Grassroots Climate Action: What’s next?

Photo Credit: Josh Lopez, Tar Sands Action Sept. 3, 2011

The Bard CEP National Climate Seminar kicked off the Fall 2011 series with a conversation with Mike Tidwell, founder and director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, entitled “The Tea Party and Climate Strategy”. With the arrests of 1,252 climate activists in front of the White House over the past couple weeks for acts of civil disobedience, the discussion focused on where does the climate movement go from here to keep moving forward. This theme was particularly relevant as there is a continuing need to nationalize awareness and put pressure on President Obama to reject the Keystone XL tar sand pipeline permit, a project that would ingrain the US’s dependence on fossil fuels.

Mike Tidwell, Director CCAN

The conversation between Mr. Tidwell and the audience focused on what climate activists need to do now to push forward towards real climate legislation and solutions to climate change. Invariably Mr. Tidwell stressed the importance of a bigger climate movement; getting more people involved and having more people willing to make sacrifices to raise awareness of the impending climate crisis. Questions focused on how we can convert this climate activism momentum into policy change and to mobilize the greater public. Mr. Tidwell cited the advent of organizations 350.org and Tar Sands Action which have shown that there are many people willing to make sacrifices to create change. The continuing challenge that exists is to incorporate more people into the movement.

As part of an ongoing effort to raise awareness, Gore’s Climate Reality Project will begin streaming live on September 14th for 24 hours of programming to show the reality of the climate crisis. According to the website, “Each hour people living with the reality of climate change will connect the dots between recent extreme weather events — including floods, droughts and storms — and the manmade pollution that is changing our climate.”

What do we do next?

Taking a cue from The Tea Party, which has been especially successful at interjecting its issues into the national discourse, climate activists need to form a clean energy party and run clean energy candidates in the primaries. Focusing on clean energy solutions related to issues of national security, public health and the economy, the clean energy party could motivate a greater subset of the population to become involved with national climate policy.

As climate activists continue to push for climate change solutions, others will be inspired and motivated to become involved. We need to put as much pressure on President Obama and hold him to his promise that “this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.” Most importantly we need to put a price and a cap on carbon, stop building new coal plants and immediately stop the tar sands project. Currently, an opportunity exists to push for a price on carbon as Congress looks to solve the nation’s deficit problem and the deficit super-panel realizes the need to find a way to raise revenues.

The next National Climate Seminar is scheduled for September 21st with David Roberts, editor at Grist, focusing on “Global Warming, Politics and the Media”. For more information on the National Climate Seminar please see the NCS website. Podcasts of the conversation with Mike Tidwell and of previous NCS conversations are available here.

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