The two videos above are from the October 19, 2010 Costa Mesa City Council meeting, during which the Monahan Resolution banning the use of dental mercury was enacted.
The first one, created by Kelly Gallagher, poignantly captures both the testimony and the momentum of this watershed event, and one of the most compelling testimonies at this council meeting was in fact offered by a reader of this newsletter who took action and got involved.
This victory is reproducible, and below you'll find out exactly how.
Not only that; the success of this grassroots campaign against mercury amalgam is an excellent case study for others with similar goals for health care reform.
Effective change must start at the local level. Every leader made his or her mark in one community before moving to regional, national, and international leadership; they chose a real issue that directly impacted people's lives.
Historical examples include seamstress Rosa Parks who, joined by new clergyman Martin Luther King, led a bus strike in Montgomery, Alabama. Young lawyer Gandhi organized a strike over the British fingerprinting Indians in South Africa, and dockyard worker Lech Walesa led a strike at the shipyards of Gdansk, Poland.
Here, a trio of Orange County, California activists, led by Anita Vazquez Tibau, worked to find a community willing to fire the first shot across the bow at amalgam -- to eliminate its use entirely.
Anita's track record on this cause goes back to 2001, when she led the successful effort to disband the Dental Board of California for failing to prepare an honest fact sheet on mercury fillings, as required in the Watson law.
Now as director of Californians for Green Dentistry, a project of Consumers for Dental Choice, Anita is joined by dental hygienist Marisa Russo (www.simplyraisingawareness.com) and naturopath Kristy Mills (www.lagunanaturalhealth.com).
This team distributed flyers explaining the hazards of amalgam (unfortunately, most people are still not even aware that "silver fillings" contain mercury!). They allied with health professionals and green businesses for support.
They organized an extensive petition drive, collecting signatures from individuals asking city council to ban amalgam -- both by asking people directly to sign, and by enlisting friendly health professionals and businesspeople to keep the petitions in their front offices.
They surveyed all the city's dentists, and presented certificates to dentists who are mercury-free.
Then, they sought out Councilman Gary Monahan, a courageous Councilman from Costa Mesa who runs an Irish restaurant and understands the risks of mercury firsthand -- he has an autistic son. Councilman Monahan agreed to sponsor a resolution calling on the federal and state governments to "eliminate the use of mercury in dental practices ...immediately," and, at the local level, requesting that every dentist cease using this poisonous material.
On October 19, 2010, they were ready.
Dentists, a dental hygienist, chiropractors, victims of mercury toxicity, businesspeople, a scientist, a Navy veteran, and a lawyer descended on the City Council meeting to testify in favor of the Monahan resolution.
It passed unanimously, and Costa Mesa became the first locality in the United States to call for a ban on mercury fillings – all because of the passionate involvement of these courageous and industrious volunteers.
Now it's your turn!
If you live in California, please join Anita, Kristy, Marisa, and the Californians for Green Dentistry team as they take this movement to other cities across the US.
The next step is to find other cities in California willing to follow suit in endorsing an immediate elimination of amalgam. Therefore, volunteers, especially in the L.A. and Orange County area, are being sought.
To volunteer, write firstname.lastname@example.org, and give you home city and county along with your contact information.
As they say, all politics is local!
The Ball is Already Rolling… Let's Keep it Going!
For its national and international impact, the timing of the Monahan resolution could not be better.
In December, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will hold hearings to reconsider its position on amalgam. The FDA's current stance is that mercury in dentistry is good for the public health. But even though they've long been the world's number one protector of mercury fillings, the FDA is finally starting to realize it has become a pariah in the world by covering up the massive harm being done.
Also, in January, the United Nations begins its second session on a treaty to address all sources of mercury.
And a new coalition called the World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry, led by Charlie Brown (email@example.com), is leading the charge to phase out amalgam everywhere.
If consumers like you continue to organize and fight against the pro-mercury dental lobby, then the vote in Costa Mesa, CA could become the shot heard round the world!
Pro-mercury dentists, the FDA, and the world need to know that consumers will not tolerate dental mercury - a neurotoxin and a pollutant - any longer. Just like Costa Mesans have made it clear that the use of amalgam is no longer acceptable in their community.
