Hundreds gathered in downtown Lexington on Saturday to protest proposed budget cuts to government agencies that conduct scientific research.
“I think we need to tell people that science matters and that facts matter,” said Matt Simpson, who described himself as a retired “computer geek” for the University of Kentucky. “You look at dismantling the EPA and cutting funds to NIH (the National Institutes of Health), research is going out the window.”
Similar March for Science rallies were held in Washington, D.C., and across the country this Earth Day weekend. March for Science bills itself as non-political but those attending the Lexington rally expressed concern about President Donald Trump’s past disparagement of climate change as “nonsense” and “a hoax.” At one point the crowd chanted “Hey, hey! Ho, ho! Climate change is not a hoax!”
Signs in the crowd read “Make America think again” and “Ignorance is not strength.”
Simpson wore a white lab coat and carried a sign that read “Denying facts makes scientists mad.” He said he was heartened that the event drew hundreds, despite drizzling rain and temperatures in the upper 40s.
“The last few months have really galvanized people and spurred them to action,” he said.
Lauren Cagle, an assistant professor at UK, told the crowd that fighting for science at its best means fighting for people. She cited the example of Flint, Mich., where scientists found dangerous levels of lead in the blood of children because of tainted drinking water.
“We’re here to tell our representatives that we won’t stand by and let them defund science,” Cagle said. “We won’t stand by and let them defame science. And we will not stand and let them deny science.”
In his address to the throng, state Rep. Derrick Graham, D-Frankfort, said nearly every minute of our lives is improved by scientific inquiry and achievement.
“Human progress leaps forward with scientific advancement and enlightened public policy working together,” Graham said. “That’s been proven in the fight against diseases. … If we care about our future, especially our environment, we better continue to let scientific inquiry continue to lead the way to even brighter horizons.”
That resonated with Rae Gill, Tracy Knowles and Jean Watts, who all work environmental sciences instruction at Bluegrass Community and Technical College.
“I think our government has not given enough credence to the information that is provided by science,” Watts said. “And by ignoring it we’re going to make some very bad decisions that we and future generations will regret.”