Today I turn 37 years old. This seems like an impossible number.
In my mind, I am a vibrant 21-year-old eager to make the world a better place. I see opportunities to make a positive difference everywhere. I am young, I am empowered, and I am unstoppable.
In reality, things might not always seem so rosy and, truthfully, some days I struggle with being overwhelmed. So how do I achieve—and maintain—this mental state?
I find my strength and my hope in my community.
I decided to pursue climate change communication as a profession in 2007 when the Fourth Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report was released. I had known about climate change and its impacts on the ocean and planet since I could remember. I committed myself to a lifetime of conservation work when I was only ten-years-old, inspired by an article in Ranger Rick magazine, to use my talents to ensure the Earth does not end up as a pile of rubbish.
I am a marine biologist by training and an informal science educator by choice. I work at an Aquarium inspiring visitors to conserve the ocean. For the last 10 years, I have been a member of the National Network for Ocean and Climate Change Interpretation (NNOCCI) and the National Association for Interpretation (NAI). Every day I work with an amazing team of individuals who bring their personal passion and expertise to the frontlines of conservation. When I am having a bad day, there are at least 30 people I can turn to for encouragement or inspiration.
We depend on each other. My friends and colleagues come to me for answers to climate and ocean chemistry change questions. I go to my colleague Steve when I need help identifying a bird. I rely on Jadayah to help me stay abreast of what’s happening at the United Nations. Other friends share what’s happening at our National Parks.
On November 8, 2016 while teaching a class on the impacts of climate change on sustainable tourism, a student asked me, “Given what we are seeing unfold tonight, what hope do you have for combatting climate change?” My reply,
“Citizens will always be more powerful than presidents. The president is just one man. We are many. When we come together, uniting our voices, we have the power to change the course of history. It will not be easy, but if we persevere we will find our hope in action.”
One of the greatest moments of my life was participating in the People’s Climate March on September 21, 2014 in New York City. I was surrounded by over 400,000 people who all cared about what’s happening to our climate and who all knew we can make the choices for a better future. It was a day of solidarity and joy amidst the worry. I cried throughout the day, feeling intensely the connection to the thousands of people around me, and around the world, who stepped forward to take a stand.
I’ll be marching again April 29, 2017, in Washington, D.C. I look forward to meeting all who choose to join me.