September / October , 2015

Elders Speak Up and Speak Out 
For Future Generations

ECA Volunteer Lobbyists on Capitol Steps

On Thursday, September 10th, a powerful new voice was added to the discussion of climate change in Washington, DC, and around the country.  Elders Climate Action organized Grandparents Climate Action Day with the help of a terrific group of partner organizations. 

Twenty-two teams of elders met with members of Congress or key staff in 45 offices of the US Senate and House of Representatives.  These elders, from 16 states and the District of Columbia - backed by petitions signed by 1,454 people representing over 200 Congressional Districts in 45 states and D.C. - delivered an urgent message to Congress:  

"Take action now, while there is still time, to avoid catastrophic changes to the Earth's climate as a result of burning fossil fuels and spewing greenhouse gases into our atmosphere.  The lives of our grandchildren and future generations are at stake.  Do not fail them!"

The ECA team members asked members of Congress to take two specific actions:
  • Oppose any Congressional action to undermine the EPA Clean Power Plan.
  • Support carbon fee and dividend legislation, proposed by our partner, Citizens Climate Lobby.

Preparing For Our Lobbying

Our day of inspiration and training for Grandparents Climate Action Day was held Wednesday, September 9th at Calvary Baptist Church in Washington.  Highlights of the day were:

Keynote address by Dr. James Hansen

The keynote speaker on Wednesday was Dr. James Hansen, America's most prominent climate scientist.  Dr. Hansen emphasized that we are at a unique point in history right now - when we can take actions to preserve a livable climate if we act soon. In July of this year, he released a report with sixteen co-authors studying glacier melt in Greenland and Antarctica. Unlike previous models, the new report takes into account some feedback loops which may be hastening the loss of ice sheet mass far faster than anticipated, bringing closer the time when human civilization may be overwhelmed with rising sea levels.

"We've now got an emergency," he told us.
Time is running out to transition to renewable energy, Hansen said, yet the most "relevant" people in power aren't aware of the situation's gravity. "Even people who go around saying, 'We have a planet in peril,' don't get it. Until we're aware of our future, we can't deal with it."

If major coastal cities become "dysfunctional" because of sea level rise, as he believes is possible, the global economy could be in peril of collapse.

Hansen believes elders possess resources and wisdom which, combined with the zeal of youth, can help find solutions to climate change. "Older people have a lot of clout, a lot of votes, and time," he said. With more older people getting involved, there will be more pressure to make needed changes.

Activist Lynne Twist, Speaker
Dr. Hansen was followed by the inspirational Lynn Twist, global visionary and activist. Lynn inspired the audience by noting that our generation are the people who marched in Mississippi, who supported JFK's vision for America, and who ended the Vietnam War.  She challenged us to be not retired but "re-fired" and ready to take on new challenges to preserve the planet for future generations.

Additional highlights included:
  • Several fun sessions of learning our Flash Mob song and dance. 
  • Training in lobbying techniques and carbon fee and dividend legislative details by Dr. Danny Richter, Science and Legislative Director, Citizens' Climate Lobby


Elders Flash DC!

Early Thursday morning everyone met at Union Station for a Union Station Flash Mob before walking to the Capitol for a picture on the Capitol steps.  

After the morning meetings in Congressional offices, the group performed yet another Flash Mob, this time in the crowded Cafeteria of the Longworth House Office Building (pictured below).


Senator Sheldon Whitehouse to ECA Lobbyists: Organizing is Critical

When the day of lobbying was over, we gathered at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation near the Capitol.  Sheldon Whitehouse, US Senator from Rhode Island, addressed us and told us how important it was for us to keep pushing for action by Congress to address climate change.  

Sen. Whitehouse on the floor of Congress

Senator Whitehouse is the number one climate advocate in the Congress.  He has given a speech on the Senate Floor on climate change every week for nearly 3 years, delivering his 100th speech on the subject in May.  

When asked why he persists despite the lack of progress, he was quoted as saying: "If I look back 20 years from now and I can't say I did everything possible, I'll never be able to live with myself."

Whitehouse told us that more and more Republicans were coming around to understanding the seriousness of the threat of climate change, but are not willing to act on that until they feel they have the backing of enough of their constituents.  So the organizing that Elders Climate Action is doing is absolutely critical, he told us.

Webcast to the Nation

John Sorensen, CEN Co-Founder

The day ended with a webcast to the nation to report to our supporters around the country.  People logged in from 67 locations, often in groups.  The webcast is now posted on YouTube for anyone to view (approximately 57 minutes in length).

