As an eager 16 year old who was itching to dive into environmental policy advocacy, I soon found that my desire to get involved was hindered by accessibility barriers. Esoteric jargon, bureaucratic systems, and a floodgate of information completely overwhelmed me; I didn’t know where to begin. Thankfully, after joining Our Climate and completing the Field Representative, Fellow, and Field Advisor programs under some life-changing mentors, I found myself better able to navigate policy-focused spaces and orient my advocacy efforts. Fast forward to today, I joined Our Climate staff to work on federal policy strategy and resource-building; I am still learning and growing every day.
Many of the barriers built to keep young people, BIPOC, and low-income folks out of policy spaces are still firmly in place. They are symptomatic of a larger issue: the American political system was not built for us. In fact, it was designed to keep us out. Yet we deserve a seat at the table, and our being included in decision-making spaces is crucial to implementing just, fully-informed climate solutions.
Anyone interested in environmental advocacy should have access to the knowledge and tools to get involved. While no one person can single handedly transform the underpinnings of the American political system, I feel passionate about using my position at OC to develop resources to make policy analysis and advocacy a little less mystical and daunting. With lots of guidance and input from the OC team, I created a Policy Analysis & Advocacy Toolkit. The intention for the toolkit is to give those interested in climate policy activism a sense of where to begin. It contains an overview of how federal bills are passed and where individuals can plug into the legislative process, a guide to conducting research on policies, information on how to attend congressional committee hearings, and a policy calculator, which helps identify policies’ political feasibility and their alignment with values of environmental justice and science-informed solutions. The Toolkit will continue to evolve as the political and advocacy landscapes demand new skills.
The Toolkit is not a fix-all solution, but if it helps just one overwhelmed aspiring advocate feel more confident in their ability to demand climate justice, its impact will be worthwhile.
Josie Helm is an alum of the Field Representative, Fellow, and Field Advisor positions at Our Climate, Josie currently serves as OC’s Federal Policy Intern. In her current role, she works to analyze, amend, and advocate EJ legislation through collaboration with youth leaders, environmental coalitions, and policymakers on the Hill. As a high school senior, Josie is also co-founder and director of Black Students Demanding Change (BSDC), a national coalition of Black independent school students who partner with their administrations to implement racially equitable reform.