A Fresh Recruit to Climate Activism

Andrew Dickinson is a junior at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst and was a Fellow in the Fall of 2018. He is majoring in Communications with a minor in Environmental Science. He has been environmentally conscious since he was a kid and recently decided that this was the path he needs to go down in order to make the world a better place. He sees Our Climate as a clear first step towards a career in environmental advocacy after graduating. When he isn’t thinking about ways to better our future, you’ll find him scaling a rock wall or shredding the slopes of a ski hill.

Last fall, outside The Black Sheep sandwich shop in Amherst, MA, my dad and I shared lunch in the crisp fall air and discussed my recent semester at college. When I told him about this new job I had taken on for a non-profit called Our Climate. Part way through my explanation of the job, he asked me why I had taken this task on. I told him that I believe even the smallest steps toward sustainability, as simple as a conversation about our future, are worthwhile, and that is what I am working towards, every day. His gaze fell down to his empty plate of food and then rose to meet my eyes. “I’m proud of you Andy, and all that you’re working on.”

This was deeply reaffirming to someone who was brand new to carbon pollution pricing and advocacy. I wasn’t really sure where to start, but after joining the Our Climate fellowship I realized I was in deep, swimming in buzzwords: carbon tax, climate change, policy, revenue, rebates, equity. However, I knew that I cared about our planet and was excited to realize was how many people share the same beliefs right in my own neighborhood. I began to explore this web of activists, following from node to node at the direction of my peers.

Take my classmate, Alexia Perides, the secretary of the SGA sustainability council at my college, UMass Amherst. This driven individual is leading an exciting task force to achieve an internal carbon price for the university. Through her, I was introduced to Sherry Morgan, a community member who has worked for more than 30 years on issues of environmental protection and policy, who in turn invited me to attend her meetings at a Panera in Hadley.

Crammed around the small tables, were a multitude of individuals ready to lead the charge to support carbon pollution pricing. I was excited to hear them discuss how to lobby local politicians to co-sponsor a bill that will be resubmitted by my very own hometown representative, Jennifer Benson, in the 2019 session! And each of these people was focused upon their goal at hand and determined to see it to completion, which opened my eyes to what it takes to dream, plan and organize, and lobby for new legislation. Each pitch, each conversation is tailored to the individual, emphasizing how carbon pricing pollution policy will personally affect them, and in the case of politicians, how it will affect those they represent.

However, we in Massachusetts face a big challenge--how can so many different people make an effective, collective push for this policy. Sherry’s group has a distinct lack of youth, while Alexia’s group focuses only on UMass as an institution rather than on state politics. If groups like this pooled their extensive knowledge and resources with the voice and representation of the young, our message would be all-the-more powerful.

This is why myself and a few other students, including Spring Fellow Emily Radowski, are currently partnering with a state coalition member and UMass professor, Andy Donson to grow support for climate advocacy on UMass’s campus. I hope that together we can build a strong platform for the voices of my generation to address carbon pollution pricing and other climate-change-related political matters. The movement will strengthen as we mobilize passive allies and convince those who are teetering on the edge of support. A brighter future is before us, all we must do is reach out and take it.

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