Board Member Emily Conklin shares the story behind forming W2O’s Young Professional Action Committee
I have always considered myself a problem-solver, a detail-oriented perfectionist. If something had to get done, whether finishing grad school or finding an apartment, I’d make an orderly list and move through the steps until the task was accomplished. Protecting the environment doesn’t have an easy answer or fit into this strict model. You can’t do it on your own. You need to find your group.
I found W2O as an intern in 2016. It was a strong answer to my need to join a community to advocate for our ocean. Over the two years I’ve been with the organization, W2O has spoken out, raised our signs in demonstrations, and lobbied our legislators about important environmental issues that impact us all. The women I have met through this group are passionate and serious about building a community that strives to make sustainable choices. Being part of this group fueled my determination to make positive change. I want to help shape the story of our blue planet so everyone can see and find their role in protecting it.
As I moved from intern to board member and social media manager, I wondered how we could expand this messaging to highlight activist passion in a more diverse base. With the recent increase in youth involvement inspired by the Women’s March, March for Science and the recent March for the Ocean, including younger voices and perspectives is forefront in my mind. More young people are raising their voices and mobilizing for causes they care about. As a young professional woman invested in the future of our environment and communities, I have felt the pull to stand up for our blue planet. I wanted to see how W2O could rise to meet this call.
I am lucky enough to be surrounded by intelligent, environmentally minded women on whom I could test out my burgeoning idea. A community of educators, artists, activists, students- all with a different perspective and unique ideas on our one common problem: how do we live in a way that supports our livelihood and our planet?
“Hey,” I asked them, “would you want to be part of a young professionals group that grapples with these issues?” Across the board, the answer was a resounding yes.
Our first meeting was an informational gathering where attendees enjoyed pizza while I explained what I had in mind. I told them I wanted to take W2O’s mission of understanding and advocating for our ocean and expand it to better fit the demands, restrictions, and interests of young professionals’ lifestyles. There are so many voices and ideas that we haven’t been hearing on these issues, and I have been at a loss to find a space where genuine discourse is created and encouraged. I say we make one. The women in that room came for different reasons, from different places, but we were collectively energized by the idea of cultivating productive discussion surrounding the often troubling, discouraging problems we face. That day, we threw around questions like: How do we make sustainable choices without breaking the (sometimes very tight) budget? How do we make a policy impact and responsibly raise our civic voices through voting, rallying, and all around advocating? Do you all feel hopeless and, if you do, what can be done to pull us out of that feeling and move forward? And that was just the beginning.
We may not have the solutions, but there is inherent value in finding allies and creating an opportunity to discuss the intricacies of the issues we face.
I left that meeting pumped. My generation is far from apathetic! They want to engage! And they’re willing to help me create a forum to do so! From that meeting, W2O’s Young Professional Action Committee (YPAC) was formed.
Our main goal is to create an accessible, inclusive space for folks to engage with the dilemmas facing the world around us. The Action Committee will take our concerns and drivers to create programming that W2O’s young professional members can engage with and enjoy. We want to work together to make sure we all understand the threats, to our planet and to ourselves, and that we all feel safe to participate in building solutions. Every stressor is an opportunity for discourse; every perspective is a chance for fresh analysis. Whether it’s a beach clean up, a voter registration event or a conservation-focused happy hour, we aim to make a space where young people of all genders and backgrounds are welcomed to voice their concerns and weigh in on solutions. I can’t wait to bring everyone to the table. I can’t wait to help people find their group, as I have found mine.
Sometimes, we might still feel hopeless. It’s ok- that’s why we have each other. Right now, I feel empowered by this group, and we’ve barely even started.
Emily Conklin with W2O’s 2017 keynote speaker Liz Cunningham
For questions about YPAC, please contact Emily Conklin at [email protected]. To join W2O at the young professional level, visit our Membership page. Our next young professional oriented event will be a happy hour meeting at The Reef, after which we’ll attend NEAq’s lecture series installment from MCAF Fellow Kerstin Forsberg on Manta Ray conservation in Peru: September 26th at 5:30pm. Follow us on social media for upcoming events!