Program Officer, Sustainable Environments
Thanu Yakupitiyage (she/her) is the Program Officer of Sustainable Environments at the Surdna Foundation. Thanu manages a $10 million grantmaking portfolio that advances the Foundation’s social justice mission at the intersection of environmental, climate, and land justice. She was appointed to her current role in April 2023.
With a deep commitment to movement- and power-building for racial justice, Thanu recognizes that communities of color and low-wealth communities most disproportionately impacted by climate inequity hold the most powerful solutions. She listens to, learns from, and invests in grassroots partners that are leading the way in environmental justice and building the capacity of communities to self-determine the ownership, control, and stewardship of land and infrastructure assets.
Thanu recently served as the U.S. Communications Digital Director and interim U.S. Program Lead at 350.org, a global organization working to build an equitable world safe from the effects of the climate crisis. There, she worked to shift narratives around climate and fossil fuels through storytelling, uplift marginalized voices, and support BIPOC communities and youth at the intersection of climate and racial justice, migrant rights, and Indigenous sovereignty. During her tenure, she collaborated with frontline-led organizations stopping fossil fuel infrastructure, helped organize the largest climate marches in history, and took direct actions at international climate talks. She also worked to advance narratives and collaboration on climate migration. Prior to joining 350.org, Thanu was the communications director at the New York Immigration Coalition, where she headed the organization’s communications and media relations strategy on immigrant justice.
Thanu believes joy is critical to power building, movement work, and building an irresistible world. She is deeply involved in music and cultural organizing in her home of New York City, where she is a deejay and artist, event curator, and a lover of food, her two cats, plants, and the ocean. She is originally from Sri Lanka, grew up in Thailand, and came to the U.S. as an immigrant.
Thanu has a bachelor’s in international development and critical media studies from Hampshire College and a master’s in political economy and communications from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
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