A life lived on ‘purpose’ will inevitably lead towards service to a cause. Whether big or small our contribution towards our social evolution does impact our present and future. As a person who loves to organize and create order it was easy for me to step into various roles within causes my heart was drawn toward. From politics to environmental activism I have had the pleasure, privilege, and honor to serve some awesome campaigns that always educated me in ways that impacted my life permanently. Below are the first campaigns I became involved with as an organizer and coalition builder. Since then I have mostly worked online supporting and advocating various movements with a sustainability theme.
Good local public radio broadcasting is an endless source of alternative media that I have always lent my attention towards and it was on the late Chamba Lane’s ‘Rabble Rousing’ show that broadcasted on KVMR public radio that I heard an interview with Dr. Heather Harder. She was running a grassroots presidential campaign for the 2000 election and this woman was so far outside of the box I was compelled to get involved with her educational and saucy bid for President of the US.
Dr. Heather Anne Harder (Indiana)
A college professor, author and small businesswoman, Harder made her first bid for President in 1996. She wants to promote more citizen participation in government through a National Referendum process so that the American people become “the fourth branch of democratic self-government.” Harder also emphasizes “restoring the Constitution … [by] giving real power back to state, local, and individuals.” To make government more understandable for average Americans, she proposes that “all federal legislation to be written in standard English” and limited to one topic per bill. Harder captured 192 votes (8th place – 0.12%) in the New Hampshire primary and 1,087 (3rd place – 1.5%) votes in the Arizona primary.
As Heather’s West Coast Campaign Network Manager I sought out endorsements from local Democratic Central Committees and other organizations that aligned with her Jeffersonian political message. I organized a four day campaign event that included local television and radio interviews, campus and public speaking events, VIP candidates gathering with other Democratic campaigners, and even a spot in a local Constitution Day parade. The experience taught me how truly accessible the political process is to citizens who wish to become engaged and also gave me some insight into how broken our election system truly is.
This movement rocked the nation and set a new standard for activism as the internet was just emerging as a viable networking system. The demonstrations put the ‘anti-globalism’ movement into mainstream media for the first time. The specifics and outcome of the campaign were controversial and subject to endless criticism but my own experience as a networker and advocate was very positive. It was through my involvement as a networker with the Jubilee 2000 campaign that I learned about the planned demonstrations and I served the campaign by writing press releases and general advocacy.
Julia Butterfly Hill inspired my involvement with Yuba Nation’s campaign against Sierra Pacific Industries timber harvest plan to clear cut a portion of their privately held land along the Yuba River in Nevada County, California. I came to the table as a coalition builder with the understanding that the goal was to bring all of the stake holders to the table and negotiate an alternative solution. I was slow to realize that the group was really primarily focused on setting up a direct action base camp. This was the experience that I learned about ‘re-activism’ and the dark side of the environmentalists movement.
The irony of the end story of this campaign was that while Yuba Nation members were chaining themselves to logging trucks, SPI was signing a deal with the local South Yuba Citizens League and BLM to do a land swap and thereby officially come to a win/win scenario…the activists were not even aware that a resolution was at hand while the police arrested them. I was more than happy that I had withdrawn my support early on.
Sierra Students for CHANGE & Books Not Bombs One Day National Student Strike 2003
While I was still in school working on my communication studies degree I would sit out on the campus lawn between my classes and one day I noticed a rash on my skin after sitting on the grass. I went to the admin office and asked them if it had been recently fertilized and got an affirmative answer. I then inquired into how I could convince the school to switch to organic fertilizer instead of harmful chemicals. I was told I would have to take that issue to the Board of Trustees. When I contacted them I was told that I would have to go through student government to get it on the agenda. I went to student government and I was told I would need to either join Student Council or start of campus club that could focus on issues that I wanted to see changed. The keyword ‘change’ rang true so I made a decision that I would do both – I joined the Student Council and launched ‘Sierra Students for CHANGE’.
The first club meeting had quite a good turn out. Many students brought with them lists of things they wanted to see ‘changed.’ My idea to have them switch their lawn management practices seemed petty in the face of some of the issues that my peers brought to the table. It was the last fall semester of 2002 and the post 9-11 mass freak-out was at its high point and many students had powerful feelings about our governments bombing trajectory towards Iraq. Parallel to the bad foreign policy, states all across the nation were facing serious budget cuts in education and in California the problem was cutting vital student programs. It was an irony for me to find myself a ‘leader’ with a simple agenda of organic landscaping only to find myself compelled to ‘follow’ my milieu onto a path of serious anti-war protesting and student strikes!
Being way over my head I knew I had to reach out to more experienced elders to help me navigate and plot a meaningful strategies for ‘action’. Being in Northern California I did not have any problem finding allies. The Peace Center of Nevada County was in the beginning stages of organizing itself with a parallel agenda and they were ecstatic when I showed up at a meeting announcing that I had a college student club in need of guidance and support. The deal was on and despite a few club violations our alliance was able to come together as we loaded buses with activists from all over the county and headed towards a major rally in San Francisco!
The rally and march was breathtaking! My peers and myself had never experienced ANYTHING like it in our lives and being with many folks who were veterans in the peace movement lit fires inside of all of us. Hundreds of thousands of people aligned together marching down the streets of San Francisco brought us all to a collective multi-generational peak moment in history! It is hard to believe that so many people could speak out against something and have our government still ignore the WILL of the people.
The excitement and momentum carried us into ‘what next’ strategy meetings and although I was still hoping I could get some reform in the landscaping department it was unanimously decided that we would participate in a national campaign – Books Not Bombs One Day Student Strike.
Now my clip board was getting stacked and once again I found myself in unknown territory. The campus we were at was a sleepy satellite campus that had never even had an event at it that had more than 100 attendees besides a graduation ceremony. When the flyer’s were posted the faculty went into panic and I earned extra credits in my communication studies classes doing ‘persuasive’ speeches designed to soothe their fears.
We decided that we wanted the strike to be a community event that would have the positive and uplifting tone of the rally and march in San Francisco. We invited local non-profits to table, singers, local government officials, respected speakers and performers to attend and support our cause.
I networked with the national organizers and joined their roster of participating campuses across the country.
The turn out was unbelievable and even faculty left their class rooms to participate. High school students arrived in buses and the day was full of inspiration and hope for our collective future. At the end of the day the campus security were praising us adamantly for our effort and the Provost actually hugged me with tears in her eyes.
At the end of the semester I was receiving an award for my 4.0 GPA and when the Provost handed me my certificate she said, “Not a bad semester heh, one day student strikes and a 4.0” and she winked at me! I told her all I wanted was to be able to sit on the grass and not get a rash from chemical fertilizer…she had no idea what I was talking about.