I recently held a conservation event in the city of Shoreview with 11 adults and 15 Boy Scouts. We gathered to learn about conservation issues moving through the legislature and write letters to local leaders. This ended up being my favorite event to host so far, and it helped me reflect on the philosophy and message of what we do at Conservation Minnesota.
My presentation went over the basics – Minnesota’s policy proposals on clean water, renewable energy, pollinators, and toxic chemicals – but the learning moments for me came from the discussion around those conservation values. The thoughtful discussion questions that the Boy Scouts had about environmental policies I presented on were really impressive. For example, one Boy Scout asked me whether or not there are healthy alternatives to the bad flame retardant chemicals. Another asked how much money per acre a farmer typically makes fro his corn or soybean yield. This question came from a discussion on buffers and weighing the relative importance of water quality, farmer collaboration and relationships, and just compensation. This was a rich discussion – much richer and with a sincere interest in learning than many of the typical political discussions I hear surrounding these topics.
The questions were refreshing and they reminded me that the environmental policy world need not be nerdy and obscure. When we talk about the right to clean water and air and the financial and social realities of achieving those conservation ideals, we’re discussing relatable values and concerns that we share across all demographic lines.
The next part of the event was writing letters to local leaders. I had no idea how this portion of the event would unfold – would people feel too uncomfortable sitting in near-silence with strangers? Would the Boy Scouts get bored? To my great happiness, every single person got to work writing two letters – one to their state senator and the other to their state representative. The entire room became a team of people all writing about shared values.
One of the Boy Scout leaders came up to me to say that he really appreciated the opportunity for the Scouts – whose activities often involve wilderness appreciation and conservation values – to take part in the “next step” of conservation: advocacy. He’s right. This is a crucial link to be made. Caring about the environment also means letting your leaders and your community know that you care and that you hope they listen to you
I am so thankful that what could have been a typical event turned into a lightbulb moment for me on the simple importance of talking with others about and advocating for conservation values.
If you have the opportunity to attend or host a letter-writing event, or simply want to write a letter from your home, I hope you go for it. If you’d like guidance or letter-writing tips, I would be happy to work with you! Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.