Leaving a meeting last week, I used the sun as an excuse to pull out my spotting scope and scan Sagamore Creek at high tide. I found a male Bufflehead solo diving for food; coincidentally within the scope’s field of view was a Tree Sparrow atop a small hedge, enjoying the same sun as I. Neither bird aware of the other, but I was happy to acknowledge them both in the same instant (and add two species to the year list, ## 34 and 35).
Seeing two different and unrelated birds in the same field of view – neither cognizant of the other, and both going about their own vital business brought to mind two strings of people spotlighting two different issues by trekking across New Hampshire this month.
The Coos County Democrat arrives at my house by mail; last week Edith Tucker reported on opponents of tar sands traversing the Portland Pipeline route. I imagined Kaity and Brett skiing and snowshoeing the pipeline west to east along Route 2. According to Tucker’s article, the journey is a way to experience the natural world at risk from the consequences of a pipeline tragedy, and to meet and learn from landowners and pipeline neighbors along the way.
The Conway Daily Sun reported in the same week the 185 mile north-south walk of the New Hampshire Rebellion beginning in Dixville Notch, organized to highlight the need for campaign finance reform and ending a “system of corruption”. Olivia Zink and Larry Lessig leading the way.
Both groups of walkers are within a spotting scope field of view, so to speak. Are they like the Bufflehead and Tree Sparrow – having only coincidence in common? The people on the west-east pipeline route are studying ecosystems at risk from oil spill contamination and interviewing local residents and business owners as they go; the people on the south- north campaign finance route are organizing events to grow the voice against money – fueled corruption of American politics.
Reading about these groups from my perch in Stratham, it is evident both groups demand change from the status quo. Both groups are prepared with volumes of data to support their cause. Both groups are beginning small. The focus of attention for each group is an issue where public trust in the status quo may be a problem. (Nationally a majority of Americans favor the Keystone Pipeline – but I find no local polling on the Portland pipeline.) Oil and gas corporations influence American politics. Individuals and PACs affiliated with oil and gas companies have donated $238.7 million to candidates and parties since the 1990 election cycle.
Who are the audiences each group wants to reach? Politicians? New Hampshire voters? What, exactly, in terms of behaviors, do the organizers expect from their audiences? By combining a walk with social and consumer media, will the groups meet their objectives?
I imagined a bird’s eye view of northern New Hampshire, and what might happen if the one group, walking west to east, met the second walking north to south … on the corner of routes 2 and 16, in Gorham.
It’s a promising prospect: New Hampshire politics and participatory democracy at its finest, bringing different voices together to deliberate problems and different solutions on a foundation of shared values.