At Food & Water Watch, we fight hard for healthy food and clean water for everyone. We rely on the passion, dedication and resourcefulness of our supporters to get involved and active in their communities—and love being able to share how they’re making a difference.
When she was fourteen, Lani Miller joined her local Sierra Club since she couldn’t find anyone else to go backpacking with her. A year later, she took a bus by herself to camp at Yosemite, sparking a passion for the outdoors that she still maintains today—these days, mostly by taking day hikes. But Lani’s love for the California landscape has also led her to work with Food & Water Watch to protect the water, air and environment of her neighborhood and favorite national parks, like Joshua Tree.
“When you get older,” she says, “a lot of the impressions you have [of these beautiful places] are there front and center and you still want to somehow participate and honor them.” Her activism is one way of doing that.
Concerned about the water table and dropping groundwater levels in her community with the worsening California drought, Lani realized the water bills she was receiving seemed strange. She discovered that the water agency bills did not reflect water usage in the same units—gallons per capital per day—used by state agencies and journalists who compared water usage regionally. Most concerned citizens couldn’t tell where they stood in terms of water consumption. She began writing letters to the editor to help people understand an easy conversion calculation—and the water agency finally included it on customers’ bills.
As an avid gardener and member of the horticultural society, she also tries to demonstrate to people how beautiful gardens can be grown, even with the cutbacks in watering from the drought. “We use water from the shower and kitchen sink to water our plants,” she says.
Lani, a former OB/GYN who still sometimes does expert witness work, was drawn to Food & Water Watch because of her background as a scientist. “I was amazed at how evidence-based [a Food & Water Watch booklet on fracking] was,” she says. “I fell for it, hard. It was scientifically impressive. As a scientist, that is really important to me.”
After reading the report on fracking, Lani met with Food & Water Watch’s Regional Director of Development Patricia Cronin for lunch, who inspired her to come into a group of other Food & Water Watch activists so she could get her friends politicized and involved. And she’s found the transition from delivering babies to full time activism every bit as satisfying as her medical work.
“Working at the local level is more gratifying personally because you see the steps and how you can have an impact,” she says. “I feel that with time, over the last year, I’ve really connected with a lot of people who have been out there all along. That’s been one of the biggest rewards—not feeling you’re alone doing the work.”
As Lani continues her work, she remains hopeful by looking at the little victories she’s racked up with the support of Food & Water Watch. “There are so many examples nationally and internationally of what’s happening—good stuff! We need to recognize what’s going well and what’s starting to take hold.”
Most importantly, she’s grateful for the connections she’s built in her time as an activist. With help from Walker Foley, a southern California organizer with Food & Water Watch, Lani’s learned how to build a group of local activists who care about water access, pollution and conservation. She’s even gained name recognition in her community with local representatives and city council members, and is regularly quoted in newspapers for her points of view on water issues.
Now, Lani is using her passion and what she’s learned by building a campaign with other local activists to fight corporations from gobbling up their water. “When you have connections with other people who are saying what they think is right and what they need, you are winning,” she says. “And then it’s only a matter of time.”