By Olivia Hart
On Sunday, Feb. 19, hundreds of people gathered in Copley Square to participate in the Stand Up for Science Rally, a protest meant to take a stand against President Donald Trump and his administration’s threat to scientific advancement and innovation. Scientists and non-scientists joined forces at the event, which took place just down the street from the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s (AAAS) annual conference at the Hynes Convention Center. Some attendees of the AAAS conference even walked from Hynes to the rally to participate, sporting their white lab coats, nametags, and rally signs. For an hour and a half, the crowd listened as speakers addressed many scientific issues that have impacted them at personal and global levels.
Chiamaka Obilo, a high school student at Boston Latin and a fellow at the Alliance for Climate Education (ACE), spoke about her past experience with scoliosis. After invasive corrective surgery and a long rehabilitation period, Obilo recognized the integral role that science played in her diagnosis, treatment, and recovery.
“If there had not been research on scoliosis and how to fix it,” Obilo said, “there would have been no way for me to be treated…I probably would not be alive.”
One protester carried a sign that read: “Got Polio? No! Thank science.”
Trump has helped the anti-vaccine movement gain traction, making some public health officials, medical professionals, and citizens across the country fear how his stance might affect his administration’s policy more than it already has. Most notably, the recent efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act have angered some due to the administration’s lack of planning and the risk of leaving millions of Americans without health insurance between the repeal and replacement stages.
In addition to science’s integral role in medicine, the speakers addressed pertinent issues regarding climate change, pollution, and global warming. Obilo mentioned the problem of air pollution in urban areas.
“I wondered how I might be different if my recovering body could breathe in clean air,” Obilo said.
Other speakers spoke out against the newly appointed Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator, Scott Pruitt, whose interests lie strongly in oil and gas companies and government deregulation of fossil fuels rather than environmental protection. Pruitt aims to dismantle former President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, doubts the effect that humans have had in climate change, and has sued the EPA 14 times before being appointed as EPA administrator by President Trump. Many environmentalists and climate-conscious citizens are upset with his appointment and fear what it could mean for the environment and scientific research.
“We don’t want to [have to] be here,” one speaker remarked. Another quipped, “This is the mother of all problems.”
Despite the circumstances that fueled the Stand Up For Science rally, a hopeful and resilient air filled the space. Large blue flags with images of the Earth waved
above protesters’ heads, and at one point nearly all attendees chanted “stand up for science!”, the sound of several thousand voices booming down the surrounding streets.
Some speakers placed emphasis on imparting scientific responsibility to younger generations, which received much applause. Numerous parents attended with their children, many of whom carried their own small signs. Just before the event started, a father and his toddler, a little blonde girl dressed in pink, had passed by the growing crowd. As they walked by, he said to her: “Look, those are protesters. They’re all coming out to support what they believe in.”