The Quiet Birth of an Activist
It’s been two weeks since learning about Donald Trump’s victory and for me the greatest concern (of course there are many) is his denial of climate change and how that will affect the small, but significant change that has been happening worldwide. I say small, because no action worldwide has been big enough yet to really reverse the carbon emissions and we are already heading for a rough ride, as James Lovelock would say.
So first shock and then OMG…which is still there, but also there is an added sense of fight in me. No, I have to do everything to change the world’s consciousness and actions about this crisis.
One might say it’s the quiet birth of an activist.
Maybe one “good” thing about this election is it will strengthen even more our conviction that we have to do something – strengthen an urgency – strengthen a sense that we really need to organize, come together in numbers and educate ourselves as well as those who still insist on denying what is happening right before their eyes.
Yesterday I went to a Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) meeting in Ashfield, MA. I’ve been going to meetings for awhile and usually there have been about 8 people there, but this time, there were over 20 people present and quite a few young people as well. This was heartening and confirms my sense that in these dire times for many reasons – not just about climate change – people start to respond and come out of the woodwork.
At the meeting, we listened to Katherine Hayhoe, a Canadian Climate scientist, who lifted our spirits, not just by what she said, but by how she was. She has been working with many cities throughout the USA and said that from her experience with cities and states, there has been a lot of progress and even some significant progress under the Bush Administration. This has been happening in spite of the Federal government and she sees no reason why it won’t continue. In terms of the Paris agreement, which theoretically the US can’t pull out of for three years, she felt the agreement will go ahead with or without the US support.
After the meeting, I went down with my good friend Uli Nagel to Washington DC for a CCL one day of training and a day of lobbying on the Hill. I say that lightly, but it was the first time I ever went on the hill and literally into the Senate and Representative houses. There was something inherently thrilling about that. These solid, majestic buildings that for better (or worse) give such a sense of history and also remind me that change does not happen quickly. This slow process of governing was built into our system from the beginning, which can be at times very frustrating, but also is a safeguard ideally against autocracy.
To backtrack a bit: I joined the Citizens’ Climate Lobby CCL (https://citizensclimatelobby.org/) about nine months ago. After initially getting involved with climate change, I wrote to James Hansen, a NASA researcher, professor in the Earth Environmental Sciences at Columbia University and called the “father of climate change awareness.” I asked his advice about what I should do. He wrote back immediately and advised me to join Citizens’ Climate lobby. And so I did.
Very briefly, CCL’s main agenda, aside from empowering citizens and building a political will that politicians are “forced” to respond to, is to get Congress to pass a carbon fee and dividend bill. It is a simple bill that will place a fee on all carbon-based fuels at the source and all money collected would be returned to citizens. It would create a big incentive for the market to switch to renewables from fossil fuels. If you are interested to learn more, please check here: https://citizensclimatelobby.org/basics-carbon-fee-dividend/
I was particularly impressed with the organization because they are really attempting to form relationships with all the Congress members. At present the organization has both Democrats and Republicans; the focus is on meeting people where they are at. During the training day, one of the things they stressed was on really listening and being more “interested than interesting,” meeting each person in their humanity and listening to their values. It’s a slow process, but progress is being made. Because of CCL, there is now a caucus of congress members with an equal number of Democrats and Republicans who want to find solutions to Climate Change.
On the hill, I went in a small group to four different offices of Senators and Representatives. Mostly we met with the Aids. There is definitely a sense of wait and see in terms of what this election will mean for the bill, but since it’s already an upward climb, it was no doubt not going to get easier. But the beauty of this organization is that it is so organized and steady in its commitment and already so many relationships have been established on both sides of the aisle that this will continue uninterrupted by whoever is in office.
I left the hill feeling both challenged and hopeful – hopeful in the power of us as citizens to have an impact; impressed that even small actions, like writing letters by hand, can make a difference if enough of us participate,
I also find that words of wisdom that uplift are helpful in these times, from wherever it comes, like this beautiful, haunting song, “Anthem,” by Leonard Cohen who speaks of the light that comes through the crack.