By Rachel O’Keeffe, Food & Water Watch Northwest Organizing Intern
As we are all still reeling from the election, many people are questioning what the next four years will look like.
What will happen to all of the social and environmental progress we’ve made? What should we focus on? Who should we target? What can we as individuals do to make a difference? Can we make a difference?
Now –more than ever– what we do locally matters.
In fact, the only way we’re going to get through this tough time in America is for people to strive for change at the local level.
Look back at the progress we’ve made on this campaign to keep Nestlé out of the Gorge in 2016 alone.
Working together with the local community and the Local Water Alliance we passed a ballot measure banning commercial water bottling in Hood River County. We were successful because we took action locally. Local Water Alliance held rallies, press conferences, and made thousands of phone calls and knocked on hundreds of doors to win the ballot measure by a landslide. Those of us who know Nestlé would be harmful to the Gorge and its residents helped to educate voters about the dangerous risks of a large-scale water bottler in the region.
We have been so successful in stopping Nestlé on the Oregon side of the Gorge that Nestlé has initiated discussions with towns on the Washington side. Waitsburg city officials told Nestlé to keep on walking. Goldendale area residents came out in the hundreds to tell their city council they don’t want any business with Nestlé. This progress was made under an Obama administration, but it could have happened under a Trump administration. We will continue to strive for progress on this campaign until Nestlé packs its bags and leaves the Gorge for good.
Along with focusing on issues locally, we must stand in solidarity with the tribes. They are powerful sovereign nations whose rights must be respected and we will stand in solidarity with them, whether it be at Standing Rock or Oxbow Springs.
On December 4th, the Standing Rock Sioux celebrated a victory when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced it would not grant the final easement required for the completion of the Dakota Access pipeline under the Missouri River at Lake Oahe. This milestone victory was a result of solidarity. Thousands of water protectors and veterans have gathered at the camps to stand in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux and other indigenous tribes in North Dakota, where they faced mace, water cannons in freezing weather, rubber bullets, and unjust treatment from American police officers and security forces.
It is crucial that we keep in mind this does not stop construction of the pipeline for good. Energy Transfer Partners has stated it is fully committed to completing the pipeline in its original route. Alternative routes may be considered; Energy Transfer Partners may disregard the denial of a permit and attempt construction under Lake Oahe anyway.
This seems all too familiar. We passed a ballot measure yet Nestlé is still trying to build its water bottling facility in Cascade Locks. It is important that we celebrate our victories, but it is also important that we stay vigilant to make sure we don’t lose the crucial ground we have gained.
We can do that by continuing to organize and take action in solidarity with all of our allies.
Together we can win against the largest food and beverage company in the world.
Together we can achieve that victory in the Gorge, on the local level.