Former CEO, Surfrider Foundation
What will your legacy be?

What will your legacy be?

The Inertia

I have two points with this post. First, you have rights as they pertain to clean water. Second, it makes sense for us to think about our legacy, and our legacy may intersect with clean water.

Regarding your rights… our founding fathers talked about our rights, Thomas Jefferson suggested that we have the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. “Inalienable rights” suggest these are things all humans should enjoy. Further, these are things which should be protected by our government.

So let’s talk about how clean water fits into this.

Surfrider fought for a decade to help pass the Beach Act. The win, which was fueled by volunteers, took place in the year 2000. It promised to help us know when our beach water was clean. Knowing my two kids can swim out at our local beach and not get sick seems to overlap nicely with the ideas I think of when I think of things like “the pursuit of happiness.” The Beach Act win included beach water quality testing but it was never fully funded. Last year the current administration basically proposed to shut down beach water testing programs in coastal states around the country by eliminating all federal funding for the Beach Act.


Besides the obvious desire to know if the water at our beach can make us sick, this is a big deal to Surfrider for two reasons. First because coastal wins matter to us. We all want to see the fruits of our labor, and our network of 85 chapters has netted more than 200 victories in the past 6 years. But the simple truth is that our wins, even our major wins… can be lost at some point in the future. They can be overturned sometimes by the stroke of a pen… or was the case last year by the lack of a stroke of a pen.

Next month celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, but even while we reflect on the successes of this landmark bill, we find ourselves constantly fighting a wave of attacks from those who do not value the importance of clean water for our country, its citizens and our pursuit of happiness.

Taking this all into consideration, we at Surfrider Foundation have the mission of coastal preservation and our core strategy to achieve this is activism. So, as you might logically conclude… the most important thing at Surfrider Foundation is our activist army. We measure, manage, support and facilitate volunteer and activist engagement above everything else.

This brings me to my second point.


Specifically…your legacy.

I believe it’s always a good idea to think about your legacy…not for vain reasons but to understand and perhaps wrestle with what value you’ve brought to the planet. Are we better off because I’m here…or you’re here? When we die…what will they say about us?

Will they say: “He was a really good lawyer”? Will they say she was “a woman with great shoes?” Will they say something worse?

Yesterday in San Diego more than a thousand people came together to engage with their legacy.

More than a thousand said, literally, that they demand clean water.

They believe it’s their right.

They don’t think it’s okay that high school surf teams have to get Hepatitis shots in order to be on the team. They don’t think it’s okay that surfers have become the canaries in the coal mine… providing a barometer of ocean health.

We see events like this one across the country and around the world. It’s amazing to see a thousand people come together and act, with solidarity, around the simple idea that we as individuals should have access to clean ocean water.

If you were there yesterday, thanks for coming out. If you’ve connected to an event like this in another location, thank you for joining our ranks of concerned and engaged citizens. If you’ve never been to an event like this I ask you to consider engaging.

Think about your rights. Should the water we let our kids play in and the water we surf in be clean or is it ok to have it cause sickness? Think about your legacy and consider engaging in this issue. We have more than 85 chapters in the US and a couple dozen places around the world to engage, you can also join Surfrider right here.

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