Despite the cloudy skies and finger-numbing cold, approximately 1,000 people rallied together on The Commons to support the March for Science on Earth Day, April 22.
“Science is not silence,” “We speak for the trees” and “Science saves lives” were some of the phrases written on the hundreds of posters participants carried. Several people wore lab coats to the event, including a little girl who held a sign that said, “I stand with her,” with an arrow pointing to a drawing of the Earth. One woman even dressed as the Statue of Liberty, waving her torch as the crowd cheered, “Science serves everyone.”
The event was in held in congruence with marches in 517 cities and 130 countries across the globe. Marissa Zuckerman, manager of marketing and communications at the Ithaca Paleontological Research Institution, said the march was first organized after the presidential inauguration with more than 400 scientific and educational institutions endorsing it.
“The mission of this march is to unite as a diverse, nonpartisan group to call for science that upholds the common good and for political leaders and policymakers to enact evidence-based policies in the public’s best interest,” Zuckerman said.
Rally participants listened to various speakers, including Christopher Hernandez, associate professor in the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Cornell, who spoke about the difficulty of accepting scientific facts. Participants also visited the Physics Bus — a mobile exhibition of upcycled appliances — and spoke to other people, like co-organizer Tristan MacLean, about why they believe science is important.
“Science, to me, is one of the most important ways we can make better decisions,” MacLean said. “Science is an essential way of us finding evidence that we can use to make everyone’s lives better.”
Gina Mason, the other co-coordinator, said her hope for the event was to build a bridge between science and the community by discussing science and the use of science in policies.
“The message of science being for everyone and science serving the community, and the need for society to support science as a pillar of democracy — I think that transcends any political thing that’s happening right now,” Mason said.
Elvis Cao, a mechanical engineering Ph.D. student at Cornell University, said he came to the March for Science to speak about his experience with scientific research and how it can benefit society. Cao said he has been working with Sibley College professor David Erickson on a new technology called “Fever Phone,” a smartphone-based platform used to diagnose and differentiate fevers.
“We need to put our device in clinics and hospitals of developing countries to help them diagnose fevers,” Cao said.
He said he hopes to apply this technology to other medical issues, such as cancer, in the future.
Ithaca College sophomore Maddy Horowitz said she went to the event because she is a strong supporter of health sciences. She said she believes the current political actions being taken to defund scientific research will disadvantage the future of American youth and future research findings.
“We could look at the Whalen Symposium, for example, or any one of the Cornell grad student speakers at the event, who have put their heart and soul in research, but may not have similar opportunities in career fields because Mr. Tiny–Hands President needs the money for his wall,” Horowitz said.
Rick Markunas of Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania, said he got up at 6:30 a.m. to come to Ithaca, as it was the closest march he could get to. He said he came to make sure that the public’s voices are heard and to fight for fact-based science.
“I thought it was a great turnout,” Markunas said. “I’m a little disappointed because there isn’t an organized march, but I think it’s a good start.”
Jay Edwards, a retired scientist from Maine, New York, said he came to advocate for public policies that are based on evidence and not opinions.
“Silence is deadly,” Edwards said. “Society often believes that silence is consensus. When people don’t speak up, then the majority are driven by the minority opinion.”
Horowitz recalled a quote by the astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson — “The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it” — and how it is especially relevant to the ignorance toward climate change.
“I’m 20 years old, and I can recognize that two winters in a row in Ithaca with minimal snow is not normal,” Horowitz said.
In a similar vein but organized as a daylong event, Ithaca’s March for Climate, Jobs and Justice will take place April 29 on The Commons in tandem with the national march in Washington, D.C. The march serves as an opportunity for citizens to show support for environmental justice and clean-energy jobs, according to the website of Sustainable Tompkins — the host of Ithaca’s march.
Sustainable Tompkins is a local nonprofit sustainability corporation that has had previous involvement with climate and clean–energy work, such as holding energy fairs and the Climate Smart and Climate Ready conferences. Gay Nicholson, president of Sustainable Tompkins, said the sponsors of the march — Beck Equipment, Halco, Twin Tier Solar & Wind, Dish Truck, Taitem Engineering, The Sustainability Center, NP Environmental, Snug Planet and SewGreen — hope for at least a thousand people to attend and show solidarity for climate-change awareness.
Nicholson said she is active in many of the initiatives and groups that are working on climate and energy locally, which is what inspired her to organize this march.
“Many of our sponsors are the local clean–energy firms who will be there to exhibit and talk about why citizens have to pay attention to energy and climate policies, and how you need to show up and come and support these things,” Nicholson said. “We will not turn these things around without a lot of outcry.”
Nicholson said the march will begin at the Bernie Milton Pavilion with a performance by local band Burns and Kristy. She also said the various events for the day, taking place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., will include two rallies in addition to the march: one focused on climate and energy policies, and the other on taking action in people’s personal lives.
“I think a lot of people have been awakened by this past election, and they are looking for ways to plug in and take action,” Nicholson said. “We want to tell you the ways in which you can do that. We’re trying to encourage people to walk their talk and make it possible.”