Follow the Fellows: Sam Explores Rural Oregon

Sam is a sophomore at Claremont McKenna College (CMC) dual majoring in EEP (Environment, Economics, Politics) and Philosophy. He’s passionate environmental sustainability because he wants to provide future generations with an earth that has the economic viability and natural beauty that characterizes it today. He believes that to mitigate climate change, decrease reliance on dirty energy, and increase competition in the green energy market, it is necessary to organize around carbon pricing legislation, like a Fee and Dividend. At CMC, he’s a fellow with the Put A Price On it Campaign, fellow with Strategic Energy Innovations, member of Model United Nations, president of CCL Claremont Colleges, co-lead of Food Recovery Network, Chair of the Senate's Environmental Concerns Committee, and student baker at the Motley. In his free time, Sam likes walking around to find fresh fruit, hiking, working out, brewing kombucha, discussing current events, and spending time with family and friends. Connect with him at https://www.linkedin.com/in/samhbecker


My internship with Oregon Climate (now Our Climate) gave me the opportunity to interact with a variety of people inside and outside of my community. Through these interactions, I feel that my capacity to enact positive environmental change in my college, community, state, and nation has grown. The internship also strengthened my ability to utilize different structures of government to catalyze long-term changes by helping me to better comprehend how to effectively lead, listen to others, provide inspiration that cultivates change, and create pathways for intrapersonal and interpersonal innovation.

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Last semester, I came to understand that uniting higher education’s voice in support of carbon pricing would encourage substantial national and Congressional discussion surrounding this type of policy. That is why I helped lead successful efforts to garner carbon pricing endorsements from college presidents at the 5Cs. This idea is now being used by the Put A Price On It Campaign, for which I am now a Fellow. The goal of the Campaign is to put a price on carbon by mobilizing the generations most affected by climate change: young people. The campaign will empower students across the country to directly lobby their members of Congress and elevate the importance of carbon pricing through film, social media, and celebrity endorsements.

I had the opportunity to help lead the effort to build a platform for the Campaign this summer by compiling information about more than 500 colleges and creating materials that students can use to gather support from other students and ultimately their president. The Campaign was recently launched by the Emmy-award winning TV series, Years of Living Dangerously, and Our Climate, the nation’s first Millennial-led carbon pricing organization.

The largest challenge I faced was overcoming the bias I had about rural communities. I recognized the bias early this summer during a DC meeting with the US Representative from my district, Greg Walden. I assumed that Walden would fit my Republican Representative stereotype--climate change denier and carbon price hater. In the meeting, I learned that he believes humans are causing climate change and that we should be combatting it by investing in renewable energy, and that he does not support a carbon price. After the meeting, I realized the bias I went into the meeting with was fifty percent wrong. This made me think about the current disarray in our political system and how often people on different sides of the isle must harbor false biases about each other.

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In an attempt to overcome my biases, I went on a weeklong trip in rural Northeastern Oregon to listen and respond to the beliefs, worries, and questions about carbon pricing from influential people in Walden’s district. My hope was that once I understood their perspective, I could encourage Walden to advocate for certain provisions in a carbon pricing policy that would benefit his constituency.

I met with 27 people from his district, most of whom were from agriculture and forestry backgrounds. It was amazing opportunity to understand a more rural perspective and listen to their ideas about how the revenue from the tax could be used to build an equitable policy. While this initiative is not finished, I have already learned a lot from sitting down with people who maintain different views than I do about climate change and carbon pricing. I believe this is necessary because writing these people off as “other” only strengthens the separation that characterizes our current political system.   

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During the internship, I learned that the majority of my judgments about people were based on unfounded ideas. I decided to confront these biases every time they arose by questioning where they came from. I figured out that many of my biases were formed to give me a sense of control in any given situation. By understanding this, not only was I able to topple a variety of my biases because they were not truthful, I also came to understand that I could lead in a more positive, meaningful, and productive manner without them.

 


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