Blog 1: Welcome to the US State Department

When I initially found out I would be interning at the Department of State in Washington D.C. this summer I was in shock, denial. I was in denial of the gravity of the environment I had just placed myself in. The people I would surround myself with for 12 weeks. I just couldn’t wrap my head around the climate, so to speak.

Some would say that I was a climate denier.

*crickets, then more crickets*

That’s a joke I thought I would use as a segway to explaining what my office at the State Department does. It was clearly well worth the buildup.

Working in the Oceanic and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs (OES) bureau, my wing of the Harry S. Truman Building covers all things sustainable that require diplomatic engagement. Examples are many; the depletion of Atlantic Salmon; the Polio outbreak in Syria and how it might impact American citizens; the diplomatic implications of American innovators developing super batteries for Australia; wildlife trafficking; air or water quality and transboundary concerns, bilats, trilats, and I wish I was exaggerating but those are all from this week. Anything that you can imagine to be related to sustainability outside of America with the ability to impact America or its citizens, which I must admit is a large skew of things, falls under the diplomatic responsibility umbrella that is the congress made OES bureau at the State Department.

Luckily, my office focuses on one thing. The Office of Global Change (OES/EGC) specializes in climate diplomacy. Treaties, agreements, mitigation and adaptation, climate resiliency, all things involving the words “CLIMATE” and “CHANGE” are our cup of tea. I am working alongside the people who negotiatied the Paris Agreement. I’m going to repeat that in case you missed it. Yesterday, I had lunch with the lead negotiator for the Paris Agreement, and she’s only 31. With that being said, climate governance is more than the overly media focused withdrawal announcement, UNFCCC, and Paris Climate Accord. We are involved in numerous carbon offset programs such as REDD+, ICAO, VCS, anything the GCF can get its hands on that reduces carbon emissions really. It’s a good office filled with better people. I wish I could go more into detail about my daily responsibilities and current projects, but I can’t due to the information being classified as sensitive or above, let’s just leave it at that.

What I can tell you is that everything I have experienced this summer would not have been possible without PCGS preparing me to do so. When we go around a table and introduce ourselves and our academic backgrounds to say, a director, ambassador, foreign minister, you name it, I’m always surrounded in a sea of Ivy Leaguers. Georgetown, Duke, Yale, Columbia… federal agencies really like big name schools. And you know what? I am always proud to say that I am obtaining my Masters in Global Sustainability at PCGS. I’m proud to be a bull! I smile knowing that I worked that much harder to get my seat at that very same table.

There is a ‘motto’ that the entire DOS adheres to:
The Department of Defense has its weapons, we have our words.

This encompasses diplomacy. Communication and the art of the compromise are how the State Department achieves its goals for the betterment of the American people. I realized that without PCGS, I simply wouldn’t have the words, dedication, or knowledge to be in the room representing our nation’s climate governance to the world, I would lack the ability to communicate and compromise effectively.

My next blog will be less about my bureau and office, and more about my experience as an intern. I promise no more climate denier jokes next time, and I’ll try to keep it shorter as well. Hope everyone is having a life changing summer!

Until then,

Travis

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