Coming Together for Change

by Alyssa Lancaster

Featured photo: Alyssa Lancaster (center) and fellow volunteers greet march attendees as they arrive at the first annual Rochester Science Expo(Photo used with permission, courtesy of Wanaruk Photography)

2017 was a year of change for me. I moved three hundred miles from my hometown. I got out of a toxic work environment and found a job in research that makes me feel fulfilled. I got engaged to my fiancee, whom I’ve been with for eight years. I felt like my life was finally on track. But in a year cram-packed with changes, it really hurt to see my country so caught up on itself. Politicians tried to sweep climate change under the rug, and offer “thoughts and prayers” to victims of natural disasters, all while cutting funding to the programs that could have helped. So many scientific government agencies suffered, underfunded and understaffed.

Citizens even began to mistrust scientific evidence– I mean, it’s not always approachable, and let’s face it, celebrities are much easier to listen to. It’s a dangerous world to live in, when people don’t want to face facts. But in my year of change, I wanted to be a part of something bigger. I saw a movement manifesting, and wanted to be a part of it. It was one to begin bridging the gap between science and civilians. It was one to demand that our government create policies based on tangible data. It was one that aimed to use technology to improve the quality of everyday life. It was the March for Science.

I didn’t have a lot of time to commit to planning the event, but the coordinators did an amazing job. I was ready to do whatever I could to help on the day of the rally. It was refreshing to be an activist for the first time and to work for a great cause. And science is such a non-partisan issue that it was easy to talk to people about it. When the day of the march came, it was wonderful. I showed up early to help with setup and registration. I got to watch people of all different backgrounds come and make signs for the rally. Even the children could understand that there were problems with our current policies and wanted to see the world become a better place.

The rally got everyone riled up. Public speeches were powerful, and the march was surreal. There were so many people present that it was hard to hear the speakers. Many came dressed in signs and clothing that spoke their minds. People chanted for change. It’s refreshing to be surrounded by such a sheer number of like-minded individuals. The march was short, but its impact was anything but. The strength in numbers is something that can only be experienced first-hand. It gives you hope.

The Expo was the physical response to that hope. It was the city’s way to show the public just how much science matters. There were booths to encourage activism by writing letters to representatives to ask for change. The Rochester People’s Climate Coalition were able to help me through writing my first letter to my representative. Actual scientists gave talks and presentations on their research. I got to learn about bats and how they behave as pollinators. Many organizations set up tables to discuss their mission. Some nerdy merchandise was available to show the world the science-lover in you, and I got a wonderful necklace from Circuit Breaker Labs that I still wear regularly. I stayed and volunteered through it all. Wherever they needed me I went, helping take attendance, assisting with the donations table, giving people a break. I got to watch a few presentations once the initial rush wore off. It was nice to experience the Expo instead of just run it.

Marches are important in today’s society. They are symbolic of the people coming to the government, and meant to tell the world that we mean business. We marched in Rochester to demand policies that reflect on current scientific findings. The Expo took the next step and told the world that this is how we can help. The March for Science didn’t just voice concerns for public awareness, but also worked toward a solution. And the activism is working. There were many drives last year to get people registered to vote, and websites that discussed the candidates’ stances on science.

We have a lot of work left to do. But it’s a year later and we’re still here, still fighting. The 2018 Day of Science promises to be even more impressive than its predecessor, and I know it will be. We need a day to celebrate the impact of science in society because we wouldn’t be where we are today without it. Our cause is noble, and our voices will be heard. It might be hard to think that you stand out much in a sea of scientists marching, but trust me when I say this: you matter. Science matters. Science matters to Rochester.

About the Author
Alyssa Lancaster is a research technician with Eastman Kodak Company. Excelling in high school chemistry courses, she was pushed to continue studies in college and found a previously-unknown passion for science. The intense drive for learning more about science caused a change in majors from music education to chemistry. Writing, music, and sewing are just a few of the many hobbies she has in her spare time.

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Photo courtesy of Eric Koski

This blog is a publication of the Rochester NY March for Science. Opinions are that of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the ROC-MFS.

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