Citizens Climate Radio Ep 36 How to be an extraordinary climate advocate with Sam Daley-Harris, Glen Retief, and Elizabeth Doud
Sam Daley-Harris, author of the book, Reclaiming Our Democracy, helped develop a model of advocacy that empowered citizens to connect directly with lawmakers. This model has helped shape organizations like Citizens Climate Lobby and the Friends Council for National Legislation. Sam reveals some of the sources for his own inspiration. His parents–their faith and public witness–along with insights he gained from his twelve years playing in the Miami Philharmonic orchestra directly contributed to his success in addressing world hungry, promoting micro-loans for the poor, and in training climate advocates. Sam highlights the important roles advocates play in taking on climate change.
Another climate advocate, Glen Retief, had the opportunity to take on the rebel role during the anti-Apartheid struggle in South Africa. He stood up to the racist policies of his government, but not as a rebel. Instead, he took on the role of advocate–lobbying, writing letters, and going to meetings. You will hear about the seemingly impossible task to turn his country around and the extraordinary lessons he learned that he now applies to his work in promoting solutions to climate change. Glen is the author of the Lambda Awarding winning book, The Jack Bank–A Memoir of a South African Childhood.
Elizabeth Doud takes on the role of Siren Jones in her one-person performance, The Mermaid Tear Factory. Based in Miami, Florida, she has been a catalyst to engage other artists in conversations around climate change. Each year she helps organize Climakaze Miami.
Elizabeth explains why she sees Miami as the city of the future–both with its international changing demographics and the many ways climate change is reshaping the city. She also shares why artists need to break away from telling the story of climate science and instead dig deep into the hard emotions around climate change.
You attended one of the recent student walk-out demonstrations. While there you spoke to a parent, Claire. Claire’s daughter was a protest organizer. You tell Claire how you speak to legislators about laws that will address fossil fuel pollution. You see yourself as an advocate, working in the system to bring about change. Claire confesses, “I would never have the patience for that. I am so angry and I need to protest.” She then asks, “So why do you do that kind of advocacy work instead of protesting and civil disobedience?”
Try answering the puzzler question. Leave your name, contact info, and where you are from. Get back to host, Peterson Toscano by June, 15, 2018.You can email your answers to radio @ citizensclimate.org or leave a voicemail of 3 minutes or less at 518.595.9414. (+1 if calling from outside the USA.)
The short answer is, yes of course. We need climate advocates in every field and profession. Still a race car, which pumps out tons of greenhouse gases in a single seasons seems like the unlikely place to find a climate advocate. Or so I thought.
Then I met Aaron Telitz, the 25 year old Indy Lights driver. He drives fast and is concerned about climate change. He also puts his money where his mouth is, and agreed to charge himself $15 per ton for the fossil fuels he burnt and used up with tires (so many tires!)
It seems like a modest start, but this is the model a group called Citizens’ Climate Lobby is proposing. Price carbon so much per ton, then every year raise the price. Following this plan, Aaron will pay $25 per ton during his next season. All the money he is donating to Citizens’ Climate Lobby.
I sat down with Aaron to talk about his self-imposed carbon fee, but as these things go the conversation bounced around lots of other issues. I learned a lot about car racing, why drivers like him need to keep his weight stable, some of his favorite food cravings during the season, and the superiority of electric engine compared to combustion engines.
You can hear a sample of our conversation and see pics of Aaron in this video below.
Hope Clark doing community art around climate change
You can hear the entire interview on the Citizens’ Climate Lobby channel in iTunes, Stitcher, Podbean, or wherever you get your podcasts. The show also featured Hope Clark, a dancer who is using movement and art to help her community better understand climate change and make connections to their own lives. Here is a direct link.
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.
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.
A researcher contacted me recently to follow up on a blog post I wrote about how LGBTQ+ people are affected by climate change. The researcher is hoping to publish something but ran into some roadblocks from the editors of a journal.
I have found that conference organizers and academic journals think the concept of connecting LGBTQ and climate change so bizarre that they almost immediately reject any proposal. This was true with organizers of the World Pride event in Toronto a few years ago. When we proposed a presentation on a “Queer Response to Climate Change,” they could not see how that had anything to do with LGBTQ human rights. They dismissed our request which led to send them a written manifesto. While it never convinced the Pride organizers, it did serve to inspire LGBTQ+ here in the US and beyond.
