What a Governor’s roundtable in North Carolina taught me about activism

Ananya Seelam

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July 19, 2019

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In October 2018, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper signed Executive Order NO. 80: North Carolina’s Commitment to Address Climate Change and Transition to a Clean Energy Economy. After reading the Executive Order and discussing its implications, the ACE Fellows had a few questions. We wanted to know how the Governor would keep people accountable to accomplish the goals laid out in the Executive Order and we also wanted to know how it would help with recovery from Hurricane Florence along North Carolina’s coast. Having these and a few other themes in mind, we requested a meeting with Governor Cooper’s office. 

ACE Fellow and ACE Executive Director, Matt Lappé meet with Governor Roy Cooper’s Office staff and officials from the NC DEQ in Raleigh, NC.

The Office agreed to our request and on November 16, 2018, fourteen ACE Fellows attended a roundtable at the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NC DEQ). Here we met with members of Governor Cooper’s staff: Jeremy Tarr, Policy Advisor on Energy, Environment, Transportation, and Natural Resources, Jeremy Collins, Director of Public Engagement, Geoff Coltrane, Senior Education Advisor, and representatives from the NC DEQ: Sushma Masemore, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Environment & State Energy Director, and Jonathan Navarro, Environmental Senior Specialist.

We began our discussion by addressing climate change as a whole and the Governor’s Office staff assured us that they didn’t need convincing: climate change is real. I was relieved to hear that they believed in climate change, but I knew that wasn’t enough; we needed to see actual policies implemented. We specifically asked about what was being done about hurricane relief, as this is especially important because of the disaster that had hit our coast that fall. As we brought up this issue, the Governor’s office informed us about how various communities deal with hurricane damage in dramatically different ways. One issue they mentioned is that because of structural damage, the impact of future disasters is further exacerbated. In order to prevent this, Governor Cooper is asking the federal government for funding for long term investments in regions that were most affected by the hurricanes. Learning about those efforts assured me that the Governor’s office cared; however, there were still issues going unaddressed. For example, the disparity in damage and impact among communities of color is something that can’t be fixed with just relief spending. 

As we ended the roundtable, we asked the Governor’s Office and NC DEQ staff how youth could be more involved in the government and we were given a few answers. First, we were told to continue contacting our local representatives through email, phone calls, or sending letters. We were also told to join youth groups and programs like the Governor’s Page program. What surprised me most about their answer was that all we had to do was send an email or call them about questions or policies. Knowing that it was that easy to start change made me hopeful about youth engagement. I found out not only how easy it was to make your voice heard, but also how important it is to encourage others to make their voices heard. 

Ananya

Ananya Seelam

North Carolina

Ananya Seelam is a junior at Enloe High School and a 2018-2019 ACE Action Fellow in North Carolina.

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