I was really excited when I found out that I would get to start and contribute to a blog as part of my job at We Are Neutral. I absolutely love writing, and if you haven’t met me personally, I’ll fill you in on a little secret, I have a lot to say. At the same time, the thought of writing about our work and its importance in the fight against climate change overwhelmed me. There was, scratch that, there IS so much to say. Where would I even begin? Then minutes before I began writing this, it hit me. Why? Not why write. But why? Why do we do what we do? Why does it matter? Why is there a fire burning in me in the first place? So let me take you back to where it all began for me.
In my junior year of high school I decided to take AP Environmental Science. I'd always considered myself one who enjoyed nature and the class was being taught by Mr.Alford, a teacher I'd taken biology with in ninth grade. I was pretty confident I'd enjoy and do well in the class. I'm not sure I had any idea of what I wanted to do up until that point. But really, does any 16 year old? This class though, it changed me. It changed the course of my life.
I remember thinking that everything I learned in this class was profound. Everyday I came home eager to tell my mom about the different things I had learned. They fascinated me.
Mom, did you know that lichen are an indicator species?
Mami, did you know the Hawaiian volcanoes formed on a mantle plume?
Mama, did you know that run-off from nitrates and phosphates can cause harmful algal blooms?
And I'm sure 1,001 other really interesting things (at least to me) I had learned.
Let me back track a little bit. I always liked nature and I always liked learning. My grandma had taken me on a National Geographic cruise island hopping Baja California when I was 14, and it was amazing. So, maybe at this point I had wanted to become a marine biologist or something of that nature.
Here's when it really all changed, the week we started talking about climate change.
I remember Mr.Alford talking to us with such passion and intensity about the crisis we were about to face.
CLIMATE CHANGE IS THE SINGLE BIGGEST ISSUE OF OUR TIME!, he said.
I hardly needed any convincing, I was sold. I HAD to do something about it.
From that point I did what I could with the little I knew. I helped start an environmental club and began a recycling program at the school. I even made my prom dress out of newspapers...seriously.
I'm trying to think of more words to say about this, but honestly it all feels like a blur to me. I just know that after that class I was changed. I would talk about starting my own non-profit and integrating environmental education into the school system. I knew I was going to be someone who helped change the world.
So why does this all matter? What do you care of my high school experience? What does this mean in terms of We Are Neutral anyways? Well... it brought me here. I still can't fathom that a small decision I made while picking out my courses when I was 16 years old would have such an impact on who I am today. I can genuinely say I don't know that I would be a climate warrior if it weren't for that class. Now, I work at an organization where I get to be part of the good fight each and every day. The work we do is truly changing the world...
47,300 number of trees we've planted
914 number of retrofits we've performed
79,828 number of lightbulbs we've changed
47,144,437 number of gallons of water we've saved residents
34,700,196 kWhs we've saved residents
3,401,980 number of dollars we've saved residents on their utility bills
To be totally candid here... that's a big effin deal. We are a big effin deal. The fight against climate change is a big effin deal.
We are all born ignorant. Yes, I may have always known the difference between right and wrong, but I did not know about injustice until it was brought to my attention. I did not know about racism until it was brought to my attention. I did not know about sexism until it was brought to my attention. I did not know about climate change until it was brought to my attention.
I don't know that I would be this scrappy fighter if Mr.Alford didn't inspire me to care. I don't know that Jacob Cravey, our founder, would have ever started We Are Neutral, I don't know that Anna Sampson would've ever became our current director if there wasn't someone or something that made them feel a sense of responsibility to preserve our planet.
Our job is not only to fight against climate change. Our job is to spark fires. Us Earth warriors, we are part of one of the greatest movements that ever is, ever has been, and ever will be. We're fighting to save the damn world, and it is the fight of our lives.
Our motto at We Are Neutral is that we are all innately creative and resourceful earth givers. We aim to inspire... no, to spark fires, by create change with our own hands. That's why we wake up at 7 a.m. on cold winter (probably not that cold, but hey, we're Floridians) Saturdays to plant 2,000 trees before noon. That's why we bust out butts working 10 hour days for a week straight to retrofit 150 low-income housing units in four days.
I still talk to Mr.Alford fairly regularly. I love to tell him about all the work I am doing on behalf of our planet. I also always tell him how grateful I am for having taken a class, that it was truly life changing. I know he has a hard time believing it, but it is so true.
You may not be a high school environmental science teacher, or an employee at an environmental non-profit, but there are a million and one ways you can start a fire. Be inspired to go out into the world and light those fires, and recruit people in this fight so that we can continue to create change and stand a chance in this effort to save our planet.
Like I said at the start of this post, the why is just the beginning. I plan to say it all. So I hope that through this blog, I can not only bring you the feel-good stories of the great work we do to improve the environment and communities we work in, but that I can also help you in understanding some misconceptions about climate change, and if it's not already there, that I can light a fire in you like the fire that has been lit in me and that I can foster a sense of duty and responsibility to fight for and protect our planet.