Last week, I had the privilege of being trained as a Climate Reality Leader by Al Gore and the Climate Reality Project (CRP) in Pittsburgh.
There were 1,360 of us—the largest training in CRP’s history—and we experienced both a 2-hour and a 10-minute version of former Vice President Gore’s infamous climate change presentation. Over three days, we asked questions of leading climate scientists and policy makers alike. We were educated on the science and the solutions to the climate crisis of our present day.
I walked away inspired, a little overwhelmed, better prepared—and poised for action.
My only criticism was surrounding the latter. If drafting press releases, writing letters to the editors of our local newspapers, and giving PowerPoint presentations to various groups are the primary actions suggested, leaders like me will likely feel underwhelmed and stunted in their own contribution to solving the issue. Simply put, we want to do more.
So, what does it mean to be a Climate Reality Leader anyway?
According to the CRP, it’s a commitment to attend a 3-day training on your own dime and to complete ten “Acts of Leadership” within one year post-training. The acts are categorized under twelve umbrellas: Past Presentation, Blog Post, Media Appearance, Meet with an Influencer, Organized an Event, News Article, Host Webinar, Meet with Leader, Participated in an Event, Letter of Op-Ed, Contact Influencer, Mentor/Assist.
While I’ve logged two acts in the two business days since being trained (this blog post being one), for me, being a Climate Reality Leader has come to mean filling a vital gap—by providing specific next steps and impactful actions that come immediately after presenting Gore’s three core questions:
• Must we change?
• Can we change?
• Will we change?
If the biggest blank on everyone’s mind is “Tell me what can I do to help”, we cannot simply ignore that. To do so perpetuates the idea that this crisis is too big to solve, and then, people feel some sense of justification in not doing anything at all. As I see it now, that’s the very root of the problem in our extremely slow rate of adoption toward action.
My focus as a Climate Reality Leader will be precisely on answering this within the context of “tiers of commitment”. In order to get sustainable buy-in, we need to meet each person at his or her own individual level of willingness to change. Every little bit counts, and we need everyone if we’re going to win this war (of our own creation).
The next few posts will be a series outlining easy asks, mid-level asks and serious commitments. Feel free to pick and choose what works for you and your family, as few or as many as you like, and to mix and match from the different categories. I’ll also be using these in all of my public presentations in order to give people tangible ways to help, starting immediately.
In the meantime, check out this segment by Justin Gillis in The New York Times from September 2017, called “Climate Change is Complex. We’ve Got Answers to Your Questions.” The seventeen questions are framed under three parts: What is happening?, What could happen? and What can we do? [Note that the only section with which I completely disagree is “What about fracking or ‘clean coal’?”; The writer’s stance is that “Both could help clean up the energy system.”—a statement that is entirely misleading.]
Why Become a Climate Reality Leader?
Lastly, I think it’s really important to understand why someone would become a climate leader in the first place. We all have different reasons. My friends over at Montemlife put together a list of 50 of our favorite places that will be affected by climate change (and which might disappear completely over time). It’s a shocking, and sobering, list of places that we tend to take for granted. I’ve always been interested in environmentalism, yet my two reasons are named Tenley (6) and Taylor (3), my nieces, pictured above. They will live to see the end of this century—while I will not—and I want to know that I did everything I could to ensure they would breathe clean air, see the same plants and animals I saw growing up, and lived healthy, fulfilling lives in a beautiful natural world.
Together, we will win this.
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