By: Davonte Douglas
As a native resident of Maryland’s Eastern Shore, I’ve watched my home slowly be swallowed by rising sea levels. Studies have shown that sea levels around Maryland have been rising and are projected to continue to rise by as much as 2.1ft in the Chesapeake Bay by 2050. My family’s history is at extreme risk because of rising sea levels and that inspired my interest in combating climate change and studying the environment. My desire to learn about how climate change policy is created and implemented is what drew me to this position at CCAN.
My name is Davonte Douglas and I served as the Maryland Policy Fellow for Chesapeake Climate Action Network. This fellowship has given me a completely different outlook on how progressive environmental policy is developed. I’ve also been able to learn an incredible amount about the State of Maryland and its legislative process, along with what it takes to successfully enact policy. Because of the ongoing COVID 19 pandemic, this internship consisted of mostly virtual work, but I was able to work in person at outdoor events like rallies. As public health conditions improved, I was able to work alongside CCAN’s Maryland Director, Victoria Venable, doing some actual in-person lobbying of legislators on our most important legislative priorities. By working under Victoria I’ve gained invaluable experience by meeting with legislators, discussing the specifics of each piece of legislation, scheduling events, and drafting factsheets, testimony, and advocacy emails. During my time at CCAN, I’ve learned how climate change is an issue that intersects with many other social issues like racism and economic instability. Meeting with people from across Maryland to discuss why we are advocating for climate action has been one of the most important parts of my experience with CCAN because I’ve learned that I am truly not alone in this fight.
Before working for CCAN, I had experience with scientific research that focused on the impacts of sustainable infrastructure on vulnerable communities. I was attracted to CCAN and this position because I wanted to understand how I could translate my passion for sustainable infrastructure research into actual policy one day. I also had some very basic experience in event organizing thanks to a Black Lives Matter protest that I organized during the summer of 2020. That event is what inspired my interest in advocacy work. I wasn’t aware of the role that organizations like CCAN played in developing and influencing policy. Throughout my time at CCAN, I learned just how important their role is in advocating for progressive climate legislation. By creating factsheets and drafting written testimony for legislation I was able to learn about the actual aspects of legislation that I had no clue about before this position. Now I understand key parts of legislation like fiscal notes, amendments, and projected studies. I also had the opportunity to schedule meetings with legislators, lead as a district captain for District 39 at CCAN’s Lobby Night, meet with Senator Nancy King, and lobby legislators to garner support for The Climate Solutions Act of 2022. The diverse responsibilities that I learned during my time with CCAN will be critical for my future in scientific research and politics.
Testifying in Annapolis
My most memorable experience with CCAN was the day that I orally testified for the Facilitating University Transformations by Unifying Reductions in Emissions (FUTURE) Act. The Future Act would require Maryland public universities to reach carbon neutrality by 2035 and it would also create an Environmental and Economic Justice Scholarship fund to help Maryland students that have been displaced by climate change. I collaborated with MaryPirg Student Climate Action Coalition at the University of Maryland College Park to develop a testimonial statement that would show that college students are focused on improving our state’s efforts to combat climate change. After arriving around noon and being scheduled to testify at around 2:30, our hearing was pushed to just before 8 pm, so we ended up waiting almost 8 hours to testify for a bill that we thought was worth hearing. At no point, while we were waiting did I think that what we were doing was not worth it. That day is a shared memory between all of us and I’m glad that we were able to bond over the common good.
The outcome of the 2022 Maryland Legislative session and my time with CCAN as a whole were great. With the passage of the Climate Solutions Now Act of 2022(CSNA), all of the hard work that the CCAN team invested in paid off. Even though we didn’t get everything we wanted, the bill is a win for Maryland and a step in the right direction for combating climate change. There is still cause for celebration because with the help of CCAN and other organizations CSNA was able to overcome some very persistent polluter opposition and hesitant legislators. Knowing that I helped to contribute to the success of the bill by creating factsheets, lobbying legislators, and rallying to raise awareness is something that I will always be proud of and I will always remember. I’m grateful that I was able to be a part of the CCAN team during such a colossal step in Maryland’s climate legislation future.
Overall, during my time at CCAN I’ve been able to see how good, consistent leadership plays a huge role in the success of an organization. The people that I had the pleasure of working with are extremely dedicated individuals that successfully work as a team to pass progressive legislation. I was drawn to this organization because of what it accomplished and what I believed that I would learn. I’m happy to say that I have learned so much more and gained mentors and friends throughout my internship. This experience has improved my skills and deepened my desire to change Maryland and the world for the better.