Meet Susan, Bow Seat’s New Program Manager!January 2, 2024
Hey, Bow Seat community! I’m Susan, Bow Seat’s new Program Manager and lover of 2010s emo music, roller skating, trivia, strolls along the coast, walkable cities, and the environment.
At the end of a 13-mile skate along the coast of Rhode Island
Growing up in Boston, the ocean has always been present in my life, but I would be lying if I said I ever really thought about it beyond going to the beach or using it as a landmark to navigate by. It’s just always been there, part of the backdrop of my life. As a city kid, I’ll admit that I felt like the ocean – and the environment as a whole – wasn’t really my domain. I didn’t feel like I had any stakes in it. The way I cut it, camping and hiking and boating – activities that brought you into the natural world – were the domain of suburbanites, of people whose parents didn’t have to work weekends and could take them on trips. What hiking trails are accessible by public transportation?
Learning about climate change revolutionized the way I thought about the relationship between cities and the environment. The urban and natural worlds aren’t opposite ends of a spectrum, they’re inextricably intertwined. The future of the planet lies as much in rainforests and glaciers as it does in skyscrapers and subway stations. While climate change is a global phenomenon, its local impacts are site-specific. As I grew older, I began to recognize what climate change looks like in Boston: flooded subway stations, thunderstorms instead of blizzards, hotter summers, increased asthma rates, longer allergy seasons… And like many young people staring down a future of worsening climate impacts and all-too-indifferent legislators, I felt this crushing sense of anxiety, despair, and helplessness. The problem was unfathomably big, so firmly entrenched in the systems and institutions we all lived by, that surely anything I could possibly do was inconsequential.
In the depths of my climate-change-driven existential crisis, I found solace in community. I joined and eventually became co-president of my high school’s environmental club and became an Action Fellow with Action for the Climate Emergency. Being in community with other environmentally minded young people didn’t just lift me out of my depression, it gave me the space, resources, and motivation to channel my anxiety into climate activism: lobbying my local legislators; organizing marches, cleanups, and summits – really making my voice heard at every opportunity possible.
At a march in support of Indigenous water rights with my environmental action fellowship
To no one’s surprise, I ended up majoring in Environmental Science and Urban Studies at Brown University. While cities can be the sites of climate catastrophe, they can also be sites of climate solutions: low-carbon transportation options, high-efficiency buildings, anti-flooding infrastructure… I could talk about this for days. Between my studies, I was a research assistant in Brown’s Climate Development Lab and interned with the Eastern Rhode Island Conservation District. I also spent a summer mentoring youths with the Emerald Necklace Conservancy’s Green Team, an environmental education program for high schoolers in Boston. Talk about full circle!
After graduating from Brown, I moved back to Boston and began working at the Rose Kennedy Greenway, a large public park in Downtown Boston. During my time on the Public Art team, I helped to bring, maintain, and program all sorts of art pieces to the park. From swirling ground murals to ever-evolving sunflower fields, all of our pieces had one thing in common: they invited viewers to think about the relationship between the piece of art and the environment around it, be it physical, social, political, cultural, or historical. I came to understand that what makes art art also makes it a uniquely transformative tool for activism: its ability to transcend barriers to touch hearts and minds.
This newfound appreciation for arts activism (“artivism”), my long-standing commitment to the environment and to combating climate change, and my interest in youth work have all miraculously aligned to bring me to Bow Seat. I am so excited to learn and grow in this role and to help empower this next generation of youth to stand up for our planet!
Let’s get started!