Lois Gibbs is Coming Back to Dallas – to Help Downwinders Plan and Strategize

by jim on February 22, 2017

Imagine Rosa Parks personally leading a strategy and planning session for your local civil rights groups. Or Ralph Nader coming to spend a weekend with your consumer rights groups to help you prioritize your goals. 

That's the enviable position Downwinders at Risk's all-volunteer board is in after finding out Lois Gibbs, the mother of the modern American environmental movement, will be their facilitator in a weekend-long retreat this coming weekend…for free. 

It seems one of the few perks of becoming a board member for Downwinders is being able to call on America's #1 toxic avenger for help when you need her. 

Gibbs and Downwinders go back almost 25 years, by way of our founder, Sue Pope, and our Director, Jim Schermbeck. Gibbs was the featured guest at our very first Root and Branch Revue in 2015. Besides getting her entire community relocated off a toxic waste dump, and building the Superfund clean-up program from scratch to address the contamination at sites like hers, Gibbs also founded the The Center for HealthEnvironment & Justice, the largest grassroots environmental network in the country. She brings decades of organizing experience and a national perspective to the Downwinders program work in DFW. 

From this Friday through Sunday, the entire Downwinders board and staff will be meeting out of town to discuss what it means to be a local clean air watchdog in the Age of Trump. We had lots of good conversations over the course of this year's just-concluded Root and Branch Revue that we'll be following-up on. We'll also review all the recommendations left on our "What If" Wall" that made the rounds of Root and Branch events. We asked everyone who showed-up to write down what they needed to happen. We got a wheelbarrow of ideas, all of which are being considered by our board, including:

"Getting a doctors/nurses groups organized"

"Getting a children's group organized"

"More coordination and communication among groups"

"Using new technology to do environmental testing"

"Getting cities to better address climate change"

"Better connecting food policy to environmental policy"

"Systematically addressing environmental racism/justice"

"Linking local targets to national campaigns" 

A  Trump Administration means that our hopes for a sane DFW clean air plan are gone. What they get replaced with is up for grabs although we have some promising ideas that we hope Lois can help us sort through. We made great new allies over the past month. We've made some alarming discoveries that deserve more attention. We need to adjust our plans to suit the new times.  We'll be reporting back soon with our results. Stay tuned.

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