Alexa Lorillard remembers the first time she really started to understand climate change. She had just spent 26 days camping on a glacier in Alaska and her group was hiking back to its starting point. A massive ice bridge they had crossed on the way to the glacier was now collapsed and unusable for their return journey. Initially it was alarming, but the group’s guide had anticipated the change and was quickly planning an alternative route back.
While discussing the ice changes Alexa learned more from the guide about the surrounding ice fields and the changes they were undergoing. The guide pointed to two massive glaciers separated by more than a mile. To her astonishment she learned they were connected a mere 20 years earlier.
“My time in Alaska really allowed me to see the rawness of earth. I remember thinking, if this type of change can occur in just 26 days, think about what can happen in 26 years.”
The untamed wilderness of Alaska is quite the contrast from the concrete jungles of Manhattan, where the Cornell alum joined Corporate America after graduating in 2019. Alexa describes how being in a large city can really make you feel worlds away from the tangible effects of climate change. Amid the hustle and bustle, it’s easy to forget how your personal decisions affect global warming.
“The running stereotype is that in New York City we start our day with a coffee and a cold pressed juice. That’s two plastic cups and two plastic straws. I try to make it a point that if I don’t have my reusable coffee mug, I don’t get coffee that day.”
While working full time, Alexa began looking for side projects that could help her give back and contribute to issues affecting the earth.
“I always cared about the earth and began zeroing in on climate change. I had an opportunity to take on an internship with Global Warming Mitigation Project (GWMP) and hopped on a call with them.”
GWMP had an exciting project for Alexa. Due to COVID 19, many organizations around the country and globe were cancelling summer internships. Students and recent graduates who had been prepared to gain valuable experience were suddenly out of luck. The team at GWMP saw an opportunity. What if they could connect these students with companies in the Sphere Program (a global network of people and projects dedicated to finding climate solutions) for remote internships?
“I asked them what they were thinking, and they basically said, ‘we’re not totally sure, we just want to build it. If you’re up for it, we want you to take the reins and figure out how to make it work.’”
What followed was a bit of a whirlwind, reaching out to schools and companies to find applicants and suitable remote projects. The results were overwhelming with Alexa claiming one challenge is that there has been too much interest.
GWMP calls the internships its constellations program, a reference to connecting the dots or connecting students with virtual positions at important organizations. The program started this month with nearly 50 interns focused in areas ranging from environmental science to graphic design and even social media. Alexa has high hopes for the internship program this summer and is incredibly optimistic about the impact the program will have.
“A lot of times with these nonprofits and small organizations it’s money and bandwidth that holds them back. Giving them interns that are smart, qualified and excited will hopefully allow them to expand their reach and improve their work.”