Notes from the Field: New Beginnings

Boots on the ground.boots-210147_640

You may have used this phrase used a time or two (or 3,478 which I may or may not have counted during the 2014 election).

But, what does it actually mean? Here at NCLCV, one of our “new beginnings” for 2015 is redefining how we’re putting boots on the ground in North Carolina communities.

While our field program in 2014 focused solely on nonpartisan voter participation (i.e. ensuring North Carolinians were registered to vote and also knew how to exercise that right), we’re shifting our grassroots efforts to help build the capacity for community leaders to make change.

What kind of change? That depends on each community. While our field directors – Aiden and Justine – have crafted a framework for all of us in the organization to think about our work moving forward (and we’ll get to what that is in just one minute), they also recognize that the environmental movement is not a one-size-fits-all approach.

Too often, we in the environmental community get stuck in this mindset. Part of the challenge as a statewide organization is to help connect the dots on why a particular issue impacting natural resources in Yancey County affects the day-to-day realities of those living in Currituck or Henderson County. For certain issues, that is the reality. However, there is at least one critical thread that weaves together the big picture vision: transitioning our state and our world to a clean energy economy.

That’s right:

No. More. Fossil. Fuels. Period.

That may seem like a radical idea, but the line is written in the sand. Climate change is happening. Our air is polluted. Extreme weather threatens communities and cultures across the United States. Reliance on nonrenewable energy sources continues to breed social and economic injustices. Communities of color are disproportionally impacted by our reliance on coal and natural gas. Lobbyists for Big Oil and Dirty Energy fill our elections with lies and fear-mongering, leading to the election of candidates who will put their interests ahead of the collective good.

The list goes on and on. We have to start somewhere, and we believe the people of North Carolina are ready to take on this challenge. Over the last four years, we have witnessed several positive outcomes because of our state’s adoption of both clean energy and energy-efficient technologies:

  • More clean energy jobs are available, which are offering safe and sustainable employment to North Carolina residents.
  • Reports out this year showed that federal and state regulations, such as the Clean Air Act and North Carolina’s own Clean Smokestacks Act, contributed to reducing deaths from asthma, emphysema, and other respiratory illnesses.
  • Studies show that consumers in Charlotte and Raleigh are paying less by switching to solar rather than purchasing their energy from the major utilities.

Saving money. Saving lives. Saving resources. It all comes back to taking the time and effort to cut ties with the industries that continue to put their own profits over us.

This post will be the first of many of our “Notes from the Field” series. Staff, volunteers, and community members will share what’s happening on the frontlines in Charlotte, Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Raleigh, and Fayetteville, and tell how their local efforts to address air pollution, climate change, or coal ash feed into our broader vision.

Additionally, the grassroots work will help the rest of our organization prioritize what happens at the various decision-making tables, most notably at the NC General Assembly. We will continue to hold our leaders accountable, and as we see more and more community members engaged and leading on issues in their hometowns, we hope this translates to more meaningful, deeper interactions at the policy and political levels. Voting. Legislative meetings. Calls to action. It’s time for the majority of North Carolina to tap back into the political process. And, we hope this will be one avenue for those voices to be heard, speaking up on behalf of our state’s environmental priorities and our people.