From Scientist to Activist

Don't hang up your science marching shoes just yet, because the People's Climate March is this Saturday, April 29, and we all need to be there. 

Last weekend, hundreds of thousands of us hit the streets in 600 locations on six continents in the March For Science, to voice our support for evidence-based policy. This coming weekend, at the People's Climate March, we put those values into action. Because attacks on science aren't just attacks on scientists, they are attacks on all of us, and climate change epitomizes that. When politicians cater to fossil fuel interests by denying climate science and pursuing anti-science climate policy, they endanger the jobs, justice, and livelihoods of ordinary people everywhere. The Peoples Climate March is about scientists and citizens uniting to protect the people and places we love by demanding that evidence, not ideology, inform policy.

In this Director's cut of an interview I did with Miles O'Brien Productions for PBS Newshour, I discuss my journey from scientist to scientist-activist, and explain why as both a renewable energy engineer and a citizen of the climate change generation, I feel a responsibility to march. I hope to see you there.

(Full details about the People's Climate March in D.C. and 200 sister marches can be found at www.peoplesclimate.org.)

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Dr. Geoffrey Supran is a Post Doctoral researcher in the Institute for Data, Systems, and Society at MIT and in the Department of History of Science at Harvard University. He has a PhD in Materials Science & Engineering from MIT. He has co-led several campaigns to mobilize scientists to engage in climate advocacy, including the fossil fuel divestment campaign at MIT, an open letter from academics urging Donald Trump to take climate action, and the #StandUpForScience rallies in San Francisco and Boston, which were the first major scientist protests against the Trump administration. He spoke at the Harvard March For Science.

TRANSCRIPT

GEOFFREY SUPRAN at rally: Today, science fights back.

SUPRAN: My name is Geoffrey Supran. My PhD is in materials science and engineering.

Science is the backbone of informed decision-making. It innovates in ways that helps the economy be globally competitive. It makes discoveries that genuinely save lives, not only in medicine but things like keeping our air and our water clean, and warning us of looming dangers, whether that would be a tornado tomorrow or climate change now and for the coming decades.

And most fundamentally, science also promotes critical thinking that is absolutely essential to an informed and engaged electorate that’s willing to hold our leaders accountable. And nothing is more important than that for a fairer and safer democracy.

Our research is about finding solutions to climate change. For my PhD, we worked in the lab right behind me, developing next generation solar cells, more efficient LEDs, technological solutions to the climate problem.

SUPRAN in lab: This is where we make next-generation LEDs and solar cells. And while you’re doing it sometimes you have a few moments to think and so, you look up the news and you’re kind of reading about events and things. And it was really here kind of grappling with the climate problem that my friends and I started to kind of see the wood for the trees and understand the context, the bigger context of the work we were doing.

SUPRAN: We came to this startling realization that we already have most of the technologies we need to start tackling the climate change crisis. And what we really lack is the political will.  So it was kind of at that moment that I realized there’s space that has not been filled by scientists, and we really need to step into that void.

SUPRAN at rally: Never forget: scientists are among the most trusted people in America...

SUPRAN: We as scientist, by instinct, believe that facts will win the day, that facts alone will guide ethical decision-making by our leaders. And I think we’ve been a little slow on the uptake to realize that its values that are the currency of persuasion, not facts. And so only now are we starting to realize that it’s not good enough to just do the work in our lab--we have to communicate to the American people that we’re here to serve the common good.

SUPRAN at rally: Let’s send a message to our politicians that policy without science is a recipe for disaster. And if they don’t get it, let’s run for office and vote them out.

SUPRAN: It’s vital for scientists to do things like consider running for office, not only to speak up but to then fill those shoes and take action. It’s vital for us to tell our stories to the public so the public stands with us in this fight against alternative facts.

Producer: Fedor Kossakovski // Camera: Suzi Tobias // Editor: Brian Truglio // Assistant Editor: Meredyth Lamm