Higher Ed Students are Climate Leaders Now

A conversation with Anya circa January 20, 2022, would leave you with very little idea of what Second Nature does as an organization. When friends or family asked me what my new internship entailed, I would reply with something along the lines of “something to do with sustainability in higher education?” In seeing the job listing, I thought, “I’m a college student and I believe colleges play a crucial role in the advancing climate work. I should apply and see what I can learn about the work already being done.” 

As a college student, school takes up a lot of my time, and shapes much of my identity. Despite spending my day taking classes for my Environmental Science major, I felt a piece missing in my knowledge and practice – the human piece. I am endlessly interested in the science of climate change, but the solution felt incomplete without centering the historically oppressed and most affected by climate change and social justice issues. In working with student orgs like the Campus Environmental Center, I see students every day finding ways to make environmental movement more just, inclusive and resilient on campuses. 

Interns bring an invaluable perspective to climate work, as students, we understand the inner workings of universities and subconsciously or consciously know how they can best serve our needs and where there is opportunity for improvement. Over the last 6 months at Second Nature, being able to learn about what climate policy can look like at universities has enabled me to create spaces at my own university for students to practice the translation of theory into reality. For example, the Environmental Justice Collective at UT Austin now facilitates discussions on how to integrate justice and DEI principles into event planning, curriculum design, and research on campus. I also have the opportunity to use the knowledge I’ve gained here to work on climate action policy as well as diversity and inclusion plans and initiatives on my own campus!

During my time at second nature, through meetings and deep dives into our website and history, I’ve realized that it would take months of research to capture the breadth of topics that this organization, and sustainability work in general, touches. But I’ve been supported to journey  through my interests, grow my knowledge of different aspects of clean energy transition, and most of all, learn the importance of human connection in the environmental movement, and I am excited to continue to grow and apply this knowledge.