At Patagonia, we use Martin Luther King Day as a time to give back to our community – this year was no different. In addition to sending crews of employees to work on local projects with the Ojai Raptor Center and the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy, we also welcomed a remarkable young woman as our guest speaker. The word “remarkable” doesn’t do her justice – she is leaps and bounds beyond that descriptor.
Her name is Erica Fernandez, and she is a senior at Hueneme High School based in Oxnard, California, a neighboring community to Patagonia’s headquarters in Ventura. Erica was outraged when she learned of BHP Billiton’s proposal to build a liquefied natural gas facility off our nearby coast. She worked in concert with the Sierra Club and “Latino No on LNG” to mobilize youth and Latino voices at protests and public meetings, marched through neighborhoods, demonstrated outside BHP Billiton’s offices in Oxnard, reached out to the media, and brought more than 250 high school students to a critical rally. Her passionate testimony at the California State Lands Commission meeting was quoted in news articles, and helped convince the Commission to vote to deny the project. She then went on to help convince the California Coastal Commission to vote 12-0 against the project, and worked on a letter-writing and phone-call campaign to the Governor asking him to veto the project. Her commitment and dogged determination led to being selected as a 2007 winner of the Brower Youth Awards, which recognize youth leadership in conservation, preservation and restoration.