The only courage you need in life is the courage to follow your dreams.” – Oprah Winfrey
I am filled with eagerness and a little bit of nervousness, like the feeling of starting the first day of school. In just a few hours, I leave before dawn to head to 11 different cities across eastern and southern Oregon for a road trip. It has been a dream of mine for years to go on the road to give a series of climate change talks. Not just climate change talks though for the sake of climate change talks. Most of us have heard these numbing talks: ‘Climate change is bad. Therefore, you must act fast to fix it!’ Unfortunately, those talks are not very inspiring.
Thus, I plan to give a series of climate change talks that that inspire people to act in an effective way that gives them sustaining hope. I found this ongoing inspiration when I joined Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) in May 2012. I leave Portland, Oregon, tomorrow as the lead speaker for the Oregon Stewardship Tour, where I will be speaking and leading discussions with Oregon residents in 11 towns across Oregon. Our goal is to inspire these constituents to contact GOP U.S. Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon’s District 2 that they want climate action. Even more, we hope they will express to Rep. Walden support for CCL’s market based solution of a carbon fee and dividend. Hopefully, they will also want to join 80,000 volunteers already involved with Citizens’ Climate Lobby who are making a positive impact on Congress right now.
I am originally from St. Louis, Missouri. For the past 25 years, I worked as a summer seasonal park ranger at Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, and Everglades National Park, Florida, during the winters. For the past 18 years, I gave ranger talks in these parks. People expect a park ranger to know everything. Thus, they started asking me about this global warming thing, which I knew nothing about. I quickly grabbed books to learn as much as I could how climate change is impacting our national parks. I really scared me. The Everglades could be lost in this century due to sea level rise due to warming temperatures in Greenland and Antarctica. Crater Lake is one of the cleanest and purest bodies of water in the world. Yet, rising temperatures could potentially reduce its clarity and purity.
By 2008, I became so worried about climate change that I quit my winter job in the Everglades to speak, organize, and write about it in my hometown of St. Louis. I taught continuing adult education climate change classes at the community college. I formed the Climate Reality St. Louis Meet Up group with a friend to have community discussions about it. I joined Toastmasters to regularly speak about climate change in my community. Yet, something was missing: a supportive organization that could empower others and me to effectively act on climate change.
In May 2012, a friend invited me to attend a Citizens’ Climate Lobby monthly meeting in St. Louis. I was instantly hooked. I loved their mission: “We exist to create the political will for climate solutions by enabling individual breakthroughs in the exercise of personal and political power.”
At the beginning of the conference call, I heard groups call in from Atlanta GA, Madison WI, San Francisco CA, Portland OR, and various other U.S. cities. I thought: I am not hearing southern Oregon on this call. I made it my mission in life to start a group in southern Oregon. I succeeded when the southern Oregon group, which meets regularly in Ashland, was established in January 2013. In August of that year, I joined the local volunteers for a meeting in Rep. Greg Walden’s office in Medford, Oregon.
Walden’s staff graciously listened to our concerns about climate change and CCL’s solution. However, they informed us that businesses and rural residents were not expressing climate action as a high priority. That became my goal and marching orders from that day forward. I wanted to find ways to inspire and organize businesses and rural constituents to create the political will for Rep. Walden to act on climate in Congress.
Oregon Stewardship Tour
However, my seasons were short at Crater Lake, just May to October. The other months I spent in St. Louis organizing for climate action. In February 2017, my wife accepted a job in Portland. As we were moving here, I made it my mission to create a CCL tour of eastern and southern Oregon to reach out to constituents in those areas.
I found volunteers in the Portland CCL chapter and throughout the state eager to help me. Thus, we created the Oregon Stewardship Tour: 9 speaking events in Baker City, LaGrande, John Day, Burns, Prineville, Redmond, Lakeview, Klamath Falls, and Grants Pass. Plus, two meetings with staff of Rep. Greg Walden in Bend and Medford. This tour was inspired by other state and regional tours, starting with the Texas Energy Freedom Tour in October 2015, Southern Energy Freedom Tour in 2016, and the Alaska Big Dividend Tour in February 2017. Washington state CCL will conduct its own Water, Wind & Fire Tour in November.
Citizens’ Climate Lobby Executive Director Mark Reynolds likes to say that ‘we are betting the ranch on relationships.’ He means that we do not meet with any staff or member of Congress without first showing respect, admiration, and appreciation for their public service. We seek to actively listen and understand as we engage.
We extend that positive approach to find common ground and build consensus with everyone that we meet. One goal of the tour is to find constituents, business leaders, and community leaders in Oregon’s 2nd Congressional District to build the political will necessary for Rep. Greg Walden to support climate solution of a market-based carbon fee and dividend.
American anthropologist Margaret Mead said it best: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
For years, I dreamed of speaking on a road trip tour to engage people on climate change and act on solutions, especially in Oregon. In a few hours, I am anxious and excited as it becomes a reality.