The power of the underdog

December is when I take some personal time to reflect on Dogwood’s accomplishments over the last year and anticipate the opportunities coming in the next 12 months. Back in 2003, when Jessica Clogg of West Coast Environmental Law and I began meeting with northern First Nations about taking a stand against Enbridge and other oilsands-related tanker and pipeline projects few would have guessed that eight years later the vibrant campaign against oil pipelines and tankers would dominate the headlines.

When we first launched the campaign it was just us, a good strategy and a network of friends against the largest industry in the world. Tough odds, but we’re tenacious and we believe there is a vast untapped network of British Columbians who share our vision for the province and are willing to fight to make it happen.

At Dogwood Initiative we routinely take on Goliaths in the oil, logging, mining and urban sprawl industries and win. To some, we are the quintessential underdog, the little guy (who no one expects to do much) that somehow prevails against seemingly overwhelming forces. But we don’t see ourselves that way.

Don’t get me wrong, I love an underdog. And who doesn’t? Movies and sports are filled with iconic underdogs. Films such as Rocky and Forest Gump drew million to cinemas. In sports, it is the unexpected champions – the teams that barely squeaked into the finals only to prevail – who are longest remembered. Think of all the documentaries made about the unexpected World Series victories of the 1969 New York Mets. Here in Canada there is the beloved Terry Fox who, although he never completed his “Marathon of Hope,” exemplifies the courage of ordinary people conquering extraordinary challenges.

Canadians’ reaction to underdogs in politics is more complex. Close seconds in politics are quickly forgotten. When David and Goliath struggles do garner attention, Goliath is usually positioned as the inevitable victor. That is until the underdog wins, and they do frequently.

Dogwood Initiative has been involved in many unexpected victories. Just this year we stood up against developers and succeeded in stopping a proposal to build unwanted cabins next to the Juan de Fuca trail. We succeeded in getting the Capital Regional District to enforce its Regional Growth Strategy. Our No Tankers campaign helped get 4,000 people – eight times more than the previous record – to sign up to tell the National Energy Board they will not except Enbridge’s tanker-pipeline project in B.C.  Seven of nine candidates who profiled their opposition to oil tankers in B.C. waters won in spring’s federal elections.

Over the last decade we have taken on big industry and government to stop the privatization of land, shut down coal-fired power and coal-bed methane and taken thousands of hectares of forest away from logging corporations to be managed by communities and First Nations.

To outsiders, Dogwood may seem like the prototypical underdog –  a small group of people taking on powerful developers, oil and coal companies and governments – but this is a misconception. We are much more than the 11 creative and hardworking staff. We are a catalyst fuelled by the thousands of proud British Columbians committed to taking strong actions to protect the communities they love and the air, land and water on which they rely.

Together we are not underdogs – we are the majority. The more organized we get and the more we understand our collective power, the more formidable we become.

At this time of year, what we really need is donations to help get us ready for next year. We need to raise $100,000 by the end of the year to keep our programs going. All donations received by Dec. 31 will be doubled by a group of generous major donors. Please give what you can today.

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