Standing on the top of the Tour du Mont Blanc in France, Jonah Driggers looked around at the incredible glaciers on the mountain side and was distraught to think that he was watching them melt away because of climate change. He realized that his kids might not see the same sights he did, 30 years from now.
This was the moment that inspired Driggers to make a difference in the environment.
Diggers always had some interest in environmental issues. Growing up on Saint Simons Island, he was immersed in an environment that was profoundly affected by climate change. Each year he watched as erosion shifted the landscape of the beaches.
In high school, Driggers was a well-rounded student. He won the superlative “Most involved his senior year.
“He always had a bigger idea of what he wanted to do. I knew that he would do great things, he was highly motivated,” says high school friend, Rachel Kopp.
Now a junior in college, Driggers has continued to keep up the momentum.
Upon graduation, he was awarded the elite Foundation Fellow Scholarship from UGA. Being a fellow has been a gateway to the development of his policy designed to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. He participated in the Roosevelt Scholars course, an intensive policy development course designed to help students create policies and analyze policy implementation.
Through the Roosevelt course, Driggers co-authored a policy dealing with mitigating green house gas emissions. Cities typically shy away from mitigating green house gas emissions because it is sometimes controversial and can be complicated.
However, Driggers believes this is a mistake.
“By not acting to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, they make themselves vulnerable to a less competitive work force, higher cost in transition to clean energy, which is going to have to happen inevitably.”
He suggests a revenue neutral carbon tax, designed to reduce demand for a good.
With his policy, gas prices would be more expensive initially, but people would receive a check in the mail at the end of the tax year with the difference. The intention is that people would be more conscious of how much fuel they consume.
“It’s strictly a psychological thing. And you think it wouldn’t work, is the funny thing. You know in the back of your head that you’re getting it back, it doesn’t matter.”
From being published in the Journal for Undergraduate Research Opportunities (JURO) to being featured in TEDxUGA, he has been able to share his ideas for his policy to many.
He was one of nine students chosen to present their ideas during the TEDxUGA event Wednesday. Students are carefully selected for the event based on several qualities.
“We want to know why their idea matters to them and why it should matter to a broader audience. It is important that they are eloquent speakers and can articulate themselves well,” said Grace Ferzely, who helped present TEDxUGA, on some of the reasons they chose Driggers to be featured in the event.
In addition to his work with TEDxUGA, Driggers is heavily involved on campus. He is the center director for energy and the environment at the Roosevelt institute, head gardener for Lunch Box Gardener, and cofounder of the Energy Concept at UGA.
The Energy Concept at UGA is an organization that aims to foster a non-biased discussion of energy issues across campus. Diggers noticed that before this organization, there wasn’t anywhere to engage in energy-related issues on campus.
“We’re trying to build our niche on campus. We want a place where people from various political ideologies can come together to discuss energy issues, it’s very open-minded.”
While the Energy Concept is just now finding its place on campus, Driggers hopes that it continues after his graduation.
After he graduates in May 2017, Driggers plans to attend law school. He is applying to Yale, Harvard, and Columbia. He is most interested in Columbia because they have the only climate law center in the world.
“Everyone tells me to go into corporate law, but I want to do public interest law so that I can really make a difference.”