Perhaps fate has played her hand in the choice of Antje Lang to receive ECI's first Claudia Comberti Scholarship for the MSc in Environmental Change and Management.
In Antje's resume - and in what others say about her - you very quickly come across "environmental justice", "Amazon rainforest", "wilderness", "rock climbing", "playing guitar, piano
… mandolin and banjo". Words, phrases and values that were all interwoven in Claudia's life too.
And then, crucially, "Antje is a scholar and analyst of real substance as well as an activist… a concern for others and a wonderfully kind personality."
Antje (pronounced "on-tee-yuh") did her undergraduate degree at Duke University, majoring in Environmental Science and Policy with minors in Global Health and Russian. The path to this choice seemed to have been made (subconsciously at least) when, at the age of just eight, Antje decided that cars should be banned because of what she saw as their worrying role in the critical interdependency between humans and the environment.
This early grasping of interdependency has increasingly come to the fore with a passion for linking science with policy and then with practical, often community-based, action.
During Antje's first year at Duke, the North Carolina State Government passed a Bill which effectively prohibited the Coastal Resource Commission and the Division of Coastal Management from defining sea level rise or using it for regulatory purposes. In response, Antje and fellow students coordinated a panel of researchers, lawyers, and policy experts to assess the implications of this bill. "Following this, I acted as liaison to the North Carolina Student Energy Network (NCSEN), which, among other things, lobbied North Carolinian Universities to divest from coal-power energy companies."
Alongside Claudia's focus on the Amazon and the impact of environmental change on its indigenous people Antje's geographical focus is - for now - cities. She is intrigued by the opportunities and challenges cities have to be centres of sustainability and shapers of climate. And how this could connect with her passion for environmental justice: "specifically, I hope to promote sustainable energy systems using the power of environmental economics."
This desire emerged from another dot-joining insight. During her internship with The Wilderness Society she witnessed the ecologic devastation that had resulted from forest clear-cutting in the Southeastern US. Much of the wood was exported to Europe as renewable biomass energy. "What I found interesting about this case was that the EU's 2009 Renewable Energy Directive was partly responsible." This Directive aimed to increase renewable energy use in Europe. However, "it left a bioenergy loophole that, in part, led to the commodification of US forests for bioenergy exportation," says Antje.
"I am so touched to have received this scholarship honouring Claudia. She was clearly very loved and well-regarded in the community." Antje Lang
During the last year Antje has worked through AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) for a Chicago-based legal aid and housing non-profit organisation. "I have been the Outreach and Policy Coordinator for the Lawyers' Committee for Better Housing (LCBH), a position that has allowed me to explore my passion for environmental justice in my hometown, particularly around environmental health and affordable housing."
Beyond a desire to serve her community, Antje was keen to gain work experience prior to pursuing her Oxford graduate degree in order to develop relevant skills "in the field".
In packing her bags now for ECI, Antje says, "I am so touched to have received this scholarship honouring Claudia. She was clearly very loved and well-regarded in the community - I hope that I can honour her in some small way through my time at ECI and beyond. My hope is that Oxford will help equip me to advocate for environmental responsibility in order to enhance the welfare of people everywhere. The most disadvantaged members of society often disproportionately shoulder the burden of environmental change and may not have the agency to push for action."
This is surely a banner that Claudia waved as enthusiastically, creatively and insightfully as Antje.
Welcome and good luck Antje… see you on the Slapton fieldtrip!