Throngs of people in raincoats and labcoats carried signs that read “STEMinist” and “There is no Planet B” as a cover of Johnny Nash’s “I Can See Clearly Now” played through loudspeakers.
This was the scene in Tom McCall Waterfront Park, as thousands of people, including some Clark College Penguins, gathered on Earth Day for the March for Science to promote funding for scientific research and to protest the Trump administration’s policies on climate change.
Portland’s march was one out of over 600 marches happening globally on that same day.
One of the marchers in Portland was Clark student Rosario Ellie Rengill.
Rengill is studying biochemistry and physics and working towards an Associate of Science Transfer degree. However, Rengill said that even if she were an art major, she would have still marched because climate change directly affects her community in the Republic of Palau.
“I’m from the Pacific and everytime I call my mom she tells me how much hotter it is, and she’ll tell me ‘Oh, you know that place where we would go fishing at – that’s underwater now.’,” Rengill said.
Since Palau produces just a fraction of how much carbon dioxide the U.S. produces, Rengill said she’s passionate about creating change locally, right at the source of the problem. Rengill said she bases her activism by asking herself “How do I help prevent my island from drowning?”
Rengill said the march connected her academic and personal sides of her life. She said she marched both because of her fascination for science and her passion for social justice.
“It’s this way of questioning things that are already in place and making observations. These basic concepts of science that I really cherish have helped me survive and navigate the world around me,” Rengill said. “And I think especially right now in our current political climate, I think it’s necessary to increase the awareness on how important science is to our everyday life.”
Although Rengill, having gone to Standing Rock, is not a stranger to marches, activism, climate forums and environmental educational conferences, she said that her community is. As a person of color, Rengill said she stood out in the sea of mostly white people.
Rengill said she is encouraging activism in her community by spreading scientific awareness.
“My activism is for needs. A lot of my activism is to protect needs for my community and for other communities because we all have the same struggle; we all fight one fight.”
Clark physics instructor Robert Close, who also marched on April 22, said he came “to show support for the scientific process. It’s not perfect, but the idea that people use evidence to justify their opinions rather than just using propaganda,” Close said. “The scientific process offers a way to actually test ideas and…to base our policies on evidence and not just on people’s whims.”
Close urges people to be aware of the ways social media is influencing the information they’re getting.
“Just like people need to learn how to secure their information or stop hackers, people also need to learn how to distinguish honest journalism versus propaganda,” Close said.
Clark astronomy instructor Amy Sibal, another marcher, also strongly cautioned against “being a passive entity within our surroundings.”
Sibal said that if people are for curing cancer, discovering more of our universe and the ocean, if people are for clean air and water, then they “are going to have to make the vote for pro-science. That is going have to be a conscious decision.”
“The awareness is going to shift and let’s hope that the shift starts happening before anybody does too much damage,” Sibal said.