2023 Mike Burke Excellence in Advocacy Award Annouced!

2023 Mike Burke Excellence in Advocacy Award Announced!

In recognition of Mike Burke’s exceptional contributions to the SSAFE Advocacy Team and the SSAFE Board of Directors, SSAFE has established this award.  After Mike Burke, the team’s original co-leader, passed away in October 2023, Mary Burton, SSAFE Chair, proposed the award both as a tribute to Mike and to celebrate outstanding work by future team members.

The 2023 “Mike Burke” Annual Award for Excellence in Advocacy goes to Barb Smith (Kendal at Longwood).  Always an effective member of the Advocacy Team, Barb suggested that SSAFE develop an action alert on the little-known but highly significant issue of deep-sea mining for minerals that end up in EV batteries. Her thorough research resulted in a petition to the International Seabed Authority and Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, signed by a record-breaking number of SSAFE members.  A member as well of the SSAFE Education team, Barb developed an educational component for the petition by showing films in Longwood’s auditorium, created eye-catching posters and educational materials, and helped out on other petition-related activities.

To celebrate Barb’s efforts, SSAFE will donate $100 to a charity of her choice in addition to $100 to Mike Burke’s beloved Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Barb Smith wrote a lovely note to SSAFE after receiving her award:

“Thank you and those who made the decision to give me the award.  I feel there are so many people in SSAFE who have done incredible work, that I felt awkward receiving the reward.  I do understand that it was related to the deep sea mining issue and am grateful that SSAFE decided to take it on, even though at first glance it seemed outside SSAFE’s mandate.  We never got responses back from Elon Musk or the International Seabed authority, but at least in the case of the ISA, we joined many others in seeking a moratorium.  And even if that moratorium doesn’t last more than a year, it has provided some time for additional research and for developing regulations which may help to mitigate the damage of mining and assure that ‘all humankind’ benefits from the mining.

My personal hope is that the latest treaty will impact the way ISA must protect life in the Deep Sea, even as it allows mining.  
I’d like to see the $100 go back into SSAFE’s advocacy work.  I think that SSAFE has done amazing work in its short lifetime, mobilizing seniors in ways that we can make a difference, both in our own campuses and in similar communities.  For many of us the days of participation in marches or demonstrations may be over, but we can contact our political leaders, EPA staff and business leaders. We can contribute to the greening of our campuses, the cutting of our carbon footprint, etc.  The more able bodied can eliminate invasive species, put native plants in our gardens, prevent excess water runoff with the right plants, urge our administrations to go more electric and more solar.  We can make a difference!

Photo credit: International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) (Creative Commons License)