The researcher asked me some very helpful questions that you too might might to consider. If you want to be in touch with the researcher, contact me directly.
Here are the questions and my answers:
1. In the context of your sexual identity, how do you see yourself being personally affected by climate change (consider, for example, in preparing for climate change and in experiencing climate change)?
I do not see myself as an environmentalist in large part because the American environmental movement is so hetero-centric as is much of the US camping culture. I like nature, but not the domesticated nature of national parks and camp sites.
Rather I feel like a Walt Whitman naturalist who wants to dive into the wilderness, off the beaten path and embrace nature as I become intimately connected to it.
Naked and Very Afraid
This past summer I attempted a Walt Whitman “Leaves of Grass” moment. I dove into the woods and began to strip down to my boxers. I wanted to lie on the ground and feel the earth under me. Suddenly I remembered all of the warnings about the exploding tick populations. I failed to bring repellent. I worried about mosquitos carrying diseases. In that remote place I was suddenly reminded of the negative affects of a warming planet, the consequences of the immoral fossil fuel lifestyle of the modern world. I felt exposed and insecure and afraid. I recoiled, got dressed, and fled to a domesticated space.
LGBTQ Seniors and Climate Change
While I am not yet a senior citizen, that is coming up quickly. I hated air conditioning ever since I lived in Memphis and endured it freezing my nipples off until I went out into the blazing muggy daylight to defrost. Also AC is expensive and energy intensive. More severe and frequent heatwaves are predicted. Elderly people are affected by heatwaves which can lead to severe illness and death.
As a gay man, I do not experience the same equality as heterosexual citizens and residents. My job and career got disrupted because I am gay and had to leave it and start over. I don’t have a big pension coming my way. I do not have children or the prospect of children, while many if not most heterosexuals do. Often children help look after aging parents. There are real risks from climate change as I get older. I don’t have children checking in on me to make sure I am ok during heatwaves and other extreme events. I live in a rural part of the USA and worry about healthcare and discrimination.
2. What about other LGBT+ people? What issues might/do they face? (perhaps you can draw from the experiences of friends/colleagues)
I think of homeless LGBT+ youth, up to 40% of the homeless youth population in most cities. They often avoid shelters. Many shelters are private ventures run by churches. There is often no knowing how church folk will receive LGBT+ kids.
Also, most shelters are gendered spaces: boys to one side, girls to the other. What about transgender youth? Gender non-binary and genderqueer youth? LGBTQ+ youth often do not like going to these shelters.
On a warming planet we see more frequent and extreme weather events like Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Katrina. Where do these kids go when shelter becomes a matter of life or death? Are we developing shelters that are specifically and intentionally friendly towards LGBTQ+ youth?
Similarly I think of LGBTQ+ senior citizens. They too are affected by extreme weather and heatwaves and do not have the same social and family support enjoyed by cisgender and heterosexual citizens.
3. How should LGBT+ people get involved in responding to climate change? (I’m thinking at all levels here, from international to local)
a. Break the collective silence around climate change and do it in a creative way. Much like during the early HIV/AIDS Crisis when the government could give a damn about gay men and people of color (gay and straight) suffering with GRID (gay related immune deficiency as it was first called) when virtually no one was talking about or covering the epidemic, today with climate change I am reminded: Silence=Death. We need storytellers, artists, people concerned with human rights, creative queer communicators to tell the story of climate change and to engage the public.
b. Work on local and regional resiliency and community building. Develop a list of all the LGBTQ+ seniors in the community. Check in with them before and after storms and heatwaves. Open up community centers and LGBTQ+ friendly spaces as cooling centers during the hottest days of the year. Help with retrofitting homes with what will be cheaper energy efficient technology. Help LGBTQ+ people who are marginalized because of poverty, race, gender identity/expression with adaptation including growing food and water collection.
c. Recognize that climate change results in migration and immigration and that within that population there are LGBTQ+ people who are also affected by homophobia/transphobia. They may be deeply marginalized in their own families and among fellow migrants. Provide services, language classes, community, and opportunities to connect w/ LGBTQ+ migrants.
d. Recognize that during extreme weather events political leaders override existing policing rules when they declare a State of Emergency. There are curfews, forced evacuations. As a result, there are opportunities for human rights abuses and injustice. This directly affects LGBTQ+ people who are poor and/or homeless. Educating first responders, political leaders, and police about LGBTQ+ populations and reporting any and all abuses of power are essential.
e. Educate ourselves about climate change as a human rights issue and apply for funding for adaption in our communities to specifically reach out to LGBTQ+ folks to educate them and convince them that they have skin in the game.
