Originally published in the Manchester Journal Oct. 31, 2017.
MANCHESTER — Manchester native Carina Bachofen has built an international career at the intersection of climate change and human rights, and she wants you to know that opportunities do exist for local youth with big aspirations.
Bachofen, a graduate of Burr and Burton Academy, now boasts a fulfilling career with the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre, where she specializes in the human implications of climate change.
Though she works with colleagues from across the globe, Bachofen recently returned to her hometown alongside her husband Edward Cameron — a climate expert in his own right — following the birth of their son Robert last December.
“Manchester is just a very special corner of the world; the fact that we’ve ended up back here is no coincidence,” Bachofen said. “While many things have changed, I feel like a lot has stayed the same. That’s really comforting. It still feels like home no matter how many years I’ve been away.”
Bachofen first came to call Manchester home at the age of eight, when her parents purchased the Reluctant Panther Inn. She went on to play soccer for Burr and Burton Academy (though it was Burr and Burton Seminary at the time,) where she played an instrumental role in her team being the first from BBA to win the girl’s state championship.
As her time at Burr and Burton drew to a close however, Bachofen wasn’t quite sure what her next step would be. Though she had applied to several colleges and universities in the United States, Bachofen chose to attend McGill University in Montreal where she enjoyed a more international experience.
“My experience was extremely different from anything I would have had here in the U.S.; my group of 10 friends at McGill came from nine different countries,” she said. “I wanted to study International Development and Political Science, so McGill was a really interesting place to do that.”
Upon receiving her undergraduate degree, Bachofen found herself drawn to issues relating to international development and the environment.
“International Environmental Treaties and climate change really caught my attention,” Bachofen said. “That may also be because I grew up here in Vermont, where everywhere you go you’re in nature, and you just have a real appreciation for the natural environment.”
After four years at a Canadian university, Bachofen chose to continue exploring the globe when she accepted what was supposed to be a one-month internship at a German think-tank, where she ended up staying for nearly two years.
“Climate change was still an up-and-coming issue back then, and it was a very small high-level dialogue that we organized. I was there because I could speak German and I could speak English,” Bachofen said. “It was a really good set of skills, and I had studied the issue, so that’s kind of how I entered into this field of climate change and politics.”
From there the globetrotting Vermonter went on to earn her master’s degree at the London School of Economics, which eventually led her to a career at the World Bank. It was there that she not only met her future husband, but also fostered her passion for humanitarian work.
“Of course the World Bank’s mission is a world free of poverty, and I joined a team that was focused for the first time ever in the Bank’s history on the social dimensions of climate change,” Bachofen said, noting that this has now become a large part of the World Bank’s work overall. “We really looked at how climate change actually impacts vulnerable people around the world, which was interesting at one of the major global institutions.”
Feeling ready for a change after four years at the World Bank, Bachofen accepted a position at the largest humanitarian network in the world, Red Cross Red Crescent. Working with the organization’s Climate Centre, Bachofen is able to work remotely through a “global virtual team” alongside colleagues based across the globe.
“The Red Cross Red Crescent has a very interesting and unique comparative advantage insofar that we are present globally at the very local level,” Bachofen said. “We’re really able to talk with experience from practice on the ground, and see what this means for translating that into policies that really address the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable.”
The fact that she can do this meaningful work right from her hometown is not lost on Bachofen, who hopes that other young Northshire residents may consider a similar path.
“It’s really wonderful to know that you can come from a place like Manchester Vermont and end up as part of an international team, where everyday you’re directing people across the world,” Bachofen said. “Coming back to Manchester, I would love to share that experience with anyone that’s thinking about what they want to do with their lives.”
Reach Cherise Madigan at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 802-490-6471.