June 24 – CCL Conference Day

June 24 – CCL Conference Day

It was a jammed packed day. Powerful, emotional, inspiring. And a little crazy. Try fitting in a full agenda of keynote speakers, a rushed lunch, breakout sessions, a rushed dinner, all the while notifying people about revised meeting locations, scheduling quick meetings to plan for tomorrow's congressional meetings, trying to find out about details of President Obama's climate change announcement tomorrow, finding time to dance with fellow activist and – oh yeah – blogging about the day.

That was CCL Conference Day. It's my third one, reminiscent of the other two. That special feeling of overwhelm and yet faith that somehow tomorrow, the day we lobby the U.S. Senate and Congress, is all going to work out.  

Marshall Saunders, the CCL Founder kicked things off with a speech that was both measured and emotional. We are building an army, he said. A non-violent army. We respect and admire those who oppose us. We are going to battle for all of life. We are the cavalry. We are going to win. We have no choice. We just have to tell Congress to act on the climate crisis in a way that they will hear.

Then he called the Canadians up to the stage to lead the room in Oh Canada. Fifteen or so of us belted out the anthem and our American friends followed along. Then we all sang America the Beautiful. This moment was important to Marshall. He was insistent that we belt out our national songs and we did not disappoint.

We heard from keynote speakers, climatologist, Dr. James Hansen and economist, Dr. Shi-Ling Hsu. As CCL Executive Director, Mark Reynolds introduced Dr. Hansen, we Canadians apologized for our government's recent dismissal of Dr. Hansen's warnings about the tar sands. We presented an apology card, designed by Toronto artist, Franke James. Dr. Hansen seemed touched and tickled by the gesture. We were full of apology and "sorry" became the running joke of the day.

Dr. Hansen gave us the grim science. But he also told us that the Citizens Climate Lobby inspires him. Dr. Hansen has been singing CCL's praises, so much so that we are calling him our number one marketer. So many of us found CCL because of him. He is impressed with our growth – we keep doubling every year. And he was very blunt. We can stabilize climate conditions, but we are running out of time. Placing a rising fee on carbon and distributing the money back to the people is the easiest and most effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And this is exactly what we are pitching to U.S. lawmakers.

What also struck me about Dr. Hansen's speech was his decision to get out of his comfort zone and speak up for the planet. Public speaking is not his favourite thing to do, or serving as a media spokesperson. Yesterday was the 25th anniversary when Dr. Hansen testified to Congress about the dangers of man made climate change. For years following that testimony he kept out of the spotlight. When it was clear that government was doing little to address the problem, he realized he needed to get more vocal, even getting himself arrested during the protests against the Keystone XL pipeline last year.

We may not be climate scientists, but we can all relate to Dr. Hansen. We are all getting out of our comfort zones, doing something that many of us, me included, never thought we would do – meet with Members of Congress, Senators, Members of Parliament, the World Bank, and the Canadian Embassy. We are spokespersons for all of life.

Inspiring keynotes speeches were followed by informative breakout sessions to help us get a better grasp of the policy we are proposing and be effective citizens lobbyists.

Tomorrow is a big day. We may not win the war this time around, but we will likely advance the battle, and trust that somehow it will all work out.

Cheryl McNamara,Toronto CCL Leader

Tony Sirna is CCL's IT Director and State Level Policy Coordinator. He lives in Oakland, CA and is also a co-leader of the Alameda County, CA Chapter.