THE regional environmental group One Hundred Miles — named for the length of Georgia’s coastline — holds a groundbreaking conference this weekend.
“Choosing to Lead,” at the Savannah Trade & Convention Center, will bring together a wide variety of coastal advocates from many different pursuits and perspectives.
It’s all part of One Hundred Miles unique, holistic vision for how best to protect those precious 100 miles.
It’s the organization’s third annual conference, but the first up here in Savannah — the first two were held on Jekyll Island, closer to the group’s HQ in Brunswick.
“We wanted to hold it in Savannah because we’re a coastwide organization. We wanted to give opportunities for advocates of the coast from one end to the other,” says Catherine Ridley, One Hundred Miles’ Vice President of Education and Communications.
Unlike many such continuing education events, “Our conference isn’t geared to any specific profession. Everyone who lives on our coast has a vote in how to conserve it. That includes volunteers at cleanups, it includes artist and writers, it includes educators,” she says.
“We want to broaden the tent of what it means to be an environmentalist. Sometimes it can be divisive. We want to include the hunters and fishermen as well. Not every environmentalist has to have binoculars and khaki pants and be looking at birds — but there’s nothing wrong with that either!” Ridley laughs.
“There’s room for everyone at 100 Miles. We encourage people to find the opportunity that fits them. Not everyone is comfortable attending meetings and hearings,” she says.
For example, Ridley notes the current focus on controlling single-use plastics is part of a larger effort to spread awareness.
“Plastics are a gateway to larger conversations, with city planners and elected and appointed officials. Then you can discuss larger issues like sea level rise and climate change,” Ridley says.
The format of the weekend event is simple.
“It’s a full day of skill building on Saturday, and then the field trips on Sunday are the opportunity to take what you learned the day before and launch it back into the world.”
Ridley points to the success of a new bill in the Georgia legislature involving the state’s oyster crop as “a great example of how we regulate the coast – or choose not to regulate it.”
To some, the oyster aquaculture bill is a long overdue effort to reboot the state’s long-dormant oystering tradition, while to others it is regulatory overreach that will hamstring competititon with South Carolina and Florida.
Guest speakers on Saturday include lunchtime keynote speaker Paul Greenberg, author of ‘Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food.’
“He chronicles in a relatable way the future of the fishing industry through the perspective of four different species,” Ridley says.
The closing speaker is Angelou Ezello.
“She is CEO of an Atlanta organization called the Greening Youth Foundation. They’re charged with providing access to nature for underrepresented young people who might not otherwise get those opportunities,” Ridley says.