April 24, 2017

Notes from March for Science, Philadelphia, PA

Posted by Laura Guertin

Outside of City Hall in Philadelphia, the starting point for Philly’s March for Science

Best… geology sign… ever

I participated in the March for Science in Philadelphia – taking public transportation to the event had me feeling even more “green” on this Earth Day. As with all of the Marches around the globe, there was a collection of clever signs with bad science puns, people in costume (superheroes, scientists, medical doctors, dinosaurs, etc.), and keynote speakers to continue the rally.

Science covered the global event live with archives online, as did Nature with their global reports. Individuals have been posting their reflections on their own experiences (Andrew Dessler, Jonathan Foley, Jon Butterworth, Mark Wilson on behalf of Wooster Geologists, etc.) – including AGU bloggers Dave Petley, Callan Bentley, John Freeland, and Dan Satterfield. The Guardian is reporting on Why the global March for Science is already a success, and The Atlantic writes How the March for Science Finally Found its Voice. Additional articles on the March can be found in EOS and on Climate Central’s website.

Fortunately, there were no reports of swords at any of the Marches (but as you can see, this was a very popular tweet!).

Members of Drexel University’s ACS Student Club with their adviser

This was the first “march” I had ever participated in – with 25,000 of my closest friends. I enjoyed seeing the signs carried by young kids to grown adults. I noticed people were marching by themselves or with groups. I saw faculty I knew from area universities, medical doctors dressed in scrubs, and tie-die shirts and lab coats. It was clear that this March had support from the widest range of ages, occupations, and more. The group was spirited in their walk down Market Street from City Hall to Penn’s Landing (and yes, our pace got quicker as the skies opened up and the rain poured down).

But “the moment” for me during the March… it was not when I saw a little girl holding a sign with a tribute to NASA’s Katherine Johnson. It was not when the news crews were lined up on the street and pulling people out for interviews, eager to talk about topics such as proposed budget cuts to the EPA. It was the moment when Market Street crossed between some of Philadelphia’s classic landmarks. There is one point on Market Street where to the left, I had the National Constitution Center, and to the right, was Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. Here we were, engaging in a democratic practice, in the heart of the birthplace of our nation. It gave me chills. Although there were some chants during the march about “peer review”, the video below captures the battle cry before/during/after the March:

Many people were busy arguing whether we “should” have to March for Science, but it was important for us to remember that we “could” march.

So what’s next? There are plenty of thoughts on how to move forward. The March for Science has outlined a week of action, while AGU offers some suggestions, including a 5-week action plan. A statement has been issued jointly by AGU, AAAS, ACS, Sigma Xi, and more titled “Community of Scientific Societies Applauds March for Science, Recommits to Foster Public Support, Engagement in Science through their Global Memberships.”

What’s next for myself? I’m no longer on the sidelines. For years, I’ve let others do the speaking and defend my right to do science. I’ve been bringing the theme of “why Earth science matters” to my students through my courses – and that was pretty much it for my actions. But now, it is time for me to talk more to my non-STEM colleagues, neighbors, friends – time to share my own stories about and passion for science, what’s happening on Planet Earth, and what each of us can do. I’ve proposed a session for the AGU Fall Meeting on science advocacy. I want to do my part to keep the momentum going from the March for Science, so stay tuned…