'Science not silence': Hundreds join East Lyme march on Earth Day

Participants chant 'Science not silence' as they walk along the Niantic Bay Boardwalk during Southeastern Connecticut's March for Science on Saturday, April 22, 2017, in Niantic. Organizers estimated several hundred participated in the march that was part of a national event to support science and advocate for science-based policies on Earth Day. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
Participants chant "Science not silence" as they walk along the Niantic Bay Boardwalk during Southeastern Connecticut's March for Science on Saturday, April 22, 2017, in Niantic. Organizers estimated several hundred participated in the march that was part of a national event to support science and advocate for science-based policies on Earth Day. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)

East Lyme — For Deb Moshier-Dunn, looking out over the hundreds of sign-carrying marchers along the Niantic Bay Boardwalk on Saturday literally turned her dream into a reality.

“This has been all serendipity,” said the Waterford resident who was the lead organizer, talking through a bullhorn at the crowd amassed under overcast skies for the March for Science Southeastern Connecticut. “Two months ago a friend sent me a post about the March for Science being planned in Washington, D.C., and that night I woke up at 2 a.m. and had a vision of all you guys here. So thank you all for showing up. It’s been a crazy journey.”

Thrilled though she was with the turnout estimated at 500 to 1,000 people — many of them among the more than 500 who had visited the march’s Facebook page in the weeks leading up to Saturday — she struggled to find the right combination of words for a marching chant.

“Nothing rhymes with science,” she lamented.

But one of the marchers, holding a sign showing a polar bear in the melting Arctic and the slogan “Let us now pause for a moment of science,” offered a phrase.

“Defiance. Defiance for science,” suggested Cheryl Whipple of East Lyme, who was also holding one end of a “March for Science” banner at the front of the procession.

The march was one of four in Connecticut and more than 600 nationwide and across the world that took place on Earth Day in conjunction with the main event in the nation’s capital, which drew thousands to the National Mall. The events were meant to counter what organizers see as the anti-science agenda of the Trump Administration and advocate for science-based governmental policies.

“I’m a big fan of the truth,” said Elaine Bentley Baughn, a Norwich psychotherapist, attending her first demonstration in 20 years out of growing anxiety about climate change and environmental protection. “I don’t want to be running for that last helicopter off the planet. Like the signs here say, ‘There is no planet B.’”

Her friend Eva Albert of East Lyme, an engineer, said she depends on science and data every day to do her job.

“Science not silence,” she said, repeating the motto of the national march.

Jessica Hoadley, a nurse from Salem, was among several marchers wearing one of the pink knit hats that were the symbol of the Women’s March on Washington on Jan. 21. She came Saturday to continue her activism, convinced that demonstrations are an effective way of sending a message to policymakers.

“It’s important for people to come out and say things together, and not to just let these things happen,” she said.

Among groups represented at the march was the Eastern Connecticut Resistance Movement, comprising about 50 people who came together after the Women’s March. Robert and Mariely Henry and their son Anthony of Montville were among several members of the group who walked the Niantic Bay Boardwalk with the other marchers.

“We feel this administration has gone away from science, because it’s inconvenient,” said Henry, a technician for Frontier Communications who carried a sign that said, “Stand up for Science.” Proposed deep cuts to budgets for the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, among others, are very worrisome, he said.

“These are invaluable programs that need to be kept,” he said.

Visiting friends in Madison for the weekend, Maggie Bradley of New York City also came to the East Lyme march to advocate for government support of science, concerned both on personal and global levels.

“My daughter is a government scientist in D.C. and I wanted to do something in solidarity with her,” said Bradley, carrying a sign that read “Clean Water. We All Need It.” “If you don’t have the EPA, the chances of having clean water for much of the future are less. If you don’t have a willingness to work for the community at large, the environment suffers. We need the government to favor science for the best interests of our citizens. It’s a shame it’s become so political.”

Lisa Hill of Mystic said that after attending the Women’s March, she “can’t stay home and be quiet,” and this time convinced her sister Linda Johansen to join her.

“She told me how good it felt to be part of a community,” said Johansen, wearing a “Just Science” T-shirt with a picture of the Muppet characters Beaker and his lab partner, the green-skinned bespectacled scientist. “There are so many sources of data that are just being shut down.”

A math teacher at East Lyme High School, Johansen said she was pleased to see many youth at the march Saturday.

One of the youngest there was 3½-month-old Emma Boehm, who slept in her stroller as her grandmother, Gail Boehm of Waterford, pushed her along the boardwalk.

“This was the best use of our day today,” said Boehm, who teaches marine science classes at local schools for Mystic Aquarium. “Her generation is going to inherit the earth, and that’s what I’m worried about. We have to protect the earth.”

Along the 1-mile route of the march from Hole-in-the-Wall beach to Cini Park, groups stopped to hear short talks from scientists about the everyday applications of their work. Among them were two biologists from the environmental lab at the Millstone Power Station, in sight just across the bay from the boardwalk, a children’s dentist who told how learning about the bacteria that cause cavities has advanced his field, and a scientist working on drugs to counter cardiac disease.

“In the last 60 years, our life expectancy has increased over 20 years, because of science,” said John Hadcock, who works at a Massachusetts pharmaceutical company.

At Cini Park, marchers heard a brief call to arms from Bill Yalen of Groton, who helped organize the march with Moshier-Dunn. At the beginning and end, he and other volunteers passed out an information sheet about the main themes of the event and next steps.

“This needs to be followed up with action,” he told the crowd. “Let your representatives know where you stand when budgets are being cut, and when facts are being denied. Maybe you feel small, but as long as we add our voices together, our voices will get heard. We’re trying to turn this into a movement.”

j.benson@theday.com

Friends Linda Johansen, left, and Lisa Hill, both of Mystic, talk before Southeastern Connecticut's March for Science along the Niantic Bay Boardwalk on Saturday, April 22, 2017, in Niantic. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
Friends Linda Johansen, left, and Lisa Hill, both of Mystic, talk before Southeastern Connecticut's March for Science along the Niantic Bay Boardwalk on Saturday, April 22, 2017, in Niantic. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
Participants walk along the Niantic Bay Boardwalk during Southeastern Connecticut's March for Science on Saturday, April 22, 2017, in Niantic. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
Participants walk along the Niantic Bay Boardwalk during Southeastern Connecticut's March for Science on Saturday, April 22, 2017, in Niantic. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)

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