#122, Youth Ambassador Board Member of the Foundation for Climate Restoration

Ashley Meeky is a freshman at Vanderbilt University. She plans to double major in Economics and Communications and minor in Human and Organizational Development. She is the Youth Ambassador Board Member of the Foundation for Climate Restoration and is also a Content Creator Ambassador for Beauty and Brains Organization. She is an advocate for climate restoration, inclusivity, women’s empowerment, and domestic violence awareness. She also loves volunteering at South Suburban Family Shelter, Habitat for Humanity, and Progressive Housing. For fun, she enjoys reading, playing tennis, and operating her own natural hair care business called Hair Chronicles By Ashley. She aspires to be an international businesswoman that works for climate restoration and cultural awareness. Since she was young, she has longed to travel the world, which sparked her interest in restoring the climate so that we all can have the opportunity to experience the Earth’s beauty for years to come. 

Bigger Than Us Episode 122

Host Raj Daniels  02:23

If you are asked to share something interesting about yourself, what would it be?

Ashley Meeky  02:27

Yeah. Um, I have my own natural haircare business. It’s called Hair Chronicles by Ashley. 

Host Raj Daniels  02:38

How long have you been doing that?

Ashley Meeky  02:40

I have been doing that for four years. But before that, I had also been doing my mom’s here, my sister is here and my own here. And then freshman year of high school is when I made an Instagram page, and have just been kind of showcasing what I can do and getting more engaged with that

Host Raj Daniels  04:38

So Ashley, you came very highly recommended by Rick Parnelle, the CEO of the Foundation for Climate Restoration. He mentioned that you’re a board member of the organization. And he already shared some information regarding your organization. Can you share your role and how you participate?

Ashley Meeky  05:00

I’m a board member. So I have the power to like vote on a lot of issues and policies that the foundation is adopting, especially since it’s just now getting its feet on the ground and really transforming into a formal business. And I’m glad that I have some say, and the types of policies that is going to build the framework of the organization. And then I also get to work on some programs, like the Youth Leadership Program that I’m working on, Youth Leaders for Climate Restoration. So I’m excited about that, too. I can do a lot, which is, which is really empowering and kind of scary for me. So I’m just kind of filling out my role and just doing what I can hopefully I’m doing well.

Host Raj Daniels  05:48

Since you brought up the Youth Leadership Program, can you share some information about the program?

Ashley Meeky  05:52

Yes, so the foundation is going to be partnering with another amazing organization, and we’re getting ready to launch our Youth Leaders for Climate Restoration program. It’s going to be a certification program where high schoolers, college, and graduate students can get a certification, and learning about climate restoration, talking about it, and then really engaging in their climate activists ways and really be creative with that. So can you share if it’s a, for example, a high school student were to enroll? How long would it take to go through the program?  The program is 12 weeks. So three months, they all kind of go through all the three to four components of it with learning about it, speaking about it, getting back practice, and then having the citizenship and leadership. So all of that will take about three months.

Host Raj Daniels  06:49

And is there a cost associated with the program?

Ashley Meeky  06:52

That is the beautiful thing, there is no cost to the program. In fact, there’s an opportunity to get money. There’s scholarships that we’re working on.

Host Raj Daniels  07:01

That is beautiful. And you mentioned the components, can you break down the components what they are?

Ashley Meeky  07:05

Yeah, so the first component is, I guess we can kind of combine the first two, which is just like an intro component, learning about the foundation, learning about climate restoration. And then speaking about it, which is just learning different speaking practices and ways to engage with different audiences. You can kind of combine those components. And then there’s a formal speaking practice component where you’re participating in webinars, and really engage with our other potential partners and webinars. You’ll be able to make a video if you want, speaking about climate restoration, and then you’ll be able to practice giving a climate restoration presentation, which is very formal. And so it’s a lot of practice in that area, just giving you a big platform to speak about it. And then the last one is our leadership and internship and citizenship component, where you can mentor other youth in your program. And then engage in that citizenship by advocating for policies or engaging with your leaders in your community. And then leadership as well and engaging with however you choose to be a climate activist and really get creative in that area. And we’ll support you there too. So there’s a few components to it. 

Host Raj Daniels  08:48

And if someone’s, let’s say, totally new to the entire concept of climate restoration, can you perhaps give a broad overview of what climate restoration is? 

Ashley Meeky  08:59

My favorite way to bring it up that the foundation actually introduced me to is the bathtub reference, I don’t know if you’ve heard of it. Basically, the earth is sitting in a tub of carbon, and then turning off the tap. And then the faucet would represent the carbon being poured in the atmosphere. So turning off that tap is mitigation. And then adapting is learning to swim in the tub. But restoration is opening the drain and letting some of that carbon out. Because even if we turn off the tap, we’re still sitting in the carbon. Even if we learn to swim in it, we’re still sitting in the carbon but by opening up that drain that’s really really transforming the climate best to a place where the earth can live healthfully, and humans can thrive. 

Host Raj Daniels  09:49

And do you have any favorite examples of let’s say, letting the water out of the drain? 

