What is Conservation Lobby Day…
By Riley Mitchell
On January 28, 2020 the Virginia Conservation Network (VCN) will host Conservation Lobby Day in Richmond, Virginia. This annual event allows myriad environmental organizations and individuals to congregate and ensure that legislation is viewed through a conservation-minded lens in the upcoming year. Although the purpose of this day is significant every year, 2020 is vitally important for conservation initiatives, especially in regard to legislation. This means we need more advocates and more persistent voices to encourage our state legislators to act in a way that promotes conservation, which is exactly what Conservation Lobby Day aims to achieve.
I have attended multiple events held by VCN before, all of which were enjoyable and enlightening, and helped to reinforce my existing passion towards protecting our planet. Conservation Lobby Day, however, is an event that I feel is especially important. I firmly believe there is an unquantifiable amount of value in all of the work that goes towards protecting and conserving our planet’s ecosystem- from environmental education, to research, to field work and everything in between. With that being said, legislation is at the heart of all of this, and this applies to nearly any issue. Legislation determines the laws, regulations, and funding which dictate how effectively we can approach the ecological crisis we are facing.
VCN intends to strengthen each individual’s ability to influence this legislation in a multitude of ways. For example, Lobby Day will brief attendees on the top line items in the 2020 General Assembly session. Additionally, the resources that are necessary to impact legislation effectively will be provided to the advocates. Speakers and presenters will share information and tactics in this capacity, including tips and tricks for lobbying a legislator. VCN even helps individuals to arrange meetings with their legislators and properly encourage them to support strong conservation policy.
While this earth is surely alive (albeit struggling to survive at this point), it cannot speak for itself. Trees have no voice. Endangered species have no voice. The river has no voice. This is not news. On the contrary, it is a very obvious fact, and yet it seems so overlooked and ignored. Although it can be discomforting to dwell upon, the fact of the matter is that humans are the only ones with a true voice. The bright side of this reality is that we can use our privilege to advocate for that which has no voice. That is why Lobby Day matters to me.
If advocates who understand the urgent nature of this ecological crisis are not present to speak for our planet’s wellbeing, it more than likely will not be represented, at least not adequately. Large corporations (e.g. Dominion Energy) will not be held accountable for the environmental degradation they are responsible for. Waterways will not be protected from pollutants and toxins. Offshore drilling will proceed, business as usual. Wildlife will continue to suffer the adverse effects resulting from development and infrastructure encroaching on their habitat. Luckily, Conservation Lobby Day aims to tackle all of these issues and more, empowering all attendees to make a true impact on this legislative session.
Individual love and concern for the health of our planet seems nearly ubiquitous. Unsurprisingly, however, the current laws to address environmental matters do not yet align adequately with these values that most of us hold. Instead, big money is prioritized and the earth is compromised. We as concerned citizens and stewards of the land have the ability to change this. Conservation Lobby Day represents the momentum and fervor we have and need to maintain in order to tackle this flawed system. May we all remain informed, encourage and educate others, and keep affecting legislation in the name of our beautiful planet.
**If you’re interested in taking action to better our planet, visit Wild Virginia website for more ways to get involved.