The Catalan Paradox

Recently, I have involved the Homo scientificus europaeus project in both a national and local initiative, first in Spain and then in Barcelona. My apologies for writing in the first person. This was not on the agenda. Two weeks ago, I realized that the Spanish March for Science was in a bad situation; it was an empty shell. Therefore, I decided to undertake the endeavor. “Scientist as Sentinel“, said recently Naomi Oreskes at the last AAAS meeting in Boston on February 17.

I followed this great precept, due to my vocation as a science activist. Surprisingly, I discovered that Spanish scientists were not ready to give up a piece of their souls in solidarity with their US congeners, as much as they might admire them! Why? Obsessed with their own work? Disgusted by so many problems? Absorbed by their relaxing cup of coffee? Scared of possible top-down repression? Of course, the long political crisis certainly played a role in this disinterest in a noble cause. The left-wing parties are facing hurricanes and are twisted by internal tensions. The Spanish government is showing an alarming attitude, using alternative facts to whitewash the truths facing Spanish scientists. All things considered, we find a potent cocktail of a disenchanted sentiment mixed with an astounding lack of energy to move on.

My strategy was simple but at high risk, as the clock was ticking. Its tenets were: i) reactivating the Spanish Facebook group, to provide convenient information and attract followers ready to take action, ii) helping the Madrid survivors to relaunch their March for Science project, and iii) focusing my energy on promoting a March for Science project in Barcelona, where I live. Sevilla is also carrying out a similar project in a quite independent fashion, thanks to Ciencia con Futuro, an association of Spanish scientists.

Barcelona! The City of Marvels! I started to contact many of the scientists there. With a Swiss PhD student, who is engaged in an association of young scientists, Scientists Dating Forum, to promote a science-society debate, we planned an informal meeting with his partners and with the volunteers, who emerged from the FB page, ScienceMarchEspaña. There we met an American woman, who had organised Barcelona Women’s March with other women scientists, mostly Americans. They were ready to participate, but it was not enough to handle the challenge according to our needs. Out of the many scientists contacted to aggregate endorsing organisations and volunteers, several Catalan women engaged in either Innovation or Science Communication said “yes”. I was unable to involve any native men or academic organisations.

The sky fell on my head, the head of a French guy originating from the Academic world and brought up on Asterix and Toutatis. How to explain why, in one of the best-prepared European cities for organising a March aiming to celebrate science, none of those who usually lead such initiatives accepted joining the team? Polarisation due to the difficult relationships that exist between the Catalan and Spanish non-Catalan communities everywhere in Catalonia? Lack of outcry and promotion from the highest Spanish and Catalan spheres of power, either from empowered organisations or the influential media, in sharp contrast to their peers in, for example, Germany and France? Undoubtedly, both! I withdrew from the initiative, as it was too much to handle for just myself and the few people ready to act. An evidence-based decision! Barcelona is now without a possible March project but facing a new puzzling paradox.

At the same time, the new US budget to be voted on includes a 31% cut to funding for the Environmental Protection Agency, showing us the real danger of climate change denialism taking us in the wrong direction. We are crossing our fingers that Madrid and Sevilla will be ready in time!

Please, inform us at hse@euroscience.org about any new March for Science project in a European city and send us texts or comments about your preparation and progress. We welcome you to visit our new Homo scientificus europaeus community’s webshop, with many items dedicated to the March for Science, including exclusive prints of works by Moebius. This magnificent artist dreamt of a future world in which scientists were dedicated to ecology first. It is one major goal of the Hse community to promote such values.

Gilles Mirambeau

Gilles Mirambeau

Gilles Mirambeau is a teacher of molecular biology/biochemistry at the UMPC-Sorbonne University. Following his teaching activity at UPMC, he jumped from Paris to Barcelona in 2006, where he is now engaged in a holistic and pronoiac approach about the self-organisation properties of our living world from proteins to men, sending a message in a bottle : "Is there any chance to change the world?".
Gilles Mirambeau

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