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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Eugene, Oregon, USA

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Eugene, Oregon, USA
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Registered: December 2018
City/Town/Province: Springfield
Posts: 1
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By: Eowyn
Essay for Apprentice Ecologist Scholarship

Apprentice Ecologist Project: Internship at Our Children's Trust

I grew up Eugene, Oregon, hiking through forests, canoeing the crystal-clear McKenzie River, and camping in the Three Sisters Wilderness Area. My family taught me to cherish, appreciate and enjoy Oregon and the unique ecosystems within the Pacific Northwest.

A few years ago, however, I learned about the impacts of climate change on Oregon, and I began to notice these changes in real time. Wildfires blackened the beautiful Three Sisters Wilderness so that it resembled an apocalyptic wasteland and smoke crept into the city of Eugene, forcing residents to wear masks. My favorite beaches were at an increasing risk of being flooded, damaging nearby homes, threatening endemic species, and eroding the coastline. Everything I cherished was changing rapidly.

I began looking for opportunities to combat climate change directly using scientific research and policy. That's when I met Avery, a 13-year-old plaintiff in the lawsuit Juliana v. U.S. Avery and I connected over our love for Oregon's natural beauty, and our dismay that Oregon's ecosystems are rapidly deteriorating. Avery explained that in 2015, she and 20 other youth plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against the U.S. federal government for knowingly contributing to climate change for over five decades. Rather than suing for money, the plaintiffs, drawing from concepts in the Civil Rights lawsuit Brown v. Board of Education, are asking for a court-ordered science-based National Climate Recovery Plan that will return atmospheric carbon emissions to 350 parts per million by the year 2100 to defend Public Trust resources and the life, liberty and property of children and future generations--particularly considering marginalized and at-risk communities, which are more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. After researching the legal claims and science behind this lawsuit, I contacted the plaintiffs' lawyers at Our Children's Trust to get involved.

I began volunteering at Our Children's Trust in May as a Community Engagement Intern for the Eugene area. Although this is an unconventional project, I think doing this work is highly impactful because, if the Juliana v. U.S. youth plaintiffs win their lawsuit and the executive branch is mandated to create and implement a Climate Recovery Plan, this will help reduce many of the worst effects of climate change, protecting Eugene ecosystems and the ecosystem services that Eugenians rely on. In addition, through this internship, I have reached diverse populations and empowered them to promote conservation and climate justice in their homes, community and city.

I have given presentations at neighborhood associations, the University of Oregon and to elementary through high school students, including at-risk teenagers at a local alternative school. In my presentations, I talk about the effects of climate change on Oregon. I explain that it is important to take care of this region because it provides many unique ecosystem services: carbon sequestration by dense forests, food resources such as berries and salmon, rivers for drinking water, wilderness areas for recreation, and timber and fisheries for Oregon's economy. Second, I talk about the history of government knowledge of climate change, and how the U.S. federal government has promoted fossil fuels and poor forest management, contributing to almost one quarter of the world's carbon emissions, despite knowing since the 1950s of the dangers of these practices to future generations. Third, I explain the primary legal principles of Juliana v. U.S., such as the claim to life, liberty and property, equal protection of children and future generations under the law, and protection of the Public Trust--also known as the Commons. Finally, I describe the primary concepts behind a National Climate Recovery Plan. Using the research of climate scientists and climate policy professionals, many of which are experts on the case, I explain that a Climate Recovery Plan includes a combination of steep emissions reductions and carbon sequestration.

In addition to giving presentations, I had the honor of helping lead the design and public presentation of a project before one thousand people at a rally on October 29, called the Government Knowledge of Climate Change Timeline. The timeline consists of 80 posters, each with a year painted in black ink. At the top of each poster is the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere during that year--the black color changing to red once it passed the safe zone of 350 parts per million. The final piece of information was written at the bottom of each poster: a fact that the government learned about climate change that year, or an aggregate action that was taken whilst knowing those climate facts. At the rally, I asked each person to pick up the poster for the year they were born and stand in front of the federal courthouse. We took a picture of the lineup: 1938 to 2018, from a grandmother to a woman holding her newborn baby. This moment was incredibly powerful for me, as I made the connection between ecology, conservation and human rights. Afterwards, attendees expressed that the timeline project was effective in communicating the urgency of climate change, and inspired them to take action in their community. One woman resolved to install solar panels on her roof, and a college student decided to take action to help conserve the at-risk Elliot State Forest.

Having the opportunity to give presentations to my community and lead the timeline project has given me a sense of purpose, particularly when people tell me that they have been inspired to take action. Volunteering at Our Children's Trust has provided me with hope that with so many people contributing to the cause, we can build resilient communities and conservation programs that will mitigate some of the worst effects of climate change on this region.

In addition, volunteering at Our Children's Trust has given me a clear view of my educational and career goals. In mid-October, I was surprised and excited to be offered a job at Our Children's Trust. I plan to continue working while I am in school so that I can gain additional skills such as community organizing, education and climate research. After finishing my major in Environmental Studies, I want to combine my passion for humanitarian work and ecology by partnering with climate scientists to develop climate resiliency strategies and policies that benefit both local ecosystems and neighborhood communities. I am deeply grateful for the opportunities I have been given to advocate for human rights across the globe and the conservation of my beloved Oregon home.
Date: December 30, 2018 Views: 2422 File size: 22.9kb, 4291.2kb : 5700 x 3800
Hours Volunteered: 323
Volunteers: 1
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 21
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