Thursday, March 4, 2010

Saving a Swamp: The Remarkable Efforts of the Grassroots Movement

By Stephanie Noda

The Great Swamp Campaign revolutionized the grassroots campaign movement in New Jersey. The efforts that people made to preserve nature and prevent land from being destroyed by corporate greed are very commendable. According to Jan Barry, who wrote A Citizen’s Guide to Grassroots Campaigns, the NY-NJ Port Authority wanted to create an airport on a marshland, but citizens were able to prevent this construction from taking place, despite the fact that Port Authority “for decades had bulldozed wherever it wanted to build tunnels, bridges, seaports, and airports to boost the metropolitan region’s economy.” Although this itself is an impressive feat, even more remarkable is the fact that the citizens group that fought against Port Authority were not just from New Jersey; people from other parts of the country become involved as well. Over the course of five years, the people in this group were able gain the support of “more than four hundred civic organizations in twenty-nine states,” Barry noted.

Being able to reach all these different states and get over four hundred groups to help save a marshland in New Jersey is incredible, especially considering many of these groups have never and probably will never actually come into contact with the marshlands themselves. The passion that the New Jersey citizens protesting the airport had was so poignant that those who would never experience the beauty of the land or any of the creatures living in it felt moved to help save it regardless. Another impressive part of this campaign deals with the amount of money that was raised to save the marshland. Through the efforts of the hundreds of civic organizations, four million dollars was raised to purchase “the core of the land they sought to save, and saw it was dedicated as a national wildlife refuge,” wrote Barry. This ability of the citizens to raise this enormous amount of money, without the aid of any government subsidies, is an amazing feat.

One of the most interesting parts of the whole Great Swamp Campaign is the fact that after the whole scenario was over and Port Authority had lost their case, they were still able to “service millions of travelers by modernizing its original three major airports in Newark and New York,” wrote Barry. The plan to create a fourth airport ended up being unnecessary; Port Authority did not lose any business by not being able to go through with their plan.

This got me thinking… how many of the developments of companies and infrastructures today are actually needed? If people protested against the construction of these buildings, perhaps the companies would realize that expansion is not really needed; they could work with the buildings they already have in business. With the reduction of expansion, perhaps more wilderness and natural land can be saved, instead of being turned into industrialized wastelands. However, this would probably not be feasible without the help of grassroots campaigns, such as the Great Swamp Campaign, to fight against big industry and forcible prevent this ever increasing expansion.

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