On Saturday, San Antonians will once again have a chance to participate in the March for Science San Antonio, a local answer to the loosely coordinated international series of rallies, protests, and outreach events meant to bolster support for science and its champions in communities.
This year marks the third annual occurrence of the March for Science, both internationally and locally. Some would argue that, as the scientific community’s warnings about climate change grow increasingly dire, it is becoming ever more important for the general public — and by extension elected officials — to take science, its methods and its conclusions seriously.
In general, however, the March for Science has a simple goal: to raise awareness around the fact that science advocates are advocates for our collective future and that critical/scientific thinking is a good thing.
In 2017, some 1,700 San Antonians showed up to affirm their support for science, while that number dwindled to approximately 400 in 2018.
The march will begin at 9:30 a.m. in Bill Miller Plaza on the University of Texas at San Antonio’s Downtown Campus. A rally slated for 10:30 a.m. in Main Plaza will feature speakers, exhibits, and music before marchers return to Bill Miller Plaza.
This year’s March for Science SA has been given a special, local focus by its organizers.
That focus is the City’s proposed Climate Action and Adaptation Plan (CAAP), which is still being tweaked and will not be voted on by City Council until the fall. Reaction to the CAAP from local business leaders and officials has been mixed, with some in support, some claiming it’s too much, and some claiming it’s not quite enough.
Lead march organizer Peter Bella, former natural resources director with the Alamo Area Council of Governments and a member of Climate Action SA, told the Rivard Report that he falls squarely in the category of those who laud the CAAP while lamenting that it doesn’t go further.
“It’s not aggressive enough because it doesn’t set the speed of reductions as quickly as they probably should occur,” Bella said. “If we are looking for carbon neutrality by 2040, if we are serious about this, we can’t get there by half-measures.”
He is willing to support the CAAP, and believes others should do the same, because in his view “this is not really a negotiation. Changes must happen.”
Bella said he believes the plan can be an important start and is pleased that so many are discussing it.
“The debate itself is very hopeful for me because it has produced a kind of creative tension around the subject of climate action in San Antonio,” he said.
He also acknowledged what he sees as the main causes for resistance to the CAAP and efforts like it. “Sometimes people are encumbered by their own habits and comforts, by the inertia of how it has always been done, and there is ignorance, willful and otherwise,” he said.
“There is also this prevailing disdain for oversight and regulation, which is a stumbling block.”
In an effort to bring more awareness and participants to the discussion surrounding the CAAP, Bella and the other march organizers have given this year’s march the theme (and subtitle) of “Focus on Climate Change.”
With the deadline for public input on the CAAP coming up on April 25, Bella thinks focusing the march largely on the plan and climate change in general can have positive effects.
To that end, march attendees can expect to hear plenty about climate change and the CAAP on Saturday from guest speakers Mayor Ron Nirenberg; Councilwoman Ana Sandoval (D7); Matthew Su, executive director of Ignition Green; and Dr. Gunnar Schade of Texas A&M’s Department of Atmospheric Sciences.
“I hope people take away [from the march] a greater understanding of what climate science is and that there it has a focus in San Antonio that bears urgent support,” Bella said of his goals for Saturday’s march. “We want to send a clear signal to those in charge that we want their attention and their support for these initiatives.”
Fellow march organizer Russell Seal, a longtime member of the Alamo Group of the Sierra Club, echoed Bella’s sentiments.
“Even though this plan is not perfect, we have to get Council to pass it,” Seal said of the CAAP. “I am hoping this event can help bring people to understanding that this is a whole community concern and that we have to change our ways.”