Like many people who now call themselves Californians, I’m not native to our state. I was born 5,000 miles away in bonnie Scotland and moved to California with my family as a teenager. As I grew up spending days at the beach, hiking alongside waterfalls in the Sierras, and camping in the woods, I fell in love with our state’s dramatic coastline, rugged mountains, ancient forests and bustling cities.
I studied at the University of California at Davis. On campus, I learned about threats to our air and water and first joined in efforts to protect them. But my desire to protect our outdoor spaces really clicked on one sunny day near Santa Cruz when I went to the beach, only to find it closed due to illegal dumping. Afterwards, I found out that polluters were getting away with illegally dumping across the California coastline because officials were only taking enforcement action in less than 1 percent of clean water law violations.
Outraged, I got involved with CALPIRG’s Clean Water Now! Campaign to establish minimum mandatory fines on illegal polluters. We took on some of the most powerful polluters in the state, and, by mobilizing students on campus and citizens at their front doors, we helped shine a spotlight on this problem in the press. We also worked with the legislature, and were able to win the strongest clean water enforcement program in the country.
That experience made me realize that I don’t have to be a powerless observer to the destruction of our planet and that citizens acting together can make a real difference. Since then, over the past 20 years, I’ve worked on dozens of environmental campaigns, trained hundreds of young organizers, and most recently led CALPIRG’s successful efforts to get lead out of school drinking water and toxic chemicals out of cosmetics. Now, I’m thrilled to be taking the helm as director of Environment California.
Our state is in crisis, and climate change threatens every aspect of life here. We have seen raging wildfires, stifling heat waves and damaging drought worsening faster than experts predicted. Butterflies and birds are disappearing en masse, and the UN estimates that over one million species are now on the verge of extinction. Our oceans are choking with plastic and oil companies are still drilling and fracking for oil on California’s land and in the sea.
With many of these profound environmental problems, we already have solutions. We must stop using things that we no longer need that are harming our planet: fossil fuels, toxic pesticides, single-use plastics, and more. But change isn’t easy and building the political will to fix these problems can seem especially difficult in these contentious and polarizing times.
That’s why I am fired up to lead the charge at Environment California. The work we do here matters. California is so large and influential that when change happens here, the rest of the world follows.
Californians overwhelmingly support conserving precious places, protecting species, and transforming our energy and society so that our kids and grandkids can experience the best parts of our world too. At Environment California, we are focused on just that. By activating the support from the public and engaging thinkers and influencers in our state, we can urge decision makers in the legislature, corporate boardrooms and city hall to remember the plight of our environment. This way, we can shift our society to make sure we protect our air, our water and our climate for all on planet Earth.
This year, we are prioritizing accelerating our state’s 100 percent renewable energy timeline from 25 years to 10 years. This can be done by expanding wind, solar and geothermal energy production. We’re also standing up for strong solar policies to catch more energy from the sun on existing schools and homes. At the same time, we’ll work hard to protect our oceans from the threat of oil drilling and plastic waste, and get on track for a zero-carbon transportation future.
I’m excited to take on this new role and I hope you will join us!