Thousands of people marched through the streets of San Jose on April 22, 2017 during the March for Science, hoping to raise awareness and demonstrate their support for science and its importance. According to the March for Science website, the purpose of the demonstrations was to celebrate science as a key pillar to freedom and prosperity.
The march took place between First and Third St. and ended in the Plaza De Cesar Chavez. Once in the plaza, marchers joined attendees of the Silicon Valley Comic Con, which happened to fall on the same weekend as the march.
In tandem with Comic Con’s outdoor festival, a rally was held on a large stage in the middle of the plaza. It faced a cheering crowd as it held a panel of 17 speakers, all of whom had stunning qualifications.
Among them were a Nobel Laureate, a NASA rocket scientist, “The Big Bang Theory” actress Mayim Bialik — who also has a PhD in Neuroscience — and MVHS AP Chemistry teacher Kavita Gupta, who was recently named a National Geographic Grosvenor Teacher Fellow.
The honor of being a Grosvenor Teacher Fellow is bestowed upon 35 K-12 teachers in the United States for helping students understand the planet and encouraging them to generate solutions for a more sustainable future.
With worldwide March for Science demonstrations, the events drew people from all walks of life to encourage them to take a more public stance towards fighting for causes they believe in.
The love of my life and a scientist
As the crowd of marchers slowly shuffled through downtown San Jose proudly wielding their homemade posters, one couple’s signs stood out. Mrs. Castro was holding a sign with a bright neon arrow on it, pointing to her husband, Mr. Castro, who stood next to her in a brown baseball cap and T-shirt.
The Castros were motivated to participate for a specific reason: President Donald Trump’s proposed budget cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
“Trump’s working to whittle down education and that does not help [students learn] math and science,” Mrs. Castro said. “Trump is negating all logical truth.”
Mrs. Castro’s decision to march was heavily influenced by her husband, who is a physicist. Mr. Castro says his dedication to the environment and to advancements in science pushed him to join his peers and march for the future. This future to him does not only include the planet, but also the next generation who is going to inherit it.
“[Trump] really isn’t supporting the planet and we have to make sure we protect the planet and ensure we have clean water and clean air,” Mr. Castro said. “So we’re out [here marching] for that.”
Cosplaying climate change
Bryan Little and Mette Hedin stood on the edge of the plaza grass, tall cardboard signs advocating for climate change leaning against the table next to them. Although they had just marched, Little and Hedin still had another event to attend afterward: Comic Con. They were dressed in elaborate cosplay costumes and their hair was styled in ornate white mohawks. Taking advantage of the timing of both events, they were speaking out about issues they’re passionate about while exploring their hobbies simultaneously.
“There’s all the causes and I believe in all of them, but I think [with] climate change we really are in a dire situation, because right now we should be fighting climate change, not fighting the costs of climate change,” Hedin said. “I just think it’s important to be out there, to speak your mind and to exercise democracy.”
Hedin has been a committed supporter and attendee of the marches that have taken place following the inauguration of President Trump, including the Women’s March and the Tax March. She feels marches are one of the best ways for her to express herself and her opinions about science, climate change and the choices that Trump has been making as president.
Hedin’s sentiments heavily emphasized the importance of climate change and marching — sentiments which were echoed by Little. He made sure to explain exactly how climate change works and how rising temperatures could have direct effects on people’s lives.
“Most people don’t realize that after the planet gets hot enough, the water that is stored in the polar ice caps [is] going to melt,” Little said. “When that water comes out of the ice and into the ocean, it will rise.”
Little’s picture of the world as a result of climate change also struck parallels with what he was wearing — his cosplay, along with Hedin’s, was from the video game “Fallout,” which is set in a world after an apocalypse. Through climate change, the world is and will be significantly altered. Through participating in events like the March for Science, Little and Hedin hope to raise awareness of the issue — and to help prevent the very situation they were cosplaying.
Keeping the peace
While most people attended the march on Saturday to advocate for science, Wendy Rouse was there for a different reason: to protect the people who were marching.
This wasn’t Rouse’s first time volunteering as a peace ambassador at a march: she had patrolled the Women’s March, and as a result, was very confident with her role and responsibility. Her responsibility was to de-escalate tense situations in a non-violent manner.
At various Marches for Science all over the world, hundreds of peace ambassadors like Rouse volunteered to make sure everyone was able to safely voice their opinions. Rouse’s reason to be a peace ambassador for not one, but two marches was to protect people’s right to march during these events and to protect their democracy.
“The peace ambassadors are here to make sure people are happy and everyone is having a good time — and [that they’re] getting a chance to state their beliefs,” Rouse said.
While Rouse was there volunteering, she was also excited to help protect the ideology of science. She wanted to emphasize the fact that science needs to help reinforce the decision making of government officials, and that these government officials need to fund STEM fields.
“It’s really important [that we’re] trying to make sure that when we makes decisions — when we make policy based decisions — that they’re based off of science,” Rouse said. “Evidence-based science, instead of making a decision that can impact the planet and impact the future off of politics.”
No longer anonymous
Their white lab coats sharply contrasted the gray cement they walked on; fitting, given that the very profession they were representing was what they were marching for. Dr. Christopher Payne and Dr. Jeannette Potts both marched on Saturday in order to support sciences all around the world — including the one in which they practice. They work as urologists at Vista Urology, a practice which they co-founded, and have over 40 years of experience between them. Dr. Payne was marching specifically to let politicians know that science cannot be silenced and to emphasize how research is necessary in order to protect people.
“There’s two things we need to accomplish. One is that we need to energize the scientific community and people who care about science,” Payne said. “And two, we need to grasp the attention of our congressmen and if they don’t behave properly, we’re going to go out and vote them out of office.”
Dr. Payne’s strong feelings propelled him to participate at the march, but Dr. Potts attended for a different reason. For years, Dr. Potts has tried to create change anonymously, working behind the scenes to voice her strong opinion. After the election, however, it became apparent to her that this strategy might no longer be successful.
“Hopefully, [the march] will demonstrate to people inside and outside of the country that we are [here]. Maybe we were too silent and not active enough prior to the election, but that we’re not going to stand by and let ignorance ruin our country or our world,” Dr. Potts said. “I feel it’s important to be present and no longer be anonymous.”
The marchers came from diverse backgrounds. They were nurses, “Fallout” fanatics, teenagers, peacemakers and celebrities. They arrived by themselves or with their children or friends. But one thing united all of them on April 22, when they came together to advocate for science.
And as it neared 3 p.m., the crowd began to disperse, gravitating toward the food trucks that lined the plaza, while enjoying Comic Con’s outdoor festival. They made sure to stop to attach their handmade posters to the fences in the middle of the plaza — and to make sure that their voices wouldn’t be silenced until long after they left the plaza.