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Meet The High School Student Connecting Climate Leaders


Tessa Augsberger Interview, Global Youth Climate Database

An Interview with Tessa Augsberger, a High School Student Connecting Climate Leaders 

⏱6.5 minute read

There are many young leaders changing our planet, and they live across the globe. A high school student named Tessa Augsberger founded Global Youth Climate Database (GYCD), "a network that connects youth leaders in the climate change movement to organize action through communication and mutual support." I had the opportunity to interview Tessa. She discussed her extracurricular involvement and her mission of connecting young leaders and activists.

What was your purpose in founding GYCD, and what is the mission of the organization?

I founded GYCD [Global Youth Climate Database] to elevate the voices of youth leading the fight against climate change. Living in Los Angeles, I have seen some of the effects—and causes—of climate change firsthand. For example, school is never canceled for snow days. We have “fire days,” instead. In recent years, the intensity and duration of wildfires in California has increased dramatically. As someone who appreciates direct action in response to a problem, it was difficult for me to sit idly by as houses (and livelihoods) burned and air pollution continued to increase. I decided to put my strengths to use and take action in the way I knew how: By creating community over shared values and a common desire for climate action. By bringing together people from different backgrounds and areas of expertise, GYCD creates a platform for people to connect with, learn from, and inspire each other. We strive to be the most comprehensive and useful database on anything related to climate change activism.

I see that you teach weekly climate change lessons to elementary school students. What led you to begin this, and can you explain more?

I teach weekly climate change lessons to students through an amazing youth-led organization called Bored of Boredom. The organization was founded when COVID-19 hit and many children began to fall behind in the new online format of school. By researching the climate crisis and its potential solutions over the years, I’d learned a lot and wanted to share my knowledge and spread awareness. When the COVID-19 outbreak started, I felt as though I couldn’t make a tangible impact in the climate space, which scared me because the issue is such a pressing one. When I found out about Bored of Boredom, I reached out and asked if I could create and teach a climate change course, and I have been teaching the class every week since! As part of this commitment, I’ve developed my own climate change curriculum, which has given me a deeper understanding of why climate and environmental education needs to be more widespread.

You are also a contributor with Kids’ Backyard. For readers unaware, it’s a nonprofit that provides schedules and virtual activities for kids during this pandemic. Would you say that you care about improving the world in more ways than just climate action?

I am passionate about many different issues, as I think everyone should be. We need to extend our empathy and efforts into issues that are bigger than ourselves. In addition to the climate crisis, I’m extremely passionate about women’s rights and equality and making education more accessible, areas in which I’ve done a lot of advocacy work, as well. I think all of these issues—climate change, women’s rights and equality, and education—are all interconnected, as we’ve seen with the climate justice movement and the effort to extend environmental education to schools nationwide. As women throughout the world are educated and empowered, they are better able to give back to their communities and innovate solutions to the climate crisis. By listening to and valuing diverse perspectives in the climate movement, we create solutions that are better for everyone and are thus the most beneficial and likely to endure.

How did you find a team of people to work with you for GYCD?

To form the GYCD team, I reached out to different networks I’m connected to in some way, such as my school community and advocacy organizations I’m involved in. Our team members are passionate about a variety of issues and have different backgrounds, which makes working together all the more interesting and fulfilling. Currently, GYCD has a twelve-person team that I couldn’t be more grateful for. Each and every one of our team members is dedicated, kind, and hard-working, and I’m so proud of the work we’ve done this year.

Have you learned any skills as a student-athlete that have helped you with climate action?

As a student-athlete, I have a lot of experience with teamwork and communication, which have informed both the way our team runs GYCD and the way GYCD galvanizes climate action. I play field hockey, which is an intensely team-oriented sport, and run and jump for the track and field team, which seems more individualistic but actually involves quite a bit of teamwork. The spirit of teamwork is central to the mission of GYCD, since we aim to combat the climate crisis by forging connections between members from different fields and helping them work together to take climate action.

Field hockey is a fast-moving game in which you really need to communicate - clearly and loudly - in order to be successful. At my school, we have one big track and field team, which creates a strong sense of community, in addition to the various subgroups of athletes that participate in different events. Since the members of the GYCD team hail from three different states - California, Illinois, and Delaware - in three different time zones, it was a challenge at first to keep everyone on the same page. But, we eventually created a system in which our leadership team is divided into four subgroups that specialize in different areas: Outreach, engagement, communication, and social media. We have team meetings every week over Zoom in which we all work together to create that week’s content, in addition to meeting in subgroups and working individually throughout the week. 

Do you plan on going into an environmental field when you get older? What are your plans for the future?      

I definitely plan to continue my work in the climate action movement and in other areas I’m passionate about when I get older. I’m interested in public policy and international relations, so I want to take the issues I care about and tackle them on a global scale through international collaboration and policy change.

What do you feel is your greatest accomplishment?

The one thing I am most proud of accomplishing thus far is taking meaningful action in response to an issue that I really care about. By founding Global Youth Climate Database, I put my skills and strengths to use in order to serve a purpose beyond myself. That’s something I hope to continue to do in the future with any challenge I encounter.

What advice would you give young people who want to become climate leaders?

Everyone should use their strengths to contribute to a better world. If you enjoy doing something and you have the drive to tackle a global issue, then by all means you should do it. It’s imperative that you use your skills and expertise to help save our planet from ourselves.

If we achieve climate justice, how do you think it will be done?

When we achieve climate justice, it will only be done by listening to what every stakeholder has to say. Climate justice will come about through consensus, and true consensus can only be achieved by considering everyone’s point of view. If we don’t include diverse voices in the fight against climate change, then we won’t have access to all of the perspectives that we need in order to achieve effective climate justice.

Follow GYCD on social media!

Twitter: @climatedatabase

Instagram: @youthclimatedatabase

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