Highlighting work to help our oceans
By Paulina Lopez-Santos
I first found out about CCL when I attended the Environmental Film Festival in Washington, D.C. with my cousin to watch the film “Blue.” The film was about the health of our oceans and issues such as marine debris, plastic pollution, unsustainable/illegal fishing methods, and species degradation. My cousin asked me to join him because he knows that I graduated with a B.S. in Environmental Science and Policy, and is aware of how extremely passionate I am about these issues.
My passion comes from two main places. One, I’m a first generation Latina, who has seen first-hand the rich biodiversity our earth has to offer. It’s in my blood to want to protect the beauty of our lands. Second, I know that no matter what differences, disagreements, or borders exist in the world, whether that be about social, economic, racial, or political party views, one thing holds true: the environment and our natural resources unite us all and has no borders.
At the film, my cousin introduced me to an acquaintance of his: Andres Jimenez, who was also moderating the Q&A for the film that day. Looking back, I’d say that it was my best invitation acceptance by far. Andres is Senior Director of Government Affairs for Citizens’ Climate Lobby. The day after the film, I sent Andres an email expressing how much of a pleasure it was meeting him and applying for CCL’s Diversity Fellowship position in the D.C. office. We met the following week and discussed some of the tasks I would be doing during my time as a fellow for CCL, starting in May. One was moderating an ocean-focused panel for CCL’s 9th Annual International Conference the following month.
I had never moderated a panel before, but as a fresh graduate, presentations were something I was used to, and I knew that preparation was key to feeling confident. Leading up to the conference, I researched potential panelists, sent out invitations, finalized the panelists, gathered information and materials from them, coordinated conference calls, and everything in between.
Ultimately, we ended up with three panelists for our “Current Approaches to Making our Oceans and Waterways Cleaner” panel:
- Sarah Teeter, Global Project Manager for the Beach Plastic Recycling Initiative at TerraCycle
- Trey Sherard, Outreach Coordinator at Anacostia Riverkeeper
- Eric DesRoberts, Manager of the Trash Free Seas Program at Ocean Conservancy
Andres and I made it clear to our panelists that we did want to cover the issues relating to the health of our oceans, but that our primary focus was to highlight the amazing work they were doing to solve the issues of marine debris and plastic pollution. Each panelist spoke about their organizations’ work and made their presentations not only extremely informative, but inspiring and hopeful as well.
It was heartwarming to see how interested the audience members were. After the discussion, several audience members approached the panelists for questions, comments, and to simply engage in great conversation.
I felt empowered, relieved, and accomplished at the end of the panel, and the conference overall was an experience of a lifetime. To be surrounded by hundreds of people from all over the nation and from different backgrounds, working hard for the issue of climate change, is an unexplainable feeling. It’s really amazing and encouraging. I encourage future fellows and interns to sit in on as many presentations as possible and to take full advantage of learning from incredible experts. My experience working with CCL has reinforced my passion for protecting the environment, and I left the conference with hope that positive change is possible.
Paulina Lopez-Santos is a native Washingtonian and the current Diversity Fellow in CCL’s D.C. office. Her mother is from El Salvador and her father is from Colombia. Paulina graduated from University of Maryland – College Park in December of 2017 with a B.S. Degree in Environmental Science and Policy.