My name is Tom Erb. I am a sophomore at Pomona College in Claremont, CA and I believe my voice matters. I believe we will eventually have true climate justice and the millennial generation will get us there. I believe in students’ ability to effectively organize and quite frankly, we don’t have a choice this time around. We will change our current path. Climate change is the defining issue of our time and I am ready to stand up to make sure history remembers us as the ones who addressed it.
My passion for the environment is rooted in my family. From dinner conversations to following my older siblings’ lead, I learned from those closest to me. They taught me to work hard, to respect everyone, and to never let anyone tell you can’t do something. They showed me how to stand up for something I believe in. For me, it was climate justice. In high school, I was the “tree hugger”. I was the guy in charge of the environmental club, the kid annoying you to recycle and the nagging environmentalist when election season rolled around. My activism in high school didn’t come easy. I was often ridiculed for my outspoken enthusiasm and desire to make a difference in the environmental movement. I remember moments when I thought to myself, “Who am I to be going out of my way to try and change the business as usual culture in the United States? Who am I as a young student to argue against my friends, colleagues and teachers about the proper ways to treat the world around us?" I was challenged with attacks on my character, my motives and even my home. There was a point where I wanted to give up and focus on something else, something easier. However, I pushed past this. I came to the realization that taking the easy route wasn’t the right choice for myself nor for the world around me. I felt and still feel a moral responsibility to join the environmental movement because if we don’t have a have a habitable planet, what is left to fight for?
My experiences in high school flowed directly into my college decision. I knew I wanted to go to school where sustainability was a part of the culture and climate change was a key aspect of the curriculum. My college search ended when I found my future home: Pomona College. I have been heavily involved in all things sustainability related since joining the Pomona family. I am a public policy analysis major with a concentration in environmental analysis and a member of a greater environmental culture in Claremont, California.
This past fall semester, I was a student leader for the Know Tomorrow campaign in Claremont, California. On October 2nd, 2015 we hosted a climate change event alongside thousands of students and dozens of campuses across the country. We brought together over thirty organizations, ten speakers, and hundreds of climate leaders for a full day of events and activities. At the end of the day, we had over seven hundred people in attendance. We are now transitioning to a student-driven carbon pricing campaign alongside our partner, Years of Living Dangerously. Millennials need leaders on climate change and I hope the Years team will be able to amplify the voice of students through their second season. I am definitely humbled to be joining a team of amazing climate leaders as a dynamic character in Years of Living Dangerously!
After the Know Tomorrow event, my team and I decided to launch a Citizen’s Climate Lobby chapter at the Claremont Colleges. We designed a team dynamic that takes into account the opinions, skills, and backgrounds of each of members to maximize efficiency and participation. This semester we are focusing on building student leaders in lobbying efforts, climate journalism, marketing, and campus accountability. We hope to see our organization and message spread to other colleges across the country. We need a price on carbon to mitigate the most serious consequences of global climate change and we need a new generation of leaders to lead the charge towards a sustainable future. CCL at the Claremont Colleges can be a stepping stone to accomplishing both of these goals. The true measure of progress is through those you have around you and I couldn’t be more honored, inspired, and excited to work with my teammates at the Claremont Colleges. If anyone deserves a spotlight, it’s all of them.
I believe we can make a significant difference on this issue and with enough organization we can shift the environmental culture of the United States. I am a climate activist and want to be a climate leader, but I am also a nineteen-year-old college student. I have classes, sports, friends, a loving family and a future that needs my attention. The balance between climate activism, future plans, and a personal life is unique to everyone. The important thing to remember is that with enough effort we can all make a difference and we can all have our voices heard. I am not asking students to give up their dreams, their personal interests or their future plans. I am asking them to join me to make sure all of these plans remain a possibility. If I didn’t have to fight for climate justice each and every day, I wouldn’t. I can think of dozens of things I would rather be doing, but climate activism is where my heart and passion is. I want to show students across the country where my passion stems from and I want them to join me. This is the greatest issue of our time, but it is also our greatest opportunity. We can do this, but we must do it together.
Know Tomorrow Team
Photos courtesty of Tom Erb
ISF College Team note:
We caught up with Tom in January and he was excited to report some exciting updates! Not only will Tom be shooting with Years of Living Dangerously over the course of this spring semester while managing a pretty intense academic work load in exciting coursework such as Energy Economics and Policy, Food, Land and the Environment, Science and the Environment, the American Presidency and the United States Congress. How cool is that?!
Tom has started a Citizens Climate Lobby chapter at Claremont Colleges where students focus on lobbying, media and marketing, campus accountability and op-ed writing. Look for his piece, "Dear Future President" published by Fusion in the coming weeks!
Tom’s passion and determination to speak up for what he stands for has landed him an internship for United States Senator Brian Schatz this summer in Washington, DC.
We’re keeping our eye on this trail-blazer!
Written by Tom Erb