Despite the overwhelming helplessness that often encompasses climate change, having the opportunity to volunteer or intern at an environmental non-governmental organization (NGO) is a great way for students to gain meaningful experiences while also fighting for a cause they believe in. 

In Spokane, The Lands Council exists to primarily protect and revitalize forests, waters and wildlife. It also works on issues regarding repair and organization of wildlife management.

“More recently we have been working on creating resiliency to climate change,” said Maggie Gates, the community outreach coordinator of The Lands Council. “This includes working with different task forces and groups on ecosystems.” 

In addition to The Lands Council, Gates also spends a lot of time working with the Sunrise Movement.

The Sunrise Movement is a youth-led movement that works to address climate change while creating millions of well-paid jobs. Its current goal is to build a solid foundation that supports the Green New Deal.

"This group also supports other movements such as Black Lives Matter, the fight for housing justice and making sure communities are safe while pushing for climate change curriculum," Gates said.

In fact, the Sunrise Movement helped to organize the climate strikes that took place in Spokane in 2019. 

Another important environmental NGO, Save Our wild Salmon (SOS) works to restore healthy and harvestable numbers of salmon and steelhead to the Pacific Northwest, said Carrie Herrmann, the outreach coordinator for SOS. 

“There used to be millions of salmon that would pour up the Columbia River and its tributaries each year feeding bear, wolves, birds and tribal folks and now we’ve lost over 90% of those return numbers due primarily to dam infrastructure,” Herrmann said.

Each organization acts as way for students to see the importance of and work for causes they believe in. It can also help for students to make decisions regarding their future career goals. 

In fact, both Gates and Herrmann are graduates of GU.

Gates recommends that students looking to get involved with The Lands Council should stay tuned for a variety of internships that will become available in the spring.

“There are also so many volunteer opportunities,” Gates said. “Whatever your passion is, we can find a place and location for you to help out. We also always need help in the office.”

All information regarding the Sunrise Movement is posted on its Instagram: @sunrise_spokane. Gates also recommends to DM the account to be added to the movement's Slack.

In regards to SOS, Herrmann recommends that students reach out to them for internship opportunities or, more importantly, reach out to elected officials.

“Sens. Conwell Murray and Maria Cantwell are key movers we need to advocate for this issue, and they need to hear from folks in Washington to whom it’s a priority,” Herrmann said.

Working for a cause is something Gates and Herrman agree is important for college students to have experience in. 

“Whether it is a climate strike or planting a tree, it is especially important for college students to do the work hands on and make the difference every day to see how there are people doing the work and taking action,” Gates said.

By doing this, students are able to connect the lessons they are learning in the classroom to topics that may be more prevalent outside education circles.

“If you care about an issue, you should get involved, let your elected officials know, vote for representatives that reflect your values and find ways to bring those issues home to your community in ways that can better it,” Herrmann said.

As a result of their work, SOS has been taking agencies that are in charge of the harmful dams to court for the past 20 years and, along the way, have had small wins that lead to better habitat and decreased mortality rates for salmon.

Additionally, the Lands Council is grateful for all the help that GU Students have provided, Gates said. 

There are many opportunities to get involved, whether through river cleanups or tree plantings.

In fact, this Friday the Lands Council is hosting a tree planting event in Spokane for their SpoCanopy program in collaboration with the city of Spokane Urban Forestry. Students interested in this event can sign up online.

More information regarding the Lands Council can be found at: landscouncil.org.

More information regard Save Our wild Salmon can be found at: wildsalmon.org.

Georgia Cosola is a contributor. 

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