Be Where Your Feet Are

by jim on December 13, 2016

Dear Downwinders, 

Based on position papers, advisors, and now job offers, it's hard to overestimate the harm to the environment that can and will be done by a Trump Administration. Your first response may be to already feel defeated by the enormity of the challenges now facing us. 

Don't let those feelings get the best of you. 

What happened on Election Day was unexpected, but history is always so.Consider the odds against a black man named Hussein winning the Presidency in 2008. The unpredictable nature of history is what gives us hope. This moment won't last. The future isn't written yet. Even now there are important tipping points waiting for you to make them happen. But you must show-up. 

We don't say this as Pollyannas unschooled in the difficulties of working in a hostile political atmosphere. We say it BECAUSE we've worked in the political wilderness of Texas for over twenty years and won some of our biggest victories when awful political circumstances would tell you our chances ranged from slim to none. 

Certainly there'll be national fights that have to be fought. Progress will be measured in how much we save as well as how much we advance. But the model of change Downwinders at Risk has followed since its founding, with its emphasis on local action, is more relevant than ever. 

We were already committed to building more local movement "infrastructure" before the elections, but those efforts seem doubly important now. 

Here are some examples of what we mean:

Our next "Root and Branch Revue" for environmental activists this coming January 24th-28th    We're going to be screening a film, sponsoring discussions, and hosting workshops – all with the aim of making you a better activist. This year's featured guests will be the women from Flint, Michigan who exposed that public health scandal by doing their own water testing.

Our work in building the North Texas Air Research Consortium with local universities and municipalities     This new high-tech network, co-founded by Downwinders, will provide the public with more and better information about air quality than either the state or federal government is even thinking about. Downwinders' part of this larger effort is our "North Texas CLEAN Air Force" that will use drones and sensors for mobile monitoring to fill data gaps, study specific facilities, or respond to accidents. 

Our semester-long "College for Constructive Hell-Raising"     Twice-a-month evening class from January to May that will offer intensive training in traditional community organizing techniques as well as an opportunity to hear stories from 50 years of social justice history in DFW. Our goal is to graduate students who will produce positive change across a variety of local issues and causes. 

All of these efforts concentrate on building community among the like-minded, not just online, but in person. We need strong networks and good relationships with our peers to survive and thrive, so if you feel impotent to do much about DC or Austin, get out of the house and vote with your feet in your own backyard. This is where you can do the most good. 

Here's a last unlikely scenario to consider: 

A local group of environmentalists whose volunteer board membership never numbers more than a dozen, and who receive no national or state support, manages to not only survive for two decades, but fields the only full-time staff person devoted to clean air in DFW and becomes the leading protector of regional air quality, winning battles with sheer persistence as much as anything else

That's the unexpected history that's happened because of support like yours in times like these. Please stick with us, and we promise we'll keep fighting for, and with, you. 

You can make your secure online tax deductible contribution here, or send a check to PO Box 763844 Dallas, TX 75376. 

Thanks for your continued support. See you in the New Year – and New Era. 

Jim Schermbeck, Director                                                

Tamera Bounds, Chair, Downwinders at Risk Education Fund

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