Institute at Brown for Environment and Society

Student Spotlight: Isabella Garo ’24

An ENVS concentrator and cofounder of Sunrise Brown, Garo works to enact change from within and beyond the classroom.

Growing up, Isabella Garo ’24 never stayed in one place for too long. Coming from a military family, she has lived all over the globe, from North Dakota to a rural farming village in Germany — an upbringing she said has influenced how she views nature and the environment. 

Isabella Garo
Isabella Garo '24 studies Political Science and Environmental Studies on the Environment and Inequality track

“I spent a lot of time playing in the woods or the stream that ran through the village,” she said, noting that cell reception was often hard to come by. “I think that gave me a significant appreciation for nature and connecting to it.”

In turn, Garo saw the natural world as a glue for her community. “We collectively take care of our environment because it impacts everyone’s health and it’s something we all enjoy,” she said, “especially living in a small village where everyone in the community knows each other.”

But it was in England that Garo’s environmental interests took root. During her senior year of high school, the youth-led Fridays for Future movement cast a spotlight on climate change in England’s national elections. Lacking the proper immigration status to vote, Garo decided to get involved by participating in school walkouts and advocating for friends to vote in support of climate action. 

From interest to imperative

After Britain’s Conservative Party, which has historically deprioritized climate action, won the national election, she felt both confused and upset, a sentiment that was later compounded by the social unrest she witnessed in the U.S. in 2020. This “lit a fire” under her and inspired her to concentrate in environmental studies and political science.

At Brown, Garo has served as an IBES peer advisor and researched offshore wind disinformation in Congress with IBES’ Climate and Development Lab.

“I looked specifically at the Congressional Record and the kind of rhetoric politicians use to defend their policy stances,” she said. “As part of that research, I read the actual bills and amendments they were proposing about energy policy. It was definitely at the perfect crossroads — this nexus between my political science and environmental studies interests,” she added.

Garo is also looking forward to a nascent project that looks to “demonstrate how social justice rhetoric is being used and co-opted in climate bills,” she said. “This way we can get ahead of it before it becomes widely used.”

“ It was definitely at the perfect crossroads —
this nexus between my political science and environmental studies interests. ”

Activism as community

Garo’s work isn’t limited to academia, however. Her time as a student activist for Sunrise Brown (which she co-founded in 2022) saw her working on the DIRE campaign and helping coordinate the inaugural College Climate Gathering (CCG) in November, 2023, which brought over 150 students from 44 schools to College Hill to discuss climate change activism and policies. 

“We had workshops and panels and everything,” she recalled of the event. “We needed so many volunteers for that whole weekend, and yet so many people signed up. It was beautiful, and a good reminder of the community that we’ve formed.”

Garo was particularly excited about how many people of color attended the College Climate Gathering. One of the attendees, who was Puerto Rican, approached her during the summit and thanked her for making him feel included in the movement. 

“That meant so much to me,” she said. “It’s really important to me to get more people of color involved in this movement in a safe and meaningful way where they actually feel welcomed. That’s the kind of stuff I want to be doing: forming this community where people feel safe and feel like they can do the work that they feel passionate about.”