Look at a map of Michigan, and one of the first things you’ll notice is that we are surrounded by water and full of many inland ponds, lakes and streams. It’s Clean Water Action’s (CWA) goal to protect that which makes Michigan so unique.
The atmosphere at East Lansing’s CWA is a celebratory one. The walls are adorned with posters promoting goals it has reached and new ones to accomplish. People are excited, if mood can be judged by CWA’s Facebook and Twitter pages about recent victories, such as stopping the spread of coal-fired power in Michigan.
CWA is a national nonprofit environmental organization founded in 1972, and now has over a million members and offices around the country. There are 235,000 members in Michigan alone, including an East Lansing office on Michigan Avenue. From this office, members of CWA practice grassroots advocacy in the surrounding communities. Community organizers go door-to-door up to six days per week. Rain, shine or snow, CWA canvassers are out in the community spreading the word, taking donations, signing petitions and encouraging Michigan residents to voice their opinions about important environmental issues.
“We got close to 50,000 letters, e-mails and phone calls to Senators [Debbie] Stabenow and [Carl] Levin,” said Susan Harley, policy director, when talking about recent CWA victories — the postponing of a coal-fired power plant near Bay City and the rejection of the Wolverine Coal Plant proposal.
CWA also works on federal issues, like national clean energy policies. They have a current campaign to stop the bottling and shipping out of state of Michigan’s water.
“We want a right for Michigan to say ‘no’ to those types of uses,” said Harley. “We have that right for our surface waters, but our well water is connected to our surface water, so if you’re taking a lot of water out of wells, surface water can dry up and you’ve lost your water rights.”
CWA is very much a community in itself. The offices across the state, as well as across the country, participate in collaborative phone calls in order to keep in touch and up to date about water issues across the nation. Canvass leaders can travel to different states in order to share their work and experience in other offices.
“We couldn’t do it without our canvassers and our really strong volunteer base,” said Harley. “It’s a huge family.”
Tuesday nights at CWA are weekly volunteer nights, headed by Sarah Mullkoff, the Michigan campaigns coordinator. Members of the community are welcome to come out and get involved with volunteer activities.
“[There are] lots of opportunities to get involved,” said Harley. “Even if you don’t want to come out to our offices and participate, we always want people to help out by writing letters or even blogging …We have lots of different ways people can get involved, including from their own homes.”
1200 Michigan Ave.
East Lansing, MI