The role of the Choose Clean Water Coalition is to bring members of the Chesapeake Bay restoration community together to coordinate our work and messaging so that we can be stronger with one voice. With so much work to be done in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, and with limited resources to do it with, most of the 230 Coalition members find themselves focusing solely on their own projects and watersheds. All of that changed in November of 2016.
A once friendly climate for our environment had turned uncertain and at times combative with the President’s proposed budget eliminating critical federal funding needed to restore the Bay and jeopardized other clean water rules and protections There was an immediate sense of panic among our members and it was in this moment that we as a community were forced to reevaluate not only how we worked on our individual issues, but also with each other.
Not long after, the Coalition began the planning process for our upcoming Choose Clean Water Conference. For the past eight years, the Coalition has hosted this conference in a different city in the Chesapeake Bay watershed with the purpose of bringing our members together for two days of networking, learning, and celebration. It was during the planning for this conference that we made the decision as a Coalition not to panic in this new political climate, but rather to show the strength in our numbers, and our theme was born – Think local. Act together.
When the conference came this past May, there was every opportunity for the speakers, sessions, and attendees to focus on the negative implications of our situation. However, our keynote speaker, Mustafa Ali of the Hip Hop Caucus and National Wildlife Federation Board member, kicked off our conference with an incredibly motivating speech that ended with a beautiful moment. Our members were asked to stand up, join hands, and say, “power.” They were asked to say it again and a little louder this time, “power.” The last time, they were asked to raise their hands above their heads and say it as loud as they could, “POWER!”
This was the moment our members realized that no matter what happens at the federal level, our community will continue to make change on the ground. We will continue to install rain gardens in communities across the watershed to reduce pollution, we will continue to plant trees and increase wildlife habitat for threatened species, we will continue to engage and support under-served communities, and we will continue to fight for regulations that protect the water that we drink. When we work together, no one can take away our power.
Kristin Reilly is the communications manager with the Choose Clean Water Coalition.