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Editor's Note: This story is taken from the GOOD10 Ocean's Issue. You can download and read the entire digital magazine issue for free here.

A place where 18,000 individuals reside on 177 square miles of land holds an outsized role in the conversation and policy around environmental protection. This place is Palau, the island nation located in the Western Pacific Ocean. Central to the championing of the country's ecological well-being is First Lady, Debbie Remengesau. Her work in developing the Palau Pledge—a vow of environmental responsibility every visitor to Palau must take upon entry—adds to the legacy of Palau's forward thinking policy which includes a nuclear-free constitution and the banning of devastating bottom trawling fishing in the nation's waters. Her leadership has helped shape a more sustainable future for Palauans while serving as an example to the rest of the world.

But certain issues, like runaway carbon emissions, don't respect international borders. This inherently places limits as to what one country can accomplish on its own when it comes to caring for our planet. Even though Palau is a small island nation in a remote location, Remengesau says, the vast ocean surrounding them is a constant reminder of how inextricably linked we all are. "Just like in a marriage, this link is for better or for worse," she says. "We find ourselves unexpectedly facing huge environmental challenges that are not of our making."

Speaking about their conservation efforts and encouraging other countries to follow suit is a vital part of the First Lady's mission each day. GOOD spoke with her about Palau's environmental initiatives, successes, current challenges and hopes for the future. "Every breath we take, we owe to our ocean," Remengesau says. "If it dies, we die. We need to act now. We can no longer continue to take from Mother Earth. We need to heal and give back."

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