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September 24, 2017

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Science advocates rally, show support across Las Vegas on Earth Day

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Ricardo Torres-Cortez

Attendees at the Las Vegas’ March for Science, which coincided with the 47th annual Earth day Saturday, April 22, 2017. Hundreds rallied at the Arts District in support of science and technology.

The rowdy, sign-toting crowd at the Arts District Saturday morning for the March for Science stayed true to its protest cry: “Science not silence!”

Hundreds chanted, cheered and jeered. A few participants kicked it up a notch by gyrating their hips to the cheerful tunes of “science-rock” band the Phenomenauts.

The rally was one of many observances across the valley commemorating the 47th annual Earth Day, from Ikea-hosted workshops on sustainable living to a recycled fashion show on the Strip's Linq promenade.

Bill Nye's tribe

Las Vegas March for Science

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At the Arts District downtown, local demonstrators joined protesters worldwide who took to the streets to advocate for scientific pursuits free from special interests.

Speaking at the event, U.S. Rep. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., said "science is not political." But the message from attendees — and especially the signs they carried — strayed into that territory. As participant Jacob Simmons, 30, said: "You have to be engaged. You can't just sit on the sidelines, because science might not want to be in politics, but politics will be in science."

Some spoke about perceived threats to scientific enterprise and integrity from powerful policy makers, including President Donald Trump and his proposed budget cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency. They hoisted signs reading "Science Trumps Trump," "Science is Not a Liberal Conspiracy" and "Science is Not Alternative Facts."

The best way to voice your concern is by showing up to the voting booth, Shawnna Simmons, 31, said. "What people should do is vote. Every election; every primary; every caucus; every single time."

David Walker, who teaches science at Sunrise Mountain High School, was marching for facts.

“It’s really important to get out and just show everybody that science is very important to all of us," Walker said. "The kind of things that are going on right now politically seem to be heading the country in the wrong direction. ... This is really just a show of support for the idea that facts do matter and science is a big part of the success of our country, and we shouldn’t just ignore it.”

Colleen Ledoux, 43, who carried a sign with a stylized image of iconic science educator Bill Nye, said she was worried about the appearance that Trump's administration "does not support" the EPA. "A lot of them do not seem to believe in climate change. So we need to back up science with facts, you know?"

Although they conveyed grim concerns, the attendees mostly smiled and participated peacefully. The atmosphere felt jovial.

"It’s great to see the community come out and support this. I wish we were more people here … but we’ll keep working on it — we’ll keep showing up,” Ledoux said. "It concerns you; it concerns everyone."

Rosen, whose background before taking office was in science and technology, gave an ode to such disciplines in her speech. “I don’t think it’s lost on everybody here, that the advances we needed to make to take computers from room-size calculators into your back pocket ... wouldn’t have been possible without the relentless study and the application by American thinkers and innovators and fighters like all of you.”

'Definitely do what you can'

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People gather at a popup donation center outside of Ikea, with the collected furniture going to Goodwill of Southern Nevada.

Shoppers visiting Ikea's southwest valley location were treated to a few surprises on Earth Day.

The store, which is partially powered by solar panels and has a charging station for electric vehicles, partnered with various organizations to teach about "Sustainable Living Your Way."

Goodwill of Southern Nevada oversaw a donation drive: Anyone giving gently used furniture to the cause was rewarded with a coupon for $20 off Ikea purchases of $150. There was a scavenger hunt for energy-efficient items in the store and samplings of its sustainable foods, including salmon, coffee and chocolate, said marketing manager Laiyla Bass. The first 500 shoppers received free efficient light bulbs, which tied into a seminar on LED lighting led by NV Energy, with representatives handing out reusable grocery bags. By the early afternoon, the public utility had signed up about 50 people to participate in energy-saving programs, and the Regional Transportation Commission was on hand to share green initiatives.

“The buzz is electric," Bass said of overall reaction to the event, which aimed to make education about Earth-friendly practices "fun."

Manny Reyes, who donated items at the Goodwill station, spoke about the importance of paying attention to the message of Earth Day. "Definitely do what you can," he said. "Leave things behind for our children. Give them something good."

How the Strip goes green

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At the Linq, Caesars Entertainment put on a fashion show of clothing made from recyclables. The property also commemorated Earth Day by turning the High Roller green.

Those walking through the open-air Linq in the afternoon witnessed a fashion show, the looks created with recycled paper plates, confetti and other materials by representatives of Caesars Entertainment.

This was an opportunity to educate the public about the "new life" some disposables could have, said Margaret George, manager of corporate responsibility at Caesars.

George spoke about a company initiative dating back to 2008, challenging its properties to implement energy-efficient practices while also educating their workers.

In honor of Earth Day, she said, the High Roller observation wheel would turn green, and bars were offering green drinks — symbolism fitting Las Vegas' persona that might even make vacationing tourists remember the significance of April 22.

"It's up to different businesses and companies and individuals to come together to really make a change and to save our planet from some of the issues that we're dealing with today," George said.

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