Get to Know the U.S. Youth Advisory Committee for the Ocean Decade | Ocean Decade Show x Sea Change
Great Mashup Episode with Taylor Goelz and Jenna Valente
The Ocean Decade is all about collaboration and transformative thinking, and that's the driving force behind this special crossover episode of The Ocean Decade Show. Host Taylor Goelz is joined by Sea Change Advocacy podcast host Jenna Valente and they're speaking to the two co-chairs of the U.S. Youth Advisory Council for the United Nations Ocean Decade (U.S. YAC), Chloe McKenna and Eni Owoeye. This forward-looking, affirmative hour will help you better understand the importance of intergenerational diversity during the Ocean Decade and begin to discuss the role of advocacy during this ten year push to transform the ocean.
Taylor Goelz 0:00
Welcome to the fourth episode of the ocean decade show a podcast dedicated to guiding you down the yellow brick road of this global initiative to transform the ocean housed within the American shoreline Podcast Network family. My name is Taylor Goelz. And I'm your host and tour guide on our adventure through the ocean decade. So as I think you could probably tell from the first few episodes, the decade is all about collaboration and transformative thinking that word transformation. And so when I set out to make this podcast, I wanted to make sure to capture those specific elements of the decade really early on practice what I'm preaching with the decades preaching, I try to do things in different ways. So today, I'm really excited to do the first crossover episode of the ocean decade show, which I didn't know was the thing and makes me sound really fancy. So I'm very excited about that with sea change advocacy podcasts, which is also on the American Petroleum Podcast Network. So we're kind of all in the family here tonight, but different channels combining which is really fun. And hosted by my good friend, Jenna Valente. Hi, Jenna.
Jenna Valente 1:06
Hi, Taylor. I'm so excited to be here today. And to talk to our guests. I think that this is just a really exciting opportunity. And I feel like I'm going to learn a lot. This is I think this is a match made in podcast Heaven, I think that our shows align pretty darn perfectly in terms of setting them up for crossover. So I hope that this is the first of many.
Taylor Goelz 1:33
I was Yeah, I was just gonna say this will not be the last crossover episode. And so one, one of the reasons why I mainly want to do this was to see our little tiles matched up together, because that looks really cool. And because you got me into this mess of podcasting, because a little less than a year ago, I appeared on your show, after reaching out to kind of blindly during my canals fellowship and saying like, hey, do you want to learn more about the decade? And then you were like, Do you want to come talk about it on the show? Just it's it spiraled? And it's led to here, but I think that's a good thing.
Jenna Valente 2:09
I think it's a great thing. And, you know, I was like, maybe I should apologize for that. I guess it depends on the day or how you're feeling about it. But I know from listening to your show, you're doing a great job with it. And I'm just so happy that that one curiosity of learning more about the decade and having you on as a guest has sparked this new endeavor of of allowing everybody that listens to the podcast and the network to learn more about the ocean decade, because it's really important work. And it's something that we all can be participating in.
Taylor Goelz 2:47
Yeah, it's it's an all hands on deck kind of situation. So that's why I love the idea of getting to bring in Jenna's show, and Jen has expertise and then the whole American shoreline podcast, network family, and beyond that, we're really gonna approach this decade from all angles. And so the main reason I wanted to partner with Jenna on this episode is because of our great guests who will talk to you in a little bit because of her expertise as an advocate and her work in ocean advocacy, which I have not had the experience working in, in my in my career thus far. So Jenna, can you tell me a bit about what ocean advocacy is? And what that kind of means?
Jenna Valente 3:27
Absolutely. And I will try to keep it not as long winded as I probably could, this will be where I can plug my show the sea change podcast once again, I know we've mentioned it. But if you're really interested in ocean advocacy, that's a great place to learn more about some really incredible and inspiring people that are out there doing some of the heavy lifting and good work for our ocean coasts, Great Lakes, waterways, and all the communities that, you know, are impacted by the health those places. But to get back to your question, Taylor so advocacy as an overarching umbrella term really describes seeking to ensure that all people in society are able to have their voice heard on issues that are important to them, and issues impacting them. So this includes the opportunity to protect and promote their rights. And I should know not only to have their voices heard, but their views, values, experiences and requests actually respected and considered in the decision making process. So to give listeners a little bit of background about myself, I've I've been involved in the ocean and coastal conservation space. for about a decade now, which feels like a very on brand amount of experience for a
Taylor Goelz 5:08
decades themed show?
Jenna Valente 5:10
oh my gosh, I didn't even speak about that.
Taylor Goelz 5:13
It is funny since I've done this work on ocean decade, anytime I hear the word decade anywhere else, I kind of like have a little tick. Like, it's just it automatically clicks in my head. It's like, Oh my gosh, does this mean I have to do something with this, it's like, they're just talking about something weirdly different, like, Taylor, don't go crazy.
Jenna Valente 5:28
Like zoning out and someone says the word like generally or anything. Like Jen, I'm like that sweeping attention right now. But you know, the majority of that experience, it has been in the ocean advocacy space. Some of it has been in government and but most of its been in the ocean advocacy space. And I see my role, really like in the world and my organization that I helped run, which is the healthy ocean coalition, and my show, as platforms to empower people to be confident and informed and vocal advocates for conservation, the ocean communities and climate action. So just to wrap wrap up this this like stream of consciousness that's happening for me right now, the way that you would approach ocean advocacy itself, is not much different than how you would approach you know, advocating for any other issue that you care about, other than it's specific to ocean and coastal issues. But, you know, with that said, the ocean and coasts in their health impact all of us. So in order to be an effective ocean advocate, it is in your and all of our best interest to be intersectional with our approach and speak up for people, especially marginalized people, and the health of the planet.
