Meet Our Ambassadors: Q&A with Ashley Hocking

For this month’s Ambassador spotlight, TCI Regional Coordinator Caitlin Neal-Jones interviews Ashley Hocking about her personal interest in climate activism and her aspirations as a TCI Ambassador. 

TCI Ambassador Ashley Hocking

I met Ashley Hocking in a workshop sponsored by the Youth Climate Collaborative called Climate Courage. I was immediately impressed by her contributions to our group discussions and her willingness to engage with others on personal but important topics. Ashley became a TCI College Ambassador this fall and she joined me as a panelist during the recent TCI webinar,  “Breaking Barriers for Climate Conversations” where she shared some of her research and real-world experience in communicating and sharing knowledge across generations.

Ashley is currently a sophomore at American University studying environmental science. She channeled her intrinsic love of nature into climate activism as a teenager by volunteering at community gardens and continues developing her interests and skills at conferences, local events, and her university. She aspires to one day own an educational orchard attached to a farm-to-table restaurant where she can create a sense of community and learning. Her focus is on outreach to children as she believes it critical for future generations to be raised with environmental awareness. 

Making this connection and collaborating with Ashley has been one of the highlights of my first few months at TCI, and I was excited to ask Ashley some questions about her background, aspirations, and advice for other climate activists. 

Caitlin Neal-Jones: You and I met for the first time in a virtual Climate Courage workshop that focused on self-care and the emotional impact of engaging in environmental work. What are some of the ways you remain resilient as a climate activist?

Ashley Hocking: In all honesty, it is incredibly difficult to look at the issues our society faces (and creates) and not feel devastated. However, I find fostering gratitude and being present critical to being resilient, as well as tapping into my inner child’s curiosity and comfort in nature. For me, this looks like going on long hikes, laying barefoot in the grass and looking up at the sky, gardening– anything that grounds me! I encourage everyone to find an activity that connects them to the outdoors when they are looking for solace, or even for inspiration. You will find it. When navigating tough emotions, I also find expressing my feelings through art and music a powerful release. The impulse to create lies within us all, no matter what form that takes. Get creative! Finally, never underestimate the power of sharing what you may be struggling with to those you trust. We are not alone in the struggle to fight climate change nor are we meant to be alone in any of our other challenges too.

“While taking action can be daunting, empowering yourself to try new things and taking your advocacy to the next level is the best way to learn, grow, and work towards positive change.”

CNJ: You’ve talked to me about your passion for educating younger children on climate change, and I know that you became concerned about the issue at a young age as well. Do you remember some of the key messages or activities that ignited that passion for you as a child?

AH: I am extremely grateful to have been raised in an environment where I could explore the outdoors. Some of my fondest memories include gardening with my grandfather, searching for four-leaf clovers with my siblings, and finding bird nests with my mom. The people I loved taught me not only to respect the environment but how to be curious about it. I’ll never forget how astonished I was when I planted a pea seed in my mother’s tiny flower garden and it grew a few days later. I was around five years old; the world was new, exciting, and limitless. I fell in love with the magic of the Earth, which is the first step for us all to become concerned and passionate about protecting the environment. Even if someone has never had that experience, it is never too late to become in touch with nature.

CNJ: As a new but active TCI Ambassador, what are some of your long-term goals in climate change activism? 

AH: I am so excited to be a part of this team, as I can already feel the immense passion and action TCI staff and ambassadors bring to the table. Regarding the long-term, educating youth and creating approachable and interactive strategies for teaching science and fostering communication are goals I want to work towards. I am also looking forward to getting my hands dirty and being a part of projects in the field!

CNJ: Do you have any tips for young people who want to become more active in the climate change movement?

AH: Fully trust in your ability to advocate for the Earth, because in the end, doing so is also being an advocate for yourself and the people you love. Moreover, reach outside of your comfort zone. Afterall, this is one of society’s biggest challenges in fighting climate change: we are too  comfortable with wasteful consumerism. Building a better world starts at home. While taking action can be daunting, empowering yourself to try new things and taking your advocacy to the next level is the best way to learn, grow, and work towards positive change. 

CNJ: If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?

AH: I’d give a lot! Most of all, I would tell my younger self to focus on trusting the world rather than overstressing. Things truly begin to come together in a beautiful, transformative way the more we approach life with trust in ourselves and the world around us.