Ashley Meeky  09:55

I was very hooked on the synthetic limestone by Blue Planet. But I think now I’m really, excited about marine permaculture. The fact that you can kind of kill two birds with one stone, I hope it’s not a bad analogy. But on one hand, we’re sequestering carbon using the ocean. And I believe we only need 2% of the ocean to sequester all the carbon in the atmosphere. And then on the other hand, were revitalizing these marine ecosystems, which is an amazing thing to me. And so it’s just a win-win situation. And I love that.

Host Raj Daniels  10:35

I do love the idea of marine permaculture. I recently interviewed a lady who, with an organization called Green Wave, and they’re doing I don’t think it’s ocean farming, but it’s water-based farming with kelp and mussels and oysters. And I think that’s one of the ways to that they’re eliminating some of the carbon in the water.

Ashley Meeky  10:56

I’m fascinated with kelp, because it can grow up to two feet per day, I think. And that’s really amazing. I didn’t even know plants can grow that fast. So that was just fascinating for me.

Host Raj Daniels  11:19

Let’s rewind a little bit here. How did you get to this climate restoration, what led you there? And can you walk us through that?

Ashley Meeky  11:35

I was first introduced to climate restoration at the 2019 Global Climate restoration forum, at the UN headquarters. And that’s kind of where my journey began. Ever since then, I’ve been super engaged, super excited, and just ready to spread the hope that climate restoration brings.

Host Raj Daniels  11:56

So as a young person, what are you some of your concerns about climate change?

Ashley Meeky  12:03

I have a few. One of them being that not everyone is on the same page with climate change, which is kind of scary. There’s tons of evidence that it exists. And you know, we’re living in evidence where the evidence as well. So it’s a little bit scary that not everyone, one, knows about climate change, two, is not on the same page with restoring the climate. And so that’s kind of scary as well. But that’s where the foundation for climate restoration comes into play. And I think they’re doing an amazing job bringing in those areas. And also that climate risk through climate change affects every part of our life, it’s kind of scary, that this event could be big enough to literally affect my future. Not everyone is on the same page to do something about it.

Host Raj Daniels  12:53

So when you’re speaking to your peers and your friends regarding climate change, and climate restoration, what are their reactions and responses?

Ashley Meeky  13:02

I speak more about climate restoration. I feel like I’m more of an optimist. So for me, climate restoration is a more optimistic side about climate change. And that’s where I really engaged with my fears, just telling them about all the different technologies and ways to like, restore the climate. And then it’s fun, honestly, having debates about different solutions and the pros and cons of different things. And then having a conversation about how advocating for climate restoration is also advocating for all these other social justice movements. So there’s a lot of ways that I can engage with my peers about climate change. And I choose to have a more productive, optimistic conversation about it, you know, with the climate restoration and then speaking about all these other different social justice issues that we’re also advocating for, with climate restoration.

Host Raj Daniels  13:58

So speaking of social justice issues, you’re a young, African American woman, you know, there’s a lot of issues right now around social justice, diversity, can you perhaps share your views on what your thoughts are regarding minorities getting involved in climate change? And how perhaps it affects them differently?

Ashley Meeky  14:16

Yeah, I’m all for racial minorities, religious minorities, all getting involved with climate restoration, because climate change is an issue that affects all of us. So as a solution, all of us should be included. Especially indigenous peoples, and people that don’t really have a voice necessarily, that should have a voice. I’m all for that because in that way, we can all be creative with our solutions. And really gauge which is the best way to go about this problem. I’d really like to see that more with climate restoration and conversation about climate change in general. It affects minorities more than others. And one way that I found out about this is from Lauren Ritchie on Instagram, she’s amazing. And she really brought my awareness to environmental racism. So the issues in Flint, Michigan and the issues with the pipelines running through the land of indigenous people, those are important causes that should also have attention with climate restoration, climate change in general, because we have to fight for climate restoration. But we also have to fight for environmental reasons and to make sure that we can all stand together to confront climate change.

Host Raj Daniels  15:40

So actually, how do you respond to a question about you’re young, and you don’t quite understand the way the world and business works, and this problem cannot be solved? 

Ashley Meeky  15:51

That’s a great question. To that I would say, yeah, I don’t know everything. No one can know everything about the way the world works. But does that mean we take no action? No, it means we work with what we have, I work with what I know. And from that, I’m willing to learn more, but, I’m still going to take steps to fight for climate change and climate restoration. And the more I learned along the way, the more I can speak about it. But just because I don’t have the most knowledge doesn’t mean I can’t speak about it, because regardless it’s going to affect me.

So I should have a voice I feel. And then that’s also a big caveat for my program is, I really feel that’s an argument that adults use against children and climate activists is that we can’t have a say, because we don’t know anything. So I really hope that my program can give the youth general knowledge to really have the confidence to speak about these issues. And when those concerns, come up with the adult audience, we can stand our ground and use what we know and take it from there doesn’t mean that we can’t have a voice, we just use what we know. And you know, work from there.

Host Raj Daniels  17:12

I like your approach. Now, does Vanderbilt have any clubs or organizations that are also working for climate change?

