By Monica Nerz April 28, 2020

During my time here at Defend Our Future, I acquired several skills pertaining to the environmental advocacy field. Most importantly, I learned how government affairs, environmental policy, and coalition building are all critical components to tackling climate change. Towards the beginning of my internship, (and when it was a bit warmer) I and a few others attended several “Fire Drill Fridays,” a weekly series spearheaded by Jane Fonda and featured guests of the week. It was a very neat experience having witnessed each week’s turnout, rain OR shine discussing topics ranging from environmental justice to the people impacted by climate-related hardships across the nation every single day.

Over the course of my internship, I was engaged in a number of areas such as social media advocacy, campus ambassador outreach, and engaging our representatives on Capitol Hill. One of my favorite aspects of this internship was having the opportunity to meet with members of Congress and their staff. On several occasions, Defend Our Future and Moms Clean Air Force held one-on-one meetings with Members to discuss environmental policy concerns and what we could offer to help members safeguard them. I had the opportunity to meet with Representatives Kathy Castor, Mary Gay Scanlon (who also happens to be my hometown rep!), Lisa Blunt Rochester, Paul Tonko, and Donald McEachin. As a young person, it was incredibly empowering to discuss such issues with staunch environmental advocates on why it is critical to move towards a clean energy future.

Another one of my favorite activities at Defend was attending congressional hearings related to the climate crisis. The hearings sparked a number of debates on how to tackle this issue, but what was most important, was that our representatives are now recognizing the speed in which we need to address the crisis. Thanks to the environmental movement, the climate crisis is increasingly becoming a priority issue among Congress.

This past January, Defend hosted a fly-in at the DC office for the campus ambassador chapters across the country. A happy hour, good food, and conversation was followed by a full day of training and building a grassroots organization on campus and in communities. Our campus ambassadors learned the ins and outs of establishing a chapter, using social media to engage peers and lawmakers, how to host an event, and more! On the second day, we headed to the Hill to meet with representatives, senators, and their staff to demand climate action and explain to them why young people like myself are fighting day in and day out for climate action and why we needed them to lead. This was both an informative and transformational experience to work with college students across the nation.

I would like to thank those who have contributed to my growth here at Defend Our Future. I cannot wait to see what is in store for the environmental movement! As my internship comes to a close, I am grateful for the opportunity to have worked for such a great organization possessing an abundance of knowledge on the issues that matter most to young people and the future of our climate.