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Public Citizen News / July-August 2019

By Ian Weiner

This article appeared in the July/August 2019 edition of Public Citizen News. Download the full edition here.

When an opportunity for employment came along that would incorporate two of her greatest passions – combating the climate crisis and organizing for social change – Briauna Barrera felt that the stars had aligned. Barrera got the job and has worked as the climate justice organizer for Public Citizen’s Texas office since May 2018.

A lifelong Texan, she received her bachelor’s degree in urban studies and environmental studies from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. Her undergraduate career path included a study abroad program in Copenhagen, Denmark, that focused on sustainable development. While at Trinity, Barrera worked for an outdoor recreation program that allowed her to take her peers on camping and hiking trips . Through the program, she discovered her passion for protecting and restoring ecological systems.

Before coming to Public Citizen, Barrera served as the community engagement coordinator for Meals on Wheels and a data analyst for San Antonio for Growth on the Eastside, a nonprofit focused on efficient and sustainable growth.

Q: Why did you originally become involved with community outreach and engagement?

Barrera: Everyone sees that there are a lot of problems. I know that the only way to meaningfully change our problems for the better and create a better world for everyone is to help build a mass movement for dealing with huge inequities within our society. That’s why I’m invested in community outreach: because the only way we can solve those problems is if we come together and find those solutions together.

Q: How did your study abroad program contribute to your passion for urban development?

Barrera: My study abroad experience in Copenhagen was life-changing. The way cities are built in Denmark is very different and they were very pedestrian-friendly. The entire time I lived there I took a train or bus or I walked or biked everywhere I went. I really developed a passion for public transit, especially trains, during my time abroad.

Q: How did you decide on urban studies and environmental studies as your undergraduate concentration?

Barrera: I grew up going to Montessori. A big component of a Montessori education is self-actualization. We had an environmental science class and a green classroom with garden beds, flowers and a pond. From a very young age, I was really exposed to the scientific nature of learning about ecosystems and the Earth. When I started attending Trinity, I knew I wanted to study that, and I took an introductory course to urban studies. At that time, it was like a collision of worlds. I realized the relationships we formed with the land. Through taking that intro course, I decided to be a dual major and incorporate both fields.

Q: What do you like to do for fun?

Barrera: I love going on bike rides with my friends, reading, hiking and doing other outdoors activities. I do a lot of organizing outside of my job and really savor being in the company of people who also enjoy being with a community of people.