To keep this momentum going, please sign the Californians for Green Dentistry's online petition to ban dental mercury in California, right NOW!
How to Organize a Grassroots Campaign at the Local Level – A First-Hand Account
The director of Californians for Green Dentistry, Anita Vazquez Tibau, recently told me her personal story of what got her started as a local activist in Orange County, CA, about ten years ago:
"In 2000 I discovered I was mercury poisoned by my 13 large mercury dental fillings. After burning the midnight oil, I realized the science and medical research clearly indicated that the mercury from my fillings was the cause of many of the health problems I was suffering from.
I decided almost immediately that this was a problem I could do something about, and that's where my journey started."
Anita graciously provided me with this helpful ten-point guide to organizing at the grassroots level. I hope her success will inspire you to follow in her footsteps, and become an advocate for safe dentistry in your local community. As Anita says:
"What I have learned over the past 10 years working with Consumers for Dental Choice about grassroots organizing can be accomplished by anyone!"
Organizing at the Grass Roots Level -- 10 points for Success
- Be passionate!
The first element for success is unbridled passion for your cause. People get involved with an issue because they or their loved ones have been affected. Do what you love and love what you do.
- Become an expert.
Whoever is chosen to become a spokesperson for the cause must absolutely become an expert on the topic. Anything less could become a detriment to the organization. Know your organization and never stop learning and growing.
- Research – research – research!
Research the cause of the problem; people who are most affected by the issue; and the experts who know and understand the cause. Beware that you must find legal experts as well. Use your contacts and create a database.
Also know who is your opponent –you will not be successful unless you can defeat your opponent.
- Think about who you should target for support on an issue, and how.
Align yourself with other likeminded groups so that you can become a stronger organization. Also remember that people are more likely to support your cause if you present yourself professionally – believe it or not, doors will open faster if you solicit support in business attire.
- Petition – Petition – Petition!
If you are able to describe your cause in a sentence or two, people are more likely to help. You need a sales pitch! This becomes your mantra for the organization and builds brand recognition. For example Charlie Brown coined the term – "Say the "M" Word"…People would then be curious and ask "What is the "M" word?" and we would explain that it's about mercury…
One of the problems your may encounter is where to find a location to gather signatures. Look for locations that may be open to your cause, then contact the manager at the store/location to see if you can set up an information table. Some businesses may not allow petitioning whereas others can be extremely helpful.
Once they say yes, it helps to personally meet the manager and establish a positive working relationship. Again, professionalism is key, and so is appearance.
Another great avenue for spreading the word is through social media such as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace. Non-profits are constantly fund-raising and these avenues are free! Consumers for Dental Choice placed a petition online with tremendous success.
- Plan events to raise awareness.
Once you've built a solid base of support, start planning events to build awareness around your cause. Look to your sphere of influence – people that you have met that can support your cause.
When it is press related – visuals are a must! Signs carry a message, and visuals are powerful.
- Look for win-win situations.
Look for local businesses that can benefit by the exposure of helping you. For example, businesses that will carry your message by letting their clients sign your petition, while getting recognition through your organization in return. In essence they become stakeholders in your cause. Use local platforms as educational tools about your issue.
- Identify allies in city government.
Once you have garnered enough support, research and identify allies in the city government who will be sensitive to your issue.
- Remember common courtesies.
Always thank those who help you, and be sincere. A heartfelt thanks goes a long way, and it is best to say thank you in writing.
- Stay positive!
Remember, when the going gets tough. the tough get going. Never give up hope -- that is all you have, so have faith in what you do. We will always win if we don't quit!
Sign the Petition to Ban Dental Mercury in California
Even if you're not ready to take an active part in this campaign, you can still help keep this momentum going.
Please take a moment right NOW to sign the Californians for Green Dentistry's online petition to ban dental mercury in California by visiting this page, and share it with everyone you know.
For more information and regular updates, please join the Californians for Green Dentistry's Facebook page.
Together, we can WIN, and protect the health of countless children and adults who are still being poisoned by this ancient form of dentistry, every single day in the US.