Three days before Christmas in 1989 our rural community was selected as the site for a hazardous waste incinerator. We learned quickly because other communities had been through similar struggles. If you have never heard these lessons before, they’re worth repeating.
1. There is no silver bullet. It all depends on who gives up first.
2. Law suits alone won’t win the battle.
3. Push your side of the story to the media every day and make it unique, of broad interest and entertaining. Try to have some fun.
4. People are more apt to support you on moral issues rather than environmental issues.
5. If the public views you as a victim, instead of the aggressor, they’ll side with you.
6. Elected officials can be swayed and/or replaced by a majority of the voters.
7. Consider all the angles: media, legal, education, fund raising, local and state government policy and motivational.
8. You have to support the people working beside you. People will join in at different levels. Some will never come to a meeting, but they’ll write checks. A few will emerge as your researchers, others as your public speakers. Some will come to the rallies. Others will write letters or call-in to local talk-shows. Welcome them where they are.
10. You’re in it for the long haul. Pace yourselves and persist in your belief that you will be the last one standing.
It took three years to win our struggle, but in the end our most important lesson was that people do have power. We came together, young and old, black and white, professional and blue collar, the wealthy and the poor for a common cause. We became friends, grew to respect one another and to cherish the strength that our diversity gave us.