A Guest Letter from the Desk of Kathleen Patton

My name is Reverend Kathleen Patton. I give to Columbia Riverkeeper, and this is why I am asking you to give, too.

Rev. Kathleen Patton
Rev. Kathleen Patton

I give to Columbia Riverkeeper, and this is why I am asking you to give, too.

As a garden-variety pastor at a church in economically depressed Longview, Washington, I was afraid to raise my voice on behalf of the environment. But when Big Coal came to town seven years ago, I felt overwhelming fear for my community, together with a growing alarm about climate change. And I felt powerless to do anything about it.

Columbia Riverkeeper and the partnership it helped form— the Power Past Coal coalition—got my name somehow, and before I knew it I was taking the risk and joining with hundreds of other unlikely local folks protesting, testifying, and showing up for each other to stop the threat of cancer-causing diesel and coal dust pollution. We joined together to protect our climate and beautiful Northwest ecosystems.

Columbia Riverkeeper was our anchor. This is why I am asking you to make a generous year-end gift today. For seven years, Columbia Riverkeeper’s Senior Organizer, Jasmine Zimmer-Stucky, shepherded us all. She coached us, guided us, encouraged us—even fed us. Every hearing, every protest, every gathering she was there, analyzing the facts, organizing the people, and developing strategies. Through mailings and rallies and tedious port meetings, she was at our side.

And not just in Longview. When all this started, our state was threatened simultaneously by six separate coal export proposals. Columbia Riverkeeper and the Power Past Coal coalition united pastors and ranchers, hipsters and housewives, and turned us into an army of activists, joining hearts and voices to oppose the rivers of money that threatened to bury us in coal. We became like a vast family from Bellingham to Aberdeen to Vancouver, sharing one another’s struggles. Power Past Coal glued us together and kept us energized.

And Columbia Riverkeeper helped lead us in victory over every single coal project that threatened us. We won. Every time.

Now I can’t and I won’t stop talking about this precious Columbia watershed, this fragile and glorious planet, and I won’t back down before my own fears or the powers that threaten us. Empowered by passionate stewards like Columbia Riverkeeper, this movement is a spiritual force, bringing courage and joy, as well as accomplishing huge victories for our watershed and planet.

We won on coal, but the big threats remain. Oil and gas giants propose the nation’s largest oil-by-rail terminal and the world’s largest fracked-gas-to-methanol refineries on the shores of the Columbia. Our climate and the health of our river cannot take any more sacrifice. Many fish are unsafe to eat, Hanford nuclear waste creeps closer to the river, and our federal government looks the other way.

Together, you and I can protect what we love. By giving to Columbia Riverkeeper, you employ attorneys, scientists, and community organizers at a time when we need them the most. This work is urgent and the time to fight is now.

In these desperate times, we each must find our voices and join with others to protect the Columbia, to protect the Earth. Riverkeeper is an essential companion, channeling the tiny streams of our individual energies into a powerful flood of advocacy and hope, uniting our voices and magnifying them with legal know-how and organizing power.  

Your gift is part of a mighty river for change. Be generous, and know the blessing of making a real difference when you support Columbia Riverkeeper.

-Rev. Kathleen Patton