Metro, Boston

Science Strikes Back: Bostonians Rally for Climate Legislation

People of all ages and professions flocked to Christopher Columbus Park for the 2018 March for Science Boston: Science Strikes Back on Saturday. In 2017, tens of thousands took part in the same march to emphasize the importance of scientific knowledge in human advancement and to push for scientifically guided public policy. This year, marchers proclaimed the same vision, with an additional focus on gathering support in order to pass specific climate legislation.

350 Massachusetts, a statewide network of regional nodes that advocate for progressive climate and energy policy, hosted the event. 350 Massachusetts is supported by the Better Future Project, an organization that works to foster a grassroots movement to confront climate change and seek a renewable energy future. 350 Massachusetts’s name is telling of its mission, as the safe level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is 350 parts per million.

People carried creative, decorative signs with a variety of slogans. There was a penguin with a hole in its body where it was melting into a puddle on the ground, “Bill Nye 2020,” “Objective Reality Exists,” and more. In a row on the walkway, stands with representatives from the different nodes lined up along with other organizations. People exchanged information and talked before migrating toward the stage to hear numerous speakers—ranging from a high school student to a rapper to an ER doctor.

Walking among sign-bearers were Boston College students. A number came as part of their Planet in Peril class, others simply to support the cause. The marchers were offset by a small group of anti-protesters wearing red and talking into megaphones. From them came calls of “false science dividing us” as well as profanities.

“Seeing the white supremacist group was really crazy because I’ve been to a lot of marches and protests and never seen something like that,” said Chloe Cuggino-Zensky, MCAS ’21. “It was interesting because they go by the title of an anti-marxism organization, which sounds like just a pro capitalism group, but in real life they were saying really racist and terrible things. It was also sad because there were a lot of kids at the march and they were saying things like ‘whore’ into a megaphone.” 

Graciela Mohamedi, physics and engineering teacher at Rockland High School and part-time lecturer at Boston University, spoke of eliminating inequalities in the education system. In Massachusetts, public schools are funded equally, but shortages are mostly covered through town property taxes—creating a vast difference in funds due to differences in property value. Weston, an affluent and predominantly white community, is able to spend more than $275 per student on class supplies. Brockton, in contrast, can only spend $1.28 per student, Mohamedi said in her speech.

“We must demand an end to educational redlining,” Mohamedi said.

A story of her daughter’s fifth grade class illuminates kids’ perceptions of the adult scientific community and is in line with present inequalities.

“Her teacher asked the class to draw a picture of what they thought a scientist looked like,” Mohamedi said. “Out of her class of 25, two of them drew women and my daughter was the only one who drew a woman of color. Science is for everyone.”

Christopher Barsotti is passionate about finding solutions to gun violence. As an ER doctor, he has been on the front lines of the crisis and recognized that the problem would benefit from a public health focus. With federal funds for this research lacking, he co-founded and is the CEO of the American Foundation for Firearm Injury Reduction in Medicine (AFFIRM). This nonprofit is dedicated to raise finances for gun violence research from the private sector.

“Gun violence is the worst untreated public health problem our country is facing,” Barsotti said. “And the reason why we’re in this situation today is because we as a society have not invested in research.”

Angela Burnett, a climate change officer who witnessed hurricanes in the British Virgin Islands, gave marchers a poignant perspective on the present—and looming future—of consequences of climate change. Hurricanes may be normal in that area, but Category 5-plus hurricanes are not, she said.

Hurricanes are caused by water evaporation over the ocean, and when the water is warmer, evaporation is faster. With carbon dioxide levels rising and oceans warming it is no surprise that hurricanes are more severe. Katrina, Harvey, and Maria all exemplified this, but Irma’s wind speeds were alarming: At landfall it reached 185 mph, the strongest in Atlantic history. In response, Burnett wrote a collection of 25 survivor stories, entitled The Irma Diaries: Compelling Survivor Stories from The Virgin Islands.

“Irma left over a third of our population without a house roof, or without a house at all,” Burnett said. “90 percent of business and other structures were damaged or lost. It took six months to fully restore electricity, and we were months without running water.”

Featured Image by Keely Dickes / For the Heights

April 16, 2018