On Saturday, hundreds of thousands of scientists and science supporters took to the streets around the world in a global March for Science on Earth Day. More than 600 marches and rallies took place, with one on every continent, including on Antarctica. Massive marches occurred from coast to coast in the United States, including at a massive rally in Washington, D.C. Among those who took to the stage were Bill Nye, “The Science Guy”; Earth Day founder Denis Hayes; former EPA environmental justice official Mustafa Ali, who resigned after Trump took office; Sam Droege of the U.S. Geological Survey; and James Balog, of the Extreme Ice Survey, which is documenting the rapid retreat of glaciers due to climate change.
AMY GOODMAN: On Saturday, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets around the world in a global March for Science that was endorsed by hundreds of scientific institutions, environmental groups and unions. The Hip Hop Caucus was also a partner. More than 600 events took place, with one on every continent, including Antarctica, where workers at the Neumayer-Station research center tweeted a picture of themselves holding a sign with a quote from chemist Marie Curie. It read, quote, “Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”
The first-ever March for Science coincided with Earth Day and comes as President Donald Trump has galvanized scientists, educators and others with his comments calling climate change a Chinese hoax. Meanwhile, the White House’s proposed budget would cut as much as $7 billion in science funding, including the National Institutes of Health, which funds medical research.
Democracy Now! was at the March for Science in Washington, D.C., where thousands braved a stormy day to gather at the Washington Monument to hear speakers. You can watch our full 5-hour broadcast at democracynow.org. Today we bring you some of the voices of the rally. In a minute, you’ll hear from Denis Hayes, coordinator of the first Earth Day in 1970; wildlife biologist Sam Droege from the U.S. Geological Survey; Mustafa Ali, former head of the Environmental Protection Agency’s environmental justice program; and James Balog, the filmmaker and ice photographer who founded the Extreme Ice Survey and is featured in the documentary Chasing Ice. But first we go to Bill Nye, “The Science Guy,” the engineer and TV personality best known for the PBS series of the same name.
BILL NYE: Greetings! Greetings, fellow citizens! We are marching today to remind people everywhere, our lawmakers especially, of the significance of science for our health and prosperity. The process of science has enabled humankind to discover the laws of nature. This understanding has, in turn, enabled us to feed and care for the world’s billions, build great cities, establish effective governments, create global transportation systems, explore outer space and know the cosmos.
The framers of the Constitution of the United States, which has become a model for constitutional governments everywhere, included Article I, Section 8, which refers to promoting the progress of science and useful arts. Its intent is to motivate innovators and drive the economy by means of just laws. They knew that without the progress of science and useful arts of engineering, our economy would falter. Without scientifically literate citizens, the United States—any country, in fact—cannot compete on the world stage.
Yet, today, we have a great many lawmakers, not just here, but around the world, deliberately ignoring and actively suppressing science. Their inclination is misguided and in no one’s best interest. Our lives are in every way improved by having clean water, reliable electricity and access to electronic global information. Each is a product of scientific discoveries, diligent research and thoughtful engineering. These vital services are connected to policy issues, which can only be addressed competently by understanding the natural laws in play.
Some may consider science the purview of a special or separate type of citizen, one who pursues natural facts and generates numerical models for their own sakes. But our numbers here today show the world that science is for all. Our lawmakers must know and accept that science serves every one of us, every citizen of every nation in society. Science must shape policy. Science is universal. Science brings out the best in us. With an informed, optimistic view of the future together, we can, dare I say it, save the world!
DENIS HAYES: Mayor Lindsay had shut down Fifth Avenue, and we basically filled it all up.
FRANK BLAIR: Earth Day demonstrations began in practically every city and town in the United States this morning, the first massive, nationwide protest against the pollution of the environment.
DENIS HAYES: Nationally, Earth Day was the largest demonstration ever in American history, and we had an estimated 20 million across the country.
We are challenging the ethics of a society that, with only 6 percent of the world’s population, accounts for more than half of its utilization of resources.
PROTESTERS: Save our Earth! Save our Earth! Save our Earth!
DENIS HAYES: We are systematically destroying our land, our streams and our seas. We foul our air…
It was a huge, high-adrenaline effort that, in the end, genuinely changed things. Before, there were people that opposed freeways. There were people that opposed clearcutting, or people worried about pesticides. They didn’t think of themselves as having anything in common. After Earth Day, they were all part of an environmental movement.
ANDRE LEWIS: Denis Hayes.
DENIS HAYES: OK, this is—this is a science march, so I assume you all knew there was going to be a quiz? This is about last November’s election. Did America somehow vote to melt the polar ice caps and kill the coral reefs and acidify the oceans?
DENIS HAYES: Did we vote to reduce the EPA’s research budget by a whopping 42 percent?
DENIS HAYES: Did we vote to defund safe drinking water by one-third?
DENIS HAYES: Did we vote to eliminate environmental work in Chesapeake Bay and San Francisco Bay and Puget Sound and the Gulf of Mexico and the Great Lakes?
DENIS HAYES: Well, that’s what we got.
DENIS HAYES: Forty-seven years ago, on the first Earth Day, 20 million regular, everyday Americans, including millions of angry students, rose up and stormed the political stage and demanded—demanded—a clean, healthy, just, resilient environment. Forty-seven years later, to my astonishment, we’re back in the same spot. We’ve got a president, a vice president, a Cabinet and the leadership of both houses of Congress who are all climate deniers.
DENIS HAYES: They are scrubbing climate change from federal websites and ordering federal employees not to use the words “global warming” in any communication.
DENIS HAYES: This—this is not conservative politics. This is the Inquisition gunning for Galileo. It’s now crystal clear that the man who lives right there did not come here to drain the swamp. He’s filling the swamp to overflowing with conflicts of interest, with a White House that reeks of greed and sleaze and mendacity. America has had 45 presidents, but we have never before had a president who was completely indifferent to the truth. Donald Trump makes Richard Nixon look like Diogenes.
