In the latest installment of our occasional conversations with Tarrant County newsmakers, Janet Mattern of the League of Women Voters of Tarrant County explains her efforts to connect environmental advocates using the encrypted messaging app Signal. 

Mattern recently created the Tarrant County Environmental Action Network on Signal to foster collaboration among activists and concerned residents on issues like air and water pollution, open space conservation and sustainability policies in the region. 

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity. For the unabridged version, please listen to the audio file attached to this article.

Haley Samsel: Could you tell me how you’re involved with community groups and your role with the League of Women Voters of Tarrant County? 

Janet Mattern: I am the vice president of program, and program in the league means something totally different than anywhere else, because anywhere else that would be like social programs. But for the League of Women Voters, the league takes positions on various issues and so I just make sure that our local program aligns with the program and positions of the state and of the national organization.

We’re all speaking with the same voice and following the same direction. And that’s part of the reason why I thought that it was good to have this group get started and try to get different environmental groups together so that we can be more proactive rather than reactive on environmental issues in the local area. Our national league has decided to make what we call now a climate crisis more of an issue that we have to take action on.

Where to sign up

People interested in signing up for the Tarrant County Environmental Action Network Signal group should first download the Signal app, then click here to register and join the group.

Samsel: What are the positions that the League of Women Voters has as far as environmental issues?

Mattern: There’s quite a few on the national level and then others on the state level and then we also have some locally now we can go ahead and take advocacy on … We really can’t lobby to the state level – that’s what the state chapter does. So our main focus is to make sure that we can speak out to local issues that we find here. 

One of the things that they have said at the national level at the last convention was that the climate crisis is a big concern and that they’re asking at all levels of the league at the national level, state level and local level, that we work with local governments to adopt and publicize that there is a climate emergency and that we need to take action to try to mitigate the risks for future generations.

There’s so many other issues that the league works on, but the environment has always been near and dear to my heart. So it’s why I’m kind of glad that the league is taking this action and hoping that we can make a difference when we work together with other organizations locally because we’re not a big group. It’s good for us to work with other groups that are trying to work on the same actions and want to make sure we have a good environment for the future and have clean air, clean water, clean land, you know the basic necessities in life.

Samsel: You mentioned that you would like local environmental groups to be more proactive. What did you mean by that? What are some of the things that you’ve noticed that you would like to see addressed locally?

Mattern: I’m not saying that in particular that the groups here are reactive more than proactive. It’s just that I don’t always hear about something happening because there’s just so much happening, so I don’t really hear about it sometimes until after I read it in the Fort Worth Report and sometimes it would be good to hear about things in advance so that we could help define the policy rather than react to a bad policy. To me, it’s always good to make sure that we have our foot in the door, so to speak, so that we can help guide local government to make the right decisions that will be better for their future here.

One item that I did hear about recently that should be looked at is, for example, that we don’t capture methane from our landfills, at least not in Fort Worth, so that would be a great win-win. It could provide revenue to the city as well as help capture some greenhouse gas emissions that you know shouldn’t be going out into the environment anyway, so that’s just one thing. I’m sure there’s many others that we can work on locally to help make a difference.

Samsel: How has the reaction been to the Signal network group so far? 

Mattern: I’ve got a few organizations on board. The Sierra Club is on board and the Scenic Texas group is on board, but we do need to get some others and that just is a part of networking. And so I’m planning to go to the Sierra Club meeting in February where they’ll have several other local groups meeting at the same time, because they’re going to give a presentation, and so I’ll find ways to get more people on board by heading out to these meetings and spreading the word. 

I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes and everybody has their own passions. It’s just that if we have more communication, more knowledge about what other groups are doing, we might be able to have a stronger voice and our local government might take the climate crisis more seriously and actually, you know, maybe (reduce) major greenhouse gas emissions in the county and have some plans in place to make sure that we have more sustainability. With all this development, we do need to improve our sustainability as we move forward.

Samsel: Why do you think that people should care more about these issues or try to get involved locally?

Mattern: For me, It’s just part of my DNA that this is an important thing. It’s just like voting. I think that several people just have it as part of their DNA that voting is an important thing and so to me, it’s: Where are your concerns? Where do your concerns lie? 

I know everybody is very busy. But I’ve also seen it where people that have large families and a lot of stuff to do at home still participate and still do a lot of advocacy on the environment. We have to have a passion for it and not always rely that somebody else is going to do the legwork to get it done. 

Haley Samsel is the environmental reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Her position is supported by a grant from the Marilyn Brachman Hoffman Foundation. Contact her by email or via Twitter.

At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Haley SamselEnvironmental Reporter

Haley Samsel is the environmental reporter for the Fort Worth Report. You can reach them at haley.samsel@fortworthreport.org. Her coverage is made possible by a grant from the Marilyn Brachman Hoffman...