Taylor Goelz 7:03
Exactly. And I think that that's why I wanted to talk to our youth advocate experts today, too, because the decade right now thus far has been focused a lot on the science and, and some on sustainable development and how we can, you know, transform the ocean. But advocacy has to be a piece of that, during this decade. It's not just about you know, getting to the end, and having all these science things, you have to change the policies, and you have to be able to decide what you want the ocean to look like one of the tag lines of the decade is the ocean we want, but who's the we and we in there has to be able to fight for what they what they think it needs to look like and what they want it to look like. So that's why this combination of expertise from you and from any employee I'm super excited about.
Jenna Valente 7:56
Yeah, me too. I'm really looking forward to jumping into this conversation and learning more from them.
Taylor Goelz 8:03
Our guests today are the co- heads of the US Youth Advisory Committee for the ocean decade. The acronym as you frequent listeners of the podcast. No, we have an acronym of the day or of the podcast. So this one is YAC, which is my favorite one yet because I imagine big furry creatures swimming in the ocean with this. But Chloe, Amy, thank you so much for for joining us today.
Chloe McKenna 8:28
Thank you so much for having us.
Eni Owoeye 8:30
Yeah, we're really excited to be here.
Taylor Goelz 8:33
So cool. You both just give me so much good energy. And I love talking to you anytime I get to talk to you. And I get to choose that agenda too. So please, both you introduce yourselves and tell me a little bit. Tell us a little bit about yourselves and your path to the decade.
Chloe McKenna 8:49
Sure. Well, to introduce myself. My name is Chloe McKenna. I'm 19 years old and I'm originally from Orange County, California. And currently I am a second year student at eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida. double majoring in environmental studies and animal studies while minor in political science. And as Taylor mentioned, I'm one of the CO chairs for the US Youth Advisory Council for the UN ocean decade. And I also help out with the policy committee and the social media committee. But my background leading up to the decade I've been involved with air sore oceans since I was about 15 years old, and started the Orange County, California Chapter with them. And primarily I have a background in plastics and plastic pollution, but have, you know, dabbled in a lot of different human impact areas and policy throughout that time, and I heard about the development of the US of the Youth Advisory Council and how we were you know, developing this one here in the US as the first Youth Advisory Council but also work builds up that framework for you know YACs worldwide, which I think is really important.
Taylor Goelz 9:57
All the different ocean YACs wearing their different flag
Chloe McKenna 10:01
So I definitely knew that I wanted to get involved at the start of the decade in a meaningful way to set up the layout of the US yackin yaks all over the world. So that's a little bit about my background.
Taylor Goelz 10:13
Awesome. And yeah, just before any before you jump in air store ocean is a youth ocean advocacy group that is based in the US, but is global. And they are the house for this Youth Advisory Council. And so it's a great organization. look them up. We'll talk a little bit more about them later. But Eni Go ahead.
Eni Owoeye 10:33
Okay, so my name is Eni Owoeye. I am 20. And I am originally born in Brooklyn, New York. But you know, my parents are Nigerian, and I've lived along the east coast, major cities included mostly. And so right now, I'm a third year student at New York University studying international relations and environmental science with a minor in Spanish. And along with Chloe, I am the co chair for the USC YAC for this first cohort, which is very exciting. And so I actually have a background mainly mainly in water rights and urban environmental issues, because I didn't necessarily grow up, you know, next to the ocean or anything. And so my connection to waterways is really coming from, you know, equitable access to water and clean water at that. And so, I actually found out about the Yag, with my work with the UN Foundation. And basically my boss just sent an email saying, oh, like, we should be aware of this. And I said, Oh, you know, I think I still am a youth who knows. And so from now, you never know.
Taylor Goelz 11:46
Even oh my gosh, Jenna and I here with our decades of experience.
Jenna Valente 11:52
Yeah, no, compared to us, Taylor and I are ancient. So
Eni Owoeye 11:58
that's the thing, like, you know, you get on tik tok nowadays, and they're making me feel old. But I
Taylor Goelz 12:04
can't even deal with Tick tock, Oh, my gosh,
Jenna Valente 12:08
I haven't even created an account because I was afraid that like cousins of mine would be embarrassed that they're 31 year old cousin would be on there something it feels to me like if I joined, it would be like when my parents joined Facebook. Just take over, I'll let I'll let them have it.
Eni Owoeye 12:27
But yeah, I similarly to Chloe, I think being a part of the USC, YAC is just a great way to, you know, see the development of what happens in the US as well as collaborating with the acts around the world. And you know, to particularly broaden the scope of the work that we are able to achieve, because, you know, like I've alluded to, my approach to ocean advocacy is really coming from a different lens as being, you know, someone who's grown up in cities. And so it's exciting to have that kind of advocacy span, the different geographical locations that we represent.
Jenna Valente 13:03
Absolutely. And something that I really enjoy, especially when I'm getting to know people like the both of you right now live on air. Is is kind of understanding like the human behind the work and what like trying to get at where those values formed. And I know both of you have alluded to it a little bit, but I'm wondering if you could elaborate a little bit more on, on how that drive that is within you was born. So for example, some people that I have had on my show, it's like they have this one experience that just completely opened their eyes, and then others had more of like a, oh, I was outdoors. My family was outdoors. And I've been spending time outside a lot. And it's just been like ingrained in me. Do you guys connect with either of those things? or How did your values that have been motivated you and drive you to do this work? Like how did those form?
