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Climate Stew Blog

Rebel, Advocate, or something else: Deciding our Roles

A Quaker Rebel

Recently I spoke with Eileen Flanagan. She is a writer, a social change teacher, a Quaker, and an activist.

Eileen Flanagan

Currently she is teaching activists about how to organize and to understand their role. In an interview with me for Citizens’ Climate Radio, Eileen told me about Bill Moyer and his Strategic Framework Describing The Eight Stages of Successful Social Movement. She also shared with me the four roles that change agents have traditionally taken:

Amani Thurman

  1. Helper

  2. Advocate

  3. Rebel

  4. Organizer

In this month’s episode, Eileen explains these roles and gives examples. I also speak with Amani Thurman, a college freshman with experience as a rebel and who has begun stepping into the role of an advocate.

Which role do you typically take?


Also appearing in this episode is Elizabeth Jeremiah, a comic creation of mine. Hope you enjoy her.

We Are Making History – Climate Conference Recap

Speaking Nerves

Hello there!

Today I’d like to recap on this past weekend. Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) held their 2017 Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference (2/17-19.) It was educating and inspiring.

Second day of conference, all of the attendees. We are going to have to get a bigger set of stairs!

With thanks to Peterson, who got my foot in the door, I opened the conference with a 15-min speech that did not hold back with the jokes. Honestly, I’m not one who evades nerves before speeches, and to say I was paranoid that the audience wouldn’t laugh at my jokes is a completely accurate statement. I even watched “stand-up comedy fails” the week leading up to the big night. Not helpful.

Knowing full well that CCLers are incredibly supportive, I didn’t take it as accurate feedback when I received a standing ovation. I really only understood my impact on the audience when, a few days later, my brother of all people stated “It was one of the best speeches I’ve ever heard. By the end, they were ready to march behind you to DC.” Being one who’s admittedly affected by feedback both positive and negative, I gushed. Internally.

Fantastic millennial representation

Final day of conference, members participating in an exercise

Following the speech, we had a panel of three officials, two who currently hold public office. On Saturday, we began with regional recaps of the past few months, leading into state organizing sessions for the upcoming few months. Productivity!

Although I can’t testify for what happened at most of the breakout sessions after this, I can speak to the Mobilizing the Youth track that I co-planned with a fellow CCL millennial, Nathan Graf.

We had three breakout sessions in that track, including “Carbon Fees in Universities,” which targeted internal carbon pricing at higher ed institutions; We Are #OnIt, which focused in on the national millennial carbon pricing campaign Put A Price On It; and “Climate for Whippersnappers,” which was a panel of millennials who have been doing environmental work for a while. That last one opened up interesting conversation about the relationships and communication among generations in this environmental world and the roles we play.

Closing thoughts

Overall, the conference was a raging success. Student registration was up 900% from last year. And we have renewed determination in our pursuit of climate action. So if you’re lacking a bit of motivation or hope, just know that things are happening and we will succeed.

Have a great week and don’t be trashy.

Environmental Football – Why We Want The Underdog To Win

A quiet, tough sidekick

Look guys, I’m strong too. Elke and her brothers.

As the youngest and only girl growing up, I was in rough shape. Consistently vying to be one of the bros, I endured everything from “peeing in the woods is easy, Elke” to “get on this hovercraft; I want to see if it’ll hold you” to “hold still, I want to see if you can get out of this like Houdini.” Essentially, I was undergoing nonstop hazing, the desired result for my brothers being a perfectly quiet and tough sidekick.

But there was one hitch in the plan: I wouldn’t stop singing.

Every free moment I’d be humming, mumbling, attempting – and I really mean attempting – to carry a tune. I’d walk around the house for two hours at a time wearing my Little Mermaid robe, adorned in my Flounder slippers and carrying my stuffed hamster named Cookie. Singing one song and one song only: Ariel’s “aah aah aah”s. (And for those of you who don’t know what that is, please reference this video for which I searched “little mermaid ah ah ah”.)

