25th Anniversary Conference

By: Molly Phipps, MAEE Board Member

At the end of July, we hosted our 25th Anniversary Conference at Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center in Finland, MN. Our theme this year “Speaking Loudly and Acting Boldly for Natural Spaces” focused on what we can do to enact positive change for our environment and environmental education, even as governmental forces seem to be working hard to do just the opposite.

Dave Freeman presented an inspiring keynote talk about his year in the Boundary Waters with his wife Amy. They wanted to raise awareness of the beauty of this national treasure in our backyard and the threat to the area posed by proposed coper-sulfide mines in the Boundary Waters’ watershed. I know we can’t all drop everything and live in the Boundary Waters for a year, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make a positive impact on our environment and environmental education. For me, the take away message from Dave’s year in the wilderness is that we all can take meaningful action to protect the environment we have dedicated our careers and lives to by getting involved in politics.

Now I don’t mean we should all run for political office, but if you’re at all inclined, you should — we need more science-minded people in political power. We need to reach out to the elected officials we have and let them know what we think about the environment. At the national level, the best way to do this is to call the local office of your representatives and let them know how you feel on an issue. This is important whether or not you agree with your representative’s position on the issue at hand. Ugh, you might think, I hate calling people on the phone, I got an action alert with a form email from the Sierra Club and I just have to click send. That’s the same thing isn’t it? Unfortunately, it isn’t. Just as we know that it’s easier to click send on a form email, so do our representatives.

A call to the home office makes a significantly bigger impact. So how does it work? You find the home office’s number on your representatives webpage and give them a call. A staff member will answer the phone and you tell them why you’re calling. They will write down what you say and report back to your elected official. It’s as simple as saying something like “Hi, I’m Molly and I’m in your district. I want to let you know I oppose the proposed copper-sulfide mining in the Boundary Waters’ watershed (or whatever issue you’re calling about) and I think you should too.” If you know your representative’s position you can reference that too. But that’s it. It takes a bit more effort than filling out a form email, but the impact is much greater. Together we can make a positive impact if we make the effort!