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Out of the lab and into the streets

Activists walked the streets of downtown L.A. to advocate for scientific freedoms without political limitations.

Xochitl Abarca and Janette Villafana, Staff Writers

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LOS ANGELES – Two biodiesel electric hummers led thousands of energized scientists and their supporters at the March for Science LA on Saturday in response to President Donald Trump’s environmental policies and proposed environmental budget cuts.

LA, along with 600 other cities were part of a global effort to display resistance against the Trump administration’s denial of climate change and their decisions to cut science protecting agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency and the Science Advisory Board.

The March for Science LA was a project of Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs, a non profit organization. It landed on the 47th anniversary of Earth Day, which is an annual celebration that focuses on environmental and climate education.

Over 120 different science and academic associations, public interest organizations, different coalitions, councils and societies, as well as some worker groups and unions supported and endorsed the march.

Cal State Long Beach students, clubs and organizations teamed up to take the CSULB student body to the march. CSULB Environmental Science and Policy Club and CSULB East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice Club organized a recycled sign-making session as well as assigned carpooling and marching groups for students.

Many scientists had their doubts on coming out and marching in fear of politicizing science but many took this opportunity to march as a defining stand against those in power.  

“The March for Science is different from previous marches in that scientists are a group traditionally averse to advocacy. There has always been a gap between science and policy … Gag orders, proposed budget cuts and rhetoric around alternative facts were likely the breaking point that got more scientists willing to speak up,” Director of Media Relations Rebecca Fuoco said.

Fuoco hoped that the march would be a starting point to bridging that gap between science and advocacy.

“Under [the] current administration, people are realizing that we need to do something … we can’t turn our head on science, no matter what our leaders might say,” instructor and Environmental Science and Policy Undergraduate Adviser Monica Argandona said.

Argandona stressed that people in higher positions will more likely take notice to the issues marchers are fighting for if more people unite and take a stand.

“We need to get out there; we need to be in the face of public officials, local is much more important than national,” Argandona said.

CSULB student marchers stressed the importance of showing up to have their voices heard.

“Science is for the advancement of humanity, so for them to be thinking that way, is kind of for the advancement of themselves and not for the science community and the community in general,” environment science major and CSULB East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice Club member Erika Guzman said. “Scientists should be out there marching and fighting, I mean what else are they doing research for?”

Attendees rallied at Pershing Square Park in downtown Los Angeles where they met and mingled with other attendees, with organizers and with local politicians to later march united to City Hall.

The purpose was to celebrate the crucial contribution science has in society through pushing economic growth, preserving the environment, as well as protecting the health of all global citizens.

Participants advocated for political reform and evidence-based policies for public interest at the local, state and national political levels. The march promoted all areas of STEM including comprehensive education in science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.

Like the Women’s March LA, the coordinators of March for Science LA came together through Facebook to mobilize. Brought together by lead organizer Alex Bradley, over 50 coordinators teamed up to make this year’s Earth Day.

To kick off the pre-march rally speakers that presented on topics regarding the role of science in government, the West Los Angeles Children’s Choir performed their original piece “A Song for Planet Earth” as a call to action.

The march’s speakers included seismologist Lucy Jones, astrophysicist Farisa Morales, Academy Award-nominated co-screenwriter of “Hidden Figures” Allison Schroeder, NextGen Climate founder Tom Steyer and U.S. representative from California’s 30th Congressional District Brad Sherman, among others.

The Science Expo Stage at the march in Pershing Square featured booths, teach-ins, presentations and demonstrations from local organizations and universities.

Guzman said that there needs to be more scientists advocating and marching in the streets representing the real threat and issues the world faces that they can solidly back up with data. She also said that scientists need to be in the forefront of the fight for truth and facts instead of hiding in the lab.

CSULB environment science major and CSULB East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice Club member Elyka Baronia stressed that there needs to be more awareness in the scientific field that scientists, truth and politics can work together.

“Who is going to do it? We can’t sit back and let everyone else do it for us we need to be the ones out there stating how we feel and what our point is,” marine biology major and CSULB Environmental Science and Policy Club member Cat Lachnit. “As a science and environmental community [we] need to stand together to show how we feel.”

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