Local environmental nonprofits are working to educate residents about how they can get involved in the hope of inspiring change. The nonprofits below are fighting climate change at a time when it’s more important than ever to do so: Monterey Bay is changing faster than it has in millions of years as warming temperatures and acidification in the world’s oceans break records.
The Seymour Center
In October, the Seymour Center unveiled a redesigned space inside its building on the UCSC Coastal Science Campus. A new exhibit explains the science behind the changing ocean with research from the Long Marine Lab and the NOAA Fisheries Laboratory. The goal is to get people involved with community organizations that are making tangible efforts to help the environment.
The Seymour Center is an important site of education in the region. According to Deputy Director Lauren Donnelly-Crocker, 8,000 kids come with their schools each year. Some 65,000 people visited last year. With the Santa Cruz Gives Program, the Center is hoping to expand the Spanish signage in the new exhibits to the aquarium.
“It is really important for us that the Seymour Center is an inclusive place for our community so that is what this campaign is about,” said Donnelly-Crocker.
Part of being inclusive is responding to what visitors care about. When “Otter 841” made international news for stealing surfboards, the center got a lot of questions about otters. They were happy to oblige questions about their peculiar habits and unique habitat. However, they wouldn’t speculate on 841’s personality: “We don’t try and go into the personality of otters because we don’t know. It’s not our place to share,” said Donnelly-Crocker.
The Seymour Center finished a revamp of their space, but there is always more to be done. It hopes to use money from Santa Cruz Gives to create more equity by adding Spanish-language signage to the entire museum.
Save Our Shores
Save Our Shores, founded 45 years ago and brought to prominence by Dan Haifley’s work to create the Monterey Bay Marine National Sanctuary, employs 5 full-time staff and works with hundreds of volunteers and students. Today the organization is headed by Erica Donnelly-Greenan who praised the center’s timeless ability to engage its audience.
“[It] is an amazing resource because it draws people in,” Donnelly-Greenan said.
Save Our Shores always needs people for beach-combing. Last year 45,000 pounds of trash was removed by over 5,000 volunteers. Included in the last five years’ worth of rubbish was 116,748 toxic cigarette butts. With that data they are now advocating for a ban on cigarette filters in jurisdictions in Santa Cruz County. The logic goes: education leads to community action which segues into policy-work. The organization hopes to see progress made on banning filters in 2024, said Donnelly-Greenan.
This year with a pilot grant from the state, Save Our Shores offered kids at Shoreline Middle School and North Monterey County Middle School the opportunity to go to natural places in the area.
The “Junior Sanctuary Steward Program” has taken 120 kids free of charge to the beach, whale watching, to Nisene Marks, and to the Seymour Center. Donnelly-Greenan says the program is about creating meaningful relationships and equalizing access to our area’s beautiful natural surroundings, while inspiring the next generation of conservationists and scientists.
Now Save Our Shores is seeking funding from Santa Cruz Gives to make this program an ongoing tradition.
“It’s crazy how many kids live within a mile of the coastline but have never been there,” said Donnelly-Greenan.
The lessons that accompany the field-trips were designed by high schoolers because youth knows youth best, according to Donnelly-Greenan. Although, she believes that it is no longer good enough to resort to the cowardly adage “that the next generation is going to save us.”
“It is really switching the narrative from putting the blame on individuals solely. It’s not just us making smart choices but holding our government and corporations responsible,” said Donnelly-Greenan. “We have to do the heavy lifting for these youths.”
Other Environmental Organizations:
Amah Mutsun Land Trust
The Amah Mutsun Land Trust restores native plants and ecosystems through contemporary and indigenous practices on the traditional territory of the Amutson and Awaswas peoples. Over 200 Amah Mutsun Tribal Band members participate in activities at Cotoni-Coast Dairies National Monument, Wilder Ranch State Park, UCSC, and San Vicente Redwoods. A donation supports the flourishing of Amah Mutsun land-stewardship, and helps begin restitution for the historic settler- project inflicted upon the indigenous peoples of the Central Coast.
Ecology Action of Santa Cruz
Ecology Action prides itself on its long history of ecological concern since 1970. The current focus is simple: can you cut emissions by following specific plans for identifying and eliminating carbon sources as another part of your quotidian existence? Specifically the home is targeted as an easy place to make cuts in your carbon footprint. Businesses, individuals, and community groups on the Central Coast are all invited to join and choose a plan. As of December 1st, 538 homes have participated and there are 250 tons of carbon that will never be emitted.
Regeneración is a grass-roots climate movement that is committed to ending the racial and economic disparities that climate change will only accentuate. Emerging out of the crucible of wildfire, drought, and last year’s storm in the Pajaro Valley, this youth-focused movement sees that the worst of the climate crisis is yet to come. It will only be through organizing and building a movement that the dark storm on the horizon will be faced-down as a community.