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Searching for Hope in a Time of Despair

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© Michele Watts

Because we rise and fall together.

This has been a heartbreaking month – a heartbreaking year – for our country and around the world.

Like you, I’m troubled and heartbroken by the racial inequality and violence that mars our great country. I’ve been thinking about the events in Dallas, Baton Rouge and Minnesota almost constantly. And I am struggling with the fact that whatever I write will not adequately capture or convey my feelings. It certainly doesn’t represent all the conversations that Ocean Conservancy staffs have had as these events have unfolded.

I want to take heart from the fact that across America we are coming together and speaking out on whatever platforms we have. And yet this weekend, we learned of even more heartbreaking news out of Baton Rouge. It feels hopeless, but at the same time I am looking for signs of hope – that together, as one country we can say that it is past time for a change.

The reasons we find ourselves in this moment are rooted deeply in the past. And it taints our present by the persistent challenges brought about by the lack of access to education and opportunities, a vicious cycle of poverty and years of systemic prejudice, segregation and racism.

I grew up in the South, a place of great beauty, great complexity and great contradiction. This is where I found my calling: to restore the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon disaster. And this is also where I am part of a storm that has been building for some time, one that is changing the social landscape and how we must measure truth, justice and peace.

I’m deeply saddened by the disparity, the unfairness and the fear that we have sowed. At times, it seems that these problems are almost too overwhelming to overcome. I see similar issues of separateness, us-versus-them mentalities that have marred the environmental movement. We have to remind ourselves to connect and contextualize our work around the people and communities around us. Because the truth is that we rise and fall together, as one country, as one world.

I am not without hope. I am hopeful that many groups, including Ocean Conservancy, are speaking up, working on honest conversations and meaningful actions to make this world, including my little corner in the Gulf, in a better place. As we stay present to recent events, Ocean Conservancy is strengthening our commitment to become the change we want to see in the world.

We must reflect on what got us here and consider what we can do as individuals and as communities to overcome the despair and reach for peace, equality and justice.

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