Conservation is the big picture


Editor’s Note: The following is the winning essay in the Retta Sue Hamilton Scholarship Essay Competition.

I remember once I chose a college, I had the same conversation with my friends, over and over:

“You’re going where?”



“New York University Abu Dhabi.”


“They have this really great biology program, plus it’ll give me a chance to learn from an international perspective. See the world, you know?”

“…Well good luck I guess.”

I know I made a somewhat unorthodox decision when I chose to leave home and go halfway across the world. Even though I miss my island terribly, I intend to push my boundaries and study the environment from a global perspective. I want to be a conservation biologist and protect the Marianas’ crucial natural resources from destruction. It’s important to me that I learn to see the big picture because conservation is the big picture. It goes beyond any single country or individual. I believe that we, as human beings, have a responsibility to our planet and I want to be able to protect it. Petty partisan squabbles seem outright ridiculous when compared to the extinction of indigenous species. Every living being on this planet is part of a delicate lattice of interconnections forming our biosphere. What happens all the way [in] the U.S. mainland can have substantial effects on our islands. So I thought, why not go abroad and get an outside perspective?

You might think I sound naive or melodramatic, going on about “saving the planet.” Make no mistake, I know protecting our islands will not be easy. I don’t have to imagine the amount of work it’s going to take. I’ve lived it. I’ve seen our vibrant coral reefs, those unique rainbow homes for local fish species, those stoic protectors of our shores during storms, reduced to bleached and crumbling skeletons seemingly overnight. I’ve seen our “Save Pagan” stickers plastered across the island as we fought to the last breath to protect habitat and heritage alike in the Northern Islands. Twenty years ago, Tanapag, my own village, had been suffering the effects of PCB chemicals from the transformer canisters the military had left behind. My home was toxic. I know exactly how difficult conservation work is, that’s exactly why I want to do this. It’s not starry-eyed optimism; it is grim determination.

Here, I’m studying to protect our oceans from rising temperatures, acidification, and yes, humans. I believe that the work we do to safeguard our islands and conserve the natural environment matters, not just for ourselves but for our descendants. I love my island, I miss it every day, but I know that everything I learn here is going to help me protect my home. Our descendants deserve the beauty and the bounty of i tano’ yan i tasi.

Samantha Liske-Clark (Special to the Saipan Tribune)
Samantha Liske-Clark is currently a freshman studying at New York University Abu Dhabi. She strongly believes in conservation and hopes to use her Biology degree to protect vulnerable species. When she’s not studying, she enjoys travel, and reading sci-fi.

Samantha Liske-Clark (Special to the Saipan Tribune)

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