Chloe McKenna 14:03
Yeah, definitely. For me, like I mentioned, I grew up in Southern California. So I grew up going to the beach a lot. But I do live in Orange County, like more of the inland area. But my mom is or was a swimmer. So I grew up swimming and interacting with water at a really young age. So I always felt like a strong connection to water. And then also at a young age, I just fell in love with whales, and have always just had this fascination with Wales. And that's kind of was like a constant in my life from a young age until I started getting older, and learning more about the environment and seeing the issues around me. And once I started to understand a little bit more about how, you know this area in the animals that I loved so much where, you know, being impacted. I knew that obviously I had to join the movement and stand up and just couldn't sit idly by and Then that's how I started, you know, working with local organizations, and then ultimately joining the global organization of air sore oceans and have, you know, worked ever since that first, you know, interests of, you know, just falling in love with whales, this marine animal. And then, you know, now working on the global scale of tackling big issues.
Eni Owoeye 15:21
Yeah, so on my end, I actually didn't really grow up anywhere near the natural growth, I would say that, you know, the cliche, the concrete jungle is a play guard, but a playground that that really was my, my background in my upbringing. And so, you know, even from before I was born, like, what my family was used to it was, it was not, you know, luscious green or anything, like the stereotype of what the continent of Africa looks like, it was really deep privation. And so, my approach to environmentalism, and then later specifically focusing on the oceans have always been from an environmental justice point of view. And I was really, I think it's remarkable that, you know, within the education system that I was brought up in, I really only got to take an environmental science class, my 11th grade of high school. And so I look back at that, and see, you know, how much learning I've done within the past few years, and with my undergraduate career that have slowly but surely shaped the exact kind of ways that I would like to contribute. And so it's been very enriching to, you know, learn more about coastal communities, and particularly how they're affected by climate change. And, therefore, broaden that to ocean advocacy. But like I said, my activism with water never necessarily came from an environmental front. In the beginning, it moreso came from, you know, being in Baltimore and understanding that the public school is there do not have access to clean water. And so it's it's stuff like that, that when I started to put those pieces together of how that contributes to environmentalism allowed me to see the broader field, but it definitely came from a more social side than a ecological side.
Jenna Valente 17:19
Yeah, and thank you, thank you both for sharing that. I think, as I was listening, something that really strikes me is this strength that both of you have, and have developed through your life path and your experiences, and the experiences that sparked these curiosities and these drives in this passion within you, you know, I feel like they have uniquely set you up to then go on, and thrive in this setting and use your voice for good. And I guess I just think about it under the, like the umbrella of even if like, and I felt this way, many times in my life where I'm like, I don't necessarily know the direction I'm going in right now. But it's like everything that I'm experienced, I know is preparing me for something that's coming down the road. And so like, even though you two grew up, like on completely different sides of the country, and have totally different experiences, you're both now here, like working together as this incredible team. And that like that gives me so much energy, and excitement to see all of the things that you're going to accomplish. And I already have in here about all of the things you already have accomplished and what you are you're doing through the act.
Taylor Goelz 18:32
Yeah, Jenna, they are the decade like what I when I give examples to people, and people ask me like, What is it? What does it mean, and I like to talk about the UK in general, but also you too. I'm like the proud aunt, you know, like, seeing where you came from, and that you represent the transformation and interdisciplinary and intergenerational and like, all the ways of thinking about the world that we kind of want to perpetuate throughout the the ocean system. You just both represented in your your answers there. So I think Jen and I are both like fangirling really hard now.
Eni Owoeye 19:16
Wow. This is such a confidence boost
Taylor Goelz 19:19
I know, right? That's the whole point of this is just hype. Yeah, for sure. I also I kind of want to get a little bit more into the Yak itself. So you talked a little bit about it. And I got to be there at like the birth of the Act, which was really fun, but I want to hear it from your words in terms of what is it what do you hope to do? What does it look like? How did it get started? Yeah, so
Chloe McKenna 19:45
the Youth Advisory Council or Yak was initially an idea created by air shore oceans, like we mentioned a little bit earlier, and then developed into you know, now this group that consists of over 40 Youth ranging from ages 14 to 25, so pretty big age range across the US and US territories. So like Jenna was saying how me and I have completely different backgrounds we have, you know, 40 other youth who also have different backgrounds and connections to the decade or environmental issues as a whole ranging from, you know, the mainland us to the US territories, and
Taylor Goelz 20:27
Guam, right, Guam, Puerto Rico, Alaska, you guys have everything,
Chloe McKenna 20:31
we have a lot of youth in Guam, a few in Puerto Rico, one in American Samoa, and one in the US Virgin Islands, in their own communities to, you know, grow the movement of the decades. So we have these 40, about 40 youth in the first cohort of the US, but all of them are also working, and we're helping to make sure that they have all the tools to be able to grow the movement into their own communities and get more youth involved to continue and join you hopefully recruit more youth for the next cohort, and so on, for the rest of the decade.
Taylor Goelz 21:09
You always have to think about that next step, because it is, you know, it's 10 years and so you were co chairing it now in your in your role as youth but you won't be youth by the end, that you'll be you know, further in your careers and be in different positions of power than your positions of power. Now. You know, in something that I talked about last month with the cops that really corrosion professionals, that was our acronym of last month, whereas Yak is our acronym of this month. But any maybe I can put this one to you. Why is intergenerational diversity important in the decade? Why is it important to involve youth early career, in addition to you know, the more mid or senior career individuals?
