Three weeks ago, world renowned primatologist, anthropologist and conservationist Jane Goodall took to Facebook in defense of science.
“It’s a little disturbing,” Goodall said, “to find today that there are people who are sort of belittling science and belittling the role that science can play in helping understand ourselves and what’s going on it the environment today.”
Goodall’s message was strongly received by 8-year-old Cecilia Casper, who calls Goodall her hero. The aspiring young scientist was one of over 250 people who gathered in Weigent Park Saturday morning for a satellite march of the nationwide March for Science. Based in Washington D.C., with 400 additional locations expected to participate worldwide, the nonpartisan march is both a celebration of scientific discoveries and urgent call for science-based government policy, particularly in light of President Trump’s executive order to reverse policies in place to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
“We need strong leadership for (dealing with) climate change,” said Nadia Carmosini, co-organizer of the local march along with fellow UW-L chemistry and biochemistry professor Heather Schenck. “We haven’t yet convinced our political leaders to get on board. Climate change snowballs into so many problems — we don’t want to see steps forward become steps backward.”
“We’d love for folks to come out of the march with new ideas and plans to advocate for science,” Schenck added. “One of the biggest things we can do is providing science education, and hopefully folks stayed tuned to local decision making.”
Phone numbers for state representatives were announced over megaphone as participants gathered their homemade signs with messages both political — “Make America Smart Again” — and creative, such as a man in a bee keeper suit and bug mask holding up “Swarm for Science.”
As a research ecologist, Nathan DeJager makes his living in science and says his children Halene, 10, and Samuel, 8, with wife Alesa, have reinforced how important science advocacy is.
“It impacts how everyone lives,” DeJager said.
Political science major William Gongaware, 21, held a daffodil passed out by the DeJager children as he shared his hopes for the march.
“Best case scenario, Ron Johnson listens up and says, ‘This is important,’” Gongaware said. “Hopefully you get more people calling into the (government) offices. I can’t imagine a world where everyone goes home and does nothing.”
David Polodna expressed his frustration with the current administration, and believes the feeling runs across the political spectrum.
“I think there’s a moderate side of the right that probably felt homeless for awhile who are here because they are bright, educated people,” Polonda said. “It’s important for people to show they’re tired of the ignorance and falsification heard so often in government today. It’s ridiculous to think we’re still trying to inform people when we’ve been talking about it 15, 20 years.”
Despite her age, Casper has already grasped the seriousness of the situation and is taking action. The gorilla and polar bear lover recently started a chapter of Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots. The youth led conservation and leadership program is Casper’s way of sharing the value of science with her peers.
“God made us not to destroy the world. He made us to love it,” Casper explained. “It’s important to everybody to help our community and Mother Nature.”