As the flames ravage the Amazon rainforest and its people suffer from the environmental tragedy, Melissa Romero can’t help thinking that this event could have been avoided with the right environmental policies in place to protect our planet’s natural resources. This prominent example--which is a result of deforestation and slash-and-burn farming techniques used to clear land for agriculture-- illustrates how environmental policies, or the lack thereof, can have a global reach. In California, the process of making environmental policies to mitigate issues like drought, waste, wildfires, air and water pollution and waste management, to name a few, is complicated by conflicting interests and pressures.
That’s why it is so critical to have people like CSULB alum Melissa Romero engaging in the environmental policy conversation in California and taking on a major role in the environmental policy process as a staffer with the California League of Conservation Voters (CLCV).
She recognizes that policies that protect our natural resources are not only needed to make our environment more resilient and healthy, but it is also an ethical and humane obligation to create protections for everything from the air we breathe, the water we drink, the living conditions that affect everyone's daily life.
When Melissa Romero transferred to Cal State Long Beach, she wasn’t exactly sure where her career would take her but she jumped right in, immersing herself in reviving the Environmental Science & Policy Club and exploring her interest in environmental sustainability through her studies.
Romero has nothing but praise for the Environmental Science & Policy Department, where she says she benefited from the staff and faculty’s dedication to providing students with a foundation to pursue a wide variety of environmental-related careers through a unique, interdisciplinary approach to topics ranging from climate change to economics to geography. Professor Monica Argandona’s class on the California deserts and their biological importance inspired Romero’s passion to protect natural resources and landscapes.
Her time at The Beach also gave her connections that have opened the doors that have helped propel her career forward.
At the encouragement of Professor Argandona, Romero participated in the San Gabriel Mountains Leadership Academy where she helped organize an event in Claremont with California Wilderness Coalition for the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, a landmark conservation bill to protect pristine wildlands for future generations.
During her undergraduate experience, she also served as the ASI Sustainability Assistant under Sustain U, which gave her a small scale look at how government and bureaucracy work. It amazed her how even a small student government could have a big impact by implementing policies that affect the environment and quality of life. This opened her eyes to the potential for using policies and regulations to make positive changes on a scale much larger than a campus.
Romero graduated in 2015 with a degree in Environmental Science & Policy and a better understanding of how state and federal government directly affect environmental health and people’s lives. Her academic and campus and community leadership experiences also helped her to understand the role government plays in addressing climate change and other environmental issues. It also helped her to earn a place on the team at non-profit environmental research and advocacy organization Californians Against Waste (CAW) as her first job out of college.
At CAW, Romero advocated for recycling and waste reduction policies in California and gained lobbying and public speaking experience--skills she relies heavily on in her current role with CLCV.
As the Legislative Affairs Manager at CLCV, Romero takes on numerous responsibilities to help CLCV’s mission to create more resilient California communities. She does this by advocating for environmental champions, advancing critical priorities, and holding policymakers accountable. She takes an active role in the policymaking conversation by advising legislators on the types of policies that can create healthier communities and stronger protection of natural resources based on environmental research.
When it comes to bold environmental policies, Romero has found that many legislators shy away from offering support, which may be due to the influence of industries that profit from the way things are now.
For instance, there is a bill circulating at this moment that would reduce packaging waste and single-use plastic by 75% by 2030 and require products to be recyclable, compostable, or reusable. The bill is getting a lot of push back from industries that benefit financially from those products.
Romero is concerned about the negative environmental implications of policies, or shortage of policies, that lack backbone and enforcement in protecting our natural resources.
“We are going to experience extreme weather events, drought, we are going to see famine in different parts of the world where people don’t have the money to move somewhere else,” commented Romero on the state of our environment if positive environmental policy falters.
In light of the urgent need for more sustainable policy--in all environmental, economic, and social aspects--Romero is passionate about advancing influential policies that address climate change in an intersectional way and help a lot of people.
Romero takes pride in giving back to her community and encourages others to do the same. She was involved with Zero Waste USA--a group that puts on an annual conference for young people about zero waste lifestyles, zero waste policymaking, and zero waste careers-- and 350 Sacramento -- an event to get people involved in advocating for climate policies.
As rewarding as her environmental endeavors are, she stresses the importance of self-care along the journey to avoid burning out and to be able to continue doing what she loves to do.
“Celebrate when you have a win,” said Romero. Winning means something different to everyone, but something to learn from Romero is that investing in yourself, and in groups and efforts you are proud of, is a way you can live a fulfilling and meaningful life.
- Vote! Your vote and voice matters.
- Make officials accountable. Tell them when they do something you like or don’t like. Remember, they work for you.
- Follow organizations like California League of Conservation Voters, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Californians Against Waste to stay updated.
- Give back to your community. Actions such as advocating for rent control, restoring a local park, or helping to maintain a community garden goes a long way.
- Be kind to yourself. Make self-care a priority.