CHISHOLM, MN—With a meager annual budget of $17,600 and a mostly unpaid, part-time staff of just 14, the non-profit group Citizens For A Cleaner Watershed has its work cut out for it.
The group, whose mission is to improve water quality in the greater Chisholm area through grassroots, citizen-based activism, faces constant opposition from powerful developers, corporate farms and large-scale industries. Yet CCW members remain avidly dedicated to their cause, diligently canvassing Chisholm with flyers and petitions, regularly speaking at town-council meetings, and publishing a bimonthly, donation-supported newsletter, Watershed Friends.
Despite these efforts, however, Citizens For A Cleaner Watershed has utterly failed to change the world whatsoever.
"Yeah, I think I've heard of CCW," said Chisholm Town Council member Doug Bleinski, whose zoning-ordinance change permitted the sale of 34 acres of town-owned marshland to developers who plan to build a housing subdivision on the site. "They're the ones who do Sesame Street, right?"
Though disappointed in the marshland sale, CCW is determined to continue educating Chisholm citizens about the environmental issues directly affecting them.
"Water quality is an extremely important issue that should concern everyone," CCW director Brian Zuboff said. "We want to teach people that environmental 'stewardship' is not an abstract concept practiced in the wild by a field biologist. It's something everyone can participate in, whether by properly disposing of their household waste or urging their elected representatives to enforce and strengthen existing land-use and zoning regulations to prevent unchecked urban sprawl and wasteful forms of development that harm wildlife habitats and degrade our water."
In an effort to spread the word, Zuboff and other CCW members canvas Chisholm every Wednesday at twilight.
"Not only are we able to catch people when they are most likely to be at home, but it's also the time of day when many residents water, seed and fertilize their lawns—activities that directly affect water quality," said Zuboff, who gives all citizens he encounters a complimentary CCW pamphlet, 16 Simple Ways To Minimize Yard Chemical Runoff.
"When I first spotted him coming up my driveway, from the looks of him in that tie-dyed T-shirt and sandals, I thought he was going to give me a lecture about not eating meat," said homeowner Jerry Dahle, who was grilling out with his family at the time of Zuboff's solicitation. "Then he said he was from CCW, a group I was familiar with from their silly sit-in in protest of the marshland bill. Then he had the nerve to ask me for a donation, and I told him no."
"I am so jealous of that ponytail of [Zuboff's]," said Tina Roe, another target of CCW canvassing. "So long and thick! Don't you hate it when guys have nicer hair than you? And I bet he hardly does anything with it other than wash-and-go."
In addition to promoting citizen awareness, the group has on numerous occasions taken legal action to protect Chisholm's water. On Aug. 30, CCW filed a civil suit against Glueco, a rendering plant near Chisholm that CCW has accused of dumping toxic waste and corrosive chemicals into a drainage pool near its factory.
"The chemicals seep into the soil and streams, eventually finding their way into the Whiteface River and poisoning the delicate river ecosystem, along with farmland throughout the watershed district," Zuboff said. "This suit will send a strong message to Glueco and other such corporations that, even though the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the EPA may have overlooked these illegal abuses of the land, the citizens haven't, and we're going to make them pay for it."
According to spokespersons for the district court in which the suit was filed, no hearing has been planned and, given the tremendous amount of litigation currently pending, it is highly unlikely the suit will go to trial in the next decade. By that time, the statute of limitations on Glueco's alledged violations will have expired.
In early October, Zuboff will step down as director of CCW to take a post as assistant regional director of The Sierra Club. Replacing him will be Jessica Stotts, a University of Minnesota-Duluth senior who wants CCW to adopt a more politicized stance than it has under Zuboff.
"CCW has failed to change the world because Brian's bourgeois liberal approach was ineffective and compromised," Stotts said. "How can we just target Chisholm-area environmental concerns when even our most successful efforts wouldn't put so much as a dent in the oppressive capitalist global paradigm? Insufferable as they are, it's not the complacent suburbanites who are the problem: It's the giant, poison cock of materialism that is spewing its diseased smegma into Mother Earth's once-fertile womb."
Pledging to employ more radical tactics, Stotts said she plans to dissolve CCW and replace it with a feminist-socialist coalition that will incorporate anti-phallocentrism, veganism and prisoners' rights into the fight to protect the environment. The new strategy is expected to prove highly effective.