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- Know your facts.When talking to government officials about the reasons coal plants are unnecessary and dangerous, it is important to be accurate and precise. Spend time with your coalition educating each other about coal and its effects. Use information from this website or other resources you may have.
- Form a coalition. It is important to have a core team to work with in fighting the development of big coal. Reach out to your friends, family and neighbors. Coal plants do not just affect a minority – they affect all of us, including parents, teachers, farmers, anglers and other groups. For basic help on organizing a group or event, see the Grassroots Guide to Effective Organizing, published by Citizens for Public Power.
- Choose a motive. While the goal of your campaign is probably already clear – to prevent the development of more coal plants – it is important that you clearly articulate your group’s specific motive to stop coal development. Whether it be that you are frustrated with an increase in autism cases or that you no longer enjoy hiking because of haze or something else entirely, it is helpful to have a personal connection to your argument.
- Choose a direction. When presenting your group to potential members and supporters, you should know the direction you are planning on taking the group. While this plan can (and should!) clearly change depending on circumstances, lay out the preliminary steps that are necessary to begin your efforts. For example, you may decide the first steps are to increase membership, write letters to the editor, or something else entirely.
- Contact similarly-minded groups in your region. There is a real power in numbers. You can make a stronger statement to your elected officials if you can show that you have a multitude of groups supporting your cause, especially if the groups bridge ideological and demographic gaps. In addition, bringing like-minded groups together allows you to share resources, or identify and bring needed resources to the table.
- Contact your Representatives. Find out where your local, state and national representatives stand on coal and related environmental issues – the League of Conservation Voters scorecard may be helpful but you can always call their office and ask. Using this information, organize your group members to call and write letters to your Representatives. When contacting your elected officials, there are a few things you should keep in mind:
- Always be respectful and professional; it will serve you better in the end.
- Be specific, and know exactly what you are asking for and why. If your request is in regard to a specific bill, know the bill number.
- Communicate in the most personal way possible. While it may not be possible to physically visit all of your officials that you want to influence, it is much better to make calls or write letters than write emails. Often, emails will get lost in full inboxes or will not be taken as seriously.
- Follow-up with your elected officials and show that you are committed to your issue.
- Try to avoid getting frustrated. In almost all cases, you will not be able to talk to your Representative, but will talk to an aide instead. You may get an automated response rather than a personal one. Although it might feel like your voice is being ignored, you are being heard. It is important that all the elected officials in this country hear from their constituents that coal is a bad idea.
- Write letters to the editor and editorials. These are excellent ways to both communicate with your community and show your elected officials that people are concerned about new coal. Try to get many members of your group to write letters to as many of the publications in your area as you can. If one of your elected officials supports dirty coal, respectfully call him out and ask that he represent the desires and needs of his constituents by demanding that the government support clean energy that preserves the health and wellbeing of its citizens.
- Sponsor events, and make sure to notify the media. Events are a great way to pull in new supporters of your cause and get “earned media” – positive news coverage that is garnered through news-worthy events. There are a variety of events that can be effective – vigils, protests, speaking events, social events, etc. – but try to be creative in choosing how to invest your time. Events that seem hackneyed will not get the same media attention as unique ones.
- Stay positive and do not give up. It can be frustrating to be an activist, and sometimes the victories seem few and far between. Just remember that the work you are doing is important locally, nationally and globally and it is extremely important to protect the environment in which we live. Maintain connections within your group between campaigns and with other activist groups in order to foster a support network.