“I’m one of those weird people who has always known what I wanted to do.” What Benjamin Newton Duke Scholar alumna Carina Barnett-Loro calls “weird,” some people would consider enviably driven, with a clear focus on the future.
“In fifth grade I made a photo album with my mom and my goal was to be an environmental scientist,” says Barnett-Loro.
The environment remains Barnett-Loro’s focus, in her position with the Union for Concerned Scientists, in Washington, D.C. As outreach coordinator for the organization’s Climate Impacts Strategy, the Durham native, who majored in environmental science and policy with a certificate in Latin American studies, admits the work is an uphill climb.
“Unfortunately, for a variety of political reasons, federal climate and clean energy legislation unraveled and never passed both Houses of Congress, during 2009-2010,” says Barnett-Loro. “So, as a community we’ve had to come together and think, ‘What’s next?’ We know that climate change is happening. It’s a serious threat.”
The environmental challenge comes in a two-part question, according to Barnett-Loro, a nature-lover and world-traveler.
“How do we both move toward limiting our emissions, mitigating the carbon that’s already in the atmosphere? And then also, how do we prepare our communities to be more resilient to the change that we know is coming? The Climate Impacts Strategy looks at both of those things. We have to adapt our communities to the climate change that’s already locked in. We know there’s going to be sea level rise that we can’t reverse. We know there’s going to be warming that effects fire and drought patterns in the West that we can’t reverse.”
Barnett-Loro works in four states: New Mexico, Colorado, Montana, and Virginia. She witnesses a variety of climate extremes.
“We know that climate change is happening. It’s a serious threat.”
“In the interior West we’re thinking about fire and drought,” explains Barnett-Loro. “In some places they’re not getting enough water. In some places they’re getting too much water. In Colorado, prolonged drought leaves the soil so dry that it cannot absorb moisture when the Fall rains come. Fires burn trees that also would have helped to prevent erosion, resulting in damaging floods like the one we saw in Boulder last year.”
With the seemingly insurmountable challenges, bridging the partisan divide will be key to environmental success. Barnett-Loro says she learned how to identify and organize effective people from across backgrounds during her previous jobs, beginning in college with the B.N. Duke Carolina Summer of Service.
“It was a really incredible opportunity,” says Barnett-Loro. “The summer after my freshman year, I was in Greenville, North Carolina. One of my Summer of Service non-profit placements was with the Pamlico-Tar River Foundation, which advocates for clean air and water in eastern North Carolina. That was actually the first time I had ever worked for an environmental non-profit.”
Barnett-Loro’s first job out of college was a one-year environmental organization fellowship with Green Corps. Then she worked for two years as the chapter organizer for the North Carolina Chapter of the Sierra Club. Now with the Union of Concerned Scientists, she remains on track to doing the kind of work she always knew she would.
“I found a list when I was cleaning out some boxes in my Mom’s house a year or two ago,” says Barnett-Loro. “I wanted to be an environmental lobbyist when I was 13. A lot of my desire to work on environmental issues stems from a deep connection to the environment and a love for being outside. I really appreciate how beautiful and complex the world is.”