Even after organizing the Washtenaw County Climate Strike, Logan Vear is still apprehensive when people call her an “activist.” She demurs at the title, despite the relentless advocacy and organizing she has inspired through the Climate Action Movement, the coalition she founded after creating a petition with other CAM members urging the University of Michigan to make a pledge towards carbon neutrality by a defined date. 

“I didn’t necessarily think of myself as an activist for a long time,” she said. “I thought of myself as maybe an aspirational activist and I still kind of feel that way.”

Vear is a junior studying environmental engineering with a minor in the Program in the Environment, and for a long time, her work with the climate was rooted in science and nature. She attributes her upbringing in the Upper Peninsula, often spent hiking through an endless sweep of forest, as the foundation for her advocacy. Yet her interactions with the environment were mostly recreational, as she recalled, saying, “It was more of something that I did in my pastime.”

It was only during her freshman year, after switching from a pre-med track to environmental engineering, that her incipient activism began to take form. Even then, her work was mostly under the auspices of research she did in the College of Engineering studying the effects of climate change on arctic snow. It wasn’t until the summer after her freshman year, when she went to Camp Davis in Wyoming as part of a University trip spent visiting sustainable and fossil fuel facilities, that she registered the human impact of the changing environment.

Prior to this, climate change had always been a scientific abstraction for Vear, the effects diffused with numbers and statistics. The trip to Wyoming introduced Vear to the many different perspectives of climate change as she had conversations with employees of energy production facilities.

“So that was super interesting to me because obviously like I knew … fossil fuels are not good,” Vear said.

It was interacting face-to-face with those in both renewables and fossil fuels that the human element of climate change began to crystallize.

As she became more academically invested in climate change, her priorities expanded beyond research. She learned about the myriad of ways climate change impacts marginalized people first, and often most violently.

Along with this, as a 20-year-old, she saw climate change rapidly dimming not only her future, but the futures of countless youth who would soon live in an uninhabitable world. The issue leapt from the pages of her science textbook and manifested under the lens of intersectionality, a phrase she acknowledges can be “buzzwordy,” but should be stressed, not trivialized.

Witnessing the climate change activism launched by middle and high schoolers around the world, such as Swedish high schooler Greta Thunberg, and the planned Global Climate Strike in March, Vear rallied around the idea of a student-led movement. Ultimately, it’s these students who inspire Vear. She organized with high schoolers in Washtenaw County for the Climate Strike and described how they have served as her greatest inspiration.

“These voices matter more than anything,” she said, recognizing them as the cornerstone of the movement. By helping bring these voices together, Vear is becoming one of the most prominent youth of all, serving as the only undergraduate student on University President Mark Schlissel’s Commission on Carbon Neutrality. Though she may refrain from using the title, to any onlooker, it’s clear what Vear is: a full-fledged activist for humanity.

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