If movements could speak, they would laugh, yell, and cry out with rage into the faces of their opponents. Movements are, however, dependent on the voices of those willing to speak up on their behalf. The 2017 March for Science and the People’s Climate March have shown that these voices have found their volume and will continue to push for environmental awareness and reform in a time that is more challenging and dire than ever.
A lack of scientific literacy in politics has resulted in the belittlement of science and scientific research and denial of scientific facts such as climate change. This has catalyzed global communities—and not just the scientific ones—into taking measures to ward off scientific stagnancy and ignorance while also protecting and promoting science’s invaluable presence in social, political, and environmental conversations. Realizing that progress is not made through sitting quietly in willful ignorance, but through marching in defiance of social, political, and environmental injustices has invigorated new generations of activists.
Since its humble beginning in 1970, Earth Day has long represented a time to take a stand for the care of our planet. Earth Day protests and rallies have raised a lot of awareness over the decades and been successful in galvanizing legislation such as the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. On the most recent Earth Day, April 22, 2017, the date went down in history as the largest global event to be focused specificially on science: the March for Science.
The March for Science, initially called the Scientists’ March on Washington, reflects the boiling point of environmentalism’s response to the sciences being largely left out of political conversations and thusly deemed unimportant. The current United States administration’s negative stance on evidence-based science, the reality of climate change, and an array of other hot button environmental topics further kicked the environmental beehive.
Though the flagship of the March for Science was in Washington, D.C., the movement itself went global. About 1.07 million supporters of science participated in 600 marches—spanning from the North Pole to Antarctica, on all seven continents, in 66 countries, and in all 50 U.S. states—voiced their passion for the planet and the value of science.
Given the Humboldt County community’s history of involvement in prior environmental movements, a local march was no surprise. The Humboldt March for Science, featuring a Science Expo and speakers, was organized by Ross Taylor (a fisheries biologist) and Jessie Hobba (science educator and a board member of Mad River Alliance), assisted by an active planning committee.
Arcata resident Carla Avila-Martinez was one of the estimated 2,300 people who attended the Humboldt March for Science. Avila-Martinez saw the experience as vital for furthering public understanding of science as well as the role it plays in society. “I loved how the speakers stressed the importance of continuing to support science and scientists,” she said. “It feels like science is being vilified, so it was great to be among people who understood its importance for our everyday lives.”
Avila-Martinez explained that the effects of events like this are ongoing and tend to encourage momentum, proclaiming, “Going to marches like this reinvigorates the community to keep fighting!”
In addition to the March for Science, April also boasted another important environmental event—the People’s Climate March. Scheduled on April 29th, the 100th day of Donald Trump’s Presidency, the People’s Climate March in Washington, D.C. attracted crowds of over 150,000 and flooded the streets with protesters, posters, and messages geared toward speaking out for climate change awareness and action. 350 sister marches were held across the country and around the world with participation reported to be in the tens of thousands.
In solidarity with the People’s Climate March in Washington, D.C., 350 Humboldt (a new local affiliate of the international climate justice movement organization 350.org) marched in the same-day and already-scheduled annual Eureka Rhododendron Parade (Rhody Parade). Katy Gurin, who helped launch 350 Humboldt, explained that the solidarity march showcased the need for community togetherness behind promoting climate justice. “We chose the Rhody Parade because it was on the same day as the People’s Climate March. The Rhody Parade, I feel, is a really lovely event and we wanted to be a part of it while also spreading our message of a clean energy future for Humboldt,” Gurin said.
Parading in solidarity with the People’s Climate March within the community Rhody Parade meant keeping the event spirited, with positive notes of reaching towards a brighter future. Gurin described a scene of children running underneath a parachute banner that was part of the 350 Humboldt contingent. “It’s really important for people to have fun. For a lot of people emotionally, climate is a hard topic,” Gurin said.
It may feel difficult to maintain momentum in light of climate change denial, a socially and environmentally unjust administration, and much of the population continuing on with business-as-usual lifestyles. The marches, however, were only the tip of a growing iceberg of resistance to injustice, and the next steps are not out of reach.
Keeping the momentum going begins with staying educated about current environmental issues and taking action.
“It’s really important to recognize that there is a whole lot that we can do to move forward,” Gurin said. “There are many successes, cities all over the nation, even in red states, are promising resolution to moving toward a clean future.”
One of the most important things to remember is the power available at local and state governmental levels. “States are passing really tough climate legislation,” Gurin said. “We have to remember to think about what we can we do with policy at local and state levels.”
Staying involved with and supporting local environmental groups (such as the NEC and 350 Humboldt) is an important way to make sure the momentum of these movements keeps moving forward. Follow them on Facebook for timely updates and sign up for email alerts. When you’re finished reading this issue of EcoNews, pass it along to someone who may not have seen it yet. Talk about important issues with your friends and family. The voices of science, climate action, and environmental movements are yours!