Beverly May talks strategy with Protect Grand Island organizers

What sets Crag apart from most other environmental law centers is that a big part of our work involves community outreach and organizing.  This winter and spring, I was excited to be able to connect many of our clients and supporters with Beverly May, a friend of mine from Kentucky who has become a household name for many people who are faced with battles to save the places they love from the exploits of extractive industries.  The story of Beverly’s struggle to save her home from mountain-top removal is portrayed in the documentary film, Deep Down.

Crag partnered with Columbia Riverkeeper to show the film in Portland this winter and then in Astoria and Kelso, WA this March.  Beverly May came out to visit with Crag clients and attend the March screenings of Deep Down.   While she was here, we visited with Grand Island farmers and neighbors, coastal residents who have been fighting LNG and citizens concerned about the coal export facility proposed in Longview.  We sat around kitchen tables and talked about our shared stories and the lessons learned from standing up to the environmentally destructive practices of big industries. We also celebrated our time together with a big square dance.

Beverly May and LNG opponents Cheryl Johnson, Ted Messing and Carolyn Newman swap battle stories.

On a personal level, it was really powerful for me to connect the struggles that my friends and neighbors have been dealing with back in Appalachia with those of my Pacific Northwest friends and neighbors.  There is a contagious sense of empowerment and inspiration that happens when people come together to share their battle stories and marvel at the impact that a handful of neighbors can truly have on issues that seem too big to tackle. After Beverly’s visit, Kris Bledsoe from Yamhill County commented, “How can we extract a little bit of the essence of Bev and bottle it for local use?”  Kris and her neighbors are currently challenging a proposed gravel mine on Grand Island.  After spending time with Kris and her neighbors and with the folks who banded together to halt the Bradwood Landing LNG facility, I’d say that our region has a wealth of the essence many of us connect with Beverly May.

That essence is a form of renewable energy; is citizen power, and it is both local and sustainable.  It lives in each and every person who is standing up to save the communities and wild places that you love, and it is much more potent, powerful and sustainable than any fossil fuel could ever be.