More than five thousand scientists, activists, and advocates gathered at Cal Anderson Park in Seattle to protest “alternative facts”, the Trump Administration’s cuts to the National Institute of Health, NASA, and the EPA, and the promotion of unscientific theories. Ed Murray, Jay Inslee, and Suzan DelBene (all Democrats) had an opportunity to address the crowd.
In brief interviews, the three elected officials spoke on their relationships to science.
Ed Murray – “Facts should determine how we create policy, not the other way around. When I look at myself, not just as a mayor and an elected official, where we really need to understand what the science says as we work on an issue, but also personally, as a gay man, science has meant that my friends got better, and went back to work. Without facts, without science, the would have continued to die. It’s going to be up to the people who are here today to support institutions like Fred Hutch and the University of Washington.”
Jay Inslee – “We need science to influence politics. We need to have politics built on a foundation of science, not the other way around. People with ideological agendas have been trying to suppress science and I am thrilled that we now have a movement for scientific rights just like we have had a movement for civil rights. My dad was a biology teacher, so maybe I’ve always respected science. My daughter in law is a forensic scientist… You can’t repeal the laws of thermodynamics.”
Suzan DelBene – “Science shouldn’t be political, in fact, that’s the importance of the scientific process. Having ideas, experimenting, testing hypothesis and getting results and learning from that. Science should inform policy, I think it makes us better decision makers when we learn and debate and look at information and facts. I was educated as a scientist, my first career was a scientist doing biomedical research, so that’s helped me become a better policy maker I think, in terms of listening to many ideas, having a healthy debate, learning and trying to make the best decisions possible based on that and being open to new ideas and new solutions. That will make us better policy makers overall. I’m concerned about science becoming partisan. I’m concerned about the lack of investment for important basic research by NIH and the National Science Foundation, that cuts studies made there. That means we’re not only cutting off research today, but the impact that research could have on our future.”
After Jay Inslee finished his speech and before Ed Murray spoke, activists from Block The Bunker took the stage as others caused distractions. Two activists were arrested by SPD for attempting to speak on “issues that matter the most to communities most impacted by capitalism and white supremacy”. The message they intended to deliver is below.
While Murray, Inslee, and DelBene may have been some of the bigger names to speak, the biggest crowd response was given to Tyler Valentine, a 21 year old student at the University of Washington studying Earth and Space Sciences, Physics, and Astronomy.
This is his full speech, March for Science Speech – Tyler Valentine
As the march wound it’s way down Pine onto 4th Ave, chants of “Science! Science!” echoed off the buildings as people joined from the sidewalks. Although the march itself was peaceful, a small group of street preachers with megaphones, large banners, and a cross, were surrounded by marchers as their message of fire and brimstone was met with chants of “Science Saves”. The Seattle chapter of the Satanic Temple followed close behind throwing in a “Hail Satan (Sagan?)” on occasion.
Dennis Nguyen with his “Alternative Cat” Tuna
Nitin Beliga is a 45 year old microbiologist – “There are problems that need to be solved regarding the environment, regarding health, education. The only way to solve the problem is understanding what the problems are and then apply the scientific method to solve the problem. I am an immigrant. I grew up in India and I came here for my graduate school. It gave me a lot of opportunities. I identify myself as a person who can think for myself and do what’s right, because of the freedom I have in this country. That’s why I came here. The budget that’s been proposed could decimate science as we know it. It will decimate education. If you just focus on the bottom line and ignore the investments that are necessary, innovation will run dry. By killing science now, we are destroying our future.”
Lauren Vandepas is a 31 year old PhD student studying marine biology – “In our nation, the government is the major funding arm of science, especially basic research. Those investments have led us to be a technological, medical, and military powerhouse. I am a marine biologist and I was hoping to work for NOAA.
As the march made it’s way to Seattle Center, a small brass band stood on the corner of Fisher Plaza playing the theme song to Bill Nye The Science Guy.
While the street preachers may have been drowned out, a woman at Seattle Center caught the attention of several passersby as she announced the earth was flat. This is her story.
“Lisa”, a flat-earther
AG: “Did you say that we’re not?”
