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Horowitz: Science Rightly Featured on Earth Day

Tuesday, April 25, 2017


Rob Horowitz

The highlight of the 47th annual Earth Day, which took place this past Saturday, was the first March for Science. Thousands of people in cities and towns throughout our nation and the world, stood up for the spirit of scientific inquiry, facts and truth. While the marchers advocated for this principle across the board, their strongest emphasis was on the reality of climate change and the dominant role of human activity in the earth’s too rapid warming. This fact is backed up by overwhelming evidence and a broad scientific consensus but still resisted by the Trump Administration.

As the Coordinator of the First Earth Day and long-time environmental activist, Dennis Hayes said, “America has had 45 presidents but it has never before had a president who  is completely indifferent to the truth.”  President Trump’s professed skepticism about climate change and his proposals to make draconian cuts in federal scientific and environmental agencies was the main impetus behind the March and the main focus of the marchers.

The communications impact of the March was enhanced by the fact that it is highly unusual for scientists as a group to be vocal and politically active; they usually prefer to stay in the political shadows.  As Beka Economopoulos, a founder of the pop-up Natural History Museum and one of the March organizers, told the New York Times, “This has been a living laboratory as scientists and science institutions are willing to take a step outside their comfort zone, outside of the labs and into the public spheres.”

And scientists are highly credible messengers.  The only group or institution more trusted than scientists or medical scientists are the military, according to Pew Research Center polling.  More than 3-out-of-4 Americans’ express “a great deal or a fair amount of confidence” in scientists.  This high public confidence in scientists has been relatively stable over the years, according to Pew.

The Marchers succeeded in getting President Trump’s attention. The White House released the following statement from the President as the March winded down: "Rigorous science is critical to my administration's efforts to achieve the twin goals of economic growth and environmental protection. My administration is committed to advancing scientific research that leads to a better understanding of our environment and of environmental risks..As we do so, we should remember that rigorous science depends not on ideology, but on a spirit of honest inquiry and robust debate."

To make these nice sounding words more than empty platitudes, President Trump’s actions in the environmental and scientific arenas require a major course correction.  More events like the March for Science can be instrumental in bringing this desperately needed change about.

Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island.


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