Food & Water Action Fund, the political action arm of Food & Water Watch, recently launched Off Fossil Fuels, a new campaign aimed at building political power at the local level. People gathered at over 100 house parties across the country and thousands more watched the launch event online, where activists and speakers shared stories and discussed plans to organize and take on fossil fuels in their communities. One of the speakers was Brenda Probasco, who has been working with Food & Water Watch to ban fracking in Florida. Below are her remarks from the event.
Florida has been a hot bed of political activity, from deciding national elections to now being the home of the “Winter” White House whether we like it or not. When I transplanted here a little over 2 years ago, I knew that I would need to find a way to unite my two passions, politics and the environment, and to help nudge Florida in the right direction. I'm not retired or independently wealthy with unlimited time to volunteer. Just like most of you, I have bills to pay, a wacky schedule and little beings that depend on me, so I need my volunteer time to be efficient and effective.
As I sought out opportunities to get involved with environmental causes in Florida, I learned a lot. We are dependent on our environment to drive the economy. Whether it is tourism or agriculture or development, we have no economy if we degrade our environment. This point was driven home by the BP Oil Spill in 2010. So, water quality is paramount and a fracking ban, a necessity.
As a Republican-led state, we have had issues with pushing fracking ban legislation forward in years past. Generally, we've seen either pro-fracking legislation or weak attempts at regulation. This year our efforts changed things drastically. We were able to get a Republican backed fracking ban co-sponsored by nearly half the Senate through the committee and repeatedly in the media spotlight.
Food & Water Watch led the way and as I grew to know some of the players, their work ethic, their level of organization (and besides, they are fun!), I joined the fracking fight. I am a veteran of many years of phone-banking but this was by far the best experience ever. With just a hour here and there to spare, and my laptop and my phone, I was able to reach hundreds of just the right constituents and drive calls into just the right legislators' offices at just the right time when they were considering our bill. There was no wasted time dialing, no leaving the same message over and over, no calling the wrong people, or calling the right people at the wrong time, etc. The targeting and the technology made this the most efficient and effective campaign I have ever worked on.
It's empowering to know that with just a laptop and a phone, I was able to effect change. In just this past legislative session, we were able to to build a tremendous amount of bipartisan support for a statewide fracking ban and we successfully defeated a bill that would have allowed power companies to charge rate-payers in Florida for out of state fracking. The guy who blocked it was the target of our phone-banking. We made that happen!
In Florida, a small number of people were able to drive a huge amount of progress due to focus, our resolve, and a brilliant, strategically designed and technologically supported campaign proving that you don't need to be as rich as the Koch Brothers and you don't need to quit your full time job to make a real difference.
Brenda Probasco, a resident of Gulfport, Florida, has worked on several environmental campaigns in the state. Most recently, she worked with Food & Water Watch organizer Michelle Allen on the campaign to ban fracking in Florida.