Steve Insana (1963-2009)

Sep 01, 2009
Warwick Beacon Online

Buckeye Brook lost its best steward Sunday, and whether they know it or not, Warwick residents lost a huge environmental ally.

Stephen Insana, who founded the Buckeye Brook Coalition, a recognized member of the state watershed council, died suddenly and unexpectedly at his home. He was 46.

Insana worked relentlessly to protect, and advocate for his beloved Buckeye Brook. And as local environmentalists pointed out yesterday, his death is a huge loss that can’t be replaced.

In our cynical world, it’s easy to wonder whether activists become involved for the right reasons. But anyone who knew Insana never doubted his intentions, or passion for one second.

Perhaps what’s most inspirational about Insana’s story is that it defies the belief that only the extraordinarily gifted can make a difference.

Insana was very much the everyday, average guy. A former corrections officer who later ran his own landscaping business, he had no formal educational training on environmental issues.

But he wasn’t about to let that stop him from developing the skills needed to protect his beloved brook.

What Insana lacked in formal training, he made up for with hard work. He spent countless hours in the Warwick Public Library studying up on environmental and historical issues. Sooner than later, it was Save The Bay approaching Insana for information relative to the brook – not the opposite.

Insana scored a huge victory for the brook and Warwick residents a few years ago when he drew attention to the fact that the Rhode Island Airport Corporation was discharging de-icing fluid into storm drains that fed the brook and eventually the bay. Amidst a public outcry, stoked largely by Insana, RIAC spent millions to ensure that dicing fluid stopped polluting the brook. Score one more for Insana.

Insana knew the value of civility – a lesson a lot of us could use. Things never got personal between Insana and his opponents. While some seem to criticize the Rhode Island Airport Corporation (RIAC) for sport, for Insana, it was always constructive. He invited people from the RIAC to help out with the numerous brook cleanups he organized over the years.

Insana’s credibility also came from the fact that he clearly had skin in the game. He grew up alongside the brook and lived there all his life. Insana made it no secret how much he loved it.

A simple walk down the brook would turn into a vast history lesson about traces of Native American settlements and artifacts.

Hopefully everyone will remember Insana’s devotion to the environment, and his proof positive that average, ordinary people can accomplish great things.

We’ll never look at the brook the same way.

Our hearts go out to his family, and many, many friends.