Discovering My Purpose: How I Acquired a Medical Anthropological Perspective on Climate Change

Nazeen Shah, a Field Rep with Our Climate, is a Senior at Spackenkill High School and aspires to become a physician-scientist. She is passionate about Type 1 diabetes research as she represents the next generation of Type 1 diabetics and environmental research. Furthermore, she is motivated to determine the intersection between public health and climate change while investigating minority-based negligence. She continues to spread awareness of and advocate for public health, climate change, and environmental racism.


 

Before becoming a Field Representative with Our Climate, I had many aspirations with no clear direction as to how I wanted to pursue them. I was interested in alleviating hunger, researching  a cure for type 1 diabetes, and preventing minority-based discrimination. I wanted to find a common cause for all these world issues. I came across a post on social media about climate change and from there on, I have been focusing my efforts on climate advocacy.

However, my goal of raising awareness was halted by my lack of knowledge about climate change and my lack of public speaking skills. However, I was and am driven to learn. I learned how climate change can induce hunger in under-developed countries, I learned that climate change can potentially induce diabetes, and I learned there is environmental racism as well as systemic racism. Not only did I learn about my curiosities, but rather, I learned about why there is an abundance of fires in California, why there is an abundance of floods in Bangladesh, and why there is a lack of serious action taken to combat these problems. The lack of knowledge of the climate crisis is what is halting our efforts. This led me to seek outlets where I could gain knowledge and overcome my introversion. Hence, why I became an Our Climate Field Representative. I was no longer timid because the urgency of the climate crisis gave me a voice.

During my time spent with inspiring individuals, I creatively combined two of my interests: public health and climate change. To enhance my knowledge, I took courses, watched videos, and truly found a topic that I want to research forever, the health effects of climate change. After weeks and weeks of learning, 16-year-old me, was confident enough to join the climate speaker series hosted by Our Climate’s NY team. The fear of public speaking arose again at the thought of facilitating my first ever Zoom presentation. However, after reflecting on the journey that got me to where I was, I became confident. Even though it seemed like a casual twenty-minute presentation to others, it was the first twenty minutes of my new journey. A journey full of going outside my comfort zone. After my presentation, the participants asked questions, and I smiled at their curiosity. It reminded me that I, a curious high school student, can make an impact in the lives of others.

Fast forward to the future, I’m now working on an independent clean energy project in the Hudson Valley! In my efforts to reduce the health effects of climate change, I bring local, clean energy to the electrical grid. As well as, mobilizing individuals and communities to sign up for local solar projects to prevent millions of pounds of carbon emissions while saving money. Common Energy, the community solar provider that I work with, is grounded in principles of equity, empowerment, and mitigating climate change through clean energy! With my experience of being an Our Climate Field Representative, I feel unafraid and empowered to outreach to the members of my community about this project. I have learned we all are in this fight together.

As I continue on my journey of climate advocacy, I look forward to being a Field Representative with Our Climate again for the fall. I hope to learn more about the impacts of climate change and how it can threaten human health worldwide while considering environmental racism. I hope to gain expertise in climate activism while gaining a better sense of purpose, one of which I did not have prior to this position. I discovered my purpose and used it to my advantage! Thank you Our Climate for the opportunity!


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