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Rohan Arora: “Learn about what you are passionate about”

This past year, we launched our flagship leadership and mentorship program called the Warrior Program that empowers youth to become environmental health warriors. Over the past several months, my team and I have helped a cohort of youth from all across the nation lead their own local projects focused on environmental health advocacy and education. […]

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This past year, we launched our flagship leadership and mentorship program called the Warrior Program that empowers youth to become environmental health warriors. Over the past several months, my team and I have helped a cohort of youth from all across the nation lead their own local projects focused on environmental health advocacy and education. Due to the pandemic, one of our Warriors wrote up a resource guide for her community tying mental health to environmental instability and led an informational session for her community members. She told me that she personally learned so much from this program and that many of her community members have continued the discussion about environmental health in her community to date. This is exactly why I do what I do. I believe change occurs through the domino effect where one catalyst ignites a cascade of change.


As part of our series about young people who are making an important social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rohan Arora.

Rohan Arora is a Gen Z activist specializing in environmental justice and health equity. He focuses on reducing environmental health disparities and uplifting minority communities to demand action in their local communities. He is the founder and executive director of The Community Check-Up, a national environmental health organization that restructures the climate narrative with the public health lens through educational outreach and youth engagement. He is also on the executive leadership for the internationally-acclaimed climate accessibility nonprofit Climate Cardinals.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us about how you grew up?

Honestly, I grew up as a child of immigrants. My parents moved here for a better life and to provide my sister and I with a better future. We grew up with modest means; we were middle-class, and I saw my parents work hard to provide for us in a new country. My parents always told me about the importance of service in your community, so I have been involved in my community since I was young. I remember them telling me that they don’t really care if I get some fancy title or if I make a lot of money when I’m older, they would be so much happier if they knew that I’m making a positive impact on people in my community. That being said, my parents were not initially supportive of my journey into environmental activism because they didn’t see the impact it could have on actual people in our community till several years after I got into the movement.

Is there a particular book or organization that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

One book that has been a significant impact on me is Toxic Communities: Environmental Racism, Industrial Pollution, and Residential Mobility by Dorceta Taylor.It tells the tale about how many minority neighborhoods are living in areas with so much pollution that it can be hazardous to their health. It showcases connections between segregation, zoning, environmental hazards, housing policy, and more and really highlights case studies of environmental injustice from all across the nation. This book really showed me that I am not alone in my experiences with environmental injustice. It isn’t something that just my loved ones have experiences; it is something that we as a nation are suffering through.

You are currently leading an organization that is helping to make a positive social impact. Can you tell us a little about what you and your organization are trying to create in our world today?

The Community Check-Up is a national organization focused on restructuring the climate narrative as a public health emergency. There is this common notion that environmental issues are top-shelf issues that do not impact the masses; however, environmental issues have a clear-cut connection to the health of our nation. Many climate organizations unintentionally frame the climate narrative in a way that promotes climate apathy; they ‘market’ the issue as an issue of saving our planet, when in reality, it should be advertised as an issue of saving our human health. My organization conducts educational outreach and focuses on youth engagement to finally shift the mainstream climate narrative to include environmental health. My goal is to raise a new generation of “environmental health warriors” who recognize that the climate crisis is a fight for our health. We work with schools, climate and health organizations, and more to bring our mission to the forefront of the climate discussion.

Many of our volunteers across the nation host workshops in their local communities with resources and support we provide to educate their friends and family about environmental health injustice in their own backyard. The support we have achieved has been remarkable since our national launch. We have collaborated with major organizations like Earth Day Network, the ALA, and more, and we have been able to engage with over 20,000 youth.

Can you tell us the backstory about what originally inspired you to feel passionate about this cause and to do something about it?

Honestly, my passion for environmental health and climate activism came from watching my own loved ones’ health suffer at the hands of air pollution. My father has bad asthma, and he commutes to DC every day to go to his job and put food on the table. I saw that the smog he was encountering in the city from his work and transportation was worsening his asthma. I was never into climate activism; in fact, most of my family did not even believe in climate change before I got involved in the movement. I realized the main reason people do not take environmental issues is that they don’t see who ends up suffering the most. People of color and other minority groups suffer at a disproportionate rate from environmental injustice. I am honestly shocked and so fortunate that what started out as something to safeguard my father’s health and grown into an organization that is fighting to raise a new generation of environmental health warriors.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

Shortly after we launched, I remember receiving a phone call from a teacher in my area who was interested in my work and started talking to her students about the work my organization does. She told me that she has been incorporating more lessons about environmental health, climate justice, and health equity in her classroom discussions and many students have been really interested and engaged with the discussions. According to her, many have gone to talk to their parents and loved ones about what they talk about in class. I think it was so refreshing to hear someone reach out and really highlight how impactful subtle changes in the narrative can be in long-lasting change.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

This past year, we launched our flagship leadership and mentorship program called the Warrior Program that empowers youth to become environmental health warriors. Over the past several months, my team and I have helped a cohort of youth from all across the nation lead their own local projects focused on environmental health advocacy and education. Due to the pandemic, one of our Warriors wrote up a resource guide for her community tying mental health to environmental instability and led an informational session for her community members. She told me that she personally learned so much from this program and that many of her community members have continued the discussion about environmental health in her community to date. This is exactly why I do what I do. I believe change occurs through the domino effect where one catalyst ignites a cascade of change.

