A born communicator’s quest to understand people’s climate choices

Ben Everett-Lane’s Yale journey has been driven by a deep curiosity about others — and an extravert’s enduring desire to connect.
Ben Everett-Lane

Ben Everett-Lane (Photo by Daniel Havlat)

As Hurricane Sandy bore down on Connecticut’s shoreline in 2012, some residents stayed home while others fled. How people made those consequential decisions fascinates Ben Everett-Lane, who made it the topic of his undergraduate thesis.

How people perceive and behave around climate change is meaningful to me, because fundamentally, we don’t need more science to prove that climate change exists — there’s clearly some disconnect between the science and the way that we perceive it and interact with it,” Everett-Lane says. “I’m interested in being a person who’s able to re-analyze, communicate, and work with different groups of people around climate change to tackle these knowledge gaps.”

Along with a commitment to environmental work, Everett-Lane’s academic journey has been driven by his deep curiosity about others — and an extravert’s enduring desire to connect. An environmental studies major at Yale, he also completed certificates in Chinese and data science. His honors include election to Phi Beta Kappa; the Bishop Berkeley Prize, given by his residential college, Berkeley, to the senior who has “best discovered the intellectual potentialities of a university”; and a slew of fellowships.

Everett-Lane leading a class

A born communicator and organizer, Everett-Lane has mentored first-year students and served on the Berkeley College Council. He has planned events, including Covid lockdown-era college activities and a nature-related global youth summit. During an internship with NOAA, he co-authored a climate literacy guide and climate fact sheets for state legislators. He spent a summer in Assam, India, working with high school students on climate and sustainability issues. It was with the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication — an organization he felt strongly drawn to — that he analyzed coastal dwellers’ decisions during Sandy.

Throughout, he has kept his focus on how to reach people across cultures about geopolitical issues, especially climate change.

Fundamentally, climate change affects everything — and everyone cares about something,” he says. “If you can connect the things that people care about to climate change, then you're able to actually, ideally, have meaningful impact.”

The son of educators, Everett-Lane grew up in Brooklyn, where he relished the “chaotic community” at his 6,000-student public high school.

Being the New Yorker that I am, I love the chaos that comes from existing in those hectic environments,” he says. “You can meet so many amazing people putting out fires and coming up with creative solutions.”

Everett-Lane in the mountains

His interest in the environment began during summers in upstate New York. He has scaled 18 of the Adirondacks’ 46 high peaks so far. (“I think I’m going to knock off another two or three more this summer,” he predicts.)

After graduation, Everett-Lane will head to the Rocky Mountain Institute, where he will analyze data for its audience insights team. Next year, he plans to go to Beijing, where he has been accepted to Peking University’s interdisciplinary China Studies master’s program, the Yenching Academy.

China is the largest current carbon emitter. So it’s important to be able to engage, because again, it comes down to communication,” he says. “Finding ways to serve in that in-between place is what I’m hoping to do.”

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