Communities held marches across the nation over the weekend in support of science and scientific research.
KUNM: You talked to folks who were planning marches and folks who showed up to march on Saturday in Las Cruces. What are some of the things you heard from people? What are their concerns?
Paskus: I think people are worried in general about this national discussion we seem to be having about alternative facts and this pushback against science and the scientific method. I think at the center of this is climate change and the fact that more and more people seem to publicly be pushing back against the science which is very clear about human-caused climate change.
KUNM: What kinds of signs, people were wearing costumes, I’m sure there might have been some chants, tell us a little bit about what you saw in Las Cruces.
Paskus: I was pretty excited to see such a diversity of people there. There were nurses, school children. One of the local churches was marching. They had a banner about inclusivity. There were people whose signs reflected issues from climate change, to water quality, to information about the scientific method and immunizations and this emphasis on the fact that science is all around us, in our everyday lives, we rely on the scientific method and technology all the time. There was this emphasis on learning and curiosity and trying to make the world a better place through the things that you study and learn and share. And I think, whereas adults might argue about whether this march was effective or if it politicized science too much, I think that a long of young people got something important out of the march.
KUNM: There are some folks who have been critical of this march for science, did you talk to some folks who were questioning what could be achieved or…?
Paskus: A lot of us, we kind of pick and choose what science we like and agree with, whereas you might have some people who, yes, are very concerned about climate change, at the same time have reservations about the proven effectiveness of immunizations and the safety of immunizations. There were also some people who raised concerns about GMO’s [genetically modified organisms] which most scientists say are safe. There were also some scientists who I spoke with who didn’t want to see a further politicalization of science and their work.
KUNM: President Trump’s budget proposal includes cuts to a bunch of federal agencies. Can you explain what are some of the possible impacts of those cuts on science and research organizations, institutions and federal agencies in New Mexico?
Paskus: The Trump Administration’s proposed budget has a 31 percent budget cut for the Environmental Protection Agency. Here in New Mexico, we have tribal governments that get EPA funding and expertise as well as the state government. The state government gets tens of millions of dollars every year in funding from the EPA for issues like clean air and especially clean water. There are also proposed cuts to the National Institutes of Health, that funding comes through to our universities and medical centers – tens of millions of dollars every year. These are cuts that could have very real impacts on research and clean water work in New Mexico.