Volunteer Spotlight: Natalie Desmaris
Natalie Desmaris had her hands in a lot of exciting climate work. She’s been at it since high school, when she joined clubs and took environmental studies. In college, she founded a chapter of CCL on her campus, and she studied abroad in Tanzania, which brought the threat of climate change into focus. In this Q&A, Natalie shares what she’s learned during those efforts and her time as CCL’s Higher Education Outreach Intern.
How did you get involved in climate work?
I always cared about the environment; when I was younger my concerns were more for the animals, and as I got older I realized the devastating impacts climate change would have on people. I was involved with some environmental groups at school, and I aimed to be as environmentally friendly as possible, but I would say I became a climate activist after taking environmental studies my senior year of high school. It was the first time I learned what climate change is, how it happens, and how big of an issue it is. In college I also spent a month studying abroad in Tanzania which especially opened my eyes to how vulnerable many people are to changes in weather patterns, droughts, changes in pests, diseases, and more. If we don’t prevent climate change, we’re really going to have a humanitarian crisis.
How did you find CCL?
I went to a lobbying workshop at my school hosted by the CCL New York City chapter. I’ve thought that a carbon tax seemed like a good idea for a while, and so when I learned about CCL and carbon fee and dividend at a lobbying workshop, I thought it was perfect. Near the end of the workshop, Robert Werner from CCL NYC asked if anybody was interested in starting a campus chapter, and I immediately looked at my friend and we said we wanted to do it. I felt like I had been waiting for something that I saw to be really worthwhile and potentially a big solution to get behind, and that was CCL.
What do you like about CCL and the CF&D proposal?
I think the bipartisan nature of CCL is key because we want and need to make lasting change that won’t be turned over with the party in power. We also need a policy that alleviates financial pressure for poor families, and CF&D does that and more. I also really appreciate the dedication of CCL members. They understand how important the issue is and their role as citizens in participating in politics. It reminds me that our elected officials are there to serve the people and serve our interests.
What did you do for the Higher Education Outreach Internship?
I did a lot of different things, from administrative work like updating contact information in MailChimp, to researching contacts at universities for potential CCL allies, and more. I really enjoyed creating the YouthStepUp contest submission, working on the monthly newsletters, editing the higher ed presentations, and creating drafts for the Higher Ed website. My favorite project was interviewing campus leaders for Volunteer Spotlight articles. It was great to talk to students from other schools and learn about what they are doing, and how they approach engaging their peers in climate action. Hearing their perspectives and backgrounds increased my understanding of why different people care about climate change, and why different people consider carbon pricing to be a strong policy solution.
What did you learn during the internship?
I gained and improved so many useful skills during this internship! I learned a lot about how to do outreach and build connections with potential allies/volunteers through researching contacts, editing presentations/website, and interviewing campus leaders. The YouthStepUp contest taught me a lot about policy solutions to climate change like family planning that aren’t necessarily seen as climate solutions. This research has increased my understanding of the interconnectedness of climate change and other major issues, as well as how all economic and social factors come together.
This internship has also made me aware of the extent to which people want to work together—a lot! It makes me feel more comfortable about reaching out to people and asking for help or to work together. Additionally, it increased my confidence in being a campus leader as I learned many new leadership tactics, as well as a greater understanding of CCL and CF&D. I feel much more organized.
What do you want to do in your future?
Lately I’ve been seeing myself going into human resources, and that’s probably what I’ll pursue after graduation. I’d like to one day go into the Peace Corps and do volunteer work empowering and educating young people, especially girls. I think that education and empowerment are core to improving the lives of all people, and making this world a better place for people living now and future generations. I hope to stay involved with CCL wherever I end up!
How has the Campus Leader Program helped you?
Through my experience thus far being a campus leader and the higher ed internship, I’ve learned that I really enjoy working with other people who are dedicated to the same cause or have similar interests. It’s inspiring to see their hard work and encourages me to do more.
Becoming a campus leader has really pushed me to do more and find my voice. At times I have felt powerless but I’ve had to realize that I am empowered simply by being fortunate to pursue higher education. I have learned to push myself to use that power and get out of my comfort zone, I think a lot of using your power is just refusing to be passive to what concerns you. The Campus Leader Program has made it easier for me to do that by providing me with so many resources.
For information about the Campus Leader Program and higher education outreach, please visit citizensclimatehighered.org or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.