Environment: After 40 years tracking change, couple adds one more
November 8th, 2018
By Chris Sokoloski
Environmentalists and bibliophiles gathered in the picturesque setting of Hobcaw House inside Hobcaw Barony on Saturday night for the Wild Side,” the annual fundraiser for the S.C. Environmental Law Project.
It was the biggest crowd in the event’s nine-year history, said Amy Armstrong, the executive director and senior counsel.
“I’m thrilled and pleased that so many people came out, especially a lot of new people,” she said. “We’ve built a solid and steady following over the years. People know this is a lovely venue, a fun event and we put on a pretty good party.”
The novelist Mary Alice Monroe said she it was humbled to be the keynote speaker at the event. Her best-selling novels have included environmental issues such as sea turtle protection, declines in shorebirds and threats to marine mammals.
“At anytime it would be important, but at this particular moment, prior to a very important election, when so much is at stake for the environment, it was reassuring and exciting to be with a group of people who are all on the same page,” she said.
It was Monroe’s first visit to Hobcaw Barony and she was “blown away” by the property and thrilled to sit in a chair once used by Winston Churchill on a visit.
Monroe said the world is in the middle of an environmental crisis and the law project is a hero in the fight.
“The ramifications of climate change are here. The reports are real,” Monroe said. “No doubt we are in a crisis. We are facing our darkest hour.”
Armstrong said the nonprofit has had great successes this year, including getting plastic seawalls removed on Isle of Palms and Harbor Island that interfered with sea turtle nesting and the Supreme Court ruling against a half-mile long wall on Captain Sams Spit on Kiawah Island.
Monroe and Armstrong believe that the Trump Administration’s efforts to lift a ban on offshore oil and gas drilling has sparked some coastal residents’ interest in the environment.
“It’s not just the love of the land and the sea,” Monroe said. “It’s food, tourism [and] economics that are threatened.”
The law project is representing several coastal municipalities in the fight against federal permits for seismic testing to locate oil and gas in the Outer Continental Shelf.
“We are absolutely ready to fight back as hard and as long as we need to against a terrible idea,” Armstrong said.
Monroe has written 23 books, many of which include environmental issues, hoping readers will take them to heart. She said she’s trying to reach people who might not read a nonfiction book or magazine article about the environmental, but would read a work of fiction.
“How can I make my novels, a force for good, a form of education?” she said. “It’s like a sneak attack. I put the information in between the pages.”
“When people learn to care, they learn to take care,” Armstrong said. “When they develop a concern for a species or a habitat, then it motivates them to do something about it.”
Monroe told the Wild Side audience it is not enough to like or dislike something on Facebook. People need to call their representatives, volunteer and vote. “This is not a novel, this is real. This our real world and it’s happening,” Monroe said. “It’s time for us right now, in our own lives, to be heroes. It’s our time now to act.”
Armstrong said the “synergy” between the law project and Monroe is really exciting.
“SCELP uses the law, Mary Alice uses storytelling, but we both have an alignment of goals, which is to educate the public and to educate decision makers about why it’s vital that we protect the environment that we have now,” Armstrong said.
Monroe’s next book, “The Summer Guests,” is due out in June. The environmental issue this time is coastal evacuation, which she called the most important issue for humans in the next decade. She said the book deals with the issue of what do you take with you when you go.
Monroe said her father taught her “think globally but act locally,” and she encouraged the Wild Side attendees to make changes, even small ones. If everyone lit one candle then we would all glow, she added.
“My way is simple. I write novels,” Monroe said. “Every novel that I write is my lighting a candle. And I hope it makes a small difference.”
Monroe believes in the power of story to affect change and she hopes she can do that in her lifetime.
“I actually don’t care if people know who I am in a hundred years, if my work disappears,” she said. “I want to make a difference now.”