YSE Class of ’22: Lovinia Reynolds is Headed Home to Fight for Climate Justice

Returning to her native Brooklyn, Lovinia Reynolds is graduating from YSE with an eye on climate justice in the largest city in the U.S.

Living the first 13 years of her life a short walk from Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, Lovinia Reynolds ’22 MEM has always felt a strong connection to her environment.

During her second year at the Yale School of the Environment, Reynolds worked with UPROSE, an intergenerational, multi-racial community organization that promotes sustainability and resiliency in Brooklyn's Sunset Park neighborhood through community organizing, education, indigenous and youth leadership development, and cultural/artistic expression. She coupled this work with a summer internship at BlueHub Capital, where she helped develop a program promoting access for low-income communities to electric vehicles. She also worked with a mutual aid group prior to attending YSE, which tied perfectly into her goal of understanding how environmental crises can be used to address the crises of systemic injustices taking place in marginalized communities.

“That’s why I came to YSE,” says Reynolds, who admits that after her undergraduate studies in geology and biology at Brown, she wanted more space to “address issues of racial injustice” in environmental challenges. After working with the Environmental Justice Clinic at the University of Miami School of Law and the Environmental Law Institute in Washington, D.C., she tailored her academic focus at YSE to leveraging energy efficiency and renewable energy as ways to create wealth and health in marginalized communities. 

At YSE, Reynolds found numerous ways to get the most out of her two-year experience. She worked with the Justice, Equity, Diversity and Sustainability Initiative to plan the New Horizons in Conservation Conference; she completed an independent study with Narasimha Rao, associate professor of energy systems and a leading expert in energy justice; she contributed to research for a course on energy justice with Ken Gillingham, professor of environmental and energy economics; and she completed capstone work with UPROSE and the city of Ithaca, New York, on energy justice, giving her an opportunity to work on community-based efforts.

“Addressing environmental justice is an ongoing journey at YSE,” Reynolds says. “But many professors are starting to tie these ideas into their teaching, and the School is creating more platforms for students to share their ideas.”

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Reynolds says her fellow students were a lifeline during the last two years that were overshadowed by the COVID-19 pandemic. She recalls emailing classmates after particularly impactful classroom conversations, creating spaces to continue talking about critical environmental challenges and making lasting friendships along the way.

“It means a lot to be in a space where people are passionate about similar issues,” she says. “Now that we’re talking about the next steps in our careers, we realize that we’re going to have a lot of influence in how we handle environmental challenges moving forward. It’s kind of incredible to think that our friends will be the ones making impactful decisions in the environmental space.”

For Reynolds, the next step will be returning to UPROSE as a policy planner addressing climate justice in New York City — with a bolstered passion for justice, a deep investment in the city that raised her, and a network of environmental professionals at her back.

“I’m so excited for this next chapter. I feel extremely lucky to be working on issues I care deeply about in a community that means so much to me.”

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