Volunteer Spotlight: Wilbur Li

Wilbur Li student climate change

Wilbur Li

Volunteer Spotlight: Wilbur Li

By Natalie Desmaris

Wilbur Li is a junior at MIT studying computer science and mechanical engineering who hopes to make his future career in clean energy. In his free time, he enjoys soccer, Frisbee, and fishing. His fishing excursions bring him into contact with many people invested in protecting the environment. Growing up in Sugar Land, Texas, Wilbur heard alarmist, doomsday messages on climate change in the media in middle school, but he learned more about the science in high school and college. When he heard about the Put a Price On It campaign led by Our Climate, he decided it was time to take action. He co-founded the Climate Action Team at MIT with fellow MIT student Claire Halloran. We took the time to speak to him about why he does this work and what his future might hold.

What do you like about CCL and carbon pricing?

CCL is one of the most high-impact environmental groups. It’s a large organization, with a lot of different professional voices encompassed, and a strong voice in Washington. Out of a lot of environmental groups, CCL seems one of the most practically minded. There’s a clear mission, clear steps on how to get there, and how to pass climate change legislation. The bipartisanship makes a big difference. I’ve heard a bunch of different talks from climate professionals, politicians, researchers, and economists on carbon pricing and it seems like carbon pricing is the most efficient solution. I think that it’d be really effective at the national level.

What are you and MIT CAT working on?

We’re trying to focus on carbon pricing with activities that are not only educational, like putting on events and having speakers, but also getting meetings with legislators or advocates. We’re putting together a round table that would include some MIT professors, local advocates, as well as sustainability directors at local institutions in order to figure out what sort of legislation companies would support between carbon pricing and other regulatory policies that would be effective for the climate. We’ve been combing through a decent sized list of well-known speakers, trying to schedule a speaking event and we think that we could get a couple hundred people in to hear them talk. We are also meeting with our state legislators to try to pass a carbon pricing bill in Massachusetts with student activists from Our Climate. A commitment to implementing carbon pricing was included in the clean energy omnibus bill that passed the MA Senate in June.

How do you stay motivated?

We always start our meeting with a short article summary, where a few members talk about some issue they read about, how climate change is affecting people, and what is not being done about it. That’s pretty motivating when we’re looking at the bigger picture, realizing that a ton of people will be impacted by things like biodiversity loss, rising sea levels, and intensifying natural disasters. I’m from Houston, and we’ve had a ton of hurricanes in the past few years which have been personally motivating. It’s about showing people the big picture and also showing them that we can make an impact as a small group. People are busy, but they believe in the mission and are willing to give up some of their week for it.

How do you see your work influencing your future career?

Since I’m interested in clean energy, a lot of clean energy businesses are interested in climate action. It’s probably not the same group of people, but they are pretty big supporters of what the climate action people are doing. I am pretty interested in working on clean energy finance or clean energy emerging technologies; the business side or the technology side of clean energy. It’s not the same as climate advocacy, but it’s definitely related.

Are you interested in starting a climate campaign at your school? Learn how at www.citizensclimatehighered.org and join the Campus Leader’s Program. If you’re not a student, you can help us do outreach to higher education through Higher Ed Allies. Please contact clara.fang @ citizensclimatelobby.org for questions.

Got a suggestion for our Volunteer Spotlight series? Send the name, chapter and some brief info about the volunteer to Flannery Winchester at flannery @ citizensclimatelobby.org.