FREE SPEECH: Reason Reigns

By on April 18, 2017

People will march in the name of science and its inextricable link to life in Jackson Hole on Saturday.

JACKSON HOLE, WY – Scientists are about to get rowdy.

In response to President Trump gutting the ,Clean Power Plan his proposal to slash funding to the Environmental Protection Agency, and his administration’s overall rejection of science, people are taking to the streets. This Saturday thousands of pragmatic humans will take part in the March for Science, a nationwide Earth Day celebration.

The main march takes place in Washington D.C. with satellite marches planned in communities around the country and the world, including Jackson Hole. Local organizers invite the community to gather at the Home Ranch Visitor Center parking lot 10 a.m. Saturday for a march followed by speakers and a science fair.

“Where better than Jackson to acknowledge how important science is to our everyday lives?” said local march co-organizer Joan Anzelmo. “We live at the doorstep to national parks and forests, with clean air, clean water and abundant wildlife. Science is critical to understanding our ecosystems.”

Following the march, participants will rally in the Town Square and hear remarks from nationally renowned geologist and geophysicist Dr. Bob Smith and Jackson behavioral scientist Ryan Burke. Several local organizations will host booths on the square to highlight their scientific work and accomplishments.            

“I want to send a message to our nation, this community, and certainly our elected officials of how very important science is,” said march co-organizer Elisa Stephens.

On the local level, organizers chose the theme “Science saves lives.” Stephens said she knows this both from her work as a nurse practitioner and on a personal level.

“Each year, scientific research in the field of medicine offers amazing treatments and procedures,” she said. “I recognize the importance of science in my career daily, but it became even more personal one year ago when my daughter was born with a congenital heart defect.”

When her daughter was six weeks old, Stephens traveled to Philadelphia where she could have a life-saving heart procedure. Now, like most toddlers, she is full of energy and curiosity. Stephens credits science and modern medicine for her daughter’s good health.

Organizers on the national stage say the march is necessary to push back against the anti-science sentiment of the Trump administration.

“Scientific discovery and innovation are a critical part of our nation and our future,” said March for Science national co-chair Caroline Weinberg. “Despite this fact, science and scientists, and evidence based policies are under attack. Policymakers threaten our present and future by ignoring scientific evidence when crafting policy, threatening scientific advancement through budget cuts, and limiting the public’s knowledge by silencing scientists.”

The symbolism of Earth Day is not lost on March for Science organizers. Earth Day originated in 1970 when millions of Americans gathered for the first time to demand federal action on environmental policies. The action spurred the creation of EPA.

Denis Hayes, an organizer with the Earth Day Network, noted that science as well as EPA is under assault. “With an administration stocked with climate change deniers and the specter of devastating cuts to basic scientific research, scientists and all those who cherish good science are stepping forward to be heard.”

Locally, Anzelmo said the all-volunteer organizing group reflects a variety of scientific interests. “We have gone out of the way to make this non-partisan,” she said. “We think science should be part of decision making in government at all levels.”

Local march co-organizer Megan Kohli said that she got involved with the march to send a message to politicians that their constituents insist on sound science in public policy.

“It’s not only about climate change, which seems to be the source of a lot of the anti-science sentiments,” Kohli said. “Science is so important for our economy, especially right now when we depend on brilliant minds in science and technology.”

Anzelmo pointed to the important role science plays locally in maintaining the economic health of Jackson Hole. “We are in a one-of-a-kind, world-class ecosystem,” she said. “Science has helped preserve this place that we love. We will not have a sustainable economy if it’s not based in science.” PJH

March for Science 10 a.m. Saturday, April 22 at the Home Ranch Visitor Center parking lot. Rally for Science with featured speakers at 10:45 a.m. at the Town Square.

About Meg Daly

Meg Daly is a freelance writer and arts instigator. She grew up in Jackson in the 1970s and 80s, when there were fewer fences, but less culture. Follow Meg on Twitter @MegDaly1

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