Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Citizens' Climate Lobby: November Meeting

For a couple years, my friend Heather has been inviting me to attend a meeting of the Citizens' Climate Lobby, a local chapter of a national organization that she's a part of it. It sounded like a great group, I just never was available or managed to get to one of their monthly meetings. 

Finally, in November, I did! And it's a really nice welcoming group, as well as a cause that I think is important, so I wanted share a bit about how the meeting works, and what they're working towards.

Also: Today, for Giving Tuesday (December 1), there's a $80,000 matching grant, for all donations. (While CCL is a political organization, donations are made via a related organization that is a 501(c)(3) for tax-deductible contributions.)

While obviously taking steps in your own life to reduce your own impact on the environment is important, CCL is working towards making big changes by lobbying politicians to follow the will of the people, and gathering support to show that the will of the people is to reduce carbon emissions. The big project is supporting a carbon fee proposal, which makes the environmental cost of using resources into an economic cost, thus providing incentive to reduce it. Actions are taken to contact politicians, as well as write in letters to get published in newspapers.

The meeting

It's a really welcoming group, it skews a bit on the older side (50s - 60s), but there were some younger people there, including the two main leaders. T opened with a little reading, and we went around the circle introducing ourselves and giving our reaction to the reading (which was... a little hippy dippy for my taste, perhaps, but was nonetheless a decent way of leading introductions).

At 10:00, we called into the national conference call - this is set up so that all chapters are meeting at that time (10 am on the west coast, 1 pm on the east coast, and in between). There was discussion of some ongoing actions, and the main speaker (for about 20 - 30 minutes, I think) was Rob Williams, an economist. He talked about some studies done on the impact of the proposed carbon tax, relating it back to the consumers to whom businesses would pass on the cost, and ways to return the money to them to make it a less regressive approach. (It was the perfect intro the topic for a tax preparer like me!)

After the conference call and a short break, we paired off for "laser talk" practice. There was a set topic sheet for the month, this one about how rural voters would benefit from a carbon fee and dividend model. It addresses concerns that people who live rurally (and thus have more transportation needs) would be hit harder by a tax on fuel. This handout gives data that in fact, we use more fossil fuel through the consumption of goods, rather than transportation and utilities. Thus, higher-income people who buy more things will be more impacted by a carbon tax, and can adjust their consumption accordingly.

In our pairs, we each read the hand out (a brief, maybe 2-minute spiel) out loud to each other, then discussed. The point is to get you familiar with the talking points and the facts, and comfortable talking about them, so it's easier to pull them up in conversation. 

Mention was also made of the Climate Change Conference happening in Paris (which began this week). I believe there are some delegates from CCL there to encourage the specific proposals that they believe would be beneficial.

Finally, we reported on actions taken and opportunities to take in the next month. Members are encouraged to write to legislators to promote eco-friendly bills, as well as write letters to the editor in response to articles related to the environment, such as about the Paris conference. There are bigger actions that some are working on, like finding big name people who can "endorse" CCL's proposals, giving it more leverage to others who can have influence. The group also tries to build community and socializing into their actions, such as a social night (that I unfortunately couldn't attend) during this month to view "This Changes Everything", and monthly dinner meetings to write letters together to the editor or legislators.

Social Action Night

I went to the regularly scheduled night for letter writing this month; I hadn't gotten around to signing up for the online forum yet, so I didn't see the announcement that the SW location one had been canceled for that day. But another couple from the group had also missed the memo and shown up, so I got to know them and we had a lovely conversation and dinner together.

My understanding is that normally, the group leader will bring some hot topics and letter templates to discuss and use a base for writing letters. It sounds like it's normally a really great social and educational night. 

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