I realized early on in my life that the environment and our Earth’s natural resources were important to protect and must never to be taken for granted. Regular camping trips in northern Arizona and summer vacations to my parents’ hometown in India provided stark contrasts to the suburban sprawl that had come to characterize my own hometown of Scottsdale, Arizona. Seeing the natural beauty of hiking trails and climbing thousands of steps to ancient Hindu temples surrounded by breathtaking greenery reinforced my duty to conserve, preserve and protect. Yet, until I got to college, I had no clue how to incorporate this interest in sustainability with my other academic and career interests.
In my freshman fall semester at the University of Southern California, I took an upper-division international relations class in which we watched a TED talk by Al Gore about climate change. The statistics in his talk demonstrated the existential threat of climate change in a way I had never seen before and it completely altered my perspective. Immensely shocked yet spurred on by this realization, I have delved as deeply into sustainable development and climate change as possible. I have assisted a professor in studying military responses to climate change in the Arctic, lobbied to end harmful fossil fuel investments, organized youth fellowships and large-scale international summits addressing climate justice, and worked on research in environmental economics and climate-induced migration.
This summer, I have decided to shift gears — my past work has focused solely on climate change research and advocacy when viewed from a global perspective, and so I’m hoping to gain further experience with efforts at the local level. As such, I am interning with Defend Our Future here in Arizona, and two weeks in, am immensely enjoying my experience. So far, I have worked on a wide variety of interesting and productive tasks: research on the environmental effects of the proposed border wall, editorial work on climate change and the Arizona chocolate industry, and phone banking to encourage more young people to vote in our state elections with climate in mind. My supervisors have been incredibly supportive of my numerous goals and I appreciate the freedom they have given me to uniquely pursue topics of personal interest in ways that line up with the goals of the organization as a whole. I am already beginning to grasp concretely what is meant by the motto “think globally, act locally.” I am certain that this internship will help me continue to develop as a productive and more informed researcher, journalist, and activist, and I am beyond excited to see what the rest of the summer brings.
Naveen Dasari is a rising senior at the University of Southern California.