WWF's Grace Lee on the connections between conservation and activism

Grace Lee holding up 2-finger peace sign

Nature was a big part of my upbringing. My parents emigrated from South Korea in the late ’80s, and being outdoors was a source of comfort and familiarity to them that they passed on to me. Later, when I studied business in college, I focused on marketing and communication design, which examines how messaging—both visual and verbal—can influence people’s decisions, whether it’s buying a product, taking up a cause, or figuring out what to cook for dinner. When I started at WWF in 2015, climate activism was finally starting to enter mainstream conversations on a more regular basis, and I knew I wanted to contribute.

Outside the bubble

When I joined WWF’s Activism and Outreach team, I was a little self-conscious that I didn’t have a ton of experience in nonprofits or activism. Now I understand that part of what makes WWF effective is the diversity of strengths and perspectives that so many of us bring to our roles. Our varied personal and professional backgrounds can be strong assets when we reach out to those outside the bubble of environmental activism.

WWF doesn’t just partner with other NGOs. We work with corporations, high school students, academics, tech companies—the list goes on. My job is to figure out how to engage with different kinds of people about the breadth of WWF’s work—from climate change to wildlife trafficking to plastic pollution and beyond. Environmental issues affect people and communities in so many different ways, and it’s important to learn about these differences so that we can figure out the best ways to help amplify their stories.

Across the aisle

My team works closely with our Policy and Government Affairs team because many of the key decision-makers we’re trying to influence are government officials. Some may believe the misconception that because we’re a conservation organization we only work with people who hold certain political ideologies, but that’s not true. As a nonpartisan organization, WWF works with partners and champions across the political spectrum. As politicized as some topics have become, addressing critical conservation issues still requires engaging a diversity of voices and perspectives. We’d be much less effective if we only looked to one side of the aisle.

Only connect

Activism often focuses on getting high turnouts to events or submitting as many petition signatures as possible because those are tangible ways to showcase mass support. They have proved successful in influencing outcomes, especially when paired with personal connections to environmental issues. We also focus on educating the public about why WWF supports certain solutions and how individual voices can collectively impact decision-makers. And maybe most important, we try to amplify and make a space for people who haven’t previously been included in the conversation. All this comes together to allow people to be part of the solution—and part of something bigger than themselves.

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World Wildlife magazine provides an inspiring, in-depth look at the connections between animals, people and our planet. Published quarterly by WWF, the magazine helps make you a part of our efforts to solve some of the most pressing issues facing the natural world.

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