IOWA CITY — More than 400 gathered at the March for Science in Iowa City on Saturday afternoon to push for policymaking based on scientific evidence.
Similar marches took place across the nation on Earth Day. A few Iowa City attendees donned lab coats, and many carried posters with sayings such as, “Science not silence,” “Science is not a liberal agenda” and “Cancer didn’t kill me. Thanks science!”
Before participants marched through downtown Iowa City, several Eastern Iowans spoke in front of the Pentacrest, offering their perspectives on the importance of funding research and using scientific evidence.
Mo Payne, a Ph.D. student in chemistry at the UI, said he became focused on how important science-based governmental policies were when he was teaching in India. Payne said he realized just how slim the supply of fresh water was after he had only one tank of water to share with his wife for drinking, bathing and doing chores.
“The only source to replenish this tank was the rain,” Payne said. “I questioned this practice. Not only was it wholly unfamiliar to me, but there was a raging river nearby. For whatever reason, the uncleanliness or access, that water was off limits to us.”
That’s when Payne said he began to question what he was told and craved a way to “improve our existence,” actions he has continued to use as a chemistry student.
“These fundamental principles of science are universal to the entire human experience,” Payne said. “We live in a world where we shouldn’t just accept what is told to us as the one and only truth. We should not sit idly by and not change that which we can clearly see can be improved upon.”
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Tori Forbes, an associate professor of chemistry at the UI, also spoke about how science advances society.
“Every day ... we go into the lab and we learn about how to keep our water safe from radioactive materials. We also learn about how to have cleaner water,” Forbes said. “But I want you guys to realize we do this for you. When I get a grant to support my work, it’s so that I can continue to add knowledge to that public good.”
Other speakers, such as Jerry Schnoor, civil and environmental engineering professor at the UI, said he wanted to see the state and national governments fund research for sustainable agriculture and renewable energy sources, important for Iowans.
Others shared how vital funding local and national medical research is, including Dave Leshtz, district representative for U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa.
Leshtz shared a letter from Loebsack. In the letter, the congressman touched on funding for the National Institutes of Health, which could face funding cuts under President Donald Trump’s budget proposal.
“Funding for our research supports the ability of our medical and science communities to investigate some technologies that not only save lives and keep our communities healthy, but promote economic growth and innovation here in Iowa,” Loebsack wrote in the letter. Cutting funding for the Environmental Protection Agency, energy-efficiency programs and global climate initiatives will move us backward.”
Mark and Katie Bussell of Marion brought their daughters, ages 2 and 4, to the march.
“We’re mostly out here to support evidence-based policy,” Mark said. “Science isn’t Republican or Democratic. This is the only (planet) we’ll have.”