Bigger Than Ourselves
By Shelley Silbert
Executive Director, Great Old Broads for Wilderness
It’s hard to fathom that our scrappy and growing organization celebrates thirty years in 2019! In this issue, we preview opportunities to commemorate this special year: September festivities at the Boulder Mountain Guest Ranch at the edge of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah, new membership specials, and expanded opportunities to catalyze public land protection where you live.
GETTING DOWN & DIRTY FOR THIRTY
Three decades ago, our founders chose our very particular name—Great Old Broads for Wilderness—to project a certain proclivity to laugh together even as we deal with serious issues, not to mention the ability to handle mud, dust, heat, cold, or wildness. It’s not beneath us to handle crusty old politicians either. We use our wit and wisdom, strategy, tenacity, and persuasion to get them behind wilderness designation, forest protection, keeping roadless areas intact, fighting climate change, and other measures to defend the wild places we love. We let them know we’re not going away and won’t take no for an answer!For older broads, “dirty thirties” conjures up the devastating Dust Bowl decade. As Ken Burns’ PBS documentary described it, the Dust Bowl was “the worst man-made ecological disaster in American history,” and “a morality tale about our relationship with the land that sustains us—a lesson we ignore at our own peril.”
As an organization entering our thirties, what lesson could be more appropriate as we fight today’s ecological disasters, and the dirty politics that go hand in hand with them? Younger broads describe the dirty thirties as the decade in which women revel in their full complement of power and prowess. Indeed, we are hitting our stride as an organization in our dirty thirties, and we intend to use everything in our power to prevent any disaster reminiscent of the Dust Bowl on U.S. public lands or anywhere on the planet.
SHARPENING OUR TOOLS
We continue to sharpen the tools of advocacy work, aiming to be bigger than ourselves as we tackle mission-driven work, inspire activism, and develop partnerships to multiply our efforts in this endlessly challenging period. We train a new cohort of Broadband leaders in March, surpassing 40 total chapters and adding in states where we’ve never had a presence, like Alaska, New Hampshire, and Texas. Reports from our Broadband leaders tell us there is inspiring work going on in their communities. More people are getting involved: over 7,000 participants last year and nearly 43,000 volunteer hours— a whopping 47% increase in boots on the ground and 19% more hours. Taking on an astounding array of activities, our Broadbands:
- Actively engage in Forest Plan Revisions and wilderness campaigns
- Write formal comments on the impacts of fossil fuel and infrastructure development, grazing, mining, and roads
- Monitor water quality and solitude (or lack thereof)
- Advocate for wetlands protection
- Teach nature studies to children
- Author opinion pieces and letters to the editor to educate the community
- Host and attend rallies
- Take the lead on climate issues…and so much more.
In November, a group of Broadband leaders will descend on the halls of Congress for a national grassroots training and lobbying event. Guided by our strategic plan, we’ve honed key campaigns to guide our work, both nationally and on specific public lands near and dear to our members. We continue to go to court as needed, which sadly seems more often of late. A litigation screening tool we’ve just developed will help decide when legal action is critical.
CELEBRATING OUR WAY TO SUCCESS
As Broads, we know that reconnecting with wild places and our wild selves motivates our passion like nothing else. When difficult work drains and depletes us, a retreat to celebrate what we love uplifts the soul. My year started with a recharge in a mountain hut at 10,000’ elevation, enjoying good friends and the chance to ski where quiet rules and motorized vehicles can’t follow. To enjoy no sound but the push of skis and the occasional junco’s trill or hawk’s cry; my ski poles softly whooshing through ice crystals, like sifting through tiny shards of glass. We marvel at the feathered hoar crystals mounded as if marmots sleep beneath the snow, their frosty fur curling at the surface. I think of the Navajo/Diné concept of Hozho: beauty and balance, and the need to restore it when disrupted. Beauty before me, beauty behind me, beauty above me, beauty around me. I carry these images home as inspiration. We gain resilience as we celebrate these moments and wake our senses to the urgency to restore the beauty, in every possible way.
This has been the work of Broads for thirty years—to restore what has been disrupted and protect what remains in its most intact and balanced condition. Hell yes, we are still here and persistent as ever —kicking up our heels with passion for wilderness, and kicking mightily against some of the harshest political attacks ever seen on public lands and waters, let alone our democracy. Walking in beauty, we are bigger than ourselves, and we walk together, growing stronger in our thirtieth year—and counting!
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