Reminiscing with Gita Moulton, SPEECH Co-Founder
by Janine Gates
One recent snowy day, I sat down with SPEECH co-founder Gita Moulton in her cozy home. Getting her to sit down was the hard part. I thought she'd be homebound and going stir crazy, but no, she'd just walked a good couple miles home from her son's house.
Gita is always active, whether in her garden, organizing a local event, attending a meeting, or starting up a new organization. I showed her a little orange flyer from the new "Cool Thurston Campaign" (see related article) detailing upcoming climate change events and asked if she'd seen it. She laughed and said she made it! I should have guessed.
We discussed her current projects, Olympia politics, and the history and future of SPEECH. I'd brought with me a large binder of Green Pages, dated 1990-1994, then published monthly. Each issue documents an amazing history of the local, regional and national environmental movement, clearly in its heyday.
Looking through the binder, Gita laughed and remembered the issues of the day. Reading off the names of activists, volunteers, and board members - a real Olympia 'Who's Who,' she told story after story about how or why they got involved. "I was here only a couple of months when I saw all these groups isolated from each other. I wanted a place where they could support each other and make connections. It was easy," Gita says, typically humble and self-conscious that I was taking notes.
"SPEECH Celebrates First Year - Co-Founder 'Conservationist of the Year'" proclaimed the Green Pages headline in April 1991, when SPEECH celebrated its first year as a resource and information center for local environmentalists. The story reads: "With eleven issues of Green Pages published, a second edition of its Green Guide environmental directory due soon, and its…members steadily growing, the private, volunteer-run center's continued existence is assured." It goes on to note "...meanwhile, co-founder Gita Moulton has shrugged off her award of "Conservationist of the Year" from the Black Hills Audubon Society and plunged into Earth Day planning..."
At the time, SPEECH office space was located next to Childhood's End Gallery on Fourth Avenue, a hub of volunteerism and activity. "It was a fertile time in the environmental movement…there was a lot of activity going on all the time," says Gita. Typically, SPEECH held at least four regular meetings per month: Green Pages, Education Committee, office staff, and Executive Committee.
This was all before the advent of the internet. I asked Gita about that, and whether technology has helped or hurt local organizing efforts. "I don't know, but there's something more cold and impersonal about the internet…too mechanical. Being with people and working towards something positive seems more productive…people didn't know each other when they came (to the downtown space) but they made connections over the issues..."
A committed community activist, Gita also helped found the Sustainable Community Roundtable and brought the Northwest Earth Institute to Olympia. She believes climate disruption is the most important issue facing our region and world. Active with Olympia Climate Action, the Thurston Climate Action Team and the new Cool Thurston Campaign, she notes Olympia needs to do more to inform and motivate folks about its city-led climate change efforts. She cites Bellingham, Vancouver B.C., and Portland, Oregon as cities to emulate.
Gita also finds time to read. At the moment she's into: Kilowatt by local resident Joe McHugh; Small Is Possible - Life in a Local Economy by Lyle Estill; A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah; Frieda's Bed by Slavenka Drakulic; and The Mystery of 2012 - Predictions, Prophecies, Possibilities by several contributing authors.
With the amazing energy Gita has, it's no wonder SPEECH had such an excellent foundation! We appreciate, thank and honor Gita for her vision and continuing guidance.
Janine Gates is honored to be president of SPEECH and can't thank Gita enough for her 20+ years of friendship and support.
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