If you’ve been around One Hundred Miles for our first 10 years, you’ve probably noticed that we’ve built our organization by celebrating Georgia’s unique 100-mile coast. We say things like: “It starts with love” and “Georgia’s coast is a wonder of the world.” Carrying this thread of celebration forward, our mission is to “protect and preserve Georgia’s 100-mile coast through advocacy, education, and citizen engagement.” The positive image of our coast is one of the reasons people are drawn to OHM. It inspires our sense of pride, which hopefully compels us all to take action to protect it.
We do have a wonderful resource. Georgia’s 100 miles of coastline contains 33% of the remaining salt marsh on the eastern seaboard. Our 14 barrier islands (only 4 of which are developed) are designated by the Western Hemispheric Shorebird Reserve Network as a landscape of hemispheric importance for migrating shorebirds like the red knot. Every year, North Atlantic right whales and loggerhead sea turtles migrate thousands of miles to give birth or lay their eggs on our coast. I could go on.
Over the past 10 years, we’ve worked hard to protect and preserve. We’ve defended laws like the Shore Protection Act and the Marsh Protection Act. We’ve litigated against developments and to protect our wildlife. We’ve fought proposals for projects like Spaceport Camden and offshore drilling. Most importantly, we built a network of more than 20,000 people who can jump into action the very minute we find out about a bad idea threatening our coast. All of this has been motivated by a desire to protect this extraordinary place.
As we look forward to our next 10 years, we must continue to celebrate. But we recognize that celebrating, protecting, and preserving are only part of what’s necessary. As we begin the work for our next strategic plan, we will focus on more than our natural resources. Our charge will be to also incorporate the relationships—good and bad—people have with our coast.
Since January, we’ve been traveling up and down our coast interviewing and collecting stories from the people who live here, grew up here, are raising their children here. We are learning about their relationships with our coast. These stories reveal two things we all have in common—a love for this place and the struggle to build a life in the rural south. Conflicts between development and conservation, rising seas and flooding, and pollution and poverty are real issues that influence the choices people make in their everyday lives and when they vote.
Working with a professional creative agency and author George Dawes Green, founder of The Moth, we’re turning these stories into video portraits that will soon be available through our website and in media across Georgia. We hope that they will inspire you to look at our coast in a whole new way, to learn about our dedicated conservation partners leading the way for coastal Georgia’s landscapes, human communities, and wildlife, and ultimately, to find your own path forward to fight for the coast you want to see.
We will begin sharing these video portraits with you this summer (stay tuned for a sneak peek in mid-June!). Some of them focus on professionals doing work to conserve our coast. Others are from regular people who have had a lifetime of experiences—and challenges—in this place. Whether happy or sad, funny or serious, they all reveal a commitment to coastal Georgia, to this place and its people. And together, the people who are sharing their stories with us, show us that it is possible to love something and also acknowledge it needs work.
Our work and these stories remind us that if we are to continue our success, we must work within communities to do more than protect and preserve, we must also seek to understand and improve.
And the first step is to listen.
Thank you for all you do,