Surfrider Foundation gives Pearl Thompson a voice in Washington DC

Sarah Young

Growing up in and around the ocean, Pearl Thompson has always had a strong connection to marine ecosystems. As a junior in the Team program at Tamiscal, she has had the opportunity to grow even more this year as an intern at Surfrider Foundation, a nationwide nonprofit that works to protect and preserve the world’s oceans. Through her internship, Thompson was asked to travel to Washington D.C. on Feb. 27 to inform legislators of the importance of climate change.

“I obviously want to help protect the ocean and the environment because that’s what I love and I feel like this is the perfect opportunity to do something that will actually make a difference,” Thompson said.

Interning at the Surfrider Foundation, Pearl Thompson (left) got the opportunity to meet Jared Huffman in D.C.

As an intern, Thompson has helped redesign the organization’s website, come up with an idea for a micro-trash art beach cleanup and most recently communicated with legislators in D.C. to advocate for a new bill, the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act. The bill is proposing to make producers of plastic products, such as single use packaging, fiscally responsible for collecting and recycling the products after use. Thompson also pushed for further funding towards  the Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health Act (BEACH), which addresses pathogens in coastal waters and requires cleaner water standards, as well as the prevention of offshore drilling.

“This is a chance that not a lot of people get, especially youth, to get to go and talk to congressmen and their senior staff about what can really be done,” Thompson said.

Scott Tye, the vice-chairman of Surfrider Foundation in Marin County, has been running the Marin chapter for 12 years and has been Thompson’s internship supervisor this past semester. Tye believes that Surfrider’s mission is essential to the future’s climate and world, and that Thompson has potential to change the world.

“We know what’s going to happen in the next 20 years: the seas are going to rise, the ocean is going to acidify, we may have greater storms and greater wildfires. The one thing we have to do is prepare [Thompson’s] generation to adapt and figure out a way to live a better life in a different world, and Surfrider is the perfect platform to do that,” Tye said.

Understanding the current state of climate change, Thompson is appreciative for the work she can do with Surfrider.

“Everything is done because people are passionate about it, everyone in the Marin Surfrider chapter are volunteers and people seriously care,” Thompson said. “Being able to be around people who share the same passion I do is really nice because everyone is genuine and they love the ocean. They want to do what they can to protect what they love and I think that’s very admirable.”

Speaking out for the future of her generation, Pearl Thompson (left of Huffman), traveled to Washington D.C. to enact change.

According to Gwen Kallmeyer, a sophomore on Thompson’s water polo team, Thompson was chosen to be a youth ambassador because of her determined and motivated character. 

“She is passionate about [Surfrider] because she sees herself doing something related to the ocean and marine biology in her future,” Kallmeyer said.

Tye also reflects that Thompson has the grit it takes to make the commitment to helping change the future for the better. 

“She told me that she really wants the ocean and the marine environment to be a part of her life for the rest of her life. She’s making a commitment to that right now. Pearl is going to be a leader, whether in Surfrider or not, in how to implement change,” Tye said.

One of Thompson’s steps to becoming a leader for our generation was taking on legislators in Washington D.C. and continuing the conversation around climate change, clean water, plastic pollution and protected land.

“I just want them to remember it. I hope we’re not just another group coming to talk about what they feel, because I’m sure they get a lot of people like that. I think it will be more impactful because we’re youth and that makes a difference,” Thompson said.