Students, Teachers, Scientists Demonstrate in Hilo
“Fund science not ignorance.”
“By observing, one learns.”
These were among the dozens of phrases scrawled on homemade signs hoisted overhead during the March for Science Hilo on Friday evening and Saturday morning, April 21 and 22.
More than 200 local scientists, researchers, teachers, students and science supporters gathered for the event’s kick-off rally and evening march on Friday at Hilo Bayfront’s soccer pavilion. The march continued Saturday morning with 100 supporters joining the procession of the annual Merrie Monarch Royal Parade.
“I know we had marchers from as far away as Kona and Na‘alehu, as well as visitors from the mainland who were thrilled to be able to march with us during their vacation,” said Angela Beck, a March for Science Hilo organizer and UH Hilo graduate student.
The demonstration was part of the international March for Science movement held in honor of Earth Day. Marches and rallies swept over 600 cities worldwide on April 22, supporting the grassroots effort to promote science and its role in informing and shaping public and environmental policy. March for Science is described as a response to “an alarming trend toward discrediting scientific consensus and restricting scientific discovery” on the organization’s webpage.
Hilo’s Friday rally ended with a sidewalk demonstration at sunset, preceded by speeches from cultural practitioners, local teachers, researchers and students.
Noelani Puniwai, assistant professor at the Kamakakūokalani Center for Hawaiian Studies at UH Mānoa, voiced her thoughts on the role of science in understanding and connecting with the environment.
“Everyone who loves the land, anyone who has really connected and has a pili to the place where they’re from is a scientist,” said Puniwai. “Because then, you understand how your ʻāina works.”
She also compared modern science with the traditions of indigenous peoples around the world.
“Science is what indigenous people have done forever,” Puniwai said. “They know, without good science, without people who are defending our air and our water and our land, we won’t have a healthy environment in the future.”
Kekuhi Kealiʻikanakaʻole of the Edith Kanakaʻole Foundation, who opened the rally with a traditional Hawaiian mele (chant), called the gathering “a very dynamic presence.”
“I get small-kine chicken skin over here,” Kealiʻikanakaʻole said.
Organizers and volunteers from Sierra Club Hawaii, Plant Pono and Hilo Women’s March also attended the Friday event, manning tables with brochures about their causes for environmental stewardship and social equality.
“We’re all very happy with how both our kickoff event last night and our march in the parade turned out,” Beck said on Saturday afternoon following the parade. “I believe we succeeded in showing that the Hawai‘i Island community values science, and our local scientists and science educators.”