The March for Science began at one o’clock in the afternoon on April 22, 2017. This also happened to be Earth Day. As I joined the large crowd on Market Street, I was overwhelmed by the amount of support being shown in the name of science by St. Louis natives and others that travelled a great distance to join the peaceful demonstration. The march went all the way down Market Street to the iconic St. Louis Arch, where the demonstration continued with speeches from professionals in various scientific fields.
The Arch was the perfect backdrop for such an event. Naturally, each speaker was introduced with relevant background information. Introductions were done by C-Sharp. Sharp first introduced one of the chairs responsible for organizing this event. Cynthia Lloyd was the co-chair for this event. She has previously organized other marches and is very passionate about the cause. Lloyd hails from West Coast, but moved to St. Louis years ago after developing a form of cancer that did not have a standard treatment protocol. By moving to St. Louis, she was able to partake in a trial conducted in the area. Due to the cancer research done, the experimental treatment she received from St. Louis doctors saved her life. She made it abundantly clear in her speech that she knows science brings about the advancement of society and desires to see more importance placed on the sciences and for the progress to continue.
After Lloyd’s passionate speech, C-Sharp introduced the next speaker: Wes Browning, who is the former lead/head meteorologist the National Weather Service St. Louis. He spoke of how science is what gives us the ability to have data on carbon dioxide levels from thousands of years ago. He went on to describe how carbon dioxide is captured as bubbles inside snowflakes and is then sealed in ice. The hard, ice shell is what protects the bubbles from outer elements and allows scientists collect the ice in form of ice cores. The cores are then analyzed and any data found in analysis is recorded. His speech is ultimately an example of how all scientific experiments should be supported and funded because no matter how small of a data sample, it will still help future scientists in one way or another.
Following, Browning, a third guest speaker took the stage. Emma Young, a Ph.D. candidate at University of Missouri at St. Louis and a representative for the Harris World Ecology Center, spoke of her research and hopes for the future of science. She studies malaria in birds in the Mississippi floodplain. While her research might sound a bit dull, she truly loves what she does - her passion is evident in the enthusiasm she showed in her speech and body language. While she may be passionate about her research, she did mention how she feels as if the impact that she can make is hindered by her status as a student. This feeling is most likely common among young academics with big dreams; however, it is also an indication of the need to reform policies about scientific research (and how data is used) beyond the traditional sense, moving toward progress instead of regression. Ultimately, Young hopes that scientists and politicians can work together to promote the expansion of science through the use of collected scientific data to make well thought out decisions.
Young was not the only young scientist to speak at the event. Nicholas Thornburg recently received his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from Northwestern and now works for the Department of Energy. His area of expertise is in biofuel. Biofuel research circles around the manipulation of metabolic pathways such that plants/organics can be broken down into chemical components used to make fuel and and continue our society's way of life without further dependence on fossil fuels. Like Young, he wants to show how citizens, who are just starting their careers, can be just as involved as those who have more experience and knowledge in their field. The capability and impact of someone’s research is not necessarily limited by their age, it is their desire to learn, solve complex problems, and push beyond conventional barriers.
One of the last speakers of the day was Dr. Jason Purnell Ph.D./MPH. Dr. Purnell is well known in the St. Louis community and was recently awarded the St. Louis American 2016, Person of the Year. He is the Director of For the Sake for All, a research project whose mission statement is, “We work to improve the health of all people by eliminating racial inequities that stifle our region’s growth.” He spoke at the march about illuminating racial inequities and pursuing truth in our society. We, as a community, cannot do those things without the help of art and science to understand those around us. We need evidence for the benefit of society because it is evidence that speaks to politicians and judges to get the legislation we need to better our country and ourselves, by default. He told the crowd how truth is something we arrive at and how the communication of science is what will get us there.
There were quite a few other people who gave their support and thanked the marchers for coming out and participating. Overall, it was a fantastic turnout and I was so thankful to be able to participate in the March for Science. This march and similar ones around the country are working to ensure that our representatives and leaders know that we value evidence just as much as opinion, and that truth is still as important as it ever has been.