Community Profile Part 1: Protecting the Atlantic Coast from Offshore Drilling

by Mary Sweeters

November 30, 2017

This is the first in a series highlighting individuals in coastal US communities who are working to protect their coasts and the climate from offshore oil drilling.

In October 2017, Greenpeace’s ship, the Arctic Sunrise, toured the East Coast under the theme “Protecting our Communities, Coasts, and Climate”. Along the way, we met local individuals, communities, and organizations who are fighting to protect the Atlantic coast from the threat of offshore oil drilling. In Norfolk, VA, Quan Baker is among those fighting for the health and safety of her community and we got a chance to talk with her about that.

Tell us about yourself.

I was born and raised in Norfolk, Va. I am the second oldest of 13 on my father’s side and the oldest of 5 on my mother’s side, making 16 siblings. So needless to say, but I’ve always been a responsible person. I attended Granby High through the IB program and graduated with the IB certificate. I have also always been a very compassionate and empathetic person. During high school I was the president of the global activist’s club at Granby, which brought awareness of global humanitarian issues to our school. However, upon graduating, I decided that I would make a career out of one of my biggest hobbies, cooking. It was a hobby my grandmother and I shared. So I attended Johnson and Wales University to study baking/pastry arts and business management. Once I finished all of my culinary classes I became homesick and returned home to finish studying business management.

What motivated you to work on climate change?

When finishing my studies at home, I stopped at a table by a local Sierra Club organizer who alerted me to all the local climate change issues we were facing in Hampton Roads. By this time, I had already become conscious of a lot of the social and environmental issues going on around the country. Being a native of Norfolk, the intersectionality of the many environmental, social, and economic issues we face became abundantly clear as soon as I learned of the issues at that Sierra CLub table. I learned of coal ash dumping and coal dust pollution. I realized majority of coal trains ran across minority or low-income communities, communities where a lot of my family and friends reside. I learned of coastal flooding which impacts everyone, rich or poor, living in Hampton Roads. I also learned of the two major pipelines (The ACP and MVP) and of proposed offshore drilling off the Virginia coast. Once you’ve researched enough on climate change, it’s easy to see that all of these dirty fossil fuel projects would only increase the effects of coastal flooding putting Hampton Roads at further risk of being displaced and losing our homes. Learning of all these issues in my own community spurred me to act on climate in order to keep my home safe.

What does Chesapeake Climate Action do? What’s your role there?

What does climate change mean for your community?

What do you think about the Trump administration’s efforts to expand offshore oil drilling, including in the Atlantic? What could this mean for Virginia communities?

What goes you hope in the fight to protect the coast, your community, and the climate?

Mary Sweeters

By Mary Sweeters

Mary Sweeters is a Climate and Energy Campaigner with Greenpeace USA. She works to fight the undue influence of the oil industry in solidarity with communities affected by oil extraction, pollution, and climate change, and to advocate for a just transition to a clean energy economy. She is from Sonoma, California.

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