Climate change threatens marginalized coastlines and artisanal fishers. Emi Koch enables young people to start turning the tide.
Editor's Note: Right now, individuals around the world are taking decisive action to address climate change. Through a collaboration with Climate Changers, Outrider is sharing examples of people stepping forward to make a difference. Their inspiring stories can ignite more of us to take meaningful action. Emi Koch casts her net of knowledge and passion into the youthful waters of positive change and resiliency. Her story is about making waves that call vital attention to the most vulnerable. Outrider invites you to get to know these Climate Changers and see how you can be part of the solution, too.
I agree with Heraclitus of Ephesus, a Greek philosopher of antiquity, who asserted that in life, “The only thing constant is change”. We human animals are hardwired to adapt with instincts that served our ancient ancestors to act steps ahead of extinction. So, why do we hate change?
Hate is a strong word but largely, we tend to resist it. Breaking ties with a known reality is scary because it’s secure and familiar. Change means wading into the unknown and charting new waters. We only do this when our familiar reality is no longer a comfortable one. Research provides insight that our human brain evolved to respond to immediate threats but acts aloof towards steadily escalating warning signs...until they amount to a seriously foreboding danger.
I work with the communities where climate change is the immediate threat—the foreboding danger knocking on their doorsteps. Rising sea levels, decimated fish stocks, intensifying storms, floods, and ocean acidification cripple small-scale fishing villages highly reliant on biomass economies. A changing climate and collapsing ocean are immediate threats, yet artisanal fishers have little to no information concerning drivers of these dangers or adaption to them. They also have little agency to reach an audience with influence for their perspectives to be heard.
We change perceptions in artisanal fisheries that they are indeed capable and have a right to share their stories before they disappear; why their human rights, cultural heritage, and healthy oceans matter. We use surfing, storytelling, and mindfulness as tools in an effort to build socio-ecological resilience in youth, engaging the generation who will inevitably face climate change and ocean degradation’s impacts and consequences on their livelihoods.
A globally changing climate and collapsing ocean will be critical, if not the main threats in exacerbating violent conflict moving forward along the world’s coastlines. Violence is the tragic expression of unmet needs. If small-scale fishing communities are able to communicate their needs on a local, regional, and hopefully, global level, they are more likely to influence policy direction and safeguards so that young people in these areas are less likely to be radicalized to use violence as a tool to express themselves.
I am the founder of Beyond the Surface International, a grassroots nonprofit I started when I was nineteen in an effort to work in solidarity with marginalized coastal communities. My nonprofit helps establish their sustainable futures by providing support and a platform for fishers to champion their voices and express their needs, dreams, and ideas. I'm also a graduate student at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California at San Diego, researching how humanitarian security policies and strategies for building environmental resilience can join as a hybrid approach to create system-level change as conflict hotspots ignite along coastlines and at sea.
I am very humbled and excited to join this incredible network of Climate Changers!
Emi Koch is the founder of Beyond the Surface International.