David Whitehead: Climate action teams forming
When I went to Washington, D.C. last November to lobby Congressman Doug LaMalfa’s office with the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, I didn’t think there was a chance of success. But I discovered that my own success or failure was not the point.
I was part of something bigger than one intractable member of Congress. I learned so much, and met so many smart, capable and dedicated volunteers, I could feel the momentum, and I decided to bring that spirit home.
The new Nevada County Chapter of the nonprofit Citizens’ Climate Lobby celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy when we recently hosted a Climate Advocate Training workshop at the Madelyn Helling Library. Lobby Trainer Tim Dec provided information, techniques, and practice exercises to about 50 local citizens who want to create political will within our community.
Dec described the term “political will” as “the clear demonstration of support back home, from constituents, to a member of Congress, of a particular policy or issue.”
To build political will, Citizens’ Climate Lobby members perform lobbying, media relations, grassroots outreach, “grasstops” outreach, and local chapter development. Twice a year, in June and November, volunteers travel to Washington D.C. to lobby Congress in favor of new carbon fee and dividend legislation. Over 420 chapters across the USA make thousands of phone calls, emails and letters to Congress each year. Volunteers submit hundreds of letters to the editor to newspapers. Each chapter liaisons directly to a local congressional district office, providing information and assistance to staff in responding to climate issues.
The workshop covered the lobby-endorsed legislative proposal known as The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, HR 7173/S 3791 currently sponsored by a bipartisan group of four republicans and eight democrats. Dec pointed out this legislation is revenue-neutral, market-based, and draws from conservative values.
The lobby’s website for the legislation, energyinnovationact.org, states there is a real chance to get this legislation passed through this Congress because it is effective, good for people and good for the economy. The policy tackles carbon emissions by placing a $15/ton fee on carbon emissions at the source, increasing the fee by $10 per year, and placing a Border Adjustment Tax on imported goods that create carbon emissions.
All of the net revenue is returned to American households by a monthly check that increases each year. Studies show that American households will spend the dividends on health care and services, boosting the economy and creating 2.1 million jobs in 10 years. The reduction in emissions increases people’s health and reduces illnesses. Current estimates are that carbon pollution is responsible for 114,000 deaths each year. The policy would remain in effect until emissions targets are achieved.
Many of the topics covered during the training centered on how to build relationships with fellow residents, legislative staffs and members of Congress through respectful dialogue, gratitude for work, and appreciation for positive support for climate change action. Dialogue often starts with asking what is important to each participant, and how common values can encourage cooperation on many fronts. Personal stories remain among the most valuable input that members of Congress receive, because these real life stories contain the values of their constituents.
The trainees got a chance to practice and try out the techniques during role play exercises. Conversations were lively with laughter as the trainees tackled tough climate questions.
Values played a major role in the training presentation. Dec covered the group’s core values: Focus on the core purpose; Optimism to be “For” something rather than “Against;” Relationship building as the key to success; integrity to respect and welcome opposing viewpoints; personal power; and a non-partisan belief that everyone is a potential ally. When citizens embrace these values, personal breakthroughs are possible. Sharing common values encourages people to think about solutions rather than differences of opinion.
The trainees also got a chance to express their own interests and capabilities to take action. As Dec noted: “Dr. King said ‘Action is the antidote to despair’ and lobby members often say how taking action counteracts feelings of hopelessness and make them feel better.”
Now a sizeable group of Nevada County folks can work to spread the word that, contrary to popular belief, there is a way to create “a liveable future.”
David Whitehead is the group leader for the Nevada County Chapter of the Citizens Climate Lobby. Contact him and learn more at http://www.citizensclimatelobby.org.
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