Recognizing AAPI Leaders in Climate, Environmental Justice, and Advocacy

Take a moment and get to know some of the inspirational people whose impacts can be felt here in Boston, around the country, and worldwide

By New England Aquarium on Tuesday, May 09, 2023

See caption below
A Fijian coral reef

In honor of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in May, we’re recognizing the contributions of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders who are working to combat climate change, promote environmental justice, and help make our world a healthier, more equitable place.

Vivien Li

Vivien Li is a nationally renowned expert on waterfront issues, and has been an advocate for Boston’s community members over her decades-long career. Li previously served as the head of the Boston Harbor Association, where she convened the first-ever Boston Harbor Sea Level Rise Forum to spearhead the conversation—and collaboration between developers, business owners, and community members—on building a resilient Boston waterfront in the face of climate change.

See Li speak about her work alongside other women leaders in Boston at our previous lecture, A Changing Environment: How Women Leaders in Boston are Taking the Lead on Climate Resiliency and Community Building.

Vivien Li at a New England Aquarium Lecture event Photo by Vanessa Kahn

Sruthi Gurudev

Sruthi Gurudev is founder and editor-in-chief of the online publication An Hour in the Deep, a National Geographic Young Explorer, and an aspiring eco-journalist. Last year, she served as an expedition storyteller aboard the exploration vessel E/V Nautilus, documenting the National Geographic Society’s (Maritime Heritage Team) journey in waters around the Hawaiian Islands.

On May 11, Gurudev joined our Lecture series to speak on the role powerful stories can play in protecting our planet.


Kevin J. Patel

Kevin J. Patel is a climate justice activist in Los Angeles and the founder of OneUpAction International, which helps marginalized youths become changemakers in their communities. Patel’s life experience inspired him to act—as a young teen, he suffered severe health issues caused by the air pollution he was exposed to growing up in South Los Angeles. Through his work, Patel advocates and organizes to demand action against climate change and for environmental justice.

Kathy Jetn̄il-Kijiner

Kathy Jetn̄il-Kijiner is a poet and climate justice advocate from the Marshall Islands who has taken the stage around the world—including at the United Nations Climate Summit in 2014. She co-founded Jo-Jikum—which translates to “your home” or “your place” in Marshallese—empowering Marshallese youth to create solutions to climate issues and pollution impacting their islands, and was selected as a “Climate Warrior” by Vogue magazine.

Varshini Prakash

Along with seven other activists, Varshini Prakash co-founded the youth-led Sunrise Movement in 2017. Currently, Prakash is the executive director of Sunrise, leading the grassroots organization advocating for causes like the Green New Deal, organizing political actions across the country, and ensuring that environmental justice is centered in federal policy decisions on climate change.

Kapulei Flores

Kapulei Flores is a Native Hawaiian photographer who uses her art to document and preserve Native Hawaiian culture and highlight the islands’ ecology through an indigenous perspective. For over ten years, Kapulei and her family have been active in the Mauna Kea movement—a movement to disrupt the construction of a telescope on the sacred mountain of Mauna Kea—and her photographs capture the frontlines of the fight to protect important spaces in Hawaii and around the world.

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Miya Yoshitani

Miya Yoshitani is the executive director of the Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN), an organization advocating for environmental justice in California’s Asian immigrant and refugee communities. As a child, Yoshitani was inspired by her father, who worked as an environmental engineer cleaning up hazardous waste sites near neighborhoods—work that showed her that community members needed resources to advocate for the clean, safe environments they deserved.

Today, APEN has won a number of campaigns to stop fossil fuel companies from expanding into neighborhoods, to build clean infrastructure, and to secure affordable housing for seniors and other community members.

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Jennie Janssen

Jennie Janssen works as an assistant curator at the National Aquarium in Baltimore and is the co-founder and president of the nonprofit Minorities in Aquarium and Zoo Science (MIAZS). At MIAZS, Janssen works to promote diversity and inclusion in aquarium and zoo sciences “by countering the financial and social barriers that disproportionately prevent racial and ethnic minorities from entering and flourishing in these fields.” MIAZS also aims to connect marginalized youth to opportunities in aquarium and zoo sciences, helping to create more equitable access to jobs in the field.




Let’s Take Action for the Ocean Together

Membership, volunteering, advocating, or attending events are just a few of the ways you can join us in protecting the blue planet.