Locals will show support for publicly-funded scientific research and evidence-based government policies

When OSU microbiology doctoral student Jenna Antonucci heard about the national March for Science, she was finally compelled to join others in political action.

“When the Women's March happened, I thought, ‘You know what? There'll be enough women to march,'” Antonucci said during a mid-April interview in a Downtown restaurant. “And when people were [protesting] at the airport for immigrants' rights, I watched it on my computer, but I thought, ‘What can I do to help?'”

But on Earth Day, Saturday, April 22, Antonucci will participate in the Columbus March for Science, one of 514 satellite marches worldwide, occurring in solidarity with action in Washington, D.C. The event will begin with a rally at 10 a.m. at the Statehouse West Lawn and end at Columbus Commons.

“I'm really passionate about this and my work and what this means for us and our kids,” said Antonucci, who studies HIV and also helped organize the local march. “I just felt like this was an opportunity for me to really do something good for once.”

Taking its cue from D.C., the mission of the Columbus March for Science is to argue for publicly funded scientific research and evidence-based government policies. One area of concern is the Trump administration's proposal to reduce federal funding for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“[But] it's not just the EPA,” said Laura Sammons, a co-organizer of the local march who works as a writer and marketing consultant in the science industry. “We're seeing cuts for science research across the board.”

For instance, President Trump also recommended cutting funds for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health.

Other points of contention are the president's executive orders, which seek to curb limits on emissions from coal power plants and reduce federal regulations on small bodies of water under the Clean Water Act, to name a couple examples.

“We're not using scientific research and evidence to make our public policies,” Sammons insisted. “Like the implications of clean air and how it links to childhood asthma, for example.”

Regarding what some see as inevitable increased water pollution, Sammons said, “We're talking about increased cancer risk [and] we're talking about other kinds of health implications, as well as, of course, environmental and ecological implications. … These are things that actually affect people in the real world.”

According to Sammons, enthusiasm for the Columbus march was instantaneous. “We put out a call on the web page and immediately had 90 volunteers that signed up,” she said.

Volunteer Kate Ormiston, an OSU doctorate student studying nutrition with a focus on cancer research, is hoping to drive awareness of “all the advances that we can accomplish through science,” she said.

The event's volunteers and participants include both science and non-science students, and people working in and outside of the industry.

“Anyone who's enthusiastic about science is welcome,” Antonucci said.

Sammons and Antonucci are expecting about 3,000 marchers. They have also reached out to politicians from both parties, but were still waiting to confirm participation at deadline.

“This is not a Democratic march,” Sammons stressed. “This is definitely a non-partisan issue.”

But it is a political issue, the ladies said, which is why they decided to start the march at the Statehouse.

“Ultimately, this is about driving policy … at the state level and the federal level, and so I think it makes a statement,” Sammons said.

Following the march, attendees will disperse into Columbus Commons for an Earth Day celebration co-hosted in part by Green Columbus, a nonprofit organization promoting sustainable living in Central Ohio.

“[People] get to stretch their activism muscles and then they end in this environment of education and excitement,” Antonucci said.

“It was really important to us that it be a very family-friendly and safe event for everybody,” said Sammons, who assured the march was “fully permitted [and] insured.”

But the work doesn't end on Earth Day.

“We're looking into continuing this activism within the field of science and education,” Antonucci said. “If we were to talk about perfect situations, we would be able to offer teach-ins, educational outreach [and] experiences for students and adults alike throughout the year.”

“I've been able to educate myself about what's going on in my government in a way that I never had before,” Antonucci continued. “So I will never again look at the TV and see people marching and think, ‘They're doing it. I don't have to.' I want to be in it. I want to be involved.”