Hundreds turn out for March for Science in downtown Las Vegas

Yesenia Alarcon held the hand of her 5-year-old son in one hand and a sign reading, “May the Forest Be With You” in the other as the two participated in the March for Science in downtown Las Vegas.

She said her son, Joey, picked out the quote.

Alarcon said she attended Saturday’s rally because her friend runs a nonprofit organization that educates the Latino community about environmental issues. She brought Joey along because she felt he is old enough to be exposed to the movement.

“It’s not so much about being a tree-hugging hippie anymore,” Alarcon said of her reasons for attending. “It’s creating a sustainable future for my son.”

They joined the hundreds of people wearing science-themed clothing and carrying pro-Earth picket signs who had gathered Saturday morning in an Arts District parking lot in the name of science. The march was one of hundreds held in cities around the world on Saturday, which was also Earth Day.

The crowd included a young girl about 10 wearing a shirt stamped with the word “Steminist,” which was circled by math equations and illustrations of atom molecules and referred to the education acronym STEM, standing for science, technology, engineering and math.

A man carried a sign that read “Women belong in the lab,” with a drawing of two girls wearing lab coats and safety goggles and holding beakers. Near him stood a girl with flowers woven into her red braid and a recycling symbol and miniature Earth painted on each of her cheeks.

Teach the children

Amy Robinson, a 55-year-old day care operator, carried a sign reading “There’s no Planet B.”

For her, she said, the march was about not burying facts.

Unfettered access to education is the only way to minimize the carbon footprint humans have left on the Earth, she said.

“Education starts at birth and so we have to decide what we’re going to teach children,” Robinson said. “I’m at the very beginning of things.”

Robinson held an Earth Day event for the children at her day care on Friday. Students explored flowers for a sensory learning experience.

“With little kids you can’t flip open their head and pour information in there,” Robinson said. “But if you get them to love nature and love animals and love the things that they can do outdoors … you can get them to love the environment and they’ll start seeking out their own information as they get older.”

A 47-year-old biology teacher from the College of Southern Nevada echoed Robinson’s concerns. He was prompted to attend the march, his first ever, after he searched federal websites such as the Environmental Protection Agency’s for data during a class and couldn’t access it.

“That’s pretty scary to me, that in such a short period of time the data and information that I and my students have access to all of a sudden just goes away,” said Wainscott, who has taught biology at the college for 18 years. “And it’s not because it’s not valid information, it’s just because some people want to suppress it.”

Wainscott held a sign with an original haiku: “Empiricism trumps your alternative facts, revealing one truth.”

“I think we’ve seen plenty of evidence of the suppression of science taking place,” Wainscott said, “and it’s time for all of us to get engaged and ensure we’re using science to make the best decisions possible for all our futures.”

While people took pictures of one another’s signs and exchanged “Happy Earth Day” greetings, the Phenomenauts, a science rock band from California, took to the stage.

“We’re a local band, we’re from right here on Earth,” the singer said before the band launched into an Earth-themed rendition of “Be True to Your School” by The Beach Boys.

Among the many scientists who spoke before the crowd Saturday was geology professor Melissa Giovanni, who commended attendees for recycling and carpooling, but said it’s not enough anymore. She urged the crowd to demand that politicians make decisions in their constituents’ best interests, not their own.

“We are citizens first, and scientists second. What happens to the world happens to us,” Giovanni said. “This is not partisan, but it is political, because there are politicians that are making decisions that affect our health, our well-being and our planet.

“When we see them making decisions that are not based on the best scientific evidence available, when they are actively, deliberately ignoring facts, we will stand up and we will push them back into a reality-based universe.”

UNLV psychology professor Noelle Lefforge encouraged crowd members to “take a stand against the tide of anti-intellectualism” and call their representatives to protest President Donald Trump’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2018, which would cut federal funding for the EPA and Department of Energy research, among other things.

“We cannot let policy dictate the types of questions science asks. We cannot let policy dictate the answers to the questions,” Lefforge said. “I will not apologize for having a methodological approach to knowing about the world. I will not apologize for knowing things that improve the world.”

Attendees shouted words of agreement and encouragement, and hoisted picket signs that read, “Pi is all the irrationality I need,” “There are no jobs on a dead planet,” and “I’m with her” beneath two red arrows pointed to a drawing of the Earth.

Contact Kimber Laux at klaux@reviewjournal.com. Follow @lauxkimber on Twitter.

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