June conference delivers realistic hope through climate action
By Karen Jackson, CCL Utah
Our young people need hope, and Citizens’ Climate Lobby knows how to deliver. Students from all over the U.S. attended CCL’s DC June Conference. They learned how to create the political will for a safe and healthy planet by following the core values of CCL: focus, optimism, relationships, integrity, personal power, being nonpartisan, and diversity. Four students and one teacher from Utah shared below how they gained realistic hope from CCL’s June 2022 conference, and how they see the future of volunteerism.
Montana Burack relates how the conference instilled the personal power to use her voice and to hear the diverse opinions of others:
“I often feel discouraged and frustrated by the slow process of working towards climate solutions…dispirited by the lack of action happening in Congress. But after a few hours of listening to inspiring keynote speakers, talks on climate change, and participating in workshops, I felt my worries fade. Throughout the conference, I struck up conversations with people of various ages, political views, walks of life, and locations about climate change, politics, nature, our communities, and other things as well. National politics had always felt distant to me; a place where influential people who are good at arguing congregate…not me.”
Montana shares that through the respectful ground rules established by CCL, she was able to break the ice and make the most of her lobby meeting.
“During the conference, I got to listen to a talk given by staffers who help run Congress….a workshop on the political opinions of moderate Republicans. I experienced walking through halls where representatives of Congress work. In the lobby meeting itself, I learned that staffers and representatives are time-constrained, but they still value and listen to what people have to say. This has motivated me to contact their offices more often and has given me more confidence to use my voice proudly in all aspects of my life. This conference has provided me with new energy toward climate action and a new perspective on how our government works. I hope to apply this in my future activism and life choices as I decide what to do with my life.”
Megan McKenna, a teacher in Park City, was so excited about her classroom CCL presentation that she signed up to attend the June Conference after being a CCL member for just two weeks. She wants to use what she learned to help her students focus on the importance of their advocacy for climate:
“It was all such a great learning experience and so inspiring to be part of the process. I can’t wait to share what I’ve learned with my students. So often teaching environmental science can be discouraging and depressing. Participating in the conference and getting to lobby in D.C. was really empowering and will help me model to my students how citizens can make a difference and address climate change through our democracy.”
Atticus Edwards points out the respectful nonpartisan relationships CCL has with Congress and makes clear the importance of young people participating in the political process:
“The almost neighbor-like rapport that I witnessed more experienced lobbyists having with Congresspeople proves that CCL has pursued a highly effective strategy in building a non-partisan policy portfolio for addressing climate change. Youth volunteers for CCL should be aware that participating in volunteer lobbying is one of the single most direct and effective means that they have for generating momentum on policy solutions to climate change. CCL volunteers have proven universally to be clear-minded and virtuous individuals determined to save the planet through pragmatic but ambitious efforts, and I was very glad to make several important new friends during the conference.”
Daelon Gilbert-Bland paints a picture of how CCL volunteers gain hope and optimism through the lobbying experience:
“Our lobbying efforts were probably my favorite part of the whole trip! Being able to go inside the Longworth building and see the inner workings of our government was equal parts exhilarating and humbling. We had the opportunity to meet with staffers from the Peters, Owens, and Curtis’s offices as well as members of the Natural Resources Committee.”
CCL volunteers from Utah even went on a hike with Representative John Curtis (R-UT-03) to discuss the environment.
We had every kind of weather today.
From former mayor of Oakley, Doug Smith: “I’ve *never* had a lawmaker come to such a beautiful and peaceful place as this and discuss the environment. This is the honest and authentic dialog I’ve been searching for.” Thank you @RepJohnCurtis. pic.twitter.com/H3n9lI03iC
— CCL Wasatch Back (@CCLWasatchBack) June 21, 2022
Daelon is thankful for the opportunity to travel to D.C. to work towards equity.
“Being able to speak on behalf of the CCL and advocate for bills that will help steer the direction of our future towards greater equity is something that was deeply satisfying and empowering. I enjoyed it immensely and hope that I can continue to help with lobbying efforts going forward. Overall, my trip to Washington DC was something that I will never forget! I had such an incredible experience, and I am forever grateful for the SLC chapter for being willing to help sponsor my flight!”
Hailey Keller had this to say about the personal growth she acquired because of her stepping out of her comfort zone, but into a safe CCL space. The conference prepared her with research and the solutions she needed to lobby with integrity.
“Regarding growth in my personal and political power, attending the conference gave me the necessary tools to strengthen my confidence in not only advocating for the environment, but additionally increasing my personal confidence. In my past two lobbying experiences, I lacked the confidence to fully engage my personal ideas and passions during the meetings with legislators. Despite this fear, each workshop, keynote speaker, and the support from my team allowed me to continue to grow this confidence…to feel more comfortable and “real” in my lobbying approach. Those on my team genuinely wanted to help each other succeed. We formed a bond in the short time leading up to the conference. The sense of community and mutual support from each person on my team allowed me to be confident in my words…to put in my honest effort and ideas of how to present the Growing Climate Solutions Act among other CCL-backed bills. This made it possible to receive valuable constructive feedback on what we thought we as individuals could learn from one another to improve our lobbying skills.”
Hailey was moved by the broad political spectrum of the citizen lobbyists and environmentalists working together through CCL.
“I left the conference with an energy boost that I didn’t know I needed. Each day, as I looked around the hundreds of people in the room and with every interaction, I was constantly surprised by how people of starkly differing political positions were coming together. [This was] more than just a state of compromise…it was effortless collaboration and a sense of love for one another to work toward the goal of climate change resiliency. Heartwarming, to say the least.”
Each of these CCL volunteers gained realistic hope as they offered comfort, support and fun to each other. They worked together forming bonds for a lifetime of volunteerism.