Reflections on DC, Boston, and Cape Cod's Marches for Science

Saturday in Washington, DC was drizzling and overcast, but the energy and enthusiasm of the crowd at the March for Science were far from dampened. Tens of thousands of people—including a big contingent from IFAW’s Washington headquarters, including Jeff Flocken, Mark Hofberg, Carson Barylak, Kelly Johnston and IFAW partner Laura Gruber—made the trip to the heart of the capital to show their support for an idea that used to seem all-too-obvious: That science is a cornerstone of our society, and that scientific research should help to shape our nation’s policies.

Everyone we encountered had a story about why they felt the need to speak out on this topic. There were kids whose diseases were cured by modern medicine, botanists and biologists who’ve dedicated their careers to helping ecosystems thrive, grandparents who were part of the original Earth Day movement in the 1970s.

For me, personally and as part of the IFAW team, good science is a means of making the world a better place for humans and animals. It helps us make sound decisions about conservation and learn more each day about the planet. Good science also points us toward a healthier way to approach the world – of being open to new arguments when the evidence is there, giving us the chance to step past our biases and opinions to see things a little more as they really are.

The March for Science was a celebration of those beliefs. Teach-ins and a massive rally in the morning built up to the march itself in early afternoon. Marching and chanting in the rain—“Down down with wrong quotations! Up Up with source citations!”—we surged down Constitution Avenue in a crowd bigger than any I’ve seen in years, from the Washington Monument all the way to the Capitol Building.

Now, there’s a narrative swirling out there that the March for Science was just a political protest. As you can see from our initial blog about the event, the political landscape is certainly treacherous, but that storyline misses the point that science is ideology-free. There are scientists of all political stripes, and we all benefit from a society that welcomes, funds, and—most importantly—listens to the conclusions of the scientific community.

This Earth Day, each chant was a loud signal to the world that Americans haven’t forgotten what made our country great in the first place.

The following perspective was provided by Alex Mejia-Johnson, one of our video producers who attended the Boston rally along with IFAW’s Kayla Saccoccio, Jamie Noone, Meg Landis, Kerry Branon, and Kira Kasper.

When we first arrived at Boston Common, we were nervous about what to expect from the day ahead. The weather was not on our side. It was a gray, dreary, cold, rainy day and we were concerned that this would deter participants. It didn’t. Once a steady flow of people started streaming by, I took on my duty for the day: donning IFAW’s inflatable whale costume - Harry the Humpback. By the time I took off the costume for a break, I was amazed and inspired by the huge crowed that amassed in the short time I was inside the suit. Within hours, the once visible green was completely covered underneath the thousands of onlookers and bystanders gathering together in solidarity to show their support for science.

Harry the Humpback was certainly a hit, attracting onlookers of all ages who wanted to take a photo with the whale. But more importantly, the spectacle garnered curiosity about IFAW’s work, and we used our booth to educate the public about how science is so integral to animal welfare, in particular our work with marine mammals.

I was impressed by the sheer creativity of all the signage and messages people were carrying throughout the march. Signs of all shapes,  sizes and colors with all sorts of witty messages about the importance of science and the advances it has made in this world. From paleontology to ornithology to climatology to pathology, there was no ‘ology’ left unrepresented.

The crowd was very diverse. There were all sorts of people: doctors, scientists, engineers, college students, families and those promoting other progressive causes such as LGBTQ rights and feminism. People who identified themselves as immigrants spoke on the important contributions immigrants have made for the cause. Every group was well represented and despite their differences, they all had one thing in common - their love for science….inspiring to see how everyone joined together in the universal language of this world - science.

There were young children who proclaimed their love for science and young girls dressed as NASA astronauts. One particular moment that struck a chord with me on many levels and made me smile with hope was a little girl walking along with her mother, holding a sign that read “Princess? When I grow up, I want to be an engineer!” Moments like this reminded me of the sheer importance of our youth. The future of Earth lies in the hands of this little engineer in the making. In this day and age, we’ll need engineers, not princesses to save our planet. We need future generations that embrace science, not steer away from it.

And after the successful turnout, this March for Science was a hopeful reminder that the future of our Earth does indeed lie in good hands.

The following are thoughts on the March for Science held in Falmouth on Cape Cod by co-organizer Misty Niemeyer, who attended the march with IFAW’s Nicole Fox, Katie Moore, Kristen Patchett, Brian Sharp, Sarah Sharp, Carolyn Castiglione, Melanie Barron, Wanda Sisum, Kristy Hudak, Steve Gopoyan, and John Cumbler:

Falmouth March for science was a fun filled, inspiring and educational day, with a variety speakers touching on the importance of science in our lives, our world and our local community.  The day started off honoring Earth Day with beach clean-ups on five Falmouth beaches, with more than 85 people showing up to help keep our local beaches and environment clean!

The march down Main Street concluded with a series of short science films at the Falmouth Library, including the newly produced IFAW film about how we use science to rescue dolphins.

Despite the gray skies, cool temps and light rain, the energy and support for science in our community was amazing!  The organizers are hopeful that the energy felt at this march will continue through future actions to support science and how it is used, which is what is needed to make positive change!

While the marches have concluded, make sure to watch for more blogs on the importance of science in conservation and animal welfare. If you want suggestions on how to keep the day’s momentum going, go to the March for Science site.

--PL

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