Meet Our Members – Inland Ocean Coalition

A Conversation with Christine Evans and Vicki Goldstein

of Inland Ocean Coalition

Tell us more about the history of your organization!  The Inland Ocean Coalition (IOC) is a grassroots network of individuals and communities across the country fighting for a healthy, sustainable, and just future on our ocean planet. The IOC builds chapters, leads campaigns, and implements programs that protect our watersheds, climate, and ocean. Working on many levels—including through coalition building, direct action, education, community engagement, leadership development, and more—the IOC and its chapters are building community-based ocean conservation constituencies throughout the country.  What are your organization’s top priorities? Our top priorities are to activate individuals and communities around the country to protect our ocean, climate, and waterways by expanding our network of inland ocean chapters, strengthening existing chapters, and growing our Inland Ocean Ambassador (IOA) Certification Training. This year, we will work to pass critical national legislation like the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act—the only legislation ever introduced in the US Congress that would work to stop plastic pollution at its source, protecting our waters, wildlife, climate, and frontline communities—while also focusing on building support for initiatives like the 30×30 Resolution to Save Nature and working on issues at state and local levels How do you see your organization’s work evolving in the next few years? In the coming years, we hope to continue to expand our presence through more chapters, volunteers around the country, stronger and more diverse partnerships, and new relationships with our legislative leaders. Our most ambitious goal is to have a chapter in every US state. We see a tremendous opportunity under the current administration to strengthen ocean, climate, and environmental protections.  We eagerly continue our work with partners to increase the diversity, equity, and inclusivity of the ocean protection movement as a whole. As an organization, we are beginning to hold diversity, equity, and inclusion training for our staff and Advisory Board. We are expanding our partnerships and developing strategies to recruit new partners, volunteers, and chapter leads from underserved communities. These advances will help us better the ocean conservation movement and create a culture of belonging that is truly welcome to all. 

What are your thoughts on the waste crisis that we are living in right now?

Our waste crisis is not a management issue—it is a supply issue. We are simply producing far too much of it—particularly plastic. Scientists have warned that plastic pollution risks “near-permanent contamination” of our planet. If current trends continue, plastics will account for 20% of oil consumption by 2050. This is simply unconscionable in an era of climate change, deep environmental and social inequities, biodiversity collapse, and global contamination of our planet. It will take many sectors of society in all parts of the globe to push back against the petrochemical and fossil fuel industry’s attempts to flood our planet with even more unnecessary plastic.

The benefits of less plastic produced and consumed are many: more fossil fuels staying in the ground, cleaner and healthier communities (especially low-income and communities of color, which are often seen as sacrifice zones for polluting industries), reduced impacts of climate change, healthier wildlife, an ocean and waterways not choked by plastic pollution, a global food system not contaminated by the chemicals inherent in plastic packaging, and so much more. 

How does your work relate to social justice?

Marginalized communities bear the brunt of environmental harms, and we are working to address these injustices. It is our strong belief that we cannot have a sustainable future on this planet without engaged communities working toward both environmental and social justice. We cannot protect our ocean without embedding equity into the heart of this movement.

How has your work been impacted by the COVID crisis?

COVID impacted our chapter recruitment significantly and caused a shift in priorities from growing chapter numbers to growing chapter capacity. As a grassroots organization, we rely heavily on local events and outreach. Previous in-person events and trainings are now held online to reach a broader and more diverse audience. The launch of our virtual Inland Ocean Ambassador Training Program in 2020 allowed us to expand our reach, increase chapter leadership teams, and seek new and engaged ocean champions throughout the country. In this way, we found a digital approach that allowed even more people to be engaged than in the past. 

How do you envision a just and equitable recovery from COVID-19, and how can your organization’s work be part of the solution?

A just recovery will mean prioritizing people, particularly those most heavily impacted by the pandemic. It will also mean protecting our planet, especially from climate change and habitat destruction, which will only make future pandemics worse. We are excited to be working with GAIA on zero waste initiatives, which have been shown to provide significant job growth, cost savings, and many other economic and environmental benefits. We are currently working with environmental organizations in Colorado to pass a comprehensive Bill that would prohibit food establishments’ use of polystyrene, prohibit stores and retail food establishments from providing single-use plastic carryout bags, and would strike preemption across the state. We will use this legislation as a model for our chapters in other states that are interested in enacting state or city bans of their own while we continue to advocate for accessing public and other funding to move closer to zero waste communities, and we strongly believe that similar measures should be included in a just recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

We have also been working with our partners in Washington, DC, and around the country to urge our elected officials to make a just recovery a priority. 

What is your favorite quote?

“Nature is not more complex than we think, but more complex than we can think.” – Ecologist Frank Egler

“You don’t have to see the ocean to protect it.” – Founder of the Inland Ocean Coalition, Vicki Nichols Goldstein