Natalie Lucas is CEO & Founder of Care About Climate, an international climate advocacy and education non-profit. She is also an Honors Wildcat through and through!
Tell us about yourself
I was born and raised in Flagstaff, Arizona. In my backyard were the Grand Canyon, Havasupai (the largest contiguous ponderosa pine forest in the United States), and the San Francisco Peaks. My entire childhood was about being outside. I was able to backpack, go on river trips through the great canyons of the southwest, and attend forestry camp.
As I grew older, I began to see significant shifts in my world. Bark beetles became more numerous and would kill large stands of trees. Fires became more frequent and intense. There were several times we were on standby for evacuation. I watched friends escape the path of fire with only a few important documents and their animals in tow. After the fires, intense flooding began as the trees were no longer there to soak up the rain. Sandbags would litter the neighborhoods below the areas where fire had swept through. If you visit Flagstaff today, you can still see some of those sandbags; waiting just in case.
Climate change is a direct threat to my hometown. I could not stand back and watch while this problem continued to swell at a global level.
How did your academic experience impact your career path and who you are today?
I started my undergraduate studies at the University of Arizona in 2009. I majored in environmental science and philosophy, politics, economics, and law (PPEL). I graduated with Honors with a dual degree in 2013. During that time, I ran the Associated Students of the University of Arizona (ASUA) - Students for Sustainability group, the Honors Student Council, and honed my organization and advocacy chops through other volunteer activities.
In 2012, I attended my first United Nations climate negotiations as a youth activist through the Sierra Student Coalition. After this, I was hooked on working with a global community to solve the climate crisis. I applied for the master’s in development practice at UAZ, and I started that program right after graduation. During this time, I founded Care About Climate at the age of 23 to create an international platform where youth around the world could work together to tackle this challenge together. In addition to being the youngest woman voted to the national Sierra Club Board of Directors at age 25, I have attended six United Nations climate negotiations and currently serve as the United States Climate Action Network International Liaison to Climate Action Network International.
How did your Honors experience contribute to your success?
The University of Arizona and the Honors College offered me a microworld where I could practice leading groups, understand the politics of an institution and what it takes to make change, and how to acquire funding. This has been critical to my success.
I will also mention that success has looked different for me than it likely does for other people. I find the most value in being able to do good work, and often that is for free, which comes with its own challenges and privileges. I have worked jobs that pay $12/hour right out of grad school and have worked full-time at a solar company while working on my passion projects, so I could have health insurance. On many days, I work 12-14 hours.
I am trying to figure out how to balance my passion projects and my profession. I have not quite figured out the secret sauce even though I look like I have everything together.
Any advice for our current Honors Wildcats?
My best advice is to work towards things that bring you joy. Take opportunities even if they seem small (because you never know what it will lead to), run for something even if you lose, and prioritize a community of care and friendship in your work so it feels fun instead of difficult to get through.
What’s next for you?
I turn 30 this year, so it’s been a year of self-reflection and thinking about where I want to go. My goal for the next few years is to get Care About Climate to a financially stable place, so I can pass it on to the next generation of activists to learn, practice, and grow with it as an international community. Then it will be off to the next adventure, which I am sure will be fun, but I am not sure what it looks like quite yet. I am also finding it is okay not to know.