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Thursday, February 18, 2016

Continuing the Conservation Adventure: Ariel West joins Washington Wild!

I am thrilled to be joining Washington Wild as the new administrative assistant and grateful for the warm welcome from the organization! My interest in conservation work really began when I decided to spend a year in China teaching English and gain a better understanding of the world outside of the U.S. When I first arrived in Beijing the heavy fog that surrounded me limited my vision to a 10 foot radius. I remember thinking that the bad weather was just a fluke and that it would clear in the morning, hoping it was not an omen for the year to come. The next morning I stepped outside of the hotel and was completely dumbstruck. The fog had not dissipated, nor did it seem that it had any intention to. After speaking to the breakfast vendor making my baozi I soon learned that this was not a symptom of bad weather, but rather the daily smog that hung over Beijing. Needless to say I was shocked. The smog, roughly the equivalent of smoking upwards of 20 cigarettes a day, was a part of life for the city and face masks were daily attire.

Throughout my year there I witnessed countless incidents of extreme pollution and severe environmental degradation. Before I could actually drink the water in my apartment it had to be boiled and brushing my teeth was a task accomplished with bottled water. As an avid runner, hiker, backpacker, and general lover of the outdoors, I was devastated that checking the air quality index was a constant barrier in my ability to do the things I loved.  The few hikes that I went on outside the city showed little concern for the once pristine natural beauty of the area and the trails and landscapes were littered with old trash and cigarette butts. With new perspective on the potential consequences of human impact on the environment, I returned to the states to begin my graduate degree at the University of Washington.

Moving to Seattle was a breath of fresh air, literally. I was inspired by the people and communities here that were so passionate and committed to keeping their state pristine and going the extra mile to advocate for the environment. I started having conversations with peers about the efforts in Washington State and realized I wanted to be a part of this effort. The work that Washington Wild does is inspiring and I am so excited to be a part of it. Working to protect wilderness areas and water sources can ensure that the experience I had in China can never be part of the Washington State experience. Through enacting legislation, informing the public, finding non-traditional allies, and working with an already environmentally-minded community, Washington Wild has made a huge impact on Washington State. My hope for the future working with this organization is that my own love for the outdoors can be passed on and preserved for future generations to enjoy in its purest and intended form.