Cambridge Forum; WGBH Forum Network; Role of Citizen Action in Solving Global Warming
Hi I'm Ken Ward. This is andré's Alaska. My partner in life and in the J-P greenhouse project and. I'm going to talk for 10 minutes. Is going to talk for 10 minutes and then we'll have whatever questions are or comments you have.
In thinking about how to. Address climate activism. This morning I thought there were three relevant things that I would like to try to get across or deal with. One is the cosmic or existential challenge of being an activist. The second is how to think about the immense political challenge of forcing America to deal with the greatest moral issue of our time impossibly all time and the practical questions about what one person or one family can do in the midst of all this. I've got 10 minutes should not be a problem.
I thought it was. But first of all I actually I mean describe our house for a second. We bought a house that's right on the line between Jamaica Plain and Roslindale last year year and a half ago. It was built as an old store and then 8:41 been used for various purposes and had been sitting abandoned for the last five years.
In April of this year we began a gut rehab he broke it all the way down to the studs took out everything that was in it. Other than that not everything but the roof. We're worried about that for a while. And then with the help of a. Firm did a design build firm place Taylor we have rebuilt it. We're trying to reach something called the passive house standard which is a extremely high. Level of energy efficiency that is about three or four times stronger than LEED certification or energy star. I mean put the plaster on last week I've been in the building for the last week putting in bamboo flooring which is painful because it gives you slivers that you can't see. But I go in there about eight or eight or eight thirty in the morning. The building has no heat. All it has is insulation. The temperature. And this last week when nighttime temperatures were 19 degrees is never below 53 is always comfortable in this place. It is heated solely by the sun. Our lightbulbs and our body heat while we're working this stuff works. And the thing that the thing I am amazed by every time I go in there. But the thing that is the meaning of it is that we can do what we need to do without a great deal of hardship. What we gave up to do this was three inches of living space because we had to build a second wall on the inside to take two levels of insulation. That was it. Other than that I mean people can look at the pictures and think well I statically. That may not be the kind of house I want to live in. But for us it's the same kind of house that we would be living in had we not tried to reach the that Afghanistan to reduce energy use in the interim. All this is a building where you could see the holes you can see some sunlight coming through I have no idea what the energy cost was before. But if we can do that on our relatively moderate modest income we spend about $240000 on this and we still have a lot of our own work to do. That took all of our savings and in fact we're thinking if any of you happen to have a profitable lifestyle in a lot of money we're thinking about selling carbon indulgences around Christmas time so keep us in mind. Anyway that's as a backdrop I thought was interesting and looking at the schedule that we were sandwiched in between the Jim Hansen the evening and a speaker from NRDC because it seems to me that has to do our poll essentially polls of the conversation or debate we're having on the one hand GM I think represents the acceptance of climate science realities and all that flows from that. And RTC I think is the epitome of achieving what we can do within current political constraints and that the difference between those two is what is the existential gap that climate activists inhabit. What do we do when we have scientists saying oh Boston is going to be under water pretty soon we may even be able to do anything about it. But we have to if we're going to do something about it it has to be transformational. It cannot be dealt with I think by politics as usual that's why I don't happen to think that the NRDC approaches is going to work. Confronted with this it seems to me that there are kind of three ways you can go. This is scientific just my opinion. One of them is you can accept the climate science realities and say OK well our challenge is to remake politics as we know it first in America and then through America in the world. The other is to say well that ain't going to happen. We need to get done the very best we can get done now and hope that it's either not as bad as we think it is or that somebody else sometime in the future will finish the job. Which is basically what I think all of the major U.S. environmental organizations position is the third possibility is to give into either despair or denial depending on your personal predilections. Yale School of Forestry just can't believe it. Paul yesterday I think that shows that denial is on the uptick considerably. I don't know if they reported on the poll here. The people the percentage of people these comparisons between 0 0 8 and recent December. Percentage of the American public who says that it is it is happening that there is such a thing has decline from 71 percent to 57 percent to 10 the people who say that it is not happening has doubled from 10 to 20 percent.
Perhaps more disturbing I'm sure is the percentage who say that they do not need any more information to choose their position has increased from 18 to 29 percent. You know we're dealing with an increasingly polarized group here so. So denial is on the rise.
I think despair is on the rise as well. It's just not it doesn't appear in the polls. You know maybe people who are in despair don't answer the phone as much. I do know that in our personal lives and this is part of the strange dichotomy of living at this time where we have a public discourse that doesn't really address what the hell is going on here. And one of the ways that that comes out is when you're sitting around at parties or whenever people start talking about well where do you plan to move to when all hell breaks is a common conversation maybe just in jp. But I don't think so. I think there's a lot of people who are sitting around going well is Vermont far enough.
You've got people that are going nonthinking you know Tasmania or New Zealand some like that don't know how they're going to get there. But. That's I think those are choices. So the question then becomes what to do in two minutes.
