An Interview with Gabrielle Hillyer

By Victoria Currie ’20

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. A day created to stop for a moment and care for the little blue and green planet we call home. Earth Day was the brainchild of Gaylord Nelson, a Senator from Wisconsin who always had a special place in his heart for environmental activism. Senator Nelson led the charge for peaceful demonstrations to get the message across that we, as a world, needed to start caring for our home planet. Earth Day was an easy cause for many politicians and everyday civilians to take part in and get behind. In 1970, whether it was on a college campus cleaning up trash or at the White House planting trees, someone was doing their part to make this planet healthier for generations to come.

Earth as seen from Apollo 17
The Blue Marble is an image of Earth taken by the crew of the Apollo 17 spacecraft on its way to the Moon (NASA image designation AS17-148-22727).

I was able to interview Gabrielle Hillyer, a graduate student here at the University of Maine. Hillyer created a tool that helps us understand circulation of coastal waters in Maine. Hillyer also works on the conversation of the clamming profession in Maine. Being a young person who has begun to make her career based on how we take care of our planet, Hillyer gave me an email interview that truly defines the next generation of Earth conservation. This is her opinion of what Earth Day means and what we, as a younger generation, can do to preserve this poignant and important day.

  • What does Earth Day mean to you?

Hillyer: “Earth Day generally means I’m able to discuss on a deeper level a lot of my passions around environmental justice and conservation with family and friends who operate in different spaces. It gives me a chance to reflect in a more uplifting way around the state of the world, and readjust to incorporate new techniques I can use in my daily life to mitigate climate change.”

  • Are you aware that this April is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day?

Hillyer: “I was not aware this is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day”.

  • What do you think the younger generation should be doing more of in regards to creating a cleaner planet?

Hillyer: “I think the best thing the younger generation can do in regards to creating a cleaner planet is vote. A lot of the power around mitigating climate change and creating a cleaner planet is currently held for better or worse in the hands of the previous generation who will not see the effects of climate change to the same extent as the younger generation. Also, there are many new and convenient options to recycle, purchase used goods rather than new, change the way you consume meat and other particularly carbon-dense foods, and finally, educate. Young people speak up!”

  • In your professional opinion, what does climate change mean to the general population and the environment?

Hillyer: “In my professional opinion, climate change is by far the greatest challenge to modern society. It requires great strides on all levels, but most specifically it requires the development of new technologies, understanding of cultural and racial biases in terms of environmental justice, creating new adaptive policy measures, and most honestly extensive actions towards a more sustainable and equitable future in all countries, among all people on this planet. This is especially true in light of the recent COVID-19 crisis, where globally, we are seeing the effects of widespread changes in behavior. The hope is that togetherness and cooperation will be maintained in the future. One of the sayings that float around very often is the idea of “the Earth will survive us” and it will. Acting on climate change scenarios on a global level will not only preserve portions of our society, but help preserve an environment we are familiar with, including species, ecosystems, and spaces that humans have enjoyed for so long.”