Sunday, March 7, 2010

Saving A Swamp: When Citizens Do Something Remarkable

By Tara Lafemina

I find the Great Swamp Campaign to be inspiring. For a community to come together to fight someone like the NY-NJ Port Authority, has to be a daunting task. It is amazing that this happened before the environment was even a political issue. I think that we can definitely learn from the citizens group that saved the Great Swamp.

This is a really good example of how citizens can make a difference. Why did the Port Authority think they needed another international airport within a half hour of Newark? Anyone that is coming to the tri-state area has plenty of options as to where they want their plane to land. I find it completely crazy to want to pave over all the natural areas. Greed fuels corporations but, sometimes it is best to leave things alone. People should have a say as to what they want in their neighborhoods.

The Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge is still a place popular with birds and bird-watchers. Since eastern North Jersey is known as an industrial area, a refuge is a must-have attraction. It gives the chance for people that live there to see animals they would not ordinarily see. It is a chance to open up an urban child’s eyes, and to see what is beyond the concrete.

I like how the citizens did not give up for the few years they had to fight the NY-NJ Port Authority. Passion is always a good thing to have and is a key ingredient in any battle you choose to fight. Bringing a display of the Great Swamp to the Short Hills Mall really brought the issue to the attention of people. It is the drive and passion that will cause grassroots campaigns to prevail.

It’s a shame we do not learn more about grassroots campaigns growing up. It is not right that in history class we are taught to question our government, yet not taught how to try to fix it. There should be more examples of these campaigns. I am sure most people can give a definition of a grassroots campaign. That is not enough. We need to know where, why, and how it happened. People need to know that they can fight an authority and still win.

New Jersey citizens are probably one of the last people to want to tackle an environmental issue. At least, this is the way others want to see us. Yes, there is that small part of the state that has a funny smell, but the rest of the state is filled with mountains, beaches, and farms. Corporations and authorities seem to think New Jersey is the place for them to dump their waste. Luckily, we are filled with people that care and have generated many grassroots campaigns to save our state.

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