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Photography as an activism onramp

February 13 2009 | Jim's Blog,
by Jim



I've always believed that everyone, every single person, can be part of our coastal conservation movement.

That belief is fuel for me everyday as I ponder how we can plug more and more people into this movement. What will it take to get this person to value our coasts? What are the issues that would hook that person to understand how important our coastal ecosystems are?

I've been known to pontificate on this subject from time to time... waxing on regarding the importance of onramps, connection points and feeder systems.

Somehow this photo jogged me back into that space. My friend Graeme, one of the crew behind the newly formed and increasingly potent Lake Michgan Chapter, sent me this photo. The photo came from David Orias (more of his photos here).

The hook for me with this photo is that it attempts to capture the essence of our mission. When I look at photos like this I "feel" protection and enjoyment of oceans, waves and beaches. It reminds me of sessions with my friends where birds surf the updrafts of breaking waves. So, for me, it works on that level. But this goes deeper for me.

I believe that we need to "live where people already live." I mean that literally and figuratively. On the literal side we need to embrace the full demographic spectrum of people along our coastlines. We literally need to "be" physically where they live, work and recreate. The oversimplification of us doing this is our chapter and affiliate network. We're in over 20 countries, more than 100 chapters, etc.

It's the figurative part of this that is most interesting to me... because it's the area of greatest potential upside for our mission.

If people spend an hour a day on a social network of their choice, we might want to seriously consider building out a way for them to plug in on THAT network. Related to the photo above, if they have excellent digital photography skills we should help them plug in on THAT network. This may sound obvious but I believe we, and most volunteer-fueled networks, don't do this. We expect people to come over and live where we live, come to our physical locations, do the job that we ask them to do... and in the process miss capturing some large majority of coastal dwellers.

If someone is really into photography let's try our hardest to not ask them to take on a local policy task. They may fail in the short term but regardless... they will leave in the long run.

Photography is an activist tool, it's part of the quiver... let's find people in love with our coasts. Let's take the time to know what their inherent skillsets and loves are... and then try our best to merge all these to better accomplish our mission.

Great photo David and thanks for sending it on Graeme.
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