Interview with Vicki Goldstein
Founder & Director @ Inland Ocean Coalition

The vision is to support citizens and communities to take an active role in improving the impacts and relationships between the inland, the coastal, and the ocean. Growing interest from inland communities in the work being done in Colorado prompted the transition to the Inland Ocean Coalition, which now supports eight chapters nationally and one in Canada. The IOC strives to increase the capacity and leadership capabilities of the chapters to help maximize impact locally and nationally. The network of chapters operates independently in local communities on local issues.
Hi Vicki! Could you please introduce the Inland Ocean Coalition and how it grew out of your work with the Colorado Ocean Coalition?
Hello! The Inland Ocean Coalition is an organization that's all about creating community in the middle of the country. And we started out with the Colorado Ocean Coalition in 2011 after we made a family move to Colorado and I started thinking, "Do you really have to see the ocean to protect it?" And the answer is clearly no. So we started working with our community doing a number of events holding blue drinks and really getting people together with the idea that we can work on policy issues, cultural shifts around plastic pollution and as we were doing so other people around the country started to want to create their own inland ocean chapter. And we did. So in 2017 we rebranded to be the inland ocean coalition and now we have 10 chapters all working together as a network to really take this idea that we can protect oceans even though we can't see them.
What are some of the main programs and projects you've implemented with the Inland Ocean Coalition thus far? How do you test new initiatives?
We have some really fun projects and programs that we've developed and that we're working on. One is our Ocean Rangers training program. And with that we are training our volunteers how to work with our legislative leaders, how to set up meetings with your senators and congressmen around some of the key issues that we are working on. So we have a program called Ocean Protection Program and this year we are addressing offshore oil development and seismic testing because what's happening now under the current administration is that they want to open up 90 percent of our ocean to oil development so there are problems with underwater sound, problems with putting in oil rigs and of course there's also problems with potential spills. So training our volunteers to address those issues. We also have a Watershed Health program. And we do a number of creek cleanups. We talk with people about the impacts of our personal beauty care products including the micro beads and items and also chemicals in sunscreens including the oxy benzo. So what we do inland. Choices that we make actually impact the ocean because it flows into our streams and creeks and then eventually the ocean. Then our plastic pollution program and that's about how do we reduce single use plastics bags, bottles et cetera. And then we have a Suck the Straws Out program where we are encouraging Ski resorts, Bars coffee shops and restaurants to say no to single use straws. So all of our chapters around the country are incorporating these programs. Helping to get communities really involved and engaged in local issues as well as some of our national big policy issues that we're addressing in the United States.
What are some of the unexpected challenges that come with promoting ocean awareness throughout inland regions?
There were some unexpected challenges after I started the Colorado Ocean Coalition and then the Inland Ocean Coalition and one of those challenges is funding. People. Foundations. Agencies, etc. want to fund Ocean conservation initiatives on the coast or at the ocean. And I thought, "Wow, Well we're getting people throughout the middle of the country involved engaged it would be easy to find". But I found that was a big challenge. And then I think the second challenge is because we're so unique and we have so much fun and we engage with so many people. Partnerships that there's really too many opportunities to really take advantage of. So we have people coming to us on our local level and then a national level and we don't always have the capacity to respond and really do a good job. In following through. We love it. We use lots of volunteers. We engage with lots of volunteers and just having the capacity to work with those individuals and keep the momentum going is a challenge. So, I guess it's a good challenge. Not enough money and way too much excitement and energy. So we're always figuring out how do we put together events. How do we bring grants. How do we find corporate sponsors that will actually help us do a better job in really engaging communities in ocean conservation initiatives. And it's important because the oceans are in trouble and we have a certain amount of time to really get things turned around. And the more people involved the better.
What are some of the ways in which you foster the general public's connection to the ocean? What are some of the educational programs and
I think the way to foster a connection to the ocean is to have engagement locally. So that's what we really do. We create community locally through a number of events and activities. We put together creek cleanups. We have blue drinks, different socials. We show movies. We work in schools and it's all about getting people connected. What can we do in our backyard. What can we do in our own homes. So a lot of that is not just national policy issues but it really brings it back into a local community framework. So for example we're putting together a blue drinks with one of our local restaurants in a couple of weeks. And we encourage our chapters to do that. People come in we'll have Hors d'oeuvres, have drinks. We often will have a speaker for just a few minutes talking about some key issues and how people can engage. Whether it's through our the straws our program or joining a creek cleanup or even setting up appointments with our local legislative leaders. So I think the real key is connection fun and opportunities for individual engagement.
What's next for your work with Inland Ocean Coalition? What are the main programs and partnerships you'll be focusing on throughout the year?
This is a big year for us. So what we're trying to do is a couple of things, we would like to strengthen the 10 existing chapters that we have giving them tools, providing toolkits and really help to get them engaged and give them the materials and the support they need and then secondly we want to expand the number of chapters that we have. So the idea is to get more people involved more boots on the ground and more community engagement around ocean protection throughout the middle of the country. And then one big event we are involved in right now is the Inland Ocean Action Summit which will be held in Dallas Texas as part of Earth X. And we are inviting all of our chapter leads and our volunteers and encouraging other people who want to start chapters or who want to just have more engagement around ocean connection to come to that summit on April 27, 2019 in Dallas and you can find out information around that event. On the Earth X Website. So there is a lot of challenges we have for ocean protection on policy levels engagement levels and it's going to be a lot of fun really getting more people involved and making that connection that you don't have to see the ocean to protect it.