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Hundreds in Grand Forks join worldwide rallies for science

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Carl Barrentine joins hundreds of others in University Park Saturday morning for the Grand Forks March For Science by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald2 / 5
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Hundreds of guests brought signs to Grand Forks' University Park on Saturday morning—from "Science trumps fake facts" to "Oceans are rising, and so are we."

They formed a sea of enthusiasm around a pavilion in the park's north end, where organizers of the Grand Forks Rally for Science welcomed a steady flow of speakers to take up a microphone and speak on behalf of a fact-based approach to politics and policy.

"It's not just the scientist's responsibility to communicate carefully," Jack Russell Weinstein, a UND philosophy professor and emcee of the event, told the gathered crowd. "It's the non-scientist's responsibility to listen well."

The protest was one of hundreds of similar events held around the world Saturday to coincide with Earth Day. Many of those gatherings, organized in the spirit of rallying the scientific community and supporters, have been motivated by fears over President Donald Trump and his climate policies.

But while some speakers at University Park called for fact-based government, they largely shied away from specific mentions of policies and politicians. The crowd didn't though, with references to Trump sprinkled on signs throughout the crowd, with ironic references to "alternative facts" and "fake news" and one sign that said "Make America Scientific Again."

"Donald Trump is a current in our discussion," Weinstein said, though he stressed that the event was more broadly about approaching social problems with facts—not beliefs—and spoke more of the effect of Trump's rhetoric than his policies. "What the last election did is put the belief before truth—you get things like him saying he had the largest (inauguration) attendance in history, when the facts say that isn't true."

Speakers from a list of local officials, including East Grand Forks Mayor Steve Gander and former state Sen. Connie Triplett, D-Grand Forks. Many praised the modern luxuries science offers the world, with Gander, an optometrist, offering a lighthearted analogy between the scientific process and the game of sudoku.

Madeleine Smith, a professor of plant pathology at the University of Minnesota-Crookston, brought a sign to the march with a quote from Albert Einstein: "We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them." She said she lamented the politicization of science—part of a change in political norms she saw in both the British vote to leave the European Union and politics in the U.S.

"I don't think sticking our heads in the sand is an option here," she said.

Sam Easter

Sam Easter is a City Government reporter for the Grand Forks Herald. You can reach him with story tips, comments and ideas at 701-330-3441.

(701) 780-1108