Well in my view one way we should we need to tell the brutal truth no matter what. No matter what we have to give up on this concept that we can somehow solve climate change by pretending that it's something else like an economic opportunity. The mere fact of doing that. The argument for green jobs which our president partly got elected on over other Democratic candidates who were running on this is the problem it is completely contradictory to the reality that the world is in the process of ending.
You know it's it's it's it's like standing up in a crowded theater and going fire fire. Oh it's a great opportunity take some chairs will be where you build the theater. We're doing it. It's it's it's utterly at some unconscious level it's it is contradictory. We're in there we're going to hell in a handbasket. In which case we have to say so and do what we can or you know or we have this marvelous opportunity to you know reduce our dependence on foreign oil. I think it's the first of the letter conditional or consequent with that is we should stop worrying about the majority. We should be focused on the 2 to 3 percent of Americans who agree with this and are going quietly crazy. Those are the people who will do anything. Those are potential activists. And the third thing and related in coming from that group is that we as climate activists and the organizations which represent us which is all US environmental organizations need to act as if we believe what we're saying we're in a situation. I mean try to pick any other issue imagine you know like Social Security supposed Social Security was about to go down the tubes and 15 years later the major organizations concerned about Social Security were still not in the coalition. We're still not saying the same thing. In our case we've got organizations that are engaged in 20 year planning process figuring out how they're going to invest their money to reap benefits you know 25 years from now we'll be underwater then. Really what should happen now a Sierra Club and NRDC and Greenpeace and everybody else who has any money. We've got some money should simply cash in all their investments. I mean that's that's the situation we're in.
We need to change things around immediately and overnight. That takes some money to do that finish other things as well. But the things the less specific thing to mention is just be that there are some campaigns out there that are attempting to deal directly with the truth. We act as the hub for Bill McKibben 350 dot org former New England and in which the chanels and other people have. Been organizing as well. And the purpose of 350 is to focus attention on what Jim Henson will talk about which is what is the what is the standard what is it that we have to achieve. The effort is less visible in the US despite all of our best efforts. But it has been I would say huge success internationally and the single important thing to come out of Copenhagen as far as I'm concerned would be a change in the moral gravity and that was in large part due to three shift.
I'm wondering if we should have gone in the reverse order because I say we're we're here to talk about the political and personal responses and I've got the personal part of it but it's all sort of blends together anyhow. So we decided to found the J-P greenhouse we had found you know made it a house we bought an old derelict house we decided to rehab it to zero carbon home and garden. And that's the J-P greenhouse. So this was done as out of personal need for housing out of a sense of talking and kind of throwing words at the problem particularly a lot of writing it was getting very grim.
And that's a lot of what a climate activist gets to do is just be angry and you know dissatisfied with the situation.
These are this is a very difficult painful time to be alive and to make any joy out of it at all. We felt like we had to be creating something in the midst of destruction. That's the house. It is a demonstration home. We live there. We're moving it in three weeks it is open for anyone to visit at any time. You have to do is get in touch with us and we intend to demonstrate several things.
One of them is what life could be like with relatively small changes. I mean it's not a small thing to rip a house apart and insulate it to 16 inches each wall on the other end didn't actually cost more than a standard rehab. And we've got a house that functions without any heat and we've got enough space not even a quarter. And this is an urban garden but enough space to grow probably half of our own food possibly enough for all of us there's five of us in the family if necessary. You know we're in a few chickens and rabbits if we have to. So just to show that that can be done and it can be done in an urban setting that's part of the demonstration. There are other things that we're trying to demonstrate and we've been using several venues we have a blog on grist dot org. We do speaking engagements like this. We bring anybody who wants to our house to give them a tour at any time showing them whatever is going on and it's not been pretty so far. I mean there's still a dumpster in the back of the yard it's full of construction waste it looks terrible. But that's that's part of what you mean by transparency of of demonstrating just how kind of messy this transition is but messy I think in a joyful way. Other things that were pretty transparent are clear about our difficulties in our relationship. Me and Ken over you know what level of green building are we going to for example what amount of our personal finances is going into this crazy project. Who's going to be working on the House and who's going to be working outside the house. So you know we've been we've been clear about our parenting issues. We have a blended family three boys and there have been issues there and I think parenting is a huge climate problem. I think most of us actually know that I go around saying in-groups things like I don't see any reason to say for our children's college education I can't imagine that that will be useful and I get people very angry saying this particularly if they have college aged children it's really you know there's deep conflict. But I honestly think you maybe you're going to want to push your kids towards the trades. I mean we're looking at a pop change to hopefully a very sustainable local society. I'm not sure that the cost of private college is worth it anymore. So that has huge implications. You know I don't we don't push our kids very much academically. We try to get them outdoors as much as possible. We're trying to teach them things around the house because with a sense of you know this might be more useful than something else in the future.
