Question 1: How did you become someone who cares about the environment? Is there a particular story to it, or was it something you grew up in?
I think that I have always cared about the environment since I was young. I have always loved being immersed in nature and being outside, it brings me a sort of inner peace and calmness. I think that’s not something that’s unique, but definitely important to me. What really opened my eyes was when I was in high school and I was part of the environmental club. We watched a documentary about rising atmospheric greenhouse gases, and all I remember is thinking: I have to do something about this, how can I just let this beautiful planet suffer. I had kind of a “Greta” moment where I was stunned and panicked that people know about this and nothing is really being done. I still tear up when I see videos about plastic in the ocean and mountains of garbage and animals tangled up in debris, I just can’t stand by idly, knowing this is all happening. I think it was always part of who I am and how I was raised, not only to value nature and the environment, but also to stand up for something you believe in and to do something when you see injustices, especially when it comes to vulnerable and marginalized people, those who are being most affected by economic inequalities driven by consumer capitalism and climate change.
Question 2: Tell us about the work you have done. What did you learn?
I finished my Master’s a little over a year ago. My thesis was about the impacts of ecosystem services related to beach grass on social well-being along the southeastern shoreline of Lake Huron. The importance here is that beach grass helps build sand dunes and prevent erosion along the shoreline. And this can have many benefits to people’s well-being such as their sense of security, ability to enjoy the beach, swim in good quality water, and many more. What I find most intriguing about my research is that I also looked into what measures/policies most influence people’s behaviours, for example, I found that education on beach grass, its importance to the shoreline, to keeping people’s homes from being flooded etc., is a really important driver for people to change their behaviors toward beach grass. So is peer pressure, like if you see your neighbors taking action, or if they hold you accountable, you’re more likely to do it too.
What I have learned here is that something so small can be so important. Even more fundamentally, I learned that in the context of my research and in many other contexts, environmental management has little to do with managing the environment, but has a lot to do with managing people. Humans have such a tremendous impact on the world around them and a lot of previous management strategies for the Great Lakes, lack resource user implication, which has led to a lot of problems that the lakes are facing today. Hopefully, I can use the results of my research to inform future management decisions for the great lakes that understand and are built around the underlying human-environment interactions that are responsible for the issues, and that moreover, implicate the resource user in the creation of their own well-being.
I am currently trying to use this platform to communicate environmental issues and related things that are of great importance to me and in general. I think that this is very important because connecting people to nature and communicating these issues to people is so crucial because, just like what happened to me, if people can understand it, they can care about it and fight for the change that the world needs.
Question 3: Where do you plan to go from here? What’s your 5 or 10 year plan?
In the next few years, I would like to complete a PhD, along a similar avenue as my Master’s thesis. Over a longer timeline, my goal is to make a valuable contribution to the field of Environment and community-based coastal management through my research. I hope that bringing my research the the Australia Ecosummit in 2022 will help with this goal. I also aspire to one day write a book of some sort, as I believe that communication and education are essential to overcoming many barriers in the transformation toward a more sustainable and just world. Through my website, my goal is to overcome barriers of communicating climate change to the public by centering my environmental activism around connection, conservation, and communication. I also aspire to continue doing scientific research the supports environmental stewardship and the transformation toward a sustainable future.