East Lyme event will coincide with national March for Science

Inspired by the motto “science not silence,” Deb Moshier-Dunn decided to organize a March for Science Southeastern Connecticut next month to coincide with a national event of the same name.

“Science can help explain things for us and help us make better decisions,” said Moshier-Dunn, a Waterford resident who has organized the annual Save the River-Save the Hills summer kayak regatta on the Niantic River. “At this time in our country’s history, science is being sidelined. They’re using opinion to make decisions instead of scientific evidence. We want to show people how deeply important it is for scientists to be at the table when these decisions are being made.”

The national March for Science, planned for Earth Day, April 22, in Washington, under the “silence not silence” motto, has attracted more than 60 science, health and professional organizations as sponsors. It is intended to counter what organizers see as the “anti-science” agenda of the Trump administration and to advocate for “robustly funded and publicly communicated science as a pillar of human freedom and prosperity.”

According to the March for Science website, the event will bring together a diverse, nonpartisan group that believes political leaders and policymakers should “enact evidence-based policies in the public interest.”

“The March for Science is a celebration of science,” according to the website. “It's not about scientists or politicians. It is about the very real role that science plays in each of our lives and the need to respect and encourage research that gives us insight into the world.”

In addition to the main march in the nation’s capital, 394 satellite marches are being planned, including three in Connecticut: Hartford, New Haven and East Lyme. Mosher-Dunn said the East Lyme event will begin with children’s activities from 9 to 11 a.m. at McCook Point Park. At 11, the marchers will converge at Hole-in-the-Wall Beach and walk 1.1 miles along the Niantic Bay boardwalk to Cini Park. Along the way, there will be learning stations, speakers and demonstrations on topics including water quality, local geology and energy.

Participants are encouraged to carry signs with messages promoting science.

“This area is full of science,” Mosher-Dunn said. “Our biggest industries — Pfizer, Electric Boat, Dominion, the sub base — all rely on science.”

Working with Moshier-Dunn, a former nurse, is Groton resident Bill Yalen, a Navy veteran and engineer who is now an independent consultant.

“I would like people to get a better awareness of science and to improve the visibility of science and how it affects day-to-day life,” he said. On issues ranging from climate change to air pollution to clean drinking water, political leaders need to base their decisions on “science-based policies,” he said.

“This is a nonpartisan event, but it’s not apolitical,” said Yalen, who was a volunteer coordinator for the 2008 presidential campaign of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

“I’m a registered Republican, but I call myself an extreme moderate,” he said. “Science serves society and our elected leaders should listen.”

Yalen said anyone interested in volunteering or learning more about the East Lyme march should visit the march’s Facebook page, facebook.com/marchforscienceSECT.

“We’re hoping to attract as many marchers and volunteers as we can,” he said.

Among local residents planning to attend the East Lyme march are Griswold residents Ellen Durand, a retired medical technologist, and her husband, Paul, a retired skilled technician at Electric Boat.

“I’m really concerned about the environment and the appointment of (Scott) Pruitt to head the EPA,” Ellen Durand said. Pruitt, who recently said he believes carbon dioxide is not a major contributor to climate change, has shown a “disregard for science,” she said, adding that she is “not normally an activist.”

“The things the administration is doing are scary,” she said. “They need to give more credence to science and facts — real facts, not alternative facts — and to care more about the environment.”

The March for Science also has attracted support from faculty at the University of Connecticut’s Avery Point campus in Groton.

Zofia and Hannes Baumann, both assistant professors of marine science at the campus, are planning to attend the Hartford march with their two children. Christine Green, an adjunct faculty member and lab director at Avery Point, said she plans to travel to Washington for the march and is considering organizing a bus to take other marchers from the region. She is motivated by concern about the impact of the deep cuts proposed by the Trump administration to government-funded research and to agencies such as the EPA, NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“It’s to show solidarity for science, and government science,” Green said. Her involvement, she said, follows her work initiating and organizing local science-based events such as Science and Technology Day at Deans Mill School in Mystic. At Avery Point, she helped found the EcoHusky environmental club and serves as one of its faculty advisors.

j.benson@theday.com

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