Volunteer Spotlight Interview: Jean Larson, Evergreen Donor
By Topher Anderson and Gianna Sollitto
Donors who give on a monthly basis make a huge impact by providing Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) with a steady stream of revenue year-round. This ongoing support allows CCL to meet the moment in our ever-changing political climate and take advantage of emerging opportunities for our grassroots advocacy work. We call the group of sustaining donors who provide this critical support our “Evergreen Donors.” Evergreen Donors cast their vote for an evergreen, healthy, and habitable planet through recurring, automated contributions to CCL each month — which is sometimes in addition to ongoing CCL volunteer commitments, like in Jean Larson’s case.
CCL volunteer Jean Larson is a climate rockstar with an impressive backstory: she has lived all over the country, from Maryland to Idaho to Delaware. Now, she calls Arkansas home. Serving as CCL Co-State Coordinator in Arkansas, a group leader, congressional liaison, and co-leader for the Onboarding Action Team, it’s safe to say Jean has her finger in quite a few climate action pies! (You can read more about Jean and her hard work in Arkansas in this blog post from February.) In addition to all of her work with CCL on the ground in Arkansas, Jean provides support to the organization in one more crucial way: as a monthly Evergreen Donor.
Donor Relations Officer Topher Anderson had the opportunity to sit down virtually with Jean to talk about her work with CCL, and how her role as an Evergreen Donor fits into her climate advocacy. Here is their conversation:
When and how did you first get involved with CCL?
Jean: I found CCL via a Google search. I wanted to support an environmental group, so I started searching online. I found CCL and was struck by their positivity. They seemed to believe that we could solve this problem with democracy and empowered citizens. I was also struck by their commitment to working with people in the middle, allowing opportunities to meet people I disagree with without disrespect. So, I joined a local chapter in Little Rock, 1.5 hours away from me. At the time, I was running a farmers’ market in town and growing vegetables for the SNAP program. In 2017, I realized I wanted to focus more fully on CCL. I became the State Coordinator for Arkansas, where I help liaisons around the state to organize successful meetings.
What inspired you to tackle climate change specifically?
Jean: Ironically, I ran from politics straight into climate change… the 2016 elections really burnt me out on politics. So I decided to stop paying attention to the partisanship, and focus on other issues. I read Eaarth by Bill McKibben, which was a really stark presentation of the way climate change is already affecting the planet. I’d already known climate change was happening, but this drove home the urgency of taking action now.
What do you like most about CCL?
Jean: It’s the respect piece. We CCLers come to people with respect. This has enabled me to continue lobbying with my members of Congress in Arkansas, who don’t often agree with me. That habit of showing respect keeps me in the game: it allows me to stay active and not get bogged down in anger or bitterness.
What are your main projects or initiatives with CCL?
Jean: Last year, we put together these really incredible meetings with our members of Congress [in Arkansas]. The key was: we didn’t talk about carbon pricing. Instead, we knew that duck hunting and migratory birds were an important issue in the state. We connected with bird scientists in Arkansas, and got CCL’s Conservative Outreach Director Drew Eyerly involved. We showed our members of Congress the impact of climate change on these issues, and they were the best meetings we’d had in a long while. So this year, I’m connecting with more experts on issues that matter to our members of Congress, and getting them in the office to talk about climate change. My co-leader Jan Schaper and I lead the Onboarding Action Team, and we’ve created a master class to make onboarding more interesting for new members. We’re trying to double the number of active volunteers in our state, which would be a big success. We hold a “lunch for the planet” meeting regularly. It’s a space for people to connect over lunch digitally, and to talk about climate with no agenda. It has engaged new people who want a space to just talk about it, and it has been a great source of connection.
What keeps you motivated to do this work?
Jean: My co-State Coordinator is a fantastic partner, and we help each other keep going. When I’m down, she brings me back up. Then when she’s down, I can do the same. I also found a reserve of hope from the Empowerment Partnership Program (EPP) workshops facilitated by CCL volunteer Jean Ritok. They taught me to understand that “the world goes the way it goes,” and I just need to decide what I’m going to do to effect the necessary change.
What does being an Evergreen Donor mean to you?
Jean: As a volunteer, I am so supported by our national staff. They are really amazing, and give me a level of trust and responsibility I couldn’t imagine receiving anywhere else. They enable me to lobby my members of Congress as a constituent, and to make a positive impact. My Evergreen donation is a way that I can give back and return this incredible support.
The grassroots advocacy and monthly financial support from folks like Jean has helped shift the climate conversation across the state of Arkansas, and across the country. Denialism is fading, and the conversation centers around common ground and solutions. There’s still much progress to be made. But, with help from CCLers and support from Evergreen Donors like Jean, the actions of politicians in the Natural State and beyond have been huge steps forward. Our collective grassroots advocacy to demand a liveable climate is not just important — it’s critical, and your monthly support keeps us moving forward.
This March, we have a unique opportunity to support CCL’s grassroots climate advocacy. If we meet our fundraising goal of $15,000 in new or increased monthly donations, an anonymous donor has agreed to make a $150,000 bonus gift… but only if we reach our goal by March 31. Will you join Evergreen Donors like Jean and pledge your monthly support for our climate advocacy today?