Q: What is Capitol Hill Ocean Week?
A: Capitol Hill Ocean Week 2021 runs June 8-10th. It is an opportunity for people who are passionate about the environment, specifically ocean-Great Lakes-climate action, to gather and discuss how to deepen justice and equity in our field. And we will learn from many of the leaders who have been at the helm of environmental and climate justice work in ocean and Great Lakes conservation and others who are just getting started.
Q: What is the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation’s role?
A: The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation is a leading voice for US protected waters, working with communities to conserve and expand these vital areas for a healthy ocean, coasts, and Great Lakes. The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation works in collaboration with community members, non-profits, universities and businesses in communities located near national marine sanctuaries on conservation, research and public outreach projects.
As it relates to Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI), the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation is not a leader in this space, though we see our role as this week’s convener and in time, an active ally in pursuit of equitable policy, an inclusive ocean and Great Lakes conservation movement and supporters for justice. As an organization, we are at the beginning of our own internal work. We are learning and taking accountability for the work we haven’t done to date in this important space.
The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation’s work is to connect people to the ocean, coasts, and Great Lakes through our national marine sanctuaries and monuments. We cannot achieve that mission as an organization or as a part of the conservation community without taking the time to learn and listen together.
Q: Is the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation fundraising off of Justice, Equity Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI)?
A: Capitol Hill Ocean Week is a free conference made possible by funds the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation raises to ensure access by all who would like to attend this annual event. In the coming months, the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation will seek funds for its own internal organizational JEDI work that is separate from its annual conference.
Q: How does Capitol Hill Ocean Week sponsorship work? Are conference sponsors vetted to ensure they are actively practicing and upholding Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion values?
A: Capitol Hill Ocean Week is an annual event that has remained free and open to the public year after year due to many sponsors underwriting the conference at varying levels. These are sponsors who the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation solicits funding from to cover the cost of programming, venue and/or virtual platform costs, and staff time.
Participants attending CHOW 2021 have raised concerns that there are conference sponsors with troubling diversity and discrimination issues, those who rely on colonial science (parachute science) and problematic conservation practices, some of which haven’t been publicly addressed, worked on, or resolved. CHOW is a convening space. We do not endorse or affirm that each individual sponsor is free of these practices. It is our deepest hope that our sponsor partners are committed to doing their own internal work, as we have our own to do.
Q: Is the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation occupying space intended for others by focusing Capitol Hill Ocean Week on JEDI in the ocean and Great Lakes conservation?
A: For two decades, it has been our privilege, role and responsibility to convene Capitol Hill Ocean Week. As the Capitol Hill Ocean Week Advisory Committee, composed of 11 individuals, not including the consultant team at Meridian and National Marine Sanctuary Foundation staff, looked at the opportunity to elevate issues of race, equity and inclusion, it knew the theme of this conference could not be business-as-usual in 2021.
It is the role and responsibility of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation to have the annual conference address some of the most critical issues in ocean and Great Lakes conservation. In our present role, the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation is the convenor of Capitol Hill Ocean Week, affectionately known as CHOW. The voices of experts and several community leaders involved are driving the topics and discussions of this event.
The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation staff recognize that we must address our JEDI work and we are at the beginnings of our own internal journey. As an organization, we will examine our own mistakes, decenter ourselves, and work to become active allies.
Q: Why is the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation focusing on JEDI now?
A: It has never been more important to recognize the need to build racial justice, gender and social equality, and incorporate these into our core values. The communities of ocean and Great Lakes advocates, community organizers, scientists and practitioners in this field, nor ourselves, are exempt from this critical time of reflection and action. We must join actively to listen, learn and engage in these conversations.