4. How would you try to convince someone that the impact of climate change on LGBT+ communities in particular is an issue that needs to be addressed? (for example, by analogy, like the Pink Triangles)
Original art by Kevin Miller
Storytelling. The power of stories is one that we learned during the HIV/AIDS Crisis. This included visuals like the AIDS quilt and the red HIV/AIDS ribbon (which inspired countless other ribbons.) During the Transgender Day of Remembrance, we hear stories that move us to tears and to action.
I use my creativity to help people see that climate change affects pets, coffee, wine, a picnic in the park, policing and incarceration, and much more. I do not think anyone needs to become an environmentalist to be concerned about climate change. Rather they need to understand that something they are already passionate about is threatened by climate change.
I also think comedy has a role to play: not mocking people dismissive of climate change: that is not really that funny and just ends up with people feeling smudge because they recognize climate change is real. Rather comedy is a queer response to climate change. It immediately instils the conversation with hope and it relaxes people so that they can hear what they often filter out.
Most heterosexuals talk about climate change in a way to stir up fear, shame, and anger. We can use comedy and storytelling instead to inspire curiosity and engagement.
5. What needs to happen/change to protect LGBT+ people from climate change?
a. First and most importantly, we need to radically reduce pollution that leads to climate change: coal, oil, gas, natural gas along with farming practices that also contribute to the problem. But this needs to be done on a national and international scale, not by individual consumers scaling back.
We need system change and policy change about how we get our energy—a great transition from dirty to clean energy. One of the most effective ways to do this is through carbon pricing. Put a fee on all fossil fuels that contribute to global warming. To do this requires both thoughtful and respectful lobbying and non-violent direct action. (As the host of Citizens’ Climate Radio and a volunteer lobbyist for Citizens’ Climate Lobby, I am working with lots of people on this very thing.)
b. Educate LGBTQ+ people, particularly leaders that climate change threatens us in specific ways and that our voices are needed to both change policy and to creatively communicate to the public at large about the program. We must move beyond polar bears and future generations to communicate other compelling reasons to act to address climate change.
c. We need to be part of coalitions who are addressing climate change in part to help influence strategy so that they are justice minded and aware that LGBTQ+ are concerned and want to be part of the solutions.
d. We must talk about climate change as LGBTQ+ people. In other words, “queer” the climate discussion. And with that queering insert mirth, play, beauty, and art. What we lack in addressing climate change is a lack of imagination. While we do not have exclusive rights to creativity, we have demonstrated in fighting the oppressions we have faced that we can use creativity, camp, and art to take on powers.
I will be in Cuba when you read my post. This is my final Climate Stew act before diving into Cuban culture and a land with very little Internet. I am excited about going old school–you know talking to people and using maps and reading books. I promise to take lots of photos and to bring back some cool audio.
I do not know what your goals are for the new year, but for me, it is about being the best communicator I can around climate change. In the USA with Republican led House, Senate, and White House, it is about connecting with Republicans and finding common ground on issues that are meaningful to us.
It is easy to demonize a whole group of people. Then I am not responsible to do anything, but what happens when we break down the walls and talk? It is never easy or without risks, but refusing to connect with others because they are different or because they disagree with us, well, that typically leads to further alienation. My hope for 2017 is that we can see more and more Republican lawmakers find common ground with folks like me who are concerned about pollution and our future.
What are some of your goals for the new year? What will your focus be? Let me know in the comment section below.
Citizens’ Climate Radio Ep 7 — A Conservative Approach to Climate Change
(many ways to listen–see your options below)
When addressing climate change, we need all hands on deck including citizens and lawmakers who are politically Conservative. Host, Peterson Toscano interviews Chandler Green, a graduate student at American University researching strategic communications. Chandler shares her insights about climate communication and the need for Republican voices in the USA.
She also tells us about the growing #PutAPriceOnIt Campaign on college campuses. Then to model climate communication for Conservatives, Elke Arnesen reads the Gibson Resolution, a document created by US Republican members of congress that provides a Conservative call to address the causes and affects of climate change
Joining us once again in the Art House is environmentalist and poet, Lilace Mellin Guignard, with a timely and moving poem about winters present and future.
