Building Our Own Table: Stacey Alvarez de la Campa
Meet the founder of Worldwide Sustainability Warriors
Here’s the next instalment of the “Building Our Own Table” series, where I profile Black founders. I’ve known Stacey Alvarez de la Campa personally for many years now, and she brings fire and purpose to anything she undertakes. So, when I heard she had founded an organization focused on sustainability, I knew she had to be included here. Please, meet Stacey.
Stacey, tell me briefly about your background prior to founding Worldwide Sustainability Warriors
It is actually hard to delineate a "before" and an "after" of Worldwide Sustainability Warriors, because the ethos at the heart of it is so much a part of how I live, and my world view! But I will do my best :-)
I was born in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and moved to Barbados when I was a little girl. I attended Queen’s College, one of the best secondary schools in the Caribbean, and which had a strong tradition as being an all-girls’ school…I, however, was not very traditional!
As a young child I developed a fervent interest in environmental and human/animal rights issues – I was a member of Amnesty International, Animal Defenders and Greenpeace. I was always rescuing hurt animals and adopting stray cats - at one point I had 27 cats!!! I was a bit of a loner, and would spend hours going on walks, or staring out over the expanse of canefields and the ocean, and feeling the whispering song of nature coursing through my being.
I continued the trend of breaking the mold when, after high school, I applied to be an exchange student. I then went to Denmark, and studied Nordic Literature at Midtfyns High School in the town of Ringe, and the University of Odense. I had travelled with my parents to the more typical destinations of Caribbean families, i.e. neighbouring islands, the U.S. and Canada.
However, my trip to Denmark was a turning point in many ways. This time of my life was a pivotal, and represented a deep awakening:
I gained an even deeper appreciation of the landscape through the changing seasons;
I experienced a radically different educational system;
I fell even more in love with Nature, and recycling became a way of life; and
I experienced to social injustice of overt racism.
Most importantly, I gained lifelong friends, learned a new language and culture; I also learned to embrace the journey, and that, no matter how seemingly different people are in terms of background, ethnicity, economic status, or age, we all share the love of connecting to each other and to our natural world! I was shaping a sense of self that was radically removed from the paradigms that shaped the my existence in the Caribbean.
The return to Barbados to continue my studies was quite an adjustment – inasmuch as my experience changed me so much for the better, I was regarded as even less conventional than before…my concern for the environment and sustainable living seemed out of touch with mainstream sentiments.
I continued to embrace my chosen path, and I completed two more degrees, one in Literature and another in Law, at The University of The West Indies. I also continued my pursuit of raising awareness about the environment and climate change, with particular emphasis on the youth. I have over two decades of experience in teaching at the secondary school level, and I continue my activism through teaching. In addition,
I convened a National Dialogue as part of the UN Food Systems Summit Dialogue series, and focused on exploring the issue of food security in the region
I completed training with the International Ocean Climate School, and the courses focused on “Ocean, Coast and Climate: The Urgency and Exigency of Literacy”
I have helped to raise awareness regarding the importance of decreasing the dependence on fossil fuels by signing and circulating The Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty
I have been trained as a Climate Leader by the Environmental and Climate Justice Global Training Programme organized by The Climate Reality Project.
I am contracted by the University of Strathclyde’s One Ocean Hub to lead their “Ocean Explorers Project”, which seeks to raise awareness amongst primary school children about the effects of climate change on ocean habitats.
I hosted an online Conservation Camp with Omnis Education, and conducted online courses on ecosystems, biodiversity, marine conservation, atmospheric pollution and renewable energy
I presented at the Benguele Current Convention Conference in 2021 on the occasion of World Oceans Day, and participated in the inaugural World Sustainability Conference, where I presented on the role of youth in sustainable agricultural practices.
I was also invited to speak at a roundtable discussion exploring intergenerational equity for Climate Law and Governance Day at COP26, and completed my specialisation in Climate Law and Governance with the Centre for International Sustainable Development Law.
