On Saturday, scientists and those who support science will, as the March for Science website notes, march on D.C. to champion “robustly funded and publicly communicated science as a pillar of human freedom and prosperity.” In Rochester, scientists and supporters will be doing the same.
Stephanie Gallant, an early childhood educator and an organizing committee chair for the Rochester March for Science, told Action Together Rochester a little bit about what inspired her to get on board planning this event while discussing the significance of science to our community and world.
Q: How did you become interested in activism? How long have you been doing it?
A: This is the first thing I have done in the realm of activism. I tend to prefer to be involved with things rather than just participating in them, and when I became aware of the MFS movement at the end of January, I immediately wanted to be a part of something like that in Rochester. My intention then, and now, is that I am not the ONLY coordinator, but that a team of interested people be created. We have a great team and we make team decisions.
Q: How did you become involved in the March For Science?
A: While browsing Facebook in late January, after the inauguration women’s march around the time that Twitter-bans were being placed on government agencies, a friend of a friend posted a link to a Facebook Group about scientists who wanted to march on Washington. I was one of the first 5,000 people on the page. By the end of the night, there were 375,000 people. I’m grateful that Rochester has been a part of it from the beginning, as D.C. has provided a lot of guidance. For me, as a newcomer to event planning and activism, it has been very helpful.
Q: Why is the March For Science an important cause and what does it represent for our community and country?
A: I only recently learned exactly how much SCIENCE is done in Rochester. We have so many companies and nonprofits using science and innovation to make our community better. We have many companies, some with federal funding, that employ the people of this area. Our nonprofits use science to help people, animals, and the local environment. Our colleges and universities receive federal funding to train the next wave of scientists. All of this is threatened with budget cuts.
Science itself is so broad. For me, as an educator, it’s more than just “science class,” it’s the process in which we all learn about the world around us. When young children—preschoolers, toddlers, and infants—play they are *doing* science. They are observing. They are wondering and questioning. They try new things. They change their methods. And, so excitedly, they share their results with the other people around them. I love when young children discover how to make their block building taller or discover that mixing yellow paint and blue paint makes green paint. The wonder of looking closely at an ant on a stick IS science. It’s part of who we are and how we learn, as individuals and as a community. The process of science is being undermined when the results of science are not respected. For me, that is my biggest concern and the reason I march.
Q: What do you most hope the march will accomplish?
A: I hope this will be a starting point and an eye-opening experience for people, no matter their political views, to understand how important science is to our community and world, and to advocate for responsible, evidence-based policy.
Q: What has been the most surprising experience you’ve had/thing you’ve learned since becoming involved in activism?
A: I truly understand why people call large projects their “baby.” Much like when I had a newborn, organizing the RMS I’m up all hours of the night, dedicating myself to something other than myself, forgetting important things like showering and eating, and feeling exhausted but running on pure adrenaline.
Q: Any advice you have for avoiding burn-out and keeping positive in activism?
A: Find an end date and plan a day off from your project, your job, and other obligations. I’ll see if I can practice what I preach.
Q: Lastly, do you consider yourself political? And do you consider science a political issue—why or why not?
A: I do not consider myself political, which is one reason the March for Science felt comfortable to me. I do not see science as partisan, though, because it is used to better our communities and nation, because the government does and (I believe) SHOULD involve itself in science, it Is political
What: Rochester March for Science
When: Saturday, April 22 9:30-10:30 a.m.
Where: Martin Luther King Jr. Park at Manhattan Square Park
(The first Rochester Science Expo will take place after at the Hyatt Regency Hotel.)