Ashley Meeky  17:21

Yeah, I am a part of SPEAR, which stands for Students Promoting Environmental Awareness and Responsibility. They’re an amazing club, very creative. They do a lot of work with sustainability, and different ways where we can have a hands-on experience with, you know, just doing what we can for the environment. So that means gardening or getting engaged with our community and teaching the youth about the world and the atmosphere and the environment. And so they work kind of in those areas. And they’re an amazing organization on campus.

Host Raj Daniels  17:57

Do you know if that’s just a local organization, or is it national?

Ashley Meeky  18:01

I believe that it is local for now, but I would love to see them go national.

Host Raj Daniels  18:06

It’s a very interesting idea. So Ashley, you know, you kind of mentioned how you came to this journey, but crux of our conversation is why? You were introduced to it, but what drew you to it? And what keeps you on this mission? What keeps you going? What’s your WHY?

Ashley Meeky  18:22

The why I would say is the hope that climate restoration has. There’s a certain hope that I had never really experienced until I got involved with climate restoration. And what drives me is just spreading that hope, spreading that awareness that there is a way that we can fight against climate change. And that is climate restoration. That is intersectionality having a conversation with everyone. And taking a unified stance. And I think that’s an amazing thing. It’s an empowering thing. And then I mentioned that message should be spread as much as possible. So that is what really drives me.

Host Raj Daniels  19:00

Can you share what intersectionality is?

Ashley Meeky  19:03

Yes. So that’s the inclusion of different races, ethnicities, religions, everyone from every background, and having a unified conversation about it, about climate reservation about anything in general, but I think it should definitely be included with climate restoration and the conversation of climate change. 

Host Raj Daniels  19:25

Thank you. So you’ve been on this journey for a couple of years now. What are some of the most valuable lessons that you say you’ve learned about yourself?

Ashley Meeky  19:37

I’d say that I’ve learned that my voice is more powerful than I thought. I didn’t know that when I speak, people would listen. And that’s something that was kind of important for me to learn because it made me even more bold with my voice and more comfortable with using my voice and then encouraging other youth to use their voice as well. And a couple of people that I look up to that I use is Alexandria and Greta, of course, and Lauren Ritchie, and I need to use my voice as well because I look up to them so much. And so it was important for me to know that my voice does matter. And even though I’m young, I can still have a say in climate restoration and climate change.

Host Raj Daniels  20:26

I love the idea of your voice mattering. And I’m glad you found out it does.

Ashley Meeky  20:30

Thank you so much.

Host Raj Daniels  20:32

So you’re young, let’s fast forward 10 years from now. In the future, you have a magic wand, your ideal scenario? What does the future look like? Climate wise, and just in general.

Ashley Meeky  20:51

In general, I would love to travel the world. And I would love for when I traveled to just see a healthier earth, that would be amazing to me to be able to, you know, swim freely and a healthy ocean, to travel lands and have them healthy. It makes me happy to just see things people in the earth in a happy place. And so I think if I had a magic wand, I would just really turn that around to a point where it’s healthy enough so everyone can experience its beauty because the earth is already so beautiful. And I can’t even imagine how much more beautiful it can get when it’s at its healthiest point. And yeah, as for me, personally, I would love to be engaged with international business, and marketing and advertising and working with amazing companies like the foundation, they have a positive message. So I’d love to work with companies that advocate for climate restoration, cultural awareness, amazing messages like that.

Host Raj Daniels  22:00

I love the idea of a beautiful earth, and about companies with positive messages. You know, you mentioned having a voice and people encouraging you to speak. So my last question to you is, if you could share some advice, let’s, for a moment, imagine you speaking to your peer group, and you could give them some advice or words of wisdom, what would it be?

Ashley Meeky  22:22

I would say that everyone has a part to play. I think that what turns people off from getting engaged with climate restoration is that they don’t think that they can do enough to really make an impact. But I would encourage them that everyone has a part to play. And if everyone does their part, the impact is amazing. We can do some really amazing things. But it has to take all of us like all of us need to be engaged with it. So no matter how small you think your actions are, they’re doing something, they are worth it, and they are encouraging others to do the same. You can be a leader in your community, you can be a leader in your household. And that really goes a long way. And even if that means just using your voice, you don’t have to know everything about climate change, but you just use what you know now, and take advantage of that. People will listen. 

Host Raj Daniels  23:21

Going back to the youth leader for climate restoration organization. We’ve had several colleges and college students reach out to us here in the last few months. If they want to get involved if students want to get involved, what’s the best way to do so? 

Ashley Meeky  23:36

We’re going to get an application up soon, and they’ll be able to follow our social media that will also be up soon to really get engaged with the application. And from there, they can really get involved with the program. And we’ll network them with other opportunities and internships and amazing things like that. So I think they should stay on the lookout for our upcoming social media platforms and our application that will open up. Also stay connected with the Foundation for Climate Restoration, because hopefully we can get our application up and running on the website as well. So that might be an easier way for them to stay on the lookout for that.


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