“If you believe that one person cannot make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito in the room.” —South African Proverb
Good environmental policy results from cooperative effort between many parties, but the actions of individuals are no less crucial. Without civic participation, sound policy simply does not happen. Whether you call your legislator’s office, testify in front of the legislative body, or attend even a small rally, your voice becomes part of the public mosaic that shapes the legislative process. Bottom line: no law gets passed without some form of citizen engagement. Remember that decision-makers work for us!
Civic engagement can nevertheless be confusing or discouraging despite this simple relationship, so let’s address a few common doubts about the process:
“Legislators don’t listen anyway. They’re just going to vote the will of their friends or their campaign contributors…”
If money is all that talks, what’s the cash value of a utility lobbyist over 1000 angry voters? By raising the public profile of an issue, pressuring legislators to take a position, and then holding them accountable, voters can turn up the heat on the electoral oven, so speak up!
“It can take years for the issues I care about to get noticed…”
Not every legislative effort wins the first time around, but it’s equally true that the momentum of public pressure and good strategy leads to victory. For example, the coalition Mercury Free Minnesota passed the nation’s best mercury emissions reduction legislation in 2006, but only after years of legislative defeat.