Meet Ocean Spirit Award Winner Bonnie Combs

By | Climate Action, Events, Featured Post, In the News, New England Aquarium, New England Aquarium, Sustainable Living, W2O Blog

Meet Bonnie Combs, our 2019 Ocean Spirit Award winner! Bonnie lives in Blackstone, a small Massachusetts community on the border of Rhode Island. Her journey to ocean conservation started years ago with a love of food and continues today with big ideas that exemplify how an army of one can influence two states and multiple communities, inspiring them to join the fight to protect our blue planet. When Bonnie tells her story, it’s best to have a map of Massachusetts and Rhode Island on hand! Her life has crisscrossed these borders and each state could claim her as their own ocean hero.

Bonnie’s motto is “be the change you wish to see” and believes everyone can make a difference when it comes to saving the planet. “Some people are just too shy or scared but I say if you just try and get out there, you never know how your efforts might make a difference,” she muses. Always a nature lover, Bonnie had her awakening to conservation while working as a chef at Whole Foods and was drawn into the company’s sustainability mission becoming Community Relations Team Leader. This work, in locations in MA and RI, became her conservation training ground and solidified her interest in working locally to spread the message that you too can choose healthy for your family and in turn, make our world a better place.

Bonnie is often using her skills as a trained chef to make sustainable meals or is firing up her sewing machine, stitching up t-shirts for reusable bags, sewing remnant fabric for cutlery wraps and repurposing animal feed bags. A creative energetic change maker, Bonnie is regularly organizing river and beach clean-ups across both MA and RI, teaching folks how to reuse and repurpose everyday materials to mitigate waste, and sharing her talents with the community by empowering others to learn how to make creative choices when it comes to refusing single-use plastic pollution.

Her life is bursting with community activism and her reach is wide. As Marketing Director at the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor, Inc, she has developed and designed the Trash Responsibly and Fish Responsibly campaigns, making sure that waste and monofilament fishing line is recycled properly. A co-worker and volunteer coordinator of the Corridor, Suzanne Buchanan, describes Bonnie’s enthusiasm for her conservation work as contagious. “People stop by to donate feed bags for repurposing and you would think that she is being given a bouquet of flowers given her outburst of joy and the hugs that follows,” says Suzanne. “Bonnie is generous above and beyond as she gathers people together to think about their consumption and choices. She can’t go to bed until she has filled up a trash bag on one of her walks and on those walks she is stopping for conversations, inspiring others to join in.” Suzanne adds, “She makes me a better person and I am not the only one that would say that.”

Bonnie loves networking, outreach and the community participation in the building of a movement. She thinks big! Her newest project takes this concept on, literally. Bonnie is currently a “3D Resident Local Artist” at the Providence citywide public art initiative, The Avenue Concept, collecting a rainbow of plastic containers from across Rhode Island for an enormous public sculpture that will be assembled and constructed on site by famed New York artist Steven Siegel. The entire structure will be assembled from plastic waste including laundry jugs and personal and household cleaning products. The sculpture will be held together by discarded fishing nets and Bonnie hopes the art will spark discussions about how to protect marine life from entanglement and keep plastic pollution out of our waterways and ocean.

“The ocean to me (blending my passion for the environment and cooking) is the soup of life,” says Bonnie. “We all play a part in the recipe. If we want a well balanced, healthy and life-sustaining soup, we need to change our mindset and think of our daily actions as ingredients. Are we adding too much to the soup? If ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’ we must be mindful of our individual impact and how collectively we all sit at the same table and share the same meal.”

Bonnie at The Avenue Concept

Congratulate Bonnie on May 21st at W2O’s On the Brink: Saving our Right Whale, Saving our Ocean. Bonnie will be presented the 2019 Ocean Spirit Award at this event that will educate the public about the endangered North Atlantic right whale. Find out how we can save this species, thought of as the “ocean’s canary in the coal mine,” and join us to take a closer look at how we can protect our blue planet. Click Here for Tickets!

