By Jennifer Mauro | Associate Editor
When it comes to protecting our common home, Suzanne Maxx has been an activist from a very early age.
Leaving her home in New York City during a sanitation strike in the 1970s, trash spilling onto sidewalks, to attend boarding school in the Adirondacks, the then-fourth-grader was dismayed to see litter casually discarded along the banks of the pristine Lake Placid, too.
“I couldn’t understand why people would do that,” said Maxx. “I wanted to know, ‘Who’s in charge of this?’”
So she decided to get an answer straight from the top, writing a letter to then-President Gerald Ford. “What’s going to happen, when I grow up, to the air, ocean and things I love on this earth?” she wrote. “I want to know.”
Imagine her surprise when, nine months later, she received a letter in return, thanking her for being concerned about future generations.
“That gave me courage that if I spoke the truth, it could change something, affect people and make a difference,” she said.
That passion led Maxx, who grew up spending summers on Long Beach Island and attends St. Francis of Assisi Parish, to eventually start her own business: the World Team Project, which consists of the World Team Now nonprofit and the World Team media platform – both of which aim to draw attention to environmental, economic and social issues facing humanity, the earth and its creatures, as well as demonstrate solutions.
To that end, Maxx and World Team Now are drawing attention to the United Nations Ocean Conference being held June 5-9 in New York as well as World Oceans Day on June 8. The conference will be streamed live at webtv.un.org. In addition, anyone who cares about the health of the ocean can register as an individual, group or community to get involved in the effort to conserve and sustain the seas at oceanconference.un.org.
Issues facing the planet’s oceans such as marine pollution, overfishing and rising sea levels are not only ones Pope Francis has called attention to in his encyclical, “Laudato si” (On Care For Our Common Home), they are ones Maxx stresses many don’t understand the full implications of.
“The refugee crisis is much more significant than people understand,” she said, explaining that as sea levels rise, many island nations are facing increased coastal flooding and extinction. “Climate refugees is one [issue] people don’t know about at all.”
For example, Maxx cites statistics from the U.N. Refugee Agency showing there was one climate refugee per second in 2009 – approximately 40,000 per day currently. Scientific models show those numbers increasing to 50 million by 2020 and 150 million by 2050.
Though Maxx splits her time between living on the East and West Coasts, traveling the world as a champion for the environment – especially at-risk Pacific island nations – and attending U.N. conferences, she has fond memories of Long Beach Island, a barrier island that sustained heavy damage from Superstorm Sandy in 2012, and takes her faith in God with her wherever she goes.
She serves as a lector and extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, and considers it her responsibility – and hopes others will agree – to leave as small a carbon footprint on this earth as possible, or as she puts it, “to live as close as you can to Christ.”
“He came in with nothing; he went out with nothing, but he did a lot while he was here and gave us everything,” she said. “We have the opportunity to do the same thing.”
For more information on World Team Now, visit facebook.com/worldteamnow. For more information about how you can take part in the U.N. conference or Oceans Week, visit oceanconference.un.org, worldoceansday.org or #SaveOurOcean.[[In-content Ad]]