Ohio Environmental Council, July 14, 2021
My initial engagement with the environmental movement happened when I studied urban planning at the University of Cincinnati for my undergraduate degree. I was fascinated by all the ways that city development could mitigate climate change, such as expanding transportation opportunities or densifying residential development. I learned about many policy levers throughout my degree, but it wasn’t until I enrolled in seminary that I started asking deeper questions about climate policy.
In 2019 I enrolled at Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York, where I learned about religious approaches to ecological issues. I enjoyed learning about Indigenous relationships to land, Black theological perspectives on the ecological movement, and Catholic theologies of the earth. Learning about these perspectives helped me to think critically about who is left out of ecological debates and the unique role that faith communities can play in political change.
During my time in seminary, I also learned about the importance of democratizing the environmental movement. I worked with students to have our seminary declare a climate emergency and take steps for our campus to reach zero emissions within ten years. The centerpiece of this declaration was a climate plan that would be shaped democratically by our seminary community. We created a “community assembly” consisting of student delegates that drafted a campus plan. The assembly was assisted by BIPOC climate experts and other climate activists.
While democracy can be slow and messy, I found that the finished product exceeded the quality that could have been produced by experts alone. The experience taught me that for the environmental movement to be successful, it must be both democratic and center those who are most affected by the climate crisis.
In the future, I plan to pursue a career in public policy with a focus on community wealth building, ecological sustainability, and labor justice.