Not long ago, Patrick Kelley didn’t think he could make much of a difference. Now the Redmond resident is on a mission.
Last month, Kelley traveled to Washington, D.C. as citizen lobbyist for the Alaska Wilderness League (AWL), an organization that works to preserve Alaska’s wild land and waters.
AWL is the only Washington D.C.-based environmental group devoted full-time to protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and other wilderness-quality lands in Alaska, according to its Web site.
Kelley was one of 60 conservation-minded activists from all across the country, including several Alaska Natives, who made the trip to D.C. to voice their opposition to the oil drilling operations in Alaska’s North Slope. The group met with Washington state congressman Jay Inslee, who focuses on environmental policies. Kelley said he was inspired by Inslee’s work and is now very passionate about preserving what he calls “the last great wilderness.”
“Investing money in fossil fuels is not good for the future,” said Kelley, who has visited Alaska twice, once in 1988 and another in 2000. “The best way is to invest in renewables and green jobs. We can support growth, but we can also improve the open spaces we have.
“We need open space to remind us of who we are. We need a connection to the Earth. There’s something wrong with drilling for oil in the wilderness.”
Kelley said the testimonies from the native Alaskans from the Inupiaq and Gwich’in tribes really hit an emotional chord.
Kelley said the most “heart-wrenching” story was told by an Inupiaq woman named Rosemary Ahtuangaruak, a public health official from a small village just west of Prudoe Bay. She said she has had to Medevac out almost 20 infants for acute asthma, caused by the gas flares and other air pollution from drilling. One of the babies is so sick he can’t return to the village, she said.
“Those kind of stories cause emotional reaction,” Kelley said.
Now Kelley wants to bring this message back home.
Kelley plans to give presentations and spread the word to various community groups. He is already signed up to give a presentation to the Eastside Audubon Society, an environmental conservation organization, on May 22 at 7:30 p.m. at the Northlake Unitarian Universalist Chruch in Kirkland.
“The main thing I learned on my trip was that citizen involvement does make a difference,” he said. “I went there a cynic, but I have a different view now. I want to get more people to realize that they can make a difference too.”
Kelley is a former technical writer at Microsoft who started his own contract writing business, specializing in environmental science and conservation called PK Communications, LLC. in Bellevue.
Kelley admits he was never that politically active before his trip to D.C.
“I came back from this trip with a whole new attitude about government, and a much greater willingness to act locally,” Kelley said. “Our visit to Congressman Inslee’s office was a big part of that.”