By Eva Ryan, University of Wisconsin-Madison
I recently interviewed Natalie Chin, Wisconsin Sea Grant’s climate and tourism outreach specialist. In light of Sea Grant’s 50th anniversary, Chin gave me insight into some of the ways her specialty has changed in the past 50 years, and how she hopes to see it progress in the next 50.
Chin connects science regarding climate and tourism with key audiences not only in Wisconsin, but also nationally. “With my work, I hope to improve lives while also protecting the environment,” said Chin. Some of her focuses include community outreach, research and other administrative duties.
When asked about changes in the fields of climate and tourism, data was one specific detail that stuck out to Chin. “I feel like the amount of data we have is growing exponentially,” she said, “and also our understanding of the environment and how processes work, how things fit together and general advancements of science.”
Chin works to navigate the most pertinent and accurate climate information to pass along to the tourism industry. This process isn’t always straightforward because of long-term and short-term uncertainties in climate data. Nevertheless, it is important to sort through misinformation and dated information so she can provide the most accurate facts.
Chin also touched on the intersection of scientific discovery coupled with people and policymaking. While scientific fact is objective, the way in which we implement that information into society can be influenced by our values. There is a continuous need for balance between making good scientific decisions and thinking about the impacts those decisions have on people. In addition to changing societal values, “this desire to keep advancing and gaining knowledge is something that’s driving science and discovery,” Chin said.
Looking into the next 50 years of her specialty, Chin focused on social and environmental justice. “I hope that we continue to value the voices of the most vulnerable or marginalized, especially when it comes to climate change. Those are the people who are going to be impacted the most,” Chin said. Bringing her own values to the table, Chin expressed the wish that no one should feel disposable, forgotten or unseen.
Chin noted a project focused on climate migration that she had been working on, thinking about people who live on coasts. These are people who will be disproportionally affected by sea-level rise but perhaps have neither the ability nor the desire to move because of a deep connection to place. This is just one example of how climate change and environmental justice intersect. Environmental racism in America and across the world is one perspective on the issue, which has economic and health implications.
Hopefully, in the next 50 years we will see major improvements in America’s climate action and policy. And with people like Natalie Chin working toward this goal, I think the future is looking bright.