Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Seattle Unity Forum helps local progressives understand that we have to work together

Yesterday, a number of social justice and environmental groups came together to begin a process of unifying their work and creating shared goals.

Oftentimes, it seems these many of these groups are at odds with one another, but many people are beginning to realize this makes little sense.

The well attended forum, which included a number of community advocates, a Seattle city councilmember, and Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, was held to help break down that barrier here in the Pacific Northwest.

One of the recurring themes that emerged in the forum was education. Wyking Garrett from UmojaFest P.E.A.C.E Center compared the minds of our youth to those organic, local gardens we like so much.

The only problem is that at present, we're putting energy and resources into developing organic gardens, but we're not investing in learning opportunities for young people. Education is the ultimate equalizer in terms of pay, quality of life, and oneness with the communities around it.

By educating our youth, we not only provide them with a sense of self, but help them understand their connection with the environment around them.

And, in fact, we need to make environmental protection and environmental science part of our school curricula, besides strengthening our government and civics courses, which are woefully inadequate.

We must ensure our children can have an education that allows them to continue the work older activists are doing now after we're gone.

Another topic that came up was homelessness and safe neighborhoods, particularly Nickelsville and its need for a permanent site.

A permanent site would allow the folks who run Nickelsville to take steps to limit the camp's impact on the surrounding environment.

They've done well so far, but as was pointed out, it's "easy to care about water conservation when you have to carry five gallons of it for miles". By allowing them to develop some level of stability they can take further steps to reduce their footprint and construct an ecologically-friendly village rather than moving a shantytown around. This would address the shelter shortages in a "green" way.

As I mentioned earlier, the overarching concept of the forum was unity. By the end of the event, I could sense both the need and desire to work together from everyone in the room. People realize what's at stake.

Craig Benjamin of the Streets For All campaign talked about the greater need for transportation choices not just because we need to protect our environment, but because we save money and become more physically fit as a result of freeing ourselves of auto dependence. (Of course, this requires building walkable, mixed neighborhoods with streetcars and light rail).

The environmental movement, in tandem with organized labor, has long sought to restructure our economy to end our addiction to fossil fuels and put humanity on the path to sustainability.

Those progressive objectives are very much in harmony with the goals that social justice activists have: remaking America as a land where hard work is rewarded and a person isn't judge by their race, religion, gender, or sexual preference.

It's time that we progressives realized that all our policy directions are interrelated, and stem from our core values of empathy and responsibility.

It's our job to unite around our finest traditional values so we can move our region and our country forward together again.


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