Lisa: “We are not on a ball in space. The science has shown that there is no curvature. You cannot prove the curvature that they have given us scientific facts for. They say scientifically we are on a ball, 25,000 miles in circumference. But there isn’t a curvature that coincides with that, according to what they give us, which is 8 inches per mile squared. So if you go from here to Tacoma, you should be going over a really big hump, but we’re not, we don’t do that.”
AG: “But, you can see the curvature of the earth when you’re on an airplane, right?”
Lisa: “No. You cannot.”
AG: “What is that you’re seeing?”
Lisa: “I don’t see that. First of all, they have fish eye windows on the planes and you aren’t seeing that. We have been conditioned to think that we are seeing some things, but you aren’t seeing that. You aren’t seeing a curve. I’ve never seen a curve on a plane. You can get footage on youtube of all sorts of people flying and the horizon meets your eye.”
AG: “What about video and photos from space?”
Lisa: “There are no photos from space. Those are all images put together by NASA.”
AG: “But, there are people up in space right now, taking photos of the earth?”
Lisa: “The whole earth or just a portion of the flat plane?”
AG: “Well, what they can see.”
Lisa: “Yeah, what they can see. You have never seen a photo of the whole ball.”
AG: “When they’re orbiting and they take video of that orbit, what are they orbiting if not a round sphere?”
Lisa: “Why can’t it’s be around a plane?”
AG: “How do we have photos of the Arctic and Antarctica?”
Lisa: “They don’t have a photo of the Arctic and the Antarctica continent, it’s a circular enclosure. Have you looked into this at all? Because I’m not going to give you the basics if you haven’t even looked at it.”
AG: “I’m just trying to understand how people can feel this way if they have all the information presented to them.”
Lisa: “Well, the same way that people who live on a globe feel the way they feel. Except my facts are actually prove-able. I don’t have the money to go down to Antarctica and do these things but there are lots of high altitude footage of planes that see no curve. No curve at all, for as high as you can go. I’m not a scientist.”
AG: “There are people here who are scientists though.”
Lisa: (yelling to the passing crowd of protestors) “How big is planet earth today? How big around? How big around is planet earth today?”
Some guy in the crowd: “About 24,000 miles!”
Lisa: “Excellent.! You win the prize! But it’s not, it’s a flat plane!”
AG: “Someone just answered your question.”
Lisa: “Yeah, but, 99% of these people don’t even know how big around the earth is, that they’re supposedly on.”
AG: “Ok, but we haven’t fallen off.”
Lisa: “It’s not like that. You’re not really informed. You’re thinking of things that somebody told you. It’s a level experience. We’re on a level plane. That’s why it’s called the horizon, that’s why it’s called sea level. Water is level.”
AG: “Ok. Thank you for your time…”
I returned for additional video.
A Block The Bunker activist is prevented from finishing their statement
Block The Bunker statement:
“The land that we’re standing on is that of the Duwamish people, a nation our federal government refuses to recognize.
Many of you are here because you are outraged and afraid of how the president’s cuts to science funding will shape the future. This anger and fear is real, and there are also many people who have been dealing with attacks like this for much longer than these past 3 months. Undocumented communities, incarcerated and formerly incarcerated folks, unhoused communities, disabled people, queer and trans and gender nonconforming folks, Native Americans, and Black and Brown people have been challenging state-sponsored abuse for hundreds and hundreds of years. They have a lot of wisdom and experience.
But the March for Science opted to ignore these groups. Many grassroots organizers of color tried to work with the March for Science from the beginning and were told they weren’t welcome. Here in Seattle, a white man with no background in social justice whatsoever took charge of this March simply by being the first to volunteer, and he (and the white woman he selected to help him) consistently refused to allow grassroots social justice organizers into the room, let alone into the leadership.
This statement was written by a multiracial group of organizers and scientists to start a conversation; however, the people you see here are white because we face far less risk than people of color taking an action like this, and because you all are more likely to listen to us.