Lilace Mellin Guignard lives with her husband and two children in rural Pennsylvania, where she teaches poetry and creative nonfiction writing and women’s studies at Mansfield University. Her poetry has appeared in the journals Calyx, poemmemoirstory, Louisiana Literature, Paterson Literary Review, Ecotone and Poetry magazine. Her chapbook, “Young at the Time of Letting Go” was published by Evening Street Press in 2016. She is writing a creative nonfiction book about women outdoors for Texas A&M Press. She enjoys climbing and biking with her husband, eavesdropping on her children, and shaking things up in adult Sunday school.
Many people responded to the Citzens’ Climate Puzzler about the new Trump Administration. Hear two answers that address both local and national responses.
Here is our new Puzzler:
You are chatting with a neighbor and you mention your commitment to addressing carbon pollution because of dangers it poses. Your neighbor, let’s call her Lucinda, is genuinely confused. She says, “But back in school I learned how important carbon dioxide is for plants and photosynthesis. Our teacher said that without carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, we couldn’t survive.”
What would you say to Lucinda?
Send in your answers by January 15, 2017, along with your name, contact info, and where you are from. You can email your answers to radio @ citizensclimate.org or leave a voice memo of 3 minutes or less at 570-483-8194 (+1 if calling from outside the USA).
Winter camping at Breiðármerkurlón Glacier Lagoon in Southeast Iceland. Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) dancing above in the moonlit sky.
You won’t hear from me for a little while because I’m leaving for Iceland this Sunday. The land of ice. I’m going. I will be in Iceland come Monday morning. I was hoping repetition would make my chest stop swelling with excitement. It didn’t.
I little screaming in in order.
Ah, that’s better.
There’s been a natural phenomenon recurring in conversations throughout my life, something that seemed too magical to be real. The Northern Lights. So I took a gap year, (I saved up the money,) and I thought of no better time to make this long-awaited dream happen. That’s how it started, just a pleasure trip.
Left to right: Elke Arnesen, Savannah Benhard, Piper Christian, and Darren Bingham
Then I got a friend involved. Or rather, I called her out of the blue after having met her once in DC through Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Her name is Savannah Benhard and we are soul sisters. So even though we met in person only once before, we will be spending three weeks together in the Icelandic winter. Added bonus: we are both climate action maniacs.
And then I had an idea, an idea I quickly shared with Sav and which spiraled into reality. The national millennial carbon pricing campaign we are both part of – Put A Price On It – is effective at organizing current volunteers but doesn’t have the best method of social media outreach. In other words, we need a stronger YouTube channel. Before we knew it, we were developing a five-video plan and getting approval from the PAPOI staff and becoming the heads of the channel. Now Iceland is much more than a pleasure trip; it’s a filming trip. We are #OnIt.
Stay tuned for Iceland updates and please wish us good luck as we winter camp. 🙂
Dealing with Global Warming requires all kinds of new thinking; thinking outside the box if you will. It’s about finding new ways to do things, sometimes using old technology in new ways, to confront an ever changing environment.
Tafline Laylin writes about the Worlds’ first Plastic Village
The first of an entire village of plastic bottle homes is being constructed on Isla Colón in Bocas Del Toro, Panama. By recycling plastic bottles for use as insulation in what will eventually be 120 houses, Plastic Bottle Village founder Robert Bezeau is helping to preserve the island’s luscious surroundings and diverting toxic materials from the landfill. But plastic offers other surprising benefits as well.
Each home will comprise a steel cage full of recycled plastic bottles that are then covered in a concrete mix. While steel and concrete are not necessarily the most beneficial materials, the first two-bedroom home recycled a staggering 10,000 plastic bottles, offering significant environmental benefits – including interior temperatures that are 17 degrees Celsius cooler than outside. Consulting with local architects, the group designed three different models that have sufficient flex to be earthquake-resistant, though custom designs are also welcome.
I am thrilled to announce the launch of the new Citizens Climate Radio. If you liked the Climate Stew Show, you will LOVE this new podcast. I learned so much creating 50 episodes of Climate Stew. Now with technical assistance and a wonderful studio where I conducted 30 interviews, I have been able to bring it up a couple of notches.
