Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Momentum Brings us Hope

Geoff and I tried to go on a date tonight...we got as far as dinner when we got our first call, with a very sad Kaya on the other end of the line. "Ich wiw mit dir kuscheln...," [I wanna snuggle with you...] I barely understood her say, through her despairing sobs. Five phone calls later, it was becoming clear that we'd be unable to enjoy the the Timbers game--the ultimate destination of our date--knowing how upset Kaya was on our bed at home.

Osterhase, Kuschelaffe, Kaya & Marvin, Snug as a Bug in a Rug
Once we got home, I was surprised at how eager I was to comfort her. Such a welcome difference from feeling frustration or resent, as I might expect of myself after having my evening 'interrupted'. She, too, was clearly quite happy, as she giggled and smiled her whole way through bedtime. When we finally landed in her bed to snuggle, she was asleep within minutes, and when I got up to leave, I couldn't believe how cute she looked, nestled amongst her favorite snuggle-friends.

How can I not do everything in my power to protect this beautiful earth for her future?

As eager as I am to wax on about the connection that I feel with her, about how, in this moment and the past long while, in fact, I've felt no concern about any lack of connection with her in this 'non-native tongue', as I've expressed in the past, I'll save that for a future post, and will, as promised, share with you Part III of our presentation on our response to Climate Change. If you're just "joining us", I encourage you to read Part I and Part II of our presentation, which includes some of the science behind climate change as well as how we might respond from spiritual and moral perspective.


Evidence that momentum is gathering gives us hope
Written and delivered by Tamara Staton to the Alliance at the First Unitarian Church

...In response to Katherine's question of me regarding how things are working out, and how much we're really capable of, I share this...

Well, Katherine, there is a plethora of good news, actually.

First of all, there is a global recognition that a problem exists, which is causing momentum to build quickly. Australia, for example, which is one of the world’s leading exporters of coal, introduced a carbon tax just last year. And In the year that this carbon tax has been in effect, there has been a significant drop in carbon emissions, and their renewables are now cheaper than coal. China, in addition, has announced that they will be introducing a pilot cap and trade system, which is huge because they are now the world’s biggest source of carbon pollution and growing quickly. And in the United States, in terms of new energy generation capacity that was built last year, there was more energy produced from renewables, like wind and solar, than from fossil fuels. Similarly, the cost of renewables is going down while the cost of accessing fossil fuels is going up. 

All in all, the science of climate change is getting stronger and stronger and the denier arguments are getting debunked, to the extent that the deniers and the denier arguments are really on the fringe of serious discussion. This is in one of the only remaining countries—ours-- where there’s still any serious question that climate change is real and caused by human activity. All in all, this alone is great reason for hope.

As you may have noticed, all of these changes are systemic. While there are naturally individuals working in the mix, these momentous changes are on a grand scale, affecting the structures that regulate and ultimately determine how we live in community. Like the ability of our faith to enable us to look beyond ourselves, these systemic changes require the same, are exactly what is needed for us to halt the 13 year prediction. Over the past many years, society has been delivering messages that individual solutions, like planting gardens and taking the bus and flying less, are enough to solve the crisis. I believe that these messages have been aimed at keeping people from feeling too small, like their actions don’t matter and can’t make a difference. As important as this message is, we need to send a new one now: The individual solutions do make a difference, in the ripple effect that they cause, but we need bigger and faster. We need the speed and scale that systemic changes can offer to humanity and all life forms on the planet.

For me, I know that I tend to get overwhelmed pretty easily. As detail oriented as I am, I often find that, when the details are too many and too big, I shut down. And this climate change situation is naturally full of MANY details. At times, I’ve found myself wondering, how do we affect the system as just ONE individual. It’s huge. Once we’re past the point of shut down, what is our role in the framework of our national and global community?

As you heard me mention earlier, the momentous changes that are occurring around the world are because of thousands of individuals coming together in community to make a difference. While some of those changes may seem like a matter of one—one government, one law, one decision—they are actually changes that were inspired and taken on by community, in some manner. For example, many of the large scale projects and systemic changes that are occurring across the world are being taken on by one of the hundreds of organizations worldwide dedicated to climate action. As Emily mentioned when she introduced me, I have the most personal experience with number 32 on the list, Citizens Climate Lobby. In April of last year, I helped to start our Portland Chapter, and I wanted to share some of my experience with you not only because of how this group has empowered and inspired me to make a real difference, but because it is a solid example of how individuals can come together to work towards and make a systemic difference. To address climate change, we’re going to have to make big changes to get ourselves off fossil fuels, and one of the most powerful tools to do that is to put a price on carbon. 

 When I first heard about the national group, Citizens Climate Lobby, I was uninterested. Having no experience, nor interest, in politics, I didn’t think that any group with the word “Lobby” in it’s title would be anything for me. But when I began to think about what it’s really going to take to get more people on the bandwagon in this country, not to mention others around the globe, it hit me that most people act when they have to. When the storm hits their county, they take action. When the money comes out of their paycheck, their wallet, they start to listen. For this reason, an organization that has the power and capacity to affect change on a systemic level, at an inspiring and committed grassroots level, is worth being a part of. For this reason, a tax on carbon where the revenue is returned to every American household, could be the systemic change that we need to beat that 13 year prediction. And as an organization, CCL has that revenue-neutral carbon tax as its primary policy objective. “Political Will for a Livable World” is our mission, but there is an underlying message that comes through everything we do: 

Relationship comes first. 
Because it does.

If we have relationship with the person on the phone asking for money, we generally give at least some of what we have. And most of us will bend over backwards to help those we love. And so from this understanding, more than 1500 volunteers in nearly 90 chapters across the US and Canada take individual actions that contribute to a systemic change that can turn things around. As members of Citizens Climate Lobby, we build relationships by sending hand-written letters each month to members of congress, as well as writing Letters to the Editor of major newspapers. In 2011, for example, we were published 181 times in our Letters to the Editor, to be superceded in 2012 by 535 published letters. This year, we’re already averaging well-over 100 a month, including op-eds. 

We also build relationships by meeting in person with members of congress and the editorial boards of newspapers. In January, we had 16 meetings with editorial boards, and we had 537 meetings with members of congress last year. These actions give us hope, because over four years, we’ve gone from being laughed out of the office for our carbon tax proposal to being supported by congressman who are proposing legislation for the same. 

We are actively building and strengthening our group, both here and in many other cities in the US and Canada, so if you or anyone you know might be interested in joining forces, taking action, or signing on as a supporter (financial or otherwise), we’d love to hear from you, and I have an invitation for you here with more details.


As you can imagine, it would have been strange for me to download the audience with all sorts of details, like date and time (every Wednesday, 5pm!) for the introduction calls, should someone be interested in learning more. Similarly, for me to share the link for call registration would have been quite cumbersome and awkward. Thus, I share it here, and I thank you for making it all the way to the bottom of this lengthy post. If it's not clear already, Citizens Climate Lobby has changed my life, and I would highly recommend you listen in on an intro call if North America is your home and you want to be a part of the systemic solution that we need. And Dr. Hansen would agree:

"Most impressive is the work of Citizens Climate Lobby, a relatively new, fast-growing, nonpartisan, nonprofit group with 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."  
- Dr. James Hansen, head of Goddard Institute for Space Studies, NASA

Stay tuned for the 4th and final part of our presentation, entitled, "Staying Strong for the Journey." Hope you can round out your online version of some hope and inspiration regarding what some consider the biggest issue of our lifetime...

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