My name is Courtney Kramer. I have been the Education Intern at Sea Turtle Conservancy for a little over a year now. I’m in my freshman year at the University of Florida, majoring in Environmental Science and minoring in Nonprofit Organizational Leadership. As STC’s Education Intern, I manage the AdvoKids program, which is a program dedicated to get youth involved in sea turtle and ocean conservation.
I’m always interested in learning about new ways to get young people excited about conservation and the environment, which is why I was thrilled when I got the chance to attend an environmental conference called Power Shift in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania several weeks ago.
Power Shift brought together a group of passionate, active youth in an effort to support the environment. The thought of a conference typically produces images of stuffy wealthy men in a suit and tie. This particular “conference,” however, was more than its connotation: it was a gathering, a union. It was inspiration, networking, passion and enthusiasm all for the environment.
I left October 17th, a Thursday evening on a bus with 47 other college students from the University of Florida, Florida Atlantic University and University of North Florida. You can imagine a bus full of young hippies can make for a pretty interesting ride. After 17 hours of guitar songs, 2 cranky bus drivers, beautiful scenery, pita bread and a quick stop at IHOP, we finally arrived Friday afternoon in a city with 7,000 congregated new people, mostly youth, from across the nation.
We started the event with a number of speakers from all over the world, both young and old. Some were leaders of well-recognized organizations while others had been directly impacted when their hometown was devastated by environmental catastrophes such as mountain top removal. One particular speaker was a 12-year-old girl indigenous to the Sliammon First Nation. She explained that many of the customs her family were once able to practice, she now cannot practice anymore because of environmental destruction. Her presence alone was full of passion, professionalism and sincerity, and captivated the audience.
The next day was a career fair composed of a number of organizations such as the Environmental Protection Agency, Greenpeace, as well as smaller organizations and clubs such as IDEAS (Intellectual Decisions on Environmental Awareness Solutions). I was able to network with a number of people who played a large role within organizations, such as the President of the EPA.
On Monday, over a thousand people from Power Shift walked the streets holding signs to protest fracking and raise awareness about the importance of clean energy development and a “just economy.” Fracking occurs when fossil fuels are extracted out of mountains and natural gas is released. When this happens, the surrounding areas become contaminated; this includes the local people’s drinking water. Many people passing by on the street would come up to me and ask what was going on. It was amazing to see just how much curiosity and awareness this event created.
Throughout my trip, I met so many new and interesting people. Some of them I hope to make life-long friends. I am grateful to have met so many determined, amazing young people who are driven with the same passion as I.
It is this same inspiration that Power Shift has shown me, I hope to show other young people. The planet needs to be protected. It is only with the next generation’s help that this is possible. I hope to teach our future generation the importance of protecting our planet, including its beautiful oceans. The work that STC does not only supports sea turtles, but other marine life. For example, STC supports “sea-turtle-friendly” fishing nets and practices. These nets and practices often affect other sea creatures such as dolphins, sting rays and coral. Efforts that children can participate in to protect sea turtles have many direct influences on the health of the ocean. Such efforts include hosting a clean-up, educating the public or raising money in support of sea turtle and ocean conservation organizations. In order to have a more sustainable future, we need to involve our youngest generation now! For more ideas on how to get involved, stay tuned for upcoming information about the new AdvoKids page or check out the Get Involved section on our website: /involved.php?page=actions