 

 

 

 

 

Her Only Option: Youth #ClimateStrike

By | Action today, Climate Action, Featured Post, In the News, W2O Blog, Youth

High school senior Stephanie Kuplast from Southampton, Massachusetts tells us why organizing #ClimateStrike is her generation’s option for climate action. Stephanie joins a global movement of youth voices demanding that our elected officials make climate both a priority and bipartisan issue to save generations from the continued effects of human-induced climate and to protect what we love.

Coming to terms with my only option was not an easy path. As a young adult, learning about climate change has made my work in conservation infinitely more difficult, as every battle we win is dwarfed by the war we are quickly losing. I have volunteered at the National Marine Life Center for years, teaching a young crowd about seals, sea turtles, and whales. I know the tactics of rehabilitation and conservation work; I have borne witness to it. However, the work I love is nearly too depressing to continue.

Every single time I hear a 7-year-old leave our class declaring that she wants to be a marine biologist, my heart swells with pride knowing that I have helped another child love the ocean as I do. I can not feel that anymore; it is deeply painful to teach children to do so. Every summer there is a new generation of kids, and a new generation of sea turtles that face nearly insurmountable odds as the hot sand rearranges the ancient ratio for their temperature-dependent sex determination. I teach these kids to care and fight for the life of every single animal, knowing that after 150 million years of adaptation, now a few degrees threatens their entire existence.

I am a high school senior, a state organizer for Massachusetts Climate Strike, Women Working for Oceans member, and an ocean advocate. I can still remember the unbridled joy of meeting a horseshoe crab for the first time, and this curiosity has bred compassion that grows with every summer on Cape Cod. I fell in love with the ocean too soon to replace it with the apathy many are comfortable feeling as they discuss climate change.

I do not want to build a palatable movement.  My generation is desperate. Legislative inaction puts the world in a position to rise past the atmospheric threshold for carbon dioxide in 11 years.  This is not a problem we have 11 years to solve, as we all can feel the effects of climate change now. We must remind legislators that they are failing to do their job to protect us, our communities, and our economies. Youth climate activists face losing everything, but rather than accepting our rapidly approaching demise we have decided to fight. We were raised to be community leaders, hard workers, and to protect our families. We no longer have the time, so we will change the world as teenagers- exactly as we are, with everything we have. We sacrifice our youth and rewrite our plans for a future because people older than us, some driven by greed, have taken our hope for a safe future from us. We ask you to mobilize, urge your lawmakers to protect your future by co-sponsoring the Green New Deal and all legislative measures for climate action now.

Join us on March 15th, a global day of action led by youth and welcoming everyone, at the Climate Strike on the steps of Massachusetts State House from 11-3pm. This is a day of mobilization, taking time to leave school or work to reflect, discuss, and plan for our future. In addition to Boston, there are sister strikes being held in Cape Cod, Amherst, and Great Barrington (Monument Mountain Regional High School, 1 pm). If you cannot attend an organized strike, show us your support by wearing green, walking out of school or work for 11 minutes at 11 am, or by hosting a rally after school. Send us a photo of your initiative #climatestrikema.

 

Nominate for the 2019 Ocean Spirit Award

By | Featured Post, In the News, Uncategorized, W2O Blog

 

 

This year will be the third year that we have presented the Ocean Spirit Award to someone that embodies our mission of protecting our blue planet through education that inspires advocacy and action. Past winners have included Lori LeFranc and her students (pictured above) for their work on the successful campaign to ban single-use plastic bags in Ipswich and Sierra Rothberg, a Dorchester resident that created a sustainable way to provide reusable bags to those that might be in need through her Boomerang Bag program in and around Boston.

The 2019 Ocean Spirit winner is announced and the award will be presented at our May event On the Brink: Save our Right Whale. Save our Ocean. Who is your ocean hero?

The W2O Ocean Spirit Award will be given to the individual that has encompassed our mission of educating and inspiring action by using grass roots initiatives towards protecting our blue planet.  

Criteria:

This nominee is a woman because we support the notion of empowering our ocean sisters to take a lead in protecting our blue planet.

This nominee is a resident of New England.

