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🗣️ "The Opportunity On Water"


Photo by Geoffrey Crofte / Unsplash

Table of Contents

Host: Travis Loop
Guest: Nicole Lampe | Managing Director, Water Hub | Climate Nexus
Category: 🗣️ Opinion

Podcast’s Essential Bites:

[1:53] “The Water Hub is a relatively new program that's housed at a nonprofit called Climate Nexus. And we like to say that we're a free communication shop for the water movement. We provide behind the scenes hands on help, as well as research and training to water advocates and experts that are working to improve access to water, improve water safety, and secure the funding that we need to address our water challenges and basically working on the water challenges of our time.”

[3:12] “Over the past […] 18 months, it felt to us, like water was getting more attention than ever. And we see it in sort of national politics with President Biden focusing on lead pipes in his infrastructure push. We've seen more water news than ever about droughts and flooding across the country. And we've also seen this growing focus on long standing issues like affordability and shut offs during the pandemic. And thanks to their increasing urgency, but also thanks to a lot of deep and decades old organizing. But the hard thing is that this moment of awareness has come up at a time when elected officials, advocates and funders are all in triage mode. Water isn't the only thing on our minds. But we did see this thread in which water connects the dots between a lot of timely topics like climate change, COVID prevention, racial justice and economic recovery, which you'll probably recall were President Biden's four initial priorities. So we had this feeling at the Water Hub that this was like our moment.”

[4:37] “So we spent months asking our partners, which range from community based organizations, to scientists to national nonprofits, what do they need in this moment? And how can communications help? And we heard a few themes. In those conversations. We heard that the press has a short attention span and so while we get these spikes of activity or of awareness, when, for instance a storm happens, or when, you know, a new report comes out, and things quickly move on. And that's particularly true in this moment of overlapping crises. And we heard that it's time to let the frontlines lead. And that the groups closest to the ground have historically not had a lot of communications capacity, but they have a lot of information, and a lot of connections that can actually help us shift the root causes of our current challenges.”

[5:35] “We also heard this really tough challenge in that everyone's straddling these two time horizons. There's the near term needs and opportunities, like things that are moving right now and state legislatures, and utilities at the federal level. But there's also the longer term systems and cultural change that is needed to actually prevent problems rather than just cleaning them up after the fact. And so we developed this report, there actually two versions, one for funders and nonprofits, and then one for policymakers. That sort of distilled what we've been hearing and learning. It includes some media analysis, some pulling synthesis, and then a lot of insights from conversations that we've been having with water leaders about basically, how can we capitalize on this moment of awareness to actually make real progress.”

[11:23] “There are groups like Public Policy Institute of California, US Water Alliance, and Rocky Mountain College, that pull water routinely as well as the Associated Press, which pulls environmental issues annually. And what all of this research shows is that water is a top environmental concern for people from all walks of life, and both political parties. And basically, while a lot of issues in the environment have gotten really politicized, water remains really bipartisan. […] Basically, what I've seen in the polling suggests that the electorate is already there. They're on board with what most of the water […] partners want to push in terms of solutions. And so it feels like […] the next step is to keep this issue on the radar of decision makers who are stretched across a lot of issues. And to get to alignment on what [to] tackle first.”

[21:47] “The first thing is just investing in grassroots groups that are rooted in impacted communities. […] And there seems to be broad agreement that we need to, we need to diversify the water movement, the environmental movement, that we need more in different voices. That means that we need to be resourcing the groups that haven't been part of the conversation. And I also think that we need long term funding. Not just for this, for this legislative push, but multi year general operating support grants so that we can actually build and maintain the relationships and infrastructure. We need to invest in journalism and communications. […] One other thing […] is just helping to connect the dots between climate health and water. I think often funders program areas are siloed. And that ends up being reflected in the nonprofit's that they resource and then it also ends up being reflected in our communications and then in our policy pushes. And it's just […] drowning each other out instead of talking with one voice. And then the last thing is […] acting as conveners to help build relationships among organizations and across coalitions.”

[24:19] “On the advocacy front is talking about water in terms people can connect to their lives. Don't sanitize this stuff with technical and legal language. It's not only like sort of inaccessible to a lot of people, but it doesn't locate water in their lives in a way that like water is really present for them. And similarly, water touches our homes, it touches our health, it touches our family, it touches our safety, and we need to be speaking to those values. […] And another thing, […] words sometimes aren't the best way to touch people's hearts. And so we've been encouraging our partners and challenging ourselves to reach beyond tools, like fact sheets, and op eds. And use more video, […] podcasts, and […] arts, events, and ways to help people feel into this issue.”

Rating: 💧💧💧

🎙️ Full Episode: Apple | Spotify
🕰️ 30 min | 🗓️ 09/21/2021
✅ Time saved: 28 min

Additional Links:
Water Hub Resources