How do you define “Making A Difference”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

“Making a difference” to me is about being vocal about injustice that is occurring, even if it does not impact your own community. A very good example of this is the recent BLM protests where people have been speaking up and demanding action after years of injustice. Many of these activists, especially WOC organizers, haven’t received any recognition for their work; however, it doesn’t make what they are doing any less important. People that are vocal about injustice and educate their loved ones about social justice causes are truly “making a difference”

Many young people would not know what steps to take to start to create the change they want to see. But you did. What are some of the steps you took to get your project started? Can you share the top 5 things you need to know to become a changemaker? Please tell us a story or example for each.

I think the first step you should do is to learn about what you are passionate about. This will allow you to get a better sense of what exactly your vision is and what you hope to accomplish with your work. Personally, I started my project by learning about environmental health first. I got involved in my community and did a lot of drives to alleviate health disparities. I also recommend reflecting on your personal narrative; everyone has a story and that should guide you to being a changemaker. I’d then recommend getting involved in organizations that already exist. For instance, there are many climate orgs out there already if you are interested in environmentalism like Fridays for Future, The Community Check-Up, Zero Hour, and more. I’d recommend you get involved in your community as well, and if you see something that isn’t reflected in existing organizations or community initiatives, I encourage you to start your own project. I saw that most climate orgs don’t talk about the health ramifications of environmental issues, so I thought I could be the change to bring environmental health to the forefront of discussion. The hardest part is honestly getting started, and once you get started, things will line up in place.

What are the values that drive your work?

The values that drive my work are compassion, fairness, and kindness. I think these are values that can instill lasting change, and I try to instill them in all I do.

Many people struggle to find what their purpose is and how to stay true to what they believe in. What are some tools or daily practices that have helped you to stay grounded and centred in who you are, your purpose, and focused on achieving your vision?

I’ve personally found that being organized with your life is an effective way to work towards your vision. In fact, sometimes we get overwhelmed balancing everything, so it’s important to get everything written down on paper to ensure you are meeting your goals for the day. In addition to this, I have found that because I’m so busy, it is so important to also take time for yourself when you have the chance. I often go on walks or delve into my interest in photography to give me a nice break before getting back to work.

In my work, I aim to challenge us all right now to take back our human story and co-create a vision for a world that works for all. I believe youth should have agency over their own future. Can you please share your vision for a world you want to see? I’d love to have you describe what it looks like and feels like. As you know, the more we can imagine it, the better we can manifest it!

As a young minority in the US, I have personally seen racism and bigotry firsthand. In addition to this, many youth like myself have been told that we can’t make lasting change and to leave it to politicians. However, I believe youth are our future and we need to empower them to take agency over their own path. I have a vision for a world where regardless of age, race, gender or sexual identity, disability, or any other distinction, we encourage young people to take a stand against injustice and pioneer a better world. In addition to this, in order for us to “leave it to the politicians,” we need to realize that many youth will be those politicians in the next decade. We need to be encouraged to act from the start to be prepared to continue our change-making trajectory later on as well.

We are powerful co-creators and our minds and intentions create our reality. If you had limitless resources at your disposal, what specific steps would take to bring your vision to fruition?

If I had limitless resources, I would first broaden my personal and organizational reach to more rural environments. There is a clear disparity in how we understand our planet and our people, and the best way to spread activism is by talking to people. In addition to this, one thing that I have noticed is that many youth that want to take action don’t have the resources to make lasting change. I’d want to also set up a scholarship fund for underserved youth to make lasting change in their local communities.

I see a world driven by the power of love, not fear. Where human beings treat each other with humanity. Where compassion, kindness and generosity of spirit are characteristics we teach in schools and strive to embody in all we do. What changes would you like to see in the educational system? Can you explain or give an example?

I personally would like to see more information taught about environmental justice and health inequity. At the end of the day, we all are one human race, and we must stand up for one another. In addition to this, I hope we can change the educational system to prioritize narratives and story-telling rather than rote memorization of facts. For instance, many will be learning about the pandemic in their history books, yet rather than learning about it by memorizing how many cases occurred and a timeline of events, we should leverage the real life human impact of the virus on millions of lives across the world.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

I would tell them that they truly have the power to change the world. Many young people have the energy and drive to make change, but sometimes they lack the confidence in their own abilities. Believe in yourself. Be compassionate. Make change.

Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I would love to have a private lunch with Dr. Robert Bullard. He is known in the climate movement as the father of environmental justice, and it would be so insightful to speak with him!

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can follow me on social media.

Below are my handles:

Linkedin: www.linkedin.com/in/rnarora

Twitter: @rnarora_

Instagram: @rnarora

Instagram: @thecommunitycheckup

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!


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