Eni Owoeye 21:57
Yeah, so I really love that question just because, in general, when we think about ocean science, and when we think about the goals and the priorities that the UN has laid out with the decade, you know, a lot of it is an ocean exploration simply because the ocean is an area in which we could know more, and we need to invest in knowing more. And yet, you know, it's really important to understand who exactly needs to be involved in the entire process of this exploration, because it's a necessity to explain, expand on how these complex topics are really approached and how they're talked about. And so within the Yak, you know, we are constantly prioritizing the educational enrichment of ourselves. And you know, the topics that we're fighting for, while we're also making sure that if you're going to really prioritize having as many stakeholders involved in the processing and the consideration of new information or consistent literature, that means that you have to be aware of who's in the room, and who's not in the room, and why they are in the room, you know, and so, it's often the case that if you're talking in very esoteric terms, in order to, you know, of course, science is science, and we kind of know how academia works. But we need to be connecting those ideas, and those opportunities to engage with those ideas, with as many people as possible. And so that's kind of where we fit into that, as well, as you know, understanding that there are incredible learning opportunities for young people that can happen throughout the decade. And like you all alluded to, we're not going to stay young for the entire decade. And as we're moving into not only ocean advocacy, but moving into business roles, or the medical field or other fields that, you know, might not traditionally have a connection to ocean advocacy. We want this to be a part of how people are approaching their work lives, their personal lives, their social lives, and how they're able to talk about all these issues that really do have an integral role in how our work our world works.
Taylor Goelz 24:15
Yeah, you don't have to get paid to be an ocean advocate to be an ocean advocate. You know, it can be a passion if you're an accountant or a lawyer or something that like it's the love of the ocean pervades everything and the need to protect it. That's awesome.
Jenna Valente 24:32
Absolutely. Yeah. And you know, sustainability can be woven through every single aspect of life and everything that we do in society and as human beings. There are ways for every single person to reduce their footprint and their impact that they have on the ocean and beyond. The American shoreline Podcast
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Jenna Valente 25:45
You've mentioned some of some of this already in terms of inspiring more people to join the ACC and you know some of some of the folks that you're hoping to influence but does anybody in particular or groups of people come to mind when you think about who are you hoping to influence and inspire and motivate through this work?
Eni Owoeye 26:11
For me personally, I like I've kind of talked about in the past, I have grown up in communities that never necessarily felt comfortable and calling themselves environmentalist, nor did they ever really call themselves. You know, they didn't call themselves anything out of what who they are, you know, Nigeria and our, you know, other identities, I share just be our, you know, an urban night just because, you know, they never necessarily had environmentalism made approachable or accessible to them. And I think that that's now changing, obviously. And, you know, there was a lot of reckoning with understanding the history of the Sierra Club and john Muir, and, you know, just white environmentalism, if I'm being Frank. And I really would am hoping that, you know, the coalition that we're building in the US territories in the mainland, like, it allows people of these really different backgrounds to be able to connect with one another in a way that they can take to their communities like Chloe was talking about, to especially reach the communities that don't necessarily see their role in all of this. And so, you know, of course, there's a social side to this, a political side to this and a cultural shift that needs to happen, and how we're looking at the ocean advocacy. But I think that it is really important that we're prioritizing and being patient with ourselves of trying to reach, you know, historically marginalized communities. And so, me personally, I'm really excited because I think that, especially with our members in the mainland, who have lived in a suburb their entire life, getting to talk to someone from a from a US territory, who may be more intimately feeling the effects of climate change, like I'm really excited for that kind of dialogue to happen, because I think that kind of dynamicism is really going to help with broaden the perspective that each of our members and really youth in general are able to bring, that often might not take president in, in a very scientific like academic, scientific background, our presentation or, you know, in a political presentation, I think the presentation that we want to have for ourselves is to be able to include as many people possible by having them educate within ourselves and then of course, educate within our community. Yeah, I
Chloe McKenna 28:52
think like with how diverse and like wide ranging the locations and the ages are within the Yak, we have a lot of great opportunities for, you know, bonding and just learning from each other. Like any saying, some people who live like we have you from Kentucky, you know, might have different experiences than, you know, youth in the US Virgin Islands. So it's really good to just connect and then work on these issues and bringing a more holistic view to what we're working on. But going back to your question, Jenna Yeah, I think like anyone's saying these marginalized communities that have you know, been barred from the conversation whether it's, you know, indigenous people of the territories or people of color in you know, lower income areas within the mainland us that haven't, you know, been on scene on the front lines or like been, their voices haven't been elevated, as much as ones that we constantly are seeing, you know, in the media and it might I don't necessarily have like an organization or a group name, but just people in our local communities. And I think that's kind of the good, or, you know, the great aspect of how widespread the Yak is, we all live in our own communities and are able to bring back what we're learning to the groups that we have worked with, or like, give back to our own communities through what we're learning. So I think it's different every, you know, yakka member situation, what they are, who they will include in the decade.
Jenna Valente 30:34
And I think that is absolutely your strength as a group. I mean, you have many strengths. But I think the model that you're approaching this from is, is exactly what we need is to be looking toward local knowledge and local voices, to then come together and address these problems that exist on a much larger scale. Because how many times have we seen it like time and time again, of somebody that does not live in a region, coming up with an idea and trying to go into a community to implement whatever their strategy isn't, it just completely fails because they neglected to include local voices and stakeholder input in the people that are actually going to be impacted by those actions. And so I think you're really setting yourself up for success by including all of these different perspectives, and all of the different knowledge bases and local voices, to then come together to make decisions and advocate for these ocean issues, especially Genet like,
Taylor Goelz 31:38
especially under the the decade, banner, you know, because this has been run, this is being run by the IOC, the intergovernmental oceanographic commission, this big un body that is trying to be bottom down and bottom up and top down, excuse me. But this is the bottom of work that needs to happen. This is an example of what that looks like. So that the UN can be as prescriptive as it wants to be and setting these goals and how we do things. But this is the work of the decade on the ground. And so it's a great example of, you know, it doesn't matter that your youth almost you know, that I could use that we could use this example. And Jenna and I could talk about this with people, you know, three times your age, and it would be just as impactful. But the, the intergenerational diversity piece of it makes it even more powerful. And an even better example for what bottom up work in the decades should look like.
