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Blog Action Day, Part 4

As a graduate student, Boston Schweitzer Fellow Meghan Moda (Clark University) was troubled by low-income Worcester residents’ lack of awareness about environmental health issues (including air pollution and indoor health hazards like mold and radon). So she collaborated with multiple community organizations, including the Regional Environmental Council, Family Health Center, and Worcester Youth Center, to change the status quo.

“My Schweitzer Fellowship project had two components—working with a group of high school students to measure particulate matter and other environmental variables along routes that they use to walk to and from school, and broader community sampling walks to educate and involve the community in environmental justice issues including air pollution, noise pollution, and trash,” Moda says.

One of the main contaminates Moda and those she worked with measured was particulate matter, which is most commonly associated with the burning of fossil fuels—a main contributor to climate change. But it is also linked to asthma, lung disease, cancer, and premature death. Moda’s project also prompted broader discussions about “sustainability from a health perspective and the interaction between our environment and our health, which sounds like a simple discussion, but in the community where we implemented this project, many people had never considered the link.”

During her time as a Fellow, Meghan deepened her own understanding of that link. “One of the many valuable lessons I learned as a Fellow is that we are all connected, to each other and to the world we live in,” she says. “This reverence for and appreciation of all life – human and animal – sets an example that I try to judge my actions by.”

Moda brings that philosophy to Resources Legacy Fund, where she now works on a number of projects related to climate change. One is the South Bay Salt Ponds restoration project, which “is returning roughly 15,000 acres of former salt ponds around San Francisco Bay to tidal marsh and managed pond habitat.” According to Moda, the restoration will not only provide critical habitat for wildlife and significant public access to the Bay, it will also help protect communities around San Francisco Bay from climate change and sea level rise by absorbing flood and storm waters, providing a buffer between development and the Bay, and incorporating flood protection and predicted sea level rise into planning. Some studies have suggested that restored tidal marsh also has the potential to keep pace with gradual sea level rise.”

In Moda’s opinion, “the single most important change a person can make in their life to combat climate change is to realize that their actions and their way of life does matter.”

“So often people think of climate change as something that is bigger than them, that it is out of their ability to influence or change, but each of us makes decisions on a daily basis that impact climate change and the environment,” she says. “Once people realize that their actions matter and once they internalize the problem, little changes in lifestyle become easy to make (and there are so many that can make a difference)!”

“It is a big step to change your thinking from ‘it’s someone else’s problem’ or ‘what can I do about it, I am just one person”’to understanding that change occurs one person at a time,” Moda says.