Marching for Science in Boston

, Gender Schema Lab from Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Boston University, April 22, 2017.

By Deborah Belle

The Trump presidency has put many things at risk, not least the project of utilizing science for the public good. Scientific research budgets are slashed, and current scientific knowledge is actively suppressed when it conflicts with profits for wealthy individuals and corporations.

On Saturday, April 22, defenders of science spoke out in marches and rallies around the country. In Boston many marchers met  at local universities and hospitals, rallied there, and then marched to the Boston Common to join others who had gone to the Common directly.

I joined the Boston March in front of the Metcalf Science Center at Boston University where the focus was on young speakers, many of them undergraduates, who spoke of the value of science, and of getting involved in the political process so that knowledge we have gained through scientific study can be used to save the planet.

One excellent speaker also noted that science is not always utilized for the public good, that scientific theories have been used to disempower already marginalized people. Scientific knowledge is a tool that can be used in many ways, and it is up to us to make sure that it is used to benefit all of us, not simply the wealthy few. Other speakers remarked on the necessity of making our scientific workforce increasingly diverse, so that the insights and life experiences of all can help  create a science that truly works for all.

We set off down Commonwealth Avenue toward the Boston Common to the accompaniment of a great HONK-style band. Spirits were high, as people recognized friends in the crowd, and enjoyed the creative signs of fellow marchers. In the light drizzle, the colors on my SCIENCE NOT SILENCE poster, drawn in erasable marker, began to run, forming what many described as a Monet-like impressionist painting. No matter, there were plenty of legible signs left, and the music was great.

At one wonderful moment the Cambridge contingent from Harvard and MIT joined with us, the currents of marchers combining beautifully. We crossed the Public Garden and strode on to the Common. The crowd that met us there was large and continued to grow as we listened to speakers and cheered at every pause. A few in the crowd wore pink pussy hats, a reminder of the great Women’s March in January. Some also wore hats ingeniously knitted to suggest brains.

One focus of the day was children, who seemed to be everywhere, sometimes serving as delightful props as well as participants. One expressive infant was with a poster proclaiming, “Born to Discover.” Another was wrapped in the words, “Save the earth for me.” Others were dressed as astronauts with their own rocket-ship decorated strollers. Children spoke from the speakers’ platform, reading their award-winning essays on the importance of science and its relevance to them. A clear message was the need in all our political decision-making to think of future generations.


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7 Responses to Marching for Science in Boston

  1. Barbara says:

    How brave of everyone to be standing out in the wet weather, protesting against the trumpist attack on science. The weeping of your signs in the rain is an apt symbol of your courage. Right on, ladies!

  2. LB says:

    Science has definitely helped to identify and bring attention to certain environmental issues many of us might not otherwise have been aware of, with one example being the extreme deforestation associated with our over-consumption of palm-oil and the destructive effects on indigenous culture, habitat, wildlife and climate:

    “What is palm oil, what does it have to do with climate change and what does it have to do with NASA?

    Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil from the fruit of the West African oil palm tree. It is used for biofuel, cosmetics, snack foods, ice cream, lotion and soap, and is in about half of all products on store shelves. The oil palm tree is grown in tropical regions (mostly in Indonesia and Malaysia, but now spreading all over the tropics, including Africa), and rain forests are being cleared to make room for more of this crop. Since rain forests are the largest carbon sinks, when destroyed they release massive amounts of carbon dioxide. Deforestation is the second largest manmade source of atmospheric carbon dioxide, after fossil fuel burning.”

    Since palm oil goes by more than 200 different names ~and is in everything from shampoo, conditioner, bar soap, dish and laundry detergent, cleaning products, make-up, sunscreen, and a bunch of ‘food’ products ~ trying to properly vet the various items can be extremely time consuming and frustrating. I’ve also found it not at all uncommon for well-intentioned store owners or employees to assume certain organically-sourced products (especially ones produced by smaller companies) are palm-oil free, when if fact they may not be.

    For anyone interested in switching to products without palm-oil or containing so-called sustainably-sourced palm oil (which is debatable), here’s a site I’ve found helpful:

    And here’s another site listing the more than 200 names palm-oil goes by:

    It can be very difficult finding palm-free products, and I occasionally give in. Just today I was sold a product by the owner of a small shop who assured me the item was palm-oil free . . . but when I got home and checked out the website of the company who made it, I realized this may or may not be the case. So now the next step is for me to email the company to ask about the specific source of the “glycerin (vegetable)” they’ve listed as an ingredient ~ which could be from soy, coconut or palm.

    • kathiemm says:

      Thanks LB for all this valuable information and for being a role model on how to deal with this example of environmental despoliation.

  3. LB says:

    My own cultural conditioning and expectation of convenience has been (and is) tough to overcome ~ which makes me more of a messenger than role-model. I still occasionally purchase items containing palm-oil, frozen-vegetables packaged in plastic, buy new ‘things’ I don’t really need but want, sometimes ride in my husband’s car instead of walking or taking public transportation, use running water, electricity and natural gas every day, and (reluctantly) replace older technology when it no longer works.

    Without illusion or exaggeration, I understand my whole comfortable way of life is largely based on technological and scientific ‘advancements’ and that my participation exploits and contributes to our world’s suffering and eventual demise ~ which is why, and though I appreciate your encouragement Kathie, I know I’m not a role model.

    • kathiemm says:

      OK, I won’t insist on labeling you a role model, but you provide a lot of food for thought on critically important issues, and suggest positive and forward-looking ways of dealing with those issues that you at least try to pursue.

      • LB says:

        For another, more holistic perspective on our challenges (one I’ve *always* intuitively sensed to be true and which I alluded to in my previous comment about not being a role-model), the following link is to the transcript of a talk given by research scientist and author, Dr. Michael Huesemann:

        In his talk, which was part of a larger panel discussion, he concludes by making three main points:

        “First, be critical of any technology.”

        “Second, recognize that every technology has serious limitations and that the application always has unintended consequences that are unpredictable by the scientific method.”

        “Third, advanced technologies will not save us and some may well destroy us.”

        There’s also the 2011 documentary, “Surviving Progress” based on the bestselling book (“A Short History of Progress”) by Ronald Wright:

        I’m not criticizing the march or marchers, only offering an explanation for my previous comment.

  4. LB says:

    Thanks, Kathie. I appreciate that you find some of the information in my contributions helpful.

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