The security guy eyed me with suspicion as I entered the building. He studied me, trying to come up with a reason for my existence in the room.
“You here to see your parent?” he asked.
“Oh, yeah,” I lied.
“All right, then. Have a good day!”
I walked on and waited for the excruciatingly slow elevator. I had a job to get to, and there was no time to explain what the hell a 13 year old was doing volunteering as a Communications Fellow for an eminent grassroots organization working to protect and restore San Francisco Bay.
That brings us to the following question: what, exactly, is a 13 year old doing interning for Save The Bay?
The story starts when at age 5, I told my parents I wanted to be homeschooled. Over a period of four years, I learned all I could from my parents, mentors, online classes, and books about math, science, English, history, geography, and the arts.
By the age of 9, I passed the California High School Proficiency Exam, giving me the equivalent of a high school diploma, and enrolled at Foothill College, a community college in Los Altos.
Environment, Environment, Environment
At that time, I had no idea what I wanted to major in. Then, in my second quarter at Foothill College, I came upon a passion for the environment.
That quarter, I took E.S. 1, Introduction to Environmental Studies, at Foothill’s sister college De Anza and its renowned Kirsch Center. I walked in on the first day interested in the subject material, but never assuming the class would turn out to be anything but an intriguing diversion.
I walked out the last day a bona fide environmentalist, immensely passionate about renewable energy, conservation, and stopping pollution.
What happened in that class? To be honest, I don’t know.
All I knew was that our unsustainable practices were fast driving our environment into unholy chaos, and the very traits that got us into this mess in the first place – our pragmatism, awareness of the world, innovation, and remarkable ability to spur fellow humans into action – were the only forces that could stop this from occurring.
The tale of the tape is depressing. An ever-warming climate accelerated by feedback effects and increasing greenhouse gas emissions. Rising sea levels. Harsh droughts, heat waves, and wildfires. Superstorms. Ocean currents out of whack. And a political and economic climate with powerful incentives to maintain the status quo.
One thing is clear: After a disruption this monumental, life on Earth will enter a new age. However, based on everything we know about climate change, it’s almost certain that we won’t be part of this new era.
If we don’t clean up our act, and fast, Homo sapiens will soon cease to exist.
That’s why we have to save the environment.
We shouldn’t restore our wetlands because “it’s the right thing to do.” We should restore them because they protect shoreline communities from the impacts of rising sea levels.
We shouldn’t stop dumping toxic waste like cigarette butts, single-use plastics, and Styrofoam into our waterways because it saves the ducks. We should stop because it fouls the Bay’s water quality.
Every single one of us has to pitch in to ensure our species’ survival.
Yes, even me.
The Kid Pitches In
So I did. The summer after taking that environmental science course, I replaced 90 percent of all incandescent light bulbs in our house with LEDs or CFLs. I turned off our sprinkler system. I reduced our A/C consumption. Our house’s energy usage was halved, and our water bill reduced by about 20 percent. I even convinced my family to install rooftop solar. But there was only so much I could do at home. One house cannot solve climate change.
So I got involved in causes and decided to take action.
I collaborated with solar panel company SolarCity to produce a short video concerning the potential of solar power. The next year, I wrote a 15-page report about sustainable agriculture around the world for EnvrionmentCalifornia.
In winter 2016, I participated in the founding of the Sustainable Futures Club at Foothill College, a group dedicated to furthering environmental causes on campus through education and action.
In an effort to curb the amount of plastic consumption and pollution, we successfully launched a campus-wide movement to ban the sale of bottled water in campus bookstores, cafes, and vending machines.
Idealistic and full of courage, we stormed in to student government and presented our reasoning to have these single-use items bared form campus. At a follow-up meeting a week later, the Sustainable Futures Club’s plan almost unanimously won approval.
Encouraged by my success, I looked for a bigger cause to get involved in during the summer. I soon got an email from my professor Dr. Scott Lankford advising me to apply for Save The Bay’s fellowship program.
The Building of Hope
And here I am, working as a Communications Fellow at Save The Bay.
I don’t simply view this opportunity as something I have to do. I view it as a platform. A platform from which I can share my story, my passions, my personality, and channel it all for the greater good – for the restoration and protection of the Bay and for the very survival of our species.
Like many, I want to make a difference in my community and the world. Here at Save The Bay, I get the chance to do so.
In this blog and across social media, inside this office, I get to promote important efforts to make the Bay a better place for all of us. I get to educate others and inspire them to take action to further a number of pressing causes. I get to be a part, albeit a small one, of the global effort to sustain the current state of life on Earth, Homo sapiens included.
And you can take part as well. Because while it may seem daunting, taking part in saving San Francisco Bay and the rest of the world’s natural resources and wild places doesn’t need to be an arduous task. I know firsthand that simplest actions have the biggest impact.
So take five minutes today to tell your friends and family about the great work Save The Bay is doing to ensure a clean and healthy Bay for future generations, and encourage them to stay up-to-date on the environmental issues impacting our region, our state, our nation, and our world. Vote for Prop 67 this November. Do whatever it takes to make sure your vision of a cleaner, greener Bay becomes a reality. Together, we’ll make the planet a better place for all species to live – and a place where we humans can thrive for just a bit longer.