Letter from the Author: Advocating for the Environment 🌎
Categories: General Ecology & Sustainability Guest Post New Release Science & Cosmology
By Sue Inches, author of Advocating for the Environment: How to Gather Your Power and Take Action
Does the idea of testifying before a legislative committee make you sweat?
Until I started doing it for a living, that’s how I felt! I started my career in marketing, creating grand opening sweepstakes for a supermarket chain. I’d arrange to give away a car when we opened a new store. I always knew I wanted to be in communications, and advertising and marketing seemed an obvious path.
But unexpected things happened, as they always do. The supermarket chain “downsized” in the early 1990s slump, and I was left with no job and few prospects.
I ended up taking a marketing job at a state agency, the Maine Department of Marine Resources. When I started there, I remember wondering what state employees did all day. My father said government employees just twiddled their thumbs, so I was clueless.
My state job was to market Maine seafood. But the primary focus of the state agency I worked for was to regulate and preserve marine resources. Being there exposed me to the lobbying and activism of Maine fishermen. It was compelling to watch as fishermen testified before the legislature and met with the governor to defend their industry. If they could do this, why couldn’t I?
Next thing you know I was off and running, working to preserve waterfront access for Maine fishermen. Fish piers and boatyards were being taxed at extremely high rates, as if their land was being sold for vacation homes. Fishermen were losing access to the ocean. There were only 25 miles of working waterfront left on Maine’s 3000 mile coastline. I helped found a coalition, and we managed to amend the state constitution to allow fishing piers to be taxed at “current use,” a much lower rate than vacation homes, saving many properties from development.
From that experience, I learned how rewarding it can be to work for people, for communities, for fairness, and for a clean and healthy environment. I’ve never looked back.
I’ve organized and worked on many issues since. Currently, I’m working to establish environmental rights. This would establish the right to clean air, clean water and a healthy environment for all citizens in state constitutions. It’s hard to imagine that we don’t have these basic human rights on the books. But we don’t. And because we don’t, laws can be passed and permits issued that are dangerous to our health.
During Covid, I found myself with time on my hands, so I began to write up the many lessons I’d learned as an advocate. The result is my new book, Advocating for the Environment: How to Gather Your Power and Take Action. This is the book that I wished I’d had when I started my advocacy career. In it I share with readers what works and what doesn’t, plus strategies, advice, and many stories from my personal experience.
The book also grew out of a college class I teach with the same name, Advocating for the Environment. As I approach retirement age, I love sharing what I’ve learned with students. With the book, I can share that knowledge with you and many other readers, too.
We are at a crossroads. People everywhere need to care much more for each other and for the earth if we are going to survive on this planet. In my book you’ll find many things you can do to help address the environmental crisis we face, and create a healthier future for our children and grandchildren. The book is a field guide to advocacy, with everything from how to write a good letter to the editor, to how to organize a campaign in your community. I hope you’ll buy a copy and dive right in!
—Susan B. Inches, educator, environmental advocate, and author of Advocating for the Environment