When I was sixteen, I won the EPA's Presidential Environmental Youth Award for my ongoing activism. It was an honor (and surreal) to receive an award signed by our then-President Ronald Reagan. At a ceremony in Washington, DC, I gave a speech that made the EPA administrator (at right) squirm. Coming home with the award gave me renewed resolve and added credibility in our struggle for environmental justice in California.
Our Central Coast was beautiful, we knew that, but we also knew as kids growing up there that we faced some big environmental threats: Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, toxic pesticides from the farmlands surrounding us, and the Casmalia hazardous waste dump, which was being illegally run. Friends and I took action with the community and shut down the Casmalia dump in 1989.
Continuing on to the City, I was hired by Greenpeace USA to campaign against illegal toxic waste disposal throughout the western United States. We worked closely with tribes and low-income communities, and prevented (or shut down) many sham operations. I'm proud when I travel through these places today, which otherwise may have been plagued with toxic waste dumps or incinerators.
The pen may be mightier than the sword, yes... We don't use pens much, but I still believe the written (and spoken) word carries immense power. When we combine intelligence and passion with action, anything is possible.