By pursuing <a href="/academics/human-ecology-degree/human-ecology/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">human ecology</a>, Kim Lopez Castellanos ’18 blends climate justice with communications strategies.By pursuing human ecology, Kim Lopez Castellanos ’18 blends climate justice with communications strategies. Credit: Ana María Zabala ’20

Communications and media strategies are essential tools for the modern climate justice activist, according to College of the Atlantic student Kimberly López Castellanos ’18. The winner of a $7,000 scholarship from the Udall Foundation for her environmental leadership, López knows that without a clear message, important environmental work often does not reach the success it deserves.

“Through social media and visual language I want to make climate change comprehensive and accessible to students, workers, and families,” López said. “I need to show that environmental impacts are not only impacting ecological diversity but also affecting communities by worsening racial and socio-economic injustices.”

López is one of just 50 sophomores and juniors from 42 colleges and universities to receive a Udall Scholarship this year. The 2017 winners were selected from among 494 candidates at 224 colleges and universities.

López focuses her studies at College of the Atlantic on communications and environmental politics. Since 2014, she has been an active member of [Earth] (Earth in Brackets), a COA student-led environmental and social justice collective working at the local and international level. López also plays an active role with the College’s Thoreau Environmental Leaders Initiative.

“Kim is a young environmental scholar and activist who is well on her way to an effective career working for the environment and social justice,” said College of the Atlantic professor David Feldman, a faculty leader of the Thoreau Initiative. “Now more than ever we need leaders who can speak to and organize broader coalitions than have traditionally come together for environmental causes. Kim is well positioned for this important work.”

Kim Lopez Castellanos '18 (front, far right) participated in the fall 2016 tutorial "<a href="/live/profiles/2668-tutorial-implementing-the-paris-agreement-unfccc" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Implementing the Paris Agreement</a>," where she studied treaty implementation and managed a blog to relate the happenings of the 22nd United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to the general public.Kim Lopez Castellanos '18 (front, far right) participated in the fall 2016 tutorial "Implementing the Paris Agreement," where she studied treaty implementation and managed a blog to relate the happenings of the 22nd United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to the general public. Credit: Felipe Andres Fontecilla Gutierrez ’20

In 2015, López served as [Earth]’s media coordinator for the delegation that attended the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris, developing and facilitating a lively blog for the group to report out on the conference.

“One of my goals was to make sure everyone was properly interpreting the negotiations based on their experiences, interactions, and impacts. Blog writing, I thought, was a way to facilitate clarity in the negotiations—a way to unwrap the legal jargon and analyze what implications these policies had on different groups of people,” she said. “ The blogs were a way of translating the process into a more compelling and comprehensive resource for the general audience.”

López is now involved with producing a series of Thoreau Workshops at COA, which are part of the Thoreau Initiative. The workshops are aimed at enhancing environmental education and advocacy. Involvement with the workshops has helped hone her leadership style, she said.

“My leadership strategy involves perception, discussion, and interaction. I gain more from listening to what others have to say rather than quickly offering an idea, clarification, or solution to a problem I may not be familiar with,” she said. “I try to build coalitions and look at the big picture and long-term solutions.”

In the short term, López aspires to work as a media and communications director in nonprofit organizations connecting social and environmental issues. She is developing skills in video production, workshop organizing, and group facilitation to ensure that forgotten communities get information through accessible resources like videos, pamphlets and interactive workshops in museums or schools.

In the long run, López hopes to start her own nonprofit organization focusing on climate education. López, who is from The Bronx, a borough of New York City, says that she intends to use the leadership skills she has acquired while at COA to honor her family and raise up her community.

“By providing a platform for people in marginalized and underrepresented communities, I can help people know that someone out there is looking out for their well-being, and that there is potential for the new generation to protect the community from environmental effects that are already building up,” she said. “Sharing what I have learned these past four years will also help my family know that all the sacrifices they have made to get me where I am today have been worth it. I accepted their guidance throughout my upbringing and have implemented it into my studies. The next step is to implement it into my career.”

The Udall Foundation was established <span style="font-weight: 400;">by the U.S. Congress in 1992 as an independent executive branch agency to honor Morris K. Udall's lasting impact on this nation's environment, public lands, and natural resources, and his support of the rights and self-governance of American Indians and Alaska Natives.</span>The Udall Foundation was established by the U.S. Congress in 1992 as an independent executive branch agency to honor Morris K. Udall's lasting impact on this nation's environment, public lands, and natural resources, and his support of the rights and self-governance of American Indians and Alaska Natives.The Udall Foundation was established by the U.S. Congress in 1992 as an independent executive branch agency to honor Morris K. Udall’s lasting impact on this nation’s environment, public lands, and natural resources, and his support of the rights and self-governance of American Indians and Alaska Natives. The 1998 Environmental Policy and Conflict Resolution Act created the U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution as a program of the Udall Foundation to assist parties in resolving environmental, public lands, and natural resources conflicts nationwide that involve federal agencies or interests. In 2009, Congress enacted legislation to honor Stewart L. Udall and add his name to the Udall Foundation.

The Udall Foundation awards scholarships, fellowships, and internships for study in fields related to the environment and to American Indians and Alaska Natives in fields related to health care and tribal public policy; provides funding to the Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy and to the Native Nations Institute to conduct environmental policy research, research on American Indian and Alaska Native health care issues and tribal public policy issues, and training; and provides assessment, mediation, training, and other related services through the U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution.

College of the Atlantic is the first college in the U.S. to focus on the relationship between humans and the environment. In 2016, both The Princeton Review and the Sierra Club named College of the Atlantic the #1 Green College in the United States. The intentionally small school of 350 students and 35 faculty members offers a Bachelor of Arts degree in human ecology – the study of how humans interact with our natural, social and technological environments. Each student develops their own course of study in human ecology, collaborating and innovating across multiple disciplines.