With the many environmental issues and disasters plaguing the Earth, becoming an environmental advocate is a commendable goal; getting there includes a combination of education, skills and work experience. An environmental advocate protects the public and planet from environmental hazards by lobbying for environmental legislation, working with the media, organizing environmental events, recruiting members and fund-raising. If you have a strong passion for social justice and environmental transformation, becoming an environmental advocate will be a rewarding experience.
Most North American universities do not offer degrees in environmental advocacy; however, a bachelor’s degree in environmental science can help prepare you for a career as an advocate. Additionally, the more adept you are in science, the more effective you will be as an advocate and activist. According to the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh, society is the root of environmental problems, particularly social systems and structures; therefore, an understanding in economics, politics, sociology, anthropology, psychology and history will better prepare you to make positive community changes for the environment. Programs and courses offered within universities that teach environmental advocacy skills, go under names such as environmental education, environmental thought and environmental politics. Courses in communication will also help prepare you for public speaking and presentations to citizens, businesses and government.
Formal education aside, becoming an effective environmental advocate also requires skills that come naturally or develop over time through life and work experience. An effective advocate has the necessary skills to organize and lead meetings, is adept at resolving conflict and negotiating and knows how to bring community and various groups of varying differences and diverse cultures together amicably. Public speaking with the ability to articulate your views and the ability to communicate effectively in writing are essential. Analytical skills will help you work through political and environmental situations by recognizing creative solutions.
Certain work experience, which you have accrued throughout your career, or even work experience that you aspire to attain can help you become an effective environmental advocate. For instance, experience with the media is an asset in that you know how to communicate and form positive, long-term relationships with reporters. Working as an educator through workshops will help you train others to be advocates. Knowledge of fund-raising and grant writing will help with donation solicitation, and experience in budgeting will help you oversee funding. Computer skills are important for creating spreadsheets, databases and computer presentations. Networking experience is essential for growing connections and recruitment.
Working Your Passion
Whether your passion for advocacy begins with speaking on the public’s behalf, or you want to empower citizens to solve their own environmental problems, you can develop your passion through the act of volunteering with environmental groups such as the David Suzuki Foundation, the Nature Conservancy or the Sierra Club. You might also consider interning with political and environmental organizations. Professionally, you may expect to work predominantly in the nonprofit sector, on either local, regional, state, national or international levels. You may find employment with wilderness associations, environmental networks or conservation councils, working as a scientist advocate, outreach and community coordinator, public affairs program assistant, grassroots advocacy coordinator or media coordinator.
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