My name is Jackson Parell – I'm a Senior Majoring in Economics and Co-Term in Public Policy. In 2021, I walked 7500 miles through 21 states over America’s three major scenic trails (the Appalachian Trail, the Continental Divide Trail, and the Pacific Crest Trail). I bore the heat of the Mohave desert and spoke with the ranchers and farmers that, for generations, have made the best of their arid landscapes. I crossed the blue ridge mountains and spent time with folks who have fallen into a the widening chasm of poverty in the rural south. I walked through hundreds of small towns – I saw the signs in storefront windows pleading for more workers or, worse yet, announcing yet another small business closure. I witnessed massive swaths of farmland and forest become engulfed in wildfires in the West. I caught a snapshot of country reeling from an unprecedented health crisis, reckoning with centuries of racial trauma, and on the verge of cascading climate disasters. My hiking partner and I finished our journey on a road in the foothills of the Trinity Alps in Northern California. We set a world record as the youngest to complete the CDT, PCT, and AT in under a calendar year. (https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2021-11-19/how-2-stanford-students-conquered-the-triple-crown-of-hiking).
Rural poverty, labor and supply shortages, the economic effects of climate change – these were all topics I had explored at length as an undergraduate. But that was theory. Last year, traveling the US on foot, I saw those issues manifested in the lives of folks across the country. I came back to Stanford with a renewed commitment to sustainable economic development. The work that I am pursuing now and will continue to pursue as I finish my master's degree will focus both on measuring and quantifying the effects of climate change and implementing policy and economic solutions at the local level to directly address those effects.