×

Local March for Science draws large crowd in Amherst

  • A group of musicians lead the March for Science on North Pleasant Street in Amherst on Earth Day, Saturday. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Hundreds of people walk in the March for Science on North Pleasant Street in Amherst on Earth Day, Saturday. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Hundreds of people walk in the March for Science on North Pleasant Street in Amherst on Earth Day, Saturday. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Hundreds of people of all ages walk in the March for Science on North Pleasant Street in Amherst on Earth Day, Saturday. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Hundreds of people of all ages walk in the March for Science on North Pleasant Street in Amherst on Earth Day, Saturday. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Hundreds walk in the March for Science on North Pleasant Street in Amherst on Earth Day, Saturday.

  • Hundreds of people walk in the March for Science on North Pleasant Street in Amherst on Earth Day, Saturday. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Hundreds of people of all ages walk in the March for Science on North Pleasant Street in Amherst on Earth Day, Saturday. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Hundreds of people of all ages walk in the March for Science on North Pleasant Street in Amherst on Earth Day, Saturday. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • A group from Deer Paths Nature School in Wendell gather on the Amherst Common after walking in the March for Science in Amherst on Earth Day, Saturday. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS



@StephMurr_Jour
Saturday, April 22, 2017

AMHERST — Demonstrating on the Town Common while decrying their need to do so, area scientists and their allies held a “satellite” march Saturday morning to defend the role of science in today’s political climate.

“It is absolutely crazy that we have to do this,” said Rolf Karlstrom, a professor of biology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “But we do … Science is under attack. This is a nonpartisan issue. Science is under attack from all sides of the aisle”

While he spoke, a young girl held an orange sign that read “Science makes sense!”

The march began at 10 a.m. on the grass across from the Kendrick Place apartment building and drew approximately 1,000 people. The Amherst March for Science was one of 600 marches that took place across six continents Saturday, the Washington Post reported.

The high turnout at the Amherst march impressed organizer Elizabeth Farnsworth, 54, of Amherst. Farnsworth has been a scientist for 35 years with the New England Wildflower Society and has also studied climate change.

“It took a village,” Farnsworth said. “I’m extremely pleased by the turnout … I’d estimate there are over a thousand people here.”

Before the group converged on the Amherst Common, several speakers took the microphone. Karlstrom and other speakers stressed the march was nonpartisan. Organizers encouraged protesters to avoid chants that took aim at specific politicians.

Regardless, several signs took aim at President Donald Trump. One sign read, “Is this what it will take?” with an image of Mar-a-Lago, his Florida estate, half-submerged in water.

As president, Trump has pushed an anti-science agenda, including nullifying President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, appointing climate-change deniers to run the Environmental Protection Agency and proposing drastic cuts to the agency’s scientific research and peer review budgets.

After brief remarks from several speakers, marchers began their trek at the intersection of North Pleasant Street and Triangle Street. The Amherst Regional High School Jazz Band led the way with song and the group marched down North Pleasant Street to the Town Common.

The jazz band is made up of Kahil Henderson and Sam Boyle, both ARHS seniors, and juniors Alvaro Borrell and Dylan Walter. The teens said they were happy to support science by playing at the march.

Making their voices heard

Julie Wheeler, 31, of Amherst, a postdoctoral researcher in the UMass department of environmental conservation, carried a sign that read, “Okay ladies now let’s get information!” — a take on the popular Beyonce song “Formation.”

“I’m marching to promote science literacy,” Wheeler said. Her sign encouraged folks to “get a small grant” for a “basic research topic.”

Greg Dewet, 27, is a climate scientist living in Sunderland. He carried a sign that read, “I’m a climate scientist, ask me WHY.”

Dewet said he was drawn to the march because he sees the politicization of science as an unfortunate but “unavoidable reality.”

“Science means a huge amount to me personally, and it means a huge amount to society,” Dewet said. “I’m here to share my support for the scientific method.”

Dewet recently earned his doctorate in paleoclimatology from the UMass department of geosciences.

“It is the study of climate before thermometers. We study how climate has changed throughout time, and it provides context for future climate change,” Dewet said.

Dewet was joined by Erika Blauth, 26, of Colorado Springs, Colorado. Blauth is not a scientist, but said she felt it was important to stand up for science alongside those who are.

“Let’s establish that science is real, and climate change is happening,” Blauth said. “Let’s change the discussion to be about solutions.”

Blauth carried a sign that read, “Climate change is real whether we ‘believe in it’ or not.”

Statement through art

Seal LaMadeleine, 46, led a group from the Deer Paths school in Wendell. The school is a nonprofit environmental education organization for children ages 3 to 12, according to LaMadeleine, who is a nature teacher at the school.

The group of children and adults wore colorful hats and masks inspired by lessons on the water cycle, inspired by water droplets, fish and eagles. LaMadeleine said she and the students were happy to support the environment, especially on Earth Day.

A performance artist wearing what was said to be 20 pounds of trash — from Polar seltzer cans to milk and juice containers to discarded Dunkin’ Donuts cups — marched while slowly banging on a plastic water cooler jug like a drum. The artist’s face was covered with black fabric.

“The average American creates this in four days,” the artist’s sign read. The sign directed those interested to visit @The.Burden on Instagram for more information.

Stephanie Murray can be reached at stephaniemur@umass.edu.