‘Keeping the Urgency Up’ on Climate

From advocating for energy efficiency to organizing youth, Tufts undergraduate Adrian Huq pushes for change

Adrian Huq’s first big success in climate activism came their junior year of high school in New Haven, Connecticut, where they helped lead a youth climate strike in May 2019.

It was also Huq’s first time organizing, period. “I had never done anything like that before,” says the now-20-year-old, A24. “But I just sort of went through in my head: Hmm, what do I need to organize an event? I need some speakers. I need some flyers. I need some logistical stuff worked out. I need some promotion.”

The plan coalesced. Teens turned out for the event, convincing Huq and the director of the New Haven Climate Movement (NHCM) that young people had a vital role to play. With that, NHCM’s Youth Action Team was born.

“I’m glad I got that gentle push into organizing. You have to start somewhere,” says Huq, now a junior majoring in applied environmental studies and minoring in film and media studies.  “You don’t know until you try it, and you’ll learn along the way.”

Getting Energized

That motto could apply to more than one of Huq’s undertakings—and there are many. The youth strike grew out of Huq’s work the previous school year on energy efficiency. “I learned how energy is related to climate and cost savings and health impacts,” Huq says. “It was a lot of learning as I went, creating campaigns, putting up flyers, educating classes, even selling power strips and LED lightbulbs.”

Momentum was building. As more teens joined the effort, NHCM launched a campaign for New Haven to adopt a formal climate commitment. The city’s board of alders unanimously passed the Climate Emergency Resolution in September 2019, calling for zero emissions community-wide by 2030, among other goals.

Acting Locally

Even as a remote student for their first two years at Tufts, Huq has interned for the Institute of the Environment and the Office of Sustainability. For the past two summers, they’ve also held a fellowship with Sustainable CT, a Connecticut-wide nonprofit that promotes municipal action on topics ranging from the environment to arts to affordable housing. “They have a really holistic view of sustainability, of thriving and being a resilient community,” Huq says.

In the role, Huq worked to sign on and support towns pursuing Sustainable CT’s certification program. A participating municipality can earn points for actions like identifying its current percentage of affordable housing and increasing that ratio over time. 

The fellowship gave Huq a better understanding of municipal government, including budget constraints. While some towns are pushing for bronze- and silver-level Sustainable CT accreditation, others are just beginning their environmental journeys.  “For me, it’s trying to meet towns where they are,” Huq says.

Passing the Torch

Thankful to have gotten involved in environmental activism early, Huq now advocates for climate education for the next generation. An initiative Huq helped introduce, which was passed by the New Haven Board of Education in 2021, calls for 30 curriculum hours of interdisciplinary climate education for every grade level, every year in the city’s public high schools that choose to participate. It also stipulates the hiring of two students per school as youth leaders.

Six schools have signed on so far, including the one Huq attended. There’s room to grow, Huq says, but they have learned to celebrate the incremental wins.

Next up: Tufts. After moving on campus for the first time this fall, Huq is eager to get involved in in-person climate efforts, “keeping the urgency up and allowing for more student voice.”

And then there’s Medford, Somerville, Boston, and beyond. Local government is “where my heart is, when it comes to activism,” says Huq, who can see a career in city or state environmental protection. Or working with young people. Or communications for a climate nonprofit.

Whatever form of environmental engagement their future takes, Huq is certain about one thing: “I know that this will be my lifelong work.”

Earth Advocates is a Tufts Now series featuring Tufts graduates and students working on climate change issues around the world. If you know others who are leaders in sustainability, let us know at now@tufts.edu

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