The Story of Us

Tom Erb is the National Field Organizer for the Put A Price On It Campaign and is based out of Claremont, Ca. He is a junior at Pomona College and studies Public Policy Analysis. Prior to the campaign, Erb was the Congressional Liaison for the #4Billion4Us campaign, a climate intern for United States Senator Brian Schatz and a communications intern for Congressman Eric Swalwell. His work began as President of a carbon pricing campaign at the Claremont Colleges and he continues to work to address climate change and lift up the youth voice outside of the campaign. He is from San Diego, CA. Tom can be reached at tom@theclimatesolution.com.


The future of our nation depends upon the active participation of an energized electorate. The largest portion of the voter base is now millennials, a group of individuals more aligned with progressive ideals such as climate action, social justice, and campaign finance reform. As a result, our country will be shaped not only by this generation’s views, but more importantly by their activism.

Our Climate is a millennial-led and grassroots group that advocates for fair, effective, and inclusive carbon prices to address climate change. Starting as the state-level group Oregon Climate, Our Climate has now pivoted to the national level partnering with Years of Living Dangerously to launch the Put A Price On It campaign. Put A Price On It is an effort to recruit students to organize on the local level and advocate on the state and federal level for carbon prices. In addition to climate action, the organization works to empower young people’s ability to influence public policy and politics.

Tom speaks the World Bank Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition

Tom speaks at the World Bank

After organizing at the Claremont Colleges and spending the summer working for United States Senator for Hawaii Brian Schatz, I joined the team in August 2016 as the National Field Organizer. From there, I set out on a mission to recruit, train, and build a national network of millennials committed to carbon pricing advocacy. Instead of approaching students with a particular formula to organize, I start with relationship building. I don’t want to establish a network solely committed to putting a price on carbon; I want to assemble a team of students committed to each other. When you give students autonomy to design their own organizing and follow their own curiosity, the loyalty and strength of the team only solidifies. As of today, we have 40 Put A Price On It Field Representatives across the country, each with a vision that is integral to our success.

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Tom visits students at Thurgood Marshall Middle School to discuss the Put A Price On It campaign

To understand my journey with Our Climate, it is crucial to hear my team’s stories. For example, Savannah Benhard is a freshman at the University of Utah. Instead of limiting herself to her own campus, she committed to finding a carbon pricing leader at every college in the state and started a YouTube channel with fellow field rep, Elke Arnesen. Elke, a recent high school graduate, took a gap year to recruit over 50 businesses in her congressional district to endorse climate action. Moving east, Sam Blackwood and Kyle Kilkenny launched a carbon pricing campaign in New York City and are hosting a kick-off event in 2017. Finally, Jen Van Stander from Rochester Institute of Technology is inspired to build a relationship with every congressional office in upstate New York. What is more impressive than what they are doing is why they are doing it. Alanna Elder at the University of Wyoming expressed her desire to be a part of a courageous and curious generation that does not falter in the face of an uncertain future, but rather seizes the opportunity to shape it. Chandler Green at American University wants to use her background in strategic communications to shape a dialogue around climate that is collaborative instead of combative. Finally, Oskar Pfeffer, a student from Germany currently studying at Boston University, wants to use his voice to increase environmental awareness in the United States.

These are just a few of the students dedicated to organizing and lobbying for a price on carbon, but their stories play an important role in painting a much bigger picture. Now more than ever there is a strong case for optimism and it rests in the hands of these students. Progress ebbs and flows, but the curiosity and hope that fuel these young ambitions will burn for a generation.

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Toms joins the World Bank for a screening of The Years of Living Dangerously with Joe Romm, Founding Editor of Climate Progress, Kaia Rose, Film4Climate Winner, and James Close, Director, Climate Change Group, World Bank Group. Discussion moderated by Tom Kerr, Head, Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition.

Today we are obsessed with massive mobilization over social media as opposed to strong relationships built on trust. As a result, we know more about each other on the surface and less about each other on a personal level. Our relationships are built on Facebook likes and occasional text messages instead of intellectually engaging and emotionally moving conversations about our own stories. Going forward, I am inspired to influence as many young minds as possible with the values that are reflected at Our Climate. Loyalty, honesty, perseverance and curiosity are key pillars of my own personal journey, but are also deeply embedded in our work. To successfully organize, you can’t solely ask for favors, or retweets, or an op-ed, you must invest in your colleagues.

As I look back on the last few months, I always circle back to the fact that I am a college kid still trying to find his path. I don't do this out of pride, but rather because I know if I can do it, so many others can too. At Our Climate we are building a network of carbon pricing champions, but more importantly, we are shaping a generation of leaders sustained by relationships and connected by common values.


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