Jenna Valente 32:34
Yeah, absolutely. And I think, you know, getting back to my comment about how I really think that that is your, your strength as a group moving forward, as you address. Some, you know, climate challenges are there, I feel like they're infinite, and they're incredibly complex.
Unknown Speaker 32:57
Jenna Valente 32:59
I think that having, it's like your almost feelings, your blind spots of I as one person trying to make a decision. I don't know what I don't know, until I talk to somebody else that has a different experience instead of expertise. As we're trying to address all of these challenges, but thinking about challenges, and the work that you all are doing. Have you faced any sort of hurdles as a group yet? Or what do you envision being some of the most challenging aspects of your role? And I, I really ask this question, because I think sometimes you can learn really incredible lessons. And there's a lot of growth that can be found from those, those moments of that are harder and more challenging. So I don't know, if you have your sights set down the road, and you envision a specific challenge, or I'm just curious to get your thoughts on that. So, you know, what are what are some of the most challenging aspects of this role? And have you learned anything from those challenges
Eni Owoeye 34:10
yet? Yeah, well, I can maybe think about a challenge that's not necessarily unique to us, but is a challenge that we're all dealing with. And we're gonna say the P word, but the pandemic, you know, it is it is really, really, really crucial that because we are individuals that have maybe have had a relationship to one another through ASR ocean before, even though that's not the case for every member, we are building a coalition of individuals that have a shared interest in different time zones with different commitments. And so it's really important for us, especially as coaches but everyone really to be very conscious of the mental health aspect that it really takes to have these really ambitious goals. of policy, advocacy and education and whatnot. And so I think that, so far, so good, we've definitely learned, you know, how to connect in with people and how to make sure that people are doing okay. And trying to have that outreach. But in the past, I think that, unfortunately, people may have not felt comfortable enough to outright save, they just weren't up for things, you know, I think that there was a lot of a lot of incognito work, or maybe the vibe in which she felt like you would be letting people down if you weren't necessarily in the right space or the right mind. And because we're, we're, hopefully everyone is still quarantining, and being safe and whatnot, it is really important to recognize that the self has to come before it the the work that you're trying to do on behalf of others. And so that's something that I constantly think about, because, like I said, and like Chloe, and really everyone is aware, there are really ambitious things that are trying to be achieved during the decade. And we don't want to start off by, you know, not being really attuned to how our members are doing and in what ways we can support them without having the ability that we may have had in the past.
Chloe McKenna 36:29
Yeah, and I mean, zoom fatigue is real. That, especially with, you know, most people being on online school, or just go back to like mental health and making sure that everyone is staying healthy. And we've tried to, you know, communicate and create safe forms of communication. So members do feel comfortable to reach out to us when they're like, Hey, I do need to take a break. You know, life happens. And we understand that and we're all students. And we have things going on. And we're also talking about big issues, like any set, there's
Taylor Goelz 37:05
a lot of it's huge. It's stuff that Yeah, I never talked about at your age, and it's just, it's incredible, the extra burden that you are placing on yourselves, but for the greater good, almost, you know,
Chloe McKenna 37:19
yeah, talking about big issues like climate change, it can cause a lot of stress and bring about, you know, anxieties in different people. So just making sure that, you know, we take that all into account. And another thing is, you know, we are the first cohort, so we are setting the framework and developing everything. So we are still, you know, learning as we go. So there are going to be bumps in the road, which we totally acknowledge. But so far, it's been going pretty well.
Jenna Valente 37:48
That's great. And and I'm curious to hear more about what's to come down the road. So how are you? Can you share a few more specifics about how you're planning on using your platform to advocate within the ocean decade? And, and what does advocacy look like for you and for the Yak and for the decade, so whatever angle you want to approach that from, and I'm curious to know more about, you know, what does advocacy specifically look like for you all?
Chloe McKenna 38:20
Yeah, and I can also give a little bit of a background like what we have been able to do so far in the first year, that would be great of the decade. So back in December 2020, we had a un ocean decade, kind of like our own launch, globally with youth, so brah youth from all over the world together and hosted this summit. That was multiple days. And that went really well. And that was kind of like, led up air led into us kicking off the Yak, and then we had a first or first few meetings, and then the US kickoff actually happened. So we kind of just
Taylor Goelz 39:00
the US National Committee, yeah, that's housed at the National Academies of sciences. Yep. So
Chloe McKenna 39:04
they have their kickoff in early February. And we and he and I were fortunate enough to speak at that. And we had a meet and greet event with Yak members, which was really cool. So we were and we actually one of our members created a dance with her dance troupe all about rising up and it was called like an auction. And it was really cool. So that was presented or unveiled at the kickoff as well. So that's kind of like the first thing that we started and then now are kind of like backtracking and developing our different committees. So within the Yak, we have our steering committee, which we are helped make executive decisions alongside any and I, we have our presentation committee, who help develop presentations and as well as we're working with them to possibly create Like a toolkit, so people have the materials, when they want to go or are invited to go do presentations at schools or in their community. That's awesome. Yeah. And then we have our policy committee, because one of the major things that we're focusing on for the first year is policy. And in the next few months, in April and June, we will be participating in Hill days. So they are, you know, researching, doing outreach, and we're hosts are short oceans is hosting a policy advocacy retreat in the next few weeks. So
Jenna Valente 40:34
participating in that as well gonna be a mock Congress person, so you may see me again, sooner than you
Taylor Goelz 40:42
fancy from the waist up for the mock conference zoom.
Jenna Valente 40:48
I haven't I haven't planned my outfit yet. So we'll see.
