Breaking the silence on climate and money

Judy Berlfein, Davia Rivka, Eliana Berlfein Women Who Will

(L-R) Sisters Judy Berlfein, Davia Rivka, and Eliana Berlfein are three of the Women Who Will. Will you join them?

Breaking the silence on climate and money

By Davia Rivka

There is a code of silence surrounding climate change, as if by not naming it, it doesn’t exist. Our minds are crazy like that. But this is our CCL work. This is what we do. In spite of, and because of the prevailing shroud of silence, we step up and open our mouths. We break the silence, and when we do, we often pay a price by igniting feelings of insecurity, fear and powerlessness in others.

But this doesn’t stop us from speaking up. We speak up because we know we can’t solve the climate issue by staying comfortable, by ignoring it or by pretending that all is well. Taking on climate change means having difficult conversations with difficult people. It means breaking the silence. It means waking people up and having them think about things that make them uncomfortable.

Our success has come because we have had not one, not two, but conversation after conversation with family, friends, and members of Congress. Sometimes we bungle it, step too hard on someone’s toes—but sometimes we get it just right, and something miraculous happens. People previously in despair and denial find a way to take action and move beyond hopelessness. Something awakens in them.

Money is not unlike climate change. It too has a code of silence. It too arouses feelings of insecurity, fear and powerlessness. But that doesn’t stop me from breaking the silence. I have had conversation after conversation with friends and family about contributing to Citizens’ Climate Education (“CCE,” the 501c3 sister nonprofit to Citizens’ Climate Lobby). Sometimes I bungle it, step too hard on someone’s toes. Sometimes I get it just right, and something miraculous happens.

In 2015, my sisters and I each made a $10,000 contribution to CCE. Really, the “thank you” goes to our parents who had recently died and left us some money. It delighted me to be able to give money to CCE—an organization that nurtures hope and optimism, countering my despair and cynicism; an organization that models generous listening, respect and gratitude. $10,000 felt like a small way to say thank you for being that light in the darkness.

I wanted others to have the same opportunity to express their gratitude. So we made up a game. We called it Women Who Will. In 2016, 15 women stepped forward to express their gratitude and support the work of Citizens’ Climate Education by each contributing $10,000. In 2017, we invited men to play, and called them Generous Gentlemen. 31 women and 29 men stepped forward. And this year, because we need an extra infusion of hope and optimism, our goal is 100 people each contributing $10,000!

In the last two years, I invited many CCLers to contribute $10,000 to CCE, having no idea if they could “afford” to make a contribution of that size. Some people got cranky with me—they felt like I was being rude for even asking. Some people were tickled that I had asked—even though they were not able to make the contribution. Others cried, touched that they were able to give back to an organization that has given so much to them.

I know we all come from a wide variety of financial backgrounds. I have no idea how much money you earn, how much you have access to, how you spend your money, or how you save it. I feel honored to be able to break the silence and ask you if you would like to make a $10,000 tax-deductible contribution to Citizens’ Climate Education. My request might unnerve you. It might thrill you. My job is simply to ask. It’s what we do in CCL—give people a chance to see themselves in ways they have never considered, give people a chance to be moved by their own generosity.

Whatever you decide, thank you for your work, your courage, your hope and optimism. That’s worth everything.

You can reach Davia Rivka by emailing davia (at) daviarivka.com.

Davia Rivka is a Los Angeles-based climate change warrior who is hard at work on her second book: a collection of inspirational stories about the extraordinary work of Citizens’ Climate Lobby volunteers. Check out her blog at daviarivka.com.

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