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Environmental Professionals Network

School of Environment and Natural Resources


Building hope in a space and movement where change feels unlikely

Dr. Michael Charles (Chemical and Biomolecular Engineer, Sustainability Expert, and Advocate for Indigenous Peoples) sat down with Callia Téllez (Environmental Policy Fellow at the Ohio Environmental Council) in November 2021 to share about his participation and experience at the recently concluded 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties – “COP 26” – in Glasgow, U.K. between October 31, and November 13, 2021.

The COP26 summit brought parties together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Dr. Charles traveled to COP 26 with support from the Indigenous Environmental Network and Te Ara Whatu where he served as a representative of the Indigenous Caucus.

In this interview, Dr. Charles describes how the Indigenous Caucus participated in, and affected, climate change policy and negotiation at COP 26, and where he finds hope going forward. Dr. Charles offers advice and creating space to converse about the importance of self-care and community for Indigenous Peoples @ COP. These negotiations bare a specific weight and trauma for those advocating for communities that face disproportionate harms from the climate crisis and systemic oppression.

Interview image with YouTube logo and text Interview image with YouTube logo and text

Dr. Charles is an American Indian scientist from the Navajo Nation and recent Ph.D. graduate in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at The Ohio State University with research interest in bringing ecosystems into the design and decision-making of technical systems while exploring how to use academic research to impact social, political, and ethical issues. His other passions lie in working to increase the diversity and representation of minority groups in STEM education, along with working with gifted and talents students through their pre-college education.

Téllez holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Environmental Policy and Decision Making with Research Distinction from the School of Environment and Natural Resources (SENR) at Ohio State. As OEC’s Environmental Policy Fellow, Téllez supports the advocacy projects of the democracy, water, energy, and public lands programs. Téllez brings to the OEC a drive to center the environmental movement on the identities and realities of frontline communities. Téllez previously worked in the Environmental and Social Sustainability Lab at Ohio State identifying improvements to federal agricultural conservation investments in the context of Great Lakes water quality, served as president of the OSU Sierra Club Student Coalition, as an Office of Diversity and Inclusion Morrill Scholar, and a Udall scholar. Téllez is currently a Grassroots Leader for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.

This video was recorded and edited by Brett Baughman, Program Manager for Ohio State’s Environment and Natural Resource Scholars, and earning Bachelor's of Science Degree in Environment, Economy, Development, and Sustainability from Ohio State SENR in 2014. Baughman provides video and photography services for weddings, corporate events, special projects and more. Baughman previously recorded A History of World Soil Day and Overview of Climate Smart Agriculture with Dr. Rattan Lal and the EPN.