PKG Social Impact Internships: Danielle Herman (’22)
Working on climate change research at WWF has been a great opportunity, and I’ve learned a ton. I’m really enjoying the work I am doing, but because of the topics I work on, I definitely experience frustration sometimes. I don’t quite have a single moment of frustration that I can pinpoint, but there have been several similar incidences that have been part of this.
When working on issues related to climate change, the politicization of this work can be very frustrating. The world’s historical inaction to prevent and combat climate change, and in some cases even deny its existence and exacerbate the problem, is not something that is easy to ignore. This can be really discouraging, and it can be hard to find motivation to continue your work in spite of this. For me, I went into my job at WWF with a pretty optimistic, and perhaps somewhat naive attitude. I of course already knew that climate change was a major problem and that not enough is currently being done about it, but beginning my internship work opened my eyes to new facets of this issue. In particular, how long this has been the status quo.
One of the most frustrating experiences I’ve had in my work is reading papers written 20 or more years ago that urge immediate action to combat climate change. From my perspective in the present day, I read such things knowing that no action was taken, and the planet is much worse off because of that. What is most harrowing is how much these publications echo what scientists are saying today. Some of the pleas and calls to action in climate change related papers published in 2021 sound almost identical to those from the year I was born–1999. Seeing this has been disheartening and at times has definitely impacted how I feel about the future. If no one listened to what climate scientists and other experts were saying my entire lifetime ago, why would anyone listen to experts now, and why would anyone listen to me and my work related to this?
It is really difficult to grapple with this and stay hopeful that my work can and will have a positive impact, but what I’ve seen from my coworkers and the general culture at WWF has helped me stay positive. Everyone I’ve interacted with at WWF is so incredibly passionate about their work, and I’ve found that very inspiring. There are even many people who have been working at WWF for my entire lifetime, so they’ve lived through all of the progress in the field of climate change that I’ve read about. If they can still stay hopeful and motivated, that is a good sign for young people wanting to get into this type of work, like myself. Clearly there is still reason to do this work, even if past precedent has been discouraging. For that exact reason, this work is now more important than ever, and if anything motivation should be increasing as climate change becomes a more dire threat to humanity and the planet.
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