Science and policy must march as one for America | U.S. Green Building Council
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Our scientific understanding of the environment shows that it plays a critical role in human health.

On April 22, the March for Science converged on our nation's capital. It’s fitting that a march for science should fall on Earth Day; its teach-ins and message echo the very first Earth Day, which evolved from a growing understanding of the critical role the environment plays in human health—an understanding we owe to science.

Discovery and achievement in science

America has long relied on science to solve critical issues, whether medical, environmental or space-related. The human genome project, the banning of leaded gasoline, closing the hole in the ozone layer and Neil Armstrong’s moon landing have science—and Congress—as their common originators. America's leadership in scientific research has enabled America to become the global leader it is today. 

Our founding fathers understood the importance of America being a leader in science—indeed, several of them engaged in scientific research themselves (Benjamin Franklin famously flew a kite in a lightning storm to study electricity). During World War II, to maintain competitiveness on the battlefield, lawmakers founded what would become the National Science Foundation. Have you done an internet search today? You can thank the National Science Foundation, since Google's founders were initially funded by the NSF.

Promoting science at the highest levels

Congress has always been involved in the furthering of scientific knowledge. Historically, scientific advancement has been a national goal, with bipartisan support for agencies ranging from the NIH to NASA. Yet the current budget proposal calls for the most comprehensive retreat from scientific leadership across all levels of government in the nation’s history. 

The House Committee on Space, Science and Technology was formed in 1958, to help further America’s position in the Space Race. In 1970, it was scientific discovery combined with growing concern over air and water quality from pollution that spurred President Nixon and Congress to form the Environmental Protection Agency

Climate and environmental science

Lawmakers agreed that EPA's formation was, according to Senator Jacob Javits (R-NY), “[an] overdue effort to arrest and prevent the erosion of the priceless resources of all mankind and also preserve that most priceless asset, the human being himself.” Thanks to Congress, and EPA’s protection of air quality through the Clean Air Act, it is estimated that 230,000 lives will be saved each year by 2020.

In 1988, Congress again heard from scientists—this time about the emerging threat of climate change. Just one year later, the Global Change Research Act was signed by President George H.W. Bush. The U.S. Global Change Research Program is responsible for coordinating “a comprehensive and integrated United States research program which will assist the Nation and the world” in our understanding and response to climate change. 

The current administration’s proposed budget calls for drastic cuts to all corners of publicly funded science. These attacks on science are strengthening public awareness and support for science. The March for Science on Earth Day attracted thousands of scientists and non-scientists alike. In addition to the march in Washington, D.C., more than 500 satellite marches were organized in 53 countries—all in support of science. 

Some feared that a march would politicize science—but the truth is, science and policy go hand in hand. The best policy has always been driven by science. Policymakers rely on critical advances in science to protect and better the lives of all Americans. That seems like something worth marching for.

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