By: Ellen Simon
When pandemic headlines read, “The Sky is Falling,” it seems like an awkward time to remind your supporters of the work you do, and the ways they can engage.
But the truth is that people who aren’t hospitalized or working in a hospital are spending more time than ever online, and they’re looking for ways to help their communities. Axios reports that use of Phone2Action, a digital advocacy platform, skyrocketed during March.
“Now we’re shifting to this uncertain territory where nobody really has any idea what’s going to be happening next week, let alone three weeks from now,” says executive director and San Francisco Baykeeper Sejal Choksi-Chugh.
Nevertheless, Waterkeepers are adeptly rethinking what they say to their supporters, writing smart emails and blog posts to remind the people who love their local waterways of the enduring work that continues, even now.
“Sadly, the coronavirus outbreak once again demonstrates the absolute urgency of cross border cooperation,” EcoPeace Middle East wrote in an email. “The virus and environmental issues in general do not recognize political borders. We remain committed as ever to promoting and facilitating regional cooperation towards the protection of our shared environment and our shared future.”
“We’re still working for clean water,” Mobile Baykeeper wrote in a blog post and email. “We will still be investigating your pollution reports. If you see red clay running in a river, smell what could be a sewage spill, discover litter dumping, or anything in between, please report online, email, or call … and we’ll send the Patrol Team to investigate safely and as quickly as possible.”
It went on to say that it would still be doing water monitoring and updating its Swim Guide; it would still be developing educational programs; it would still be keeping its cleanup materials ready; and it would still be working on all the biggest issues facing the Bay, especially coal ash. The blog post wrapped up with three ways supporters could help.
North Carolina’s MountainTrue—home to French Broad Riverkeeper, Green Riverkeeper, Broad Riverkeeper, and Watauga Riverkeeper—published this blog post (which was also sent as an email) listing seven actions supporters can take, ranging from signing a petition about a comprehensive plan to clean up the rivers, to planting a native garden, taking a hike, and filling out the U.S. Census. “This isn’t a goodbye, it’s a new way of saying ‘Hello neighbor,’” MountainTrue posted.
A recurring theme in the emails and blogs is ways supporters can learn about the environment while staying home. Mahanadi River Waterkeeper Rajan Panda released a series of videos with tips for what to do while India is under its three-week lockdown. Watch the first, second, and third. San Francisco Baykeeper sent an email to supporters with the staff’s favorite yoga feeds, documentary films, books, and coloring pages. (Check out Monterey Bay Aquarium’s jellyfish cam.) Ottawa Riverkeeper Elizabeth Logue hosted a Facebook Live event to answer questions supporters submitted, which ranged from how long does a sturgeon live to when must we remove ice fishing huts?
Coosa Riverkeeper sent an email to its supporters with seven videos to educate families about its work, the river, and how people can make an impact, as well as a pitch for a social media boost. “We LOVE folks tagging us in their pictures on the river and reeling (pun intended) in the social distancing measures… with some good lookin’ bass!” Crystal Coast Waterkeeper Larry Baldwin sent out a reminder of the importance of our waterways during this time.
“In a time of chaos and uncertainty, our outdoor resources offer arguably the safest escape – fresh air, nearly unlimited opportunities for exploration and an ability to completely unplug from the nonstop newsfeed and social media circus that seems to heighten anxiety, sometimes more than awareness,” wrote Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper. It called for photo and poetry submissions from their supporters, with the promise that it will share the results throughout April.
Black Warrior Riverkeeper’s emailed supporters with ways to volunteer while stuck at home, including helping with social media outreach.
Perhaps the most heartfelt offer of all came from Rogue Riverkeeper, which offered to pick up supporters’ groceries. “Please know that we are here not only to continue to protect clean water, but we are here for you! Let us know if you need groceries or supplies delivered. Reach out and tell us what kind of resources might be helpful for you and your family. Or just shoot us an email or phone call to chat and talk about what is going on. We are here as a friend and resource not only for the Rogue but for you.”
At Waterkeeper Alliance, Marc Yaggi, our executive director, has been working with Waterkeeper groups to make sure their work can continue, including sending a checklist of five things groups should be doing right now to ensure organizational health. Our staff has also been compiling daily emails to Waterkeeper groups with resources ranging from grant opportunities to tips on working from home. We’re also rallying supporters to take action on EPA’s enforcement suspension; we’re publishing blog posts and social media drawing attention to the strong work Waterkeeper groups continue to do; and we’re pushing ahead with legal actions that support clean water.
“Take care of yourselves, your team, your sisters and brothers in the Waterkeeper movement,” Yaggi told Waterkeepers around the world. “We’ll make it through to the other side.”
Feature image by San Francisco Baykeeper