More than 15,000 march for science on Earth Day

HOUSTON — Scientists wore lab coats like armor alongside doctors, teachers, students, and supporters of science, as marchers in Houston and across the United States protested President Trump’s proposed budget cuts to organizations including the National Institute of Health and the Environmental Protection Agency.

The march, which began at a brightly sunny Sam Houston Park, caused road closures along Dallas and Louisiana streets. The route finished at Houston City Hall, where marchers recycled their signs and refilled their water bottles from large tanks to reduce plastic waste. Tables were set up throughout city hall, offering scientific experiments for children to interact with.

Madison Logan, 23, one of the directors for Houston’s March for Science event, said she knew her city wanted to be a part of the movement.

“We didn’t know when, so all of the marches worldwide communicated and decided on the date together,” Logan said. “D.C. announced that it was going to be April 22, and we were like, ‘That’s perfect.’ I knew at that moment that we had to get Houston involved.”

Logan said an immediate result of the march is a stronger connection between scientists and their communities.

“In the planning of this march, I realized that there were a lot of people that had never met a real-life scientist before, and in Houston, that’s kind of odd,” she said. “Because we do have (the) Medical Center, NASA, oil and gas. I think one of the major outcomes that we will see is more communication between communities and scientists, and more engagement.

“People tend to think that scientists are kind of aloof, and they stay in their little corner and don’t interact with the rest of the world. But I think, today, we showed them that that’s changing — things are changing.”

The March for Science worked to make science and its benefits tangible for the average person, Logan said.

“Day-to-day, isn’t something that they really think about,” she said. “But I think with all of our speakers here, they were able to realize that science is something that they benefit from every day, whether they think about it or not. It’s there. It’s science — it’s in everything that we do.”

The proposed NIH budget cuts would affect the area locally.

“Houston, in particular, is going to be very hard-hit,” Logan said. “Our economy will suffer. I don’t know if you remember the NASA cuts, but our economy took a hit whenever everybody in NASA was laid off.

“The NIH (cuts) will not only be detrimental to jobs in the area, but also to cancer research. One of our volunteers, Becky Mayall, she’s a geneticist, and her salary and all of her research is funded by NIH. If it’s gone — she’s gone. She doesn’t have a job, and her research will stop happening. So it’s got very real impact here in Houston.”

After the march, participants heard from members of the local scientific community. Many of whom were women.

“We had a pretty good ratio of women to men represented in our speakers — I think that in itself shows that it’s possible to be a woman in science,” Logan said. “Not to mention that we had a speaker from American Women in Science, the organization that promotes women in science, so I think that will get them more exposure as well. Now that we’ve got the momentum, it’s just gonna keep rolling.”

The recycling stations and sustainability efforts reflected the organizers’’ viewpoints on science and the environment, Logan said.

“We knew that we wanted to make sure we practice what we preach,” she said. “We tried to be as sustainable and waste-free as possible. That’s one of the reasons why we made sure that we hired a company that did trash and recycling, which was actually a much higher cost for us, but we knew it was worth it.”

As an assistant debate coach at high schools, Logan regularly performs research on communicating information to people.

“Being able to be here and fill that gap — bridge the gap between science and their communities — has been a really unique opportunity,” she said. “I’ve never done anything on this large of a scale before. This is the most people I’ve ever managed or directed.”

The role of science is important, Logan said, even when she’s not speaking to large audiences.

“My whole family is here, supporting me and supporting science,” she said. “My PawPaw, he has a pacemaker, and my grandmother is diabetic, and then my mom is actually a nurse at the Texas Medical Center.

“I had my aunts, my uncles, six of my baby cousins, both of my little brothers, my grandparents — everybody came out. This is truly an event for everybody.”

For more information, visit www.marchforscience-houston.webflow.io.

Trevier Gonzalez

UP multimedia editor

Learn more about Lamar University at lamar.edu

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