Well, I finally did it. I went to my first public protest. After too many years of just signing petitions (both paper and online), voting and hoping, even calls to our congressmen and senators, my wife and I finally attended the March For Science downtown in our fair city and it was, indeed, an affirmation.
First off, I was pleasantly surprised by the crowd. I knew there was quite a bit of media attention for the 600 + marches planned around the world for this cause on the same day (Earth Day, April 22nd), but we live near a relatively modest little college town; with a university and a community college (both of which my wife attended; one of which I lived by for 7 years). So I wasn’t expecting the 40,000 who marched in Chicago or Washington DC, or the 20,000 in NYC, or even the 10,000 or so who marched in London.
As my wife and I approached the site (the downtown courthouse), we saw a couple of other pedestrians walking parallel with us, carrying their own homemade picket signs and we’d waved. Nice, we thought. A few others. Maybe we’ll have… I dunno, a few dozen (?) or so.
Well, we turned the corner and saw about a hundred or more people already gathered around the courthouse; and it was still a half hour or more before the event (!). Within minutes, hundreds more showed up. By the time the actual march began at 9 am, there were (at least) a thousand or more people assembled all the way down the block. Deep in my old chest, my excitement grew; this was really a thing. And we were going to participate. Again, I’d NEVER attended a public protest, so (as I joked to a friend) this felt like “Fisher Price’s Baby’s First Public Protest” for me. I wasn’t sure if it came with training wheels or not, but I was eager to take my first steps…
9 am hit, and the March for Science began; the local organizer introduced a local congressmen who urged the crowd to vote out science deniers (and climate change deniers) who are not only holding back (or rejecting) vital science information, but are actually ENDANGERING the future of this planet for the human race. This isn’t an American or a Chinese or a Russian issue; this is a humankind issue. Big stakes. No bullshit. When it comes to climate science, you can either accept the data culled from 97% of world climatologists, or you can believe the 3% who work for the oil companies and are on a company payroll. And this acceptance is not a question of ‘belief’; climate change isn’t a religion, or a political party. The data on climate change will still be true whether one personally believes in it or not. Science is under NO obligation to coincide with our comfortable intuitions and ‘gut feelings.’
Put it this way; if you learned that 97% of the world’s leading arachnologists could demonstrate that a particular spider in your home had a lethally venomous bite, but 3% of zoologists weren’t sure…. well, would you still want to go to sleep with that spider crawling around loose in your house? Or if 97% of the world’s auto mechanics told you that your model car had a fatal flaw with its braking system, but 3% weren’t sure, wouldn’t you STILL want to take your car in for the recall?
Anyway, the March began. My wife and I talked to another middle-aged couple marching with us; both of whom worked in the sciences. We said that we weren’t scientists, but that we were both passionate supporters of the sciences. For me, as a 20-plus year member of the Planetary Society (http://planetary.org), I’ve been more passionate about science NOW than when I attended school. We also met a little girl, couldn’t have been more than 10 or so, who wore a shirt saying that she didn’t want to be a Disney princess… she wanted to grow up to be a scientist. We saw little kids, middle-agers like us, old hippies with long ponytails and tie-dyed shirts. Different ethnicities, education levels, and demographics; but all united for a common cause… The March For Science. The denial of ‘alternative facts’ and an affirmation of both reason and common sense. It was beautiful.
As we marched around the city, past our local Mission Inn (a landmark hotel; president Nixon honeymooned there… no kidding), and around the corner back towards City Hall, I was just struck by the length of the total marchers; by now there had to be well over 1,200 or so people. My wife and I are veterans of Comic Con San Diego (130,000 attendees every year), so we’re used to large crowds, but for a local event in our little city? This was a big deal. And along the way, there were supporters; people who couldn’t march (some were disabled) but who carried signs and wished us well). We shouted slogans such as “What do we want? Science! When do we want it? After peer-review!” (< my favorite!) And “Hey, hey, ho ho. Science is the way to go.”
And contrary to what I half-expected (as we live in a slightly more reddish part of our state) there was no backlash. No haters. No one carrying “Science Sucks” signs or anything like that. No confrontations whatsoever. Maybe they couldn’t think of anything clever enough to put on an anti-science sign, maybe they just wanted to sleep in, who knows. At any rate, I was grateful. I must also add that the March organizers and local police did an absolutely phenomenal job of crowd control. If I wore a hat, I’d take it off to them…
The March eventually reached City Hall (the actual marching was only about 40 minutes or so). My wife and I talked with the crowd. I took pics of some of the colorful and humorous signs and we struggled to hear the speakers speak. That was one real flaw of the event; if you weren’t near the front where the speakers were addressing the crowds? You couldn’t hear a thing. Oh well. We were there to be seen and heard ourselves, not necessarily to watch and listen to others. That’s what a demonstration is, right?
My wife and I left around 10:30 am or so. It was pretty much over; the itinerary that followed involved music, and a carnival-type event but we’d done what we came to do; we Marched For Science. We came and met like-minded people, who if nothing else, reminded me that we don’t have to be a ‘silent majority.’ There are still plenty of active voters and taxpayers out there who believe in the values of time-tested science and common sense in place of denial, excuses and ‘alternative facts.’
For more about what can be done, here is the website for the March For Science and some advice on what to do next: https://satellites.marchforscience.com/vision
And while this blog entry and my previous one may have dipped a bit deep into politics? This is still an entertainment site (just a reminder). And for those like me who are interested in a bit of entertainment with their science? Check out Bill Nye’s new series on Netflix: “Bill Nye Saves The World.”
It’s humorous, it’s accessible and it’s actually a lot of fun. Kind of reminds me of Discovery channel’s very much missed “Mythbusters” TV series (my wife and I were HUGE fans of that show). Each episode of “Bill Nye…” runs about a half hour and cover topics from climate change to myth-busting homeopathic remedies (that one was a particular favorite of mine… especially when I remember all of those hucksters over the years telling me how magnetic bracelets will ‘cure’ my arthritis).
The show’s format seems to be (and I’m only a few episodes in) an opening, comedic teaser segment, followed by a segment involving a correspondent going on location to cover a topic (model Karlie Kloss covering climate change in Venice, for example). This is followed by a brief (non-frictional) panel discussion, and a quick final experiment to demonstrate of validity of the scientific idea being discussed on the show.
It’s a nice, neat, easy-to-digest series that is appropriate for teens or oldsters like myself. It’s very inclusive. And yes, Nye does get a bit political. However, he does so not because he is indulgent or grandstanding; but because we live in a time where (unfortunately) science itself is under attack by political opportunists with their own agendas. Nye is simply fighting fire with fire; or more accurately, disinformation & alternative facts with empirical, demonstrable science.
I’ve actually had the privilege of meeting Nye twice in person at Planetary Society events and he’s just a terrific and entertaining guy (he’s the Planetary Society CEO, in fact; as well as the for the March For Science). For amateur science geeks like myself? I cannot recommend this series enough.
At any rate, the March For Science may be over, but there is still a lot more work to be done. Let’s all do our part towards, as Nye might say, “saving the world.” Deny the deniers, reject alternative facts, and accept data and reality over myth, superstition, political agendas and ‘gut feelings.’ We all have a role, minor or major, in saving the world; whether it’s marching, signing petitions/ballots, calling your elected officials, and/or voting at each election (yes, even the midterms). The time to act is now, because whether you believe it or not, whether you accept it or not, the world’s in trouble.
And as a few of the signs at the march reminded me, there is no Planet B.