Posted October 4, 2016:
The Work of Ashley Funk
My name is Ashley Funk, and I’m currently a dual-degree student between Wellesley College and Olin College of Engineering studying environmental studies and engineering with a concentration in human-centered design.
Growing up in an old mining town in rural Pennsylvania, I was always aware of the impacts that resource extraction, especially for fossil fuels, could have on our environment. Hills of coal waste left over by the coal industry are scattered across my town. I grew up with one of these dumps in my back yard. As I got older, I realized that these same industries were also harming one of our most precious natural resources—our climate.
At a young age, I knew that I wanted to do my part to improve the health of my community and its environment. At the age of 15, I started a youth-driven litter pick-up and recycling initiative in my town. But I knew that I wanted to do more to address the impacts that fossil fuel companies were having on our communities and our climate. So, with the help of Our Children’s Trust, I worked to sue the state of Pennsylvania for not adequately protecting our atmosphere from rising levels of greenhouse gases. I have been working on the lawsuit for the past 5 years, and our movement for using the courts to force action on climate change has been growing.
In addition to my work in Pennsylvania, I helped to organize Fossil Free Wellesley, which asked our college to divest from fossil fuels. The campaign ultimately prompted serious conversations about climate change and the creation of a climate-action and sustainability plan for the college. I have also been involved in training young organizers in the climate movement through the Sierra Student Coalition. After graduating from college, I hope to move back to Southwestern Pennsylvania and work in water advocacy for communities whose water has been jeopardized by coal mining and hydraulic fracturing, while also pushing for climate change legislation in the state and across the country.