Updated: Mar 15
A month ago, I shared some reflections, questions really, on why people join Climate Reality and what motivates them to stay involved. As we begin a new month, those questions are still very much on my mind; but they now have a particular focus. That focus is political activism.
I have been reading Michael Mann’s new book, The New Climate War. He cites a blog post by Sam Grover, who wrote, “Ask your average American citizen what they can do to stop global warming, and they will say, ‘go vegetarian,’ or ‘turn off the lights,’ long before they talk about lobbying their elected officials.” As those of you in the chapter who know me are aware, I think that individual lifestyle changes make a difference; but to use an idea from Gregory Bateson, it’s not a difference that makes a difference. I am in agreement with Professor Susan McFarland Taylor at Northwestern University, who wrote in her recent text Ecopiety: Green Media and the Dilemma of Environmental Virtue, “We have to reframe the narrative away from the notion that every tiny act counts and toward an unapologetic emphasis on broad scale policy enactments combined with serious public investment.”
What I wonder is how many of our chapter members also would agree, versus how many would say instead, “I am just not interested in politics. That is not why I joined Climate Reality, and that’s not something I want to do or am willing to take part in.” Even for those who do agree, how much time and effort will our members be willing to devote to political activism? I have been troubled for some time by some polling data that David Wallace Wells cited in his controversial New York Times essay, “Time to Panic” in February of 2019. In that poll, a majority were unwilling to spend even $10 a month to do something about climate change. Most reportedly drew the line at $1 a month. How much we are all willing to invest, not in dollars and cents but in time devoted to activism, to promote urgent change?
All of this is on my mind at the start of March, because in February Climate Reality rolled out a 2-part workshop on Lobbying at the federal level. The organization is calling on the Biden administration to pass a $2 Trillion infrastructure package. There is a clear environmental justice focus in our advocacy, with Climate Reality calling for 40% of that infrastructure package to be devoted to frontline communities.
How that translates into action at the chapter level is that Climate Reality has set a goal for 2021 of at least 100 meetings with federal officials and 200,000 contacts with Congressional offices. We have chapter members living in 8 different Congressional districts. Can we get someone in each district to set up a visit with that Representative to present the Climate Reality view? How many contacts can we get each member to make with their Representative’s office? I don’t know the answer, but I am confident that we will do our part.
Our efforts will not be limited to the federal level. We have separate teams working on action at the State level as well as on the upcoming City Council elections in Dallas. Our new Legislative Action Working Group can use more help. Please contact Alan Kazdoy (firstname.lastname@example.org) to get involved. Even if you don’t join that working group, expect regular messages about ways you can take action. These will come via email as well as via posts on Discord. Be on the lookout and please take action.
Roger Knudson, Ph. D. Professor Emeritus, Department of Psychology, Miami University Chapter Chair, Climate Reality Project Dallas Fort Worth Chapter Team Lead, Funky East Dallas Democrats, Representative Accountability Team on Climate (aka Climate RATs) Pronouns: He/Him/His