A Summer at the New York League of Conservation Voters
By Johnluca Fenton ’21
Thought experiment: can you name even one local elected official that represents you and the town you are from? For most people reading this post, I would bet the answer to that question to be a regretful no. But I totally get that. In a political world that has become so incredibly polarized and iconified by a select few congressional and federal leaders, most Americans often fail to understand or acknowledge the incredibly important work that our local elected officials carry out every day.
As an intern at the New York League of Conservation Voters (NYLCV) this summer, my role has primarily been to dive deep into this not-so-apparent, yet fascinating, world of local politics. In doing so, I have been tasked, along with a team of several other interns, to help the NYLCV figure out which candidates they want to officially endorse in the local New York state elections taking place this fall.
Before going any further, I should spell out what exactly the NYLCV is and does. As per the NYLCV website, the storied non-profit is “the only state wide environmental organization in New York that fights for clean water, clean air, renewable energy, and open space through political action.” To achieve this end, the NYLCV focuses on three main approaches to environmental political advocacy: evaluating (through their yearly environmental scorecards of all NY state elected officials), campaigning (for the passage of eco-beneficial laws and initiatives), and finally endorsing candidates who show a true care and concern for the environment. As you might have already been able to tell, I have been working primarily in this third sphere of environmental activism.
With the NYLCV’s endorsements set to officially be published by the beginning of August, I have been hard at work researching and scheduling meetings with the 50 or so candidates my team is responsible for evaluating. While this can at times be somewhat overwhelming and exhausting, I am lucky to be in an environment (no pun intended) and part of a team where everyone shares my passion for the environment making the hours of laborious and tedious work far more enjoyable and gratifying.
While the local endorsement process has been the central focus of my time so far at the NYLCV, I also in this blog post wanted to highlight a separately amazing opportunity my internship gave me to head down to Washington DC about a week or so ago. I was invited to participate in the National League of Conservation Voters Rising Leaders Program where I learned the ins and outs of environmental lobbying at the congressional level. The next day, I had the opportunity to actually meet with over a dozen congressional representatives from New York and to lobby them on three of the main campaigns the NYLCV is currently working on.
Arguably the coolest part of my time in DC, however, happened within my first 10 minutes of arriving in the Capitol. As I stepped off the train at Union Station I ran into Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the station. She along with Senator Bernie Sanders co-introduced the Green New Deal, a landmark call to climate action, and being able to talk to her even for a few minutes was an awesome experience I will never forget!
As I conclude this reflection on the 4 weeks that have passed at my internship, I thank the CCPA in helping find and fund this amazing experience. As I move forward with the rest of this summer and beyond I will be sure to carry the experiences and expertise I have already gained into both the academic and professional setting.