When scientists, engineers, regulators spout them, it is easy for them, their language, their world, their jobs. But as a regular person, an environmental activist, I actively have to dig, ask questions and do my best to learn it well enough I can translate it to people who haven't ever parts-per-millioned a thought.
My secret weapon? The teams of scientists, engineers and retired regulators who want to give back and set right what wrongs they may have been party to in their previous employments. Our stealth decoders, explain diagrams, decipher what looks like jargon and help me produce the cheat-sheets to use while sitting there on the front rows at these town halls and council meetings.
True, I have picked up a lot of accurate information on the situation we are nested in, but there is always more to learn, to pick apart and twist for not only the what is happening but the long term effects and the number of generations who will be messing with the mess we have unless we get this done right.
For years LEAD Agency has had what we have unofficially called our Science Advisory Board. At one point we were even going to list their names on our stationary. But we thought better. They have been our Secret Weapon. There could be a day that we go public. None of them have asked to be silent partners, they each have been willing at the end of a long day to make it even longer explaining and piecing out the dialect that might get through to a lay person.
So this week with the Tar Creek Conference, the notepad open, the Marantz recorder beside me, they began and my role changed from activist to host. Welcoming strangers, welcoming the speakers, among them, embedded are some of our silent to the public team-members. Our Tar Creek Conferences have been always open to the public and the public has wandered in and like me thought: "what did they say? what does that mean?" To help any newcomers we begin our conferences and always have with what we call a "Tar Creek 101" held to explain who the players are, which agencies and what slice of the work they manage.
There is no way better to begin a discussion of superfund than with someone who came onto superfund only when the one near her home she began to believe had caused her own father's death and inspired her new to be published book, GROUNDGLASS. Still grieving, Kathryn Savage drove to Oklahoma from Minnesota to be part of the Tulsa Arts Fellowship and that route led her through our superfund site.
Throughout the years artists and writers, potters, photographers and poets have found Tar Creek and LEAD has come to know them and their talents. Kathryn came to us, but we grew some of them, like novelist Vanessa Lillie who with Maryann Hurtt were featured in our first ever Writers' Circle.
As you know having survived childhood -- name calling is a thing that can haunt you or follow you throughout your life. Sometimes, as an adult in a new community you earn an unspoken label. For me I only learned one of mine when Joby Taylor wrote it and then actually spoke it aloud during the Water Session of the 23rd Tar Creek Conference. He said I was known as "our region's environmental conscience."
Just last week in headline text I was called a Whistleblower. There is rarely pride gained from random labels, but those descriptors bring it. I worked in public education for nearly 30 years and if teaching by example is still out there, join in, take the mantle, be and have an environmental conscience.
Tune in and watch the recordings of this year's Tar Creek Conference. My goodness listen to Nick Shepherd and be amazed at the fish population that has returned to the unnamed tributary in Commerce. "If there is magic, it is contained in water." - Loren Eiseley. (This year's conference theme)
And there they are, the magic can be seen by the numbers of fish species!
You will meet my teachers, you will hear the facts and you will be stronger and smarter when you march right up and lead your friends into those council meetings to speak truthfully and emit the call to action for the environment. That environment is the very one where you reside.
Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim
Aalissa Wiley - 2 fish in the upper left Maddison Matthews - little fish Ashley Stogsdill - Saturn River Rings
Brenlyn Key - Fish circling the Saturn rings Kale Derwin - Lettering Sarah Trew - Background