Chloe McKenna 40:52
Yeah, so that's one of the things that we're also doing to make sure you know, that you've have the skills to, you know, effectively communicate and advocate for policy. And then we have our social media committee. So we can, you know, better communicate what the Yak is doing, and also get more people involved. But that's kind of what we've done so far, as well as, you know, meeting with different groups like the consortium of ocean leadership to talk about how we can work with them, when it comes to policy and Hill days, and all those things, as well as airswap oceans had a water summit this past month, and brought a lot of use youth together. And I know a lot of VYC members participated in that. And now we're preparing for the policy, advocacy retreat and Hill days as those are some top priorities for us. But I don't know if any wants to add in, you know, how we what advocacy looks like for us?
Eni Owoeye 41:48
Yes, so advocacy is really important, just because we want to make sure that, like we've kind of talked about throughout this entire conversation, the ocean decades should not just be focused on the science side, and that science needs to be translated as best as possible as possible. And so a lot of our youth, you know, are already getting involved in trying to talk with other youth within their communities, to particularly work together to have that kind of that kind of information and informed opinion on what will be effective policies moving forward. And so, you know, we are ambitious, and we're saying, if we can take it to the Hill in DC we're going to, but we also recognize that it's really important for everyone to be involved in their local and state level decision making as well. And so we really are trying to champion having individuals recognizing that this kind of movement, like Taylor was was talking about before of, you know, being bottom up means that, of course, we can advocate for corrective, corrective actions to get rid of the great garbage patch that is floating in the middle of the ocean. But you know, what, what other things can we talk about within our, our local communities. And so, you know, trying to make sure that the Hudson River on my friends time in New York City is getting attention, or someone that's in Puerto Rico is working on the issues that, particularly are, are plaguing the Caribbean. And it's also really great, because often I know, within the US territories in US Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico, they're working together. And that's really important, just because, you know, in recognizing that our governing system is a little skewed in terms of who has what kind of representation on the National Front, it's really important that they're working together in order to get more of an impact for the territories. And so I know that those those members in those that particular region are doing some great work on that local front. And so I think, in general, we are trying to be as proactive as possible, with the tools that we have. And we also, of course, are always going to prioritize the advocacy for indigenous and, and people of color voices and communities just because, you know, that is that even if we don't necessarily have someone to represent the various identities that have been barred from these conversations, we don't ever want to put ourselves in a room which we weren't actively conscious and thinking about how this may affect someone else. And so we don't want it to just be our perspective, which is why we're trying to have youth as involved within their communities as possible, but we also recognize that You know, it's really important for us to talk the talk and walk the walk of what we're saying of being inclusive and whatnot. And so that means being acutely aware of, of where exactly implications may may sound great, but then not have, you know, the best, the best insight as to various perspectives and, and identities and backgrounds.
Taylor Goelz 45:29
Yeah, and that's exactly what the decade needs. It's people who are willing to talk about these things that either people within governments can't say or won't say, or people higher up, can't say or won't say, you know, that. I have been talking about the last couple episodes building out the universe of the ocean decade. And I really think that the the Yak and youth perspective, fill out all these really necessary bits that would not be there. Otherwise, it's great. So already looked back on these few months of the decade and think like, high if not for the act, we wouldn't have this, this, this and this, you guys are going through your list of accomplishments that it's just like holy cow, like look at what we're four months in, you know, three months in like not, we're barely in the decade, the fact that you all exist and are moving forward and doing good things. It's incredible that thinking about, you know, what is your Do you guys have an ultimate goal for what you'd like to see, do you have a one year goal, five year goal 10 year goal, what do you want to do? during the decade overall, aspirationally, thinking big,
Eni Owoeye 46:34
I would say the goal that we have, like I said, you know, it's really crucial that we are being realistic in the time we're living, especially in the pandemic and what that means for our mobilization. But I would say the end of this year goal is definitely for each and every member to step away from, you know, the computer, since I suspect that will be a reality for some time, but to step away from, you know, our meetings and our work and really feel comfortable in not only, you know, advocating for the importance of how this this decade, is connected with our own lives, and in the futures of our communities, but also feeling very empowered to actually speak on these things. Because, you know, in the traditional classroom, the teacher is a teacher and the student is a student. And we think that it's really important to be able through the policy, advocacy, workshops, and through all of these different exercises, and these opportunities to go and speak with the politicians to go and speak with the other stakeholders, I think it's really important that it's not just coming from Chloe and I or it's not just coming from the people that already have the experience. Because, you know, with the age group that we have, and with the the different, the different levels of experience that we have within the Yak, it's so crucial that every single person is strengthening the skills that you know, they are aware of, but then also burning up the skills that they haven't necessarily had the opportunity to build. And so we're really excited for that throughout the decade, of course, but especially this first year, we want it to be a priority of ours to really, you know, take that time to strengthen and support the skills that are really crucial for cross cultural communication and empathetic leadership. And, you know, being really aware of, of asking youth to go into rooms in which they may or may not be, you know, perspective and have them shine you know, that is our goal and that's what we're really trying to build up through this birth cohort of course, but then also through the rest of the decade.
Taylor Goelz 49:01
Youth supporting youth I got it you don't need other mentors, you know, you guys are mentoring each other. And that's incredible.
Jenna Valente 49:08
Yeah, and then know that we're all here to support you as well. Right. So like, I am loving this episode and in the fact that I'm likely going to see you all soon enough at the hill day and, and you know, through my day job with healthy ocean coalition, we work with airs frequently and I'm just continually impressed by by the great work that you all are doing and I just sitting here sort of going through my mind of all of the potential collaborations that are yet to come and how we can help support the the great work that you're doing both through this podcast network and, and through the advocacy work that I'm engaged in and, and something that I think is incredibly important to spend time highlighting is what brings you joy. Through this work because I, I, this, this part of my show that so I normally asked us on my sea change podcast, but I definitely want to ask it as of both of you because I had this moment where I was presenting at a conference a few years ago about ocean conservation and grassroots advocacy and everything that's involved in that. And someone raised their hand to ask a question. And they asked me, How do I stay so happy. And it took me by surprise. But I understand that in you know, we talked about this a little bit earlier, when you both are mentioning sort of the mental health aspects of the place we're in in the world right now. And some of the big lifts that we have in weight on our shoulders, it's it's very easy when you think about the climate challenges, and everything is involved in that, to get down on yourself. But I think that there is a lot of joy and reward that can be found in this work. And so I think it's very important and worthwhile to take the time to call out some of those things. And I'm interested to hearing from hearing from both of you, either, you know, what are the most rewarding aspects of your work? or What brings you the most joy in doing this?
