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Milwaukee marches for the rest of us

We travel to the Great Lakes next to visit the Milwaukee March for Science site. Here's a take on why non-scientists have an interest in what comes of the March.

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Until very recently, I have thought about science as something big and distant, important but vague. Something over my head. 

Something people in lab coats are working on somewhere, and I’m certain it’s all very important, but as to how it affects me? Not so sure. 

Until recently. <strong>Reasons for the season. </strong> Milwaukee marchers view science as the foundation for our liberty and prosperity. Courtesy Milwaukee Area Science Advocates.

Recently, I’ve become increasingly awake to fake news, alternative facts, and infotainment.

Recently, I’ve read with growing alarm about funding cuts to the EPA. 

Recently, I’ve sensed a palpable hostility toward thinking, facts, data, knowledge . . . science.  

Scientific values

Now I realize that science isn’t far away and vague at all. It’s everywhere. I am who I am, and I am where I am, in very large part because of science. 

For instance, I’d be dead right now were it not for sterile surgical procedures, antibiotics, and advancements in safe childbirth. 

Vaccines have protected me from diseases that in previous generations could have taken me out before the age of 12. 

Then there are seat belts, airbags, bridges, traffic lights, and speed limits that have kept me alive and in one piece these last 40-plus years. The water that I depend on every single day is (for now) relatively clean, safe, and plentiful.

I’m marching because I need science to stay in a category separate from beliefs and opinions and profit margins.

If I want to connect with nature, or just breathe fresh air, I’m free to do so, in a smog-free public park, complete with trees, grass, and clear, clean streams and ponds to enjoy. 

In short, science is important to me. Science is all around me. I depend on it.

People I love are alive because of science, and I don’t want to lose it. I don’t want to live in a world where science is a belief, an opinion, or a point of view.

Strength in numbers

It seems I am not alone. Groups of people have sprung up across the US. Comfortable complacency and impotent frustration have been replaced with a sense of presence and purpose.

I’ve been going to meetings around Milwaukee lately, and I keep hearing: “I’ve never done anything like this before. I don’t really know what I’m doing. But I want to do something. I’m here.”

It is heartening to feel the energy of so many fellow humans simply trying to do something productive and positive to protect and support the world around us. 

On April 22, people around the world will gather to march for science. There’s a March right here in Milwaukee. The March for Science – Milwaukee’s website states that people will be “coming together to champion evidence-based science for the common good.” 

I anticipate that a lot of 'science people' will be there on that Saturday in April: Biologists, doctors, lab technicians, IT experts, engineers, and the like. 

This is not me — not even close. 

I barely passed high school chemistry. I have never taken a physics class or opened a calculus book. I don’t really understand or like using Excel®. If it weren’t for Google, I would not know how to convert Celsius to Fahrenheit. 

And still I’ll be there on April 22, marching for science.

Why march?

For me, the March for Science is a celebration. It’s a community showing up and saying out loud and with purpose, “Hey, this is REALLY important, and we are going to defend it, champion it, and focus on it now more than ever!”

<strong> Gather by the water. </strong> Want to motivate politicians to implement evidence-based solutions? You're not alone. Let's meet at Red Arrow Park in downtown Milwaukee at 2 p.m. Courtesy March for Science, Milwaukee.I’m not marching because I’m a physicist, a water quality researcher, a chemist, an agriculturalist, or any of the hundreds of other science-related professions out there.

I’m marching because I need science to stay right where it is, in a category separate from beliefs and opinions and profit margins.

Lives — indeed generations — depend on it.

I can’t honestly say that my presence at the march will 'do' anything. 

All I know is that now more than ever, in an age of alternative facts and ever-decreasing funding for science-related agencies and programs, I must choose a side. And I choose the side of facts, data, knowledge, learning, questioning, logic, and reason. 

I may not always be comfortable with the outcomes, but I must defend and support the process that has given me so much of the life I value. 

I don’t really know what the journey or the fight will look like after the March, but I will do my best to keep showing up and doing my part, whatever that might look like, in the years to come.

But first, I march. 

~ Jennifer Quirk

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