March for science protestors

Book review: ‘Science Not Silence: Voices from the March for Science Movement’

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This attractive collection of photographs and stories from the first March for Science would make an ideal souvenir for those involved.

The inaugural March for Science was held on April 22 (Earth Day) 2017 in hundreds of locations around the world, from Washington DC to Antarctica. I remember joining the March for Science in London and finding myself surrounded by pun-laden signs, relaxed and mild-mannered protestors, dogs in costumes, an inflatable dinosaur and Peter Capaldi. I was one of more than a million marchers worldwide.

Like the Women’s March, the March for Science has a broad set of aims and glimpses of slogans like “Yay science!” scrawled on signs are punchy but far from illuminating. This book – which collects photographs of marchers and written testimonials – offers a closer look at the reasons why so many people marched for science.

The full-colour photographs of supporters (and their dogs) hoisting placards are appealing, although I would have enjoyed them just as much on a screen; it is the testimonials that are more interesting. Science not Silence: Voices from the March for Science Movement (MIT Press, £11.99, ISBN: 9780262038102) has collected a huge range of stories from people whose lives have been changed by science, such as a gay couple who have been able to have a child together.

Although technically nonpartisan, the march shares some sentiment with explicitly anti-Trump protests. Many marchers were motivated by concern about the erosion of evidence-based policy under President Trump – who has referred to climate change as a Chinese hoax and withdrawn the US from the Paris Agreement – and a strong drive for social justice is evident in the march. This was not just about protecting science funding, evidence-based policy and the environment, but also about raising the visibility of women and minorities in science.

For anyone assuming that the March for Science was merely smug, self-congratulatory posturing by out-of-touch academics, this book will prove them wrong. Marching alongside professional scientists, we see artists, teachers, children, a giraffe keeper, a high-school student leading a march from the back of a truck and a yoga instructor professing that “science is not only my life, it’s my yogic path”. Some of the stories are genuinely touching; one woman has shared the story of her parents who lived in precarious poverty for much of their scientific careers, but remained dedicated to their work through their financial difficulties.

Although unlikely to resonate with those apathetic about science, Science not Silence is a light, celebratory and uplifting book ideal for display in science-loving households, particularly for anybody involved with the March for Science.

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