Presidential administrations often have a 100-day benchmark. We’ve not even reached a quarter of that. Seems longer, doesn’t it?
I’ve been in these trenches a long time, long enough to know that the energy to sustain this work cannot be based on adrenaline. This work is about the long haul-a marathon not a sprint. That said, there is so much to do, to read, to talk about and yes, to get angry about.
Take pause. Take a breath.
The forces that led to the political environment we now face did not arise overnight. A couple of marches and a flurry of letters written to policymakers, while important, valuable and even inspiring, will not protect clean air and water, public lands and the host of American values arguably in play right now. Sustained activism and advocacy will.
Many of us have run rivers. Post-election and pre-inauguration, it seemed that we were camped at a beach on a wilderness river, on a long calm pool above an un-run stretch of whitewater. The rapids below sounded big and loud, but we weren’t in them yet. Apprehension was high. We knew it sounded rough, but that was for tomorrow.
It’s different now. Now we are really in it.
Don’t Focus on the Rocks
There is a rule in whitewater boating. Don’t focus on the rocks. Focus on where the water is going, and maneuver to be in the flow. Read the river not the rocks. If you just look at the rocks then that’s where you’ll end up. Thinking about the new administration and the new Congress won’t be helped by only focusing on the rocks. I talk to many who cannot look away. "I keep checking in on the latest piece of bad news," a friend just told me. "I can’t help it. Sometimes I can’t sleep."
That is being too focused on the rocks.
Focus on the Flow
We need to focus on where the water’s going. The flow. The flow is found in the overwhelming public support for clean air and water. The flow is the boundless support for protecting public lands and wildlife. It’s in the recognition that we live in one of the most extraordinary places on the planet, and that together, we can and we will work to protect it.
The flow is found in the extraordinary energy in people right now who want to be engaged. The progress of the past is not over. We have work to do, a river to run. You know what? If we’re pulling on the oars together, we’ll do this. We can do this by being focused on what matters and working together.
Make no mistake: we are in uncharted water. This will be hard. We will get wet and, at times, cold. But let’s all commit, at least right now, to being focused on the flow, not on the rocks. This is what organizations like ICL are here for. So let’s get in there together and inspire, inform and empower each other.
Here’s another element of the flow, something positive to focus on right now: we have entered one of the most creative and energized eras of public involvement I’ve ever seen. As many of you know, I’ve spent a lot of time working in Washington, D.C. This makes this story all the more inspiring to me: it’s based on real world politics rather than how-you-were-taught-it-worked-in-school. Indivisible began as a guide to citizen-based political action for progressives. Written by a couple ex-congressional staffers who personally lived through the rise of the Tea Party, the guide has morphed into formation of local groups. It’s creative and energized. It’s also impactful. I’m not saying it’s all polite. I’m also not saying it’s all what I want the Idaho Conservation League to model. We have a model and it works. But this energy is amazing and good, and similar energy from the other direction helped create the political challenges we’re now dealing with.
ICL Builds Bridges
The Idaho Conservation League is in this for the long haul. Our long-held strategies for creating commonsense conservation will hold true in these changing times. We build bridges rather than walls. We focus on the flow of public support and the values the majority of Idahoans care about. Nevertheless, we’re also adapting our strategies, and tightening the straps as we navigate these waters. You’ll be hearing more about this.