Editor’s Note: This is the seventh in the series of features titled “You Voted, Now What?” highlighting some of our nation’s most inspiring and successful young activists. Through these stories we hope to show a broad range of potential paths for channeling some of the prodigious political energy unleashed during the Obama campaign. All features are produced in partnership with WireTap.
Climate change activist May Boeve started young. When she was 4 years old, she dictated a letter to her mother, addressed to then-President George H.W. Bush, asking that he make cruelty to animals, “even bugs,” illegal.
“It helped get my concerns off my chest,” she explains brightly.
Fast-forward to 2003: during her tenure at Middlebury College, where environmental consciousness permeated campus life, Boeve and five of her closest friends banded together to get some concerns off their chests. She ticks off the formidable tasks they accomplished: making Middlebury’s campus the first of its size to go carbon-neutral, organizing protests against the burning of tires in a nearby paper mill and making wind turbine art sculptures out of waste. In 2006 Boeve nabbed the prestigious Brower Youth Award, which honors prominent young environmental leaders, for her efforts.
The question remains: what specifically drew Boeve to climate change, rather than, for instance, animal (or insect, as it were) rights?
“I felt that it connected so many of the issues I care about: the environment, protecting animals, human rights, political development,” 25-year-old Boeve explains. “Also, I’m drawn to community, and my community was working on climate change, and I wanted to be part of it rather than off doing something else by myself.”
So, just shy of graduation, instead of opting to split up, Boeve and her cohort joined forces with Bill McKibben, author and scholar-in-residence at Middlebury, who is credited with being the first writer to really call out the global warming threat. The Step It Up climate initiative was born with the goal of cutting carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050. As its first major action, Stepitup2007.org organized the first open-source, web-based day of action dedicated to stopping climate change. Since then, the group has organized about 2,000 demonstrations in all fifty states.
Since she left Middlebury in 2007, Boeve has worked nonstop in the climate change movement, most recently going global in co-founding Step It Up’s sister organization, 350.org, an international grassroots climate change campaign. At 350.org, Boeve oversees partnership programs–that is, she creates and maintains relationships with large Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). She’s also responsible for coordinating activities for the campaign in the United States and Canada, and she helps oversee operations. The group’s next big push is an international day of climate action, on October 24.
If it sounds like Boeve has a lot on her plate–well, she does.
But she still has passion and energy to direct, with laser focus, toward Congress. She says firmly, “I’d like to see the US pass a comprehensive, ambitious and fair piece of climate legislation, in time for the UN climate negotiations in Copenhagen this December. My focus here is really on what the domestic legislation signals to the rest of the world. People all over are holding their breath to see what we come up with–how much money we’re willing to devote to help the rest of the world cope with climate change.”