KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Hundreds gathered in Washington Square Park on Earth Day in support of calls for scientific freedom without political interference and spending necessary to make future breakthroughs possible.
Similar to other rallies Saturday worldwide, Kansas City’s “March for Science” was meant to promote the understanding of science and defending it from various attacks. Those include proposed U.S. government budget cuts under President Donald Trump, such as a 20 percent slice of the National Institute of Health.
The event attracted 62-year-old retired petrochemical engineer Peter Lane. He told a reporter “people don’t realize that science touches every part of their lives.”
Sixty-seven-year-old retired librarian Carroll Makemson also attended with her husband. She said “there’s a lack of understanding about what we need to do about our people, our country and our earth.”
Marches took place on every continent — including Antarctica. Germany’s Neumayer Station is an active research institute in Antarctica. During the Antarctic summer, the station houses up to 50 scientific researchers and support staff.
President Donald Trump said in an Earth Day statement that his administration is “committed to keeping our air and water clean, to preserving our forests, lakes and open spaces and to protecting endangered species.”
But that won’t be done, he says, in a way that harms “working families” and says the government is “reducing unnecessary burdens on American workers and American companies, while being mindful that our actions must also protect the environment.”
His comments come as thousands of people around the world participate in science rallies.
Denis Hayes, who co-organized the first Earth Day 47 years ago, said the crowd he saw from the speaker’s platform on the National Mall in Washington was energized in a rare way, similar to what he saw in the first Earth Day. That’s unusual for an odd numbered anniversary, he said.
“This magical thing that sometimes happens, sometimes doesn’t happen,” Hayes said. “The reason that it happens is that you’ve got a clear enemy. For this kind of weather this is an amazing crowd. You’re not out there today unless you really care.”
Ice photographer and filmmaker James Balog, who said he was watched trillions of tons of ice melt, told the Washington crowd that talking about the science of climate change in the face of the Trump administration and climate change deniers is “a battle between objective reality and ideological fiction.”
Pennsylvania State University’s Michael Mann got a loud cheer just for his sentence “I am a climate scientist.”
Mann, who first created the hockey stick that showed a spike in recent global temperatures after thousands of years said, “there was no more noble pursuit than seeking to insure that policy is informed by the objective assessment of scientific evidence.”
Software engineer Bill Wood of Rockville, Maryland, had a plastic protected sign that read “things are so bad even the introverts had to come out.”
Kathryn Oakes Hall pinned a sign to the back of her T-shirt as she made her way to the march in Santa Fe, New Mexico: “Nine months pregnant, so mad I’m here.”
“I’d rather be sitting on the couch,” she said.
But she marched anyway because she worried about her baby’s future in a world that seems to consider science disposable. Her husband is an engineer at Los Alamos National Laboratory, she studied anthropology, she even has a dog named rocket.
So they joined thousands marching in Santa Fe, many of whom stopped her to remark on her pregnancy, with a mix of administration and concern.
She wore a white T-shirt, with a drawing of the earth stretched over her belly, and carried a sign that read “evidence-based policy and not policy-based evidence.”
Hundreds turned out in light rain for a pro-science rally on the Vermont statehouse lawn in Montpelier.
One of the speakers, Rose Paul, director of conservation science for The Nature Conservancy of Vermont, told the crowd that “Science is not a partisan issue.” She said “climate change is happening” and scientists are needed to help understand how shifting weather patterns are affecting the world.
Lara Stephens-Brown, a graduate student studying veterinary medicine at the University of Minnesota, joined thousands marching in St. Paul.
They chanted “hey hey, ho ho, we won’t let this planet go.”
There are cancer survivors and doctors with signs that say “science saves lives,” she said, and estimated that 90 percent of the signs are not political.
“Science is not a partisan issue,” she said. “Science is for everyone, and should be supported by everyone in our government.”
Thousands of people stood outside the Washington Monument amid bouts of downpours, listening to a mix of speeches and music. Speakers noted that President Trump was in the White House nearby, having cancelled a weekend in New Jersey.
This was the first protest for Jeannette Villabon and her son Nikko Chey of Stanhope, New Jersey. So Villabon went all out, donning a Tyrannosaurus rex costume and holding a sign that said: “Hey tiny hands fund EPA study. Quit being cretaceous.”
Trump’s “archaic thinking is going to ruin us all,” Villabon said.
Other signs were only slightly less pointed, such as “edit genes not the truth,” ”data not dogma” and “global warming is real. Trump is the hoax.”
More than a thousand people stretched for miles through the streets of Gainesville, Florida. It was a peaceful demonstration, said Pati Vitt, a plant scientist at the Chicago Botanic Garden in town for work at the university.
“We’re scientists, so we’re orderly,” she said with a laugh. “We let the signs do the talking.”
She said her favorite featured a drawing of DNA, with the note “checks itself before it wrecks itself.”
And she hopes the crowds at hundreds of cities across the country draw attention to the perils of ignoring science funding.
Hundreds of people have braved pouring rain in Nashville, Tennessee, as they march through city streets and chant “science, not silence.”
It’s just one of the locations across the United States and the world on Saturday’s March for Science events.
Lawyer Jatin Shah brought his young sons — a 5-year-old who wants to be a dentist when he grows up and a 6-year-old who plans to be a doctor.
Marchers are waving signs that say “there is no planet B,” ”make America think again” and “climate change is real, ask any polar bear.”
Shah worries about his sons’ futures if science spending is cut.
The March for Science attracted several thousand people in Berlin, and those supporters of sciences have walked from one of the city’s universities to the Brandenburg Gate.
Meike Weltin is a doctorate student at an environmental institute near Berlin. She says she’s participating because — in her words — “I think that politics need to listen to sciences.”
Germany’s foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, has endorsed March for Science events across Germany. Gabriel says “free research and teaching are the supporting pillars of an open and modern society.”
Thousands of people attended March for Science events around the world to promote the understanding of science and defend it from various attacks, including U.S. government budget cuts.
The march puts scientists — who generally shy away from advocacy and whose work depends on objective experimentation — into a more public position.
Scientists involved in the march say they’re anxious about political and public rejection of established science such as climate change and the safety of vaccines.