Updated: Mar 1, 2021
Happy New Year to everyone
As we finally put 2020 behind us and look forward to 2021, I want to share a few reflections as I start my fourth and final year as Chair of the DFW Chapter. I think we have accomplished a great deal as a chapter in spite of the restrictions that the COVID-19 pandemic imposed on us. We gave even more presentations than in 2019, something I never would have predicted when the pandemic closed down public gatherings. Our participation in 24 Hours of Reality was exceptional for a chapter of our size. We also learned that moving from public meetings to virtual meetings worked better according to everyone I have heard speak about it. We had a wide range of speakers as well as a series of training workshops, and we even pulled off a successful social hour at the end of the year.
The two virtual Global Training Programs brought dramatic growth to the chapter. We more than doubled the number of trained members in the chapter, and the total membership also doubled from the start of 2020. Our membership engagement efforts have had to really ramp up as a result, and those efforts will continue in the coming year. I see no reason to expect anything other than continued rapid growth in the coming year, starting with the first virtual training program that we anticipate in the first quarter.
One of the major developments in the chapter was the launch of the Working Groups. As I have said repeatedly, I see this as the future of the chapter as members organize around the specific kinds of climate activism they are most passionate about. I anticipate that more groups will be formed. In fact, several of us with mental health backgrounds are forming a new Self Care for Activists working group that will be offering guidance on a regular basis to the chapter. Another exciting possible direction for group organization will be municipal or regional groups. Member’s homes are spread over a very large metropolitan area, yet from the start we have been quite Dallas-centric. Early in the year, we will distribute a membership list that is organized by municipality. It will be up to local groups to organize themselves and begin to set goals for local action, but I see this as having enormous potential.
We also have addressed one of the issues that we now know to be a frequent cause of difficulty for chapters: leadership transition. Our newly reformulated Executive Committee includes a Vice-Chair position with the Vice-Chair committing to move up as Chapter Chair in the following year. We are especially fortunate to have two members sharing this role for 2021, and they have already started to take the reins in terms of getting the Strategic Plan revised. This bodes very well for our future.
We have made an effort to address chapter communication issues by not only creating a new chapter website but also adopting Discord as a replacement for email as a way for members to communicate easily with each other. We need to learn from members more about how they are (or are not) making use of each, and getting more people signed on to Discord is a major goal. I also hope that we can more effectively promote our website to the general public, something that our new Publicity co-chairs will be working on.
One thing that has been a focus of a great deal of discussion among a group of chapter members is whether there might be ways of engaging the public in conversations about the climate crisis that are not based on the slideshow presentation model. Many trained Climate Leaders never end up giving presentations, for a variety of reasons. This is true not only for our chapter but all chapters reportedly. Development of an alternative to slideshow presentations is underway. Watch this space!
Regarding our efforts to recruit more and more people to the global movement demanding urgent action on the climate crisis, I have one more reflection to share. I recently read an interview with the playwright Jeremy O. Harris. He spoke of how he sees his plays contributing to a broader public discourse about some of the major issues of our times. He spoke of his work as a form of storytelling. He said that he imagines the audiences of his plays as people sitting around a village fire. He aspires, he said, to tell stories that might change the way that the people who have come to that fire are going to treat the village that they are a part of. I was immediately struck by how beautifully this captures what I think we are all engaged with as climate activists. We hope to change the way the people we have the opportunity to speak with will treat the planet we all live on!
I look forward to working with all of you in the year ahead!