The Faces of Science Marchers
Soun Oeng Contributor
2017 spawned hundreds of marches globally, all ubiquitous over social media. Since President Trump was elected, it’s been a year of concern and uncertainty. With recent headlines detailing Trump’s criticism of climate change and his decision to cut funding from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA,) the current administration has stirred up tension within the science communities and general public.
His opposition forced scientists like David Badre, a Professor of Cognitive, Linguistic, and Psychological Sciences from Brown University, to speak up and tweet that “science didn't decide to take a side in politics. Politicians started siding against science.”
Furthermore, citizens of various backgrounds and an appreciation for science had something to say about the Trump administration’s allegations and responded with a worldwide March for Science.
The March for Science is a movement that advocates science’s crucial role in all aspects of human life: health, safety, environment, economics and government. Its mission is to promote scientific achievements and to celebrate science in its ability to continually contribute to the evolution of a prosperous human race. Their goal is to communicate that scientific evidence is real and to encourage political leaders and policymakers to enact policies to help the public interest.
The official March for Science website brings attention the argument against the Trump administration’s devaluation of evidence-based policy, stating that “in the face of an alarming trend toward discrediting scientific consensus and restricting scientific discovery, we might ask instead: can we afford not to speak out in its defense? ” The Twitter hashtag #MarchforScience has generated a call for action among thousands to stand up and defend the importance of science-based decision making within their communities.
To shed light on the importance of science, I wanted to interview STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) students at Long Beach State to provide hope that science will continue to thrive.
Cameron Marsh is a third-year majoring in electrical engineering and aspiring to work in the aerospace industry, where he’ll be designing sensors. His goal is to work for Boeing, but he’s open to other options. Recently, Cameron was inducted into the electrical engineering honor society, Eta Kappa Nu (HKN).
He cited his time in high school as the reason behind his decision to pursue a career in science.
“I had a teacher who worked on particle colliders before she taught high school science and she inspired me to become an engineer,” he said.
Cameron has also always been surrounded by science and laughed gleefully when he recalled being born during the “Jurassic Park” era, giving him an initial interest in paleontology. Despite this interest, he realized later on that electrical engineering fascinated him more. When asked why people should care about science, he wholeheartedly responded “because it works.”
Cameron predicted that his field won’t be affected by the financial cuts within EPA but that it will ultimately impact electrical engineers, “because they build large energy grids and whatever they’re burning, if it’s coal or natural gas, with the reduction of regulations, engineers will have to confront the backlash.”
He added that “the only country where there’s a large section denying science is America, ironically,” reflecting back on an interview he saw that featured Bill Nye talking about climate change. He expressed belief that Trump understood what is at stake, but that his decisions were from a business standpoint that doesn’t entirely favor the science community.
Chestina Craig is a graduating fourth-year majoring in marine biology. She hopes to continue working within her field where she can study the ocean every day - although it is shark research that is her true passion.
“I love elasmobranchs” she gushed, describing a subclass of fish to which the shark is a member.
Chestina has always been someone who asked questions. When she was little she would catch bees in her yard and release them, but kept tally counts on how many bees she caught.
“I didn’t realize I was doing science back then, but I really enjoyed it,” she said.
Now, she has an impressive resume. She assisted graduate students with their research projects, helped tracked a turtle, worked in the campus Shark Lab and worked in the husbandry division at the Aquarium of the Pacific where she cared and cleaned animal exhibits.
The best part of her experiences was when she worked with sharks,
“You realize they have individual personalities and are the funniest animals,” she said.
Chestina also had the opportunity to conduct research at a reproductive lab, where she studied kelp bass testes “to categorize when they were spawning during spawn season.”
She also lived on Catalina Island for 3 months designing and executing research about the joint forging in sheephead and other local coral reef fishes.
When asked why science needs to be appreciated, she stated that the world would not be where it is today without science. She argued that evidence-based thinking is an important skill to have and if not for science, we wouldn’t have medical advances or know how to preserve our resources.
“Science is such an interdisciplinary asset, which influences so many parts of our lives,” she said.
Regarding the cuts in EPA, Chestina feels that her field is going to change, but hopes that it won’t be impacted too much. Although, she expressed that government funding is very important to scientific research, she recognizes that there are private sectors with private funding. She nonetheless added: “If you looked at our resources before the EPA was reinstated, things weren’t in the best shape. People like to think we’re moving back with science, but were not. I hope that as a scientific community that we don’t take two steps back.”
She explains that climate changes occur throughout huge time spans, and with all of the oil in the ground that has built up millions of years worth of decomposing carbon natural organism, she states that its’ supply will be obsolete.
“We’re literally gonna burn through it in 100 to 200 years. We’re gonna run out sooner than it took to develop in our ecosystem,” she said.
But a main problem that can be fixed today, she suggested, is scientific illiteracy. She emphasized it as a real problem, expressing frustration when people willingly disagreed with evidence-based proof through empirical research.
Ray Oviedo, a senior with a double major in biomedical and electrical engineering, had a similar view, saying that the STEM field could be traced back through history.
“Engineering is the reason why we’ve come so far in technology today. It started with civil engineering in which humans built architecture and societies, but also irrigation, which allowed societies to settle near water and have a constant water source,” he said.
Growing up, Ray had an affinity for math and science, stating that they were the subjects where he felt most comfortable. He laughed at the stereotype of engineers as socially awkward and respectfully disagreed.
“That’s only 10 percent true,” he said. “We’re just like everyone else, even physically active”.
Ray intends to pursue a career in the Navy as an electrical engineer or as a doctor. His influence to serve comes from his father, a recently retired navy veteran, and his involvement in his high school ROTC program.
Ray is currently working on a design project for fractals in engineering. He is creating a chua circuit - an electrical circuit that simulates chaotic behavior. The purpose of his design is to encrypt information, strengthening counterterrorism and security.
He explained that the EPA cuts wouldn’t affect his field entirely, but would cause some damage in science research as it sets a precedent for other cuts to happen on arbitrary reason. Ray called president Trump’s position against science “dangerous,” because any cut in science is a bad thing.
He added that “it’s difficult to get definitive data in climate science, which just necessitates why we need to be able to collect more data to establish a concrete answer. By cutting funds for science, it allows a mentality that suggest it is okay to stop funding science programs, when it’s clearly not.”
In defiance of the Trump administration’s efforts to hinder the growth of environmental protection programs, the March for Science is a movement that reclaims the scientific identity. With their growing numbers and those who acknowledge their significance in human prosperity, scientists and their advocates can try to change the minds of individuals who willingly neglect scientific evidence-based decision making. Science needs a voice just as much as the Earth needs its people to stop climate change.