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Pittsburgh Organizers Say Saturday's March For Science Is Bi-Partisan, But Not Apolitical

Susan Walsh
President Barack Obama sits in a flight simulator during a tour of innovation projects during the White House's Frontiers Conference in Pittsburgh on Thursday, October 13, 2016. President Trump's budget plan reduces funding federal funding for research.

Thousands of people are expected to take to the streets in Pittsburgh and cities around the world Saturday, as part of the March for Science.

The main march takes place in Washington, D.C. on the National Mall and coincides with Earth Day celebrations.

The organizers behind the national march say they are trying to bring attention to government “policies that ignore scientific evidence and endanger both human life and the future of our world.”

They’re also speaking out against proposed budget cuts for research.

In March, the Washington Post called cuts in Trump’s spending plan “deep and broad.”

They also go beyond what many political observers expected. Trump had made clear that he would target the Environmental Protection Agency, but the budget blueprint calls for a startling downsizing of agencies that historically have received steady bipartisan support. The National Institutes of Health, for example, would be cut by nearly $6 billion, about a fifth of the NIH budget.

Judith Yanowitz with the Magee-Women’s Research Institute is slated to speak at the Pittsburgh march, and she’s one of many local scientists who receive federal funding for their work.

Yanowitz’s research focuses on understanding how chromosomes get segmented into egg and sperm. It’s part of what is called “basic science.”

“It’s really, in some ways, knowledge for knowledge’s sake,” she said. “Trying to understand the basic workings of ourselves and our tissues with the hope that ultimately, these would contribute to an understanding of human disease.”

There’s been some controversy nationally about whether it’s appropriate for scientists, who are supposed to approach their work objectively, to participate in political actions.

Local organizer Beth Shaaban, a graduate student in public health at the University of Pittsburgh, said the March for Science is bi-partisan, but not apolitical.

“We need to be involved in the political process in the sense of demanding from our politicians that they look at evidence-based information in terms of policy-making,” she said.

Shaaban said federal funding for science research is essential to developing the pipeline of young scientists who will one day become leaders in their fields.

There’s also been pushback regarding the national march’s statement on diversity and inclusiveness, which has gone through several iterations in the last few months. Some critics said identity politics shouldn’t be a part of a march for science, while others contended that racism, sexism, ableism and other forms of oppression are still present in the scientific community.

“To move forward as a scientific community, we must explicitly acknowledge the many significant, and often overlooked, historical and modern contributions of underrepresented members of our communities,” reads the current diversity statement.

Shaaban said, when she walks the halls of the Pitt School of Public Health, she sees a wide diversity of people.

“I think historically, science has been seen as a white boy’s club,” she said. “But right now, to me, the face of science I see at school every day is so diverse … I encounter people from countries all across the world. People who are transgender, who are gay, who are black, who are white, who don’t speak English of their first language, and of course many women in science. We think that is so important.”

On Friday evening, organizers confirmed at least one person of color would be speaking at the event. Kelauni Cook is a co-director and instructor of the Teen Coding Bootcamp from Work Hard Pittsburgh, and had previously been a software developer and a math and science teacher.
The announcement came a day after a poster on the event’s Facebook page inquired as to whether any people of color would be speaking. At that time, the organizers responded that those who had been asked to speak either declined or were going to be at the main march in Washington, D.C.
Saturday’s March for Science starts at noon in Oakland. 

Looking for more ways to celebrate Earth Day? Check out the list we've compiled below.

Friday, April 21

Pittsburgh Earth Day Solar Powered Food Truck Festival

Time: 11 a.m. Friday – 2 p.m. Saturday

Location: Fourth Ave. adjacent to Market Square and PPG

Any reason for food trucks to mobilize is a good one. On this Friday before Earth Day, the sun will help sustain them. Solar energy will provide the electricity for a litany of culinary options.

Paint the Square Green

Time: 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Location: Market Square

Local vendors specializing in Earth-friendly products and services, along with organic and educational vendors and live music. Performers include Rachel B, Nina Sainato and Nox Boys.

Earth Day in the Park

Time: Friday 6 p.m. - Saturday 8 p.m.

Location: Frick Park

A free community celebration that spans two days. Events include a Community Campfire at Falls Revine Shelter (Friday 6 p.m. - 9 p.m.); a volunteer park-beautification event (Saturday 9 a.m. -Noon; registration required); Walks and Hikes (Noon- 4 p.m.); and a Solar Concert (4:30 p.m. - 8 p.m.)

Saturday, April 22

Earth Day Meditation and Botanical Experience

Time: 10 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.

Location: Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh

Celebrate with us, we will come together to enjoy botanical oils and an earth inspired guided imagery meditation led by Nicole Monteleone, MA, LPC, NBCC. Nicole will help you to take in the breath of the earth as we oxygenate and relax.

Solar Superheroes

Time: 10 a.m. - noon

Location: Eden Hall Campus, Chatham University

Participants will tour Eden Hall Campus's solar features, learn about types of homemade solar ovens, and then construct a solar oven out of a re-purposed pizza box. Once it's built, they'll cook their first treat: S'mores! ($15 per project; $10 if you bring your own pizza box).

Great Lakes Brewing Sustainable Sips Pub Crawl

Time: 1 p.m. - 5 p.m.

Location: Market Square

Stop by Great Lakes Brewing Company's tent in Market Square to pick up a Pub Crawl Passport. To complete this unique crawl, participants must go to each of the seven participating bars listed in the passport between 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., have a beer there (choose from a multitude of Great Lakes beers), and get their individual passports stamped by the bar staff as proof. Once completed, participants will return to the Great Lakes tent and show their stamped passport. For every five (5) completed passports received, Great Lakes will plant a tree!


La Vie en Vert (“The Green Life”)

Time: 6 p.m. - 9 p.m.

Location: Coterie Company 437 Grant St, Pittsburgh, PA (top of the Frick building)

An earth-to-table dinner celebration.


Phipps: Butterfly Forest

Exhibit opens in celebration of Earth Day

Sunday, April 23

Pittsburgh Earth Day TEDxPittsburgh Brunch

Time: noon

Location: Revel + Roost (242 Forbes Avenue)

Enjoy brunch at a private dining room at Roost, followed by guest speakers on the topics of sustainability and green innovation.


*UPDATED: April 22, 2017 at 10:12 a.m. to reflect that organizers say one person of color is scheduled to speak at Saturday's march.