About a thousand people braved the rain on Saturday, Earth Day, to gather at the Rhode Island State House to stand up for Science and against the anti-science of the Donald Trump administration. The March for Science in Rhode Island joined scientists and science enthusiasts around the globe in nearly 500 satellite marches, held in every major US city and 37 other countries. People took to the streets to stand together for science, for the free exchange of scientific information, and in protest of the censorship of publicly funded research.
Most I talked to at the rally agreed that if the weather had been better, attendance would have doubled. Despite the weather the crowd was cheerful and enthusiastic. They were serious about their message too: Denying science endangers all of us.
The majority of the speakers were both scientists and women, not politicians. The inclusion of women was a major goal of this effort, and Rhode Island organizers should be proud of the line-up they presented.
Up first is astronomy student Casey Cabral was a March for Science organizer. She thanked all who came out to stand up for the integrity of science.
A statement from Senator Sheldon Whitehouse was read to the crowd. Whitehouse is widely believed to be a strong advocate for the climate, despite his refusal to take a stand on local environmental issues such as the Burrillville power plant or National Grid‘s planned expansion in South Providence.
The University of Rhode Island‘s Sunshine Menezes PhD, an expert in effective science communication. “We’re here to tell ethically compromised bureaucrats that we will not accept their outdated and disproven mantra that we must choose jobs or the environment. Nor will we allow them to threaten our health by recklessly basing environmental regulations on economic goals rather than responsible, science based standards.”
When Zoe Goris, a Met School valedictorian, science & technology student and Jacoby Observatory intern mentioned the power plant planned for Burrillville, the crowd booed, demonstrating just how unpopular and unwise the expansion of fossil fuels in the era of climate change is. Goris went on to say that the rewriting of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards under Trump are “particularly troubling.”
Janet Freedman, a geology expert from RI Coastal Resources Management Council spoke about the signs of climate change we are seeing here in Rhode Island right now.
Timmons Roberts a Brown University Environmental Studies & Sociology Professor led the crowd in a chant of “Nerds! Nerds! Nerds!” before outlining three important points in a must watch speech:
- Defend science
- Science alone is not enough
- Scientists need to attend to justice
Christina Ergas PhD, a Brown University postdoctoral Research Associate with the Institute at Brown University for Environment and Society noted that the effects of climate change are already hitting the poorest communities. Black, brown, indigenous, the differently abled, the elderly, and small children are being disproportionately affected. “Given the vastness of the literature on unequal distribution of climate impacts on human populations and its extensive replicability, it should come as no surprise that the recovery efforts after Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina were uneven, with the poorest black residents in Mississippi and New Orleans remaining displaced longer than the most affluent residents of New Jersey.”
Tom Derecktor is the president of BluSource Energy Inc, a company building and testing tidal turbines. The experimental work to develop this technology is not profitable for businesses, says Derecktor, so government money is required to develop and launch these potentially profitable endeavors.
Dr Nicole Alexander-Scott the director of the RI Department of Health (RIDOH) and Assistant Professor at Brown University declared that “Science is important.” For Alexander-Scott, climate change is a health issue. Environmental racism affects health outcomes.