Science is ‘a Jackson Thing to do’

By on April 23, 2017

   

JACKSON HOLE, WY — Hundreds of people gathered on Town Square Saturday morning to celebrate science on a sunny albeit chilly Earth Day.

Jackson’s March for Science was one of more than 600 satellite marches across the country and is among a series of marches that have occurred since President Donald Trump was sworn into office. A few local attendees donned the same pink pussy hats they created for the Women’s March in January. The official March for Science does not claim to be political, as science is a non-partisan issue. Its mission, however, is to promote accurate and abundant distribution of scientific information, and encourage policy decisions that are rooted in scientific fact.

Still, some of the messaging could not help but be political. Even some of the smallest marchers sported strong messages. One young person, dressed like Albert Einstein, carried a sign that read: “E=MC2 – An Immigrant.”

“Alternative facts=Lies,” another sign read.

“Science makes America great,” said local advocate and march organizer Joan Anzelmo to an enthusiastic crowd.

After marching from the Home Ranch visitor center to Town Square, participants crowded around the center of the square to hear three speakers share their diverse relationships with science.

“Science is the basis of our lives,” said speaker and geologist Dr. Bob Smith. Smith’s contributions to the scientific community would take pages to list—they took Anzelmo minutes to introduce—but he has studied geology in the Greater Yellowstone Geological Ecosystem, a term he help coin, since the 1960s. Science, he said, is his whole life, and has been since he got his first chemistry set for Christmas at the age of 10.

Responsible policy decisions require an educated population and informed leadership, Smith said to a roaring applause. Scientists do “pretty poorly” distributing facts to the public, but through education and outreach, Smith hopes to bridge the gap between the scientific community and the public.

While science often celebrates rational thought, speaker Ryan Burke noted just how important emotions are in enacting change.

“Science has the power to save lives,” he said, “but it’s going take emotions to save science.” He reminded the audience that science and emotions are closely intertwined. Everyone showed up this morning, he said, because “oxytocin runs through our veins when we feel pride in the community we belong to.” Effective change, Burke said, requires listening equally to emotion and rational, scientific thought.

Local legend and director of Wyoming Nature Conservancy Milward Simpson wrapped up the celebration with a reminder that science is fundamentally American. The founding fathers, he said, wove science and exploration into the fabric of a young United States. “Our nation wouldn’t exist without science,” Simpson said to another round of applause. And science is instrumental in moving forward as a nation.

“Science is a Jackson thing to do, it’s a Wyoming thing to do, it’s an American thing to do, it’s a human thing to do,” Simpson said.

After the speeches, crowds dispersed to interact with the many sponsor booths that lined the square. Teton Raptor Center brought Taiga the great grey owl to put on a show, and Wyoming Stargazers let people view the sun (safely) through their telescope. Music made the atmosphere more festive, but no less scientific: “Science is Real” by They Might be Giants played through speakers reverberating through the square.

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