When Whitney Clapper invited me to attend the Patagonia and Alaska Wilderness League event celebrating the 56 years of protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Washing DC, I didn’t think I could go on such short notice. As usual, my husband rallied scrambling together hotel points and Southwest miles, knowing it was important to me.
Our first visit to Washington DC came after my father passed away in 1998. Gary & I volunteered and attended The Environmental Defense Fund charity in Santa Barbara. My husband, trying to cheer me up, bid on, and won, a trip to DC. The airline miles were donated by Peter No-one (at the time VP of global retail). Gary had the Library of Congress, among the many sites, on our itinerary. To myself I thought, “it’s a library”. Along with being the national archive of all things written and recorded, it turned out to be my favorite and most memorable of all the monuments we visited.
In 2006 I attended my first Patagonia Tool Conference at Fallen Leaf. One of the exercises was with Ron Hunter (Patagonia’s Environmental Activism Manager), Ron’s wife Kaitlin, along with a team leader that instructed us in a mock lobbying scenario. I was to represent a Native American. I tried a diplomatic approach, presenting a compromise. Kaitlin gently corrected me & said tribal people would never compromise in this way because they are a sovereign nation. Admittedly, intimidated by all the incredibly dedicated and young activist at Tools, I learned much, and never in my wildest dreams did I think that roll playing would one day prepare me to be comfortably sitting in a Senator’s office, and, alongside Ron.
It was important for me to attend DC for the opportunity to learn, to celebrate the success of protecting, thus far, a place I may never visit, but that is so important to the species and people that live there. This company, the foresight of such important campaigns, my colleagues that work incredible hours to make our stories come beautifully to fruition, and then there is Florian. Florian Schultz and I have become good friends over the years, beginning with my first licensing negotiation for our Freedom to Roam Campaign. He helped me to understand what goes into documenting the wildlife and region of such a remote frigid place.
Whitney, Ron, Lisa Pike, Scott Carrington and I rendezvoused at the Hart Senate Building. We met with Senator Harry Reid’s right hand gal. The meeting room we gathered in had all its bookshelves cleaned out and any art or framed documents that once adorned the walls were also removed.
I went into the experience with the intention of being a fly on the wall. Ron is amazing and polished. He and Senator Reid’s staffer chatted about the Refuge, and along with Lisa, they discussed hope that the Obama administration does the right thing by designating Gold Butte and Bears Ears before POTUS leaves office. After a few questions from myself, Whitney and Scott, about the incoming administration and how we can best be more effective, she said calling in, more than electronic petitions, were impactful. And, to the local offices. She also assured us, the democrats would only work with the republicans on issues that are realistic.
Reid’s office arranged for us to have a congressional private tour. Although I had taken the tour when I first came to DC. That was 18 years prior. I know more now, and I recalled some of the details about our capital more clearly the second time. I was in hog heaven
Needing to rest, I returned to my hotel, while the rest went back to Senator’s Reid’s office where they presented him, in person, with a limited edition of Florian’s Caribou Migrating print.
The Monday before our full day, I had to return to the Library of Congress, what is referred to as The Temple of Knowledge. And, like before I became emotional at the fresco painted walls with quotes of wisdom from our founding fathers. (I know, I sound just like Forest Gump.) I kept thinking; Trump, and his family, need to spend an entire day reading every single profound quote. I cannot imagine how one could not be inspired to be a champion of justice after doing so.
I also saw the inauguration scaffolding being erected, and saying to myself “this is really happening”. I polled every cab driver, a global microcosm, that included men from Senegal, Ethiopia, India, and a Sikh, to name a few. I would start the conversation with “Do you like President Obama? Then, “how about the president-elect”. Obama got high ratings with “he has Grace”, “a good heart”, “he is kind and cares about our country”. A few polled preferred President Clinton more than Obama. All were not happy with the incoming president stating “he’s not a statesman”. Trump doesn’t attend his security briefings, but he’ll watch Saturday Night Live and spend his time complaining in Tweets”. Another said, “every republican president has gotten us in a war”, naming them off, and ending with “Trump will take us to war”. Then there was the security guard at The Liaison Hotel, who said to me “I don’t know how you voted, but this new one, he doesn’t care about our environment”
Tuesday night we gathered at the most beautiful venue; The National Museum of the American Indian, where we celebrated together, beginning with a blessing from a Gwich’in Mother, along with Bernadette, featured in our Refuge film, AWL, activists from Care2, some DC store employees, and dignitaries.
It was magical, in that this many just, good people, working this hard for this long, I standing alongside them, with millions more in the world having this same selfless intention.
Then I remembered this quote “All great changes are preceded by chaos” ~ Deepak Chopra