Rally in support of international Science Marches held in Winnipeg

Climate change was a hot topic at a rally in support of science held in Winnipeg Saturday.

Local scientists, supporters meet at Legislative Building

About 40 people gathered at the steps of the Manitoba Legislature Saturday in solidarity with Science Marches happening in cities across the world. (CBC)

Climate change was a hot topic at a rally in support of science held in Winnipeg Saturday.

About 40 people gathered at the steps of the Manitoba Legislature in solidarity with Science Marches happening in cities across the world.

"This is not politically motivated. Whether you're conservative, NDP or liberal, we're saying good science should help create good policy," said organizer Nathan Zahn, with Science First, a group that promotes science and evidence based policy.

Zahn said scientific research supports action to combat climate change, and Canada is on the right track in pursuing steeper carbon taxes.

"Science says we should be more aggressive with it and we'd like to translate that into policy and action," he said.

Zahn said the group that gathered on Saturday, made up of scientists and science-supporters carrying signs, is also supporting Americans who feel that their president is anti-climate change.

"It is sort of in solidarity with our neighbours to the south who have a big influence on world policy,' he said.

He acknowledged investment by the Canadian government in its most recent budget as a 'good thing;' with over a billion dollars devoted to science and research over five years.

But Canada is still recovering from policies of the previous Conservative government, he said, which has been accused of 'muzzling' public scientists.

Making the case for science

Five speakers addressed the crowd, promoting evidence-based policy and decision-making, and making a case for putting more funding into science and research.

Samar Safi-Harb, an astrophysicist at the University of Manitoba, was formerly with NASA.

She spoke on Saturday to make a case for why more people should care, and policy makers should invest in, space.

"We developed our understanding of our place in the universe because of the telescope. Before the telescope we used to think we were the centre of the universe. And now we know we are nothing in this universe because there are possibly multiple universes and our universe, there are billions of galaxies and each galaxy has billions of stars like our sun, so we're really nothing, a tiny blue dot in space," she said.

"At the same time we happen to be lucky or fortunate to be on this planet that has just the right conditions for our existence. Astronomy allows us to answer really fundamental questions that should matter to us, to our society, like who we are, how we came to be, whether we are alone and the kind of universe we live in.

"Astronomy and space exploration improves quality of life," she said, adding that the technology used in space has helped in the creation of medical technology and personal gadgets like cell phones and cameras.

She said Canada is a highly respected country for sciences internationally, but it spends less than other G8 countries, she said.

Recent investments in science by the federal government are a 'very positive thing,' said Safi-Harb, and something she hopes to see continue.

Zahn agrees, and on a local level, he says good science can help guide policy and better investment into issues that affect Manitobans, like the 'suffering' Lake Winnipeg.

He said whether it's hog barns, sewer systems or the tracking of phosphates in the water, decisions should be rooted in science before government funds them.

"Really science should be the place we should all look to help inform policy."

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