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Intern Spotlight: Tess Ngochi

Greenpeace Intern Tess Uses Media and Communications to Highlight Environmental Justice Issues

July 28, 2020

Everything is connected. I had to start looking at 1920s Detroit to look at why everything progressed to where it is today. Discovering the systemic racism is what has been really interesting.

Tess Ngochi, 2020 Summer Intern

by Anna Hogarth

This summer, as Greenpeace’s offices move remote temporarily, Media and Communications intern Tess Ngochi still has lots to do. She is working on two new projects at the intersection of environment and race. One is a compelling research blog and the other, a video series featuring Latinx millennials discussing activism. 

In speaking with Tess, I hope to shed some light on her experiences working on projects as a Greenpeace intern.

Anna Hogarth: Describe the communications team that you work with. What is its role?

Tess Ngochi: The communications team works alongside the democracy, forest, plastics, oceans, and Fire Drill Friday campaigns to make sure what they are working on is getting out to the public, informing the public, and pressuring different companies. They are the bridge between the campaigns team and getting the work to the public and different news organizations so that everybody knows what is going on.

They are good at gathering media hits, which is a process I am going to learn soon. They go through major media sources and are good at tracking how words travel through the internet and how things are discussed.

As a member of the communications team, Tess is currently working on a self assigned blog post about the oil industry in Detroit, Michigan’s 48217 ZIP code. This area is heavily polluted, home to a large oil refinery called Marathon, and the population is majority Black. 

She initially became interested in writing about environmental regulation after learning about unregulated carcinogens in makeup products in school. She chose to write about oil companies polluting air and water because it would be in line with and promote Greenpeace’s campaigns.

AH: How would you describe your blog post?

TN: I wanted to write about how different industries are polluting our air and water and how the wider world hasn’t truly woken up to it.

I read a newspaper article about how, because of all the oil industries in the 48217 zip code, people who live there have higher rates of respiratory illnesses. Marathon bought out houses in the northern side of the ZIP code, but those are mostly white people. They didn’t buy it out for the Black people. Due to the low property values, nobody wants to buy their houses. Marathon has turned a blind eye.

My hope for when this article releases is that the conversation surrounding this community intensifies. I really hope that the people living in that community will be able to move out and get paid because their property value drastically decreased. I would really like for these companies to be held accountable, that Marathon should be looking for more ways to improve their communities. 

This is my first blog post, and I’m not much of a writer, so I’m really working with my supervisor to make sure it has the right vocabulary and comes across to positively impact people to inform their congress people and have more conversations. I am hoping to write at least one or two more blog posts after this one.

AH: How did you find the resources to research for it?

TN: My supervisor will send me articles, and I will read over them. I’ve used a lot of resources from Instagram. It’s been really helpful to learn statistics because of all of the posts people are making right now to talk about environmental racism. 

It’s been really interesting for me to see intersections. I couldn’t just look at what’s going on today. I actually had to look ten years ago. Everything is connected. I had to start looking at 1920s Detroit to look at why everything progressed to where it is today. Discovering the systemic racism is what has been really interesting.

AH: What skills do you hope to gain after completing this project?

TN: I am studying environmental engineering, but I realized this past year in school that I don’t want to be an engineer. I would rather work as a campaigner. Some of the meetings I’ve been having are with campaigners, and their work is super interesting.

I’m learning about communication as well. I didn’t have a good picture of what it was, so the team has been showing me all of the different things that they do. I want to improve my communication skills so that I am more marketable and have a wider list of things I can do. I am trying to learn communications right now so I can apply it when I go into the job field.

In addition to working directly with media sources, Tess uses her own social media outlets to promote these issues. She has recently taken to TikTok to post videos about environmental justice.

For her next post, she hopes to connect a quote from the Bee Movie with the current pollution problem in Detroit. Just like how the bees were never asked for their permission to be smoked out of their hives so humans can collect their honey, Tess says, “This predominantly black community has never been asked ‘smoking or nonsmoking’. People advocated so hard for the bees and I just wanted to see the same energy for Marathon.”

AH: What are some other projects that you are working on?

TN: There is a new series coming out called Planeta G. It’s basically a video series platform for Latinx Millennials and Gen Z’ers to discuss environmental activism and the Latinx identity. 

I’ve been making their editorial calendar, so that they know the topics they can talk about, what the content should be about, who to reach out to, and different sources they can refer to when crafting the script. I’m also their note taker/researcher, and I am lining up the future show so that it is easier for them once they start recording. 

It’s important to showcase different identities. I like that they are specifically making a platform for Latinx people. I’ve been looking at different influencers and different social media platforms that have been known to really promote Latinx conversations and different identities.

It’s been a lot of fun. It’s going to be a really great show.

AH: What do you think will be the next big opportunity or change for media and communications?

TN: I was just thinking about this this morning. I don’t usually watch the news. I usually get a lot of my news from twitter. Watching the news, you don’t know how credible it is because you don’t know what version they are trying to tell. I think in the coming years our generation especially will move away from a lot of these news sources, like newspapers. They will have to change in order to stay relevant because people want their news faster.

Tess Ngochi is a rising senior at the University of Notre Dame, where she is majoring in environmental engineering and minoring in musical theater. This summer, she is the Communications Intern at Greenpeace USA. 

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