Cathy Orlando’s Story: Time Stood Still

Cathy Orlando is a scientist, educator and mother of three from Sudbury, Ontario. She founded the first Canadian chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

Do you know where you were when you heard the conclusions of the fourth Report by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on February 16, 2007? I do. I was in my living room. I worked from home at the time. It was lunch time. I was seven months pregnant and forty years old. The news came on CBC Radio. This is what I heard, “If humanity continues to stay on the same path of greenhouse gas production, the planet is going to be a very difficult place to live on forty years from now.”

Cathy Orlando and husband with their newborn daughter in April 2007

Cathy Orlando and husband with their newborn daughter in April 2007

Have you ever been so frightened or shocked that your knees became so wobbly you could not stand up? That is what happened to me. I practically collapsed into my chair. I looked around. There was nutritious food on the table. I live in a city with over 300 lakes, thus plenty of fresh water. I have a great education, and I belong to the first demographic group of women who could truly follow any path they wanted. I was very healthy, forty years old, and pregnant with my third daughter.

What would life be like for my daughter when she was forty years old? Time stood still.

Extremely fearful thoughts of mass migrations of humans brought on by shortages of water and food as a result of climate change and consequent images of social disruption leading to war and its companion, rape, flashed through my mind. I saw all the women’s rights gained in my lifetime dissolve.

Seconds later, I grabbed my very pregnant belly. I promised that little girl inside of me that mommy would do whatever she could to make sure her world would be Ok forty years from now.

Fast forward to September 2007; I was working from home. My baby girl was four months old. I was very sleep deprived at the time. I heard a report on CBC Radio that Mr. Al Gore was training people to give presentations on climate change. Immediately after I heard the report, I went online and applied to be a trainee. I come from a town of environmental heroes, Sudbury, Ontario. I did not expect to be selected. I don’t remember what I wrote. They selected me. I think a combination of maternal hormones and a great education got me through the door.

I was trained by Mr. Gore and an incredible team of experts assembled by The Climate Project (now The Climate Reality Project) at the Climate Bootcamp on April 4-6, 2008 in Montreal.

A year later, at The Nashville Summit for Climate Reality Project presenters, I got to tell Mr. Gore my story. I thanked him for helping me keep the promise to my baby. He looked at me and he said, “Can I have a hug?” I said, “Yes!” What an honour. What a great hug.

Cathy's daughter

Sophia in September 2014 in New York City at the largest climate march in human history