While my Fellowship journey continues, this is my final learning log. With a full heart, thank you to the Bush Foundation for the remarkable opportunity over the last two years to reflect and grow in my leadership. From the initial retreat to the kind and gentle support during such powerful and unexpected global events, I thank you.
I set out through a self-designed program to immerse myself in the intersection of climate and agriculture and to develop specific leadership skills while deepening my efforts to advance equity and racial justice. I worked to develop my independent voice while I consumed information and studied the potential of agriculture as a major solution to climate emissions. I was able to use this growing base of scientific, operational, and political knowledge to support emerging teams building toward a 2030 agriculture/climate framework centered in equity. I succeeded in advancing many of my original goals.
However, this journey with so many intense and global events prompted deeper telling of truths than I could have imagined. The two years cultivated a continuous stream of uncovering, discovering, and shifting of my perspective of the world and myself as a leader. I could not have anticipated how global events would shape these years and my learning. The murder of George Floyd, the public demand for racial justice, Derek Chauvin’s conviction, a pandemic that impacted everything every day, and the election of President Biden; all brought layers of emotion, deep discernment, and the need to be present, listen, and lead with an ever-evolving sense of my leadership role.
Climate Movement Moment.
Advancing climate change policies centered in equity became much more likely in January 2021. After the election of President Biden, many of us have emerged to ensure we seize this new political moment. Working with a coach over the last two years gave me the opportunity to dissect where we are in this movement moment and how we got ourselves to this point. She helped me pause and move beyond my immediate focus on policy wins to see the deep organizing and incremental victories that made possible the moment when President Biden stepped onto the world stage and called for a 50% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030. These were goals that lived in our organizing dreams and our organizing efforts. Tenacious organizing by people across the US and throughout the world held decision makers accountable and set a new narrative that called on our generation to meet the moral imperative to address climate change for future generations. Tragic climate disrupting floods, hurricanes, fires, and other events reinforce this imperative. All of this leads us to this climate movement moment and this political opportunity.
Working with a coach encouraged me to pause, step out of my policy focused routines and invest more time working with rural leaders who are organizing to address climate change while demanding a more equitable and just future. My leadership is ever evolving as I reflect more on the pathways to change. I move between organizing, leading, mentoring, listening, and testing new pathways as we strive to meet the moral imperative to address climate change.
The pandemic changed everything every day and specifically changed much of my Fellowship plan to travel. In the first months of my Fellowship, I spent a great deal of time researching the emerging sector of climate and agriculture. I visited research institutes and farm operations including one of the oldest organic farms in the country. I walked in the fields of farmers in Minnesota as I grounded myself in US agriculture. People shared their hopes and sense of loss as mega agribusiness operations chewed up the land and dried up local economies. They showed me the sophistication and tenacity needed to run a farm. Some showed me bitterness at the sense of abandonment. These stories laid bare humanity. I received these stories at the beginning of my Fellowship, and they are woven into my principles as I work with teams of people addressing climate change and agriculture. The pandemic cut short the gift of these stories that evolved my understanding of the relationship between people and land and agriculture. My intention was (and is) to continue this travel and to witness new stories. After my deep dive into US agriculture policies and practices over the last two years, I am eager to travel and to witness more sustainable and climate friendly agricultural practices in other countries. Much to learn and to incorporate into our local efforts.
The global witnessing and my personal reaction as a white person to the murder of George Floyd brought me to a new understanding and renewed commitment to rigorously work to advance equity and racial justice. I was not aware and engaged at the level warranted by the systemic racism woven into our police department and the resulting painful trauma experienced by so many people over the years. My lack of awareness was made even more evident as I only live a few blocks from the 3rd precinct and did not realize the history of the 3rd Precinct even though it was known by many. The killing inflicted such trauma on so many people. We witnessed the true toll of trauma as people shared their stories in pursuit of justice. As I synthesize our communities’ trauma and incredible strength and resiliency, I grow in my sensitivity to the space I take up as a white person in my processing. I practice intentionality in recognizing when it is my responsibility to be present and quietly witness and when to use my voice to advance racial justice and equity. This is a lifetime of learning. Attorney General Keith Ellison’s words help to guide me in my continuous renewal of commitment. “I would not call today’s verdict “justice”, however, because justice implies true restoration. But it is accountability, which is the first step towards justice. And now the cause of justice is in your hands. And when I say your hands, I mean the hands of the people of the United States.”
What stands out to me the most is simply how much I learned over the last two years. Concurrent with intense societal events, I made a major transition from a place I had worked for two decades. The transition required a lot of detaching my identity from my work and workplace. As I stripped away this identity, I felt vulnerable. With the support of the Fellowship, I set out on a path to build from a solid and grounded foundation. Along this path I found a kind and supportive advocacy community. I sought different touch stones during this time. I reached out to family, deepened friendships, renewed relationships with colleagues, and continuously stretched to meet people. With greater humility and determination, I started to be in myself more honestly. This grounding led to centered leadership with a willingness to take more risks through convening, co-creating, and challenging myself and others to audaciously dream and to center equity in our work.
I am grateful to the Bush Foundation for this extraordinary Fellowship opportunity. I am grateful to all the Fellows who shared their stories and are doing profound work every day to make this world a more just and better place. Thank you.