Snapshots of inspiration: CCL’s Northern California Regional Conference

Dr. Steven Chu former U.S. energy secretary

Dr. Steven Chu, former U.S. Secretary of Energy, spoke at CCL’s Northern California Regional Conference last weekend.

Snapshots of inspiration: CCL’s Northern California Regional Conference

By Davia Rivka

Trying to tell the story of the whole of last weekend’s Northern California Regional Conference is a bit like blind men describing an elephant. You just can’t see the whole thing from every angle. The sold-out conference took place in a hall (literally a walkway), the same hall they have used for the last three conferences. In 2015, the room seemed spacious—certainly big enough for the 100 or so participants. This year the room seemed to shrink as 220 folks cozied up next to one another.

I will bring you three perspectives—a flapping ear, a piece of leathery skin, and the slope of the trunk—Bob, Ellyn and Rex.

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Bob LeFave is in the San Mateo chapter. He’s a scientist and a middle-aged white guy who has been with CCL for all of three months. “When I learned that Dr. Steven Chu (U.S. Secretary of Energy, 2009-2013) was on the CCL advisory board, I was really impressed. Having someone of that caliber associated with CCL lends credibility to the goals of CCL and adds national stature to the organization. I like knowing I’m participating in something other serious people find useful.”

“I was very impressed with Dr. Chu’s talk,” Bob said. “He’s a scientist, and he’s not afraid to admit it. Scientists as a class are not inclined to speak out in public. It is crucial for a scientist to say, ‘This is important.’ Dr. Chu talked about the seriousness and lack of progress with the current administration. He pointed out need for bipartisan dialogue and said that the facts by themselves aren’t going to convince as many people as we think. We’re in this together, we need to focus on building trust.”

Bob walked away buoyed up. He was moved by the overriding sense of hope expressed by everyone in the room. He said he’s worked with other environmental groups where the overall mood is somber and dark. Not so here. The overall positivity was everywhere.

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Ellyn Dooley is in the San Mateo County chapter. She is a middle-aged white woman who has been with CCL for two years. “There is so much happening. Thank goodness for the science and the smart people. I left very hopeful about the future with so many smart people working on so many things.”

We all have our strengths, the things we are best at. Ellyn may not be a scientist, but she rocked the room when she talked about the Women Who Will—women who each gave $10,000 to CCL in 2016. At the end of her remarks she asked for contributions from the folks in the hall. “It’s going to take all of us,” she said. “I have never before stood in front of a group that had such a generous in spirit, such open hearts, like their arms were open for me. I felt embraced by the group—they made me feel so comfortable, it was like a big love fest. I was dumbfounded by their generosity. I felt like I was in the presence of something greater than all of us. It was like magic in a way. And that’s what gives me hope.”

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Rex Magadia is a 27-year-old Filipino-American. His first encounter with CCL was at the February 11th monthly meeting. Seven days later he found himself sitting in the hall in Berkeley at the regional conference. “What stood out for me even before the conference started was how beautifully CCL is organized. I walked away with reaffirmation that a lot of synergies can be realized from disparate interests.”

Rex has a bachelor of science in environmental engineering and is now working on his MBA in global supply chain management with a concentration on sustainability. He brings an important perspective to CCL’s work. He grew up in Stockton where most people hold two jobs, come home from work, make dinner, go to sleep and get up and start all over again. “They don’t have the privilege to be able to think about, talk about and act on climate change. My family in the Philippines is living in the third world country. You can’t just go there and talk about ocean acidification. The message needs to be tailored to be relevant.”

And hopefully, CCL offers him a platform to do that. “I’m very comfortable in front of large crowds. I really want to connect with young people and do presentations.”

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While each person had their own experience of the conference, the thread that wove the stories together was one of hope, optimism and generosity. Who knows what the ripple effects of their hard work and optimism will produce for next year’s conference? But one thing is for sure: they will be looking for a larger venue!

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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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