makers to utilise science for the greater good, and excite the general public about being informed participants in the world through better understanding of the processes and outcomes of systematic inquiry.

Cindy – organizer in Dunedin

I’m Erin, an animal welfare research tech and lab manager, mother and wife.  I march for freshwater, my daughter, peer reviewed science informing government policy, the climate. 

I march to show that I stand in solidarity with scientists and science enthusiasts from the past, the present and for those in the future.  I particularly stand with those around the world who have been gagged, fired, or dismantled due to their scientific observations not appeasing a regime.  I am tired of beliefs and alternative facts.  I want science.

I lived my first 20 years in America, none of my local rivers were swimmable, they had no fish, they were stinky.  I’m marching because the NZ government has recently decided to further lower our freshwater standards to similar standards that I grew up in.  The government believes they are improving freshwater, yet they aren’t utilizing NZ freshwater ecology research outputs or freshwater scientists for these decisions.  I’m mad, and I’m marching.

Erin – organiser in Palmerston North

I love to vote.

The reason I, a woman, am able to vote in elections, to be a part of the discourse on the way our society is constructed and run is because of the women in history who marched in the streets for equality of rights. Our democracy has come a long way since the suffragists began this march for equality, but it is naive to believe that we have progressed as far as we would like to think.

What does this have to do with marching for science?

One of the most incredible things about the human species is consciousness and reflection, which not only enables us to carry out the scientific method of discovery, but change and grow our minds in response to new information.

As a society, we have achieved things that were once thought of as fanciful – people have walked on the moon, we see beyond our galaxy, we have cured debilitating and deadly diseases, and the rest… our quality of life is the highest in history (for most) – thanks to the scientific method.

Scientists are people. People make societies; societies are constructed, run and improved by evidence-based knowledge, but only when all citizens are the beneficiaries of diverse and inclusive advances.  Science and society are a big beautiful interconnected network. If there is inequality in science, our science isn’t the best it can be, and if science is ignored, society suffers, we suffer.

In these current political climes, we are reminded daily that knowledge is powerful, and those that hold knowledge hold power. This may be most obvious when we think about the current political situation in the USA, where the Trump administration is holding truth hostage, blatantly refusing to give science a voice in policy, shutting down international scientific programs, and muzzling scientists from sharing publicly funded science with the community (particularly climate change, women’s health and vaccines).

This is a socio-political experiment with frightening implications. Perhaps to a lesser extent, it is happening here in New Zealand too, you only have to look at the Land and Water forum to open the discussion about the government ignoring the advice of scientists in regards to water quality. The transition from evidence-based to value-based policy can a subversive and quiet one. The question is then – are we as New Zealander’s willing to close our eyes while a few individuals make the rules according to their own needs, based on their own values, ignoring the scientific evidence and the bigger picture? Are we willing to waste the progress that the suffragettes and scientists – our Hidden Figures: Beatrice Hill Tinsley, Rosemary Askin, Kathleen Curtis, Edith Farkas, Constance Helen Frost, and Michael Walker et al’s – fought for, to lose the inroads they made towards equality in science and in society? I’m joining my predecessors in taking to the streets to to march for equity and reason.

I am marching for science because inclusiveness for all peoples and inclusion of science in society and governance is a common sense double down.

I am marching for science because we are science – ever-evolving experiments in understanding.

Steph – organiser in Auckland


Featured image: Flickr / bradhoc.

0 Responses to “March for Science NZ – Why we march”

  • What is this fight for, science as such is not under threat. Yes there are inequalities and policy changes, but this is going back and forth all the time. Yes there is currently some defunding in the USA of climate research, but the try to get money to do some GMO work in New Zealand and the public suddenly does not want to increase the knowledge of humanity.
    I think this is an ill advised attempt to politicize science and use it for the progressive cause. For that reason I recommend to every scientist to stay away.
    It might be well intentioned, but since there appears to be no goal it will become something like the women’s march where hundreds of individual groups were going on the streets to protest for their own pet concern and all that driven by some distaste of an individual.