WASHINGTON, D.C. — Virginia resident Michael Griffith has always loved rocks.
“I’ve been a rock hound ever since I was a little kid,” said Griffith.
Although Griffith, age 56, never completed his geology degree, he continues to value the science. He said that enduring interest brought him to the March for Science on Saturday.
“It is an uphill climb to convince the powers that be that this is important,” Griffith said.
He attended the March in 2017, during which he said it was pouring rain.
This year by contrast, the weather on Saturday was a sunglasses-and-sunscreen-wearing kind of day, with the high temperatures in the 80s.
More than 1,000 gathered in D.C. Saturday to participate in the second annual March for Science rally.
Volunteers, scientists, doctors, college and university students and others traveled from all over the country for their voices to be heard while shouting “Science not silence” during the events.
“You see all of these scientific facts just like being ignored and disproven and by putting our voices out there with trying to make a difference and really focus on the fact that if we ignore science, we’re going to have huge problems globally,” said Nick Peters, 29, a volunteer for the March of Science.
Peters says one of the biggest problems and reason why he is volunteering during the March of Science is climate change. “It’s only going to get worst if we ignore it,” said Peters while mentioning the world is already seeing the effects of climate change due to recent natural disasters. “I think by being able to volunteer here we are able to put our time and effort into bringing the awareness up on the importance of science.”
While last year many March participants said their focus was funding programs and research, many signs on Saturday pertained to facing facts and basing federal policy on experimental evidence and research rather than personal convictions of lawmakers.
Maryland resident Ben Lee, a laboratory technician who performs ecological genetic research, said he is concerned that scientific research has too small of a role in the drafting of federal legislation.
“[I’m here] just to draw attention to it, and I think the more attention we can get to not having science- and evidence-based policy making, the more people we can get behind the sort of basing policy off of [scientific] evidence,” said Lee. “Not only physical and biological sciences, but also social science and things like that.”
Unlike for the 2017 March for Science, the only large event of the day, the 2018 March was one of three events scheduled in that part of D.C. on Saturday. The Cherry Blossom Parade and the National Walk for Epilepsy occurred before the March for Science. March for Science officials said March for Science performances could only begin after the parade finished.
Leading up to the start of the rally, there was little indication people were there for the March for Science. Few could be found near the March starting line near the corner of Constitution Avenue and Seventh Street – with or without signs – or the stage. Most gathered under a cluster the cherry blossom trees by Constitution Avenue and Seventh Street. Some said they had no plans to attend the March for Science. A few people, when asked, said they had not come to D.C. for the March.
Several of the representing members of a paleontological association who were hanging out in the shade of the trees had signs, (were among the first ones) clearly there to attend the March. They were outnumbered by people were taking selfies and group photos under the cherry blossom trees.
Many more people with signs appeared—in the shade of the trees and near the performance stage– once the Cherry Blossom Parade ended. The number of signs increased from about 10 to dozens in a matter of minutes.
As with last year’s demonstration, people continued to stress that they want to see a change for science. Chants such as “Science not silence,” “Environmental justice” and “Protect the Clean Water Act” were just some of the many messages made by participants during the march.
“I am here because I believe in science and I want greater awareness about climate change especially from legislatures in the U.S. because what they do does matter everywhere else around the world,” said Maggie Dong, 19, an international student from Singapore currently studying at Georgetown University. “I think for me, the Paris Climate Agreement is something really important and I really hope that the U.S. pays more attention, too,” said Dong.
Some participants said they were concerned about the future of the Endangered Species Act. Silver Spring resident Daryl Domning, age 71, who attended the demonstration and teaches anatomy at Howard University, called the Endangered Species Act the topic of the hour.
“The Department of the Interior are simply not supportive of the Endangered Species Act,” said Domning, who was clad in a T-shirt with a picture of a manatee on it and cargo shorts. “They were talking about defunding the Marine Mammal Commission, which is a watchdog agency that regulates other federal agencies that do things that have an impact on things like manatees, whales, dolphins and things like that, and so they’re trying to undercut, undermine, dismantle as many as possible [of the] regulations that got put in place in the last half-century.”
D.C. resident Katie Taylor, 23, dressed up in a tiger costume, complete with matching cat ears and a tail, said she attended the March as part of her job. She is a government relations coordinator for the nonprofit organization Defenders of Wildlife. She said she is concerned for wildlife and how decisions and bills by legislators in Congress may harm wild animals’ habitats.
Taylor said her organization does not advocate for tigers, but it advocates for various other kinds of wild animals.
“I work for the National Center for Science and Civic Engagement,” said Silver Spring resident Kyle Simmons, “which is an organization that works to support educators who are interested in using civic questions to drive engagement in STEM. So the March was certainly at the intersection of science and involvement in civic affairs. I felt it was important to be a part of a voice helping policymakers understand that science is important – funding it, listening to it, and encouraging students to study it, because it helps us understand our world and drives innovations and solutions to pressing issues.”
Peter Rouleau also contributed to this story.