By Brittany Dekorte
and Ala Kaymaram
“I can’t believe I have to march for this!”
“It’s so bad, the introverts are here!”
And most iconically, “Science, not Silence!”
Signs reading these messages and more were carried all around the country, and the world. Coinciding with Earth Day, a ‘March for Science’ was held on April 22. An estimated 40,000 people turned out in the rain and the chill in Washington alone.
According to their website, the mission of the march was to push for “robustly funded and publicly communicated science as a pillar of human freedom and prosperity,” It continues “We 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 interest.”
The Washington march featured a large rally beneath the Washington Monument before the protesters made their way to the Capitol Building. The rally featured dozens of speakers, including science educator Bill Nye, astronaut Leland Mervin and musical performances by Jon Batiste.
There were 600 satellite marches held in cities all over the world, along with the main march in Washington. Crowds gathered in large cities such as: London, Chicago, Berlin, San Francisco, according to the March for Science website.
Closer to home, and in much more sunny weather, people gathered to march as well. Crystal Cole, who has studied ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Michigan, was the event coordinator for the Ann Arbor branch of the march. “I thought it turned out really well!” Cole said. “We were thrilled with all of the people that came out, it was a beautiful sunny day after a week of rain, and there were a ton of kids that I was happy to see getting involved,” Cole said.
The event started at noon. Thousands of people were at the University of Michigan campus waiting to march.
The local march featured speeches from researchers at the University of Michigan and state Rep. Yousif Rabhi D-Ann Arbor. The Ann Arbor march went from the Diag to the Ann Arbor Federal building.
Haley Amemiya, a Ph.D. candidate and the president of the Association of Women in Science at University of Michigan, welcomed everyone and introduced the first speaker: Dan Ezekiel.
Ezekiel is a retired science teacher and founder of Recycle Ann Arbor. He started his speech by talking about the importance of science in society and his experiences as a science teacher.
“Our job as scientists is to humbly seek the truth, not to try to dictate it,” Ezekiel said. He also talked about the history of Earth Day and the positive legislations passed as the result of celebrating such a day.
“We need more science today not less,” Ezekiel said. He gave a few examples in support of policies that target climate change and explained the importance of them in today’s critical situation.
The second speaker was Chiamaka Ukachukwu. A Nigerian-American graduate student and researcher at University of Michigan. She started by talking about her work and explaining why she marches for science.
Chiamaka referenced her mother being the main person who inspired her to be a scientist. She talked about how it feels to be an African-American scientist.
A strong advocate for diversity in science, Chiamaka talked about her passion and her role in advocating for increasing the number of minorities and women in the sciences fields.
Yiran Emily Liu, the third speaker of the day, had interesting remarks about the history of science and its pertinent ethical issues.
“Science has done so much good for this world, but science has also done a tremendous amount of harm,” Liu said. She gave a few examples and mentioned that her intent is not to denounce science, “but to embrace the spirit of presenting truths especially those that are often concealed.”
She described science as a non-neutral endeavor that is subject to human prejudices. Similar to Chiamaka, Liu talked about diversity in science and advocated for just and ethical science practices.
“Today I march to hold science accountable,” Liu said. Her speech seemed to provoke thought within the audience and revealed her understanding of the real, practical concerns in scientific research.
The fourth speaker was Yousef Rabhi. His energetic opening changed the thoughtful mood of the previous speech.
Rabhi talked about the current political issues, in particular his work to shut down line 5, which is a major oil pipeline going through the Great Lakes. Rabhi also spoke about the lack of scientists in politics. He closed his remarks by encouraging everyone to take action and to fight for a better future.
Photos by Emily Hubbel and Christine Knight.