Hundreds gather in Concord and worldwide in celebration of science, Earth Day
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.