As someone who has initiated a grass roots effort, this nominee has a story about their conservation vision and evidence of measurable outcomes. Some examples might be someone who has worked on a successful campaign to change legislation or worked to change community habits around an environmental/ocean issue. It might be someone who has influenced change using art, music, or education and has inspired a group to take on action around the topic of ocean health.

We hope to present this award to someone who has not been widely recognized in the past for her efforts. Instead, an “unsung hero” that embodies the notion that “you too can make a difference.” We ask that you look beyond W2O board members.

We are delighted to receive your nomination for the W2O Ocean Spirit Award!

Please include:

  • Nominees name
  • Nominees email address and phone number
  • District or town the nominee is from (so we can notify local press on behalf of our winner)
  • A short paragraph about your nominee (300 words or less) with supporting documentation that will help us evaluate measurable outcomes that make this candidate noteworthy.

Please submit to ellenforW2O@gmail.com by February 15th, 2019 with 2019 Ocean Spirit Award in the subject line.

 

Protecting the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts: Tips from a Pro

By | Uncategorized, W2O Blog

The Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument is the first fully protected marine area in the US Atlantic. It shelters vibrant underwater communities consisting of fragile deep-sea corals, diverse schools of fish and endangered species, including the North Atlantic right whale. Shortly after its designation on September 15, 2016, the Monument was put in jeopardy by our administration and the fishing industry who threatened to open up the Monument to commercial fishing. Our concerns now grow with the proposed opening of the Atlantic Ocean to new offshore oil and gas exploration which would put thousands of already vulnerable species at risk and cause devastating impacts to the ecosystem.  Protecting the Monument is no easy task.  It takes the hard work of biologists, attorneys, educators, advocates, conservationists and concerned citizens to keep attacks on its security at bay. 

Women Working for Oceans has long supported the Monument’s designation and recognized it vital importance to the health of our coast. Protection of our coasts and educating the public about the importance of marine protected areas is part of their mission. As a new member of the Young Professionals Action Committee at W2O, I wanted to investigate ways in which anyone—from the active advocate to the middle school biologist-to-be—can take actions to effectively defend the Monument.  So, I sat down with Allison Lorenc, Policy Analyst and Outreach Organizer for the Oceans Team at Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) to find out the most effective tools.

As an Oceans Policy Analyst and Outreach Organizer, Allison has met with stakeholders throughout New England to gain a broad range of support for the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Marine Monument. An exciting part of her job is learning just how many supporters there are; the recreational community, the conservation community, coastal businesses, the tourism industry, academia, zoos and aquariums are just some of the teams batting for the Canyons and Seamounts.  

Allison says that education is one of the most powerful tools we can use to help defend the Monument. “The more informed the stakeholder, the more empowered they are to stand up for support of the Monument,” Allison explains.  She finds that by communicating the major positive impacts that protecting special places has on the planet and economy can help others understand the benefit of maintaining the integrity of the Monument.  She says, “Protected areas are key to maintaining healthy ecosystems, which in turn help support a robust economy and a happy lifestyle. Additionally, protecting special places like the Canyons and Seamounts can provide scientists with an underwater laboratory for studying the ocean and assessing the impacts of climate change.”  Informing the community of these benefits only strengthens conservation efforts.

Allison Lorenc

Advocates for the protection of the Monument, including CLF, W2O and NEAq, encourage you to speak up to defend our coasts and ocean. Simply by calling or writing and asking our own elected officials to defend our Monuments can make a difference.

Get Involved

Join W2O for a film screening and chat to learn how you can protect our coasts from offshore oil and gas exploitation on Thursday, January 10th at 6:30pm. 

The evening begins with a screening of Working Films short feature Shore Stories, about offshore drilling and gas exploration, its development and production and its impacts on local communities. Our expert panel will end the evening with a robust audience-led Q&A session moderated by Vikki Spruill, President and CEO of the New England Aquarium.

This event is free but you must reserve a seat

Blog contributor Cori Roach is a W2O Young Professionals Action Committee member and Research Associate for Conservation Law Foundation.  She gets her biology fix by volunteering with the New England Aquarium’s Rescue and Rehabilitation team.  She is passionate about ocean conservation and finds intrinsic value in every living being.