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Organizers make activism easy Ñ just sign the prefab letter

It's a primary tool in advocacy: the letter to the editor or letter to a decision maker. But getting enough letters written to make an impact is difficult. So modern activist groups make it easy by providing automated, prefabricated letters for their members to sign and send.

The Oregon State Public Interest Research Group provided this prefab correspondence during last month's gubernatorial campaign:

'Dear Mr. Mannix and Mr. Kulongoski,

'The sorry condition of the Willamette River is an embarrassment to Oregon, and I am disappointed that the candidates for Governor seem to have no plan to get it cleaned up. Governor Tom McCall ensured his political legacy by making the cleanup of the Willamette his top priority. Now it is up to you to follow Governor McCall's lead by taking action to restore our beloved river.'

The national antiwar group No War, No Way provided this letter:

'To the editor:

'The Bush Administration is pounding the war drums louder and louder. Yet the proposed preemptive war on Iraq really has little support nationally and internationally because of the hard facts.

'The needs of the Iraq people, which most certainly do not include being bombed by the US, are urgent. Instead of war, these needs should be the most pressing issues on the agenda. The inhumane UN sanctions, which have killed over 1 million innocent Iraqi people, must be dropped.

'[name]

'[address]

'[phone/email]'

Among the many groups providing canned letters on their Web sites:

• The Wilderness Society, www.wilderness.org (pro-environment)

• Portland Peaceful Response Coalition, www.portlandpeacefulresponse.org (antiwar)

• Save Our Wild Salmon, www.wildsalmon.org (pro-environment)

• Physicians for Social Responsibility, www.psr.org (antiwar/pro-environment)

• Global Exchange, www.globalexchange.org (antiglobalism)

• National Wildlife Federation, www.nwf.org (pro-environment)

• GrassRoots Recycling Network, www.grrn.org (pro-recycling)

Other groups, such as Cascadia Forest Alliance (pro-environment) and NW Rage (anti-genetically modified foods), provide talking points or scripts for calls to legislators.

Ñ Lisa Baker