IMG_20160724_123301In summer 2016, two compelling forces converged in Santa Monica to move people in healthy directions.  One was the unrelenting energy of youth.  The other was the Expo light rail line driving westward to the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Monica Bay.  Youth-power and rail-power, a tantalizing tandem, could help lighten the community’s carbon footprint.  Climate Action Santa Monica set out to align these forces by initiating a “Climate Corps” to be a visible climate presence in Santa Monica on summer weekends with a focus on the climate-friendly public transit choices people have, starting with the advent of the Expo line.

To help celebrate the opening of the Expo light rail, promote GoSaMo, the City’s P1030298transportation campaign, and provide a climate lens to riding the light rail, Climate Action Santa Monica initiated the CASM Climate Corps© as a pilot program.  Three main purposes focused the endeavors:
1.  Be a community resource to promote GoSaMo, particularly for Santa Monica’s residents and workers, to share the public transit choices an show how the transit system works and how to use it.
2.  Conduct meaningful conversations about using public transit, specifically the Expo, instead of cars and the significant climate impacts of that use.
3.  Collect survey data on ridership, transit choices and climate change.
To build a vibrant cadre of Climate Corps, CASM reached out to upper division high school 2b199bfc-aba7-4296-871f-0e1980d54ef8and college students from diverse socio-economic, racial and ethnic backgrounds, encouraging accomplished or budding environmentalists to apply.  Through an application and interview process, CASM sought open-minded, flexible individuals, who work steadily and take initiative.  Climate Corps candidates were:
  • Keen interest in awakening or invigorating the capacity to be climate-smart;
  • Knowledge about human-caused climate change;
  • Readiness to learn and share;
  • Experience or willingness in speaking about climate change publicly;
  • Familiarity with or using local/regional public transportation;
  • Social media know-how and interest;
  • Ability to self-reflect, listen to and learn from constructive critical feedback; and
  • Special knowledge, such as bilingual fluency, graphics design, organizing, etc.

P1030347Applicants had a chance to participate in a low-key manner with volunteer student leader-interns from Sustainable Works who partnered with CASM to test-run the Climate Corps concept on Saturday, May 21, 2016 as part of Santa Monica’s community welcome to Expo riders at Metro’s “Station Parties.”  That opportunity enabled applicants to see whether the responsibilities would suit them.

With the support from the City of Santa Monica, County of Los Angeles, and Metro, in theIMG_20160716_110054
summer of 2016, thirteen CASM Climate Corps© youth (ages 16 – 25) set out for six weeks, mostly on weekends, to engage Santa Monica residents, visitors, workers and students in meaningful conversations about the variety of low-carbon transit choices that are possible for them to get around the local community and region.  The CASM Climate Corps team helped people learn the practical and climate related reasons for catching the Expo, riding a Breeze or personal bike, using the Big Blue Bus, or walking from place to place.

20160814_155741In making contact with almost 1000 people to assist them and surveying 594 individuals or families for feedback to the City (and Metro), the CASM Climate Corps has had a productive and positive impact, offering what Corps member Zoe called a “face” of the City.  Impressively, the youth have also related that being a part of the Climate Corps has impacted them personally, as Corps members Leo asserts in a “life-changing” manner, opening up new opportunities, strengthening their leadership, and influencing them to assume more environmental or sustainability pursuits in their studies or career choices.

CASM Climate Corps 2016 Team

The 2016 CASM Climate Corps Team came from diverse backgrounds, ethnicities with a broad range of experiences.

  • Abderezak “Zak” Azib:  SMC Sustainable Works; env. Engineering; coursework at Boston Architectural College
  • Vania Bravo: SaMoHi senior, Team Marine
  • Claire Goldberg: Georgetown University, political science; SaMoHi, Class of 2014, SSA president
  • Farah Hossein: SMC Sustainable Works; SMC, biology
  • Tasfiya Islam: SMC Sustainable Works, SMC, cognitive science
  • Eric Manning: SaMoHi Class of 2016; SSA leader; SMC/USC environmental science/public health
  • Leo Martinez: SMC Sustainable Works; UCLA, history/anthropology
  • Marina Milhailova: SMC Sustainable Works; SMC, environmental science
  • James Oliver: mycologist; University of Puget Sound, 2014 B.A, philosophy
  • Zoe Parcells: SaMoHi senior, Team Marine president
  • Amanda Samimi: SaMoHi senior, Team Marine
  • Caitlin Smith: McGill University, music; SaMoHi Class of 2014, SaMoHi Solar Alliance
  • Lea Waller: Savannah College of Art and Design, video game developmentclimate-corps