Tuesday, February 26, 2013

An Enormous Effort

By Ashley Intveld

I checked my email this morning. My inbox was filled with several new messages; some from department stores, some from college professors, and others from get-rich-quick internet schemes. I checked each off to be disposed of but left a handful to remain in my inbox. The remaining emails were notifications from several grassroots campaign sites I’m subscribed to: Greenpeace, 350.org, CommonDreams, Food and Water Watch, and several other environmentally-focused activists that litter my inbox each day. These emails, unlike those relocated to trash, I read. I read thoroughly. In these emails is information, and not about a buy one, get one sale going on. These emails tell me about what my community is doing in response to huge environmental issues that plague news headlines each day.

Last April, I took a bus into New York and headed toward the Javits Center. An immense building stood before me; my small frame reflected in some of its numerous windows that adorn its massive front. My size was miniscule in comparison. In this enormous city sat this enormous building, and me- me, who is not so enormous. I was there for the Green Festival. I had read about it (in one of my various emails) and it piqued my interest to attend. It was overwhelming: booths filled with people sampling various organic concoctions, organic cotton t-shirts for sale hung along the walls, fair trade products, crafts, environmental campaigns galore. I was intrigued- and intimidated.

So many people in such a large space made me feel the same way I felt standing outside those doors: small. A man approached me with some flyers in his hands. He had a smile on his face that was welcoming; not overbearing. I looked his way and he asked me if I had ever heard of fracking before.

Twenty minutes later, I had packets of information, recyclable tote-bags filled with bumper stickers that read “No fracking way,” a sign-in to a mailing list, and a new friend. I realized something in this enormous building in this enormous city: we, as people, have enormous dreams and aspirations; enormous goals and hopes. We may be small, but it’s the communicative and unity that we are capable of that makes those enormous dreams enormously possible.

In Jan Barry’s book A Citizen’s Guide to Grassroots Campaigns, he writes about the impact a small committee had in saving the Great Swamp from destruction. In its stead, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey were proposing a new airport (in addition to the several other airports that littler this side of the country). This committee, through word of mouth, ingenious campaign activities and advocating, quashed the big-name bully from bulldozing the pristine land- a win for the environmentalists (and everyone else, in the long run).  

 Despite the overwhelming win against the airport installation, the bigger impact that this campaign had was the domino effect it had on other grassroot campaigns. From one cause came another, and another, until people began helping people develop their voice and stand up against environmental injustices.
When it comes to issues of fracking, Occupy Wall Street, GMOs, and financial debacles, (the list goes on), we find ourselves sitting back, agape, and wondering how to tackle such an immense issue. An enormous issue is only as enormous as the group of people willing to fight it. Grassroot campaigns, and people, have enormous potential to do just that.

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