Maura Welch was the Greenovate Boston Writing Fellow from April 2016 – October 2016. Here she reflects on what she’s learned, and how the experience has prepared her for what’s next.
Greenovate is looking for someone to transition into Maura’s role for our Writing Fellowship. Read the description for that opportunity here.
When I joined the Greenovate team I had just moved back to Boston after a few years on the west coast. I was excited and a little nervous to dive back into a City I loved at such an important time.
An exciting point in Boston’s history
As a coastal city, Boston’s been feeling the effects of climate change for years. It’s affecting agriculture and food production in the region; it’s igniting debates about the importance of renewable energy; and it’s causing flooding in our densely populated coastlines. But it’s been since Hurricane Sandy nearly missed us in 2012, and we endured the brutal winter of 2015, that most Bostonians have really started to consider the seriousness — and the immediacy — of climate change.
So I knew that there’d be a lot to say — and a lot to learn — about climate action in Boston. But working with Greenovate over the last six months has been even more full and exciting than I expected.
I feel so fortunate to have been in the middle of all that activity and to see first-hand what the City and community members are doing to protect our precious environment and to adapt to our changing climate. A few projects really stand out:
In June, Climate Ready Boston released its climate projections consensus, which outlined the projections of heat, storms, and sea level rise here in Boston. I was tasked with presenting this information in clear, easily-digestible ways for community members. I wrote about the projections in blog posts and newsletters, and conveyed them with images and graphics on social media. It was fascinating to contribute to this work. Communicating the urgency of climate change and the importance of preparing supports our City’s health and well-being, and it’s work that I’m really proud of.
I was also given the opportunity to take this work a step further — and to get creative.
During the height of this record-breakingly hot summer, I ran a campaign called #gettinghotinhere. The goal was to educate Bostonians about the extreme heat projections in our City, and to provide them with the resources they need to stay healthy and safe as temperatures rise. I used a variety of media (blog posts, surveys, email, interactive social media challenges); looped in action opportunities (a Renew Boston workshop on energy efficient home cooling and a Climate Ready Boston webinar about the City’s plan to prepare for extreme heat and other effects of climate change) and pulled upon the expertise of colleagues in the Boston Public Health Commission and community leaders like those at the Neighborhood of Affordable Housing.) This campaign was a way for me to test out a variety of outreach methods, analyze the effectiveness of all of Greenovate communications channels, and to pull in the expertise and wisdom of several staff members of the Office of Environment, Energy, and Open Space.
These projects were like a crash course on climate action in Boston. And one of the most important things I learned was that Bostonians are leading the charge to cut greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for the effects of climate change in their communities. Getting to elevate these stories through the power of writing and serving as a liaison of sorts between the City and community members felt amazing.
But above all, the reason this Fellowship has meant so much to me is the incredible team I’ve been lucky enough to work with.
Greenovate Boston Program Manager Jessica Feldishand Director of Communications and Community Engagement Lauren Zingarelli are a dream team. Jess is incredibly passionate about Boston’s vibrant and diverse communities. She is so well-versed in community climate action in this City, and her enthusiasm is contagious. She is tireless in her mission to engage all Bostonians in our City’s climate work. Lauren has an amazing ability to communicate environmental information — and to teach others how to be strong communicators as well. She has encouraged me to try new things and pushed me to improve every step of the way. Jess and Lauren both possess a professionalism and a commitment to the mission that drives Greenovate forward every day. I could not have asked for a better team to work with. (Photo: with Jess and Lauren hearing from a community member at the Climate Vulnerabilities and Solutions Symposium in September. We look really serious, but we had fun that day, I swear!)
Over the course of my Fellowship I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with other members of the Office of Environment, Energy, and Open Space, as well: Climate Preparedness Program Manager Mia Goldwasser, Recycling Policy Director Susan Cascino, Renew Boston Community Outreach Manager Lourdes Lopez, and Climate and Environmental Planning Program Manager Haidee Janak just to name a few. How cool is that?
In a few weeks I’ll be moving one floor down to join Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s speechwriting staff. Because of the experience I gained working in the Office of Environment, Energy, and Open Space at City Hall, I feel confident and prepared for this new challenge. Getting to know how the City can best communicate with community members, and how it approaches enormous challenges like climate change, has given me a really strong foundation. But working alongside such passionate, forward-thinking problem solvers is really what has motivated me and prepared me for what lies ahead.
Does the Greenovate Boston Writing Fellowship interest you?
If the Greenovate Fellowship interests you, click here for more details. If it sounds like an exciting opportunity for someone you know, please send it along to them!
Applications will be accepted and reviewed on a rolling basis until October 14th at 5pm.
Another opportunity to support the City of Boston’s climate and energy work through the power of community outreach is the Renew Boston Outreach Fellowship. Click here for more details about this position. Applications will be accepted and reviewed on a rolling basis until September 30th at 5pm.
Women, people of color, people with disabilities, members of the LGBTQA community, and veterans are strongly encouraged to apply for both positions.