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Thousands in Portland march in name of science
Mother Nature was appropriately unexpected on Earth Day, as April 22's skies above Portland first gave way to rain, sunshine, rain again, and then finally partly cloudy skies as the sun peeked through.
And beneath those erratic skies, armed with umbrellas and signs, were thousands of demonstrators at Tom McCall Waterfront Park, there to march in the name of science. The March for Science occurred in hundreds of cities across the nation and world on Earth Day.
Some of those who stomped the same grounds only a few months prior for the Women's March found their way back for the March for Science, as folks in pink "pussy hats" could be seen in the crowd. The hats were a project of the Women's March.
The March for Science's crowd was somewhat calmer than the Women's March, which was an audience electrified, fresh of the heels of President Donald Trump's inauguration as the president of the United States in January. Though it was billed the Women's March, it drew thousands upon thousands of people with an array of agendas, from women's rights to immigration to health care.
The March for Science, however — announced not long after the Women's March — had a much more focused group of protestors.
Many were in costumes to support whatever particular field of science they may have a stake or interest in, including astronauts, white lab coats, bio suits and even someone dressed as an ant.
Bruce Adams was dressed in a full white suit and lab goggles, holding a sign that read "Respect science and technology, a good future depends on it!" He works in a clean room at Applied Materials Inc., a company with offices in Portland that produces materials for the semi-conductor industry, including for computers, smartphones and high-definition televisions. He's worked in the industry since 1967, having traveled all over the world for science, including work in Antarctica.
Adams found his way to the March for Science in Portland not only because of threats posed by the current administration — one that plans to slash the budget for the Environmental Protection Agency, and rolled back climate regulations — but also what he sees as society devaluing of the field as a whole.
"This culture needs to respect science. The whole basis of our technology is on science. If we give it up, we'll go back to the Stone Age," he said. "I think it's been going on for quite a while. Technology has become kind of an icon. People don't really understand the basis of it."
Many signs in the crowd read "Make America Think Again," a riff on Trump's campaign slogan, Make America Great Again. Other signs read things like "Science and reason matter," "Climate change is not false news," "The oceans are rising and so are we," and a few references to the cult Adult Swim science fiction television show, "Rick & Morty."
Before the march officially began, which started at the park's waterfront under Morrison Bridge, ventured down Naito Parkway, up Fourth Avenue and back to the park, U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici empowered the crowd. She is the founder and co-chair of the STEAM caucus, a bipartisan congressional group that encourages integration of arts and design with science, technology, engineering and math education.
She's also a member of a number of other science-related committees. She said she would be fighting for investments in research, an effort that "requires long-term thinking."
Bonamici offered the crowd hope in that there is a Climate Solutions Caucus with an equal number of democrats and republicans in Congress willing to tackle climate change.
"Science is not a partisan issue (and) should not be a partisan issue, so there is a little bit of hope," she said.
After, U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer riled the crowd, noting that it's illegal to collect data on gun violence by the National Institute for Health. It was greeted with a loud round of boos.
"It's illegal to use evidence on the effectiveness of medical procedures to guide what the federal government pays for," he said. "This stuff is crazy. Not being able to use an evidence-based approach has dangerous consequences."
Both Blumenauer and Bonamici applauded the thousands who decided to march on the waterfront on Earth Day.
"We are going to go back to Washington, D.C., with all of you in our mind — this beautiful sea of science supporters," Bonamici said, "and fight for research, fight for science, fight for clean air, fight for clean water, and fight for our planet. So stay engaged, please. This is just the beginning."