Middletown resident Mark Meyering has always loved science. After spending the past 40 years as an industrial scientist for American Machine and Foundry (AMF), CUNO Incorporated, and 3M Science, he has become convinced of the importance of science and technology as a driver of progress in the modern world. So when March for Science—a non-partisan movement devoted to celebrating science—announced their inaugural march on April 22, 2017, Mark was ecstatic. But things didn’t go as planned.
“I was planning on going to Boston,” Mark explained. “But I had a problem. My aortic valve had closed off, and they had to replace the valve in my heart. It was such an emergency that [it] had to be done that weekend. So instead, I just decided, okay, I’m gonna make my own march, I’ll be the one-man march, just marching around the halls in the Bliss Nine East in Hartford hospital, where I had the operation done.”
Mark’s one-man march caught the attention of the March for Science, which ended up featuring pictures of him in their book highlighting the different marches that took place that first year.
“That was pretty nice you know,” Mark said. “That was more reinforcing to me to just get involved and stay involved and do whatever’s necessary.”
Since then, Mark has recovered and continues to work closely with the March for Science. Realizing that both Hartford and New Haven have their own hubs for MFS, Mark decided to try and bring the movement to Middletown. And this year, Mark—along with his wife Kathy Meyering and various members of the Jonah Center for Earth and Art (JCEA)—succeeded in establishing Middletown as a satellite city for the March for Science.
“The MFS movement sees Middletown as a resurgent city: unique, small, accessible, diverse, active in arts, education, entrepreneurship, and highly engaged in social and political action,” Mark wrote in a message to The Argus. “It has become a go-to city in central CT, with high levels of engagement and identity with the surrounding towns.”
After establishing Middletown as a focal point, Mark and his team got together to organize a short “Week of Action,” spanning from April 22 to April 25, to celebrate this year’s Earth Day. The group organized a rally on Earth Day on April 22 and a festival at Harbor Park the following Saturday, April 25. The group had connected with a variety of local sustainability groups, including the University’s very own College of the Environment. All the pieces were in place.
But as the COVID-19 pandemic worsened, it soon became clear that they would not be able to celebrate in the way they were hoping—yet another unforeseen hitch in Meyering’s March for Science plans. On March 12, the group took to Facebook to officially cancel all in-person events.
“Both events are certain to exceed the crowd size/density guidelines for public space events,” the post reads. “The Team is in complete agreement with the City, that these guidelines are reasonable and sane measures that will slow the rate of infection early after the initial outbreak is detected. Unfortunately, the implementation of the guidelines will cancel our Earth Week plans this year.”
Of course, this news was very disappointing for the organizers.
“I’m disappointed that we couldn’t have this festival because number one, it’s the Fiftieth Anniversary of Earth Day, it was a great opportunity to kind of highlight the urgency of addressing climate change,” Kathy explained. “I think people don’t know what to do about climate change. It seems like such a big problem. Being able to at least hitch onto an issue like voting for a candidate who has some workable ideas for addressing it, that’s where I’m at.”
Amanda Arce, a member of the MFS team who also serves on the Board of Directors at the JCEA, expressed similar frustrations.
“We were going to be in the North End, where we have so many people who don’t have the resources to have education and equitable energy,” Arce said. “It was really exciting, for me at least, to educate those people and get them on board with something. So they have an idea of something along the community and things that are available for them.”
In spite of this, the Middletown March for Science will continue their platform online, a creative solution akin to Mark’s solo march around the hospital in 2017.
“Our story is not finished. we will recover and move ahead. Right now we are 100% focused on the pandemic, and the absolute necessity to FLATTEN THE CURVE!!” Mark wrote in a message to The Argus. “We will use our forum to promote education, advocacy and safety. It is Science, after all.”
The group has also put together a series of virtual Earth Day events, ranging from National March for Science sponsored lectures to a virtual tour of Middletown’s own Wadsworth Mansion, on their website.
Although it will not be the same, the organizers are hopeful that people will utilize these resources.
“I’m hoping that even though we’re not having this festival, we can still get people involved with doing some of the virtual stuff and getting involved that way,” Arce remarked.
Mark shared similar sentiments.
“It’s not the same as a march,” Mark said. “It would have been great to march, it would have been great to rally. But the spirit is there, and as much as people can respond, there’s the opportunity.”
And, of course, they group is looking forward to in-person activities next year.
“All these tools are in place now, that we can use for rally, for information purposes, for notification,” Mark said. “I think the way we’re all looking at it is: our job next year is going to be a whole lot easier.”
Hannah Docter-Loeb can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.