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Intern Spotlight – Graham Johnson

Ohio Environmental Council, July 19, 2022

When I was 4 years old I wanted to be a dolphin. At 5, an eagle. My 6th trip around the sun brewed envy for the power and grace of a panther, and 7: yearning for the long simple life of the sea turtle. A decade removed from these fantasies, and my rose-colored view of Florida’s natural beauty had been jaded. My hometown of Tampa saw the worst red-tide season in twenty years, and the miraculous world of the dolphin was spoiled as they washed up dead on beaches. Meanwhile, the Florida panther and sea turtle consistently face the threat of extinction. In the relatively short time period that is my life, I have experienced first hand the impact that relentless development and poor environmental policy and planning can have on such robust ecosystems and natural resources. And, while my love for nature and the outdoors has not faded, a new green fire has lit inside me to preserve what we have and provide equitable access to such resources.

My name is Graham Johnson, and I was born and raised in Tampa, Florida. I am a rising third year at The Ohio State University studying Environmental Policy and Decision Making with a specialization in Environmental and Social Justice and a minor in City and Regional Planning. I am currently on a pre-law track and planning on going to law school, but, as with everything, that is subject to change. In my time at OSU, I have become very involved with our university’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB). With this organization, I have been fortunate enough to work on humanitarian projects locally and internationally and been given the opportunity to work on completely student-led projects that aim to do good everywhere. In fact, this summer I will be heading to Carrera, Ecuador for 8 days with our travel team for an assessment trip of our school building construction project. Between EWB and my studies, I have developed quite a passion for environmental justice here and abroad. Through the project process for this structure, I have seen the spaces in which actions to highlight justice implications arise and the ways in which an organization like ours can satisfy the needs of a community without becoming overbearing or taking ownership over a project that should be led by them. The need for these social considerations in all areas of work has become apparent to me and is something that I’d love to involve myself further in. 

While my position as Water Advocacy Intern with the OEC is my first internship, I have always been interested in pursuing a career in the environmental field in this kind of social capacity. The way society interacts with and manages the natural world has always been an intriguing topic. I feel that as stewards of the environment it is vital to work in every capacity of our society, not just within natural sciences, to ensure the protection of our resources and equitable protection of those most vulnerable to environmental threats. It takes a concerted effort and a diverse set of skills beyond environmental knowledge to advocate in our institutions for these causes and that is something that I would like to push myself to do as I pursue a career in the field. It is also this set of skills that I am excited to exercise each day while working with the OEC in fighting to preserve clean and affordable water resources in Ohio!