How do you keep your kids from despair.
That's huge. I think that's one of the biggest things that I worry about all the time is what is going to happen there is little now you know there's the oldest is 11 what is it going to happen when they can interpret the science themselves and see what we're leaving them.
In this world.
So the House one of my clergy friends put it so well I was so flattered he said the house is an act of witness a living witness. And it was just very moved by that and I think it is a good way to put it because we're just ordinary people bumbling along as best as anybody can and we're trying to make it very explicit how hard this is and that this is the personal being political.
This is what you know this is what we're doing.
One of the things I was asked to speak about is what what can citizen activists do. And I think that the thing we face as activists and citizens and parents and people is the sense that this is so huge and beyond our control there it's it's hard to know what to do.
Bill McKibben in $350 Oregon has helped me a lot. Just watching Bill throw his whole life into this and I followed his whole career as a writer has been very inspiring because it's not because I think anybody could do it but I think there's a lot of people who could put down everything or a lot of everything and put their money where their mouth is. The way Bill has for smaller things than that I think it's really important to work on denier's. And I don't mean the type of people who comment on your blog post you know the really whacked out people with the tonight for Nancy are the punctuation issues and you know the all caps are not talking about those people I'm talking about when you go to Thanksgiving dinner and you start talking about climate change with your family and everybody is kind of like here she goes again. You know the just that the basic discomfort that people have with this topic and the fact that it then makes some of us quite shrill. You know we're trying to be very persuasive. I have tried to turn that into basic empathy for how painful this is to talk about and to work on an elevator speech that is all about my pain is your pain essentially.
We're all really in this together and we do need to talk about it and we'll take the skeleton out of the closet. The last thing I'm going to talk about in this is what one place we're hoping to take the J-P greenhouses that you do need positive models and you need a sense of the future. And I think that one of the best places to look for that is the transition movement Transition Towns. You can Google it. It's about creating sustainable communities about communities or towns or neighborhoods it can be anybody if people looking at how they can make themselves sustainable assuming that we are not going to have the same access to perhaps the whole nation because that requires the use of fossil fuel. We are going to have to rely on our actual communities or actual neighbors thinking about food locally and water locally transportation locally. So community building is the most heartening thing that we can be doing right now.
I think that's it.
I was interested in the way you formulated the therapy and it's not so much a question any longer of what shall we do but what should we do next. In other words how do we take it from the ground to the specific. And what should we do next. There's a lot to do with finding out what other people are doing.
And reconstituting a sense of community around them. You cited one particular group and I guess there are now groups of emerging around the world focusing on sustainability how to get back to self-sufficiency. Now remember even within the lifetime of people like me that moved from a kind of negative valuation to positive value which is kind of like you know for a while people smoked. My roommate in college was our moral son and he personally and painfully experienced the tragedy of smoke as we all know Edward R. Murrow was in a sense a symbol of what happened to those folks. And from that time mid-60s to the present we've witnessed this social transformation where it's actually now publicly considered sort of embarrassing to smoke in someone's face. In fact rude. And you can publicly say get out of here. You know this is not possible. That's why is a 40 year period or for 50 years same period was the one in which economic growth was touted as a positive value over self sustaining systems over what were called peasant agricultural Zucker's. Or they just aimed at self-sufficiency. Right. That's all they were interested in but we're interested in growth. Well within that same 50 years we've come to a position to in fact valorized self-sustainability and to regard growth not as a solution to the problem but maybe the source of the problem the growth ism the belief in continuous growth. Now be an interesting effort to then get in touch with the communities that are moving beyond growth isn't back to if you want to reduce backward forward language ahead had to if you think about the future. Self sustenance maintenance not Stacie's but homeostasis OK Christians it's a question and a comment again I'm Roger Shamal with the global warming education network.
I want to applaud what you guys are doing is are doing is a fellow activist myself I just briefly started following Bill McKibben in his first walk across Vermont in 2006 and then my wife and I walked across Massachusetts with the religious witness for the earth the next year.
And we've been active with Bill McKibben stepping up and 354. And there are other activists in the room here from Lexington and Maynard in Somerville who have joined us and we share your frustration and. We wonder too about what to do for the future.
We've got some assets that we've accumulated from working hard and investing and we wonder what the value will be of let's say for example stock certificates versus real estate versus skills versus stuff in the house my nephew comes in our house and says hey you've got Wal-Mart in the basement here why don't you clean this place out. And I'm thinking hey this stuff could come in pretty handy in the end time possibly. So I guess the question is from from what you and Wills you want to collect a lot of hand tools and I want to I want to teach my We're in this basically for the kids and the grand kids. It's not for our self interest but what can we do to help them.
