Lauren Marnel Shores
On Earth Day, a crowd of 4,000 gathered downtown as the Santa Barbara community showed their support during the Santa Barbara March for Science. The event acted as a sister march for the one taking place in Washington D.C. and the five hundred others transpiring around the world.
At noon, the demonstration began outside Santa Barbara’s City Hall and ended in Alameda Park at the Earth Day Festival. There, Earth Day celebrations continued throughout the afternoon, including an area where participants could hang their signs from the march as a token of their continual support for science. Among them included signs stating “Science is not an alternative fact” and “There is no Plan(et) B.”
The event was organized by Jorie Mitchell, a biology student at Santa Barbara City College, and Hannah Armer, a biology student at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “Their goal is to highlight the importance of science education” and fight against a presidential administration that “has made comments hostile to science,” explained emcee Susan Epstein, a member of the Goleta School Board. “The March for Science is a public demonstration for science, scientists, and evidence based policy making.”
“I think the country is definitely taking notice. Whether or not the people running our government are too is questionable, because they seem to not care about science in the first place,” said Swetha Cherukuri, a first year physics student at UCSB.
Shelby Vexler, a first year biology major at UCSB, shared this feeling, stating, “I’m not so sure about our government. I think change has to come from outside.” Vexler touched on her fear that, with the federal defunding of science programs, there may be no money left for the field she hopes to study.
Despite these fears, Vexler still remains encouraged by the support she saw from the march and from other citizens around the country. “I’m hopeful that if people really raise awareness, they can petition for change,” Vexler said.
Preceding the march were speeches by State Senator Hannah Beth Jackson, Mayor Helene Schneider, and scientists Dr. Karl Hutterer, Dr. Denise Knapp, Dr. Debora Iglesias-Rodriguez, and Dr. Raeanne Napoleon.
As introduction, a member from the Chumash people performed a song passed down for generations from the Four Corners as a “continuing link between man and the supernatural.”
“I am reminded by our Chumash elders,” Jackson said later, “that we did not inherit this planet from our ancestors, we have borrowed it from our children.”
The speeches served as a way of exciting the crowd, reminding participants of the cause they stood in support of. “Science is what has directed us, what has inspired us, what has motivated us, and what has given us the opportunity to make this a better world,” announced Jackson. “We are here today because we know that truth comes from scientific research. The truth is fact based, not alternative fact based. Alternative facts are not facts at all.”
“I just hope [Trump’s administration] can take their heads out of their asses and see that science isn’t fake. They can’t just call something they don’t like fake,” lamented Cherukuri. “At this point in the political climate, to be conservative means you have to not like science, which is really sad. Science is true, no matter what party you believe in.”
“Gone are the days of the passive citizen, and especially the passive scientist,” said Napoleon. As many signs put it, “the oceans are rising, and so are we.”