Promoting Professional Development and Best Practice in EE
Niria Alicia Garcia
Roles at NAAEE:30 Under 30
Oakland, CA, United States SEE OTHER BIOS HERE
Niria Alicia works to awaken the remembrance that we are all connected and all have a responsibility to care for the land.
Tell us about yourself!
For the past 4 years, I have been one of the lead organizers of Run4Salmon, an indigenous women-led 300-mile prayerful journey and campaign in the state of California. In the face of climate change, ecological collapse, and mass extinction, Run4Salmon is designed to raise awareness about the importance of protecting waters, restoring endangered salmon runs, and revitalizing indigenous lifeways. The prayer run and year-long campaign is meant to inspire people of diverse backgrounds and ages to envision, pray for, and take action to achieve complete ecological restoration of rivers that can support all life forms in surviving and adapting to climate change.
This prayer run began in the fall of 2016 with a handful of people, and over the past three years the run has grown to a following of more than 14,000 people on social media. In 2017, I also led a successful GoFundMe campaign to raise funds to move forward with the salmon restoration project of the Winnemem Wintu. The campaign was successful, and through leveraging strategic partnerships spread awareness across the nation about the need for ecological protection and the value of indigenous-led species restoration.
What inspired you to become a champion for environmental education?
It is my responsibility to tend to the lands, waters, and animals that make my life possible. I come from a lineage of farmworkers and land defenders, and as a seed keeper it is my responsibility to make sure that our rivers are cared for in an indigenous way, as they had been for thousands of years before colonization.
Without water, earth, wind and fire we have nothing. It is foundational to everything and somehow our society seems to have forgotten that. To me, environmental education isn’t just education, it is awakening the remembrance that we are all connected and that we all have a responsibility to care for the land. Environmental education is remembering that we are all children of the Earth and we must know the seasons, the plants, and the names of the rivers that feed us so we can take care of them for our lifetime and for the next seven generations to come.
What advice would you give to the next generation of leaders that are looking to bring about positive change in their communities through EE?
You are your ancestors’ dream come true. Thousands of grandmothers and grandfathers prayed for your existence, and you must also pray and protect that which gives us all life for the generations to come. Listen to your elders, the wise ones who have carried out this work for decades, and don’t be afraid to dream and visualize a better future. It is all possible.
What keeps you motivated, inspired, or hopeful for the future?
Every time I see a flower bloom and the smile of a child, I am reminded of why I do the work that I do. We are working to protect the light of joy in the eyes of our children. We are working to protect the smell of blooming flowers, the sounds of buzzing bees; we are working tirelessly to restore and protect our rivers, our mountains, and our people. I stay strong in this commitment by knowing that the love for Mother Earth exists in all of us, and we must continue to pray and awaken that love in everyone's hearts.
What pro-environmental behavior do you think would make a big impact if everyone in the world started doing it?
If we all started looking with the eyes of our hearts towards Creation, recognizing the spirit inside and the love that we all are, we would change the way we walk on this Earth. Life is sacred, and we all are blessed to be a part of this beautiful existence. If we recognized what a miracle our life and all the life that surrounds us is, our Mother Earth would heal exponentially.