'The best thing we have': Marchers in Halifax defend science

Carrying signs like "Defiance for Science" and "There is no Planet B," about 200 protestors turned up near city hall in Halifax on Saturday to show their support for science and their concern about ideology-driven decision-making.

The March for Science, which coincides with Earth Day, took place in more than 500 cities around the world — with about 20 scheduled in cities across Canada.

Richard Zurawski, a meteorologist-turned-city-councillor who helped organize the local event, said it's imperative that politicians combat the creeping influence of pseudo-science at all levels of government.

"If we don't support our science, we're going to lose it," the councillor for District 12 said. "Everywhere you look, we're balancing climate change against the economy, which is just nonsense ... The environment is way too important."

'Pseudo-science runs rampant'

Zurawski sees it as a "concerted right-wing religious fundamentalist war that is being waged against science," he said.

"We see it in education, political decisions, business and communications. Pseudo-science runs rampant. It's funded by vested interests — anti-science demagogues whose only purpose is to undermine the very science that makes it possible to have the kind of society we live in today."

Karen Beazley, a professor at the school for resource and environmental studies at Dalhousie University, said you can see neglect of science in some land-use planning decisions or when suggestions on how to proceed on climate change are ignored.

"To discredit science puts all the power in the hands of corporations, it takes away the importance of how the world works from going into decision-making," she said.

"It puts it all as [an] economic question. It discounts human rights, environmental questions, ecological systems. And those are life-support systems that are in question."

Organizers of the U.S. events portrayed the march as political but not partisan, promoting the understanding of science as well as defending it from various attacks, including proposed U.S.government budget cuts under President Donald Trump, such as a 20 per cent slice at the National Institute of Health.

Logical, not ideological

Rob Thacker, a professor of astrophysics at St. Mary's University, said it's important not to demonize people who are ideological, but instead to reach out and answer their questions in a real conversation.

"We need people to know that accepting scientific evidence isn't an ideological position; it's a logical position."

Thacker said it's up to scientists to communicate the wealth of information out there to the general public.

He said while he has concerns about climate-change denial and political inertia, he hoped the message the march conveyed was a positive one.

"At the end of the day the marches around of the world are in support of science as a method for asking questions and getting answers. It's not perfect, but it's the best thing we have."