Last year's March for Science Seattle was large, loud, and promoted support for science and evidence-based policy overall. In the year following, Congress has boosted research funding in the face of proposed White House cuts, state governors are continuing to join the US climate alliance, and scientists are running for office.
This year's march may have been smaller...and wetter, but there was no doubt that its mission has focalized. Politicians, scientists, Indigenous spokespeople, and passionate young activists all identified a single solution for resolving our nation’s and planet’s problems—albeit by way of different paths and disciplines: the future of our species and our planet must be built upon on a deep respect for all who practice science and for those who understand our planet at the deepest levels.
Surprise last-minute guests, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (Washington’s 7th District) spoke out against attacks on immigrants, who make up 25 percent of our nation's scientists, and the underrepresentation of minorities in STEM jobs (only 13 percent). House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi challenged marchers with the idea that science and religion are not mutually exclusive.
Young climate activists from five to 16 called for older generations to take urgent action to preserve a sustainable future for those behind them—even the smallest actions, such as five-year-old GBright’s plea to not use plastic straws in order to protect the ocean and its inhabitants, can make a difference. And nationwide youth marches, such as the Zero Hour climate march that 16-year-old Jamie Margolin is organizing, have the power to sway policy decisions by elected officials.
Marine Ecologist Dr. Marco Hatch of the Samish Indian Nation and TJ Greene, former chair of the Neah Bay Makah Tribal Council, both spoke of the necessity to not only respect but to seek out the deep knowledge and connection of Indigenous peoples with our planet in order to provide younger generations with the livable future they deserve.
Ph.D. candidates Adriana Germano and Nick Montoni provided examples of how ignoring the full spectrum of our nation’s diverse population can skew scientific results, adversely impacting evidence-based policy decisions and society at large.
"Someone may want to tell me to stop promoting “identity politics” and focus on supporting science,” said Montoni. “First of all, all politics is identity politics because everyone has an identity," he contradicted. "When we silence entire groups of people, what discoveries do we miss?"
Germano pointed out the physical and societal dangers of conducting research based only on a single demographic, citing the example of how heart disease in women was largely overlooked and underdiagnosed for years because only men were used in research studies. "Big problems like these point to areas in science where women can strengthen and enrich scientific fields just by their inclusion," she justified.
Cheri Cornell of Washington Women for Climate Action Now followed in the same vein with the anecdote that black and Latina women scientists are regularly mistaken for janitors in their laboratories. And leaving women out of the climate change equation can have disastrous results. "Women are 14 times more likely to die than men during a natural disaster or extreme weather event," Cornell cited.
Marco Hatch shared a tribal story of the mutual relationship between a canoe carver and a tree. “When making a canoe from two trees,” Hatch illustrated, “it is important that they meld well together, that they connect without giving up their identity as separate trees.”
MFSS organizers are already following suit with plans to host future dialogue and activities that encourage intelligent and substantive dialogue within the scientific community and beyond. First up, a podcast tackling the controversial issue of nuclear power from the viewpoints of physics, chemistry, sociology, and the environment, a topic that drew passionate opinions in MFSS’s Facebook group just days before the march.
We invite everyone to meditate on the words of Dr. Hatch. “If one tree thinks it is better than the other, that its way of doing things is the only way, the tension will cause the canoe to come apart and its passengers will sink.” Hatch explained. “For the canoe to work, the trees need to value each other and work together.”
And nowhere is this becoming clearer than in the conversations surrounding the March for Science and its potential to impact our communities. The nationwide March for Science movement has brought thousands of scientists into the realm of activism; scientists have become emboldened and empowered to make an impact in society, and to speak up for the underrepresented, and it is imperative that they do not underestimate their power to do so.
To help Seattle area scientists continue to influence the communities in which they live, the MFSS is evolving into an engaging and practical tool for local communities, through partnership, collaboration, and civic engagement with organizations that share the common belief that science can be used to enhance any cause, benefit any community, and improve all of our lives.