The Washington Environmental Council celebrated their 50th year in 2017, and a timeline is displayed in the office on the walls near the entrance displaying their achievements. At the end of the timeline there is an interactive “my hopes for the future” section where anyone can post a sticky note with their hopes for Washington Environmental Council and Washington Conservation Voters. On my first day in the office I noticed a sticky note that said “My hopes for the future is more Duke Engage Interns!” This sticky note reminded me that our work we are doing in Seattle is noticed, and our community partners think we are of value in our short two months here.
I am thankful that my supervisor, Kat, not only allowed me, but has encouraged me to make the most out of my short internship. Throughout the summer I have had the opportunity to go to conferences, marches, trainings and press events through the organization. At the Protecting Mother Earth Conference on the Nisqually land, I met Native Americans from all over the globe and heard their stories about their livelihoods being threatened by climate change and continued colonialism. I heard from sisters representing the Puyallup tribe—they call themselves the Water Warriors— who were opposing the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) facility in Tacoma. The liquefied natural-gas (LNG) plant is a small project relative to the proposed developments roiling the region, such as Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline through Canada. But its crimes are equally horrendous. The LNG storage tank is breaking the law every day and just paying the fees; they keep in disobedient business because they make much more money by not shutting down and refusing to clean up the environment. From the Bakken oil fields to Standing Rock to the Bayou Ridge; from the Canadian Tar Sands to the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline to the Northwest Coastal Salish Sea; indigenous peoples are standing up to private corporations and governments that are trying to sacrifice the environment for profit. Indigenous people in the United States do not have sufficient political power, which is why multi-sectoral collaborative campaigns and coalition building is a need in order to one day achieve radical redistribution of wealth and power.
As part of the Field Team at Washington Environmental Council, I got to learn about, petition for signatures, watch the 350,000 signatures be turned in at Olympia, and canvass for the 1631 initiative. This November, Washington voters will be able to vote on the 1631—a carbon fee that aims to reduce pollution and promote clean air, water and energy investments in Washington State. From the very beginning, the 1631 was created by the largest and most diverse coalition ever in Washington state. They made history by getting comprehensive, inclusive, and innovative solutions to climate pollution on the ballot.
I had the opportunity to attend the Zero Hour youth climate action march on behalf of Washington Environmental Council and the 1631 campaign. The Washington Conservation Voters—WEC’s 501-C4 arm—endorsed the Zero Hour campaign and march. Zero Hour is a global youth led movement fighting climate change and the disproportionate impacts it has on frontline communities. It is a three-day climate action event for youth which includes Lobbying, art build for the march, and the Climate March itself. There were marches all over the Unites States and across the globe, with a sister march in Seattle. The organization is incredible, and the directors are as young as eight years old. The wide demographic ranges I have seen throughout my projects in Seattle remind me that it will take all of us, from all walks of life, to come together, collaborate, and find solutions to our current climate crisis.
My supervisor encouraged to me to make the most out of my short internship by letting my interests shape the projects I worked on; however, I have truly been the one shaped by all the incredible groups I have worked with. The opportunities I have had through my internship are truly the reason I applied for this Duke Engage program. I have learned so much, but most importantly I have learned the significance of alliances. Real change happens when passionate people come together and form inclusive, equitable, and innovative solutions.