By WEN Board Member, Sandra Lupien
Happy 2019, Women’s Environmental Network community! It’s time for re-visioning, resolving strategizing, regrouping, and gathering our strength in order to charge full-speed ahead in service of our (individual and collective) environmental missions.
How about a little inspiration to get you started? Read on… the 2018 environmental highlights shared below by three Bay Area women are sure to give you the motivation you need to own your 2019 environmental goals and aspirations.
Mackenzie Feldman is a 2018 graduate of University of California Berkeley, where she majored in Society and Environment with a minor in Food Systems. Her passion is reducing the use of toxic herbicides and pesticides, which drove her to launch the Herbicide-Free UC campaign—her 2018 environmental highlight—which aims to stop the use of such chemicals across all UC campuses.
Although the campaign is California-based, Mackenzie says it is her “Hawaiian roots [that] fuel my passion every day to spread awareness around herbicides.” Mackenzie says her home state has “become ground-zero for industrial agriculture,” using “17 times more restricted pesticides per acre than on the U.S. mainland” due to its status as the world’s leading producer of genetically engineered seed corn. And communities near the sites that test the herbicides have become “cancer clusters. Hawaii now has ten times the national rate of birth defects and illnesses,” says Mackenzie.
Herbicide-Free UC builds off the momentum of the Herbicide-Free Cal campaign Mackenzie co-founded as a student at Berkeley when she realized herbicides linked to such maladies as cancer, reproductive and developmental impacts, kidney damage, and neurological and immune issues, and that herbicides persist in schools, parks, food, breast milk, rain, groundwater—and elsewhere. They also harm wildlife, plants, pollinators, and ecosystems.
“This is an issue that should matter to everyone,” she says.
If you’ve attended more than one WEN event in the past three years, chances are you’ve met long-time board member Anya Deepak, who has recently taken the helm as WEN’s Board President. With degrees in business, economics, and marketing, Anya brings valuable organizational management expertise to her position as Assistant to the Director of San Francisco Department of the Environment (SFE), which put her at the center of the Global Climate Action Summit—Anya’s 2018 environmental highlight.
The Summit, convened last September by Governor Jerry Brown, brought together environmental leaders, advocates, and civil servants from all over the world, and drew protests by activist organizations demanding faster, more inclusion action. Given the summit’s San Francisco location, SFE played a key leadership role in coordinating the city’s participation—which turned out to be really meaningful for Anya.
“As a Senior Management Assistant, there are not many avenues for me to have a direct impact on the City’s climate action plans,” she says. “But helping with coordinating, booking, and logistics for the Summit, and the affiliate and side events gave me the sense that I am doing what I know how to do to stop climate catastrophe.”
Anya emphasizes that the summit demonstrated California’s—and the City of San Francisco’s—leadership on climate change at a time when the U.S. was—and continues to—pull out of climate accords. But the true highlight, she says, was all about women: “The Gender Action Plan from COP23 was truly in action. From our own Mayor London Breed leading the charge, to a sizeable number of affiliate and side events focusing on championing women’s leadership in climate negotiations, women’s contributions were on display for everyone to see.
“As a woman of color from a foreign country, the Summit made me realize that climate change can be the greatest unifying force of our times, if we do not let it divide us first.”
Kristy Drutman has fought for climate and environmental justice causes for her entire adult life. As an undergraduate at UC Berkeley (she graduated in 2017), Kristy co-founded the Students of Color Environmental Collective, which she says “truly created the roots for me to develop my platform,” from which she became an outspoken advocate against hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas, snagged her current job as a digital campaigner at 350.org, and—most recently—served as a U.S. youth delegate with SustainUS at the United Nations climate talks (COP24) in Poland in December.
Kristy says, “I have been constantly inspired by the work and struggle of young people of color who want to create a culture shift in our movement and want to keep pushing for narratives that make environmental advocacy more nuanced, intriguing, and exciting.” That inspiration and her own experience as a Filipina American catalyzed Kristy’s 2018 environmental highlight—launching her new podcast and media series, Brown Girl Green—to help “build pathways of access for others who don’t otherwise feel welcome or included in” environmental spaces. By interviewing environmental leaders and advocates about workplace and member diversity and inclusion, Kristy seeks to highlight the need for greater representation by women and people of color in the environmental movement.
Kristy says witnessing the recent wildfires in her native California made her realize that climate change is now part of her daily life—one we’re running out of time to address. “Until leaders listen to people, particularly those on the frontlines, who are well aware of the solutions to this crisis, we will fail. As a young woman, I believe it’s essential that people like me have a seat at the table of environmental decision making, and women need to know their power and voice in this movement.”
Indeed, let’s all use our power and voice, and our skills, education, and experience in 2019 in service of our environmental missions. Here’s to a year of outstanding environmental highlights for the entire WEN community!