By: Brandon Waller
Hello Hanford Team and Associates! I am a new addition to the ongoing project of facilitating the Hanford site cleanup, joining Hanford Challenge (HC) for Winter Quarter through the University of Washington’s Service Learning opportunity. Given that most people here have been a part of this effort for much longer than I have, it seems only fair to let everyone know a little about myself.
I am in my senior year, and cross-enrolled between the Seattle and Bothell UW Campuses. I am pursuing a major in Environmental Science, specifically in the field of Earth System Science, which deals with the physical nature of the world and how each field and process relates to and affects each other. My affinity towards the environment comes from being a Pacific Northwest native, a member of a very outdoorsy family, and an active member in the Scouting program for the better part of two decades, as well as receiving the rank of Eagle Scout. Outside of educational pursuits, I have also been involved with the sport of Men’s Gymnastics for around 17 years, and am currently competing my last season for the University of Washington Men’s Gymnastics Team.
I first heard about HC though the environmental course I am taking at the Seattle Campus: ENVIR/POLI SCI 384: Global Environmental Politics. HC was one of a few dozen businesses or organizations that could be partnered with for the class’s Service Learning opportunity. After doing some research on the top 5-10 positions that stuck out to me, I elected to follow up with HC because of how unique the organization felt to me. I had only heard of the Hanford Nuclear Site a couple times before, despite driving past it a few times, but had never been given enough information to know the degree of the issues that it presented. It seemed rare and admirable that there was an organization that was as committed to the problems and solutions of a single entity, even though few people were conscious of the gravity of the situation. That level of dedication makes me excited to be working with HC.
There are a lot of parallels between the Hanford Site cleanup and the subjects that my degree has covered. Though I am not very informed on the details of nuclear production, I am very familiar with how pollution of all kinds can affect natural processes. As a result, my interest in the cleanup is focused around how the presence of radioactive materials affects wildlife within the area or watershed, and how the resulting changes in water quality can affect outside territories. Another large parallel comes from the links between the cleanup and global climate change. Climate change has become a very public issue recently, especially due to the COP 21 panel in Paris, so a large portion of my education has focused on it. The information I have has sparked an interest in learning more and assisting with the effects that climate change has on Hanford, especially when it comes to the connection with the two and the Department of Energy.
One of the reasons that I have invested as much time as I have into an Environmental Science degree is because of how important it is to me to make a difference. I believe that environmental issues are some of the most important and least understood problems in the world today, and that the only way to remedy that is to empower knowledgeable and active people to make changes to the political, social, and personal responses to problems. This is something that Hanford Challenge specializes in, making me all the more excited to work with them.