Chloe McKenna 51:28
I really love that question. Because, like, ever since I've joined this movement, or like the environmental movement, I feel like it's really easy to feel alone. And like you're doing this work alone, and especially in this virtual world, it does feel like that, like, you're just sitting in a room while in this virtual space with with like, 4050 people on a call.
Taylor Goelz 51:51
And like talking to yourself in a room, you know, to a screen
Chloe McKenna 51:55
and trying to solve climate change. So it's like this really strange situation. But I think like, for me, it's seeing the leaders develop within the Yak, and seeing people you know, rise up to the occasion and seeing different youth take on different roles. So when we're like developing our committees, seeing youth who maybe are newer to the environmental movement, taking leadership positions, and you know, going after, they're like, I want to learn more about policy, I'm going to join the policy committee actively participate in hell days, I think that's really awesome. And also seeing the movement grow. And people taking initiative to go set up school presentations in their own communities, reaching out to local groups, and telling them about what the Yak is doing, and how they can get involved is really empowering to me to see the movement growing from, you know, this, like, initial idea that airs for oceans had to now you know, people all over the world engaging in the ideas and goals of the ACC.
Eni Owoeye 52:57
Yeah, I would definitely second but Chloe just said, and also, of course, you know, to really extend that kind of Thank you, to you, Taylor, and Jenna, because I think that it's really easy for people in general, especially, like right now to only really talk about the topic of the car, right? Oh, the zoom meetings about this, okay, we're going to be talking about this, right, and they don't necessarily have as much flexibility, you know, to expressing things outside of that. And so not only has this conversation has been a delight, but also, you know, all the work that you're able to, to contribute alongside with us. Um, but it's also just really nice, in my opinion, to get our Yak members talking with one another and viewing these issues, from our basically from seeing the light that develops in people when they're hearing someone else talk, or hearing another idea that they didn't necessarily think of, in approaching the issue or the solution. That is something I really always love in any space. And I've been seeing that. And that's something that really, just as someone that likes to sit back, I can talk but I like to sit back and kind of feel that vibe, because it does take effort to create a really inclusive environment. And, you know, there are different techniques to do that. But I think naturally, the youth are right now, really attuned to not only hopefully, realizing that their perspective and their voice matters, but then also looking for the ways in which they can find those connections that they may have not made on their own. And so I really appreciate that and seeing that happen, is something to look forward to because I think, you know, Jet we I think we often like really highlight when it's a big change in tech. happens or, you know, the lightbulb goes off in medical research. And so we get that and like, that's obviously really important, because that affects a lot of people. But when it happens in small moments, like I latch on to that, like, I think that that's the best thing, because that that exchange is just really great to see and to be in the, in the midst of
Taylor Goelz 55:23
that. So yeah, just incredibly uplifting and interest, like a great way to think about, you know, wrapping this up. Before we will let you go, I wanted to ask, what are your What are your plans for the future with the EC? And how can other people be supportive and get involved, you know, other youth? How can they get involved, but then people, Jenna's, in my age and older, how can we help as well and be involved?
Chloe McKenna 55:51
I think for other youth getting involved, since the first cohort is like officially closed right now, I'm following along the airserver oceans and the yac social media to find out you know, what we're doing having these opportunities, like the policy advocacy workshop that's open to everyone, the water summit is open to everyone, like you don't have to be an identified yac member. But then also following us to see what we're doing and supporting our work as well as if you're interested in becoming a part of the Yak will obviously like announced when the second cohort will open in the third cohort, and there's so many more cohorts available, you know, down the road, because of the decade, this is gonna be a long process, and there's the Yak is gonna be around for a while. So it's really exciting.
Eni Owoeye 56:40
Yeah, and I would also plug, you know, for anyone that I mean, you know, the phrase youth at heart young at heart, you know, it's still obviously applies. And so you can consider yourself one of us in this front for like this, this fight for change. But I would say that, you know, we're constantly looking to educate ourselves and to seek the wisdom of people that have been doing this for longer and you know, have more are have a very valuable experience that will hopefully shape ours and our strategy and whatnot. And so, you know, like Chloe said, We are open by email, our social media on Twitter and Instagram. Oh, my gosh, Chloe, I need your help. What is the second half?
Chloe McKenna 57:29
It's at us yc. Un od for both Instagram and Twitter.
Taylor Goelz 57:36
Yeah, so maybe that so the second one is their handle. So the at U S, YACUN. n, od, I pull it up, and then I'll post about it. When I when we post this podcast, we'll make sure to link to that as well. Because there's a lot of cool stuff on there. And I follow it, and it makes me feel younger.
Jenna Valente 57:57
Well, maybe you have two acronyms of the day.
Eni Owoeye 58:02
Yeah, no, I was Chloe, if you didn't jump in, that would have started saying the alphabet. So thank you for that. But um, yeah, we, you know, we're always just really excited to get more insight from from different people. And we also want to support our youth. And so if they have I know, for example, in Puerto Rico, they are talking about a particular type of like algal bloom that is plaguing that area. And so sometimes we will have science questions, and we're like, hmm, who can we connect with to help with that? And so we do look forward to that kind of insight as well.