And I'm just wondering if you have any suggestions to send out to people beyond what you're doing or from what you've seen as to what people can do if they're in this group to see what's coming and can't believe that we're not doing more to stop it.
I think it's a matter of personal creativity.
Figure out what is your place in the community and what you can bring to the community and work there.
I have some experience working on big national models and campaigns and more and more I think I can just get my neighborhood organized. JP You know on the way to sustainability they'll be huge.
Well first of all I don't know where you're asking us we should be asking you that question. You're free to go. But I say though of the whole range of things that those who are in a position to do so should immediately put their bodies on the line and engage in direct direct.
Nonviolent Action particularly guns coal plants and mining.
Hi I'm Geneva Boyer.
I as someone who sort of might still fall into the category of kid and grand kid. I want to respectfully disagree with the with the theory of sending kids to trade schools like trade that sort of thing as opposed to colleges because I feel like I'm going to start college in the fall and what I want to go into is environmental studies because what I want to do is I want to help solve this issue like there are so many things here and we need people who have studied this and you can learn a lot at home from your neighborhood but just I just the opportunity to combine a whole bunch of resources in a way that's really empowering. I also want to say that in Newton we we went to say the. We also have sustainability effort thing Newton eco teams eco teams dot org which is getting people to to reduce their carbon footprint and ask what to say. I lead a group called I'm a co-leader in the environmental science program which teaches seven to 10 years of science and would you be up for having like 15 middle schoolers tore your house this summer.
Oh yeah. What we do we do that sort of thing.
No problem to us afterwards. Thank you. Yeah. But just to to address your issue about the value of higher education.
I don't want to put down anybody who's in college or going to college. I am watching people come out of college with huge debt and wondering about the proportion the meaning of that debt in return for what they're getting. So I just caution you personally to watch watch the expenses.
I'd say well three things quickly anyway. One of them is my boy is sitting out in the hallway putting on a computer because he plans to be he plans to design computer games and will support and write down and if there are if there are steps to go problem with that is it. We've been we've been educating people you know in college and so forth on environmental education program for quite quite some time and that doesn't seem like that seems to me to support the firm track that we're on sort of this as a fundamental change in how teaching.
I don't see how that would work. I forgot the third. Oh the best. Program.
I'm George marker from Cambridge.
I carry my Soler around my back and my bike lights they work and I say solars. So be prepared. All right.
It doesn't matter whether somebody believes climate change is happening or climate change is manmade or human made. If you if you propose to people that a couple of square inches of solar panel and a hand-crank powering an alley D. Right and end of rechargeable batteries is what you're supposed to have on hand in case of any kind of emergency or disaster that it doesn't matter what their ideology is. And we fall into this abyss of despair because we don't see what to do. But I have lived in a rented apartment in Cambridge and I have one room which is essentially off grid the cost me less than $200 LCD lights and little solar panels you can buy out of a catalogue. I've been talking with people about Haiti and the things that we're talking about as a future where you're doing what you want to do with the windmill and the solar that you want to add to the greenhouse. The little solar is civil defense for them is a rise in standard of living and the rise in the standard of living for a billion people in this world who don't have access to electricity. So there's something else going on here in terms of how we're approaching this problem. We're approaching it as a problem we're not approaching it as Where's the solutions. What are the activities that we can do. You're doing it. Some of the rest of us are doing it here in Cambridge with the weather ization barn raisings. Personally I'd like to see a weather resistant barn raising on the White House with this old house. To my knowledge 30 years is only a two solar installation. You know. Those kinds of things the poet said sometimes you can see the whole great machinery come bearing down on top of you. And if you just jump one foot to either side it completely passes you by. We need that kind of imagination. The neighborhood stuff the individual stuff that you're doing has to be done within it. I believe out not in out of despair but out of strength.
I don't have too much to add to that except that George is right and that it brings to mind and I always like following some crazy blog or another and the one I'm loving right now is named Demitri or love. He's a Russian American and he does a lot of comparison between the Soviet collapse and what we're going through are about to go through here and with the with the sense of like it's happened before.
It could be done. You know Russians are like that anyhow. But.
And people in most of the world are because they want what we call a crisis is pretty normal and rest of the world is remembering I live at the very tip of Hall which is a long ways from where I remember staying there with a neighbor neighbor of mine and we started talking about.
Apocalyptic future and it turns out he had his own vision of apocalyptic future. And so we started talking about where it was going to be like live in hole when it was an island and I'd gone to the real person before I moved out there saying well it's got to be at least over 24 feet above sea level only how we looked. But anyway it was a fun interesting conversation except for a tip near the very end he started talking about defensible fields of fire and things that.
My name is Robert Chu from Cambridge and I applaud your efforts in doing your house over and to make it sustainable and perhaps you've seen this movie and perhaps some others have seen it. No Impact Man in New York and in an apartment with just one child of man or woman and so one year of being making no footprint and organic foods and candles and et cetera et cetera et cetera. And I was wondering whether you would have consideration of having a documentary done on the work at you. You folks have done that would be get it out.
