The E-mail Commentary from Eco-Justice Ministries
New Political Strategies
Colorado's drought is showing me the need to rethink some political strategies.
Last summer, extreme drought dried up rivers and reservoirs, exacerbated raging forest fires, devastated agriculture, and browned suburban lawns. The next crisis happens in about 6 weeks, when the drought hits our state legislature.
Experts are predicting that at least 60 different bills on water issues will be introduced in the Colorado legislature this session. They will cover a wide range: proposals to build huge new dams and water storage projects; a plan to clear-cut forest areas to increase runoff; a variety of strategies to control and transfer water rights; and restrictions on the ability of homeowner associations to mandate green lawns.
Dealing with those water-related issues on a bill-by-bill basis is certainly overwhelming and probably ineffective. A meeting I attended this week gave me some insights into some different approaches for churches engaging in political action.
I was invited to sit in on a day-long meeting where leaders of Colorado's environmental organizations mapped out their legislative agenda for the coming year. They laid the foundation for a broadly unified agenda, and highlighted which groups would take the lead in framing particular issues.
Water was only one of the complicated topics to be discussed. Other big concerns have to do with forest fire prevention, energy (conservation, renewable energy, oil and gas development), transportation, growth and sprawl. Environmental justice issues were named. Some organizations have a focus on wildlife or land preservation. The legally complex "takings" movement is a major concern.
In that group of 25 environmental leaders, I was one of three people working with religious communities. The three of us were there, not so much to push our own agenda, but to learn about what issues are emerging, and to consider how we can bring those back into our congregations.
It was the first time that religious communities were invited to join in such a planning session. Our presence there reflects a growing respect for the faith-based environmental movement.
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When literally hundreds of bills will be introduced in one state legislature on environmental topics alone, dealing with action alerts on immediately pending votes does not work. That problem is amplified as we try to deal with local and national issues, too.
There are three steps in building a faith-based strategy that look different from the way many of us have done issue activism.
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Next week, the entire staff of Eco-Justice Ministries will be taking a few days off for the Thanksgiving holiday. I'll be sending out the next Eco-Justice Notes on December 6.
Eco-Justice Ministries * 400 S Williams St, Denver, CO 80209 * 303.715.3873
Home Page: www.eco-justice.org * E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org