Jenna Valente 58:39
Yeah. And so this, this question to round us out is something that is adapted from what's become a tradition on on my podcast is, I usually close out my show by asking the guests all the same series of questions, because I found it, it sort of turned into this interesting social experiment to see where there are common themes or a unique perspective. And it's a great way to pull out any sort of last expertise or insights from our guests. And so we're not going to go through all of them understanding that this is a crossover show. But we Taylor and I kind of picked our our favorite one. And that is a two part question. So you may find that your answer to the first part is also your second part. But sometimes I see people that have completely different answers. So what is the best advice that you've ever been given? And then we flip that to what advice do you have for our listeners, and that's that,
Taylor Goelz 59:47
so she asked me this same question to end out when I guest starred, I guess, not guest star featured on her podcast. And I felt true, and I felt just as Like, yeah, so just it's kind of first thing that comes to mind kind of thing. You know,
Chloe McKenna 1:00:04
I feel like really on the spot right now? I
Unknown Speaker 1:00:06
Taylor Goelz 1:00:09
We'll check, we'll check. Yeah,
Jenna Valente 1:00:12
I mean, I won't hold you to it being the best advice you've ever been given, I don't want it like, like, like, I don't want to like your grandparents or like some great mentor in your life to hear this and know that they've given you some wonderful advice and be like,
Oh, man, like, they did it.
They didn't. That was the best thing. But, you know, anything that just pops into your mind in terms of like, what's, what's a great piece of advice?
Eni Owoeye 1:00:40
Okay, so I can go first, because this is the first thing that popped up into my mind. And this is for me, personally, because I'm a person of faith, but I think it can be, you know, applied, like, very generally, but mine is like going like God. But I think in general, that means that you have to be willing to trust the process in order to reap the benefits, or reap the lessons, right, because I don't think that there are really mistakes, like, they're just really important lessons. And it is a mistake is if you don't take the lesson, that's when it becomes a mistake. And so, you know, if you trust that process, then you will walk out on the other side, unless it results in death in that case, you know, sorry. But other than that, you know, I think that that, what is the advice that I try to walk by, but then on the advice that I have, for anyone listening? I would say that this needs to be a constant learning process. And I say that as a college student, so it might be really easy to assume like, Oh, you know, yeah, of course, there's a lot to learn. I'm at my stage. But, you know, once you start rereading the same authors and stuff, like, I'm often tempted to not pick up the reading for the night, right, but I have to constantly push myself and say, No, you know, it, it. Ocean science is kind of complex, and has a lot of different ways to look at it. But I could be writing about something, Jenna could be right about the same topic, Taylor could be writing about the same topic, it is really unlikely that we, if we're really not only including the science, but our own perspective, are going to be writing about it in the same way, right. And so it's only going to enrich yourself, if you're able to recognize that what you're interacting with is your choice, but you need are you hopefully should be interacting with as many different sources as possible to get a more complete picture of everything. So I would say that, you know, understanding what we as the youth colonizer, you think right now does not mean that you understand what you think. Because there are so many different yaks that are about to, you know, have a different perspective that how to engage and how to mobilize and whatnot. And so, you know, keeping that in mind, will, I think be really beneficial for not only us as a yak moving forward in the ways that we want to educate ourselves, but people in general in, you know, not taking shortcuts by getting one side of it are one, one perspective and then thinking that, you know, that's the total picture,
Chloe McKenna 1:03:40
I think that's kind of like similar to the like, Good advice that I've received, is like taking every opportunity as they come, whether that's, you know, an opportunity to speak to someone that, you know, you normally want to interact with, to get their perspective, or to take a class or go to a different workshop or summit or something like that. But, you know, just being open to new experiences, especially if they're out of your comfort zone. I know, like a lot in this movement. You know, I never would have if I told my 15 year old self that I'd be on a podcast right now. Like, I would have freaked out like I would, I would have been so nervous. I could never, like speak in front of a crowd or run a meeting. So just saying open and open minded and, yeah, trusting the process. I think that's like, something that I've learned over the past few years that you know, I was initially told when starting this work, but I guess something to tell the listeners is just, I guess, kind of like going off with that same thing, like the good advice that I've got, you know, just stay open minded. And, you know, you I think something also that I've learned is that it's okay to be wrong. And you know, you're not always going to be right So, communicating with other people or understanding different perspectives, you're allowed to change your initial thoughts or whatever like or stance on a specific issue. So I think staying again, staying open minded and taking in other viewpoints is really important. And something that I think, you know, we've talked about is like at the core of the Yak, bringing all these different people together. So, you know, taking that into your personal life, and on a more personal level.
Jenna Valente 1:05:31
Absolutely. And, you know, I want to thank you both so much from the bottom of my heart for for joining us for this conversation. You are both just incredibly bright and bold and brilliant, and you're the leaders that the world needs right now and moving forward. So I am just so grateful and appreciative for your time and for you coming on and sharing your expertise and your insights.
Taylor Goelz 1:05:59
Yeah, I knew that I needed to have you on and talk about you really early on in the podcast, and no, this won't be the last time we'll definitely check in on you and make sure that you're getting the support and the attention that your good work deserves. We'd also like to thank the listeners. If you liked the show and want to hear more, subscribe to the American shoreline Podcast Network wherever you listen to podcasts, rates and reviews are always appreciated. And you can find us on Facebook at the American shoreline Podcast Network and on Twitter and Instagram at coastal News 365. You can find Jen and I both personally on twitter at Anna bene for Jenna tweeter Taylor for me because I formed my account in 2008 and I got it before I had to put any numbers in it. And on Instagram with Joe's both of our names Jenna volante, and Taylor, girls, find us online. Let's chat about our beautiful coastlines and work together to define the ocean you want in the future.