This summer has been A LOT. Externally, we worked, rallied, and did our best to stay cool through the roller coaster of federal climate negotiations, Supreme Court decisions, and record temperatures. Internally, we built our capacity by adding programs, team members, and filling out our Fall 2022 Campus Ambassador roster.
Here are a few of the bright spots amidst these tough few months.
We were over the moon to get to spend some time with our Washington community at the DC Pride Festival in June. Nick and Mikaela – along with some EDF colleagues – spent the day tabling and enjoying the festivities. We got the chance to meet a whole bunch of new young people passionate about the environment and we are excited to continue engaging with the DC community on a deeper level.
Though if we are being honest – what people seemed most excited about were our Pride t-shirts designed by our own Alex Ross! Don’t worry if you missed them – another order is coming soon.
It is no secret we love our Instagram lives, and this summer our intern Jenya Polavarapu has been taking the lead on organizing them.
In celebration of Immigrant Heritage month, Jenya and Digital Marketing Specialist Jessica Gomez hosted a conversation with one of our partner organizations. Joining them was Marissa Martinez, an Arizona Community Organizer from Poder Latinx. The group talked for 20 minutes about their experiences as first or second generation immigrants and how those experiences have shaped their view of the environmental movement.
Jenya organized and executed another partner org conversation just this past week on the challenges youth organizers face. Dionna Brown from Black Millennials For Flint and Dawnielle Wright from Young Evangelicals for Climate Action joined her to share their experiences in the field and offer advice for those breaking into it.
You can find recordings of the conversations (which have received over 300 views collectively!) on our Instagram.
It’s (the waning days) of Plastic-Free July! In honor of this, Kyli ‘took’ our followers to visit Green Life Trading Co. – a low-waste shop in Madison, WI. This local shop makes it easy to choose sustainable products that fit our lifestyles and are gentle on the planet! Green Life Trading aims to transform their community into one with an ethos of low-waste by providing access to sustainable options and education. The reel has already gotten over 3500 views, and don’t forget to also watch the follow-up interview with the owner of Green Life Trading Co. – Sasha!
Rally at the Supreme Court
Although the West Virginia v. EPA Supreme Court ruling was a blow to the federal climate action we sorely need – all is not lost. The EPA still has the authority and responsibility to limit climate pollution from a wealth of sources, and our partner orgs and us will continue to advocate for climate action at all levels of government.
As a small bonus from this setback – attending the rally did score Defend Our Future a cameo in the Politico Power Switch newsletter! We were proud to be on the steps of the Supreme Court representing our members and young people around the country who were (and are still) distraught by this ruling.
As our last quasi-highlight shows, this was certainly not the easiest summer. In fact for many of us it was the hardest summer in a long time. Yet these last three months did crystalize why the work we all do is so important. Young people need a voice in this country. It is our futures on the line and we at Defend Our Future are going to continue doing everything we can to make lawmakers listen.
On that note, here is a message from our Director Kyli Wagner on the exciting staff and programmatic changes that have happened this summer.
Note from Kyli:
I could not be more excited to share that — for the first time in over a year — Defend Our Future is fully staffed! We have big goals and dreams to grow our program and reach even more young people to protect our future. Now, we have the team to make it possible.
First, Alex Ross has joined official EDF staff as our new Community Organizing Project Manager. Alex will be working primarily on expanding our existing ambassador program to reach a broader audience – with a particular focus on young professionals ages 25-35. This is going to help us balance the pitfalls relying on a semester organizing model, as well as ensure we are engaging at a deeper, more consistent level in the communities where we organize. Alex will also be working to expand both our partnerships and small business network.
As we made plans to increase Defend’s brand awareness and make sure we’re a familiar force to decision-makers, we knew we needed to give our presence and visibility in DC a major bump. Nick Haas has also joined official EDF staff as our new Campaigns Project Manager to do just that! In addition to supporting campus ambassadors across the country, Nick will be working to build relationships with partners, small businesses, and campuses throughout the DMV. He’ll probably be inviting you to a rally or event very soon.
Both Alex and Nick have been working with Defend for the last two years, helping get our campus ambassador program off the ground and to the strong space it is in now. They have both been absolutely essential members of our team and we are thrilled to see them grow into these new roles.
Of course, those promotions left us with Regional Organizer openings. So we are excited to have Jesse Rodriguez and Morgan Brown joining us to fill those slots and support campus ambassadors around the country. Jesse has worked with Defend in the past, helping launch the ambassador program in Arizona and we are excited for his return. Morgan was a campus ambassador herself who graduated earlier this year. We’re thrilled to have her perspective on the team to make sure we are serving students the best way possible.
I also have to give a huge thank you to the rest of the team – Richard Gallon, Jessica Gomez, and Mikaela Foehr. The three of them have all stepped up in massive ways not just this summer, but all year, to make sure Defend keeps moving forward. We truly do have the BEST team and I’m so grateful to get to work with all of them.