A recent report* published in the national news has bad news for the viability of grassroots environmental groups. The study showed that large national NGOs get far and away the biggest funding for environmental causes, and yet it is the small grassroots groups that carry out the most effective and lasting change! The study reminded me of many examples from history: from women’s suffrage to the Arab Spring. Grassroots groups like Beyond Toxics get an itty-bitty, tiny share of the donations that fund environmental protection, yet it is smaller groups that carry out the lion’s share of the work to make significant changes in the quality of life we’re all striving for.
Feisty. Tenacious. Grassroots. We are your David in a world of Goliaths!
These are words our members have used to describe us. I offer proof that we are living up to that reputation! In the span of just 9 days, Beyond Toxics has made its mark in towns across the state: in Portland, Salem, Triangle Lake, Selma and Eugene!
- On February 6, we met with Lane County Health officials to discuss a ban on children’s products laced with BPA along with our local partner Lane Coalition for Healthy Active Youth.
- On February 8, I was interviewed on Jefferson Public Radio, reaching thousands of people about pesticides and rampant chemical trespass.
- On February 10, staff member Alison Guzman and I gave a report to a room full of health care professionals at the 4th Annual NW Environmental Health Conference at Portland State University. We spoke about children’s health and environmental justice in West Eugene and the toxics in their air that contributes to asthma. This is exactly the kind of topic that doctors and nurses need to hear about.
- On February 11, Beyond Toxics co-sponsored two large and energetic rallies to protest the chemical trespass that comes from aerial pesticide spraying of forests in Josephine County and Lane County.
- Four days later on February 15, I testified in front of the Oregon Transportation Commission on the results of our Highway Spray report, Environmental Impact Quotients of Highway Spray. My testimony, highlighting the dousing of our highways in pesticides, was a key part of the message of the Pesticide Panel, a panel we advocated to convene.
This means your support has guaranteed our hard-won victories.
What will we do next to continue to demonstrate to you, our supporters, that we are keeping our promise to be all the things you admire about us: feisty, tenacious and grassroots-based?
1. We are linking up with others to stop coal trains from rumbling through Eugene and the Willamette Valley. These mile-long trains, if allowed to pass through our communities, will pollute a pound of “black lung” coal dust, per car, per mile!
2. We are mapping how air toxics hot spots harms the families who live in impacted neighborhoods with an incredible ARC GIS project. We’ll shine a light on the problem of cumulative air pollution exposures.
3. We are planning a protest on the State Capitol steps to draw the Governor’s attention to the issue of aerial pesticide spray drift.
So, the bottom line is simple: never underestimate the power of the small, local, grassroots group! When it comes to change, think small. It’s the best investment you can make.
*The report, "Cultivating the Grassroots: A Winning Approach for Environment and Climate Funders," is at www.ncrp.org.