Instead last steadfastly refused to do that until we get an offer. I thought that that Collins No Impact Man counts as it was just a terrible PR stunt right up until he quoted us much better became great fans. We have a set of things that work. We're approaching the same question about. From a bit of a different angle which is how do we.
My back some other ways are around her. So as a director of New Jersey for many years so I have a major consumer perspective on all this and. Working right now with trying core has this center here. His Center here in Cambridge. We're talking about the idea of well. Looking at what the choices between products or services are measured based on their overall carbon impact something you don't really have any way of knowing. You know it's certainly supposed to be green or not but to give a great example the difference between a modern Airbus airplane and an old Boeing is huge. The amount of jet fuel that they use that's not transparent to us. But if what was in season you know a small percentage of airline travelers were to care about the difference and to request to be on flights with a highly efficient jet plane those small incremental things can happen that have an impact.
And Tina Woolston and I think we've been talking about this a little bit today and just as a resource for people out there who haven't heard of it we've been sort of walking around the idea of social marketing and what Tim mentioned with the people switch of smoking from being the cool thing to a non cool thing was not just random. It was people sitting around health educators and sitting around and creating a marketing plan to re frame smoking as an uncool thing. And so if you guys are looking for ways to influence people I would really recommend that you look at social marketing and look at these concerted efforts to consider what your audio where your audience is coming from what their values are and how you can reframe your argument or your behavior change to matter to them.
And so in this way I disagree with Ken in that I don't think that we can always tell people that it's not about energy it's not about that because not everybody cares about what we do. I mean I always think that everybody as I like to go to their Web site and be like to know. Is. Great. But. But some people don't value the same things we value and for them they might value security they might value their health they might value you know their less whatever they value. If you can find a way to make your argument relate to what they value then they're more likely to change because behavior change and everything we talk about is behavior change its behavior change of politicians it's behavior change of individuals. But remember every politician is an individual and people only change voluntarily their behavior.
Just to clarify I'm not saying you should make those arguments I'm just saying it shouldn't be the central argument that you make smoking every two people that matter must mean first in reading and then in person or Bill McKibben and Ross Gelbspan for us being former Boston. Editor of the editor of the editorial page editor for The Boston Globe and went on to do us an article on climate. Years ago and you're writing a book which won the Pulitzer Prize and devoted his life to it and the time before last when I went to see him he. He was like energetic Springman energized and he just decided to stop smoking.
To which I had to him Oh well know I could just figure what the hell I'd start smoking again I had something to say in response to that. Oh.
Oh yeah I think it was just that when I was talking about sort of the gentle elevator speech and approaching people with empathy I think what you're saying about finding out what matters to them fits in there.
Tom all right thank you. I'd like to follow up on that last question. I know you don't want to deal with the majority but you know it frankly it does take more than apathy it does take you know where where people's next paycheck is coming from. And you know model community self-sufficiency that's that's all great. You know on a on a neighborhood level. But I mean what do you say to a community of coal miners in Pennsylvania who you know their and their entire livelihood for generations back and people don't believe really in the long term damage because they don't want to believe that it is an inconvenient truth and they have to seriously alter their lives to do it and most people don't want to pull their kids out of college. So why not go with green jobs. I mean people have to do something. People have to pay their checks that's what bread on the table. So what do you say to the coal miners. You know especially in coal mining states you know plays into the whole you know political thing don't you have to provide alternatives don't you have to provide some solid economic alternative whether it is you know putting people to work weatherizing homes solar panels building windmills like they do in Denmark. You know something. But if you say OK we're close in the mine where do we go tomorrow. How do we feed our kids.
You got to say some don't. That's a great question. It depends. I mean my answer to my personal view depends somewhat on how you think change happens. I think especially in American history. Change happens with relatively small groups of people who feel extremely strongly about something and then make it happen. Everything from the revolution to ending slavery to it to prohibition to abortion.