Give me the elevator pitch for Worldwide Sustainability Warriors
I genuinely believe that the best way to inspire action is to focus on hope, and the knowledge that, collectively, every individual effort can make a difference, and help make this world a better place. With that in mind, I took a leap of faith, built my wings, and in 2021 I founded Worldwide Sustainability Warriors as a way to share knowledge about ways that we can integrate sustainability into our everyday lives. My mission is to form a movement that inspires each of us to act, and enjoy the fruits of our collective efforts to honour Mother Nature.
And in more detail?
I would like to create curricula and educational programs that focus on climate justice, ocean conservation, indigenous foundations of the concept of sustainability, climate financing, sustainable agricultural practices, and food security. I also organise social media campaigns to raise awareness about the aforementioned topics. Some of the services provided by Worldwide Sustainability Warriors include academic research, speaking engagements, and content creation.
What inequity or issue are you trying to redress/address, and why is this important?
I think that too many BIPOC voices have been disenfranchised from the very soil that is under siege from the ravages of climate change, and these voices do not have adequate representation. The problem lies in the fact that many people get squeamish and uncomfortable when terms like "racism" and "white supremacy" are used in conversations which centre around climate change, and this discomfort needs to be embraced. Because the way that the effects of climate change and pollution have disproportionate effects on communities of colour is a textbook example of white supremacy, and deeply engrained institutionalised, intergenerational prejudices.
It is clear that it is the people of colour who inhabit the Global South who are most affected by the climate crisis, even though their carbon footprints are literally a fraction of those of developed nations. This is important because it is the tragic history of structural inequalities and unequal power relationships that MUST be acknowledged to effectively combat the climate crisis.
Another aspect of the inequity that I am trying to address is the white supremacist underpinnings of conservation organisations such as the Sierra Club, whose founder, John Muir, was notoriously racist. The issue that many people of colour face when it comes to seeing nature and the environment as a source of peace and solace, is that these spaces were not, and some might argue, are STILL not, safe for black bodies. Environmental organisations are still startlingly lacking in diversity in the composition of their management, and this needs to change.
This is important, because it is part of a long-overdue process of shifting the victim narrative that is used to delineate the effects of climate change on people of the Global South, and BIPOC. While we must be aware of the disproportionate impacts on these communities, this awareness should form part of a continuity of empowerment, and stories of innovation, resilience and triumph also need to be highlighted. That is another one of the reasons that I founded Worldwide Sustainability Warriors: to highlight the unsung heroes of climate change in minority communities, and create positive icons for future generations to aspire to.
How’s it going? What has the response been?
It has been quite good in terms of getting followers on LinkedIn, but I am now ready to level up and spread the word about the services that I offer! There needs to be a better range of representation in the climate and sustainability space of BIPOC voices, so I am ready to create that change!
What’s next for Worldwide Sustainability Warriors?
In September of 2021 I was accepted in the prestigious Anant Fellowship for Climate Action, a unique one-year immersive global programme for climate change solutionaries. I want to use the skills I hone in this fellowship to solidify my expertise in holistic a way as possible, and start to intensify the marketing of my skills and services. I also want to incorporate Worldwide Sustainability Warriors as an NGO to facilitate future growth!
In relation to racism, what’s your vision for the future?
My vision for the future regarding racism is that we all come to recognise the necessity of deepening and understanding of how systemic and engrained the problem really is, and that it will not be solved by glibly toxic positivity. I also envision a more nuanced appreciation of the pitfalls of performative allyship, a topic I covered in my article entitled Racism And The Cargo Cult Of White Allyship: If It Doesn't Feel Like Work, It's Not Actually Working.
Thank you, Stacey. I’m so glad you’re leading the charge and, especially, highlighting the concerns of small island states.
Folks, please connect with Stacey on her LinkedIn profile, on the Worldwide Sustainability Warriors LinkedIn and Facebook pages, and on her website.
Thanks for reading,
© Sharon Hurley Hall, 2022. All Rights Reserved.
Background image courtesy of Getty Images - Colors Hunter - Chasseur de Couleurs