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Natalie Asmus

Natalie Asmus, organizer of Madison's March for Science.

PHOTO BY MICHELLE STOCKER

Middleton High School student Natalie Asmus was disappointed she could not attend Madison's inaugural March for Science last year because of standardized testing.

As Asmus was seeking out event details this year, she was surprised to learn that the march had been cancelled due to a lack of interest.

“I thought, well, I’m interested. Maybe I could somehow organize and bring it back,” Asmus, 18, said.

And that's exactly what Asmus is doing. The revived march will be held May 5. Participants will meet in James Madison Park at 3 p.m., march down Langdon Street and end with a rally at Library Mall. A festival celebrating science with speakers and presentations will follow the march.

Asmus, a senior who is passionate about science, is looking forward to studying biology and genetics in college. She hopes to build off of the momentum of last year’s Earth Day events held in Washington D.C. and communities around the nation.

The 2017 rallies were influenced by President Donald Trump and his administration’s views on climate change and science.

“Science, since the election, has kind of come under attack in terms of evidence-based policies. We hear climate change denial,” Asmus said. “All these kinds of things has especially galvanised us to speak out against some of these policies.”

The second annual Madison march will champion the national organizers’ mission of “robustly funded and publicly communicated science as a pillar of human freedom and prosperity.”

Why do you think this event is important to have in Madison?

Madison is a very vibrant city. I think there’s a lot of people in Madison who are very active in terms of science and policy. I myself am really passionate about science, and it’s a really important tool in our democracy. I think it really helps bring the community together.

The reason that I wanted to march for science is because that I believe there’s power in numbers and especially since we had such a great turnout at last year’s march, it’s really good to know they’re bringing an awareness of the importance of science. There’s a lot of really great resources with the university, with the Wisconsin Discovery Center, with the Geology Museum. There's so many resources on campus and downtown that really are strong advocates for science and supportive of science policy.

What message do you hope the event gets across to participants and the community?

The theme this year of the march in terms of the national level was accountability. There’s power in numbers. We’re going to be using our platform to demand better from our public officials. In terms of the whole theme of accountability, we really want to make known that — not just for officials but ourselves — being the catalyst for change. We are the ones who can create change by contacting our representatives, by speaking out about science policy and we’re the ones who have the power to do that in our community.

It’s not just a day or march and then we go back to our regular lives but that it continues a sustained effort and advocacy throughout the year, throughout the rest of our lives really. We want to emphasize continued action and engagement in the community.

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Recently, students have been making news for speaking out and getting involved with political movements. What about this generation of high school students do you think is propelling involvement in political issues?

I am so incredibly proud to be a part of this generation and to be a part of this kind of movement of people who are speaking up and finally saying enough is enough. I think that is part of the reason we are standing up now. There does come a point where there is a breaking point, where people say, “I can’t take this anymore. This has been happening for too long.”

On the issue of gun violence especially, the same thing happens over and over again and nothing ever changes. I think we just all have reached a point where we’re living this every day and are experiencing this, and we’re not going to take it anymore. I don’t think a lot of people give our generation enough credit. We’re stereotyped as the lazy millennials who are on their phones and play Candy Crush or Snapchat, but we are really passionate and involved about these issues that are impacting us and impacting our communities.

I think that my friends and I, we all see this as a chance to make others take us seriously. The reality is as I move forward in the world, I’m going to have a voice. I voted in the April election, and I’m going to have a voice in my community and I’m going to be a catalyst for change.

Are you hopeful about the future of science?

If you were going to look at a one day perspective, the future of science would look somewhat bleak. But I think looking at all the recent advancements that have been made and the recent technologies that are out there, there’s so much incredible potential for science. It seems like within every five to 10 years, the amount of information doubles. The future of science and STEM does really make me hopeful about the future in terms of what can be accomplished, what has already been accomplished and how many bright young minds are ready and willing to take on that challenge. I’m definitely optimistic about the future.

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Abigail Becker joined The Capital Times in 2016, where she primarily covers city and county government. She previously worked for the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism and the Wisconsin State Journal.