Northcoast Environmental Center staff
A half-century is a long time to do anything, but fifty years as a coalition of environmental groups is particularly impressive. While it’s incredibly valuable to learn from the experiences, successes and failures of the past (and believe us, we are definitely taking this opportunity to learn as much as we can), the staff of the Northcoast Environmental Center are turning an eye toward the future and asking, “What might the next 50 years hold for the NEC and the environmental movement on the North Coast?”
In many ways, our vision of the future involves going back to our roots as a center for information and resource sharing, but with an expanded view of the people and issues that are a part of the environmental movement. In the early days, the NEC was a place where young activists and students came together to learn from each other and share the knowledge (both scientific and political) and resources (copiers, fax machines, meeting space) that helped them successfully fight for protections for public land, water and air. This collective knowledge and energy launched many of the founders into careers in environmental protection, policy and politics. Over the years, environmentalism gradually became the realm of the experts since it takes a certain amount of expertise to understand regulatory processes, as well as the skills, patience, and persistence to engage with the agencies in charge of them. Our vision of the future of the NEC is a center where non-experts, i.e. anyone and everyone, can share the knowledge and resources necessary to engage in these processes that affect our environment and become the experts and activists that teach the next generation.
But it’s not just about teaching the next generation, we need to learn from them, too. Cultivating youth leaders and collaborating with leaders and activists who come from different cultures and backgrounds is imperative for the success of the conservation and environmental justice movements, not only so they can carry on the fight, but also because we have a lot to learn from them. As the George Floyd rebellion of summer 2020 was raging, we took a hard look at ourselves and the make-up of the organization and saw that we need to make changes to become more equitable and to more accurately reflect the diversity of the environmental movement on the North Coast. By building relationships with Indigenous, Latinx and Black-led groups and activists who are working for environmental justice we will not only build our collective capacity to fight the various threats to our environment and ourselves, but we will also have the opportunity to learn from each other and build community.
Our vision of the future also recognizes that this movement is more than just policy and lawsuits, it’s also about the people who are involved and treating them as whole human beings, not just numbers. There are many barriers to getting involved in this work, including the emotional toll of facing environmental degradation, the physical overwork that can come from working long hours on stressful campaigns, and the social barriers that exclude many working people and parents. We envision the future of the NEC as being one of community, in which we value and support each other as much as we do clean water, clean air and endangered species.
The NEC is privileged to be a non-profit with extensive history, deep ties to the community, and loyal membership. We see a future in which we utilize these privileges in solidarity with local tribes, people of color, the immigrant community, disability rights community, and other underrepresented groups so we can learn from each other and create meaningful collaboration. The coming years will be vital in the fight against climate change and all of its causes, and collaboration and intersectionality are more important than ever. We are honored to have the opportunity to learn from the dedicated activists, scientists and conservationists who founded this organization, and to help shepherd it into the future.
If you want to help the NEC achieve this vision of the future, consider supporting us in the present by attending our events, volunteering, or donating.