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Ocean Currents

Get to Know Our First Vice President of Conservation, Justice and Equity

And learn about our new Ocean Justice micro-course with Unity College

62a52ae8da9ea-_DSC7802-3
© Magdalena Stawinski

When I first came to Ocean Conservancy, someone asked me what my favorite animal was. My answer? The giant oceanic manta ray (Mobula birostris). Why? Because they are so large and so magnificent in the water that they seem to defy explanation and—much like the ocean itself–they appear to be imbued with a spirit of power and magic that inspires awe.

When I was a young girl, growing up in Baltimore, an East Coast port city, I took the ocean for granted.

Alexa at great dismal swamp
© Alexa Sutton Lawrence
 Without a doubt, I knew that as surely as the sun rose in the morning, there would be crabs in the Chesapeake Bay, jellyfish in the Inner Harbor and dolphins out beyond the barrier islands of Maryland.

But as I grew older, I learned that we can’t take any part of our incredible Earth for granted.

Learning about—and then witnessing firsthand—the changes and destruction that were really happening under the surface in the Bay inspired me to pursue a lifelong career in environmental conservation. As I learned more and saw more, I also saw and learned how those changes and destruction fell unevenly on various communities that I care about–especially frontline communities, coastal urban communities, African American communities and Indigenous communities. This led me to deepen my engagement with environmental justice and to focus on the sacred, special relationship between people and the waters and lands of the places they live.

I joined Ocean Conservancy in 2021 as its first Vice President of Conservation, Justice and Equity. I am excited to lead and guide our organization’s expansion of work in all areas of ocean justice. Our OceanJustice team is working hard to build authentic and resonant relationships among scientists, marginalized communities and legislators, and to support community-based conservation in the United States and globally. We share a motivation to create new ways to protect our wild places and to uplift the human stories from our most marginalized communities.

Alexa at the Coast
© Alexa Sutton Lawrence

This is why we are thrilled to partner with Unity College on their first-ever ocean justice micro-course, co-created with our team here at Ocean Conservancy. (Fun fact: Unity College is the first institution of higher education in the nation to divest from fossil fuel investments.) The course introduces learners to the history of ocean justice along with its connections to other movements, climate change, race, ethnicity, Indigeneity, gender and sexuality. Learners conclude their experience with a section where they can reflect on local and national ocean justice issues that they connect with.

We can’t effectively work toward a healthier ocean without addressing environmental injustices that have valued wealthy, oftentimes white, communities over historically marginalized communities including those who are Black, Indigenous, people of color and low-wealth. Embracing ocean justice in every aspect of our work allows our organization to move swiftly with innovative solutions that consider Indigenous and local knowledge.

Continually using an ocean justice lens enables us to address the global inequities that threaten every marine ecosystem.

The course will become available to the public in Fall 2022—but in the meantime, use this link to sign up to be notified when it’s time to register. It’s 12 hours in length—an in-depth and careful curation of resources and learning materials to help guide you into the dialogue around ocean justice, and you can receive a micro-credential upon successful completion that can be used toward larger credentials from Unity College—a great option for career growth, updates and changes.

The micro-course is only the beginning of a holistic learning experience with ocean justice, but it’s one that we hope you’ll join us on.

We also hope that you, our Ocean Conservancy supporters, will join us in this learning journey to collectively build a solid foundation of knowledge and skills as we work together to fulfill our mission and stay forever oriented toward the polestar of a healthier ocean, protected by a more just world.

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