When the clock was ticking down on my days as a full-time worker, people would ask me, “What are you going to do when you retire?” I really didn’t have a good answer until about a year into retirement: “Become a climate activist.”
The more I learn about global warming, the more I want to escalate the fight to leave the earth’s remaining coal, oil and gas in the ground. It’s not something for another generation, as President Obama said recently as he introduced his Clean Power Plan. The effects of climate change are already being felt across the nation.
The floods are deeper and more frequent; the droughts longer, hotter and drier, causing more and bigger forest fires; the hurricanes and other storms more frequent and more powerful; the seas rising faster as polar ice and glaciers disappear. Millions of climate refugees are looking for a safe place to live.
In part it comes from my belief that these leaders can’t succeed without a mass movement for change. In part it comes from what I’ve learned by reading, watching videos, studying charts and listening to climate-movement leaders talk. This stuff is scary. In part it comes from looking back at a lifetime of activism in which I’ve tried, without much success, to make the world better and suddenly realizing that, all the while, I’ve been living a lifestyle that has made the world worse.
In part it comes from playing with my grandkids and having to come face-to-face with the legacy I’m leaving for them. And in part it comes from remembering what my father taught me: If you want to put your head on the pillow at night and fall right to sleep, figure out what you think is right and then do it.
But how do I transmit this urgency to others? That’s where the Climate Reality Project comes in.
I recently gave my first presentation of the project’s slide show to a group of friends. It’s an updated version of the one Al Gore used in his movie – “An Inconvenient Truth.”
In May I went to a Climate Reality Project training conference, where Gore took us through the long (2 ½ hours) version of the latest iteration of the show, slide by slide. He’s a brilliant speaker, energized by a deep and very tangible passion for what he’s doing. His highly regarded team of scientists, researchers and photographers has put together a compelling story about the causes and consequences of climate change and of some of the things that can be done to end the use of fossil fuels.
When the training was done, I joined more than 7,000 other trainees (350 at the Iowa conference I attended), as an authorized presenter of the slide show, tasked with going out into the world to spread the word.
It took me nearly three months to prepare, culling slides to shorten the presentation, adding some local information, reviewing the material to gain a modicum of fluency. Then I invited a small group of friends to come to my house, listen, watch and discuss both the content and the way I presented it. I told them my goal was to convey my sense of urgency.
The version I had cobbled together was still a bit too long, but everyone hung in there. In the discussion afterwards, I got some good advice, and heard some incisive criticisms about the slide show itself. The next time I think I’ll do a better job. If you have a group, no matter how small, who would like to see and hear the slide show, let me know: email@example.com.
Some random thoughts and links:
If you want to see someone whose can reach into your gut and play a virtuoso turn on your heartstrings to transmit her sense of urgency, watch a couple of videos by Marshall Islander Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner. Don’t just watch one! And make sure you have a handkerchief handy.
And here’s a group acting in the United Kingdom with a sense of urgency: Grandparents for a Safe Earth.
Barack Obama, the day before announcing the final draft of his new Clean Power Plan: “Remind everyone who represents you that protecting the world we leave to our children is a prerequisite for your vote. … We can do this. It’s time for America, and the world, to act on climate change.”