Robin Peterson doesn’t see herself as an activist or even an organizer. The Key Peninsula artist says she’s reticent to stick her neck out — but “the problem is, if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem,” she says.
It took her a while to decide, but finally Peterson felt it was time to speak out. She wrote in an email to friends: “I am tired of the media telling me what I think. I’m also tired of the irresponsible way our government has (not) responded to the detrimental changes we are causing to our environment.” Peterson invited her friends to join her in an “unorganized paddle” in Gig Harbor on April 14, as part of a nationwide campaign called Step It Up that encouraged people to hold environmental awareness events around the country.
More than 30 people — many of them strangers — answered Peterson’s call. Some brought their kayaks and boats for a paddle. Others brought family members, including youngsters, and carried banners (created by Peninsula High School students) saying “Cut the carbon by 80 percent by 2050,” “Running out” and “Key Peninsula says Step It Up.”
Sue Richardson celebrated her 60th birthday at the rally. “We are doing it for our grandkids,” says Richardson, of Olalla, who came with husband John.
Retired Vaughn teacher Andrea Jewell and her husband, John, a retired principal, brought their kayak. “We feel that our pollution and global warming is an incredibly serious topic,” Andrea says. “We are seeing changes already. As teachers, we’re aware how interconnected things are… Little changes in the environment make big differences. We think everybody needs to take it seriously and start doing something now.”
Myrna Binion, a Wauna artist and grandmother, says she is concerned about what will happen “in our grandchildren’s life.” “I’m really fearful of what’s happening and the political climate for the past six years has been a disaster,” she says.
The idea behind Step It Up, which was held at about 1,400 sites across the country, is to get the attention of political leaders in Congress and urge them to cut carbon by 80 percent by year 2050.
“I figured it was time to do something or shut up,” Peterson says. “My intention is to say, ‘Look, I’m ready to stand up.’”
Peterson believes everyone can do little things like recycling and conserving water to help the environment. She says she doesn’t want to be responsible for leaving the kind of legacy that future generations will be paying for. “It’s time they (the government) start listening to the people,” she says. “If it takes groups of 40 at a time (to attract their attention), so be it — it will just take a little longer. I still believe in the system.”
To put her idea of “something is better than nothing” to use, Peterson asked participants to sign in with the number of miles they’ve driven so she can buy carbon credits “for the carbon spewed by our cars to get here.” She had enough mileage to “buy” about one ton of carbon emissions.
Peterson wrote in a thank-you email to supporters after the event: “Steppin It Up really floated our boats today… This was the kind of day that reinforced exactly why we want Congress to pay attention to what we are saying. We know we live in a wonderful place and it’s up to us to pass along the same opportunity to future generations.”
(Photos below by Rodika Tollefson)