At Saturday’s March for Science in Washington, D.C., thousands of scientists and science enthusiasts gathered at the Washington Memorial grounds to support causes from fixing climate change to female representation in STEM.
Cherry blossom petals showered down on scores of attendees gathered beneath the trees to catch some shade throughout the over 80-degree Fahrenheit day. Someone quipped about global warming and a man sitting with a group of paleontologists muttered about inaccuracies.
Impressively this march felt closer to a festival. A large stage welcomed marchers to enjoy musical guests and speakers, while to the side of the stage the American Chemical Society provided a “Kid’s Zone,” an interactive educational science experience with a marine chemistry theme.
A diverse range of speakers covered a number of scientific fields. Evelyn Valdez-Ward is an undocumented scientist and Ph.D. student in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of California, Irvine, and part of SACNAS, the Society for Advancing Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science.
Valdez-Ward spoke about the value Dreamers bring to the scientific community, advocating STEM fields to protect them. Valdez-Ward’s work focuses on how climate change affects interactions between plants and soil microbes.
“It’s good to show that science has support and the community wants it,” Valdez-Ward told Nation of Change. “It’s not just the researchers and the academics who want science but it’s also the community who needs it, because if we want this nation to be globally competitive, then we need to include and support all of our science and push forward new innovations every day.”
Other speakers included Mari Copeny, better known as “Little Miss Flint,” a 10-year-old activist from Flint, Michigan, fighting for children affected by the Flint water crisis and raising awareness about environmental racism; Dr. Rush Holt, CEO of the American Association for the advancement of Science, physicist, and member of congress; and Dr. David Titley, retired Rear Admiral who initiated and led the US Navy’s task force on climate change.
The musical guests at this year’s March for Science, neo-retro group The Suffers, appealed to a younger crowd. Tracy, 17, and Nevada, 18, are two high school students from Northern Virginia who came to have a good time, support science, and protest the current administration’s attitude towards climate change.
“We’re the generation that’s the new movement for the future, so we need to make our voices heard now,” Nevada said. “The fact that we’re not part of the Paris Climate Accord is a huge factor for me, and Trump doesn’t necessarily believe in climate change so we should be the voices that make him realize it’s real and it’s happening.”
Tracy was hopeful the turnout at the March would make an impact on the President and that he can still be convinced.
“If the marches keep happening then Trump can see it’s an issue that our nation is really worried about, and hopefully he will change his ways,” Tracy said.
Bailey Firster, a Pennsylvania native living in D.C. came to the March with her friends for the second year in a row. Firster worries about how science is being taught in schools and how the government addresses scientific problems.
“It has become clear that certain people in the government don’t consider science very important – some people believe science is a religion,” Firster told Nation of Change. “Science saves lives. It’s great that people come out and show support for science. We need to continue to show people how important it is so we can survive, so that the earth can survive.”
The March for Science has evolved considerably over the past year. The first march on April 22, 2017, drew record-breaking numbers of people across the country in the spirit of opposition to the Trump administration’s rollback of environmental regulations and cuts to research funding. Since then, the movement has registered as non-profit.
Around 3 P.M. the marching began, with chants of “Science is real! It’s not how you feel!” flowing through the hot air. There may not have been as many marchers as last year, but the participants’ passion for science and hunger for political change is equally strong.