With success from video series, environmental coalition looks to future activism

By Sukainah Abid-Kons, contributor

A Harrisonburg-based coalition that focused on environmental issues during this fall’s political campaigns is now harnessing momentum from its “One Minute for Earth” video campaign and is shifting its focus to future activism. 

Among its new goals is encouraging local governments — including Harrisonburg’s city council — to impose a tax on plastic bags at certain stores. The option for localities to do that was made possible through state legislation passed in earlier this year and goes into effect in January. 

That’s on the to-do list for the local chapter of Earth Day Every Day, along with the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley, which partnered with area resident Karen Lee on the “One Minute for Earth” video series, which can be found on Earth Day Every Day’s Facebook page. It attracted more than 30 submissions from Valley residents. Each video consists of an individual explaining why voting for the environment is important to them. 

Collectively, the videos garnered more than 8,000 views. Lee said her original total viewing estimate was between 2,000-2,500. And the level of engagement, which includes comments and likes, was far greater than previous projects, Lee said. 

Eleanor Baker, for instance, submitted a video explaining how, at 74 years old, she wanted to leave a legacy of environmental stewardship, so she’s working to build a multi-generational planned community on Keezletown Road called Juniper Hill Commons, for which the city council approved re-zoning earlier this year

“It will consist of smaller and very energy efficient private homes,” she said in the video, adding that the small foot-prints will allow for the preservation of about half of the . 

One of the most-viewed submissions came from Andy Sams, a visual artist and photographer who said he and his family recently moved to the Valley from Austin, Texas. 

“We just really loved all the pastoral views — the rivers, the mountains, the lakes,” he said in the video, which has nearly 700 views. 

Lee said later analysis of the project showed viewings of those videos were 150-200 times higher than views of videos in previous projects. 

“It was just about the most important thing we could do for climate action at this time,” Lee said in an interview with The Citizen. Lee mentioned that she had the idea in July, but didn’t expect the project to grow as much as it did. 

“There are so many of us that are environmentally-minded, but we’re not banding together and we’re not voting,” said Lee when asked why she had the idea to focus on climate change. 

In August, the New York Times reported that voters are considering the climate as a top issue more in this election than any previous one

“The biggest long-term impact is going to be increased long-term commitment to environmental impact,” Lee said of the importance of voters considering the climate as a major issue. “If we don’t have effective US leadership, it’s going to be very difficult to address the climate crisis.”

In a follow-up interview last week, Lee said it was “energizing” to plan for the group’s future projects. 

The team behind the project feels very pleased with the engagement, Lee said, and plan to use this model to connect with the community in the future — potentially with longer videos interviewing “local earth heroes.” 

Lee said while she can’t confirm any specific plans as of yet, both Earth Day Every Day and the Climate Action Alliance of The Valley both have plans to keep them busy over the next few months. 

“We don’t want to let any bit of momentum get away from us,” said Lee. “This is just the beginning of the work in dealing with climate change and environmental justice.”   

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