During more than 20 years in the environmental policy arena, Jennifer Haverkamp has helped write new clean air enforcement standards on Capitol Hill, worked to promote low-carbon farming practices in Vietnam, and been tear gassed at the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle.
Today, as director of the Environmental Defense Fund’s international climate program, Haverkamp has overall responsibility for the group’s climate change advocacy efforts internationally.
Haverkamp developed a strong interest in natural history and the outdoors as a child. “We lived on a bluff overlooking the Ohio River and I had lots of play time in the woods, learning about wildflowers and birds. But the house we lived in was also in the shadow of a coal-fired power plant.”
That early interest led Haverkamp to major in biology at Wooster, though she also took so many history courses that Professors Dan Calhoun and Floyd Watts made her an “honorary history major” as well.
Haverkamp won a Rhodes Scholarship and spent two years at Oxford earning a master’s in politics and philosophy. It was there that she solidified her interest in a career in environmental policy. “I was exposed to a group of students who were very focused on how to use their careers to contribute to public issues,” she says. “There’s a sense of responsibility to give back that comes with a Rhodes Scholarship.”
After returning to the States, Haverkamp worked at an environmental think tank, earned a law degree from Yale, then joined the Department of Justice, where she helped develop the enforcement and permitting provisions of the 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act, which created an emissions trading system for sulphur dioxide to address the problem of acid rain.
In 1993, she joined the Office of the United States Trade Representative, the agency responsible for overseeing U.S. trade negotiations with other nations. Haverkamp was part of the team that negotiated the environmental protection provisions of NAFTA and dozens of other agreements on topics ranging from transportation of hazardous waste across national borders to international trade in endangered species.
Asked to name the most critical environmental issues today, Haverkamp does not hesitate. “Climate change is at the top of the list. There are measurable effects happening around the world that show we have very little time to solve this problem before we begin to see pretty serious effects happening within our lifetime.”
“The thing that gets lost in the debate in the U.S.,” she continues, “is that many of the steps we should be taking are things that would make sense even if it weren’t real: like using less energy, preparing for severe weather, and diversifying our energy supply.”
Haverkamp credits a liberal arts education that was both broad and deep for giving her the flexibility to follow her interests as they have evolved since graduating from Wooster.
“A policy arena like the environment requires people with expertise in every conceivable discipline,” she says. “I’ve got chemists, mathematical modelers, anthropologists, and history majors on my team.”
“If you get the best education possible, you’ll find ways to put it to use.”
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