PITTSFIELD – Scientists, students, children and other city residents were among demonstrators across the nation marching to support science and fact-based policies.
The protest was the third the city has seen in a month, following a national call for President Trump to release his personal tax returns and a NAACP Berkshire County-led fight against mass incarceration.
“I have not seen anything like we’ve seen in the last three and half months of people deciding to get involved because you can make a difference,” Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield, said.
Around 400 people assembled in the First Street Common, according to Kate Lauzon, an event organizer and environmental science student at Berkshire Community College. Several booths, including one for the Berkshire Environmental Action Team, lined the pathway.
Three months ago, Lauzon said she learned that a March for Science would occur in D.C. and decided she wanted to bring something similar to Pittsfield.
“The community is so strong here that I wanted to make everyone away of what we can do,” she said.
City Councilman At-Large Pete White opened the event on behalf of the city.
“Science is something we should all be able to get around and all be able to support,” White said. “Science should not be controversial, so I’m happy to see so many people here that understand that.”
Sarah Lee Guthrie and The Hoping Machine was the first of three musical performances. The group of activists and singers performed “This Land is Your Land” alongside children invited up from the crowd.
While the march was initially slated to be bipartisan, that didn’t stop some from spouting anti-Trump messages.
BCC Assistant Professor of Environmental and Life Sciences, Bruce Winn, was one of those people.
“We’re here today because we’re all astonished that we’ve entered a period in our history in which we’re being governed by men and women who have no respect for science, and for that matter for facts,” Winn said, citing President Trump’s now famous Nov. 6, 2012 tweet claiming climate change is a “Chinese hoax.”
“There is in this administration, and in much of this Congress, a total disregard and contempt for science and facts. There is currently no national science advisor, the head of the EPA is a climate denier, the secretary of state is the former CEO of Exxon Mobile,” Winn said.
"We're standing up for science, for truth, and for fairness,” he added.
In an interview with the Guardian preceding marches across the country, Bill Nye, CEO of the Planetary Society, TV educator, and honorary co-Chair of the March for Science said, “Science has always been political but we don’t want science to be partisan.”
“Objective truths have become set aside and diminished and lawmakers are acting like a strong belief in something is as valid as careful peer review,” Nye said.
On March 16, President Trump presented his first fiscal year 2018 budget proposal to Congress. The budget request, which would take effect Oct. 1, calls for a 31 percent cut to the Environmental Protection Agency.
NASA’s proposed budget, $19.1 billion, would narrow only slightly with a 1 percent drop in funding requested by President Obama for fiscal year 2017, according to the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
The budget sets aside $3.7 million for continued work in NASA’s Orion crew vehicle used to carry four astronauts into low Earth orbit, and its Space Launch System, a next-generation rocket set to launch within a few years, the Obama administration's Asteroid Redirect Mission would cease to exist to accommodate for these other NASA programs.
“NASA will investigate approaches for reducing the costs of exploration missions to enable a more expansive exploration program,” the budget blueprint states.
A similar event in Great Barrington saw around 150 people. Demonstrators marched up Main Street and looped around the W.E.B. DuBois River Park.
Sarah Lee Guthrie and the Hoping Machine, along with about 50 other people, will travel from Pittsfield to Washington, D.C. April 29 to attend the People’s Climate March.
This article first appeared in The Berkshire Courier.