Tallulah Lam Shepard
I stand for environmental justice, and rapid, comprehensive governmental change, both for myself and my generation in the here and now, and also for all of the generations to come. I believe that social movements have the ability to change today's political landscape and achieve a Green New Deal for the planet and all of its inhabitants.
I communicate the urgent, hopeful message of climate action and justice by tapping into emotions: through conversations, storytelling, video and photos, even through memes. Many psychological studies have demonstrated that while being able to cite your sources is important, just providing figures and statistics isn't enough to fully sway folks and mobilize them into action. You have to make them feel something.
My lightbulb moment
The past 10 years of my life have been punctuated by devastating global events: hurricanes, wildfires, power outages, locust invasions; the list abounds. These events brought about a sense of resignation. I felt I was too small, too insignificant as an individual to really enact change within a corrupt system that was built to prioritize profit over the lives of the planet and its people.
My relationship to my eco-anxiety is a constant source of tension -- and every now and then, a source of empowerment. On my worst days, I used to have to need a scheduled cry, as a method of painful, but enlightening catharsis that allowed me to think of the injustices of the world, feel my emotions, and then pick myself up again with a deeper sense of determination and commitment that I use what privilege I have to fight for those who cannot.
My first time engaging with the Sunrise Movement in August 2019 not only brought the climate crisis front and center for me, but also revealed to me the power of nonviolent direct action and of community. I was inspired by the way that Sunrise community members showed up for one another, offering company, solidarity, and resources amidst the crises of wildfires and power outages.
Today, my climate fear and anxiety is often soothed through community building and organizing with Sunrise. Every day, I am inspired by the bravery and empathy of my fellow youth climate activists. Every person I encounter holds the potential to be a fellow movement-shaper themself, and the threat of losing the world as I know it fills my life with more intention and appreciation of its beauty and its gifts.
My top skills:
Independent and collaborative problem-solving, communication, research and analysis, adaptability, time management, community outreach, and event planning
People I read & follow
Vox's David Roberts for energy explainers and policy stuff from a center-left perspective.
Data For Progress has good GND stuff.
My experience with Active Allies and 350 Bay Area
I first came across Active Allies through a Sunrise meeting in early 2020, where Anna Michel and Evan Hynes announced the program as an opportunity to work on climate projects, with sponsors and mentors supporting us. Intrigued, I applied through Climatebase (one of Active Allies’ core partners) and joined the list of candidate Project Managers. It turned out, a few months later, a brand-new position opened up at 350 Bay Area (Active Allies’ other core partner), and I was recruited and ultimately hired!
From June through September, I served as 350BA’s Youth Climate Organizer, with Felix Kramer as my sponsor and Nan Farley as my mentor. I am incredibly grateful to have been provided the opportunity to put a career centering the climate crisis into motion, and to invest more time in building an inclusive climate movement that garners the attention and energy necessary to address our climate emergency.
I’d been working as an asylum and immigration litigation assistant. Increasingly, I felt the pressure and urge to dedicate more of my time to address our mounting climate crisis — which, of course, is an amalgamation of social ills, exacerbating every social inequity, including environmental immigration. In August 2019, I joined the Sunrise Movement’s Bay Area Hub, and have since been heavily involved in its Building-A-Just-Hub and Political teams.
During my time as 350BA Youth Climate Organizer, I helped create and maintain spaces for young climate justice advocates, within and beyond the organization, and helped empower them to move into leadership on the 350BA Mobilizing Team. I focused my efforts on recruiting to the team, as well as co-creating a team structure that felt right for all of us.
My leadership style is guided by the firm belief that the wisdom is in the room. Rather than imparting some expert knowledge upon the leaders and members, my role was to coach them to find their own answers. Young people are often shut out of the conversation because of their age, but we are each coming to the movement with different types of lived experience and embodied expertise. And we have a clear stake in this fight.
I made space for Mobilizing Team leaders to see their own answers, remind them of their skills, and provide support where needed. Through that process of co-creation and empowerment, we came up with five sub-teams: Communications; Community Builders; People Power; Solidarity; and Actions. See what the youth climate leaders are up to at the 350 Bay Area Youth Mobilizing Team website.
With a research background in cognitive, somatic, interpersonal, and environmental well-being, and experience in justice, equity, and anti-oppression work, I am passionate about intentional, people-centered community organizing. This fall, I am starting a joint MA/Ph.D. program in Depth Psychology with a specialization in Community, Liberation, Indigenous, and Eco-psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute. Through this academic work and practice, I seek to center care, compassion, and accountability within community organizing spaces. They are fundamental to ensuring the fight for collective liberation and climate justice is nourishing and sustainable.
It’s been an incredibly rewarding experience for me to see the 350BA Mobilizing Team, its leaders, and its work take shape over just a few dynamic, fruitful months. Moving forward, 350 Bay Area and Active Allies provide an accessible entry point into the youth climate movement. We can shift passive allies into active allyship; develop pathways for greater involvement in climate solutions among climate advocates; and remind young people that their wisdom is always in the room.