Kingston High School alumna Larissa Walker, now the pollinator campaign director and a policy analyst for the Center for Food Safety in Washington D.C., says the freedom and variety of opportunities her alma mater offered allowed her to become successful. She said what she learned in Kingston fortified her stance against chemicals and practices that endanger insect species.
“Being influenced by my school to follow my passion allowed me to become a young adult,” Walker said. “I was able to land a job in pollination management where I believed I could make a difference.”
Growing up in Hurley, Walker developed a passion for agriculture and animals from being surrounded by farms and cornfields. She said one of her favorite past times was capturing and holding insects in a critter cage, especially butterflies.
Transitioning into Kingston High School, Walker’s ambition led her to become the 2005 class president, a section leader of the Tiger marching band, a captain of the crew team and a member of the varsity swim team. She said her “go-get” attitude made her efforts successful.
“My determination in these activities set me up for leadership and commitment,” said Walker. “Learning time management from band and discipline from swimming also trained me to balance work-loads and toughened me up.”
Walker said the time she spent in high school with her instructors was also influential. Her principal, homeroom teacher and team coaches gave her the courage to follow her goals and the wisdom to give meaning behind her passion.
Now the pollinator campaign director and a policy analyst for the Center for Food Safety in Washington D.C., Walker has become a speaker who informs people about the decline of insect species.
Walker said her goal is to create a healthier environment for bees and monarchs. She wants people to recognize that the current agricultural industry, with its unsafe chemicals and practices, is not sustainable. People coming together and demanding a stop to this system can help create a new sustainable future without endangering wildlife.
She said that avoiding pesticides when possible, namely insecticides, can reduce the death toll of insects. “Heavy use of pesticides in fields of wild flowers have damaged the environment where most insects thrive, including bees and monarchs,” she said.
Walker said these pesticides keep bees and monarchs from reaching the pollen and nectar in wild flowers, denying monarch butterflies protein and carbs they need to flourish and grow. Milkweed plants, which monarchs rely on, have been drastically reduced in number by the overuse of pesticides.
Without milkweed plants to grow in larva form, Larissa said the population of monarchs have declined 90 percent in a short time. There are over 4,000 different species of recorded native bees in the United States and bumble bees have dropped one-third in original numbers, Walker said.
After reducing pesticide use, Walker said a system where destroyed plants can be regrown can make a difference. True help won’t come to these species, she argues, until they get the protection and funding they need while research can be conducted on how to better solve this issue.
“Without proper funding and apiary sites that can track populations of these insects, we won’t know if we are helping these species until it is too late,” said Walker.