A winning combo: Family photos and climate activism
By Flannery Winchester
Ever worried about clashing political ideologies over the Thanksgiving table? You’re not alone—lots of people aren’t exactly in lockstep with their extended family when it comes to politics. Santa Rosa CCL volunteer Park Guthrie is the same way, but when it came to climate change, he knew the conversation had to happen sometime. “Reaching out to my extended family about CCL has been on my to-do list for years,” he said. “I have been a little nervous about it because within my extended family there is a wide range of political and religious beliefs.”
He finally figured out the perfect way to do it: combine his message of climate advocacy with a slideshow of family photos. What loving grandparent or doting auntie could resist that?
“In June, I had the immense good fortune of attending the D.C. conference with my two eldest kids, Kai (14) and Lola (13),” Park said. “A slideshow with pictures from that event gave me the perfect opening to talk about CCL.”
The slideshow kicks off with a photo of Park, Kai and Lola on Capitol Hill. It gives the viewer a brief introduction to CCL and Carbon Fee and Dividend, and then it gets right back to the heartstring tugging, showing the youngest family member, June, calling her member of Congress before the conference began. “This photo of June inspired Grandpa and Grandma (Dick and Cynthia) to call their own MoCs,” Park says.
Then the conference began in earnest. Fighting jet lag, Kai and Lola attended five breakout workshops, four plenary sessions and three lobby team prep meetings in just two days. Park used that as a jumping off point to recap some highlights from the keynote speeches by Anthony Leiserowitz and Lou Helmuth.
Park also shared highlights from their lobbying experiences. He and Lola met with one of Rep. Tom McClintock’s staffers, and Lola got to share about her annual backpacking experiences in the district. “Lola was so game to lobby,” Park said. “She jumped in with both feet and showed a lot of courage.” Kai paired up with one of the Santa Rosa chapter leaders, Bruce Hagen, and headed off to a meeting with Rep. Jared Huffman. Later in the conference, Kai also got to meet CCL Senior Congressional Liaison Jay Butera. Photos from all these meetings provided the perfect framework for Park to demonstrate what CCL does and why it’s so effective.
Park presented this slideshow in an email to nearly 40 family members—cousins, aunts, uncles, in-laws and so—along with a link to recent research showing how urgently we need climate action. He told them, “I am trying to spread the word about both the urgency and the straightforward solutions to everyone I know. There are a bunch of links in the slideshow if you want to learn more. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to email.” So in addition to supplying lots of great information, Park also worked to open the lines of communication between himself and his family members.
Don’t worry, Park’s outreach hasn’t started any family feuds. “The family members I’m closest to have been very enthusiastic about the slideshow,” Park said. “I haven’t heard back from most of my extended family. The ones who did write back mentioned loving the pictures of the kids.” He continued, “I think the biggest benefit of it was actually energizing family and friends who already supported strong action on climate, but might not have a clear picture for how to help make that happen.”
What began as a special family project has proven helpful even beyond Park’s relatives. “After I made the slideshow, I realized it might also energize other people who have known about our family’s work with CCL but don’t know much about CCL,” he said. “For example, my teacher’s union endorsed CCL’s Carbon Fee and Dividend in 2015 so I shared the slideshow as a type of follow-up.”
The family has also kicked off a Schools for Climate Action Campaign, a youth-adult team that meets with school boards to encourage them to pass resolutions acknowledging climate change and endorsing carbon pricing. This type of outreach provides opportunities for young people to get involved on this issue that will impact their lives.
“I believe that empowering them to work on climate change is an act of generational self-defense,” Park said. “When it comes to climate change, lots of adults are trying to take care of the big stuff, but we haven’t yet been able to do it. We might actually need some help from the kids on this one.”