Three Things I’m Grateful for This Year

Alex Levinson, Executive Director
Date: November 28, 2019

Earlier this month, I was in a rural area of China, up in a mountain village whose residents—mostly small-plot farmers and proprietors of small tourist hostels—had agreed to participate in a project to try to reduce the plastic waste of the village.

The villagers quickly learned that almost all their waste was plastic waste from tourist visitors—shampoo bottles, coffee sachets, lots and lots of plastic bags and packaging. They had virtually no food waste because they fed it all to their pigs, goats, and chickens.

With me were about 40 leaders of grassroots organizations from many provinces of China. Pacific Environment had brought these leaders together, as we do every year, to learn from each other and figure out how they can be more effective advocates to protect the country’s water, air, and community health.

These Chinese partners of ours are increasingly engaged in trying to reduce plastic waste—too much of which gets into the Yangtze River and, from there, into the Pacific Ocean. The village we were convening in will, hopefully, become a model for hundreds, even thousands of other villages in China.

As I get ready to celebrate American Thanksgiving with my family, I’ve been thinking about what I’m grateful for in my professional life – and how my visit to a mountain village in China captures it so well.

First, all of us at Pacific Environment enjoy the truly amazing opportunity to collaborate closely with grassroots partners throughout the Pacific region.

While local leaders mold their activism to the culture and rules of their own countries, they and we build bonds with each other, bonds of friendship and bonds based on shared values of wanting our communities to be healthy, resilient, and prosperous within a sustainable framework.

I’m always a bit astonished to realize anew that we are more similar than different. We can learn from each other, because of the differences, and we can rejoice in our partnership, because of the similarities.

Second, I’m grateful that our partnerships in the Pacific region allow us to aim high.

Even as the local organizations we support look to clean up their communities, they and we also have our sights raised. We are taking on some of the greatest challenges—addressing plastic pollution, moving our economies beyond fossil fuels to new clean energy sources, fighting for ocean protection rules to save marine mammals and other ocean wildlife.

The mountain villagers in China are figuring out how they can reduce their plastic waste—because Pacific Environment and our Chinese partners have tied that village in to a global movement to build economies that really work for people (and the creatures with whom we share the earth).

Third, I’m grateful for your ideas, the comments and concerns you send me, and for your support of Pacific Environment’s efforts.

We partner with grassroots leaders and we aim high: All of it is made possible by your believing in us and making a decision to choose us as one of the organizations you support. I never take that for granted, and I hope you will join us (again) this year.