WHY I MARCH
This year, to celebrate Earth Day, Banjo and I marched in the South Bend March for Science. It was a gorgeous day, perfect weather for a walk around the city. On the day, I posted this message to friends and family, explaining the reasons I marched. I share it with you now:
I've thought a lot about how I want to frame my arguments and for whatever reason I keep coming back to #Moana. If you haven't seen it (major spoilers ahead), Moana is the latest Pixar Disney movie, featuring a young Polynesian girl who travels across the ocean on an adventure to return the heart of Te Fiti, the mythical mother island. The film is overtly political, implying that the potential effects of human caused climate change will be catastrophic.
One of the main songs is titled "How Far I'll Go". In it, Moana talks about how far she is willing to go to save the lives of her people and her island. She is willing to risk it all, traveling over the horizon, to bring the heart of the ocean back to Te Fiti, thus restoring her to health. I've been thinking about this a lot and it makes me want to ask: How far will you go to save the ones you love, to save the future generations you will never meet, to save your home? How far will I go?
You do not have to read, understand, or acknowledge the overwhelming scientific evidence, based in methodological rigor, that humans are causing the earth to heat at an unprecedented rate. The scientific debate is over but the political debate wages on. I get it. So set that to the side. You may not agree that humans are causing the climate to change, but everyone has to admit that humans have had and are having an absolutely catastrophic (and in many cases irreversible) impact on the natural environment. Oil spills decimating lakes rivers and oceans, farmers bleeding water tables dry, cities pumping toxic smog into the air, deforestation, mountaintop removal, the list goes on and on.
Today I draw inspiration from men and women around the world who saw the injustices being done to the earth, often resulting in damage so severe that it impacted their own lives and families, and asked themselves the question: How far will I go?
Today I'm thinking about the brave women of Delta State, Nigeria who stood up to a major oil company after a massive spill. Using only their bodies, they blocked all entrances to several of the refineries, stopping all production until executives agreed to meet with them and agreed to a plan that would help restore the environment, homes, and livelihoods.
Today I am thinking about the months of sit-in protests staged by the water protectors at Standing Rock. Not only were they fighting for the rights of the land, but also for the rights of indigenous communities everywhere, who deserve the same rights and considerations as white communities to live in areas not under threat of oil leaks.
Today I remember the profoundly compassionate integrity of photojournalist Sebastio Salgado. His life-threatening work examining the human impact of climate conflict in the Sahel brought this crisis to international attention. I also appreciate the beauty of his later project "Genesis", his opus celebrating the beauty of the earth.
Today I once again appreciate the work of primatologist and environmentalist Jane Goodall, who was one of my earliest scientific heroes, inspiring me as a young girl and letting me know that I too can go out into the world and make a difference! Who showed me that research is cool!
Today I'm thinking about Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, one of the key whistleblowers who brought the Flint water crisis to national attention.
Today I'm thinking about my friends in Malawi who farm the land year after year, relying only on rainfall to grow their crops. Their innovation in learning crop rotation, new planting methods, and educating themselves on irrigation system planning is inspiring.
Today I draw inspiration from my husband, who is a passionate advocate of safe water access, who quit his full time job to go back to school and get a degree in Natural Resource Management, who works every day to ensure that the people of St. Joseph County have safe and reliable access to water and that septic systems are up to code, who is quitting his job to come with me to Malawi where he will create clean water access points for rural communities plagued by cholera.
Today I march and think about my beautiful little boy and I think about the world I want him to grow up in. I think about the person I want him to be. I want him to be a staunch protector of the environment, a stalwart supporter of clean energy, an ally for those fighting for their resource and environmental rights.
Finally, today I march and think about my own work. I'm just getting started in my career, but already my interests in studying the political effects of human caused climate change have led to clashes with friends and family. People who have little to no training in the subject consistently challenge me and dismiss my research. This does not dissuade me. It makes me even more passionate about my work. So today I say thank you, thank you for doubting me and thank you for questioning the scientific integrity and rigor of my work, my training, and my skill. Your doubt is my clean, renewable energy that will sustain me for the years ahead.
How far will I go? Only time will tell, but I'm excited to keep marching forward!
Happy Earth Day!! 🌍🌳🍂🌻
March for Science 2017!! 👩🏼🔬🔭🔬📡💉📚