At Wild Planet, we are firm believers that what happens to the water on the land will affect the water in our oceans. Mari Copeny is a young girl from Flint, Michigan who helped bring national attention to the Flint Water Crisis. In this interview, Mari explains what she has done to help out her city.
What happens on the land has its way of making it the ocean eventually. Because of this, it is important to keep our waterways free of chemicals. The Flint, Michigan, water crisis began in 2014 after the city decided to switch its drinking water supply from Detroit’s system to the Flint River. This decision was made because it would save the city millions of dollars.
Soon after that switch, residents told their elected officials that the water smelled terrible, tasted like metal, and gave them skin rashes. Because the city did not take the necessary measures to prevent corrosion, the lead from the old pipes leaked into the water and caused people to have high lead levels in their blood.
Mari Copeny, also known as “Little Miss Flint,” is an 11-year-old activist fighting for the children of Flint. When she and her family first found out about the crisis, they had to change the way they went about their normal lives.
What gave you the idea to write to President Barack Obama?
A couple of days before my family and I traveled to Washington D.C. to attend the Congressional Hearing where Governor Rick Snyder would be testifying, I asked my mom if she could send a letter to President Obama. I knew the chances of him seeing it were small, but I wanted to get the chance to meet with him to talk about the crisis. About a month and a half after the hearings, my mom received a call from a private number. When she picked up it was a staff member from the White House on the phone. President Obama not only read my letter, but he decided to respond and come to Flint, Michigan to meet me. President Obama’s visit to Flint, Michigan gained national attention and support toward Flint, Michigan.
What are you currently doing to help the residents of Flint?
Since 2016, I have fundraised over $500,000 with the nonprofit organization Pack Your Back that has impacted over 25,000 children in Flint and beyond. These funds have gone toward supporting students in getting school supplies, toys, bikes, clean water, and other resources needed to ensure a fulfilled and healthy life.
How can our readers support your efforts?
Readers can support my efforts by being an advocate for Flint, Michigan. The city has been forgotten about and it is time that we bring it back into the spotlight. Readers can also follow my Twitter account @LittleMissFlint to stay updated on all the good things I’m working on in Flint.
What is your next goal for Flint?
My goal is to continue to support the children living in Flint, Michigan. The children were the ones that are impacted the most by the water crisis and I will do everything I can to continue supporting them.
What advice do you have for kids that want to speak about environmental issues in their area?
I tell children, “It doesn’t matter how small you are, you can make a difference if you speak up for what you believe in.”
We’re so inspired by Mari and hope you are too! Let us know how you’re helping your community in the comments below!