The Ants Go Marching

By Allie Brown

As I walked onto the Seattle Link to get to Capitol Hill for the march, I noticed hundreds of people were joining me. When I got to Capitol Hill, I saw that thousands were. The highly-publicized March for Science took place worldwide on Earth Day this year and even though I am writing this over two weeks later, the Facebook page still has 13,575 members. But who were those marchers and why were they marching? I saw people with all sorts of signs that indicated what the proud bearers were marching for. They included statements such as ‘I’m With Her’ next to a drawing of the world, ‘There Is No Planet B,’ ‘Fund Science Not War,’ and ‘Ice Does Not Have a Political Agenda It Just Melts.’ These signs were related to climate science and science funding, while others I saw stated things like ‘Resist Trump,’ ‘Science Trumps Lies,’ and ‘Socialism Now,’ which were more clearly grounded in anger at the current political situation. The diversity of these messages told me that people were marching for different reasons, even if those reasons ultimately overlap in several ways. Inference from signs aside, I knew the best way to discover people’s purpose and driving force for attendance at the March was simply to ask.


She stands by the light rail station waiting for a fellow marcher and slowly sipping her coffee. Her bright shirt reads “SCIENCE IS NOT A LIBERAL CONSPIRANCY” making me think she’s an extrovert, but her shy look and hesitant agreement to be interviewed reads introvert.

What is your connection to science?

I studied science in college and I work in science. I work for a biotech company that makes cancer drugs so it’s what I do all day every day.

What is your biggest worry about the state of science awareness right now?

Oh, that we basically will make a mistake that can’t be corrected by denying facts that are really evident.

What do you think this march will accomplish?

Hopefully it will raise awareness and remind people to stay vigilant and keep fighting for real facts.

If you could say one sentence to President Donald Trump what would you say?

Ooh that’s a loaded question. Just one sentence… That’s a surprisingly tough question. I have to think about it. I guess ‘what are you doing?’ I don’t know.


Her bright pink, knitted cap with the ‘March for Science’ logo stands out in the busy crowd and the rest of her attire looks as if she is planning to go hiking right after the march. She is animatedly talking with her friend and her mother who eagerly sneaks in to take a picture of her being interviewed.

What is your connection to science?

Well, I am a software tester and a believer in science. I mean it’s just kind of how my brain works, I have a degree in math and math is kind of the language of science so that’s my connection.

What is your biggest worry about the state of science awareness right now?

Oh, my gosh, it’s kind of cliche to say, but that it’s politicized. That it really is just real. You know, we were talking about Venice on the way here and people don’t talk about ‘well should we combat climate change by building a dam to keep out the water?’ No! Its ‘my house is flooding, I need to protect it.’

If you could say one sentence to President Donald Trump what would you say?

I think just please take a moment, take a deep breath and really think about all the messages that people are giving you from all countries, all races, all socioeconomic status. Just listen.


His beard is long and slightly greying and his sign is prepped for rain with an already-dripping plastic bag. Pins dot his cap and he is excited to tell me that he is on the UW campus, by the Marine Affairs building, “a whole lot”. He is standing in a very muddy field, but seems unconcerned for his shoes though a little frustrated when he can’t think of examples in the moment.

What is your connection to science?

Both my parents were foresters, my grandfather was a forester and I have been studying mathematics on and off for many years. Then I work in IT and that’s all of course very math- and science-driven.

What is your biggest worry about the state of science awareness right now?

I think the biggest problem is the broader implications of ignoring fact and ignoring data and it goes beyond the issues of climate change, but also economics. Economic policy that ignores fact and other, there’s other issues. I wasn’t prepared to speak about this today!

What do you think or hope this march will accomplish?

I hope it accomplishes getting more people involved in the political process, especially scientists, and brings science as an industry back to the forefront. And recognition that this is something that has to be invested in long-term.

If you could say one sentence to President Donald Trump what would you say?

Without science, there is no twitter!


They are wearing matching blue-and-green hats, possibly for the color of the Earth, and carrying signs that look like they were made together. He tells me he’s not sure he will know the answers to my questions and I assure him that he doesn’t need to. Then he leans in close to me and tells me he’s almost deaf, but that she can interpret for him.

What is your connection to science?

Her: Well we’re both scientists, he was my teacher! At UW as well. We were in the dental school, but you have a pathology background too right?

Him: Yeah, my connection is a little longer than hers but we came together where she said. I was her teacher and didn’t really teach her… well I did! I taught her science.

Her: Yeah you did!

What do you hope or think this march will accomplish?

Her: Restating the question. What are we gonna accomplish? By doing this.

Him: My opinion is that it’s not that you accomplish something it’s you affirm something and that [science] needs to be affirmed, it needs to be supported and whatever happens will probably not be what we do but it will be something that we [all] do here.

What is your biggest worry about the state of science awareness right now?

Her: Restating the question. What’s your biggest worry about science now?

Him: Today? It’s this guy Pruitt who’s just recommended we get out of the Paris accord. It’s hard to imagine that if you had a brain that you could take that trip.

If you could say one sentence to President Donald Trump what would you say?

Her: Restating the question. What would you say to trump?

Him: I’m not sure it would make any difference? I would say engage the brain.

Her: I’ll leave it at that.


