By Mikaela Foehr June 1, 2023

Another semester of sunshine, smiles and climate advocacy  

It is summer once again! This means lots of daylight and downtime; and at Defend Our Future, it means another semester’s end and a time of planning and reflection. We’ve had an impactful first half of 2023, so let’s look at the highlights of the last few months. 


Houston, we have lift off 

March was a special month. No, we didn’t find any four-leaf clovers or pots of gold, but we did launch two brand-new initiatives! 

The Community Organizing Fellows Program began with a two-day intensive training in D.C. and has continued on a glide path since! Through this program, we have deepened relationships with three other environmental organizations: Vote Solar, Colorado Rising and Our Climate. Each of our fellows is embedded in their local community with one of these organizations, adding capacity to smaller NGOs and building on-the-ground relationships with climate-minded community members.

Georgina Monsalvo, our fellow with Vote Solar in Arizona, is lending her lived experiences to help Vote Solar put on a community forum in her neighborhood. Georgina has been working hard to create English- and Spanish-language materials. This way, every person has the chance to participate in and learn from the discussion about the health and environmental impacts of two gas peaker plants located in their neighborhood. 

Alex Ross is managing this program and we look forward to its continued achievements and future iterations. 


Seeding the Future, our campaign to advocate for equitable access to green spaces and promote federal funding to expand green spaces was met with tremendous enthusiasm from our campus chapters. Campus ambassadors wasted no time making this initiative their own – planning interactive educational events at community gardens, cleaning up neighborhood parks and partnering with local organizations to physically plant trees.  

When campus ambassadors aren’t planting trees, they’re planting ideas with decision makers, encouraging them to apply for IRA grant money through the Urban and Community Forestry program. Ambassadors reached out to 34 representatives of campuses, city departments and local organizations eligible for the funds. As more grant cycles open up, this outreach will continue, ensuring our local partners are aware of the climate funding available in IRA and IIJA. 


Live from Instagram – it’s Defend Our Future! 

Celebrating Black History Month with Howard University campus ambassador Taylor Campbell and EDF’s Cecile Brown. The pair shares how they got involved in the environmental movement and what Historically Black Colleges and Universities mean to them. 

Launching Seeding the Future, hosted by digital marketing specialist Jessica Gomez. Jessica talked with George Washington campus ambassador Mia Iannos about her chapter’s plans for the campaign and why tree equity and green spaces are so exciting to young people.


Trees are #ICONIC! Danielle O’Brien, campus ambassador at La Salle University in Pennsylvania, chatted with GreenRoots Chelsea and Friends of Trees about the benefits of community trees. 

Ask the Experts: Eco-Anxiety, was planned and hosted by our intern Nyasaina! She spoke with former campus ambassador and current activist Saiarchana Darira and climate advisor Aishah – Nyeta. The panel shared personal stories of climate despair and tips and resources for fellow youth activists struggling with similar feelings. 


Defend Our Beer 

At our largest Defend Our Future event to date, over 100 people showed up in D.C. to learn about how climate change affects the beer industry, what local breweries are doing to brew responsibly and what Sen. John Hickenlooper is doing to fight the climate crisis. This event was the latest in the long line of Defend What You Love events (click here to read about Bees and Oceans), but it was particularly impactful because of the sense of community it built. 

This fall, Defend Our Future will be participating in DC Beer Fest. We are so excited to show up to engage even more folks in the D.C. area, and to see all our partners from Defend Our Beer again! This opportunity came directly from our campaigns manager Nick Haas’ ability to craft genuine connections with partners by finding the common threads of the climate crisis that affect us all. 


A very successful Earth Month 

During Earth Month, Defend Our Future was doing it all. Campus ambassadors on every campus put on events engaging their fellow students, from film screenings to clean ups to tree plantings! Our community organizing fellows participated in their host organization’s events, all the while our organizing and training manager Richard Gallon was planning an impactful and thought-provoking workshop to teach our members what environmental justice means and how their identities play into the movement. 

And out in North Las Vegas, Defend Our Future’s Nevada organizer Mercedez Davis worked tirelessly to build awareness and make connections to support the community of Windsor Park. To learn about Windsor Park’s story and how Mercedez and Defend Our Future are working to support this community’s needs read Defending Windsor Park 


Legislative engagement 

Defend Our Future engaged 10 congressional and six state legislative offices this spring. At the federal level, seven of those offices were new connections. Instead of focusing solely on the representatives for Defend Our Future campuses, we expanded our engagement to include campus ambassadors’ home districts. This expansion allowed us to create relationships with critical legislators, including Sens. Markey, Ossoff and Fetterman, as well as Rep. Frost. We look forward to deepening those relationships through meetings and events and are excited to continue to expand the reach of Defend Our Future on Capitol Hill with our newest class of ambassadors. 


Internal highlights 

We’ve also added four new team members who have brought so much in just these few months. 

Mercedez Davis and Liam Sacino, based in Nevada and Pennsylvania respectively, are expanding Defend Our Future’s presence in critical states while also supporting our Climate Action Campaign priorities. Liam and Mercedez are already creating authentic relationships with local communities and organizations, something that would not have been possible without their work on the ground. 

Karlyn Bradley is a regional organizer who manages the Arizona, Ohio, New Mexico and Florida Campus Ambassadors. They bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to the team from their background in education, facilitation and community organizing. We are endlessly grateful for Karlyn’s dedication to cultivating equitable and just systems and solutions, and look forward to further integrating their perspective into Defend Our Future’s work. 

Nyasaina Kwamboka began as our Spring Intern back in January, but we were lucky enough to extend her internship through the summer months! You may recognize her from her many Reels and TikToks highlighting important environmental activists and influencers – which we highly recommend you watch. Nyasaina is also spearheading a Defend Our Future collaboration with EDF’s Clean Beauty Justice campaign and working with Alex Ross on deepening engagement with our Small Business Network. 


Coming up next 

From July 17 to July 20, we will host the entire Defend Our Future team and our 2023–2024 class of campus ambassadors in Washington, D.C. The three days will consist of intensive training, community building and legislative visits. We can’t wait to kick off a new academic year of community organizing on college campuses! Richard Gallon leads this program so please contact him if you have questions or collaboration opportunities for this upcoming year. 

Summertime is also the season of fundraising! If you’ve been eyeing our adorable tote bags and t-shirts, now is your chance! From tomorrow through August 31, Defend Our Future will be doing a $2-for-$1 match so your donations go even further in supporting young climate activists trying to save their future and our planet. 

Another priority, Defend Our Future is supporting the E-BIKE Act, introduced by Rep. Panetta (CA-19) and Sen. Schatz (HI). This bill would create a refundable tax credit for purchasing an e-bike, which is particularly salient for young people since many cannot yet afford a car – electric or otherwise.  

Finally, all summer we will continue to engage with communities and decision makers to ensure the Urban and Community Forestry grants through USDA are making their way to the communities that need them most. Through grant monitoring, information sharing and direct community engagement we will continue to advocate for every community’s right to benefit from green spaces and tree cover.