Greetings from Denver! I’m still processing the incredibly inspiring three days I spent at the Colorado Convention Center with roughly 1,000 other people who were lucky enough to be selected as part of Al Gore’s Climate Reality Leadership Corps. As if I didn’t have enough to do working on fighting climate change at Greenpeace!
Seriously, the reason I began investigating the work of the Climate Reality Project is because my current Greenpeace portfolio keeps me focused squarely on food and sustainability issues internationally, especially our addiction to heavy-meat diets. Since Greenpeace doesn’t currently have an active food campaign in the United States, I find that I spend most of my time thinking about cows and chickens overseas.
Yet as an American citizen living in the age of a Trump presidency, I felt compelled to devote some of my time in environmental battles certain to take place inside the United States in the next four years. I’m tremendously concerned about Trump’s threat to pull out of the historic Paris Climate Accords, his appointments of climate denier Scott Pruitt to the EPA (who thinks CO2 doesn’t contribute to global warming), former Texas Governor Rick Perry to the Department of Energy (who couldn’t even remember the department he now runs) and ex-Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson (a company that lied about climate impacts to the public) to the State Department. I just couldn’t sit on the sidelines. Since all politics are local, why not focus on civic engagement, local politics, renewable energy and climate change at the local level – in my case, the northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C.?
By Greenpeace or Sierra Club standards, Climate Reality Project is kind of the new kid on the block. The seed funding for the non-profit actually came from Gore’s seminal documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, about a decade ago. Since then, it’s built up a small but dedicated staff that runs campaigns on everything from mobilizing the winter sports community to broadcasting global climate webcasts with politically minded conscious celebrities. But the heart and soul of the group is the leadership corps, which puts a premium on education, community outreach and personal leadership.
This isn’t just an activist community. It’s basically a volunteer army. More than 900 people – policymakers, activists, scientists, educators, researchers, artists, musicians, business leaders, representatives – all met and workshopped the facts to commit to acts of leadership. We all got certified after running through Gore’s renowned climate presentation several times and committing to a personal game plan for tackling global warming and promoting renewable energy. The climate movement really needs people from all walks of life – not just activists – to emerge victorious from this historic global challenge.
The core of the training is to find out how to best use Gore’s core presentation. The information has been updated since the first documentary. It’s a bit terrifying if you look at overwhelming climate data and photo evidence – record heat years, surface temperatures, megafires, rainbombs, once in a century floods. Halfway through the presentation, I thought “we’re doomed.” I’m curious if that’s the initial reaction I’ll get from the public. Needless to say, things have gotten worse since the original film. There are exponential trends in record temperatures, polar ice melt and extreme storms and they are only accelerating. But the amazing thing is is we are in the midst of another exponential revolution that might be as fast as the Internet revolution of the 1990s or mobile revolution of the 2000s and more impactful than the agriculture and industrial revolutions.
It’s a clean energy revolution and it’s showing exponential growth. Solar photovoltaics are becoming more powerful but dropping in price. Wind and solar installations are stimulating thousands of jobs across the country. Smart thermostats and LED lightbulbs are already having major impacts on lowering demand . Major carmakers like Chevy and Nissan are deciding to compete with Tesla which will drive the price of electric vehicles down and extend their range. Coal is dying and plants are being shuttered. And even with Trump in office, governors and mayors across the United States are committing to carbon trading and carbon taxes and 100% renewable pledges to make sure carbon emissions fall despite federal inaction. And U.S. carbon emissions are in decline. American innovation and global will may indeed save us. This is the message of An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth To Power coming out this summer.
I’m very fired up and I’m toying with some ideas on how to use the training and presentation in the Northern Virginia community to make local impact. And my Greenpeace experience teaches me there needs to be a clear, specific call to action for the audience not just information. Here’s what I’m mulling at the moment:
Share a modified presentation with interfaith groups (synagogues, churches, mosques) on how they can partner, make their sanctuaries more efficient and join the broader climate movement
Solarize my own house, get an EV car and home battery and host an open house in my zip code to encourage neighborhood adoption
Present a tailored presentation for area high schools to encourage them to work together with the Fairfax County Public School system to promote efficiency and even get behind their effort to solarize buildings
Travel to some of the “redder “counties south of Fairfax County to share a clean energy jobs centric message and combat climate deniers with good ripostes and facts
Mobilize constituents to pressure Virginia state delegates to support the right of anyone to solarize their property and pressure Dominion Power to properly credit homes who produce excess power so they can sell it back to the grid and not get charged a premium for solar or wind which is now cheaper than coal
Host a presentation at Mosaic or Cinema Arts movie theaters ahead of An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth To Power this summer
Give people practical tips on how they can have a major impact through simple tools like buying less processed meat, offsetting jet miles and installing solar
These are just my initial thoughts and I’d love for you to chime in with your own thoughts and come along for the ride. I’ll be posting updates of the Climate Reality Leadership work on this blog and try to capture it in text, photo, audio and video. I hope to see you at one of the presentations.