Grandparents Climate Action Day: 
a Story Best Told by Several Participants

From Cher Tanner, 
Indian Rocks Beach, FL
I didn't know what to expect 
as I stepped outside of my comfort zone and flew from Florida to Washington, DC to lobby with the Grandparents Climate Action Day.  What awaited me was an experience of a lifetime!  I walked into a gathering of a hundred (or more) strangers and was embraced by a warm, committed, hard-working group of elder advocates determined to get their voices heard.  I hope this will become an annual event.  It was brilliantly conceived and perfectly executed by ECA.  

The training I received around the issues of climate change and Citizen Climate Lobby's Carbon Fee and Dividend legislative proposal and the Clean Power Plan will serve me well (and hopefully the planet) going forward.  I was exhilarated to learn from climate expert Dr. James Hansen, Pro-Activist Lynne Twist, Dr. Danny Richter of Citizens Climate Lobby, Gretchen Dahkemper of Mom's Clean Air Force.  They gave so generously of their time.  

Day two, ECA put us together in our lobbying groups.  It was then I had my most memorable political experience.  My group was comprised of intelligent, caring grandparents who all showed up to make a difference for their grandchildren and future generations.  My Florida contingency provided me the moral support I needed to speak 'truth to power.'  And did we ever!  I left DC hopeful of a continuing conversation with my representative and anxiously awaiting my next flash mob in Union Station (the most fun ever)!

From Noel Marshall and 
Bob Warner, Bartow, FL
EMPOWERED!  A PART OF THE SOLUTION!  These are the results of a day on Capitol Hill with the Elders Climate Action.  Frankly, we did not know what we were getting ourselves into when we signed up to participate in the Action Days.  What we DID know was that we only had to bring our heart's desire for a clean and safe future for our grandchildren and the Next 7 Generations..and that we would be surrounded by other Grandparents who were doing the same.

The inspirational talks by Jim Hansen and Lynn Twist directed our hearts into action.  Danny Richter, from CCL, focused us.  And the energy of the present Elders and the spirit of the unseen Elders lifted us into action.  What a learning experience!  The weeks of occasional concern about what to say and how to find "common ground" for discussions with Republican labeled-climate deniers dissolved as we took our hearts to Capitol Hill and spoke with fellow human beings.  Five Congressional meetings later, we were emboldened by what we had given voice to - our demand of a clean future and concrete recommendations of how to head in that direction with resolve.

Clearly, there is still work to be done.  Clearly, we, along with many others, are the ones to be doing it!

And from participants via the webcast:

From Margo Frank, 
Ukiah, CA
As much as I would have loved to be in DC for Grandparents Climate Action Day, it didn't make sense to burn a lot of carbon to get there. I decided that I'd participate from afar, rounding up a few other concerned elders in my rural Northern California town, and visiting our local field office for our Congressional Representative. We were welcomed by the local staff person, passing on ECA info and our agenda which she then forwarded to Congressman Huffman's environmental staff person. 

Afterwards, we gathered around a computer where we watched the webcast from DC. In many ways this was the highlight of the day. My friends were impressed by the group assembled in DC- that it wasn't a bunch of professionals, but concerned elders just like them. We loved watching the flash mob, were inspired by Paul's comments and are motivated to inspire others to get involved.

From Karen Harwell, Palto Alto, CA:

Dear Conscious Elders Climate Action Team in vibrant participation in our Country's Capital, 

It was wonderful to see all of you!

You were wonderful and we are so appreciative of your taking the initiative to make the decision to participate, make the journey, show up in all your glory, represent all of us and care about all of us with a report out via webcast sharing the story of the event!!!!!

We love you and we join you in the spirit of "HEY THERE! WE HAVE ONLY JUST BEGUN!

...and first take a deep breath, put your feet up and let every cell in your body show up simply in JUST  present time! 

Safe journey home you energetic citizens of our democracy!

With love and gratitude, 
Karen Harwell and emerging team members

Congressional Breakthrough Follows Grandparents 
Climate Action Day

Until now, there has been a huge roadblock in the way of meaningful Congressional action on climate: since Congressman Bob Inglis of South Carolina had publicly called for legislation to address carbon pollution, and was subsequently defeated in a primary challenge, no Republican in Congress has been willing to support climate legislation.

Until September 17th, when the introduction of a House resolution on climate change from Rep. Chris Gibson (R-NY) and ten other Republicans opened an opportunity to move beyond political gridlock, and touch off a dialogue that can lead to effective solutions to curb greenhouse gas
Rep. Chris Gibson (R-NY)

In addition to Rep. Gibson, the other Republican sponsors of the resolution are Pennsylvania representatives Ryan Costello, Mike Fitzpatrick, and Patrick Meehan, New York representatives Richard Hanna and Elise Stefanik, Florida representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Carlos Curbelo, David Reichert from Washington state, Bob Dold from Illinois, and Frank LoBiondo from New Jersey.

