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Park County celebrates Earth Day, science

Participants gather at Cody City Park Saturday for the inaugural March for Science, a rally held in accordance with Earth Day. More than 170 attendees celebrated science with guest speakers and a march around the park. Participants gather at Cody City Park Saturday for the inaugural March for Science, a rally held in accordance with Earth Day. More than 170 attendees celebrated science with guest speakers and a march around the park. Tribune photo by Don Cogger

This year’s global celebration of Earth Day featured a new twist, as more than 600 communities around the world staged March for Science rallies to celebrate science and its place in society.

One such rally was held Saturday in Cody, when more than 170 residents from Park County and the region descended on Cody City Park. The event, hosted by Wyoming Rising-Northwest, featured a mixture of academic guest speakers and concerned citizens who shared their thoughts on the role science plays in our lives.

“All of the speakers today spoke to the relevance of science and their support for science as a process that’s important to democracy,” said event organizer Mary Keller. “We want people to understand that this isn’t just a one-day march. This is a sign of the movement that is building to support evidence-based policy as the litmus test for good government.”

Eleven speakers participated in the event, ranging from high school science teachers to scientists to college students. Each speaker presented his or her thoughts on topics such as climate change, advocacy and the current administration’s policies and budget cuts regarding science.

“We see a specific attack against science-based evidence as that which would drive our energy and security policies,” Keller said. “We are the people, who, like everyone, benefit from science, and we want to increase literacy about what that looks like.”

Wyoming Rising-Northwest, which arose out of January’s Park County Women and Allies March, describes itself as a non-partisan group concerned about human rights.

Event participants were encouraged to create signs to carry. Slogans included, “There is no planet B,” “Science is not Fake News,” “The Earth doesn’t have 4 years to spare,” and “Got Plague? Yeah, Me Neither. Thank a Scientist!” One woman carried an intentionally misspelled sign that read, “Prowd gradooit of Trump Unvirsty.”

Guest speaker Katherine Thompson of The Nature Conservancy spoke of the importance of science to the conservancy and to protect the lands and waters that support life on earth.

“It was science that first alerted communities and governments to the growing threat against our environment, which in turn sparked the first Earth Day,” Thompson told the crowd. “Science provides us with the knowledge that we need to work together to keep our lands and waters working for future generations. This is critically important for Wyoming.”

Larry Todd of Meeteetse, an archeologist who’s taught at several colleges, including Northwest College, said continuing to fund scientific programs is critical. He encouraged those in attendance to make their voices heard.

“Those tax dollars that go to funding science are like chips in a big, political poker game,” he said. “You don’t know for sure how many of those chips are going to be on the table, or how they are going to be dispersed. Think about how to have a voice in that game.”

Todd went on to say that science should be participatory, because it’s part of everything we do as a society.

“Science is a way to evaluate ideas,” Todd said. “We need to let our representatives know that we support the funding of science, as well as the integration of science in to policy.”

Cody High School educator Chip Miller said today’s political environment is hostile to progress when it comes to energy and the environment.

“We should capitalize on the gains we’ve made in the past,” Miller said after the rally. “We need to keep that momentum going, but it really seems like we’re going backwards right now. That’s been the emphasis of a number of speakers here; people don’t seem to value a scientific opinion anymore.”

Miller said he was encouraged by the number of people who attended the march, and by those willing to listen to differing viewpoints.

“This is huge, especially for Park County,” Miller said. “Park County is a very conservative place, and it’s not that people don’t believe in some of the things talked about here; it’s that typically, in this county in the past, people don’t wear their politics or their views on their sleeves. That’s what you’re seeing more and more.”

(Editor's note: This version corrects the first paragraph to say that events were held in more than 600 communities, rather than "countries.")

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