Q&A with alumna Natalie Lucas (MDP 2015), founder of Care About Climate

March 5, 2019

Natalie Lucas is a triple alumna of the University of Arizona, having earned a Master’s in Development Practice (MDP) in 2015 as well as a BA degree in Philosophy, Politics, Economics & Law and a BS degree in Environmental Sciences in 2013.

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Natalie Lucas in Paris
Natalie Lucas in Paris to attend United Nations Climate Change Conference

Q: Your NGO, Care About Climate, has just marked its fifth year in operation. How would you describe its priorities and work?

A: I started Care About Climate during my second year of graduate school at the University of Arizona. We work on climate communication and youth capacity building to mitigate and adapt to climate change internationally.  This is done through four programs, which includes: the Online Youth Exchange, which brings together young people from around the world to share ideas with one another to tackled climate change locally; the Climate Ambassador program which pairs individuals around the world with a mentor to support them on their local action work; ClimateSign.org, which engages people with a climate sign like the peace sign to connect people with climate action; and finally, groups of young people who we send to the UN climate talks each year to influence international climate policy. 

Q: How did you come to be a member of The Sierra Club National Board of Directors, and what has the experience been like?

A: I started most of my environmental organizing work through trainings provided through the Sierra Student Coalition, the youth branch of The Sierra Club. As I worked with that group I started to take on leadership positions including training others, developing curriculum, and finally leading their delegation to UN climate talks, including the delegation to the 2015 Climate Change Conference in Paris (pictured at left). 

Because I had been working nationally, I was nominated to the national board and I was elected in 2016. The experience has been incredible. The Sierra Club is one of the largest environmental organizations in the world. We help shape national policy, run game-changing clean energy campaigns, and help to create a better and cleaner world for everyone.  As a board member I help shape the organization that helps shape the world. I have been able to help enact a paid internship policy; strategize about our engagement in national politics, and help local leaders be more effective on the ground through funding, equity and inclusion support, and organizing training. 

Q: How did you come to be involved with the issue of climate change?

A: I grew up in Flagstaff, Arizona, which is surrounded by one of the largest ponderosa pine forests in the world. These forests started to burn more intensely and frequently due to poor forest management, but also because of climate change. Our winters were drier, bark bugs had more opportunities to kill trees, and our rains were not as frequent to squelch fires. This is a recipe for disaster. Multiple times my family had been on alert to evacuate if needed.The fires took the forests, then the monsoons came and flooding destroyed my friends' homes.

So climate change was a reality I was witnessing and was affecting my community. It was also affecting the natural environment, our animals, our ecosystems, our insects, and our water. However, as a child I did not realize the privilege I had, and have. I did not realize how cushioned I was from these impacts. My family had the money to leave if necessary, we had the ability to maintain our home to be fire safe, we live in a country that pours a ton of resources into fighting fires when structures are threatened, and I lived in a community that was already taking action to adapt to these changes. It took me until 2012 to really realize my privilege when I went to Doha, Qatar as a representative of the Sierra Student Coalition to the UN climate negotiations, and I met people from around the world that would not have the opportunity to move or a government that would come in and help.


Globally, climate change impacts the most those people who have contributed to it the least, including disenfranchised people in the US.

My mission is now to not only protect the places and spaces that I love, but to center this work around equity for those affected most by climate change inequalities. 

– Natalie Lucus

Q: How have the knowledge, skills, and insights you gained from the UA Master’s in Development Practice (MDP) Program helped you in your line of work?

A: The MDP program offers a broad selection of topics that has given me a new perspective with respect to how to think about problems. I really valued that we were able to have courses in public health, economics, research methods, and general historical frameworks for how the world has developed. I also appreciated how the program critiqued development, and really made us think about what that means so we interact with communities with compassion and from the bottom up. In addition to obtaining knowledge in areas I knew nothing about, I also grew in my ability to do research, write, develop project plans, and create participatory solutions development with communities. The skills you learn in this program can be utilized in many different fields, and it makes you a more well-rounded and thoughtful person.