May Member of the Month: Annemarie Manley

Written by Annemarie Manley | 

My little third-grade self initially stumbled across the disaster of Climate Change in a really ordinary way. I saw a photo on the cover of a National Geographic article of oblivious penguins walking on a paper thin sheet of ice. Devastated, I imagined the fate of those poor penguins; they couldn’t control any aspect of their situation, and this was all due to humans. I felt like humans were the most selfish species on the whole planet, and I hated the guilt I felt.

Images of birds being strangled by plastic and burning rainforests filled my head; I literally spent hours crying and doing watercolors of the dying earth.

That feeling just intensified as I learned more. I learned that the world is a system full of life, with each piece of the system affecting another piece. We’ve altered some of the pieces of the system, and that’s had disastrous effects. Images of birds being strangled by plastic and burning rainforests filled my head; I literally spent hours crying and doing watercolors of the dying earth. And ultimately I made a decision: even though, and especially because, not enough was being done about this monstrous problem, I would do something about it. I would prove to anyone who watched (and mostly myself) that I was not selfish like many fellow members of the human race, guiltlessly polluting for purely their own benefit. In short, I would become an activist.

At this point, I was about ten years old. It wasn’t a lot later that I did my first fundraiser, raising a modest $400 to buy a patch of rainforest in Costa Rica. I did several fundraisers after that, mostly donating to World Wildlife Fund for the preservation of various creatures such as the okapi or the polar bear. In seventh grade I convinced a small group of friends to start an environmental organization with me, and PlanetHEAL was in existence for about two years. That was a project that was mostly fueled by blind fervor and excitement; I was the driving force, but I had no idea how to motivate a group of restless thirteen year olds, much less run an actual organization. PlanetHEAL slowly fell apart, but my passion for activism stayed intact. Having given up on that chapter of my life, I took a break in which to breathe. But it wasn’t that long until that I realized if I stopped to breathe now, breathing might be impossible later. On top of that, the images of burning rainforests and strangling birds were haunting me, and I knew I couldn’t sit still with so much injustice in the world.
That’s why when iMatter called me to ask where I’d been, I knew that I needed to dive back in headfirst. Change is something the world desperately needs, and I knew I needed to be a part of that change.

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