Fellow Feature: Adriel Ghadoushi, Conservation + Tech ’22 (Society and Environment)

“I believe legal education will allow me to effectuate long-term change through litigation and advocacy.”

Adriel Ghadoushi is a Fung Fellow in the Conservation + Tech track, majoring in society and environment and minoring in public policy. Here, he shares his various projects and initiatives for societal change, demonstrating his passions in policy, sustainability, and justice.

Tell us about yourself and your journey to the Fung Fellowship!

I was born and raised in Los Angeles to a family of Jewish immigrants. My parents fled religious persecution in Iran and sought refuge in the United States. Their story of perseverance has instilled into me a sense of urgency, commitment, and excitement to be a source of good in the world.

I graduated from high school in 2019, and wanted to get hands-on experience in sustainability before dedicating the rest of my academic career to it. That’s where community college came in. I spent the next year as a full-time student and full-time Director of Sustainability, where I oversaw carbon reduction and zero waste programs for a college of over 30,000 students. During this experience, I was fortunate enough to pass a resolution to eliminate single-use plastics across the entire California Community College system (representing more than 2.1 million students) by 2025.

That’s when I fell in love with environmental studies and transferred to Berkeley in 2020. As a first-generation college student, I was amazed by the quality and quantity of resources afforded to me as a student at UC Berkeley. Specifically, the Fung Fellowship was a perfect opportunity for me to utilize my experience in sustainability while exploring the intersection of conservation and technology.

The Fung Fellowship was a perfect opportunity for me to utilize my experience in sustainability while learning something unfamiliar to me, conservation and technology.

What convinced you to choose your major?

My decision began out of frustration from learning in my psychology course that some men don’t recycle because they think it’s too feminine. It was almost as if a lightbulb went off in my head as I realized environmental science is not only a scientific study but also an analysis of our relationship with the environment and its complex political and social issues.

I put this to the test against the recycling theory by using behavioral science and economics to pilot a zero-waste program at my job in the Apple Store. Through education and empowerment, my store gradually saw our landfill diversion increase. Through that experience, I knew I couldn’t spend my time at Berkeley focusing on just a single subject, so I decided to major in Society and Environment, blending my three points of passion: environmental politics, policy, and justice.

What is your project in the Fung Fellowship?

My team’s project is reimagining conservation education with the help of immersion technologies such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). This area is totally new to me, as I have no formal technical education, but the Fung Fellowship offered support and training every step of the way.

The experiential learning design of the fellowship relieved some anxiety of learning a new skill. I didn’t have the same fear of being penalized for failure, while I learned how to use AR/VR programs, as with traditional teaching models. The fellowship’s unique design allowed me to focus on learning and creating a product that will significantly impact conservation.

Fast forward to today as our group is in the final stages of our project, we currently have a suite of immersive technologies to be utilized inside classrooms across the country, even while some students are learning remotely.

View Adriel’s team project demo.

What have you learned and gained from the fellowship?

Traditionally, solutions within the conservation space have been created by individuals with a scientific background, however, my time with the Fung Fellowship has taught me the value of diversity in human-centered design. The fellowship fosters a creative environment for students to design solutions for this generation’s most pressing conservation issues, regardless of their educational background. This creates the perfect opportunity for business, humanities, and STEM majors to collaborate to create more resilient designs. The end result is greater inclusivity within the ideation process, but designs that are more culturally relevant to the communities they aim to support and therefore a greater conservation impact.

What are your goals for the future?

Ultimately, I want to combine my passion for sustainability with legal education. I witnessed the importance of legal education first hand through a project I worked on with a local legal aid clinic. Our task was to scrutinize discrepancies in pollution in South LA and Long Beach as compared to more affluent areas of LA County. It wasn’t a surprise that communities of color and those at or near the poverty line are often victims of environmental discrimination by their government and large corporations. This experience shaped my interest in advocating for communities often underrepresented in local government and forced to suffer the consequences of discriminatory practices such as early death, chronic illness, and lack of opportunities. I believe a law degree will allow me to effectuate this type of long-term change through litigation and advocacy.

How did COVID-19 impact your goals and perspectives?

The year 2020 presented all sorts of changes to our everyday life, but most important were the changes to our voting process. As I read the news more regularly, I realized that there was one recurring theme throughout most of the articles I read. A majority of the policies and promises made by lawmakers benefit older Americans. A few Google searches made it clear that Americans over 45 have consistently had the largest voter turnout, while turnout among young Americans has been worryingly low. It became clear why so many policies favor a particular demographic, those who show up to vote.

I wanted a way to play on the same level of professional politics as organizations advocated for political change, and that’s when I created my Super PAC, Don’t Be Dumb. The organization’s central focus is to foster engagement in the political process with voter groups frequently left out. My friends and I began to fundraise to organize voter turnout initiatives in areas where voter participation was historically low. What started as a small idea is now a group of students raising funds and awareness to invigorate voter turnout among young adults and BIPOC communities. And in June of 2020, we mobilized a voter advocacy initiative in five states to guarantee each citizen’s right to vote by mail in all elections.

Left: Adriel presenting at AIPAC in DC; Right: Adriel and his friends with Rep. Karen Bass.

What are your next moves in advocacy?

Over spring break, I started on an advocacy project to lobby Californians to support the repeal of the state’s moratorium on nuclear power development. Nuclear has been proven to be one of the safest and dependable energy sources. Thus, it needs to become a significant part of California’s clean energy plan to meet its goal of going carbon-neutral by 2045, as it delivers the radical decarbonization necessary to meet the state’s aspirational goals. The project consists of a podcast with conversations from experts across the nuclear spectrum, from the founders of California’s anti-nuclear movement to the CEO of a nuclear startup.

Fun(g) Fact:

Over quarantine I went from not being able to grow any plants to having a green thumb and growing all sorts of fruits and vegetables from eggplants, cucumbers, tomatoes, strawberries, and more!

“The liberties of none are safe unless the liberties of all are protected.” — William O. Douglas

Connect with Adriel Ghadoushi.

Edited by Lyndsay Song.

The Fung Fellowship at UC Berkeley is shaping the next generation of health, conservation, and technology leaders for a better world. 🌱