To meet or not to meet, that is the question.

Guest Post by Bill Fisk:

There is no Conservation Committee meeting at ExCom this weekend

As an organization, are we about Conservation or are we about meetings? My vote is for Conservation in all its aspects, forests, rivers, lakes, animals, air and the things that impact the aforementioned. And to best participate in Conservation, we need to plan, organize and stay informed, and that requires meetings, UGH! This from a person who hates meetings and seems to always get into positions that require meetings, and lots of them.
Why sacrifice time and energy on meetings? Because, if they directly pertain to the work we do, they will, in the end, direct us to make the most efficient use of limited time and resouces in our work with Conservation, and also because these meetings are a forum for the diverse Groups within Sierra Club to be heard. There is a bumper sticker that says "Environmentalists do it for the Future" and that is the prime reason for Sierra Club meetings.
Now that I have established that A) I don't like meetings, and B) they are an evil necessity, lets get to the core of this missive. The Ex-Comm weekends have changed from a primary focus of Conservation matters to primarily non-Conservation Chapter matters. This has not been the result of a malicious infiltration of meeting nerds, but has been a gradual slipping away of the people who were being served by the conservation meeting. We cannot have effective Conservation Meetings unless we have members willing to attend the meetings and participate in the process of planning, setting goals, and learning about the issues so the information can get back to the local Groups.
Age, personal matters, expense, all are factors in this change. Have the issues changed or have the people changed? I think we have to take those thoughts together and conclude that people changed in their view of how to meet the issues. We took the "Think Globally, Act Locally" slogan and did the latter and ignored the former. Many of us have become content to hit the 'send' button on our computers to send a prewritten email from the comfort of our living rooms, and have forgotten the "active" part of being activists, such as composing letters in our own words, making phone calls, attending meetings and workshops, speaking to the legislature, inviting others to become involved, working with colleges and businesses to form alliances, and the host of other things we can do to bring about positive change in this world. We have forgotten that 'we' are the ones who must do this work, or it will not be done.
We need to get back to doing both the local and the global work. A local item for my Group in WNC is that of the administration attempting to sell off the National Forest, for other Groups it is the OLF, and for some it is the mega-dump situation of the Coast, just to name a few. While each Group works on their own local issues, the other Groups in the state can offer their support, if we are informed. And we can, at the same time, respond to global issues such as power companies as they try to slide around on the rules in order to circumvent environmental laws and regulations. We, as an environmental group, must meet both global and local issues head on, and to do that we must be more informed and united.
Does this mean that we all must attend all the meetings that are called, NO! Because if we do, we burn out and burn out fast. But we do need to expand our numbers and have more than one person from each Group who can attend Chapter meetings. This means reaching out to our members and getting them involved. It also means getting out of our comfort zone in this reach. Maybe you have a person who only wants to deal with population, and the upcoming meeting is about the OLF. They can still have input because the reason the OLF issue has come up is the growing population of Virginia Beach, and that leads to sustainability issues, and that leads to healthcare, and that leads to-- well, you get the picture.
Now comes the plea, you knew there would be one, didn't you? The next Ex-Com weekend that is located centrally enough for all Groups to reasonably participate will have a Conservation Meeting. Fair warning, you are on notice. I plan to have updates on the Cliffside situation, OLF, widening of the road through the Croatan National Forest, and any other stealth issue that is lurking out there. Then I want to have at least one, possible two, separate sessions on big picture issues, Forest, Sprawl, Costal issues, and then a good lunch and then maybe a session on planning an event, protest, forum, etc.
Now I need to hear from you, the would-be participants of these meetings, about what you want and need from such a meeting. If you think the Conservation Meetings should be held only twice a year instead of the four times the ExComm meetings are held, or you think one meeting a year should do it, or if your opinion is that we don't need Conservation Meetings at all, I really want to hear your ideas on that, too. Without you and your input, attempting to even have a state-wide Conservation Meeting is all for naught.
Every person's opinion is valid and valued. This is not a case in which silence is golden, silence is deadly to us all.

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