Local internship tackles climate change

High school and college students who have yet to fill up their summer schedules can still apply this week for a paid internship with Climate Action Santa Monica. 

The organization is recruiting young people for their 2017 Climate Corp, a group of about fifteen interns who will go out in the community and talk about sustainability. Interested applicants should apply by June 9 on climateactionsantamonica.org.

Climate Corp began as a pilot program last year with thirteen local interns who focused on educating the community about climate change and transportation options in Santa Monica. The interns manned booths at farmers markets, talked to tourists and canvassed neighborhoods – all the while handing out about a 1,000 TAP cards to encourage ridership on the Expo Line.

“They’re engaging in smart conversation,” Climate Action Santa Monica Co-Chair Cris Gutierrez said. “People may have climate impacts they don’t realize.”

In an outgoing survey, some of the interns called the experience “life changing” – explaining that it encouraged them to go on to pursue other internships with the green technology companies like SolarCity, non-profits like the Natural Resources Defense Council and with the City’s GoSaMo team, which promotes public transportation.

Despite the recent announcement, the United States will be exiting the Paris Climate Accord, City leaders have reiterated their commitment to the agreement’s goals of reducing carbon emissions to curb climate change. Mayor Ted Winterer is one of about 200 mayors from across the country who have denounced President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Accord.

Later this year, the City will release an ambitious Climate Action and Adaptation Plan. The City is committed to water self-sufficiency by 2020, zero waste by 2030, and carbon neutrality by 2050.

A group of residents founded Climate Action Santa Monica in 2013 to engage and educate the community about the complex factors that contribute to climate change. The internship program is paid for by fundraising efforts and City funds. Last year each intern was paid $500 for participating in the six- week program.

The organization the first Corp group made contact with about 1,000 people throughout the summer and surveyed about 600 for feedback on the new Metro line. Despite the national controversy surrounding the issue of climate change, Gutierrez says most conversations in Santa Monica focus on how to decrease your carbon footprint, not over whether man-made climate change exists.

“Our challenge is to both welcome people wherever they are on the learning curve and inform them what the City and other stakeholders in the community are doing,” Gutierrez said. “Some of our most empowered people don’t know about City policies and plans.”

This year’s Corp will focus on transportation, water, energy, low-carbon food and zero-waste – key elements of the City’s Climate Action and Adaptation plan.