The March for Science Chicago Review - Science Rocks!

Science Rocks! That was the consensus among the over 40,000 attendees of the Chicago March for Science held on Saturday, April 22, 2017 joining approximately 600 other marches in cities around the world commemorating Earth Day, and calling for more commitment to science, and respect for scientific theory, process and data. The over one mile march began with a rally on Columbus Drive near Grant Park, and ended at the Field Museum where marchers enjoyed a wide variety of exhibits displayed by ecological, research, medical, and otherwise scientific groups at the March for Science Chicago Expo.



One of the event’s organizers, Adam Arcus, began the rally, and drew cheers when he said that “Science is the beating heart of Chicago’s broad shoulders,” and told the crowd that the combined marches that day created the largest science event in history.



The Keynote Speaker at the rally was Emily Graslie, the Chief Curiosity Correspondent at the Field Museum, and writer of “The Brain Scoop,” a You Tube channel about natural history museums and the culture of animal preservation and natural history. Graslie, originally an art student, began her science communication career as an activist working to save decaying century old animal specimens in a university natural history museum. She told the crowd that she envisioned the March for Science as a graduation of sorts, “the preface of a new book, in spite of what I read in the news and online every day that our world is doomed and the planet is turning into a dumpster fire, I can’t help but be hopeful for the future if we put in the work, energy, and time needed to face the challenges ahead.” Graslie’s data for her hopefulness included that “our common ancestors survived five mass extinction events on this planet already.” Her final message to marchers was to “participate… engage in citizen science projects, elevate the voice of scientists… and above all, commit yourself to curiosity… the first step to empathy.”



Karen Weigert, the first Chief Sustainability Officer for the City of Chicago, now Senior Fellow for The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, spoke about working to achieve the City’s over 180 year old motto: “City in a Garden,” and making the city cleaner and more efficient by taking coal out of the energy supply, making buildings more energy efficient, building green rooftops and rebuilding playgrounds.

Gary Cooper, the CEO of Rheaply, Inc. a platform to increase collaboration among scientists and reduce waste of scientific resources, remarked that “science is in trouble.” He called for marchers to rally to it’s defense because: “Science is for everyone and science is done for everyone.” Another speaker, Dr. Lee Bitsoi, of Rush University, talked about the need for diversity in biomedical and social science research. A proud member of the Navajo Nation, Bitsoi called for inclusion of all people because their input could help solve problems in a way that helps everyone referring to the standoff at Standing Rock regarding the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The March for Science Chicago, was an event for members of the scientific community, but also for children. During her speech, Karen Weigert mentioned her daughter’s comments about science, it’s fun, you can do things, and others can build on them. Fredy Lopez, an eighth grader at Simmons Middle School, and winner of the statewide essay contest for the March for Science Chicago read his essay. Fredy asked marchers to have no racism, but curiosity. He said that he likes science because “anyone’s idea can make a difference.” Many of the best signs at the rally were made by children with crayons, markers and their creativity.

Among the creative signage, and displays were two large fossil T-Rexes by Jabberwocky Marionettes, an international puppet theater and artist group that often works with the Field Museum. Amber Marsh, artist and puppeteer, revealed that T-Rexes were originally created for a Halloween Parade, and she was glad to be able to use them again for the march. Other signs cleverly used word play with science and science fiction references.



The March for Science Chicago was a refreshing event about serious matters that affect life and death on a large scale, and in very personal ways, but done in a way that was accessible to all, scientists, non-scientists, communicators, introverts, parents, grandparents, and children.



Photos by Ellen Beth Gill


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