By LOLA DUFFORT
Saturday, April 22, 2017
About 2,000 people gathered at the State House steps on Saturday to march for science in concert with hundreds of similar rallies across the world.
Environmental groups and scientists who organized the global Earth Day demonstrations have said the event is non-partisan. Still, the election of President Donald Trump, who has called climate change a hoax, proposed cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency, and appointed a fossil fuel industry-friendly head in Scott Pruitt to the department, loomed large over the event.
Roger Stephenson of the Union of Concerned Scientists told the crowd of a recent press conference Pruitt had held – at a coal mine – to announce the agency’s “back to basics” approach.
“He said ‘back to basics’ means returning EPA to its core mission of protecting the environment through sensible regulations that enhance economic growth,” Stephenson said, to boos from the crowd.
“That was never the mission of the EPA. That is re-writing history,” Stephenson said, theatrically unfurling a scroll delineating the “60 federal agencies, departments, and bureaus” that are actually dedicated to the U.S. economy.
Erich Osterberg, a climate scientist at Dartmouth College, told the crowd that he had spent his career studying the effects of climate change in glaciers, and had seen first hand the front-line repercussions of a warming climate.
“We have got to get past this false debate about whether climate change is real. We have to get past that false debate so we can have the real debate about what we’re going to do to fix it,” he said.
Osterberg said that despite years studying climate change, he’d reached a “personal tipping point this past fall.”
“At the same time as our leaders were saying – so many of them – that climate change was a hoax. That it’s a con. That it’s a fraud. And that climate scientists like me, and so many others here today, are falsifying their data and manipulating it and lying – at the same time that they were saying these things, the Earth was literally shattering its temperature record for the third year in a row,” he said.
And in many ways, anxiety about a settled scientific consensus suddenly being up for debate in the political arena was the event’s central theme.
“Facts are facts,” read one sign. “It’s not raining. It’s fake,” march organizer Nicole Stratton joked as it started to drizzle on the crowd.
But speakers also spoke broadly about the need for policy makers to be better informed by good science and data – and what could be accomplished when they were.
Melody Brown Burkins, the Associate Director for Programs and Research in the John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding and an environmental studies professor at Dartmouth, spoke about working on policy in Washington, D.C.
“I saw first-hand how access and attention to independent scientific data could both inform and shape responsible policy,” she said.
State Rep. Tim Smith, a Manchester Democrat, said that scientists, in concert with policy-makers across the globe, had been able to eradicate smallpox. And that’s not all.
“Here inside the building, a lot of you might not know this, we have a moon rock on display in the lobby. And you know how it got there? It didn’t just fall from the sky. We sent one of the greatest heroes who’s ever lived to pick it up off the ground,” he said.
Citing an estimate by police, a Concord organizer pegged the number of participants at the march’s peak at about 2,000. Another march was also held in Portsmouth.
Participants carried signs both mathematical and cheeky – “Climate change is not √ -1 (imaginary)” – or blunt – “Act now, or swim later.”
A quote by the famous astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson – “The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe it” – was also popular.
Joanne Wood came to the march from Nashua with her mother because she said too little is being done to combat climate change.
“The administration that we have right now is terrifying and the fact that we’re not moving forward on a very, very pressing and scary issue and that we’re not actively fighting against it is terrifying,” she said.
Becky and Bruce Berk came up from Hooksett to march and pick up materials from local environmental organizations they might get involved with.
“I think science and facts, and the study of science, is incredibly critical to everything that we do as a country. And I think we’ve lost our way,” Becky said.
And her husband, Bruce, said the November election had felt like a make-or-break moment.
“I think people have to make a choice now – whether to be discouraged or involved,” he said.
By Pat Grossmith
New Hampshire Union Leader
The NH March for Science was held Saturday in Concord. The event featured displays and education on the State House lawn by groups representing environmental advocacy, science education, and social and science policy. Murphy Keller, 4, and her eighth grade science teacher mom, Leanne Keller, of Plymouth, interacted with the NH Audubon Know Your Critters, Know Your Water exhibit.
