By Tara O’Neil
At AWC-SB’s event on March 8th, Becca Claassen enlightened the audience on the importance of speaking out about the issue of global climate change. As the recipient of 2016’s Lois Phillips Founders Award, Becca told the inspiring story of her journey as a lifelong environmental advocate.
In addition to the AWC-SB Founder’s Award, Ashley Kruzel represented Das Williams to award Becca with a certificate of recognition from the California State Assembly.
The night began with a reminder of why AWC is an important community of professionals. AWC-SB President, Dr. Minette Riordan said, “Women who communicate are very accessible.” This brought light to the Association’s true purpose: to provide a space for women to not only meet new professionals in communication fields for networking events, but also to support one another as they develop professional goals.
In addition, Lois Phillips expressed her belief that “there’s value in talking to people about changes happening in a different sector.”
Becca Claassen then came to the podium to discuss her life as an activist as well as her views on climate action. At only 7 years old Becca became aware of environmental destruction after learning about the greenhouse effect. She studied Earth Science and engineering in college. She became a chiropractor, believed that would be her professional life. But after giving birth to her daughter Hazel, she realized the urgency of climate change’s impact on future generations. Becoming a mom, she said, was the tipping point that caused her to put her career as a chiropractor on hold. She went all out for climate change advocacy, for the most part as a full-time volunteer.
Reticent as a child, Becca claimed public speaking didn’t come naturally to her. She credits her outspoken advocacy to the energy she found in herself years ago while she marched against the bombing of Iraq.
Since then, she has used her momentum to create local chapters of national organizations and help others get involved in environmental protection. “action is the antidote to despair,” she said. Throughout her environmentalist career, Becca discovered we have all the technology we need to make renewable energy possible. The only roadblock is lack of political will. Of the fight against fossil fuel she said, “If we are able to unify our movements, we can win.”
In light of International Women’s Day, Becca said, “I want to lead by example for my daughter Hazel.” While she navigated a male-dominated field of scientists and engineers, Becca found they wrote her off as if “uneducated” on complex topics. Male associates often told her “it’s complicated” when she asked bold, scientific question. She states that she has since learned to speak with authority on topics where she is knowledgeable. Becca added that women are valuable in environmental discussions, as they tend to work more collaboratively and present a different perspective.
In closing, Becca urged AWC-SB members to start a conversation on climate justice. She encouraged us to look into the many ways one can get involved from voting to environmental rallying to joining 350sb.org. Anyone can volunteer their time to campaign on this issue, spread the word, or make the switch to an electric car!