I’ve had a lot of requests to hear how the Citizens Climate Lobby launch meeting went, so here goes: amazing.
Nick Bentley and I (Kristen Walser) are teaming up again to lead this new Citizens Climate Lobby chapter.
If you would like to be on our email listserve, please email Kristen at [masked] and she will send you an google groups invitation. You’ll get notices of our meetings, agenda, and action items, and special events.
Our meetings will be 7-8:30 pm on the Tuesday after the first Saturday of the month (when the 600 citizen activists who don’t live in beautiful places listen in to monthly trainings).
If you missed the introductory workshop, come at 6pm to the monthly meeting this Tuesday, May 7th, or call Kristen at[masked] to schedule an introductory call. Your invitation expires in one week, so email me at [masked] if you need a fresh one.
Bring finger foods if you feel inspired.
We'll be practicing our elevator speech on carbon pricing, and forming groups focusing on: letters to the editor, letters of support, and meetings with legislators.
I’ve tried to distill what it is about the Citizens Climate Lobby that struck me as so effective and worth joining. For you who are veteran organizers, it might sound a little basic, but please bear with me.
People who know me, know that I have organized rallies and was arrested last summer in a sit in at the Capitol. The power of these actions lie in the education and urgency they communicate, but depend on the media you attract to get that across. The problem with these methods is that they do not aim directly at the pro-fossil fuel policy makers, their funders, or the conservative voting base to change their minds.
Movies like Chasing Ice, books, lectures, and art are crucial, inspirational, and educational, but the voters often don’t know what to do, aren’t motivated enough to act in between elections, or often think driving a Prius will solve the problem.
350.org is targeting fossil fuel corporations by urging universities, pension funds and religious groups to pull their investments out of those endeavors. While this is a good tactic, and they have an excellent play book and support for student activists, it will take some time. And finally, let’s not leave out the judicial avenues, like Children’s Trust and the Coal Export Action fighting for the necessity defense, bringing issues of imminent danger from climate change to the courts and, hopefully, media. There are so many targets.
Citizens Climate Lobby, on the other hand, is going for the jugular in a very diplomatic way. As Van Jones likes to point out, we can’t turn the climate around if just liberal white Americans are involved. Everyone needs to be on board, and soon. CCL has chosen to effect policy in a way that will reach every corner of industry, every corner of our lives, and even beyond the borders of our country.
What is this silver bullet? It’s a fee or price placed on the fossil fuel at the well head or mine based on its known carbon emissions per ton. The money collected would be distributed by the IRS back to each and every one of us to offset the increased costs we would face as we transition to renewable energy and efficiency. Seventy percent of the population, the non-rich part, would receive as much or more than they would be spending.
One of the beautiful features of the revenue neutral carbon pricing, also called carbon fee and dividend, is that Congress has the power to enact it, and Congress is a finite target. Although legislators may seem as intractable as university investors or corporate boards of directors, as long as we still have a shred of democracy, we the people still have direct influence.
In fact, we citizens of Montana could have undue influence. Senator Max Baucus is retiring in 2014, with the goal of reforming our tax code, with nothing to lose, and with a few carbon fee proposals already on the Senate table. We have no time to lose.
Citizens Climate Lobby teems with smart strategy. Its goal is to convince legislators who are not pro environment, who may not even believe in global warming. They start by getting us, the citizens, to intensely research what makes the Senator or Representative tick, what is important to them, and who has influence on them (e.g. businesses, churches, campaign contributors), finding ways to support their change in position. Then we approach them respectfully and prepared.
While their tools may seem traditional, letters to the editor, op/eds, meetings with legislators, talking to your neighbor or groups you are affiliated with, and social media, CCL adds a depth of expertise, sharing tips and tricks for getting published, interviewed, heard. To take a small example, the vanilla letter to the editor: I always knew they were powerful, but I learned at the workshop that legislators do word searches of papers for their names, so if you name drop, they will zero in on it. The support allows you to draw people in to activism. They prepare citizens for meeting with their legislator, and they make sure everyone is fluent in carbon fee speak. It accesses the power of social interaction, combines it with the confidence that comes from structured action, expert information and strategy.
Dr. James Hansen, head of Goddard Institute for Space Studies, NASA and eminent climate scientist and who actively works with 350.org, has this to say:
"Most impressive is the work of Citizens Climate Lobby, a relatively new, fastgrowing, nonpartisan, nonprofit group with 60 [now 91] chapters across the United States and Canada. If you want to join the fight to save the planet, to save creation for your grandchildren, there is no more effective step you could take than becoming an active member of this group."