Megan Emiko Scott works in the Washington, D.C. office of Green For All, an environmental nonprofit based in Oakland, Calif. An Oakland native herself, the Yonsei grew up participating in activities with the Buddhist Church of Oakland and the Oakland-Fukuoka Sister City Association. After receiving her bachelor’s at NYU, she earned a master’s in public policy from UCLA. She is also co-founder of the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of Swirl, a national organization for multiracial individuals and families. The Nichi Bei Weekly recently interviewed her via e-mail about her experiences in the environmental field.
Nichi Bei Weekly: You attended the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen last month. What were your overall impressions of the event?
Megan Emiko Scott: I was in Copenhagen for the second week of the conference. In addition to the official proceedings, which I did not attend, there was a wide array of other events (such as an alternative “people’s conference” called Klimaforum). The sheer variety of activities made for a somewhat chaotic week — it felt like there was always a lot to do but never enough time to do it. Adding to the chaos was the fact that the UN accredited three times as many observers as capacity allowed, so many NGO [non-governmental organization] folks accredited to attend official proceedings were denied access during the second week.
NBW: What do you think the conference accomplished?
MES: Overall, many people expected that Copenhagen would not accomplish much and, to some extent, they turned out to be right. There were some symbolic and potentially important gestures made — for example, an agreement by major emitting countries to inscribe their greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, and the announcement of a $100 billion fund for climate change adaptation efforts in developing countries. Yet because Copenhagen did not produce a legally-binding treaty, which was not a surprise given where things stood as the conference began, there is still a lot of work to be done to make sure these gestures translate into real accomplishments.
NBW: In what capacity did you attend, and what did you do there?
MES: Along with a couple colleagues, I went to Copenhagen to represent Green For All and to learn and communicate back my experience and observations. We blogged, tweeted, photographed and filmed various aspects of our experience. Check out our Web page at www.greenforall.org.
NBW: How long have you been with Green For All, and what is your role with that organization?
MES: I joined Green For All last September as a policy associate based in Washington, D.C. I work to shape and advocate for federal policies that help build an inclusive green economy that provides pathways out of poverty. At the federal level, one of our current priorities is to push for the passage of comprehensive climate and energy legislation this year that includes provisions to ensure equity and opportunity in the clean energy economy for all Americans.
NBW: Prior to joining Green For All, what other experiences have you had advocating for environmental issues?
MES: I previously worked with SCOPE in Los Angeles as a policy researcher for their campaign to create family-supporting, green jobs in the construction and manufacturing sectors.
NBW: What has motivated you to address green jobs?
MES: I came to work on green jobs from the economic development perspective, so my engagement with environmental issues is relatively new. The more I work at the crossroads of these two issues, the more I see the importance and value of breaking down silos. In many ways, climate and energy legislation is the most important economic policy of our time. We can combat climate change by investing in clean energy industries that will employ workers at the same time that they tackle the massive threat of global warming.
NBW: Are there ways in which your identity as a Japanese American has informed or motivated your environmental advocacy?
MES: Not directly, but my identity as a multiracial Japanese American has shaped previous decisions (e.g. my work with Swirl to organize and advocate for the multiracial community). Swirl was a platform for me to engage with issues of concern to other communities of color. That engagement has definitely contributed to what I’m doing today.