On Friday, December 7th, we hosted our annual event, “Connect! From Root Causes to Grassroots Solutions,” attended by over 100 of our wonderful supporters. We had the honor of awarding the inaugural Spirit of the Mangrove Award to Rev. Deborah Lee from the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity and José Artiga from the SHARE Foundation. We also had the privilege of hosting Lauren Markham, award-winning author and journalist, as our keynote speaker. Karina Copen, Vice Chair of the EcoViva Board of Directors, shares her experience of the event:
I’ve just returned home from celebrating with EcoViva at “Connect! From Root Causes to Grassroots Solutions.” And my heart is full. So is my brain. My heart, because, as we know with philanthropy, when you give (your time or money) to an organization you love, you get much more in return. In the context of my busy life as a working mom, a night to be in Oakland is priceless: the videos of our partners, the images of the Bay of Jiquilisco where I spent a summer of grad school, the faces of people whose struggle for environmental and social justice have molded my belief systems and heart forever. To be part of something larger than myself, even when I feel like I don’t have the time, nourishes my soul. And I am deeply grateful to EcoViva, our partners in Central America, to our staff and fellow Board members for giving me an outlet to recharge my heart and soul.
As for my brain, the synapses were firing so fast that night, I struggle to put it into words. As Lauren Markham laid out connections between climate change and migration, she articulated something that I knew, but could not effectively express. I hope she will forgive my crude attempt to summarize what I finally got my head around. During her many visits with migrants in her trips to Central America, and most recently Tijuana, she spoke about talking to migrants about why they are coming, and that most often the answer will be some version of “to have a better life.” And while true, this answer leaves those on the left seeking for deeper explanations, and on the right, fodder for their short-sighted and racist storyline of the economic migrant and how “we can’t just open the floodgates.”
Yet, Lauren articulated something so simple, but profound in my ability to connect the dots in my brain. She said, “if you just start to scratch the surface…” the story is so much deeper than that. It is about the crops that just don’t grow anymore (soil degradation), the crops that died (from drought and flood or both), there just aren’t as many fish anymore (overfishing), because it just doesn’t feel safe anymore (neighborhoods taken over by gangs). Many migrants, because the changes in their communities have been slow, over years or even decades, will not express themselves in sound bites that play well on the news, but the underlying reasons are there. It is Climate Change, violence against women, violent gangs, corruption, all of which are the root causes of the economic instability people cite for their journey. And this migration, as Rev. Deborah Lee so beautifully reflected, is part of our human story, one that has occurred over millennia. When conditions shift in one place, it is human instinct to move one’s family towards a place they can survive.
Migrants leave home, when home is no longer safe. It was for Dr. Lee’s families in Asia, and so it was for many families fleeing pogroms and Nazis in Europe.
I am so proud of the work EcoViva does in working with our partners in El Salvador and Honduras to make home a place worth staying in.
Karina Copen has been a Board member of EcoViva for 17 years.