We are racing now toward a climate cliff, and our coal-loving president is punching the accelerator, and so millions of us are marching across America and around the world. Our job is clear. Today is the first step in a long-term battle for scientific integrity, a battle for transparency, a battle for survival. So, don’t leave here thinking that you came out in the rain, all of you, this awesome crowd, standing in the rain, freezing, and thinking now you’ve done your part, because you haven’t. Not yet. Like that first Earth Day, this Earth Day is just the beginning. And in that battle, losing is not an option, because if we lose this fight, we will pass on a desolate, impoverished planet for the next 100 generations. I’m old enough that I can remember when people all over the Earth saw America as the world’s best hope. Today, right here, right now, all of you, let’s commit ourselves to becoming the world’s best hope again.
ANDRE LEWIS: Ali, Mustafa Santiago.
MUSTAFA ALI: So I’m about to take you to Jamaica real quick. I want everyone to say, “Get up!”
AUDIENCE: Get up!
MUSTAFA ALI: “Stand up!”
AUDIENCE: Stand up!
MUSTAFA ALI: “Stand up for your rights!”
AUDIENCE: Stand up for your rights!
MUSTAFA ALI: It’s time to stand up, like the legend Bob Marley said: “Get up! Stand up! Stand up for your rights!”
Thirty-five years ago in Warren County, North Carolina, a small but committed African-American community decided to stand up and say, “No more!” They decided to stand up against dangerous PCBs, a cancer-causing substance in their neighborhood. They decided to stand up to protect their lives, their neighbors and the lives of the next generation.
Today, we stand against an administration that places profits over people and tells us that science isn’t real, that rolls back regulations that for decades has protected and given people a fighting chance for clean air, clean water and clean land. Today we must stand for community-based programs that give marginalized communities traction to address the disinvestments that have limited their opportunities for positive change. Today we must support our most vulnerable communities on their journey from surviving to thriving. Today we stand up for Standing Rock, to protect and support—that’s right—cultures that honor Mother Earth and the lives of our people. Today we stand up for Flint. Today we stand up for Baltimore. Today we stand up for East Chicago, where the devastating effects of lead will have long-term health and economic impacts. Today we stand with 71 percent of African Americans who live in counties that violate federal air pollution standards, and the 68 percent of African Americans who live within 30 miles of a coal-fired power plant. Today we stand with Latinos, who are 165 percent more likely to live in counties with unhealthy levels of power pollution. Today we stand with the 24 million Americans suffering from asthma and who are disproportionately at risk. Today we hold our public officials accountable. Today we stand for justice and make our collective voices heard. Today we stand up, and we march.
Everyone, join me. Everyone, say, “Get up!”
AUDIENCE: Get up!
MUSTAFA ALI: “Stand up!”
AUDIENCE: Stand up!
MUSTAFA ALI: “Stand up for your rights!”
AUDIENCE: Stand up for your rights!
SAM DROEGE: Hi, I’m Sam Droege, the bee guy. I just realized that if all the bees disappeared, there’s tons of unemployed scientists who will do the pollination. So, here’s how it works. These are all the flowering plants in the world, thousands and thousands of them. They have a relationship, sometimes one-on-one, with thousands and thousands of different bee species. There’s more than honey bees out there. You lose some of these plant species, you lose a whole chunk of bee species. The system works like this. They encapsulate the Earth, the bees and the plants. Without them, you have little to nothing to live for.
So, here’s what you need to do. You need to harbor all the natural areas that are the bank of plant biodiversity, with their bees, that keep it together. And, personally, this is what you need to do. You’re an activist. You probably have a lawn. You need to delawnify the world. Lawns’ contribution is zero to negative. I will do a paper on that later. But you can have—you can make a difference in just those small different ways. Remember, my favorite quote from Emerson is “The world laughs in flowers.” Thank you.
JAMES BALOG: Good afternoon. I’m James Balog. I am a patriot. I fight for spacious skies. I fight for amber waves of grain, for purple mountains’ majesty. You all are patriots. But I do that by being a photographer, filmmaker and scientist.
We have met here today, where a great battle for the mind, body and soul of this country is being fought. Among other things, it is a battle between objective reality and ideological fiction. My team and I have collected visual evidence of the epic changes sweeping the Earth today. I’ve seen how burning coal, oil and gas cooks the air we breathe. I have seen how that altered air heats our forests until they explode in fireballs and homes burn down. I’ve seen, through more than a million frames of time-lapse photography, how trillions of tons of glacier ice are melting. I’ve seen that melt water enter the seas and flood the coastlines of America. Nature isn’t natural anymore. You and I and all seven-and-a-half billion of us are changing the climate. It’s what the real-world evidence says.
But, you know, there’s good news, too. Each one of us can use our voices and our choices to take us down the road to a better future. I submit to you that we, the people, have an inalienable right not just to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but to clean air, clean water and a stable climate. Our survival demands it, and our children deserve it. And so, empowered by evidence and real-world truth, we shall fight for spacious skies. We shall fight for amber waves of grain. We shall fight for majestic mountains. And we shall march on these streets. We shall never, ever surrender.
AMY GOODMAN: Some of the voices from Saturday’s March for Science in Washington, D.C. Among others who spoke was Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, who discovered the connection between rising blood lead levels in the children of Flint, Michigan, with the switch to the Flint River as a water source. She says the Flint story is a story of science. And you’ll hear from many others. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Jon Batiste and Stay Human performing “Higher Ground” by Stevie Wonder at the March for Science in Washington, D.C. To see our whole, full 5-hour broadcast—he performed throughout—you can go to democracynow.org.