By CHAO YAN
Capital News Service
LANSING — Scientists and advocates across 10 Michigan cities will step out of their labs and call attention to the value of science in the March for Science on April 22.
Launched by groups of scientists and researchers in Washington, D.C., earlier this year, the nonpartisan March for Science has expanded into 294 planned satellite marches across the nation and 394 worldwide.
The 10 Michigan cities scheduled to participate on Earth Day are Lansing, Ann Arbor, Detroit, Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, Midland, Houghton, Marquette, Sault Ste. Marie and Petoskey.
Michigan efforts and the Lansing march were started by science enthusiasts Sara Pack and Sierra Owen of Lansing.
“The march is meant to serve a group of scientists and science supporters who feel that the current political climate of science denial, defunding, gag orders and ‘alternative’ facts is dangerous,” said Andrew Biggie of East Lansing, the outreach team leader for the March for Science in Lansing. “Dangerous not only to the future of the vast field of sciences, but to the planet and all life on it. We seek to change that.”
The satellite teams in Michigan expressed concerns about President Donald Trump’s drastic budget-cutting proposals for scientific research, especially for the Great Lakes.
Trump unveiled his first budget plan on March 16, proposing cuts to Environmental Protection Agency spending by 31 percent and eliminating climate change programs, while increasing defense spending by $54 billion.
The president’s budget also calls for eliminating the $300 million Great Lakes Restoration Project.
“I think this administration has caused a frenzied increase in anti-science legislation and sentiment,” Pack said.
Pack said it makes her angry that the government did not follow what science data and research showed in the Flint water crisis.
“The scientific research proved time and time again that the chemicals used to treat the water were too corrosive and should not have been used,” Pack said. “Choices that caused the problem in the first place were not evidence- based. The science was flatly ignored for financial reasons.”
March organizers are also unsure about the future of science education.
“Just in Detroit alone, we have more than six centers for higher education, all with their own great science programs, whether it’s physics, astronomy or medicine. They are facing budget cuts and tough access to grants,” said William Weiler, an attorney and the organizer of the Detroit march.
Pack said Lansing march leaders are still confirming speakers. The plan is for scientists representing various disciplines to offer “teach-ins,” explaining what they do and the effect of their research on everyday life.
The organizers are talking with a NASA scientist as well, hoping she can explain space research and the cosmos.
The Petoskey march will be part of various events held in the week of Earth Day, which is April 22. The group plans to meet at the Petoskey post office and march through the downtown area.
“We are not going to invite any speakers to the march, because we are a very small town,” said Betty Palm, the team leader of Petoskey march. “The march is to just show public support for science teaching and science data.”
According to Palm, the march got endorsements from local environmental organizations, such as Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council and the local Audubon Society.
So far more than 6,000 people in Michigan have signed up for the events on social media.
“The turnout and the support matter to us,” Weiler said. “It enables people to take a stand on the ongoing issues. People are getting out and know they are not alone in numbers.”
U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence is scheduled to speak at the Detroit March, Weiler said. Lawrence, a Democrat, is expected to talk about what people can do after the march to influence their legislative representatives on science matters.
“It’s not just at the federal level. There’s a lot going on in Michigan that people are not aware of in terms of legislation regarding water quality or air quality,” Weiler said.
The Michigan team also plans to maintain communication with supporters after the march.
“We are a movement and not just a one-day march,” Pack said. “We aim to be united for science for the long haul.”
Further information about all Michigan marches can be found on the “March for Science – Michigan” Facebook page.