Alumni Spotlight: Brian Schwartz

Brian Schwartz

Brian Schwartz participated in AJWS World Partners Fellowship in Ghana in 2007. He received an AJWS-AVODAH Double Impact Social Justice Grant to support his internship with Energy Action Coalition in Washington, D.C. Brian is currently pursuing a master's degree in public policy at American University and works at Oxfam America as a Climate Change Legislative Fellow.

I met the world's leading climatologist, Dr. James Hansen, when I attended a hearing at the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. He was addressing the committee to mark the 20th anniversary of his landmark testimony to Congress, in which he declared that global temperatures had risen beyond the range of natural variability. The words inscribed on the walls of the committee room read: "Where there is no vision, the people perish" (Proverbs 29:18).

I marvel at the irony. It has taken us 20 years to accept what Dr. Hansen stated in his first testimony. He served as a latter-day Paul Revere, sounding the alarm that global warming is here and is getting more intense as the days go by. Yet our response has still not matched the gravity of the proven science that Dr. Hansen presented two decades ago.

I was at the hearing as an intern for the Energy Action Coalition (EAC), sponsored by an AJWS-AVODAH Double Impact Social Justice Grant. EAC is a coalition of diverse organizations that seeks to engage, train and build a grassroots movement of young people strong enough to lead the United States towards adopting policies and strategies to create change for a clean, efficient, just and renewable energy future. As an intern at EAC, I quickly learned that we are now in a situation where if no action is taken, people will perish.  

In my internship, I helped launch a national electoral campaign called Power Vote, designed to rally young voters to make climate a relevant and prominent issue in the 2008 election cycle. Through the mobilization of 1 million young climate activists across the country, we are creating a political base strong enough to help pass federal climate policy.

Our climate is inextricably linked with global poverty, hunger and disease. These issues affect real people and they are precisely the issues that AJWS has provided critical support to alleviate. I am proud to be a part of AJWS's efforts to advocate for bold solutions to these issues. The values and responsibility of global citizenship that AJWS promotes, and their empowering of others to take action against injustice, is leading us towards a more livable and equitable world.

Through the Double Impact Social Justice Grant, I learned what it takes to be an active citizen. I am emboldened by the young people I continue to meet who are fearless in their demands, who are tirelessly organizing their communities, planning effective and large-scale demonstrations, holding our leaders accountable, and leading, with unmatched passion, the movement for a clean and just energy future. Youth have long been the vanguard of social change, and today we are suiting up and bucking the trends of indifference towards a clean energy economy. We are witnessing a reengaged generation of young people who are demanding better than the status quo and are providing a moral voice and clarity to an international crisis where inaction is no longer tolerable.