CCL & Audubon team up for “Water, Wind & Fire” tour

CCL & Audubon climate change tour washington idaho

(L-R) Steve Ghan, John Sandvig, Jen Syrowitz, Gabrielle Dubendorfer, Amy Phillips and Suzy Prez give a radio interview as part of the Water, Wind & Fire tour.

CCL & Audubon team up for “Water, Wind & Fire” tour

By Alex Amonette

Last month, Washington Citizens’ Climate Lobby volunteers Steve Ghan, Dr. Sara Cate, and John Sandvig, and Jen Syrowitz of Audubon Washington concluded a successful 15-day, 12-city “Water, Wind, and Fire” tour through Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho.

Walla Walla CCL Audubon climate change tour washington idaho

Full house at a presentation in Walla Walla

From November 2-17, the group held 31 events, including:

  • 15 public presentations
  • 3 individual meetings with government leaders
  • 7 meetings with community leaders
  • 5 radio interviews
  • 1 TV interview

Steve Ghan, with the Tri-Cities CCL chapter, said attendance at their events ranged from 6 to 130, and they reached a total of more than 850 folks.

One of their primary goals was to educate people about and obtain endorsements for CCL’s market-based, revenue-neutral Carbon Fee and Dividend proposal. It’s clear from the way the tour developed, though, that another goal was to build lasting, meaningful relationships with other groups and citizens who care about climate change.

Partners with shared goals

John said, “The idea for the tour started because we needed to get outside the ‘blue bubble’ of Puget Sound to engage and understand more conservative voters.” Working across political divisions is central to CCL’s mission, and a partnership with Audubon Washington provided a great opportunity to do more of that.

CCL and Audubon climate change washington idaho

(L-R) Jen Syrowitz, Steve Ghan and John Sandvig

Jen explained, “Audubon is a bipartisan conservation organization: 52% of our national membership identifies as liberal, 48% identify as conservative.” Birds can serve as a nonpartisan messenger to talk to both of those groups about climate change. Jen explained, “Birds are a barrier-breaking messenger of environmental change, but also of hope.” To help protect them and the habitat they need, Jen said Audubon is doing everything they can to “normalize the idea of a carbon fee among the public and advance bipartisan policies that reduce carbon pollution.”

Tour planning got off the ground at a breakout session during the CCL Pacific Northwest Regional Conference in March 2017. There, a planning team of five CCL volunteers and Jen from Audubon Washington formed and dug in. To put together events for the tour, this team connected with CCL volunteers as well as other local organizations such as 350.org, Indivisible, or organizations unique to that community.

From there, the team identified a local contact who could serve as a lead organizer for their community. John said, “Lead organizers in each community were absolutely crucial to our success. Once we’d set a definite tour itinerary and objectives for the community leads, we turned them loose. Most of what we did as overall team leaders was simply check in periodically with local leaders, offer clarification and guidance, and, maybe most important, offer encouragement and moral support.”

Dave Camp, Cigdem Capan, Gabrielle Dubendorfer, Katie Gieske, Carolyn Griffin-Bugert, Louis Logan, Judy Meuth, Rebecca Rutzick, Sylvia Shriner, Greg Smith, Sandy Vaughn, and Raechel Youngberg were among those who took on local roles and made the tour possible.

Making new connections with tribes, businesses and conservatives

“We had an excellent meeting with Davis Washines, Chairman of the General Council of the Yakama Nation,” said Steve. Washines suggested a speaking engagement at the January meeting of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, which is a group of 57 tribes in the western US, more than half of them in Washington state.

In addition to this expression of support, the chairman also made a spiritual offering before and after the volunteers gave their presentation at the Yakama Tribal Center. John said, “That was truly special,” and Sara called it “a major highlight.”

Business lunch CCL Audubon climate change tour Washington Idaho

The tour also helped forge new relationships in the business community. At a lunch with community business leaders (pictured above) the chair of the Bonner County Republican Women and the chair of the Bonner County Democrats, a member of the Idaho Democratic Women’s Caucus, sat next to each other. One of them said, “This has never happened here before!” meaning a purposeful bipartisan discussion involving community leaders from both sides of the aisle. Jen said, “Simply gathering together took a monumental effort, yet we know that humbly breaking bread together is a critical step toward building trust and lasting change.”

The tour also brought positive meetings with the two conservative county commissioners in Okanogan, Wash. “We really changed their thinking about climate change,” Steve said. “We had seven presentations in five cities in Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ district,” he added. Rep. Rodgers is the Chair of the House Republican Conference and the fourth highest-ranking Republican in the House.

The presentation below, titled “Saving our Farms, Forests & Fish While Strengthening the Economy” took place in Ellensburg, Wash. which is represented by Republican and Climate Solutions Caucus member Rep. Dave Reichert. (Rep. Reichert recently joined 11 of his climate-conscious Republican colleagues in opposing Arctic drilling.)

Impressive results

After many stops on the tour, Steve said, “Dozens of people approached me afterward and sincerely expressed their appreciation for us bringing an optimistic and practical solution to their awareness.” He received an email from one attendee who said CCL’s solution is “practical, understandable, and supportable by a wide spectrum of people. This gives us a clear vision and hope for a brighter future!”

“I was impressed with the large number of people actively listening to our talks,” John said. “I came away feeling confident the vast majority of attendees welcomed both our proposal and an open, respectful conversation. That’s rare enough in our political world these days, and people really appreciated it.”

Many attendees took things a step further and wrote personal letters to their representatives in Congress. The tour group collected 268 constituent comment forms to give to Congressman Dan Newhouse, which volunteers delivered in D.C. during CCL’s Congressional Education Day. “They had a huge impact,” said Doug Ray, who met with Rep. Newhouse and his legislative director. “It led to a good discussion about how our representatives can work with their colleagues to come up with a durable solution to climate change.”

In total, the tour generated 390 constituent comment forms, so Rep. Richert and Rep. McMorris Rodgers will also be hearing this loud, clear message from their constituents.

Looking ahead

The tour group plans to follow up by continuing to build trust with the many wonderful people they met, including the Yakama Nation, county commissioners, and publishers. They identified leaders for new CCL groups in Methow Valley and Okanogan, Wash. Yakima, Ellensburg, Wenatchee, and Spokane also show promise for new groups. They plan to do another tour to reinforce and refresh the messages and expand their outreach even further.

Audubon Washington will continue to be involved, Jen said, and they were thankful for this collaborative outreach opportunity. Clearly the CCL message, and the welcoming, bipartisan approach to sharing it, went a long way and will carry the Northwest even further.

To read media coverage of the tour, check out these pieces:

Alex Amonette
Alex Amonette is a freelance technical and grant writer/editor, lives in cattle and sheep country, and raises vegetables and hay.

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