People in more than 600 communities around the world will gather tomorrow, on Earth Day, to voice their support for “science, scientists, and evidence-based policymaking” in the March for Science. Though the organizers of the march stress the event is intended to be nonpartisan, many who are planning to participate will do so in protest of President Trump—who has proposed deep funding cuts to scientific agencies and expresses doubt about climate change—and his administration.

Yet some scientists worry that the March for Science will be counterproductive. Writing to The New York Times, Daniel Sharoh, an American conducting his Ph.D. research in the Netherlands, said, “throwing our weight behind a protest movement may result in short-term gain, but it will more so contribute to the increased politicization of our work and further confound the public understanding of scientific rigor.”

While a “March for Architects” is not in the works yet, the same debate is playing out among some designers who view Trump as a threat to their industry and the built environment, whether through his proposed budget cuts or his executive order rolling back climate-change regulations and resilient design efforts. So how should architects navigate today’s polarized political climate? And should architects even get involved in politics?

Duane Carter, AIA, director of sustainability and building performance at the Chicago–based Solomon Cordwell Buenz, says many architects are reluctant to become advocates for environmental issues—or voice any strong political views—for fear of alienating their supervisors or the company’s clients. “It’s not that we don’t want to speak out for things, but we’re cautious about it,” he says. “We don’t want to be involved with the kind of name-calling and ad hominem attacks that go on [in politics].”

As his job title would suggest, Carter is concerned about possible cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy, which run energy-efficiency programs like Energy Star—a popular program that a leaked March 21 budget memo has confirmed is on Trump’s chopping block. But as a general rule, Carter says, architects are more effective as advocates when they stick to the local level: “It’s much simpler to change building codes in Ann Arbor, Mich., than to pass a [nationwide] carbon tax.”

Philip Black, AIA, took that sentiment to heart. Last year, Black, the president and CEO of Simonton Swaika Black Architects, ran for City Council in Mountain Brook, Ala., a suburb of Birmingham where he has lived for more than 30 years. He was sworn in Nov. 7.

Black says he ran for the unpaid position to make a difference in his town, and not because of the national political climate—though the Republican adds that he could not bring himself to vote for Donald Trump. Several people asked “if I wanted to ‘make our city great again,' ” he recalls. “I said, ‘Let’s not go there.’ ”

Some of Black’s campaign issues drew on his experience as an architect, such as his desire to increase urban density in his landlocked county. His concern for increasing the local tax base resonated most with his voters, he believes, while his expertise in design and planning were valuable credentials. Though environmental issues weren’t a significant part of his platform, Black says he is disappointed with President Trump’s moves to roll back climate change regulations from President Barack Obama’s era. (Black’s daughter's doctoral research in human geography is funded by the National Science Foundation, which is slated for cuts under Trump's budget outline.)

A likely reason many architects don’t run for office? No time. Being a city council member requires about 20 hours of work each month, Black says—a significant workload on top of running his firm. But when architects do get involved in local politics, he says, they offer a unique perspective. “An architect looks at a problem, particularly a built-environment type problem, in specific ways that another person might not,” he says. Like Carter, he believes architects can be more effective “the closer to home you get.”

For some architects and activists, local organizing and national political action are one in the same. San Antonio–based David Lake, FAIA, co-founder of Lake|Flato architects, has been corresponding with his U.S. representative, Lamar Smith (R-Texas), through a series of open letters published in the South Texas publication The Rivard Report.

Lake is disappointed that architects have been relatively silent about the Trump administration’s proposed budget cuts and calls to reverse President Barack Obama’s actions on climate change. “This is a full-scale assault on everything that my firm stands for,” he says.

Lake has known Smith for a long time—Smith’s son even worked for Lake’s firm at one point. So when the architect wanted to push back against climate-change denial in the federal government, he knew whom to contact.

In February, Lake blasted Smith for holding a Congressional hearing titled “Making EPA Great Again” that featured several industry lobbyists criticizing the “political agenda” of Obama’s EPA. Lake told Smith that holding such hearings “delegitimizes climate scientists around the globe, and adversely impacts the design and construction industry who have been vocal advocates to address the impacts of climate change.”

In response, Smith defended his crusade against what he called “politically correct science.”

Their public back-and-forth hasn’t led them to common ground or a shift in the representative’s policy yet. But Lake says architects upset with the status quo should make themselves heard.

“I’m frustrated,” he says. “We have all these voices, [but] we’re lazy as a profession to address and be very specific about our position.”

Lake and his colleagues will attend this weekend’s March for Science in Austin, Texas. He also wants the AIA and other professional organizations to take a stronger stance against Trump’s rollback of environmental regulations. “A lot of my younger [employees] feel disenfranchised by an organization that simply won’t be clear on an issue as fundamental as our built environment and the natural realm,” Lake says.

The AIA has voiced support for climate action and federal energy efficiency standards, but for architects like Lake who see the administration’s environmental policies as “alarming and harmful to our nation’s security and economy,” issuing statements is not enough.

“Architects should be leaders,” Lake says.

Editor's note: This story was updated to reflect the number of March for Science events that took place on April 22, 2017.