Our tour of the March for Science sites takes us across the Atlantic to France, where 20 sites are hosting marches.
Here, we have a piece written jointly by representatives from Bordeaux and Marseille.
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In France, the movement to participate in the worldwide Marches for Science comes from a groundswell of instinctive reaction to current developments. Spontaneously, we come together to act against the many threats of obscurantism.
We march to show our solidarity as part of a global event to defend the common values and roles that the sciences represent in our diverse societies. Knowledge, and the issues informed by it, know no national frontiers.
April 22nd is also the day before the first round of the French Presidential election, so this year, Earth Day carries a particular resonance in broaching issues that concern all citizens of the world.
There are twenty Marches now scheduled in different towns and cities around France. We represent the organizing committees of two of the larger cities, Bordeaux and Marseille.
It so happens that we both are professional scientists, but this is not the case for all of the Marches in France. Aside from shared fundamental values — such as the concept that facts, knowledge, and expertise about measurable entities are not matters of opinion — our inexperience in social organizing is another thing we have in common! But we are learning fast, like our colleagues in the US.
Many of us have noticed the dearth of scientific themes in public debates here. This is emblematic of the widening divide between the understanding that our politicians judge necessary to have about issues impacted by the sciences and the understanding of experts whose profession and/or civic duty it is to inform the public.
We hope that by organizing these Marches, we will help advance the dialogue between the public and the scientific professions that inform public policy.
From the climate, to energy and other natural resource usage, to health, to population migrations and their sociological implications, to explorations of the earth and beyond, and particularly to education about the scientific method, the supreme value of rational inquiry must be communicated.
We all believe that rational thought can and should inform political decision-making. This is an opportune time to remind our representatives that the general population agrees.
From Bordeaux to Marseille
In both Bordeaux and Marseille, our “Marches pour les Sciences” are coordinated by an apolitical, citizen-driven collective with a simple message: Scientific knowledge is not an opinion.
In Bordeaux, the Marche will proceed along the great river Garonne, between two symbolic sites – a municipal center dedicated to initiatives related to ecology and sustainable development (Maison Ecocitoyenne), and the other, the science, industry and technology museum, Cap Sciences.
We will pause along the way to allow volunteers from among local doctoral students in diverse scientific disciplines to address the crowd, be they from the traditional 'hard' or 'soft' sciences. These will be punctuated by musical interludes from local bands.
In Marseille, the Marche will take place along the Old Port area, a similarly symbolic local site that, as scientific research has informed us, has been in continuous use for close to 2,500 years.
We will start at City Hall and assemble at the Ombrière, a site of both esthetic and technological prowess, along the Mediterranean Sea, whose many resources all bordering countries must protect and curate together.
As French citizens, we March organizers therefore hope to see recognition of the need to go beyond these rallying symbols. The country needs stronger and better planned financial investments in education and scientific research at a national level than we have witnessed to date.
We require commitments from our incoming politicians over periods that go beyond their personal terms in office. Concrete propositions have been and will continue to be brought to our National Assembly in the form of white papers.
The March for Science has been an eye-opening opportunity to involve people from all walks of life in the political process.
Scientists no longer have the choice to stay above the fray. If we do, we risk being sidelined — to the detriment of all.
~ Jocelyne Walter, Ph.D., National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) staff scientist, member of a National Institute for Agricultural Research laboratory at the Université de Bordeaux, France
~ Heather Etchevers, Ph.D., National Institute for Health and Medical Research (INSERM) staff scientist, member of the Marseille Medical Genetics Centre at Aix-Marseille Université, France
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