Dillingham residents organize a 'March for Science'
A group of Dillingham residents is organizing a 'March for Science' this spring in conjunction with the international effort to show support for science.
The effort will likely include a walk around downtown Dillingham, and a component that encourages people to send postcards to elected officials reminding them about the importance of science and funding science organizations.
University of Alaska Fairbanks Professor of Environmental Science Todd Radenbaugh was among those at a March 13 planning meeting helping to determine what the April event will look like.
"I think the visual of the signs and the polite chanting will be very important," Radenbaugh said.
The march will be held in downtown Dillingham on April 22, which is Earth Day. The group also hopes to have a sign-making party in advance of the march.
Radenbaugh said it's important to make it clear that the event is not just a march for scientists.
"This is a march for those who reap the benefits of science," he said. "Which is everyone."
Radenbaugh said that locally, subsistence science/traditional ecological knowledge and the Environmental Protection Agency are among the two most important science causes, noting that the EPA's Indian General Assistance Program is vital for many Alaska villages.
"That's definitely on the chopping block," he said. "That's probably the scariest one."
IGAP, and funds the rural programs that provide basic services like waste management and water protection.
Nationally, Radenbaugh said, NASA and NOAA play a huge role in monitoring climate change and in making the science happen.
Verner Wilson, another organizer of the event, noted that there's another important field of science for the region.
"Salmon are our stronghold," he said. "That's why we love science."
The group also brainstormed other ways in which science affects daily Bristol Bay life — including the fishing industry, aerodynamics and aviation, energy, waste management, technology, and more.
To show support for the message of the march, the Dillingham group plans to have postcards on hand that people can use to send to elected officials. The group took up a collection to fund those postcards at the March 13 meeting, and plans to have them available after the march.
Event organizers are drawing on past experiences orchestrating group marches and letter-writing in Dillingham. Denise Lisac said that several years ago, the community rallied to show support for a bike path, also with a march and brightly-colored postcards.
"When those letters started showing up in Juneau, they knew they were coming from Dillingham," Denise said.
Ultimately, the state Department of Transportation helped make a bike path happen.
Not all of the organizers will be able to attend the event. Radenbaugh will be in Juneau teaching a university course, and Wilson will be in Washington, D.C. Both plan to participate in marches where they are. They hope that a large contingent of Dillingham will take to the streets with them April 22, preferably in green, and are working on ways to draw people out — rain or snow or sunshine, said Deven Lisac, one of the organizers.
About a dozen individuals have been involved in the planning effort so far, including Deven, who is coordinating with the national and statewide March for Science organizers.
Deven said more are welcome to get involved, and there are plenty of tasks left to delegate to anyone who wants to help, and decisions left to be made — like the precise time of the event, food, and speakers. The group's next meeting is March 27 at 7 p.m. at the UAF Bristol Bay campus.
Dillingham is one of eight communities in Alaska registered to have a march so far, including small towns like Seward and Tok, and the state's largest cities. The marches are meant to show support for science in our world, both the need to fund it and the need to take it seriously.
Molly Dischner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.