CCL tours Texas for the third year running
By Philip Finkelstein
Growing the CCL network is an never-ending endeavor as part of the larger mission to inspire climate solutions and promote environmental action from the grassroots up. In both 2015 and 2016, CCL toured through Texas to promote “energy freedom” and broaden the CCL community. After success in previous years, CCL continued its pursuit with the launch of the “2017 Texas Panhandle Climate Solutions Tour.”
This year’s tour took place in two stages: one across the rural panhandle and one on the western border of Texas. The first stage got underway in late September with a four-day, six-city, 1,000-mile tour headed by regional coordinator Brett Cease with support from Laura Templeton, Maria Panzani and other volunteers. The main objective of the tour, Brett said, was “to engage five new emerging group leaders in critical cities for both congressional districts TX-13 and TX-11.” In the lower-density population of northwest Texas, building a sense of community with the rest of the CCL network can be challenging, so the tour was devised to highlight the importance of belonging to the larger Texas family and how to better get involved with non-partisan climate advocacy.
Stopping in the cities of Amarillo, Canyon, Wichita Falls, Abilene, San Angelo and Midland, the September tour was deemed a complete success, featuring seven community dialogues and presentations to college students, staff, faculty, energy employees and local leaders. The events in Midland and Canyon did particularly well, having over 30 community members and 10 students in attendance, respectively. Other stops had fewer attendees, but made up for it with the engagement of new emerging group leaders that were excited to have the chance to host the event in their community. Inspiration even struck at a local restaurant in Wichita Falls when CCL volunteers had the chance to share the benefits of CF&D policy with an inquisitive owner and general manager.
All in all, the September tour accomplished its goal of meeting CCLers across the panhandle—a region where CCL has yet to gain a significant presence—bringing in the community to have a broader discussion on the importance of engaging in climate solutions that will benefit their local economies. Brett said, “The 2017 Panhandle TX Climate Solutions Tour was a wonderful opportunity to get to know and empower our key CCL volunteers in some of the most beautiful agricultural lands, booming with wind turbines and so much potential.”
The second leg of the tour picked up in October along the western border, unofficially dubbed the “Texas 23 Tour,” as it specifically targeted the congressional district TX-23. Organized and directed by Peter Bryn and Bill Hurley, alongside Julie Smith, Stuart Birnbaum and other key members of the San Antonio chapter, the tour visited the towns of Hondo, Uvalde, Del Rio and Eagle Pass—four of the larger population centers just outside the greater San Antonio area. Geographically, TX-23 is the ninth largest congressional district in the country, stretching 800 miles from San Antonio to El Paso along the Mexican border. This vast district is filled with the greatest number of climate-concerned citizens in Texas, according to research by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, and is represented by second-term Republican William Hurd, a politician with a history of taking independent positions, making this swing district an ideal setting for the tour.
Peter Bryn said, “Rep. Hurd has been mentioned to us by name by several other congressional offices as the most likely Republican to take a step forward in Texas [on climate], and for this reason, we’ve been working hard to build up chapters and volunteer engagement in his district.” This tour hoped to embolden these efforts with public presentations held in each of the four towns they visited. Presentations were strategically scheduled around local farmers markets and at a Lions Club to encourage attendance. Turnout was modest, but there was serious motivation among those who did attend to start up local chapters. The tour also incorporated a lobby meeting in Del Rio with Rep. Hurd’s district office, where CCL was able to meet with a key staff person regarding climate solutions.
Peter said he’s optimistic about the future of new chapters in this area, so long as CCL continues to engage these local communities to take responsibility over climate action. He said, “Follow up is key to ensure these folks—Shaunak Kamat, Robyn Ha and Jonathan Hook to name a few—have everything they need to keep the momentum going.”