There are any any major significant thing if you look at the history of it people didn't get together the large organizations that were in favor of ending slavery didn't get together and have a discussion of the day. This is I wrote a piece recently comparing climate activism to slavery the slavery issue and how that was resolved. Arguing that our major organizations are acting just like the major anti-slavery organizations acted for the 40 50 years leading up to the Civil War and they were accomplishing nothing. They were agreeing to compromise. Their perception was we have to negotiate within this current framework which accepts the reality of slavery. We all saw it in our states of Massachusetts will outlaw it but our businesses will keep you know will still make money off of it and our churches won't throw out the Southern churches and so forth. That's the reality. I think that's a similar route. That we're in now. And to go from where we are to two sharply polarizing the issue there has to be some core of people who are saying this is the reality and it has to be more than just scientists for example we have groups of students who are sleeping out in the Boston Common every Sunday over the last fall and will be doing so in the spring. I think that's a genuine expression of I'd take this seriously if our future is serious here. So I don't do this. And the answer in West Virginia is yeah that's it. You know that can be no more call. So no it is no more mining. Now what we do with people who are displaced by that is another question. I happen to think that the same group the same group of nations that got together and copal in Copenhagen and agreed to do nothing. China US and Australia between the three of us control. Eighty two percent of the coal we could if we wanted to do so simply buy it out. By everybody. Not that much money and put all of that money and all of the ingenuity of those three nations and into quickly getting. Renewables up and running. I mean you could just say well that's stable and. Mining. And I will face it out in five year caps until it's done. I mean the solutions are not the problem here. And in the same way people are offering can make the comparison to World War II and these you know nothing happened in the U.S. is willing to sit around and watch the rest of the world be taken over by the Axis powers. We got bomb Roosevelt calcined GM and Ford that says you and I stopped making passenger cars and start making tanks. You have two months.
That's how we'll solve this.
Peter Whitmore again from Cohasset Massachusetts next door to home.
I don't know if you were there for the blizzard of 78 but God bless you if you were OK.
I'd like you in a sense have gone from trying to make little sense in big piles to big dents and little piles say 20 years ago I was fighting an illegal landfill in Cohasset that was about 110 acres. Four years ago I started fighting over swamp destruction proposal from the Army Corps of Engineers that was only 10 acres. But like you I think that there is a way in which something very local can become a very good focus for energy which becomes activist energy. And I do want to say that oddly enough in this ten acre battle I found myself sitting at a table with three Republicans and two Democrats and at one point one of the Republicans after hearing some of my past life said oh my god I'm sitting here with the radicals. And so I do want to say never underestimate the allies you may find if you pick a simple issue with a simple focus. I also want to say that I can't stay all night because I have to go down to Cohasset to a conference at the student center. The Center for student Coast research. And it started at Cohasset high school by a guy named Jack Buckley and they train about 10 or 15 students every year to do water quality assessment in the town of Cohasset to try and monitor what's happening. Why is the sea weed disappearing Why are the clams disappearing gone flounder gone.
Too much fresh water going into a salt water habitat. Lobsters are dying.
So my question though is to get to the students that are learning the techniques to give them the information. I'm more interested in how do we get people over their fear of public speaking myself included into becoming activists. I mean it's one thing to be an activist and learn techniques but how do we get this younger generation to become as activist as say we were in the anti-war movement or Greenpeace people were in their beginnings and I don't know if you have any input on that but that's what concerns me now is righteous indignation is available for those of us who pick up on it. So I appreciate your answers to that.
A couple of things going on. One of them is I completely agree with you on the not having blinders about who is it that cares about this it's it's it's completely cuts across. I mean there's a slight correlation with education but not much. It really cuts across all political lines and boundaries and so forth and I started thinking that way. You know I wrote about six years ago when I noticed just randomly. For me the most random experience of having a long conversation is when you're on a plane with somebody flying to the coast or something the number of people and I don't go around talking about climate because I just avoid it. It's somebody else that was striking to me and a number of people who were from Wyoming rancher just walk across the board. They cared about the environment generally but specifically worried about. Climate. Now that number however is small. I say it's two to three. It's a no more than two to three percent of the U.S. population. And the reason that I think that's the benchmark is that unlike our major organizations you know point two and are worrying about the overall polling numbers how do you feel about climate which are going up and down the number that seems to me to be relevant is when asked the question what do you think is the most important problem facing whatever the new president the new Congress of the world. What percentage of people say well fuck climate Fulsom or something or maybe flight purposes you know basically say that. Well it's not many more than 2 percent. Those are the people that distinguishes. We've never been any better than 90 percent of the people are in some level of don't really believe this. And 2 percent believe that 10 times as two students which is actually what you asked. I think you're doing a marvelous. First of all I think they have a tremendous burden of trying to be activists under this looming shadow of the 60s so heavy dead weight. How can we possibly get to be different. But I think you're doing a superb job. I mean I think it's been under reported in Massachusetts. But I mean I spent four Sundays sleeping on the commons or woken up every At 2:00 o'clock by the bus and police or information collected. A few people in the room were here as well. There were 160 college students up there on October 14. That's pretty damn good. I think they're doing a good job.
I would just add that I don't think much about radicalizing youth because I just figure all of us are going to be radicalized by our situation sooner or later no matter what age what age we are.
