Meet the OEC Interns – Eliza VanNess

Ohio Environmental Council, August 1, 2021

This summer, the OEC had the pleasure of hosting five amazing interns to work with us on a variety of different projects and campaigns related to local and state-wide issues in Ohio. Our law center intern, Eliza VanNess assisted Chris Tavenor on a series of legal actions to protect our democracy and environment. Read more about Eliza’s experience in environmental advocacy below:

After a handful of odd jobs, a BA from Denison University, and too many all-nighters, I’m now heading into my last year of law school at Ohio State. I hope to pursue a career in environmental law, and I dream of building an agricultural system that’s sustainable for both the earth and its communities. 

Growing up living and working on farms instilled in me a deep connection to, and joy in, the land. It’s an inevitable consequence of this connection that I take environmental threats seriously. With my background, the way the land supports us is too obvious to ignore. I consider environmental work to be both a necessary effort and a sacred duty.

In the course of my career, I hope to see the environmental movement really plunge into agricultural reform. The ag industry significantly contributes to climate change, impacts water quality, implicates energy policy, and transforms the health of the soil on which we all depend. 

Often, the environmental impacts of the agricultural industry are overlooked. In part because the ag industry can seem monolithic, but also because the communities most directly impacted by unsustainable ag policy aren’t the ones the environmental movement was initiated to protect. Despite these barriers, ensuring a sustainable future—or a future at all—requires just and sustainable agricultural practices.

The history of my family is one in which family farming is becoming less and less possible with each generation, tracking the course with which ag policies have benefitted agribusinessmen at the cost of farmers. Reform is generations overdue. Ag reform not only protects our lands, air, and waters, it provides opportunities to revitalize rural communities, reinvigorate local economies, eliminate abusive farm labor practices, and allow people of all backgrounds to feel the pride that can come from working the land. 

I got tired of waiting for this reform, so now my goal is to create it myself. 

Eliza VanNess,