Karl Flessa

‘Strong Science = Strong America.” That’s what the bumper sticker on the door of the office next to mine says.

I agree completely.

I will stand up for science by marching in Washington, D.C., on April 22. Other Tucson scientists will mark the day at the Rally for Science at El Presidio Park. Marches and rallies will be held in more than 500 cities around the world.

Still other Tucson scientists will be celebrating science at the 10th anniversary of the University of Arizona’s Biosphere 2.

I study the life of the past in order to understand how life responds to environmental change — I’m a paleoecologist. I will march with my colleagues from the Paleontological Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Geophysical Union, the Society for Conservation Biology and many other mainstream scientific societies.

We’re not a bunch of radicals. On most days, we are at work in the lab, in the field, in the classroom or in front of our computer monitors. We are working to improve our understanding of our world and the universe so we can benefit society.

Some of us will march to support science education, some will call for action on climate change, some will protest cuts to research funding, some will protest the elimination of environmental protections, some will march to commemorate Earth Day. These are all good reasons. Count me in.

I will march in Washington, D.C., because policy decisions on the environment, on resources, on climate, on health, on research, on science education, on joint efforts with international colleagues, on public lands and many other issues, should be informed by scientific evidence.

We will march because we are concerned about the future of science in this country.

Advocating for evidence-based decision-making is not a partisan activity.

However, I’m concerned that politicians are increasingly ignoring scientific evidence when it conflicts with their ideology.

Americans value science and trust scientists. Americans know that scientific knowledge and scientific research has improved their own and their family’s health and well-being, and provided good jobs.

Americans understand that science is vital to the future of our country. Our scientific enterprise is the envy of the world. Research at the University of Arizona is an engine driving many of Tucson’s science-based jobs, including those in the optics industry, in mining, in aerospace, in healthcare and in biotech.

Yet a small minority of people reject scientific knowledge about climate change, evolution, vaccination, clean water, clean air, endangered species and other issues. That small minority wants to weaken the quality of the science that’s taught to American kids. Because of that small minority, some politicians now want to cut support for research in basic science, including basic biomedical research. Some now want to eliminate environmental protections and efforts to combat climate change in the false belief that those efforts are harmful to our economy.

America can’t afford to ignore science.

Scientists can’t afford to be complacent. We will march and conduct teach-ins to show that we care about the future of our country and to demonstrate that our work helps ensure a society that’s healthy, innovative, environmentally friendly, productive and equitable.

Sure, I vote in elections. I also email, call and write to my local, state and national representatives.

A healthy democracy depends on citizens speaking out on the issues that affect them and that affect our country. Marching with other scientists is just one way I’m speaking out on the issues that affect all of us — not just scientists. Strong science keeps America strong.

Karl Flessa is a former president of the Paleontological Society and a faculty member at the University of Arizona. The views expressed here are his own. He is using his own funds to attend the March for Science. He can be contacted at karlflessa@gmail.com

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