Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Climate Reality

I had the opportunity to attend two training sessions in the two weeks before we left on our trip that were energizing, but in quite different ways.  First was a three-day session in Chicago, with 1,250 other people, to become part of the Climate Reality LeadershipCorps.  

A few days later, I attended the Will Steger Foundation’s Summer Institute on Minnesota’s Changing Climate with 50 educators.  I’ll blog about the Will Steger training in a subsequent entry, but suffice it to say, these two very different sessions really caused me to reflect on why our trip is environmentally focused and why I’m so keen on getting involved in global sustainability issues. 

The Climate Reality session included 1,250 people from all 50 states and 40 different countries.  We were all there to learn about the latest in climate science, and more importantly, how to talk about it in public forums.  The Climate Reality organization is the evolution of Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth movie from several years ago.  In fact, Gore himself spent a full day with us (8am until 7pm) going through his latest presentation in detail, with two leading scientists on stage with him to answer questions. 

I was very impressed.  It was extremely well organized, and very well thought out.    Not only was the science covered, but perhaps more importantly, they spent a lot of time teaching people how to tell the story, how to make it their own, and how to tell it in a way to not create defensiveness in doubters.  There were some incredible speakers.  But the two that most impacted me were Maggie Fox, their CEO, and Gore. 

I was so impressed with Maggie Fox.  She was very visible throughout the 3 days, and is a warm, intelligent, and positive person.  What a great leader for this organization.  There are many things I remember from her talks, but perhaps one of the most memorable was her recollection of spending time with the Dalai Lama.  She told of what a happy person he is, how much he focuses on you and really listens to you when you are with him, how in the moment he is, and of how he laughs with his whole body and soul.  Although he is a man with huge pressures on his shoulders, he faces them with a positive, forgiving, and inclusive manner.  Climate change is certainly a very serious issue.  But we have a much better chance of tackling it, and really, of tackling any major problem, if we face it with a good dose of the Dalai Lama’s hopefulness and joy.

And lastly, I have to mention Al Gore.  Given his history, mentioning his name often creates strong reactions in people, both positive and negative.  Going into this, I had a lot of respect for him and what he is trying to do, but I was not a starry-eyed Al Gore fan.  However, he was quite impressive.  His knowledge of the issue, ability to communicate it, and his energy were infectious.  And his closing talk, especially the last 15 minutes or so, was perhaps the best speech I’ve ever heard.  He described why the issue was important to him.  He made it personal.  He may have made this speech many times before, but it doesn’t matter.  It struck a chord with me, deep at my core, and is something I won't forget.

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