This March is an example of white supremacist cis-hetero-patriarchy and colonialism. White supremacy says that white people should direct something like this March and ignore expert people of color. A colonial mentality assumes that white folks with no experience challenging systemic oppression have more right to control the resources than the very people who have been fighting oppressive social structures forever. Resources like the $40,000 donated to this march, and your attention. The thousands of people here want to do something that will make a difference for science, and this could have been an entry point to deconstructing why our science feels threatened in the first place and a powerful action to challenge the root causes of those threats, but instead, it is a parade, with a few people of color in positions where they can’t challenge the racist structure of the march; an event where you will be patted on the head just for showing up.
Indigenous peoples, poor and working class folks, Black and Brown communities, incarcerated people, women, queer folks, and disabled people have been creating and practicing resistance for at least the past 500 years. The frontlines of struggles against the Dakota Access Pipeline and the front lines of a Black Lives Matter protest; these are the frontlines of human achievement for resistance.
But here in Seattle, we’re losing the fight against gentrification. Black elders are being thrown out of the homes where they raised children and grandchildren. Community centers are being destroyed and replaced with expensive condos. For every $100 increase in rent, there is a 15 to 30% increase in homelessness. The science and tech community is deeply complicit in this gentrification. It doesn’t matter if we don’t intend to force out black families: if anyone refuses to leave when the rent spikes, the sheriffs show up with guns and do the dirty work for us, as we’ve seen with the recent eviction of Black Dot and the Umojafest Peace Center in the Central District. Push back by advocating for affordable housing! Speak out against the wasteful and abusive practice of sweeping homeless encampments from one side of the city to the other. Get to know your neighbors and learn the history of your neighborhood. And if you have money to invest, work with the long-term residents of gentrifying areas, or groups like Africatown, to form community land trusts.
You see, what we have done up to this point is not enough. Science today too often reflects the ugly biases of our society. Scientific integrity requires us to have a heart and soul; without those, the unimaginably cruel abuses of history will be repeated. I’m talking about things like the forced sterilizations of women of color in the US, the experiments on enslaved Black people and Native children in boarding schools, and of course, the science used to justify the Holocaust.
When we awaken to the horrors of the world we live in, it is really easy to respond with guilt, defensiveness, or shame. Let’s channel these feelings into collective action, action that supports the leadership of communities that are hit first and hit worst. Radical wealth redistribution is part of this — techies, I’m looking at you!
The Duwamish tribe has a beautiful longhouse where you can educate yourself about the original people of the interior. One of the most effective ways to fight climate change is to support Native people’s struggles for their treaty rights: so if your bank is invested in the Dakota Access Pipeline, switch to a credit union! Keep an eye out for Native-led resistance around the ports: various oil and coal terminals are in the works, and indigenous advocacy has been and continues to be crucial for environmental justice.
In Tacoma for the past two weeks, the Northwest Detention Center Resistance has been camped out in front of the private prison in solidarity with undocumented immigrants on a hunger strike. They have demands like, “we want to be able to hug our children before we are deported.” They need support: money, tents, phone calls to various officials — go to their facebook page, Northwest Detention Center Resistance, to find out where to plug in.
Construction has begun on King County’s new youth jail. This $210 million dollar investment in our children’s failures is going forward despite the fact that all evidence says that putting kids in cages is counterproductive. Ignoring the data on youth incarceration and continuing spend hundreds of millions to harm these children violates everything that science should be about. Dow Constantine could cancel this jail if he wanted to, and he’s running for re-election this year. Tell Dow Constantine that you will not vote for him if he continues to spend $210 million dollars to traumatize children! Follow Block The Bunker or No New Youth Jail — Seattle or Ending the Prison Industrial Complex on facebook for updates, and don’t contribute to the problem by calling the cops on people, because we know that police and prisons traumatize and kill people of all ages, especially Black and Brown youth and disabled folks.
The threat that science is facing is deeply connected to the threats that this society has made against everyone who is not a straight, cisgender, able-bodied, neurotypical, wealthy male citizen. Together, by digging down to the common root of our problems, we can fight back. ‘Diversity’ is not enough. We need our own humanity, and we need to protect the humanity of our comrades-in-arms. We need decolonization. Thank you.”