Professor Visits Arctic Circle in Environmental Justice Mission
Educational Leadership professor Lisa Collins headed to the arctic circle on 7/22/22 to take part in Operation ROAM, an environmental leadership project founded by the Portland-based organization Love is King. While there, Collins will visit the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and hear from the indigenous Gwichʼin tribe regarding the ongoing battle to protect their lands from oil drilling. Collins will be joined on the expedition by other local BIPOC leaders.
A 2019 article by Alaska Public Media states that until recently, the residents of 15 Gwich’in villages scattered across northeast Alaska and northwest Canada were on the winning side of the drawn-out political battle in Washington, D.C. over oil development in the refuge. They helped fight repeated attempts in Congress to legalize drilling in the refuge’s 1.6 million-acre coastal plain. Then, in late 2017, Congress opened the coastal plain to oil development. So Gwich’in tribes are now taking unprecedented steps to try to protect a resource they call vital to their culture and survival.
Founded by Chad Brown in 2020, Love is King Operation ROAM (Rapid Ongoing Advance Missions) provides an opportunity for BIPOC leaders to step into the realm of public land and freshwater conservation efforts and disrupt the historical system that allowed BIPOC voices of not being invited to government spaces where the decisions were made about land and wildlife and indigenous conservation policies.
Each year the selected BIPOC leaders travel to an environmentally threatened and fragile location to experience and live on the land for two weeks, learn the threats the land is facing, and meet with members of indigenous communities and various government and local stakeholders living there. After returning home, they use their voices, talents, and skills to speak up and fight for the land, its inhabitants, and its wildlife by creating projects, blogs, and webinars; meeting with members of Congress; and using social media in creative ways to elevate their voices of advocacy and influence while holding space for diverse representation in conservation and policy efforts for public lands, freshwater, and wildlife.