Clare began Objective350 this past year in an effort to encourage teenagers’ interest in climate change and dispel the belief that one must be well-versed in science in order to contribute. She says, “The O350 team fully believes that teenagers are integral in any plan to mitigating the atmospheric damage we’ve inflicted on the Earth. So far, we’ve only been able to do little things around our community, like scheduling beach cleanups and giving lectures, but we have a lot planned for the future…There is truly a wealth of potential in this generation, and I think it could be put to good use if it was focused on climate change.” The community is integral to Objective350’s goals. It is their hope that they can call teens in their community (and everywhere else!) to action through political advocacy, activism, volunteering, and research. Objective350 has broadened its borders to encompass Objective350 Official Volunteers (O350OV), and a political group to work with their local Citizens Climate Lobby.
In turn, the community has shown their immense support. “People who aren’t directly involved in the group always seem to find a way to encourage us; whether they’re friends or strangers, many people have messaged our Facebook page telling us that they support the work we’re doing and offer their help for any number of functions.” Support and encouragement spread after Clare became a guest blogger on StarTalk Radio as well. “After we went up on their site we gained a slew of new likers; better yet, people from different parts of the country reached out to offer wisdom and support to our group. Being so young and attempting to put together an environmental organization is not easy, but we’ve been very well received. For me, any acknowledgment that people aren’t blind to climate change’s severity is an extremely rewarding part of what I do. However, the next step is to take action, which is what O350 hopes to inspire in our community.”
Objective350 has not been immune to challenges, however. According to Clare, “The biggest problem so far has been trying to get a facility to conduct our research. My team and I are very interested in testing the effects of predicted levels of carbon dioxide in one hundred years of freshwater deposits and organic life. We were hoping to get samples from our local river and use the results to make the issue of climate change more personal to our home town; however, it’s hard for teens to get lab space so we’ve decided to enter online research competitions. It’s not a perfect solution but we think building up our credibility and respectability as researchers might help us get space in the future!”
For Clare, the best part about what she does with O350 is the people she gets to interact with. She recently had the opportunity to give a lecture to an accelerated STEM class for 5th and 8th graders, which reinforced her devotion to the community. “Hearing them ask question and tell me that O350 makes them think they can do something about climate change has really been the best part of my work.” When asked what advice she would give to other young girls looking to make a difference, she spoke of perseverance and bravery. “People will tell you no for any number of reasons, but if you’re passionate enough, persistent enough, you will find a way to realize your goals. If you want to pursue climate change activism then I encourage you to align yourself with a local group and seek guidance from them, as O350 is doing with the CCL. If you’d like to begin your own organization then try to make connections with everyone, reach out to local businesses and politicians - you’d be surprised at the generosity of other people. Finally, don’t be afraid to pursue your goals in science- it is a field that demands participation, so simply engage in science whenever and wherever you get the chance. Inspire people with the resourcefulness and know-how that can only come from being a Scientista.”
“Issues like this aren’t dealt with unless a community, or a society, can realize the issue’s importance and demand action.”
Check out: http://www.objective350.com/
By Heather Burkhart
If you think you have to have years of experience under your belt in order to change the world, Clare Burhenne of Objective 350 disagrees with you! Founder of the “by teens, for teens” climate change awareness organization Objective350, Clare has proved that age doesn’t matter in the scientista realm. A dedicated, aspiring young astrophysicist, she has decided to do what she can to preserve the unique habitat that is Earth through her understanding and appreciation of the universe. Her belief is that “… astronomers are some of the best equipped to remind people how unique the earth is, and how imperative it is to protect it, since we know how remotely positioned humans are in our cosmos.”
Clare and her research group aim to enlighten the current generation about climate change and the science behind it by utilizing social media and public outreach. When asked if there was a specific event that inspired the creation of Objective350, Clare replied, “I love astronomy, and one of the most striking moments that encouraged me to begin Objective350 was a photo and the accompanying lecture given by Neil deGrasse Tyson. The photo is called “Earthrise”, and it depicts the Earth, cast in shadow, rising above the moon’s surface, snapped by the Apollo Eight astronaut William Anders in 1968. While the image was up on the screen Dr. Tyson told the audience about its ramifications. The release of that photo marked the very first time humans had seen their whole world captured in a single frame- for the first time in human history we were struck by our world’s fragility, not its might. In the first few years after Earthrise’s release there was an absolute explosion of environmental consciousness. The EPA was created and numerous air and water preservation laws were passed- the world was taken by our own frailty. The photo and Dr. Tyson’s talk resonated with me deeply; coupled with my astronomical thinking, it was a recipe for action.”
About the Author
Heather is an undergraduate student at the University of Utah earning her BA in linguistics and cognitive science with an interest in studying aphasia and other language properties of the brain. She has written articles for the online magazine NVate, and is currently a section editor for The Scientista Foundation's Scientista Spotlight. When she is not studying or writing in a cozy corner of her home, she is most likely away having an adventure in the beautiful mountain backgrounds of Utah.
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