Climate Change in Politics with Tia Nelson

This past Wednesday, April 29, Tia Nelson, Managing Director of Climate Programs at the Outrider Foundation and the daughter of Earth Day’s founder Gaylord Nelson, spoke to the community about the modern environmental movement via a Zoom webinar. 

This past Wednesday, April 29, Tia Nelson, Managing Director of Climate Programs at the Outrider Foundation and the daughter of Earth Day's founder Gaylord Nelson, spoke to the community about the modern environmental movement via a Zoom webinar.

To begin the call, Nelson introduced herself and her work with the The Outrider Foundation, which seeks to educate, perform, and inspire action around climate change. Participants were then invited to watch a video from the Outrider Foundation titled "When The Earth Moves," which detailed what Nelson and fellow members of the Foundation were doing to raise awareness in their communities and the need for global action on climate change. The Outrider Foundation is currently collaborating with the Yale Climate Communications project to create a series of videos that help individuals see their role in being a part of the climate change solution.

After watching the video, student panelists asked Nelson questions about her initiatives in combating climate change. The panel consisted of Student Council Sustainability Representative Sid Sharma '20, Sustainability Representative of the McClellan House and co-president of the Climate Action Club Abby Sieler '21, and Sustainability Representative of the Stephens House and the other co-president of the Climate Action Club Victoria Gong '21. All three students are also members of the Sustainability Council at Lawrenceville. Finally, all panelists gave closing statements prefacing what viewers should take away from the webinar.

Nelson began by discussing obstacles in the global movement against climate change, stating that some of the obstacles today are similar as the ones from 50 years ago. She also said that in order to get children involved and aware of this global movement, they "need to be multi-generational and bi-partisan." Referring to a study, Nelson mentioned that although the difference in support for climate change between young Republicans and young Democrats is small, the disparity is more significant when looking at older demographics. In addition, while poorer people contribute the least to climate change, it still affects them the most.

"No matter who we are, we all need to drink clean water and breathe clean air...You get up in the morning with the tools and values you have, and you gotta use what you got, and unimaginable things can happen," said Nelson.

While Nelson is unsure about how coronavirus will affect the climate change movement, she wondered whether the pandemic would "bring an awakening to humans consumptive habits and impacts on the natural world." Due to the pandemic, Nelson mentioned how for the first time in decades, people in India are able to see the Himalayas Mountains due to the decrease in air pollution, and there are fish visible in canals in Venice due to a decrease in tourist-caused pollution.

Nelson then went on to talk about her father, the founder of Earth Day. She emphasized that when her father first developed interested in climate change, he was just a little kid. Reflecting on his accomplishments, she said, " Earth Day was successful beyond my father's wildest dreams...Environmentalism is not a partisan issue, it's a way of life issue for all of us."

Reflecting on Nelson's speech, Alistair Lam '23, who is the Sustainability Representative of Raymond as well as a member of the Sustainability Council, said, "Her speech was very inspiring and empowering. I especially remembered her closing statement which was that her father was just a boy from a small town, just like anyone else with a dream and he just chased it and he succeeded." Nelson's emphasis on how seemingly small individual action could lead to a global movement resonated with Lam.

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