By Riya Patel November 29, 2018

I first joined Defend Our Future as someone who knew about the scientific mechanisms and effects of climate change but not as much about our political system. With knowledge of the scientific workings of the environment and the effect humans have on it, I was ready to see what impact I could have on a broader scale.

I keep the climate in mind while voting because I believe that public health and environmental health are linked in large feedback loop, so how could I choose to ignore one while emphasizing the other?

I used to think that my vote did not matter. I have come to realize that by not exercising my right to vote, not only am I limiting my own voice from being heard, but I am taking my voice away from important conversations and therefore silencing the voice of our group as a whole. Feeling as though one vote will not change anything is valid, but the issue is, that it is not only one vote, but also a voice. That voice in addition to the many others is what is keeping this conversation on climate change going. Today it is essential that we as students keep the environment at the forefront of our minds since this will impact our future.

I vote to increase the number of voices, so to me, the most significant experience I had at Defend Our Future was Get Out the Vote (GOTV) week. This week really emphasized the importance of helping people through encouraging them to check voter registration, poll location and other election information! Calling people brought a direct line of communication and accentuated what our goal is, bringing the topic of climate to the forefront of young peoples’ conversations. Talking with these people, mostly college students, made me feel that finally people are taking the time to educate themselves and are asking questions that are paramount to voting. It has been spectacular to see the tangible results of GOTV week and its effect on the increased voter turnout, especially among millennials.

My experience with Defend Our Future has been sensational, but that week was only scratching the surface in terms of what this organization does. There is so much that this group does from empowering young voters on college campuses, to holding media press conferences. I look forward to continuing my work with Defend Our Future and seeing what we can achieve in the future.

Riya Patel is a senior at The Ohio State University.