The National March for Science

My journey started in Indianapolis International Airport, time 0500, waiting at the gate, for my flight with United Airlines (or not). My name was called by the gate attendant, “we’re still looking for passenger, Lavine.” Oh what could it be? As it turns out, I received an upgrade to First Class. Not that it made me feel any better; on an Embraer 175, that’s a few meters closer to the cabin door. I felt better once I was on board the vessel, due to their recent changes in policy. The flight took off on time, and arrived early, in DC. Which, I have to say, is a first for me, on a United flight.

 

Another first for me, I downloaded the Uber app, since the folks at the shared van counter couldn’t figure out at what crossroads to drop me, for the National Mall. Moreover, I’ve never taken an Uber. It proved to be well worth the download.

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When I arrived on the National Mall, at 0800, it was raining. I didn’t land immediately where the March for Science would be held, but could hear the muffled audio of the main stage, breaking through the trees. I followed the sound.

Probably one of the first things I noticed, upon arriving at the rally point, was the presence of a credentials/press check-in booth. This was peculiar, considering what word we, at SLM, received from the organizers, was there would be no such credentials … an oddity in its own rite.

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Once inside the fence, I had a pretty decent feeling of what kind of a diverse crowd would be present, and it was, of course, reassuring.

 

There was already a moderate presence, and as anyone could predict, it was gravitating mostly toward the main stage. Which was playing videos of scientists and children, giving their testaments to the cause.

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It would be two hours, before the masses fell on the Mall, and six hours, before the actual march was scheduled to start. This was plenty of time, to walk around, take photos of, and talk to, other demonstrators.

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As mentioned previously, there was a diverse crowd. With diversity comes a pool of views, on what is exactly scientific.

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I am sure I am not first to note it, and I am certainly sure I will not be the last, but there are a few reasons why people, including myself, feel as though we are in the situation, where research is being censored. Chief amongst them, scientific denial, illiteracy, and/or bias. All things I detected present, at the event, in one form or another.

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A couple of men talking about how bad GMO is, for instance, or a someone carrying a sign, cheekily jabbing at Trump’s “bigly.” A misheard — lyric — of Trump saying, “big league.” Now you too can stop repeating that mistake, making yourself look farcical.

Even at a science rally, there are those who fall short. One thing is certain, however. You can bet, everyone there thinks they are scientifically minded, and can tell you why their version might be more accurate than the next. In this environment though, we are all on the same team; that of science.

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I didn’t make note of when the speeches began, at the main stage, but I would put it at around 1000.

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The talks were hosted by Derek Muller, of YouTube’s Veritasium channel, and cohosted, as it would seem, by musician, Questlove. Guests such as Astronomer, Dr Nancy Roman, one of the first female executives, at NASA, and Denis Hayes, the original coordinator of Earth Day, in the United States, et al, were present.

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Music occasionally punctuated the show, and served to lighten up the mood brought on by the weather.

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One of the most notable speakers, came as somewhat of a surprise, considering what one might have read, at any point before the event — Bill Nye.

He was allotted the same two to three minutes, any of the other speakers were granted. His speech pulled everyone closer to the stage, and two large screens.

This was a most interesting feat to see undertaken, what with all the umbrellas. I am only slightly surprised no one had an eye put out, as something like 75% of the audience wears prescription frames.

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Either way, when collecting or marching en masse, one would postulate a poncho might be the safer decision, socially. I digress.

Nye’s speech, as short as it was, focused on some of the main speaking points of the event, that science should shape policy, and science brings out the best in us. He concluded on, “with an informed, optimistic, view of the future, together — we can — dare I say it (grizzly voice) — SAVE THE WORLD!!!”

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After a few iterations of speeches and music, the grounds were cleared, and the congregation moved to Constitution Avenue, and one of the connecting streets, of which I didn’t make note … oops.

Once everyone was out on the streets, we waited another forever, standing centimeters away from accidentally becoming a character in Pirates of the Caribbean.

Then the march began.

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It went slowly at first, while the two streets of pedestrians moved in communion, toward the Capital Building.

The more we approached the end of the route, the crowd thinned out, and it was much easier to move about, and as things tend to do in an entropic system, things made a gradual decline into disorder, and resembled something more like a spattering of flocks for science.

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By now, my film camera decided to call it quits, my DV camera had fog behind the lens, and the toggle on my 5D mkII was taking on water, so I decided to not loiter about.

I took the opportunity to visit some of the other monuments and memorials, before eventually giving in to the blisters on my feet, and summoning an Uber back to Washington Dulles Airport.
Overall, I would say the event went off very well, and it was great to be a part of it.

Seeing so many people gather together, in a drive to keep science relevant in our political system, and to stand against a system which is striving to mute research, and defund some of our nations most important scientific programs, was beautiful.

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Folks from all walks of life, of every age, gender, race, and creed, were there to be counted as “we the people,” for science … and that is never a bad thing.

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We, at SLM, would like to thank the 12 who donated, so that we could cover this event. Without you, our presence there would not have been possible, and we are forever grateful.

 

 

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