My name is Juliette Rudi Vargas live in Somerville and I'm I'm I'm an environmental microbiologist I'm a father. Am I. So I am I will just make a confession right off the bat that I'm quite uncomfortable as an activist although the science of climate change is sort of driving me to take action that really there are many disincentives. As a professor to speak up. But I have a question sort of for you and for the group as someone with family members and in Europe and just sort of you know I don't know that much about the politics and the activist side of it and percentage of the people who believe what but my just general impression is that they're most European countries the general population is quite far ahead of America. Americans maybe not Can't abridgements but the general American population or some civilians the general American population in terms of seeing this as a serious issue that we need to take action on now. So the question is sort of what's different about you know their their standard of living is really not that different than ours. Granted American lifestyle has a greater dependence on fossil fuels with suburbia and all that. But why is it that they're more effective in getting this message across. And then the other question that sort of maybe related to that is that you know somewhat Fortunately or miss Fortunately I don't know. We've had a relatively cool year in 2008 and anomalously you know cooler temperatures in the U.S. in 2009 compared to the rest of the world. One of the things that I'm doing I know my family in Hungary is experiencing heat waves more often than we are here. You go out you know is it going to take those heat waves that people just go out the door and feel worthy catastrophe like you know a few more Katrina's or something else.
You know before the public will respond no matter what we do basically we just went to zero.
For five years and we have family there to. Go.
And my wife and I spent the first week of the Copenhagen conference with a Danish family. And it's true what this young lady just said. We inquired of our host what do every citizens here see on TV like when there are wildfires in California do they mention climate change. And the answer was Oh sure it's you know you can't pin a single fire on climate change. But the difference I think is that Americans this is my take have since the beginning had this cowboy like love of freedom and being you know no big government. And I think the Europeans tend to be a little bit more open to having their government tell them something useful whereas here we we citizens have paid for 20 billion dollars worth of climate research over the past 20 years including under Bush. It's available to anybody at global change stop. But citizens won't go and look. And our government won't advertise that the information is there. So we're just fat dumb and happy to use an old expression. And partially because the fossil fuel companies here are so willing to deny things so their interests are at heart. The the media the same thing because advertising dollars are there and your wife wants to see here even the conservatives get it.
It's not a question of the liberals getting it in the Conservatives not that they both get it. Just what do we do about it. There are national ads on the television talking about climate change in the U.K. in Denmark there are huge. We also visited a friend in Germany there who huge programs in Germany demanding that you can confirm. So it's on people's radar all the time and this denial mechanism is not going on and it was frankly very difficult to explain to our host what America is really like and why it is so difficult and America was embarrassing to try to explain it.
Today Europe adopted the Kyoto Protocol we didn't cut their emissions have risen 2 to 3 percent since the Kyoto Protocol anyhow. So just to say that all of that's all true. It doesn't seem to be translating into exactly the kind of behaviors we would want to actually lower emissions. Plus the other thing I have to say about Europeans is that they remember World War 2 and World War One. So cataclysm is not far from their minds.
One quick thing we're trying to organize so march or a group in Washington on Earth Day. So anyone that wants to get more information go to w w w dot when that dot org again come to the citizens climate Congress on Earth Day.
I agree with that completely about. But I think that the I think the unique aspect of America's character is that we shift between extremes. Most of and its flip sides of the coin on one side of the coin which is that most of the time we want to be left alone and we want to be able to do. Achieve what we can. But the flipside of that is when we do move into thinking something is important that we really need to do something about it as a nation. We do so in a more more wholehearted way than your average European country will do.
So that's that's a worry.
Hi my name is Ellen fearsome from still a mess. I just think. You know as we sit here thinking about all of the despair that's out there on the subject of climate change and the lack of action that the national and international level.
I just think in terms of personal activism we can't give up on looking to our leaders in government at the state and national level. We've got to keep at that.
I don't know how many of you were at the mass the climate action network conference that took place. I think it was right before the Copenhagen and. And many of us were. We're in a soup of despair then because it was looking like not much was going to happen and Gina McCarthy came in I don't know how many of you know Gina but she's from Massachusetts. She is now the head at EPA of their air division and in charge of climate change issues as well as many of you know EPA is now beginning to look at serious regulation of CO2 and other greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. And she gave us a pep talk that picked me up a little bit and it reminded me that we do have to stay active at that level. She reminded us that this is Massachusetts and Massachusetts is different we are different than all the other states. It is.
It is no coincidence she said that the House bill was called Waxman-Markey and that the Senate bill was called Boxer care. It is no coincidence that the key case that allowed this EPA to regulate under the Clean Air Act is Massachusetts versus EPA. We also know what hit we have Regy many parts of the country do not have anything like that. We have the Climate Solutions Act that is beginning to take some steps here. There are things even though we may not get a NRDC Bill I don't think it's going to pass because Senator Graham now has backed away from it apparently. But there are things that need to be done at the state and national level. For example there's a bill now filed by Senator Murkowski to take away powers from EPA to regulate under the Clean Air Act. We need to be knocking on the doors of Markey and Kerry and all those people to tell them to and Brown to tell them to defeat that bill. We can continue to do all the personal stuff but we cannot forget that we have to stay active that we are Massachusetts. We are going to leave this country. If anything is going to happen at the national level it's probably going to because Massachusetts got active and stayed at it.