As Joe G predicted in Ep 50 of Climate Stew, this show is even better than Climate Stew–technically for sure. I am so happy with the content too. By working with Citizens Climate Education, I have access to smart, creative, and intriguing people. I have conducted interviews with all sorts of people concerned about global warming–Conservatives, Evangelicals, Environmental Justice Advocates, and lots of ordinary citizens doing the extraordinary.
A Moving Conversation
Marshall Saunders, founder Citizens Climate Lobby
Mark Reynolds, executive director Citizens Climate Lobby
In the first episode of Citizens Climate Radio (Title: Beginnings and Transformations) I interview two former businessmen who went through a huge personal and interpersonal changes. They are now tender-hearted, climate advocates.
I actually cried both during the interviews and while editing. Hear how Marshall Saunders, a Texan-raised entrepreneur, lived for a long time feelingseparated and superior. I love his vulnerability.
Using Creativity to Talk about Climate
I also have a section of the show called The Art House. This is a space for presenting creative ways of talking about climate change. This month I present a brand new monologue with five of my zany characters. Through The Five Stages of Hot Climate Action, I talk about my own transformation from being FREAKED OUT about global warming to the place of engagement and hope.
See if you can identify the various characters. I couldn’t help it! I had to bring them on board.
Listener Contributions Encouraged
In debriefing about the Climate Stew Show, my husband, Glen Retief, suggested that in the new show I might try and get listeners more involved. I love that idea, but getting people to contribute can be challenging. But then I thought about those NPR programs that have listeners write in or call in to respond to a puzzler, like when Will Shortz, the Puzzle Master presents a mind teaser.
So I will present a Citizens Climate Puzzler. Listeners will get to share their ideas about how to respond to a particular dilemma around climate advocacy. This month we are at a party and run into Claire. She is also concerned about climate change, but she believes there are bigger fish to fry. How might you respond?
I know 2015 was the hottest year on record. This is the biggest climate story around this week. People died in heatwaves in India. There were severe weather events with weird ass storms at the wrong time of the year. Flooding in England and Missouri. Drought in Guatemala and Brazil. And it wasn’t all because of El Niño. That weather altering brat is only partially to blame. Nope it was the global warming machine at work.
Susquehanna River near my house this week
Still 2015 was one of the coldest for me. This time last year here in the Northeast we were in a deep freeze. Frosted windows, repeated snowstorms, single digits. I loved it. Then in August I was in England, where it was downright chilly for me (although folks complained it was too hot.) From there I went to Iceland where it was sunny and cool (although the Icelanders said it was unseasonably warm for them.) In October I travelled to the Arctic Circle and spent a week in the city of Tromsø, Norway. I walked for hours in the snow and under the northern lights.
Then this past Christmas I travelled to San Francisco by train to see the family. While New York enjoyed/endured a sweltering holiday with temperatures in the 60s, it got below freezing in the Bay Area most nights where people remarked, “It is rarely this cold.” Then off to Phoenix where I never took off my down jacket because of the cold weather. The Arizonians rejoiced because they got to wear their winter gear for a change.
Am I a frozen Disney Princess?
Perhaps I am a cold magnet. My poor husband adores the heat of his South African homeland, and here I am a queer Prince Elsa with a frozen touch. Right now in Central PA I am thrilled with the frigid weather and the snowstorm predicted for the weekend–this is the one that may dump two feet of snow on Washington, DC, where they don’t really have a clue of what to do with it. They are warning of gust of winds upward to 55 miles per hour.
Looking at the projections, I know that winter is something that has changed and will change. Snow, ice, and deep freeze may well soon become a thing of the past, so I cling to every opportunity I have to feel the cold. It makes me sad. I remember my childhood with weeks of thick layers of ice on my bedroom window and long stretches of cold and snow. That doesn’t happen much anymore in my hometown of Lake Huntington, NY.
In Episode 21 of the Climate Stew Show we travelled to the future to see how our descendants will respond. How will we adapt? How will we hold onto the nostalgia of winters of long ago?
What about you? What is it about the cold weather that you appreciate? What is something precious about winter that you have begun to realize may not be a feature of the future? I’d love to hear from you.
When I first began to ask the question What is a Queer Response to Climate Change? I got lots of blank stares and worried looks. Some of my friends may have thought I lost it. But these days people are actually asking me about possible queer responses to climate change. Recently I sat down with Tyler Sit, a leader at A Place to Start, a Twin Cities church that focuses on environmental justice. He asked me to explain myself. And so I did.