As a student at the University of Southern California, I’m always irritated by the common question of  “where are you from?” Especially considering I can’t mention another state or country and I can’t use the generic “Bay Area” response, I tend to have to get creative when I get asked this. It goes something like this: “I’m from the Imperial Valley. It’s an hour and a half east of San Diego… right next to Arizona… and a border town with Mexico. Yes, this is still in California, no, probably not what you expect.”

Although frustrating at times, I’ve grown used to people not knowing where I’m from. That is why this past summer in early August when I came across a USC post that mentioned the “IV” it immediately caught my eye. I tried not to be too enthusiastic and my train of thought went through five other variations before I could believe USC was doing something in the Imperial Valley. Is it Inland Valley? Iceland Void? There is no way this is the Imperial Valley. Surely enough, there it was in the last image on the post, “Imperial Valley… work toward an energy transition.”

Immediately I hopped on my USC email and looked for Allison Agsten and asked what they were doing and how I could help.

At that time I did not know this email would lead to one of the most wonderful and unexpected experiences I’ve had in my academic and professional life. Working alongside inspiring leaders including Head Producer Mallory Carra, Director of the Annenberg Center for Climate Communications and Journalism Allison Agsten, and the former USC provost Charles Zukoski, I have grown more passionate about the importance of climate storytelling.

As the Associate Producer of this podcast and having been born and raised in the Imperial Valley, this project has been incredibly meaningful to me as I get to showcase my unique hometown and serve as the local expert on this podcast. I was encouraged so often by my community on the importance of giving back and I think this has been just that.

I cannot encourage people enough to listen to Electric Futures, a podcast coming to Spotify and all other streaming platforms on January 24, 2024! It encompasses a piece of what it’s like to live in the Imperial Valley and reminds us of the billions of stories that haven’t been told yet. For more information, read our press release. While the world works to transition our energy sources, we must understand where they come from and how we can be a part of effective and equitable change.

Natalie Lopez is the associate producer for Electric Futures podcast.