A day of activism … sort of

I discovered via Rachel’s blog that today was Pedal on Parliament 2017 (Scotland, only). Rachel has a new post about the event in Abereen. It’s also the day for the Marches for Science. So, we thought we’d go and spend the day in Edinburgh and just wander around. We walked through the park where the cyclists were gathering (we had decided not to bring our bikes – my wife isn’t really a cyclist) and watched them go past.

We then headed off to the museum for a while (the National Museum of Scotland, in Edinburgh, is both free, and excellent) and then found somewhere to have lunch. After lunch we meandered down the High Street to the Parliament, where the Pedal on Parliament was winding up.

The March for Science was due to start, so we found our way up to the route, joined up with a colleague who we happened to bump into, and made our way back down to the Parliament. I really didn’t know what to expect, and was quite surprised by how many people were taking part; more than I was expecting. There wasn’t much chanting, or even much noise (I suspect scientists are just a bit too reticent) but it was a very pleasant, and cheerful, walk.

Once we arrived at the Parliament, there were a number of speeches about the importance of science, and evidence, and how this should be the start of scientists doing more to address the misinformation that seems to becoming ever more prevalent (I, obviously, agree and am trying to do my bit). I did find it quite invigorating to see a whole lot of other people who seemed passionate about scientists engaging publicly, so maybe this will be the start of something positive. It ended with an impromptu ceilidh, but we decided we’d done enough and headed home.

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12 Responses to A day of activism … sort of

  1. John Hartz says:

    ATTP: Kudos on a job well done!

  2. Scientists are really not made for this protest stuff. A bit of polite clapping once in a while.

    But the improve theatre in Bonn was good. One interviewed a scientist and the other translated it in “sign language”. The interviewer tried to make it as hard as possible for the translator.

  3. improv theatre, improvisation theatre

  4. Susan Anderson says:

    Thanks for the picture and description. Good stuff. I’d say Boston was 5 to 10 thousand, unfocused, cool/wet, but good. Serious people tried to get to Washington DC.

  5. John Hartz says:

    Lousy weather in NY and DC s well. Here’s hoping there will be sunny skies for next week’s Climate Mobilization demonstration in DC and elsewhere.

  6. Pingback: Marching for science? – Stoat

  7. Mal Adapted says:

    The March in Santa Fe NM drew a larger crowd than I expected, but I didn’t really have a basis for expecting anything. Haven’t seen official figures yet.

    Some of the signs were earnest, some witty, some kind of obscure, like “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the precipitate!” Geek inside jokes, you know. Some of the signs were issue oriented, like in support of a vegan diet, or a couple of local environmental concerns. I wouldn’t have excluded them even if it had been up to me, but I’m pretty sure cynical obscurantists will capitalize on any association of science with political environmentalism or liberalism, no matter how accidental and/or superficial.

    I was relieved not to see any frankly pseudo-scientific messages being advertised. This is Santa Fe, after all, where pseudo-science of all description, mostly but not strictly medical, is welcomed. I don’t know how the local wooful community was dissuaded from participating, but then I don’t get out much.

    After filling up and spilling out of the Santa Fe historic plaza, we ambled over to the state Captol, where there were speakers scheduled. I left when the politicians started speaking. I’m glad they thought it worth appearing, but I don’t owe it to them to listen.

  8. Also no pseudo-science at the March in Bonn.

    Such signs are not the best ways to make science more popular in Germany. 🙂

  9. John Hartz says:

    CNN’s overview is global and very nicely done…

    March for Science: Protesters gather worldwide to support ‘evidence’ by Laura Smith-Spark & Jason Hanna, CNN, Apr 22, 2017

  10. The event I attended with my wife in Bristol was excellent, with great speeches and some nice stalls celebrating science for young and old; the ‘mini professors’ group for example. I wrote a kind of elegy to the marches – the reason for them – here >
    https://essaysconcerning.com/2017/04/23/lest-we-regret-science-not-silence/
    Some have tried to question the motivations for the marches. One (by William Connelley) tried to argue that because Obama did not introduce an effective carbon tax, and no one marchd against him, this delegitmized the marches which were alleged to be against Trump. What tosh!
    http://scienceblogs.com/stoat/2017/04/22/marching-for-science/
    Leaving aside that this is a highly contrived strawman argument, I can say that at the Bristol event, the emphasis was at least as much on the celebration of the need to cherish science as it was attacking those that seek to undermine it. No mention of Trump. No mention of Carbon Tax.

    This ignores the fact that there are many examples of those in power who have been over some years actively seeking to undermine scientific institutions or to promote ideas that fly in the face of established scientific knowledge …
    – a long history of efforts to undermine education on evolution in schools
    – defunding at CSIRO in Australia, and EPA in US
    – a Secretary of State in UK who has expressed support for homeopathy and some GPs who provide access to it
    – serious drops in vaccination rates that can be traced to the MMR debacle in UK, but have had lasting impacts, and Trump has even flirted with anti-vaxxers
    – a US Science, Space, and Technology Committee that actively promotes bogus science on climate change and tries to initimidate NOAA scientists
    – influential papers and politicians in UK (such as Daily Mail, Matt Ridley, Lord Lawson, et al) who are actively engaged in trying to undermine institutions such as the Met Office that research climate change
    – …
    And for years, through left and right administrations, it has managed to be, despite prior attacks (as documented in ‘The Merchants of Doubt’). The difference now is that the marginalised cranks and schemers now at or near to the seats of power.

    How extraordinarily complacent to suggest otherwise.

    But I think the second reason why people marched was simply a celebration of science.

    Because people do not know where their science comes from, rather like their food, it is easy to take it for granted.

    I think science has done a great job in doing outreach work, but clearly needs to do much more, and as Chris Packham said in his speech, the marches were aimed at being a beginning, not an end, with face to face engagement being more effective that admonishments from the virtual (social media) sidelines.

  11. John Hartz says:

    What do activist scientists do for an encore…

    Just hours after the Washington March for Science dispersed, organizers sent an email to demonstrators with the subject line, “What’s next?”

    “Our movement is just starting,” the message read. It went on to urge marchers to take part in a “week of action,” a set of coordinated activities that range from signing an environmental voting pledge to participating in a citizen science project. They will provide postcards for participants to send to their political leaders and a calendar of events recommended by the march’s partner groups.

    The march website was also overhauled Saturday night to include a new page* on the organization’s vision for the future. The details are not fully fleshed out (and the page still included a few typos Sunday afternoon), but organizers say they aim to build a new science advocacy network and establish programs to better engage the public with science.

    “We intend to symbolically keep marching,” said national co-chair Valerie Aquino. “I would love for the March for Science to continue growing into a global movement.”

    That goal will require a sea change in how scientists think about outreach. But after the success of the march, which turned out tens of thousands of demonstrators in more than 600 cities, organizers think it could happen.

    Tens of thousands marched for science. Now what? by Sarah Kaplan, Speaking of Science, Washington Post, Apr 23, 2107

    *https://satellites.marchforscience.com/

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