- Issue: Winter 2021
What lesson did planting a pine tree during your childhood teach you?
When my family moved away from our home a few years later, it was hard to leave behind everything I had ever known, but most of all my tree. My uncle John, an accomplished conservationist and scientist, told me something then: “Remember that our society grows great when people like you plant trees whose shade they know they will never sit under.” His words taught me that planting a seed for the future is a noble and significant act—regardless of whether we get to enjoy the fruits of our labor.
Which conservation issues are you most passionate about?
In addition to tree preservation and reforestation, I’m also committed to climate action advocacy. I’ve worked with WWF at the local level as part of “We Are Still In” (now called “America Is All In”), a coalition of non-state actors that takes action to fight climate change. Bison restoration is another cause close to my heart. I’m compelled by the bison’s tragic history in this country, as their populations were decimated by colonization. Two hours west of my home in Illinois is a bison reserve called the Nachusa Grasslands. On my first visit, I got to see 100 bison thriving on the prairie; it was a truly moving experience.
How and why are you an advocate for change?
As a Panda Ambassador, I’ve participated in WWF’s Lobby Day since 2017, advocating for funding for international conservation programs on Capitol Hill. I also worked with my city council to attempt to pass the “We Are Still In” climate resolution, upholding the Paris Climate Agreement. The resolution was vetoed, but my efforts inspired the city to reboot its decade-old Green Action Plan. I use my voice to raise awareness and bring about change. I believe that if we care about nature and take action wherever we can—big actions or small—we have hope.