My interest in environmental preservation began as a child—I spent hours watching wildlife documentaries, reading Ranger Rick magazine, and even keeping a wildlife journal. Like many kids, I loved animals and wanted to learn about all of them, from the cute and cuddly to the gross and freaky. As I grew older I learned how humans have a direct impact on the health of the environment and the animals who live there, and that’s a huge responsibility! So I wanted to understand how I could play a part in taking care of the planet and all its inhabitants, which naturally led me to learn about environmental responsibility and sustainability. Topics like a hole in the ozone layer and decreasing Arctic sea ice were big news when I was a teenager, and both were linked to this concept of climate change—something so abstract but global and uncertain in its effects. What was certain was that if humans didn’t learn about it – why it was happening, what was causing it, and how our lives and the lives of millions of plants and animals could be impacted – then we could lose everything. Sure, everything sounds a bit dramatic and dire, but everything is also life as we know it, all the interconnectedness that we know. So I have continually striven to learn more about climate change and how individuals, communities, and countries can help to mitigate it. Most recently, I completed an expedition to Antarctica, where I sought to see the effects of climate change firsthand, so that I could provide deeper insight in climate change conversations, providing credible account of the changes our planet is experiencing.
Thanks to my parents, I grew up in a very environmentally responsible household. Recycling and reusing are common themes I can trace back to my earliest memories at home. My parents also taught me that education and awareness are some of the greatest tools each person can wield, so I sought to learn more about the environment by attending ecology camps and seminars, volunteering for an environmental nonprofit, and participating in county-wide envirothon competitions. In college, I hosted local chapters of national climate change rallies. And in graduate school, I studied environmental science and policy, knowing that I wanted to dedicate my career to protecting the environment. Today I work for an international environmental nonprofit, working with teams around the world to investigate environmental crime, propose solutions to some of the world’s most pressing environmental problems, and communicate to lay audiences why it all matters.
A lot of people ask me, What can I do to help? Sometimes this question is asked in sincerity, sometimes it’s asked in despair. Quite plainly, people need to understand what can happen if they don’t take action. Education is paramount and is the first step in taking action in my opinion. Once people can conceptualize what climate change could mean for them, their children, their neighborhood, etc, then they will care to make changes. If everyone makes changes to their daily habits, that are relevant to their lifestyle (for example, what I do is probably different than what someone in India or Chile or Gabon might do), then we have millions, hopefully billions of people helping to reduce global warming. Some people might feel discouraged because there are so many humans in the world, that we can’t possibly make an impact as one individual changing daily habits, but that’s the beauty in that there are so many of us: if we all make changes, it will make a big difference.
We also need governments to staunchly support action; if federal governments won’t, it’s up to state and local governments. And the way to change state and local priorties is by becoming active voices ourselves – calling representatives, running for office, scheduling meetings to talk about the issues important to us. And this can all start if everyone educates themselves on climate change.
For more information, follow my blog, where I’ll periodically post updates and info. You can also watch the short film I made following my Antarctic expedition here.