A call for informed political policy
The annual March for Science was held over the weekend, and for the second year in a row, the Narrandera community took part.
Marching down East Street, a small crowd with signs walked down East Street in support of greater public support of science.
The Narrandera chapter of the march, which has been recognised by the global organisation as an official location, was put together by Fiona Caldarevic and Bethany Herrmann. The march is part of a broader global push for more evidence and reasoning in political policy. The march originated in the United States last year, and grew very quickly into a global movement.
The Australian branch of the March for Science calls for universal literacy – that is, broad education on science so that laypeople are armed with the knowledge to navigate the scientific world sufficiently – open communication, informed policy, and stable investment in scientific research.
Speaking to the crowd, so-organiser Fiona Caldarevic highlighted the need for research in Australia.
“Science saves lives. If it weren’t for improved hygiene, vaccinations and medical practices, many of us would not be here this morning. But sometimes it isn’t so straightforward. Here in the Riverina, a devastating disease with no known cure has terrorised too many families. The rate of Motor Neurone Disease in this area is two to three times higher than anywhere else in Australia, which brings me to my next point, that research in Australia is underfunded.
“The government needs to put more funding into scientific research, education and programs. The recent push for STEM education in Australia has now been undermined by the NSW minister for education calling it a fad.”
Ms Caldarevic described the importance of scientific research within the Narrandera community.
“Narrandera as an agricultural community relies heavily on science, both directly and indirectly to contribute as part of the ‘food bowl’ of Australia. As a town rich in Aboriginal culture, science is not new to our neighbourhood. Local indigenous people have taken care of Narrandera, the Murrumbidgee River and the surrounds for tens of thousands of years; they were the original scientists of the area. Their customs and traditions are embedded with science and we acknowledge their contributions.
“Climate change shouldn’t be a controversial topic. It is happening. Just a few weeks ago the temperature in the Arctic rose above 0 degrees Celsius. Over the past 20 years, temperatures above freezing in February have only been recorded three times; first in 2011, then in 2017 and now. Let me remind you that at that time of year, it is winter in the Arctic and dark 24 hours a day,” Ms Caldarevic said.
“What does climate change mean for us here in Narrandera? It means changed weather patterns, most notably increased drought. What can we do about it?
“We need to urge our politicians to base their policies on science, not purely economics or opinions or alternative facts,” Ms Caldarevic said.