environmental policy

Summer Isn’t the Only Thing Heating Up!

By Natalie Liller

EPA Climate Change Program

EPA Climate Change Program

My friends couldn’t believe that, instead of sleeping till noon, I was spending my first week of summer vacation rising early to attend a Climate Change Program at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Research Triangle Park, NC.  My interest in climate change had grown since my AP Environmental Science class, and I applied, yearning to find out what I could do to help combat the impacts of rising global temperatures. The EPA Climate Change Program was the way to go!

The first morning of the weeklong program arrived, and I jumped into my car – with a cup of highly caffeinated coffee in hand of course – and embarked into unknown territory.  As I approached the EPA, I could only gaze up and all around in awe of its grandeur.  Such a large building, but what and who did it hold? I couldn’t wait to get started and meet people just as interested in the cause and curious about what careers climate change could offer.

The Program’s 31 students had the privilege of meeting with and hearing from scientists, researchers, analysts, and more — from EPA, NC State University, Duke, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, and the Alliance for Climate Education.  Students came from high schools all over central NC: Panther Creek, Northern, Enloe, Riverside (go Pirates!), and many more.

We learned about greenhouse gas emissions, global impacts of climate change, environmental policy, and ways to reduce the impacts of climate change. It was engaging and thorough. I couldn’t help but be inspired by the enthusiasm of my peers – asking questions, providing input and opinions, and being curious about a speaker’s work and career path.

The program was full of hands-on activities. One included building particle sensors to monitor atmospheric carbon and another focused on pretending we were researchers in frigid Greenland. Each activity offered us a chance to use our hands, work collaboratively, and have fun. Even more so, we were offered a taste of what climate change careers.  It is encouraging to know that opportunity is out there—that I can take my knowledge and love for the environment anywhere I chose. I can combat global climate change from a cubicle, focusing on computer models, or I can engage in field research halfway across the world.

The program opened doors, connected me to a network of people I would not have met otherwise, and made me realize I can make a difference in my home, my school,  my community, and worldwide. Now, let’s go fight climate change and save the world!

About the Author: Natalie Liller is a rising senior at Riverside High School in Durham, hoping to pursue a career in politics with a concentration in environmental policy. She was excited to participate in EPA’s 2013 Climate Change Summer Program. Learn more about the Climate Change Program.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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Career Advice from Lilly

Lilly-PictureMy sister and I didn’t always get along growing up, but we both always had a strong interest in protecting the environment.  Now we are both doing environmental work, but in different ways.  You may remember my interview with Nefertiti.  Turns out her sister, Lilly Simmons, works at the EPA as well.  I decided to sit down with Lilly and find out more about her role at the EPA.

What is your position at the EPA?

I am an Environmental Scientist in the Underground Injection Branch within the Water Division.  I work with the regulation of shallow and deep injection wells. I help protect drinking water.

Do you have prior work experiences that lead you to the EPA?

I started at the EPA as an intern the summer before my senior year of college and have been here since.  During college I worked in my schools Admissions Office and have an appreciation for organized files, which is very helpful at the EPA.

What is a typical day like for you?

I start my day by checking my email and responding to any pressing matters.  I use excel to create spreadsheets for tests and tracking.  Some of my work involves technical review of permit files, mechanical integrity tests to make sure deep injection wells are not leaking, compliance assistance, and public notices. 

What is the best part of your job?

There are times when I almost forget about what I am doing at work because it is so specific, but then realize that I am helping to protect drinking water.  My work does have an impact.  This is my dream job, knowing I am doing my part to help the environment. 

Did you always have an interest in the environment?

Pretty much!  As a child I grew up in California when literally everyday was Earth Day.  Every day was about saving water, turning off lights, and planting trees.  I remember the first time I saw rain and I was actually frightened by it. 

What classes did you take in school that you use on the job today?

Math classes are obviously helpful.  I also took two engineering classes, where we did a lot of work in spreadsheets.  The environmental policy class I took was helpful for understanding the context of what we do at the EPA.  I have my Masters in Public Administration, which has also helped contextual.  I can understand the budget, policy and planning of the Agency more. 

Do you have any advice for kids today who have an interest in protecting our environment?

Learn everything you can about the environment.  Tell people that is what you want to do, and it will happen. 

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Life Along The Colorado

By Kasia Broussalian

A sense of adventure runs deep in my blood. It pushes me out of my comfort zone and onto the proverbial “open road.” I set off on that road for a few sweltering months in the summer and fall of 2009. With my last undergraduate class just behind me and a passion for community-based issues, I set out. My goal: to document populations living along, and dependent on, the Colorado River. The idea grew out of an interest I’d developed in water; an interest that began with an environmental policy class I had taken two years earlier. The differences among the people I encountered were staggering; from urban skate park teenagers and leggy accounting majors handing out drink coupons, to onion pickers and a Hoover Dam engineer.

I traveled along the Colorado River, from origin to delta, photographing the livelihoods of the communities thriving on this life-providing resource. My time spent along the shores of the river made me realize that while the Southwest is unlikely to run out of water anytime soon, it will run out of cheap water in the coming decades. How will this affect the communities dependent on its precarious flow? That is the underlying theme of my documentary.

Embedded in each of these communities is a unique sense of self. Though they vary drastically from one another, in another sense they are alike: all are completely reliant upon that one necessary resource, the Colorado River.

But, my main question still remains: once something as necessary and vital as water begins to change and become more expensive, what are these places going to look like? What will we lose in terms of culture and history as populations pick up and move on?

To view my documentary, please visit and click “Multimedia &Video”, “Life Along the Colorado.”

About the author: Kasia Broussalian is a Public Affairs intern for EPA Region 2. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree at New York University, and has been with the agency since 2010.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Science Wednesday: Does the Public Expect Too Much From Science?

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

About the Author: Dr. Robert Lackey is a senior scientist in EPA’s Office of Research and Development’s laboratory in Corvallis, Oregon. He has been involved professionally with West Coast ecological issues for 44 years and was awarded EPA’s highest award, the Gold Medal, for his salmon work.

Recently I presented a talk to a group of community activists about why salmon populations along the West Coast have dropped to less than 5% of their historical levels. I’ve given such talks many times so I was confident that I had heard just about every question that might be asked. I was wrong.

The opening question was asked by a well known political activist. He was direct, pointed, and bursting with hostility: “You scientists always talk about our choices, but when will you finally tell us what we SHOULD do about the dramatic decline of West Coast salmon? Quit talking about the science and your research and tell us what we should do! Let’s get on with it!”

From the nods of approval offered by many in the audience, his impatience with science and scientists was broadly shared.

What does the public expect from scientists regarding today’s ecological policy issues? Some examples of such policy challenges include the decline of salmon; deciding on the proper role of wild fire on public lands; what to do, if anything, about climate change; the consequences of declining biological diversity; and making sense of the confusing policy choices surrounding “sustainability.”

The lament “if we just had some better science, a little more data, we could resolve this policy question” is common among both scientists and decision makers. Calls for more research are everywhere in ecological policy debates.

In most cases, even if we had complete scientific knowledge about all aspects of an issue, the same rancorous debate would emerge. Root policy differences are invariably over values and preferences, not science, data, and facts.

In a pluralistic society, with a wide array of values and preferences competing for dominance, the ecological policy debate is usually centered around whose values and preferences will carry the day rather than over scientific information.

So what was my answer to the emotionally charged question from the political activist? It was: “Science, although an important part of policy debates, remains but one element, and often a minor one, in the decision-making process. We scientists can assess the ecological consequences of various policy options, but in the end it is up to society to prioritize those options and make their choices accordingly.”

He wasn’t pleased.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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