Fawn Sharp

Leadership Highlight Interviews

Can you give a bit of information on your background and why you decided to be a part of Earth Day Northwest 2020?

I grew up on the Quinault reservation and finished high school when I was 15. After getting my bachelors and law degrees, I came home at 25 and began my law career serving as a trial court judge.

11 years into my legal career, I was asked by an elder to serve in the elected office. Having never held a political position, I was reluctant to accept. It wasn’t what I had perceived my future and career to be – but an elder explained to me that I would really be running to be a leader, not a politician.

I was elected in 2006, and I’m now in my 5th term and going into my 14th year of public service. Throughout the years, I’ve become very familiar with climate change and climate policy.

Over the years, Quinault has led an aggressive climate agenda (including the recent I-1631 campaign).

It’s frustrating because now and even in the early years of laying out issues around climate change, it was difficult to engage in climate policy – and this is an issue facing our entire generation. Climate change is the greatest challenge of our generation, and it’s going to require us to work together. It needs to be strategic and inclusive – which is why I decided to be a part of Earth Day Northwest 2020.

What would a successful Earth Day 2020 look like from your perspective? What are the most important issues to address?

Inclusivity.

We’re already seeing young people take to the streets, and there are so many people in public service who are working to advance climate policy – teachers, scientists and elders in the community. We can and already are starting to come together.

A successful Earth Day will drive on the strength we receive from our communities. It will have many faces from every sector – from our youngest to our oldest, and it will bring together the passion from the many sectors throughout our community.

It would be incredible to witness such broad inclusivity, and I’m confident its well within our reach.

We are using the phrase ‘Earth Day Our Way’ to capture that we are doing Earth Day differently – in a way that is inclusive all people, and that meets people where they are.  How can we best do that?

Creating an Earth Day 2020 that is truly inclusive of all people will require hard work and research. It means identifying a number of audiences, researching each of those channels and venues and finding the best voice and message to reach each different audience. For young people – it might be social media. For students – it might be their colleges and universities.

True inclusivity will require many fine-tuned messages that meet people where they are – that speak to their interests, passions and challenges – and inspire them to act.

What does ‘Earth Day Our Way’ mean for you and the Quinault community?

We are deeply humbled by the gifts that the have been given to us. Among those gifts is our pristine location – our lakes, rivers, and absolutely stunning beaches. These are gifts that we recognize need to be protected for future generations.

Not only is it humbling, it’s also daunting to recognize the fight we have to successfully steward our land in a way that protects it from outside factors like the fossil fuel industry. These forces threaten our resources and way of life – resources and traditions that are part of who we are as the Quinault community.

While these issues are daunting, we also recognize there are other communities with shared values. Many other like-minded people realize that we need to protect this land, not exploit it for short-sighted profit. There is tremendous opportunity to come together with one voice to celebrate the natural world and to find the will to continue this fight.

In today’s political landscape, it’s easy to become vulnerable to apathy and negativity. Look at what happened with 1-1631. Big oil spent millions to kill the initiative, but we can come together to continue fighting this fight.

For us, Earth Day Our Way means coming together with other communities, and unifying the strength and passion we all share to advance good polices for the natural world.