Roots, cooperatives and our energy future
By Alex Loflin
Picture with me a plant — a tree, a flower, even grass. Now think about the things those plants need. They definitely need water, nutrients and sunlight. But what about a good root system? Without a sufficient root system, the plant cannot secure water or nutrients, and it won't be stable enough to reach sunlight. Roots are important, whether they're actual roots or those of an action like grassroots advocacy. To me, grassroots advocacy refers to citizens who unite to support a cause they believe is important.
Grassroots advocacy is an integral component of EnergyUnited, the electric cooperative that sponsored me on the 2012 Youth Tour to Washington, D.C. Their mission is to deliver reliable, affordable energy to rural communities and to improve the quality of life for their members and those communities. There are many examples of how EnergyUnited employs grassroots advocacy: information on how to be energy efficient, grants to local teachers to help fund unique classroom projects, and, of course, delegates for the Youth Tour.
EnergyUnited believes in informing government officials about the concerns of their members' communities. When representatives from a cooperative contact government officials, they speak for the people who elected them — the people at the grassroots — not investors or special interests.
Any kind of grassroots advocacy must have a strong root system. As a group of citizens who shares a passion for something — whether it's energy, produce or banking — a cooperative has this root system in place. This passion creates ownership, which then grows ideas that are more effectively put into action.
I have seen grassroots advocacy in action in my 4-H club. A member had the idea to host a fun event to encourage people in our community to develop healthy habits. The 4H members liked the idea, and we voted to hold a health fair. At our health fair, we interacted with community members of all ages and provided them with resources and encouragement to make healthy lifestyle choices. Because this event grew out of our collective desire, and we all worked together, our health fair was a success.
As a Youth Leadership Council member for the electric cooperatives across the nation, I will communicate with other teens and adults. I have learned the value of effective communication through 4-H, FFA and other leadership positions. I also have some understanding of electricity production, transmission, and how that all affects the environment. Through preparing for and participating in various environmental competitions, I believe that I do have a good grasp on these topics.
One of my passions is studying environmental issues as part of the Canon Envirothon program. I want to be an advocate for wisely utilizing our natural resources to provide a better quality of life for all of us. Our goal is to collaborate for developing sensible solutions to today's complex energy issues, to share these solutions with confidence and clarity, and to leverage the power of the cooperative model.
The Youth Leadership Council will provide me a unique opportunity to continue to live out my passion. Look how promising and vibrant this flower is when all of its parts are working together. Using their strength in grassroots advocacy, cooperatives can address our energy challenges and help grow a brighter future. I welcome the chance to join with other youth in this endeavor and to represent North Carolina.