A member of the Five Rivers Conservation Trust shows a map to an attendee of the NH March for Science, held Saturday in Concord. The march was held to promote public awareness and was followed by a rally and speakers' presentations on various science and environmental issues.
Mark Zankel, executive director of The Nature Conservancy of NH, describes the group's efforts to preserve and promote its more than 26,000 acres of New Hampshire lands for public access and nature conservation at the NH March for Science Saturday in Concord.
Bill Nye leads demonstrators on a march to the U.S. Capitol during the March for Science in Washington, D.C., April 22, 2017.
A woman holds a "Science Saves Lives" sign at the March for Science rally on the Common in Boston, Mass., April 22, 2017.
CONCORD — Hundreds of people gathered on the State House grounds, marched in the street and listened to scientists Saturday in celebration of science and Earth Day.
“Science saved my life,” said Stephanie Hyams, 76, of Milford.
When she was a 13-year-old living in London, she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It was 1954 and she underwent radiotherapy which, Hyams said, was called “deep X-ray” in England. It allowed her to go on and live another six decades, raise four children and enjoy four grandchildren.
She and her daughter Simone Rigden of Merrimack decided to honor all scientists and take part in the country’s first March for Science being celebrated across the nation and the world by thousands of people.
The Washington march on the National Mall might have been the largest with people filling the area back to the Washington Monument. Another 600 events took place worldwide.
Even researchers in Antarctica at Germany’s Neumayer-Station went on Twitter to express their support for the march. “Overwinterer at the Neumayer Station also support the #MarchForScience – our message of support from Antarctica!” they tweeted with a photo of themselves.
Concord participants carried signs that were nerdy: “Climate change is not the square root of negative 1 (imaginary).” Some that were funny: “Got Plague? Yeah, me neither. Thank a scientist.” There were the intellectual: “‘Eppur si moeve.’ Galileo.” In Italian it means, “And yet it moves,” attributed to the famed astonomer in 1633 after he was forced to recant his claim that the Earth moved around the sun.
Others were political: “Real Science Not Oil Profits.” “Ignorance is a WMD.” And then there were these: “When religion ruled the world it was called the Dark Ages.” “There is no Planet B.”
The New Hampshire protest drew a variety of people — scientists, professors, teachers, students and private citizens. Lori Laplante, a biology professor at St. Anselm College, attended, saying she believes it is extremely important to bring science to the public.
St. Paul’s School husband and wife science teachers Scott and Jenny Betournay attended as well to show their support. He wore his lab coat adorned with the St. Paul’s School crest.
Speakers included Brandon Boucher of Veterans Stand, who supported the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) protesters in North Dakota. He said 5,400 veterans and another 6,000 civilians joined in the protest. For now, he said, no oil is flowing through the pipe, but he said at some point it will.
He said the pipe is 150 feet down running 1,172 miles and under an aquifer that supplies water to 88 percent of the people in the United States.
The oil that will flow through it is not used in gasoline or heating oil but in plastics and other material. It is thick like peanut butter so, he said, it has to be thinned with toxic chemicals. When it finally is piped through, Boucher said it will be like sandpaper, which will eat through the pipe and cause breaks. Another speaker was Dr. Melody Burkins, associate director for programs and research at the John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding at Dartmouth College where she is also an adjunct professor of environmental studies.
She previously worked in Washington, D.C., where she said she saw how science policy decisions, shaped from within, could be uninformed, unfair and even dangerous. As a science diplomat, she said there is a need to protect and “We’re standing up not only for science but good government,” she said.
She was introduced to science at a young age growing up in Fairbanks, Alaska, where her scientist father studied the Northern Lights. She said hours after the Concord event was over, her 78-year-old father would be taking part in the Fairbanks March for Science.
Erich Osterberg, an assistant professor in the Department of Earth Science at Dartmouth College, is a climate scientist who studies glacier ice in Antarctica, Greenland and Alaska. He said we need to get past “this false debate about whether climate change is real so we can have the real debate about what are we going to do about it.”
He said he saw polar bears in Greenland looking for food. They shouldn’t be there, he said, but they are because the ice has retreated so far because of climate change.