Nevertheless, she persisted

Based on that information, it’s no wonder that the big brothers tried to shut me up at any given opportunity through the effective singing-shaming and physical-mouth-covering techniques. And it’s no wonder that, although I wouldn’t have changed a thing about my childhood, I was incredibly timid about my singing voice up until I was the last kid at home.

This is a small and seemingly insignificant parallel to much bigger issues we all witness. The small guys and gals, the quiet voices that are always trying to be part of the conversation. They get shut out too much and too often. That’s why we love underdog movies! It’s the euphoric feeling of “yeah, take that! We won!” whenever the longshot, disheveled football team makes the tie-breaker touchdown in the last 4 seconds of the championship game. Feel familiar?

That is known as basking in reflected glory or, in other words, the feeling of success based on watching others succeed. And that is why we naturally want the little dude to win. And that is why I’m naturally so furious about climate change.

Climate Underdogs

I hear the stifled cries and I see the rejected expressions. I empathize from my miniscule-in-comparison experiences of being the “stupid little sister,” but I still get it, the overwhelming burning sensation in your core for justice.

Elke and her brother pursuing another wacky challenge.

With climate change, the people most impacted were not large contributors. They did not cause it. Lower income families are more impacted than those in steadier communities. Third world countries are more impacted than developed countries. People of color are more impacted than white people. Females are more impacted than males. And that, my friend, is why I will never stop fighting for climate action.

Check out this article for a sadly perfect example of these inequalities. And overall, as a lesson in life, I encourage you to empathize with people. Relate their experiences to yours and try to find common ground. You’ll be amazed at the similarities.

Have a great week and don’t be trashy.

Chatting with Crystal about LGBTQ responses to Climate Change

Crystal Cheatham

I LOVE it when people are curious about climate change. I can’t think of anything more attractive in a person than their interest in expanding their understanding of the world. One such person is singer/songwriter, activist, creative communicator, and one of the most fun people to hang out with, Crystal Cheatham. In her own words:

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to cope with that experience and while I’ve done a lot of growing I still have questions. I’m constantly working to reconcile my confluence of identities with the image of what the world expects a black woman to be like. As it turns out I’m also a lesbian and have great faith in God. It’s not easy work, especially in a society like ours that doesn’t quite embrace difference and diversity, as I’m sure you know too. I do what I can to document my journey through music, podcasts, videos and articles but it never seems like enough.

Crystal is full of good ideas including an upcoming phone app for LGBTQ people of faith.

It is in her role as podcaster that we most recently interacted. We had a spirited discussion about climate change. We looked at it from some pretty unconventional angles, including through the lens of pet care, coffee consumption, and LGBTQ justice.

Have a listen to Lord Have Mercy podcast.

Laughter is so important to address the world’s problems

I am so cold I am blurry! Taking in Iceland this winter.

Serious Topic? Try some humor!

I will forever advocate that laughter is a solution to the world’s problems.

We live in interesting times, no denying it. And many of us feel inadequate in comparison to the many miscommunications and corrupt decisions and mile-high walls people make. Discussing climate change, in particular, can really bring a girl down.

But throughout my internship, my mentor, Peterson Toscano, advocates for storytelling and humor as a method of breaking those communication barriers and having more honest conversations.

Science Proves: Laughter is Essential Medicine for Communicators

My partner in Iceland adventures

And guess what? His thoughts are backed up by science! According to the article Humor Theories and the Physiological Benefits of Laughter written by Julia Wilkins, 

…laughter evolved as a protective shield, not as a coping mechanism for people’s own misfortune, but because humans needed to have empathy for others in order for the human race to survive.

Comedy can facilitate empathy while it also physically relaxes the body and the mind so that the people you are talking to can actually hear what you are saying. This is essential when talking about topics that typically stir up fear and shame.

Read the paper here and turn on the Seinfeld, folks! Also, enjoy the Iceland photos as good examples of using laughter in tough situations.

Have a great week and don’t be trashy.