It's interesting to say about Massachusetts in fact the as you recall we just had a senatorial election and we got a result that some of us were surprised by and disappointed by it but it seems to me that we're failing to remember the fundamental thing of our politicians which is that they love parades. And if you get a parade going a politician will get out in front of it.
The question is is the parade going in other words the whole effort should be to walk up to Scott Brown at this point and say listen how of a victory. Fantastic. You know came from behind. You need to provide leadership on this question or global warming for example Teddy Kennedy was against Cape Wind. You can't go down the route. Teddy Kennedy you've got to get out there and be for Cape Wind right. Provide us of leadership in this country if you get in front of a politicians slap them on the back and say listen we want you to represent those of us who are in your constituency and if you don't think they're here look at the parade. So if we get organizing the parade perhaps we can bring the politician who hasn't been noted for his subtle thoughts on this problem. Up to now he may even turn around and say well what did you have in mind. And at that point every one of you should be able to stand up and say funny you should as I have a few things in mind. Citizens groups organized to express to their leaders the fact that they honestly would be a revolutionary proposition perhaps not really tried since the Committees of Correspondence back in another colonial period when there was a revolution going man.
Hi my name is. Please don't say I'm French and I'm a teacher from the International School of Boston actually while both my colleague and me and I would like to pop up a question. Maybe it's a taboo question in us I don't know. But in France. Me and my friends we start to talk about that between us and I think it would be a very efficient and cheap way to find a new shoe solution to global warming. What about.
Living just two on one side of that.
Set of questions about I think that Europeans are leading the way in that area. But it always surprises me that some people worry terribly when populations start to decline although I do understand that you don't want your culture to go into decline. But you know Russians have what 1.2 eight children per woman right now.
That's actually a steep decline. I think that the subliminal view as maybe expressed by Exxon Mobil which is at one level is just sheer greed. Men are looking at the largest amount of money anybody has ever been offered ever. But at some level I also feel like they have to make an argument and their basic argument is we should not shut down. We're doing now because what we're doing now is the only thing that will move the world as swiftly as possible to a high level of prosperity everywhere. Having done that we then saw a number of things including population populations go down people feel more secure. And at some level I think that is a correct argument in anything. If the worry is there's too many of us the answer to that is we have to provide a safe and stable future for parents around the world. And you have in every place and I don't see it out. I wouldn't particularly pick Exxon-Mobil's right to get there. But the core point is genuine and I guess I do feel like I want to respond to the political question for just a second. My last thing where we need to be is so far off. I mean the election that we just went through climate was there was no discussion so I didn't feel like I could support either candidate and I had somebody come to my door and let states have voted. I was like ok I'm gonna. Go vote. Well I don't think so. Neither of the candidates really address my issue. You know I think there's a segment I'm looking right for she called or say well what's your issue. I said you know I'm a candidate for something end of civilization.
When he was like right then he perked up and he said well you know Brown doesn't have a very good position on that and I go yeah whatever. But your candidate doesn't like either. The difference between the two is so far off. What we need to be in a position where someone is running in the Senate race saying there's only one thing that matters here. So you get to the second world. What are you nuts about health care. We need to have people running for office. We need to have people in every place saying if you don't address this. And you know I run for office next time and I'm not going to vote for you. That's that's the hope.
This transcript is machine-generated and has not been corrected. It is likely there will be errors.
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- Graphic designer Ken Ward and community organizer Andree Zaleska, leaders in the Massachusetts affiliate of 350.org, discuss how ordinary citizens can contribute to finding solutions to global warming. Partners Ken and Andree renovated an abandoned corner store in the Jamaica Plain section of Boston, Massachusetts, dubbing it the Jamaica Plain Green House, and making it the first zero-carbon home in Boston. While governments debate climate change policy and researchers investigate its causes and model its effects, Ward and Zaleska argue that this problem is bigger than any one of us, and it will affect all of our lives. This talk is part of Cambridge Forum's After Copenhagen: Global Climate Change Conference, recorded by Steve MacAusland.
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Speaker: Ward, Ken
Speaker: Zaleska, Andree
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- Chicago: “Cambridge Forum; WGBH Forum Network; Role of Citizen Action in Solving Global Warming,” 2010-01-28, WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed April 18, 2019, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_15-7940r9m78p.
- MLA: “Cambridge Forum; WGBH Forum Network; Role of Citizen Action in Solving Global Warming.” 2010-01-28. WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. April 18, 2019. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_15-7940r9m78p>.
- APA: Cambridge Forum; WGBH Forum Network; Role of Citizen Action in Solving Global Warming. Boston, MA: WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_15-7940r9m78p