Scientists Take to California Streets This Saturday (And Ask You to Join Them)

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Cal State University East Bay graduate student Zhengkun Hu poses with the "brain hat" he made during a Brain Hat Workshop at Hayward's Main Public Library before Hayward's upcoming Science March. (Courtesy Hayward Public Library)

Scientists, teachers, students—even pre-school kids—have been creating signs, banners and protest hats in preparation for this weekend's March for Science happening on Earth Day, Saturday April 22. (To find the march closest to you visit: March for Science.)

Organizers say the purpose of the March for Science is to celebrate and stand up for scientific research and promote the use of evidence-based science in public policy.

It's not often that scientists turn into activists, but Jon Foley, executive director of the California Academy of Sciences, says "this might be the darkest moment for scientists in America."

"Science, and fact-based decision making, is being attacked in this country like never before, and that’s dangerous for all Americans," says Foley. "It’s dangerous because it compromises our health, our safety, our security, and our economy—all for a few special interests. That’s not just anti-science, it’s unamerican."

Besides the main march  on Washington D.C.'s National Mall on April 22, there are more than 500 marches planned nationwide--41 of them local marches scheduled in California. Kishore Hari, who is coordinating logistics for marches globally, says he expects hundreds of thousands of people to turn up in cities and towns throughout California.


The biggest California rallies are planned for San Francisco, San Diego, and Los Angeles. But Hari says he expects a good turnout for smaller local marches including those in Northern California planned for Modesto, Redding and Hayward.

"I'm personally more excited about the marches in smaller towns— something really special about those," says Hari.

The Silicon Valley event in San Jose is expected one of the best attended in the Bay Area, partly because the march ends ends where Silicon Valley Comic Con is hosting a free outdoor festival, complete with costumed astronauts,  mad scientists and aliens.

Three of the Biggest Bay Area Marches:

1. San Francisco
11:00 a.m. Rally at Justin Herman Plaza
The rally starts at Justin Herman Plaza across from the Ferry Building where several speakers will talk before the march moves down Market Street and ends at Civic Center. Adam Savage, the host of Mythbusters and DJ Patil, the former U.S. Chief Data Scientist under Obama, are both scheduled to speak.

2. San Jose
11:00 a.m. March from San Jose City Hall
The march begins at city hall and travels down 4th Street to San Fernando, then ends at Plaza de Cesar Chavez. There Big Bang Theory actress Mayim Bialik, who also has a neuroscience PhD, will speak alongside Kimberly Bryant, the founder of Black Girls Code and chemist William Moerner who is a Nobel Laureate. The rally will share space with the annual Silicon Valley Comic Con's outdoor festival.

3. Sacramento
10:00 a.m. March from South Side Park
For the first two hours there will be musical performances and a protest song sing-along at the park's amphitheater before the march moves toward the Capitol at noon. At the Capitol there will be music and an interactive, all-ages science exploration zone at 9th and N Street. Speakers include Anthony Barnosky,Executive Director of Stanford’s Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve and Elizabeth Patterson, Mayor of the City of Benicia.

Local Science Marches Have Grassroots Ethos

Organizers are hoping for an unprecedented turnout by scientists on Saturday. They're also expecting people from all walks of life to participate  in protest of the administration's  plans to roll back environmental protections and undercut climate change science. On the first Earth Day almost 50 years ago this spring, some twenty million people marched in events around the country.

Nina Haft, a dance professor at California State University East Bay who lives in Hayward says she plans to participate in the Hayward Shoreline March with some of her students.

"With the current presidential administration being so hostile and antagonistic toward the EPA, I’m very concerned as a citizen of the planet that our environment will be so degraded that it won’t matter who gets elected after this," says Hart.

"There are points past which there’s no returning," says Haft about the urgency of combating global warming, "and we’re not far from those points when it comes to climate change."

Haft says she sees art as a way to reach and communicate with people about the environment and climate change, and she often incorporates science and the environment into her choreography.

"I don’t see art and science as being different worlds—they're both really creative processes of posing questions and exploring the world with a really open mind," says Haft.

Juan Vazquez is also excited about the march on Saturday and is helping organize the Modesto rally, just north of where he lives in Ceres.

Hayes Morehouse and his two-year-old son Sylvan Morehouse at Hayward's Sun Gallery. The gallery hosted a poster-making session in anticipation of the city's upcoming March for Science.
Hayes Morehouse and his two-year-old son Sylvan Morehouse at Hayward's Sun Gallery. The gallery hosted a poster-making session in anticipation of the city's upcoming March for Science. (Courtesy of Hayward's Sun Gallery)

Vazquez says he expects about 300 people to show up for the Modesto march which starts at 10 a.m. at Modesto Junior College and ends at 12pm. Students and teachers from CSU Stanislaus are scheduled to speak before the rally moves southeast toward Graceada Park where there will be an Earth Day Festival.

"I decided to organize it and get involved because I personally support the scientific community," says Vazquez.

Vazquez studied agriculture in college at CSU Stanislaus and worked in the dairy and agricultural industry before getting into green technology. In a few weeks he'll start work on the production line at Tesla's Fremont factory.

"With all the cuts that are being proposed from NASA to the Department of Energy, I feel like I need to be a part of this and make a difference."

Vazquez says he's confident that despite the Trump administration's moves, California will stand firm on climate change and developing green energy alternatives.


"I come from a farming community and you can see that even the farming community is installing solar panels. This might be a glitch on the road but I don’t think California will turn back, I think California will lead the nation."