Thursday, January 15, 2015

Happy 2015 from Zoe

Happy 2015! I am delighted to start the year off as a new policy intern at Save the Harbor/Save the Bay. I have been interested in environmental advocacy since high school, and recently decided to shift my career to this area. In doing some research to refine my focus in the new field, Save the Harbor/Save the Bay caught my attention because of their remarkable work to improve Boston Harbor’s water quality. I applied for their internship because I wanted to see their data-driven projects in action and learn more about how they have shaped policy and practice so successfully.

This role is also a great opportunity to learn more about a question that intrigues me: how to convey scientific information to policymakers and to the public in ways that lead them to make safe, proactive decisions on environmental issues. As someone with a background in activism and behavior change (from studying psychology and working as a caseworker), I am fascinated by finding the best communication techniques to persuade people to make positive change. This is a particularly urgent question given today’s environmental crises. Now more than ever, our safety and our planet depend on our ability to influence each other to protect the natural world.

Both of the above—a data-based approach and a strategic communication style—will help me with my first project as an intern, researching government climate resilience initiatives in major population centers on the Massachusetts coast. Based on scientific projections of sea level rise and changing weather patterns due to climate change, these communities will face increasing challenges with flooding and severe storms. Local emergency preparation is vital. To our knowledge, there has been little or no investigation into whether these cities and towns are funding such efforts adequately, so my first step will be to look into municipal climate resilience budgeting. As demonstrated by storms like Hurricane Sandy, areas with limited resources often bear the most serious impacts of severe weather. To prevent tragedies like these, we need to make sure all communities have the resources they need to protect themselves.

I feel very lucky to have a chance to research an environmental justice question with such wide implications. I am equally excited that I am doing so by joining Save the Harbor/Save the Bay, and learning firsthand about its programs to keep Boston Harbor clean, beautiful, and accessible to all.

-Zoe Vanderschmidt

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