Skills for Newbie Environmentalists (Like Me): Writing Letters to the Editor

A low-barrier-to-entry way to advocate for change

Deepti Kannapan

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Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

I consider myself a newbie environmentalist, and I’m always envious of the kids from high school Environmental Clubs, who’ve seemingly been going to town hall meetings all their lives and communicate like charming and experienced diplomats…

That’s not me. Talking to humans wasn’t my forte in high school.

Environmentalism isn’t a contest, though, and the important thing is we’re here now, doing the thing.

I’m picking up the basic skills of climate advocacy along the way. The more I learn and do, the more pumped I get to do more.

I wrote recently about writing public comments on proposed legislation as a way to have an impact.

After doing that for a while, the next skill in my sights was writing Letters to the Editor (LTE). This is like writing comments, but comes with the added complication that the editor has to pick your letter and choose to run it.

(I recently got my one published for the first time, about pledging net zero emissions! It was super exciting. The day it ran the paper, I emailed practically everyone I knew to tell them about it.)

Why LTEs?

They came up a lot in activist calls and meetings I attended, as a way to respond to policy developments in the news, or express support or opposition to an elected official.

LTEs are a relatively low-barrier-to-entry way to do that. While it’s true that your LTE has be chosen by the editor, there isn’t an elaborate pitch process as with most writing for publication. Especially if you aim for the smaller, local papers, your odds are (reportedly) good.

And, the people you are trying to influence read them.

Indivisible, a grassroots advocacy group, says:

The humble Letter to the Editor has stayed influential in politics even as social media platforms have come and (some) gone.

Indivisible post

The American Civil Liberties Union, or ACLU says:

In addition to writing letters to your…

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Deepti Kannapan

Painter, occasional cartoonist, aerospace engineer. Writes about sustainable technology, creativity, and journaling.