AdvocacyCorps is an intensive ten-week summer bootcamp for aspiring urban & environment advocates. We are now accepting applications for the 2013 summer program.
Futurewise is always interested in partnering with current college students to complement coursework with hands-on training. Past interns have worked on legal briefing and case management, policy research and writing, membership development, communication, and video editing. Interns are expected to work at least 15 hours each week.
To inquiry about current opportunities, submit a letter of interest and a resume to Sharon Yamada-Heidner.
Whether its membership development or policy advocacy, we can always use more volunteers. We currently could use help with databasing, business outreach, GIS mapping, blog writing, video editing, smart growth policy research, and internal filing for closed legal cases.
If you're interested, please send a resume, your interests, and how many hours your willing to commit to at Sharon Yamada-Heidner.
Essay from a former intern:
What Futurewise Means to Me
Trudy Soriano, Summer 2011 Intern
This summer I had the privilege of being an intern at the Seattle office of Futurewise. In the fall I will return to Whitman College as a sophomore, with a new perspective on the wide range of work being done in trenches by the good people of this important organization.
Before college, I lived on Vashon Island. The Vashon community is overwhelmingly supportive of all things progressive and sustainable. This community makes good planning look easy and painless.
By contrast I spent many of my earlier years living down the political rabbit hole, in Okanogan County which is about as far away as you can get from Vashon, on the political spectrum. The political will to protect wildlife, open space and agriculture is just not there, for the majority. The hostility expressed there, to the very notion of environment protections and sustainable agriculture have informed my understanding of how difficult it can be to stem the tide of environmental degradation. There is a very powerful pro-development/anti-regulation element in local government. Actually it defines the local government.
The struggle for environmental protection in Okanogan is like a 21st century version of the fight for civil rights in the south, in the 60's. Futurewise is to Okanogan County, what busloads of college students were to the segregationists.
By way of illustration, there was a public hearing in April, in which the public was invited to give testimony on the draft Comprehensive Plan, which hasn't been updated since 1964.There was a large turnout. Before the beginning of the hearing, a local property rights activist distributed his personal manifesto to everyone in the room, stating that he was a Vietnam Vet and that his biggest regret was that he had wasted his efforts and his M-16 in Vietnam. His M-16, he said, would be better put to use against local environmentalists who disrespected him.
This was not long after the incident in Arizona, where Cathy Giffords was shot. Environmentalists in the room were concerned about standing up to testify. The document was brought to the attention of the attending sheriff’s deputy as well as the County Commissioners at the bench. But nothing was done. The man was not removed from the premises.
I can only imagine the response if it had been an environmentalist making such threats.
All the laws on the books are nothing without an entity to enforce the laws and inspire local government to be accountable. Okanogan County has established a bad track record for poor compliance with state regulations on growth management and environmental protection. Okanogan is a small community and environmentalists speak in whispers about the issues. Okanogan needs the strong voice of Futurewise.
Futurewise, as referenced by County Commissioners, Planning Commissioners and just local folks, is usually in terms such as “that outsider extremist organization.” But they take Futurewise VERY seriously.
When our family lived in Okanogan, we lived in a Valley, about 3,000 feet above the Okanogan River Valley, on a road that dead ended in the National Forest. This road to nowhere is part of the reason the valley stayed off the radar and in remained in open space while the land in other places was being chopped up into smaller parcels.
The valley is about 70 square miles and surrounded by public lands. There were only a handful of households when I lived there. The entire valley was in grazing so it remained in open space. The valley has the largest contiguous block of shrub steppe in the county and also supports the largest population of sharp tail grouse in the state. These grouse are a state threatened species. There are only 700 left in the state. Our valley supports the healthiest population in the entire state. The County refuses to meet state requirement to protect their habitat.
The State of Washington loses 23,000 acres of agricultural land per year. The ratio of agricultural land to people has decreased from 7 acres per person to about 2 acres per person, since 1950. For this reason, all counties in the state are required to designate all Agricultural Lands of Long Term Significance.
Okanogan County has refused to designate a single acre of private land as agricultural. In our valley not one acre is designated agricultural. Instead the county intends to designate it as residential, with one and five acre densities. This would be the end of the sharp-tail grouse in the valley and probably the state. Residential development is an incompatible land use not just to wildlife but also to grazing cattle.
The County is required to protect water supply. There is no water in our valley to support the exponential population growth proposed for our valley. The impacts of new wells are already being seen. High density residential development threatens senior water rights as well as the surface and ground water that wildlife and habitat depend on.
But this is not baseball. The rules and the notion of “fairness” are dismissed. The county continues to promote its one dimensional agenda of residential and commercial development, at the expense of the environment, water resource and agriculture.
It is sad to see the changes that are already taking place. When we were small my brother and I used to bundle up in blankets and watch the northern lights and falling stars and observe the Milky Way. There was no light pollution and it was beyond description how powerful a night sky can be. Often we listened to the coyotes sing back and forth in the perfect silence. Now, with light pollution, the stars are not so bright and the coyotes are interrupted by barking dogs and traffic.
My connection to open space, wilderness and wildlife during the formative years gives me a reference point on my moral compass. I am concerned that children now do not have the experience that would ground them in the natural world, and inform their priorities as adults. I would wish everyone could experience the stars in a truly dark sky, while listening to coyotes yip, in an equally pure, uncluttered soundscape.
There is work to be done on many fronts. Wildlife issues are intertwined with issues of the economy, and the way food production has become monopolized and industrialized. I can see how, in our valley, for instance, the sharp-tail grouse are at risk because government has failed to regulate the ownership in the cattle industry. The buyers consolidated into corporate monopolies and can keep prices to ranchers artificially depressed. Meanwhile the costs of ranching increase each year. Before long the rancher can't afford to ranch and the land is sold to developers, habitat is fragmented and the sharp-tail grouse go extinct in Washington State, just as they have in Oregon, and several other states nearby.
Creating a network of local Okanogan ranchers, raising organic pasture fed beef might be one answer to the downward spiral of agricultural land caused by factory farming and monocultures. This would require a change in priorities in local government, away from development to providing incentives for local agriculture.
The average food mile for each item on the dinner plate, according to Forbes magazine is 1,500 miles. Meanwhile many of the local orchards of Okanogan County have been cut down and plowed into burn piles because it is cheaper for local stores to buy apples from Chile. This is not food security.
At Futurewise the link between local sustainable agriculture and the health of the environment is very clear. One of my favorite experiences this summer was attending a floating farmers market with Futurewise staff. I am very appreciative of all the hard work that Futurewise does for our state. Overall my time with Futurewise has been very inspiring!
If you are interested in becoming an intern or volunteer for Futurewise, please contact Sharon Yamada-Heidner.