I entered college knowing I would major in environmental studies. This interest in the environment was the constant in my ever-changing adolescence (and involved many phases, including when I only wore green, yikes!) and it helped direct me when I arrived on campus as one of the 45,000 students at the University of Washington. I started taking environmental classes right off the bat and didn’t have to flounder around, searching for some deep unstoked passion. It was already there.
Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, I have grown up with the luxury of beautiful mountains, trails, rivers, and beaches. I spent most of my free time recreating outdoors and waited for any opportunity to venture to new places. Studying the environment seemed like an extension of the things I love. I could learn about the birds, trees, and rocks that I saw. I could learn about the tides and the rivers that I know. I could become an expert on my home.
These things that drew me to the field were all true. I was a TA for the Natural History of the Puget Sound, a class focused on the Pacific Northwest, and I started farming and understanding where my food came from. I became aware of the intricacies of my home and the ecosystems that surrounded me. But along with learning about the beauty of the environment, environmental studies also taught me about the horrors committed by humans. I became filled with anxiety about the gravity of climate change and its imminent and current impact on the places I love. I would get a heavy feeling after particularly rough lectures and considered choosing a career that seemed less depressing. But then I stumbled into the perfect fit, something that fed that deep ever-present passion for wild places and allowed me to remain positive under the weight of the truths I was uncovering.
I took a general American politics class where we learned about party polarization, how the Senate and the House of Representatives work, and the role of government at different levels. It was a crash course on American politics, and it sparked something in me. Before diving into the intersection of politics and the environment, I felt powerless when I stepped back and thought about the world in relation to climate change. When I zoomed in too much, I felt like I wasn’t doing enough. But here was the middle ground.
Attacking environmental problems from the source through government policy gave me clarity on my path forward. It felt more feasible than holding the entire world in my hands and attempting to mitigate climate change. Focusing on environmental policy in the United States allowed me to still learn about the environment and feel like I could do something to protect it.
Environmental policy shapes not just the United States, but the entire world. As a leader in our increasingly globalized world, US environmental policy matters. To work on US environmental policy is to zoom in and shape cities and simultaneously zoom out and change global carbon emissions. I ended up taking more political science classes and I interned with Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, focusing on environmental policy. I also interned with Seattle King County looking at research and policy for their Wastewater Treatment Division. They may seem like two vastly different scales of policy but it all fits under the umbrella of government change.
Looking back at how I got to where I am now, things seem almost random. I started off farming at the UW and becoming obsessed with change through small scale food production. I ended up here, in the Sierra Nevada working with SBC, obsessed with government-driven change. I still wear both these hats and believe in the power of food. I like to toggle between the small and large scales when I become disenchanted or overwhelmed. But I also know I have found my scale of work, a level where I feel the most inspired and empowered.
Over the next 11 months, I will be working on a vulnerability assessment for the Sierra Nevada with Sierra CAMP as well as with Nevada County on their Energy Action Plan. I am honored to spend 11 months with an incredible, wholistic non-profit that promotes climate change adaptation and mitigation in the Sierra. In the age of COVID, racial injustice, and extreme inequality, I am proud to be a part of an organization that is working towards a solution.
Wildfire is the apex issue in our region, impacting the environment, economies, and public health of the Sierra. The severity of this problem is addressed by each of SBC’s three focus areas—our climate action, regional advocacy, and economic empowerment teams are each working on solutions that tackle the many challenges presented by severe wildfires.
The California Green Business Network (CAGBN) is a community of small to medium sized businesses throughout the state that comply with environmental regulations in the areas of waste, energy, water, pollution prevention, and air quality. These businesses have undergone an extensive auditing process, implemented cost and resource saving measures, and continue to use best practices even beyond certification.
Successful forest treatment projects over the last ten years (and the heroic work of firefighters) were what slowed the Caldor Fire enough to save homes and businesses in the Tahoe Basin, but often the threats posed to fire-impacted communities like mine are still only just beginning by the time containment is reached.
we’d be poor advocates of the region if we failed to acknowledge the history and current role of the original stewards of the Sierra Nevada. From the Maidu to the Miwok, the Niesenan to the Shoshone, the Paiute to the Washoe, and all the other diverse cultures throughout the region, the Indigenous peoples of Sierra Nevada were the original caretakers of this landscape, and they are critical partners that should be respected and involved in this region’s future.
For fear of sounding like a broken record, I will skip over the detailed account of how my fellowship/life is not exactly as I expected it to be, thanks to the pandemic. It’s 2021 but you could also call it December 56th, 2020. It didn’t become a brand new world January 1st, we are still wearing masks, working from home in our sweatpants, and trying to avoid refreshing the news. At the same time, I have been pondering the beauty of my unexpected journey to CivicSpark and SBC.