I don’t know if you noticed, but over the past week and a half, we at CHEJ have been repeatedly asking you, and by extension, your friends, your family, your colleagues, and everyone else you know to call in to the White House and ask for the EPA to ‘Get Out of The Way!’ I’m sure if you’ve called, whether it was once, or every day like myself, you discovered that it was the easiest and most polite call exchange with a government agency that you’ve ever had in your entire life. From my perspective at least, the phone call went something like this:
“Hi, this is the White House Comment Line. All our lines are busy right now, but if you’d like to stay on the line, someone will accept your call and record a quick comment….”
…Music plays while I’m put on hold for less than ten seconds…
Which is kind of boring and bureaucratic-sounding, right? Until a sweet old lady answers your call and sincerely listens to whatever it is you’re trying to say!
“Hi! My name is Zoe Hall and I am a citizen of St. Louis calling on behalf of the citizens of Bridgeton, Missouri. I think the EPA needs to get out of the way and push for the FUSRAP to pass so the Army Corps of Engineers can clean up the West Lake Landfill. I would also like the president to see what he can do about relocation for the citizens within a mile of the landfill. This is a really pressing issue and I hope you see to it the president finds out how concerned I am.”
Eventually, by the last Tuesday of our push for calls, the conversation ended like this:
“Sure sweetie, are you referring to HR-4100?”
Which is the House of Representatives bill 4100 pushing for FURSAP. The instant recognition of the exact issue we are pushing for indicates that the White House Comment Line has gotten such an influx of calls concerning West Lake that they have to have a code for it to easily identify and tally up all of our voices united in our outrage. This is a huge deal –– this list of codes and top concerns of the nation gets forwarded to the White House Staff in order to keep our president updated on the issues we as his constituents are focused on. That means our president has in his possession a lengthy list of people’s names and outcries for change. What he does next is out of our hands, but at least, now aware of our concern, he is accountable for whatever that may be! In itself, I consider this a victory.
Whether or not you participated in the call in, everyone can learn from the power this provided to the citizens at West Lake and anyone who wants to organize a simple, empowering action that is not only easy to do (it takes five minutes!) but is also one that gets results. Remain persistent and focused, keep your goals clear, and use the power given to we the people to raise your voice as loud as possible, so that one of the most powerful people in the world might hear.
By Gregory Kolen II. Environmental justice is an issue that affects everyone, but those who bear the brunt of it are often the most vulnerable