By Mikaela Foehr March 1, 2022

Education is foundational to Defend Our Future. We believe that taking the time to educate our communities on the climate crisis – what they are facing now, what they will be facing, and how their actions can make a difference – is a critical step in inspiring activism. February was certainly a month of learning in a multitude of ways, for both our network and ourselves.

In these past two weeks, Defend hosted two more Black History Month events to round out this important month of remembrance, reflection, and growth. On Feb. 23, Defend hosted an Instagram live discussion – Being Black and Proud in the Environmental Movement. Environmental Defense Fund’s Director of DEI & Justice Communications Alyse Rooks and Defend’s Organizing & Training Manager Richard Gallon participated as panelists, answering questions prepared by our Howard University ambassador Taylor Campbell. The 30-minute conversation (which you can watch here) touched on topics of environmental justice, the reality of often being the only Black voice in the room, and the personal experiences that first brought each of these three to the environmental movement.

Defend also sponsored an Anti-Blackness and You training last week, hosted by Karlyn Bradley. We had 25 people from our Defend community participate in the training, staying online and engaged throughout the two-and-a-half-hour conversation. We are grateful to Karlyn for providing this opportunity for people to learn and engage with one another!

Conversations like these are of the utmost importance in the environmental movement because communities of color are both disproportionately affected by the climate crisis and have been historically excluded from large movements to address it. Knowing this, we must take the time to learn about how these shortcomings manifested historically, how they continue to manifest today, and how our organizations can lend themselves to mending those gaps. If we do not take time to learn about injustice, we can never adequately address it.

Beyond Black History Month, we also spent considerable time learning about the West Virginia v. EPA Supreme Court case. In the run-up to yesterday’s day of action in D.C., Defend spent time as a team learning the ins and outs of the case, sharing that information with our members and campus ambassadors through infographics and blogs, and encouraging our networks to raise their voices with us. All this culminated on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday, with over 220 people showing up to voice their support for the EPA. Defend was proud to have nearly our entire core team there, with people traveling from Oregon, Arizona, and Wisconsin to attend. Some students from our target campuses also attended, including one of our campus ambassadors from Temple University, and three chapter members from UVA.

After the event, which was greatly successful in bringing visibility to this case and our support for the EPA, our team was able to gather in person for the first time since the pandemic began. It was a wonderful opportunity for us to connect, get to know each other as people beyond the screen, and set the stage for our upcoming strategic planning process which is set to kick off later this month.

Back on our campuses, our University of Central Florida ambassadors have made great strides in educating their community and making local connections. Ambassadors Chere’ Erickson and Johanna Packer hosted a Letter to the Editor workshop for their peers last Thursday, teaching their fellow student activists the key tricks to writing a compelling Letter to the Editor (LTE) that local papers can’t say no to. They offered templates, quality facts to cite, and general argument strategies – by the end of the event one member was already submitting a letter to their local paper! Chere’ and Johanna also met with Florida State Rep. Anna Eskamani who has been a strong champion for the climate in the state. In the past, we worked with Rep. Eskamani to place an op-ed in the Orlando Sentinel and today our Florida supporters continue to thank her for fighting against a bad net metering bill in the state legislature, a priority for EDF’s Florida team, led by Dawn Shirreffs. The UCF team is hoping to plan an event with Rep. Eskamani soon.

Some upcoming Defend Events we would love to see you at:

For the film buffs, our University of Houston team is hosting a virtual film screening of Breaking Boundaries: The Science of Our Planet on March 8. The showing will be followed by a short discussion and all participants will be entered into a raffle for a $20 Starbucks gift card!

In Arizona, our team will be joining Moms Clean Air Force and other partners for March 4th for Climate on, you guessed it, March 4. The march will go from Sen. Sinema’s to Sen. Kelly’s Arizona offices, culminating in a press conference on the progress we have made, and what more we wish to accomplish.

Finally, if you happen to be in Columbus, Ohio tomorrow (March 2) we strongly encourage you to attend OSU’s Defend Our Beer event at Kafe Kerouac at 7 p.m. Attendees receive a free beer!

Thank you for taking the time to read and learn with us, and I look forward to sharing all that is to come.

Warmest regards,
Mikaela Foehr

P.S. Check out Defend on Rep. Jimmy Gomez’s Twitter!