In our final installment of our 2017 Stanback Intern profiles, we want to again thank all of our students for spending their summer supporting NCLCV’s work to hold elected leaders accountable, to connect environmental issues to peoples’ daily lives, and to craft stronger rules to protect the basic resources we rely on to live, work, and play. Last up, meet the second of our Policy Interns: Graham Jackson!
Where is home for you?
I grew up in a small harbor town in Massachusetts, just north of Boston. While there, I developed an affinity for the sea as well as coastal landscapes and environments. I also spent a large amount of time up in and around Burlington, Vermont, as my mother grew up there and I have some family there. This is where I developed my love of all things green. I always feel better and happier when surrounded by a verdant expanse of mountains stretching to the horizon or enjoying the breeze while staring out at the vastness of the ocean. In these respects, North Carolina has entered my life as home #3, where I’ve found both these things and more.
Where are you on your higher education path?
I am entering my fourth and final year as an undergraduate at Duke University where I am majoring in Public Policy at the Sanford School of Public Policy.
Why did you choose to work in the environmental field?
This year was one of upheaval in terms of politics and the environment. I spent my fall living and studying in Denmark, a country where environmental conservation and sustainable living is heavily emphasized. My Danish friends shared my dismay at the election results in November when it became clear that environmental issues and climate change would continue to be neglected and ignored; that science and reason were to be blithely pushed aside to accommodate a narrative more convenient for those whose profits were curtailed by policies designed to protect the public and the environment.
This was a wake-up call that made me realize I was very interested in getting involved where politics and the environment intersected in order to create lasting change. I want to help pursue policy that protects the environment and as well as prevents and lessens the effects of climate change, which I see as the greatest national and international security threat of the future.
What are some of your fondest memories of being out in North Carolina’s natural wonders?
Most of my time in North Carolina has been framed by my time at Duke. I have had the pleasure of going to the Eno River with friends on weekends to cool off and enjoy nature. Duke itself has beautiful gardens and a lush forest perfect for running or just getting some fresh air. I’ve been able to explore parts of coastal North Carolina while visiting friends studying at Duke’s Marine Lab in Beaufort, NC. Next on my list is Asheville and Appalachia.
What are your internship responsibilities this summer with the NC League of Conservation Voters (NCLCV)?
I work closely with NCLCV staff in order to influence state legislation in an environmentally-friendly direction. During the legislative session I attend Senate and House committees as well as floor votes and debates to track bills and gain intel on members’ intentions. I also inform members of the General Assembly and the public on the environmental implications of bills via our weekly Hotlist. The goal is to prevent anti-environmental policies from making it into law, as well as pushing forward pro-environmental policy when possible. Another way I achieve this is by working on legislator accountability, ensuring that members feel the obligation from their constituents and supporters to defend the natural resources of North Carolina as well as exploring a sustainable future for its citizens. This involves scoring legislators on their voting record on environmentally significant bills.
How do you see this opportunity as a Stanback intern affecting your future education and work?
Prior to working at NCLCV as a Stanback intern, I was unsure of which direction I wanted to angle my Public Policy degree in. Now, I feel driven to pursue a career that makes a positive environmental policy impact, either on Capitol Hill in D.C., or somewhere on the state level. I have discovered the world of state politics, which is often overshadowed in class or in the news by whatever is happening in Congress or the White House, but often has a much more significant effect on people’s lives than many realize. NCLCV’s location at the intersection of the environment and politics has made me feel right at home, and this opportunity has clarified my sense of purpose for the future.
Do you have any recommendations for Graham’s upcoming trips to Asheville or Appalachia? Any words of wisdom for his final year as an undergrad? Send him a note at email@example.com.