"Our people are perishing for the lack of knowledge. If I could stand up and speak and one person picks up a book or goes to their environmental office and learns what they can do to protect their water, their lands and their people, I would feel that I could breath without my heart hurting so for our great country." Trish Bragg June 2015

The journey to right wrongs can be long and complicated.

Trish Bragg and her friends spent a decade on theirs.

They began by joining the West Virginia Organizing Project, which brings a somewhat different approach to activism. Rather than staff members doing much of the work, groups like the Organizing Project encourage members to do it themselves: read regulations, learn laws, talk to legislators, write letters to the media. These groups were founded in the spirit of legendary organizer Saul Alinsky: "We are concerned with how to create mass organizations to seize power and give it to the people; to realize the democratic dream of equality, justice, peace, cooperation, equal and full opportunities for education, full and useful employment, health, and the creation of those circumstances in which man can have the chance to live by values that give meaning to life."

More about this organizing philosophy, and a list of books, at the National Organizers Alliance.

Whatever the issue-legal, social, health, environmental-citizens will need to understand regulations and laws. Frequently, rules and laws already exist to stop or control damaging practices. Yet, sometimes enforcement fails, for lack of money or interest.

Often more than one regulatory agency will have oversight of an issue, including local, state and federal governments. Trish dealt with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, as well as with the federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement. Mining rules for West Virginia can be found here.

Groups like the Organizing Project tend not to hire lawyers, but support members who choose to bring lawsuits. Public Justice, a coalition of attorneys in private practice, has brought expertise and funding to major public interest issues such as tobacco and water pollution, including the Woburn Mass., case depicted in the movie "A Civil Action." Public Justice aided in Trish Bragg's landmark case. Examining some of Public Justice's major cases can be helpful.

Sometimes struggles will bring citizens to state legislatures and Congress. As Trish Bragg and her friends learned, citizens who actually go to the legislature, speak and meet with legislators can make a big difference. Again, they must educate themselves in the sometimes arcane protocols.

Citizens need to present facts surrounding their issues accurately and fairly, with evidence in support of their requests. When asking for stronger contols on mine blasting, Trish's group kept logs with date, time and description of blasts. That was 16 years ago. Now citizens have tools for doing their own tests of water and air pollution.

As Trish Bragg and her community found, issues are not black and white, nor are regulators all bad...or good...or immutable to change. Progress can be made, sometimes in unexpected ways.

Trish Bragg and Elaine Purkey and others involved in organizing are available to talk with groups. Just use the Contact form.






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