Her sign has a sleepy polar bear on it and she is drenched in the rain. She is excited to be asked for an interview and extra excited to be at the march and her smile shows it clearly. Her answers are well thought out and articulate as if she has put a lot of thought into why she is marching.

What is your connection to science?

I was a chemistry major and I have been working in product development with technology based companies for more than 30 years.

Do you have any concerns about perceived messages that this march could send?

Science in general, what I want to make sure people are aware of is that it’s for everyone which was one of the things the speakers emphasized. It’s not just for scientists and it is not necessarily in opposition to religion or faith. That they are compatible and I think it’s important that all the messages around science include those thoughts.

What do you think or hope this march will accomplish?

I hope this march will accomplish engaging a whole new set of people in protecting science and speaking out and it will bolster all of our representatives who are fighting the good fight on behalf of science knowing that we are all very visibly behind them.


They are fully decked out as steampunk-inspired lab scientists and each person has different- colored hair which I decide to use as identification. The way they give their answers reflects anger about the administration’s views and actions.

What is your connection to science?

Orange: What isn’t?

Grey: Well I don’t like dying of diseases.

What is your biggest worry about the state of science awareness right now?

Grey: Too many people think that the world is only 6000 years old, that’s a problem.

Blue: That we are not inoculating disease.

Orange: Global warming.

Grey: The science budget being less than, well NASA’s budget being less than, the air conditioning budget for the military.

Orange: Oh, you know there’s too much to name!

What do you think this march will accomplish?

Grey: If elected officials see enough people doing something they take it a little more seriously. Because fundamentally they don’t care, so if it looks like a few votes they might do something.

Teal: And of course, awareness. Most marches are all about that. You know just getting people aware that we are really thinking in that direction. So not only for our leaders, but us. For people in general to get involved and have a voice where they’re maybe not right in the middle of it, moving in that direction.

Orange: Gives visibility to the issue.

Blue: If I lend my voice to this maybe somebody else can hear that and say ‘heyyyy.’


Bright poppy flowers explode from the top of his head and he wears a lab coat that he looks very comfortable in. He is drawing the attention of everyone around with his attire and boldly written sign.

What is your connection to science?

I am a research scientist at the Institute for Stem Cell Regenerative Medicine.

What do you think or hope this march will accomplish?

I hope that it will open up the Trump administration’s eyes to how vital scientific research, medical scientific research, is to everyone. It’s bipartisan research; it benefits the entire world, whether we are looking at ecological things like the environment or medical things.

What do you think is the biggest misconception in science right now?

I think that people aren’t as well informed in terms of how rigorous the scientific method is and how facts can be shared only when they’ve been validated by peer review.

If you could say one sentence to President Donald Trump what would you say?

I would say don’t wait until some medical emergency hits his family, similar to what happened to the Reagans, where they stunted stem cell research until he was stricken with Parkinson’s disease. Then they realized that the power of stem cell research could someday benefit him. So, don’t hold us back from scientific research.


She is curious about why I have a notebook out and asks if I am a reporter. After I explain that I am writing a blog post she turns away very slowly as if hoping that I will ask her for an interview. I oblige. She feigns surprise and agrees quickly. As marcher’s chant “What do we want? Science! When do we want it? After peer review!” she leans her face near the recorder and talks loudly and with conviction.

What is your connection to science?

I am an environmental attorney organizer who works with people who have been exposed to toxic chemicals and are concerned about the imminent destruction of our species.

What is your biggest worry about the state of science awareness right now?

Science has been completely corrupted and undercut by our capitalist economy for decades. The Trump administration’s understanding of what’s been going on before is practically nonexistent. So, my concern is that we need to understand that private ownership of major industries and control over most of the wealth of society, private control over research is leading to policies that are bringing us down as a species and we’ve got to change to an economic system that’s based in democracy if we want to have sound science and survival.

What do you think or hope this march will accomplish?

I hope that it will mobilize more and more people who perhaps were not mobilized before, and that by conversations one on one, like this that we’re having, that we can connect this movement and the people concerned about science with the people that are concerned about all the other things that are going on under a banner of demanding economic democracy. Socialism.

If you could say one sentence to President Donald Trump what would you say?

I would not focus on saying anything to Donald Trump. The problem is the system, we need system change and that is what we need to focus on.


He is well prepared for rain, if a little out of breath and looks like he is ready to go home for a nap. His sign saying, “You can’t censor Science!” is taped to his raincoat, his ears are super floppy, and his nose is super squished.

What is your connection to science?

Snort.


All the marchers profiled here in Q&A style interviewing had their reasons for marching. Some more driven by health issues, others by environmental issues, and yet others by social theory. There were those who were more grounded in their reasons for being there and more prepared to defend their positions and others who seemed as if they really didn’t know or could not articulate why they showed up that morning.

These interviews only profiled marchers, but there are many people with reasons for NOT marching and I would be remiss not to mention those. Some were strongly opposed to how the march was organized and who was chosen to lead it and that people of color and minorities were ‘not welcome in the process’. Others argued that the march was politicizing science and that “science is generally a separate enterprise from politics and should stay that way.” The arguments against the march are numerous and easily found with a simple google search (here and here) as are the arguments for marching (here and here). It is unclear how many people are anti-march versus pro-march and how many of those people are scientists however, it is clear that the March for Science raises conflict that is not nearly as simple as questioning marchers about their motivations.