Lobbying To Protect What You Love

Protect what you love! Kick off your shoes before coming inside! Be careful: that coffee is hot! Change your passwords! Work out! Meditate! Teach your kids about drugs and alcohol! Lock your doors!

Most of us are hyper vigilant about protecting the people and things we love. But we often overlook that bigger world that also needs our attention.

whalesThe Salish Sea is a body of water shared by Canada and the United States. It includes the Seattle area Puget Sound, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and the San Juan Islands. It’s one of the world’s largest and biologically richest inland seas, and it’s home to the last remaining 78 members of the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whale population (the population that was decimated in the 20th century when SeaWorld and the like captured dozens of killer whales).

Unfortunately, the Salish Sea is now facing what could be cataclysmic destruction by the fossil fuel industry as Canada’s new Kinder Morgan Pipeline Project gets underway. Soon, it will bring crude oil from Alberta’s tar sands through the sea for export to Asia.

Oil tanker traffic in these waters will increase sevenfold, and the likelihood of a spill will increase ninefold. A tar sands oil spill will be far worse than the Exxon Valdez or the Deepwater Horizon spills because the oil will be “dil bit” – or diluted bitumen, a thick and viscous oil that sinks when it spills and thus cannot be cleaned up.

I’m just one person, but still I can’t sit idly by and watch the apocalypse approach without trying to do something about it. So I stepped out of my comfort zone today, went to the Washington State capitol, and joined the #SalishSeaStands rally to promote an oil transportation bill designed to reduce the likelihood of oil spills and ensure financial responsibility by the fossil fuel industry.

I’d never planned to lobby for anything, and I didn’t know what I was getting into today. But I learned an important lesson: lobbying is easy, and it’s even kind of fun.

It’s about meeting the people who make important decisions. I hadn’t made advance appointments (note to self: do so in the future) but nevertheless I went to the offices of my State Senator and two State Representatives. I introduced myself and was greeted warmly. I met with the Senator’s aide and with one of the Representatives, and at each meeting I chatted for just five or ten minutes about the issue. I shared a few key facts and urged them to support the proposed legislation. At all three offices, I also dropped off some material provided by the lobby sponsor and a letter I’d crafted in advance.

It’s about telling your story. As a reader and writer, I’m all about the importance of story. But it doesn’t have to take 350 pages to tell your story. Sometimes one paragraph can do the trick. Today, I explained how my husband and I had discovered the San Juan Islands last summer and had become immediately enchanted by them. And then we learned about the devastation the future could bring, thanks to the Kinder Morgan Pipeline Project. As I told my story, I said it felt as though I’d fallen in love with someone who then received a terminal illness diagnosis. Facts matter, but our legislators also need to hear honest, personal perspectives.

It’s about being part of a tribe. (For more on the importance of tribe, see my blog of last week here.) I met dozens of people, developed some new friendships, and deepened an existing one. As a group, we marched together. We chanted Rise, Cascadia, Rise together. We waved our protest signs and placards and cardboard orca fins together. Standing side by side, the future didn’t look quite so bleak.

It’s about protecting what you love. The environment is my current hot topic, but whatever it is you love—whether it’s killer whales, justice for immigrants, freedom for all, or something else entirely—there’s no better time than now to call, write, and/or visit your legislative representatives to tell your story and ask for their help. Trust me: you’ll be glad you did.


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