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Thoughts from the Science March in Berkeley

At the urging of my STEM-educated husband, I went to the UC Berkeley campus on Saturday for the science march. Despite living six years in Berkeley during my PhD work, this was my first protest at Sproul Plaza, site of the Free Speech Movement of the sixties, and many legendary protests since.

I had been avoiding this event because I don’t like crowds, and because I expected a flyover-state-bashing smug-fest from my fellow liberals. One of the distinct problems of the politics of our time is that they have become wholly tribal. The only explanation for the average non-ExxonMobil-affiliated conservative rejecting the science on climate change is that for some reason their tribe ended up on the other side. Unlike, say, guns or taxes, most conservatives have zero personal stake in the continuing use of fossil fuels. So seeing my own tribe of political liberals get together for what I thought would be a ritual shaming of the “red-state rubes” didn’t sound like my idea of a good time.

I ended up having a great time. In part, because Sproul Plaza truly comes alive during a protest. I thought about Mario Savio standing on the steps of Sproul Hall and giving his fiery “Machine” speech during the Free Speech Movement, and I thought about how many other American social justice movements (Vietnam, nuclear disarmament, student-led Occupy and anti-racist movements) had been fired in this crucible of democracy.

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