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Nicodemus Wilderness Project


NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Los Angeles, California, USA

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Los Angeles, California, USA
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Registered: December 2018
City/Town/Province: Los Angeles
Posts: 1
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Title: Protecting the Los Angeles Urban Forest

About Me:
My name is Katya, I am a high school senior at Palisades High School, and will be majoring in Environmental Science and Economics at Dartmouth College. I come from a family of two immigrant parents from Soviet Russia. My environmental advocacy stems from my deep love for the Earth. When I was eight, I joined my family camping and kayaking on islands by the Russian-Finnish border. For a month, we awoke at 4:30 to harvest mushrooms and fish for our day's food. It was then that I recognized Earth as provider and myself as a recipient of its gifts. My respect and gratitude for Earth has fueled my passion for protecting the environment, particularly to ensure healthy, clean habitats by maximizing the usage of sustainable alternatives, including renewable energy.
Ultimately, I envision myself becoming a sustainability consultant, later working in the Environmental Science Sector of the UN. I aspire to one day implement legislation that sustainably increases renewable energy usage worldwide, thus protecting the Earth that provides for us all. As for now, I volunteer in environmental organizations including Sierra Club, and for my local native plant garden.

Big Idea:
The main idea of my project is to get more students involved in their local politics and in understanding the importance of their environmental surroundings. A lot of the basis of my advocacy outside of school has been centered around youth involvement in politics, so I wanted to perpetuate that involvement in a hands-on and effective way where participants can see the result and feel as though they are making a difference. We did this by spreading a survey that will be used by over 100 scientists and city officials to inform municipal environmental legislation, specifically regarding Los Angeles' urban forest. This will ensure that people's opinions in their the survey results will directly affect Los Angeles environmental legislation. This survey (found at This was created by the mayor's office to gather public opinion on Los Angeles' urban forest, whether that be lack of care, lack of existence in certain areas, and main concerns (or lack of). This project is necessary because political apathy is commonly seen as "cool" in younger generations. This must change, as we are the policy makers and voters of tomorrow. Encouraging youth activism in politics is necessary to the progression of our country, whether that be progression in sustainability or in human rights (they often go hand in hand!). This project benefits the environment in an obvious sense on the local level of sustaining Los Angeles' trees, but also on a national and global scale as Los Angeles and California are seen as national leaders in sustainability, so the protection of trees and the asking of public opinion can domino as other cities pick up the same practices.

Mid- February:
My advocacy project originally consisted of the idea to paint roofs white that were originally black in order to reduce albedo. I wanted to paint roofs of local Palisades and Brentwood stores.
March 3:
On March 3, I talked to the Pacific Palisades Community Council Chair for possible local environmental contacts. I went with my friend Lilliana. During this meeting, the Pacific Palisades Community Council Chair offered to email City Councilmember Mike Bonin for the information on permits for roof painting.
March 5:
On March 5, the Pacific Palisades Community Council Chair got a reply from Mike Bonin in which I got reference to Lisa Cahill, the field deputy and former Tree People executive.
March 28:
I then emailed Lisa Cahill, the Field Deputy Lisa Cahill of CD 11. Cahill and I met in the District Federal Office in which we discussed possible initiatives for environmental sustainability in Palisades and about my original idea which was to increase the number of white roofs in Los Angeles. Cahill let me know that this was not feasible on a grassroots level, so I needed another idea and another meeting.
May 15:
I had the second meeting with Cahill during which we landed upon the Urban Forest Management Plan and the importance of the youth's opinion in local policy. We decided a great way to help impact the politics that protect the environment was to get as many kids to take the survey as possible (the target number is 3000).
May 20:
I begin social media campaign to spread the survey and increase the responses. May 20th, I spread the survey to my snapchat followers.
May 22:
I spread the survey to the Palisades Ambassadors remind string as well as the DECA and Palisades High school swim and dive teams.
May 25:
I got a spot on the last announcement of the school year as well as the link posted to the leadership schoology page.
May 26:
I spread the survey to instagram stories and as posts. I enroll my friend Lilliana to join me, and she posts on her Instagram, getting 299 views on her post, and on my Instagram, getting 313 views.
May 28:
Lisa Cahill informed me that submissions increased from 45 to 232 within the time I began spreading the survey.

Contact List:
Lisa Cahill, field deputy for city councilmember Mike Bonin, former Tree People executive:
Andy Schrader, Director of Environmental Affairs, Water Policy & Sustainability for
Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz:
Laura Mack, native plant specialist, former PPCC sustainability advisor :
Edith De Guzman, Director of Research at Tree People :
Maryam Zar, Chair of the PPCC:
Torin Dunnavant, Director of Education and Engagement at Sacramento Tree Foundation:
Lisa Novick, Director of Outreach at Theodore Payne Foundation:

My Reflection:
This project was a very interesting and inspirational experience for me because I learned how to directly influence local politics. More specifically, I learned that to influence local politics, the most important factor is your connections. For example, when I first had the idea to paint roofs white, I reached out to the Chair of the Pacific Palisades Community Council who then subsequently reached out to the Field Deputy of the 11th District Lisa Cahill. When I then met up with Ms. Cahill, she then forwarded us to different contacts, including Andy Schrader, the Director of Environmental Affairs, Water Policy & Sustainability for Los Angeles, Edith De Guzman, director of research at Tree People, and more. This way I gained a multitude of new contacts that work in the environmental sector of Los Angeles politics and this allowed me to learn about the Los Angeles Survey about Urban Forestry. As a result, I created the idea for my project to influence the survey and publicize as much as I could, allowing for more people's opinions to be used in influencing legislation in their communities. However, I believe some improvements I could have implemented would be to publicize the survey more extensively, including to announce and spread the word to different high schools around Los Angeles; more specifically, to Brentwood High School, University High School, North Hollywood High School, Animo Venice Charter High School, and Camino Nuevo High school. This would have created a more distributed and diverse audience for the Los Angeles Urban Forestry Survey, giving a more accurate analysis of what legislation the community wants. I also believe that a greater extension of this project would be for future students to start their own clubs and groups in which they would help sustain Los Angeles' urban forest. They could do this by influencing politics directly by: writing letters to elected officials, proposing their own legislation and laws for Los Angeles, and reaching out to local officials, just like I did.
Picking an environmental advocacy project that was in line with what I am generally interested in was really rewarding. I learned from this project that it's really easy to get involved in local government and make a difference in your community. I learned how easy it is to network and how many contacts are right at my fingertips. On a smaller scale, I learned about the work Tree People do, as Lisa Cahill was a former executive there, and I learned to appreciate Los Angeles' urban forest as I drive, walk, bike, or take public transportation across LA. I furthered my depth of knowledge of the benefits trees provide to Los Angeles by having to advocate for them across school and social media. A manner by which this project can be extended is to spread this survey all across Los Angeles to other youth and other high schools that may bring a more diverse perspective than students living in the Palisades, as the urban forest is different in different areas of Los Angeles. I increased the survey responses by a respectable amount, but an extension of the project would be to get the mayor's office to their target number of responses: 3000. All in all, I learned a lot not just about trees, but about political and scientific advocacy while doing this project, and I will be sure to implement what I have learned in doing this project into other aspects of my advocacy. I am planning to deepen my advocacy in local politics by pursuing bigger projects that were unveiled as a concomitant of the contacts made through this project.
Date: January 1, 2019 Views: 3886 File size: 23.0kb, 2839.0kb : 3024 x 4032
Hours Volunteered: 30
Volunteers: 2
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 18 &17
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