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The Inquirer

The student news site of Diablo Valley College.

The Inquirer

The student news site of Diablo Valley College.

The Inquirer

Climate Careers Chat Highlights Two Speakers Employed In Sustainability

Courtesy of The Contra Costa County Library.

The Contra Costa County Library on April 2 co-hosted the year’s first Climate Careers Chat, including two panelists, Nicole Shimizu and Michael Kent, who shared their experiences working in sustainability-related careers.

Shimizu, a planner with the Contra Costa County Department of Conservation and Development, said she found her passion for science during high school and explored sustainability and climate-related careers throughout college and in her early years in the workforce.

“I was undeclared so I went into college completely open-minded, but not really knowing exactly what I wanted to do,” said Shimizu.

Shimizu, who graduated with a BA in Environmental Studies from UC Santa Barbara in 2020, shared her experience working in three different sectors: non-profit, private and public.

Her positions included an internship at a community urban gardening and food security non-profit, and employment at a sustainable film consulting firm, which looks for ways that film productions can reduce their carbon footprints.

Shimizu then moved on to a Climate Corps Fellowship before she became a full-time planner for the county’s conservation and development department in 2021.

The event’s other speaker, Michael Kent, the ombudsman for the Contra Costa County Hazardous Materials Program, likewise shared his experience getting into the environmental field.

“When I was young, I always knew I wanted to be an environmentalist, but I just didn’t really know what that meant,” said Kent.

Following his father’s advice, Kent attended Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where he got his Bachelor of Philosophy in Interdisciplinary Studies in 1981, with a focus on chemistry, ecology, limnology and oceanography.

After graduation, Kent worked for the Brown and Caldwell Laboratory in Walnut Creek, but said he disliked the private sector. Instead, he discovered Communities for a Better Environment (CBE), an environmental justice organization where he worked helping to curb pollution.

At one point, Kent left CBE in order to complete a Master of Environmental Studies degree and  further his advocacy work. He then transitioned to environmental justice work and returned to CBE, where he helped research projects like Richmond at Risk in collaboration with the West County Toxics Coalition, which he said produced the first environmental justice report in the Bay Area.

As the hazardous materials ombudsman for the county, Kent has encouraged residents to advocate for environmental issues, mentored interns through Health Career Pathways, and helped staff the Hazardous Materials Commission.

He is one of many passionate individuals employed by Contra Costa County to tackle sustainability issues, but working in a job like his isn’t the only way to make an impact, Kent said.

Apart from actual employment opportunities, Contra Costa has started the Cleaner Contra Costa Challenge to engage communities to take part in reducing carbon emissions by helping people make more conscious decisions when it comes to basic household activities.

From limiting use of the thermostat to going paperless, the CCCC provides a variety of solutions to help accommodate people’s varying abilities to get involved.

Its platform offers tips, resources, guides and estimates on the impact and carbon savings of each person, he said, while also using a tracker for those who decide to make goals through the challenge.

Sustainable Leaders in Action, or SLIA, is a youth-led branch of Sustainable Contra Costa (SCOCO), a team of citizens and organizations that work with Cleaner Contra Costa, offering still another way for people to get involved.

Rachel Kimball, the Climate and Careers Chat intern and an advocate for SLIA, is working with SCOCO and said she has been an active participant helping lead the county towards a cleaner future.

“I am very passionate about the Climate Careers Chat,” said Kimball, speaking about the quarterly Zoom meetings where people interested in the environment and careers in that field can share resources and discuss timely topics.

The chats, hosted through the county library website, introduce guests to a diverse range of speakers from across the Bay Area working in climate-related careers.

The goal of SCOCO, said Kimball, is to teach people about sustainability, the importance of saving water and energy, and building healthy communities.

“[Students] work as interns and you can join as a volunteer whenever you want.” Kimball said. “I am so blessed to be here with all of these people that make it possible.”

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Reece Revell, Staff Writer

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