The lead author of the resolution, Rep. Chris Gibson, and Rep. David Reichert, were both visited by Grandparents Climate Action Day volunteer lobbyists on September 10th, just a week before the resolution was announced.

Citizens' Climate Lobby, the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) and others had been working toward this goal for over two years.  "What a great step forward," said ECA Chair Paul Severance.  "We are thrilled that we could add our voice to this effort at the end, and we are so grateful for the wisdom and dedication of CCL and FCNL. 

The resolution, introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on September 17th, acknowledges that climate change "has had noticeable, negative impacts that are expected to worsen in every region of the United States and its territories." The resolution states that the House should commit "to working constructively, using our tradition of American ingenuity, innovation, and exceptionalism, to create and support economically viable, and broadly supported private and public solutions."

Citizens' Climate Lobby Executive Director Mark Reynolds said "The resolution creates a stepping stone that allows congressional Republicans to engage in the issue and come to the table with conservative solutions to climate change, such as a revenue neutral carbon fee."

Pope Francis' Visit Stimulates 
Lots of Activity on Climate

Climate change is no longer a problem that can be left to a future generation.

Pope Francis' visit to the United States in September, during which he has emphasized climate change as a moral issue, stressing our responsibility to future generations, has stimulated the broadest discussion and activity around climate change that we've seen to date.  Just some of the activity around and planned in the months ahead of the Pope's visit include:
  • Our partner, Commit2Respond, and others organized the Week of Moral Action for Climate Justice in Washington, coinciding with the Pope's visit.
  • A national Day of Action on Climate on October 2nd at Stanford University, led by former Vice-President Al Gore and his Climate Reality Project.
  • The People's Climate Movement, carrying over from last Fall's massive People's Climate March in New York, has proclaimed October 14th as People's Climate Action Day, with events already planned in 55 cities, and more being added.
  • The Earth Day Network is promoting the "world's largest climate petition," to present millions of signatures to world leaders at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris.
  • 350.org is kicking off a six-month long campaign, Road Through Paris which will focus on mobilizing support for meaningful binding international agreement on addressing climate change at the November Paris talks, and then strong follow-through.
  • Avaaz, an international organization which played a leading role in the People's Climate March in New York, is planning events in cities all around the world on November 29th to focus demands for action on the Paris talks.

Next Steps for 
Elders Climate Action

ECA's first focus following Grandparents Climate Action Day is to follow through on the important immediate issues before us:
  • Preserving the EPA Clean Power Plan, with the significant reductions in carbon emissions that will bring.
  • Generating more Republican support for the Gibson resolution to ensure momentum for this critical initiative to create bipartisan movement in the House.
You will soon receive an Elders Climate Action
Urgent Action Bulletin which will outline specific steps each of us can take on these critical issues.

And ECA leadership is also thinking about the future of our campaign. We believe that we have a tremendous responsibility and opportunity to bring the voice of US elders to the table, and really make a difference in addressing this grave threat to future generations.  As our day in Washington approached, we surveyed members about what they believed our priorities should be going forward.  From their answers, our Strategic Planning Committee came up with these initial goals for 2016:
  • Build a large, diverse national membership of committed elders with a goal of 5,000 in 2016.
  • Engage members in our national campaign by providing them with inspiration, opportunities for effective action, and education.
  • Develop local Elders Climate Action chapters that are empowered and supported by ECA.
  • Expand, engage and nurture our network of partners.
  • Hold an Elders Climate Action Day in Washington in 2016; provide for broad virtual participation around the nation.
  • Create and maintain a dynamic website and social media program.
  • Raise funds to support these priorities in conjunction with Conscious Elders Network.


The Key to Accomplishing These Goals:  YOU ! 

All ECA members will be receiving a list of volunteer positions that will be needed to address these goals.  We hope YOU will find at least one position to volunteer for.  All of us are needed. We will be announcing a series of member conference calls to provide an opportunity to discuss the various volunteer options. 

Stay tuned in to the ECA website, our Facebook page and future newsletters for updates and opportunities in your own communities.

Photo courtesy Raines Cohen

In This Issue
We value your feedback
so  let us hear from you on Facebook  what you enjoyed about this newsletter.  

Stay Involved!

In the past small numbers of people have made huge changes in the world and we can do it again. Stay involved with Elders Climate Action: check out our new and improved  website  to see what you can do.

Want to Know 
How  You  Can Help?

There are many ways to get involved with Elders Climate Action, even if you only have one hour- consider gathering signatures for our upcoming petition or reach out to partner organizations. Each person and their efforts can make a big difference! info@eldersclimateaction.org