News spread pretty quickly that the Shell Oil LNG platform destined for Long Island Sound sunk back into oblivion last week, likely for good. In its proposed form, it would have towered above all other structures on either side of that great body of water and inspired the curses of generations to follow. It should have been a procedural layup, with the interests of the Sound split between two states, both struggling with budget and resource constraints, and zero organized advocacy to oppose the revenue generating and cost saving proposal.
Now the legend of how that didn’t happen continues to grow, just as quietly as it snuck up on everybody before the battle began.
Begin with Leah Schmalz, a delightful director of legal and legislative affairs for Save the Sound, a program of Connecticut Fund for the Environment who began the opposition eight years ago with meager resources and virtually zero platform to get the word out. She picked her punches wisely.
Then, out of no where, Kayak for a Cause jumped in, ostensibly because ”Save the Sound” had the brand that most directly fit the core values of the organization. But as KFAC learned more, both organizations realized the symbiosis of their existences. What followed was a virtual marching band of support for Leah and her work at STS. When STS needed to get the word out, KFAC designed an “on the water clean up” over 14 miles of sound. When STS needed a platform to gather more supporters, KFAC was there with a stage, a microphone,and a tremendous crowd ready to listen. When STS needed promotion during a crucial state senate vote, KFAC rallied its 10,000 donors to flood the capital with expressions of concern. And when STS needed financial resources to back up Leah, KFAC was there with five figure support, year after year.
Was is most amazing, perhaps, is that all of this was started with nothing, and done for love: One simple bet, and a few guys redirecting the proceeds to charity became an annual tradition along the Sound.
It’s now hard to fathom that KFAC has always been an entirely volunteer organization which somehow fields a crew of 500 committed souls every year to manage the logistics of a modern day Normandy with a beach party at the end. The leadership and organizational talents of this group are stunning. People like Shirleen Dubuque and Steve Showalter organize provisions, supplies and people with sublime, 11th hour hijinx. Kim Beaumont at DownUnder and Dave Haddox from Purdue have likely trained hundreds of kayakers to be safe enough to make the voyage. Tad Jones worked stage miracles for years, packing thousands of people into legendary beach parties that rallies the troops around the charities. Patrick Sikes was a master magician at logistics. Amy Rule and Kathy Foreman wrangle hundreds of volunteers to do undesirable work details at unmentionable hours. And Adam Uhrynowski and Brian Russell have this magic touch capturing the whole thing on film for us to replay over and again in the long winter months of frozen water.
All of this energy was harnessed and directed to something good, for years on end. And then last week…
“In sending a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission requesting to vacate their certificates, Broadwater has signaled that their proposed floating gas plant is finally dead,” said Leah Schmalz. “Eight years ago, the citizens of Connecticut and New York recognized that this proposed project was not good for our environment or our livelihood,” Schmalz said. “It took years of fighting, partnering with federal and state officials on both sides of Long Island Sound, but now we can say that the health and safety of our Sound will not be compromised by the proposed industrial complex.” More here
Years ago, another KFAC treasure named Morley quoted Pete Seeger in “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” from the stage, as she had witnessed KFAC grow from dozens to hundreds and then thousands.
I’ve been surprised by some good things happening in my lifetime. Sometimes quite suddenly.
Imagine a big see-saw, with a basketful of rocks sitting on one end. That end is down on the ground. At the other end, up in the air, is a basket half full of sand. Some of us are trying to fill it, using teaspoons. Most folks laugh at us. “Don’t you know the sand is leaking out even as you put it in?”
We say, that’s true, but we’re getting more people with teaspoons all the time. One of these days that basket of sand will be full up and you’ll see this whole see-saw just tip the opposite way. People will say, “Gee, how did it happen so suddenly?”
Us, and our little teaspoons.
Leah Schmalz is now working on controlling emissions and ecoli bloom from the Bridgeport harbor. Kayak for a Cause launches for its twelfth year on July 21th. And Long Island Sound is that much nicer because they do what they do.