Local Actions for Global Change

Liam Amery, a student currently focusing on his master's in Environmental and Water Resources Engineering, pushes the importance of local action and awareness in regard to preserving wildlife and landscape with a story of his own experiences with the beauty of untouched nature.

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Editor’s note: This is one in a continuing series of guest opinions about fostering environmental stewardship and leadership coordinated by ACES — The Alliance of Climate and Environmental Stewards.

More than individual action is required to address global climate issues, but that doesn’t mean
we can’t act locally to inspire change. This idea and the following perspective is based on a
sermon that I gave at the FRS Unitarian Universalist church’s Earth Day service on April 16,

While I am currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Environmental and Water Resources
Engineering, several summers ago, I spent some time on the north slope of Alaska researching a
specific kind of stream unique to the Arctic. More specifically we were studying the permafrost
underlying these streams, which is the layer of soil which remains frozen throughout the year; it
is not only vitally important to the arctic ecosystem, but also to the infrastructure constructed
atop of it. Climate change and global warming has and is projected to majorly effect permafrost
thawing and the environment of Northern Alaska and other Arctic areas, effects which are
having a disproportionate impact on the indigenous communities who live in these remote
areas of Northern Alaska. Eriel Lugt, a 19-year-old Inuit indigenous activist from Tuktoyaktuk
told UN News “Here in Tuk our whole land is on permafrost. The thawing is completely
changing our land structure, and with that our wildlife is also being affected” some of her
neighbors have even been forced to move because the ground was caving in under their

During my short stint in Alaska, we did not make any significant findings about permafrost,
streams, or the climate, and were not able to contribute to solving this problem. But I did gain
an immense appreciation for the beauty of the land and remoteness of the North Slope. There
would be days where we walked miles away from the road and there was absolutely zero sign
of any human civilization- just the rolling hills around us, the tundra vegetation, and the slow-
moving stream that we were studying that day. It is beautiful and very rare, at least in my
experience, to experience a place that is completely untouched. Today some of that land is
under attack; just a month ago the Biden administration approved the Alaska Willow oil project
which is the largest proposed oil drilling on U.S. public land and is located on the North Slope of

We consistently see projects such as this get approved, and it seems that for every supposed
green initiative there are many more going in the opposite direction. It is extremely
demoralizing at times. How are we as individuals supposed to make a dent?
I have been disheartened in the past, confused about what actions I can take to support climate
justice issues such as this one. Especially for global issues such as this it seems like my individual
actions pale in comparison to the impacts that giant corporations and governmental
organizations have. Of course, our individual actions are important especially for preserving our
local environment, but the type of structural change which is needed globally comes from more
than individuals. There are already many amazing voices and organizations who are advocating
for change both locally and globally, but the power of the movement comes from the many
more voices which show up to support, educate and mobilize those around them, and to give
those in charge no choice but to listen.

Previously I have fallen into the trap of believing that since I am not speaking in front of the UN
or giving viral speeches, I am not making a difference, but the reason that these speeches go
viral and governmental organizations are willing to listen (although not enough) is because of
the work that goes in on the ground locally. The everyday conversations which normalize
discussing climate change, the local movements and policy which spread across the country,
the votes cast, and money donated all can be influenced on a local level by everyday people
and can have a much larger impact than any individual’s actions. We just need to act with some
more urgency.

Our Youth Corps asks you to consider this perspective of a young steward and participate in
effecting change. They hope you care about the future of our planet and will provide any
thoughts about a project or practice that could contribute to a healthier environment. Send us a
note at . To learn more about ACES and its Initiatives, visit

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about the author
Liam Amery

Liam Amery- M.S. Student at UMass Amherst

Liam graduated from UMass Amherst with a Bachelor’s in Civil/Environmental Engineering from UMass Amherst in 2022 and currently is pursuing his Masters in Environmental and Water Resources Engineering where he does research related to environmental contamination, specifically focused on lead and water. His general interests are in water equality and his career goals are to work towards safe and available drinking water access for all. Liam has always had a love for the outdoors and since high school has wanted to work in a field where he could do positive work for the environment in a sustainable manner.

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