In the spotlight of “Years of Living Dangerously,” CCL chapters host viewing parties nationwide
By Flannery Winchester
Actor Bradley Whitford did his time in Washington—fictional Washington, that is, as a part of the “West Wing” cast. “I played a fictional advisor to a fictional president, tackling the biggest issues of the day,” he explains in season two, episode seven of National Geographic’s documentary show “Years of Living Dangerously.”
“In real life, I’m a political junkie, and the biggest political issue of our time is climate change,” he says. “Now I’m back in Washington to convince some real life Republicans to take action.” As the episode begins, Bradley quickly discovers that’s easier said than done. He asks, “Where do I even begin?”
That’s a question many Americans asked themselves after Donald Trump’s election on November 8. Anyone concerned about environmental issues or climate change was suddenly forced to confront the reality that our incoming president and his denier-filled cabinet will not prioritize—and may actively work against—climate action. In the absence of federal leadership, many folks felt the need to step up and do something themselves. They, too, asked, “Where do I even begin?”
As Bradley Whitford and many of our fellow Americans have discovered, a great place to begin is Citizens’ Climate Lobby.
The episode: Safe passage to climate advocacy
This “Years of Living Dangerously” episode, called “Safe Passage,” is a fantastic introduction to the CCL process of building political will. Bradley Whitford attends a Climate Advocate Training led by CCL executive director Mark Reynolds and learns how to have a positive conversation with a climate-denying elected official. Bradley then tries his own hand at lobbying, looking for common ground with Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) on climate change.
Eventually he meets Jay Butera, a longtime CCL volunteer who lobbies Republicans to become leaders on climate change. Learning from Jay’s patient, consistent approach, Bradley sits down with Republican climate leader Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL). Curbelo, who helped found the Climate Solutions Caucus, acknowledges the urgency of the issue: “The longer we take to address this, the more painful it’s going to be.”
He’s also working to bring Republican colleagues along with him, such as Rep. Mia Love (R-UT) and Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), who were approached about joining the Climate Solutions Caucus. The episode also shows the inaugural meeting of that caucus. All of this leaves Bradley hopeful. “This meeting shows that maybe the two parties aren’t that far apart,” he realizes.
The watch parties: New connections & community
This “Years of Living Dangerously” episode aired on National Geographic on December 7. To boost its reach and impact even more, CCL chapters have hosted watch parties across the country in the days and weeks since.
In the rural 23rd district of New York state, the CCL chapter rented out a local theater to screen the episode on December 14. “It was a tremendous success, with 72 people filling the theater,” says CCL volunteer John Finn. The attendees stayed afterward for an engaging Q&A with a panel of four local CCL members, to talk about the organization and carbon fee and dividend.
In Santa Fe, New Mexico, local volunteers organized six different watch parties at community spaces, churches and schools. Attendees were very engaged, asking lots of questions and planning to attend an upcoming Climate Advocate Training, says CCL volunteer John McAndrew.
In Washington D.C., CCL volunteers Max Broad, Spencer Schecht and Erica Flock partnered up with local environmental groups DC Green Drinks and Chesapeake Climate Action Network to watch the episode. “It made it possible for us to reach a greater number of people,” Erica says—they had around 80 in attendance. “Having a happy hour beforehand also made the event more fun and allowed people to have great conversations before and after the screening.” Max adds, “Also Donald Trump. I have to give him credit for inspiring so many people to come to an event on climate action.”
It’s clear that this “Years of Living Dangerously” episode provides great opportunities for community outreach and new connections with friends, neighbors and anyone who wants to feel empowered to act on climate.
It’s even bolstering our relationships with representatives in Congress, such as Rep. Lee Zeldin. “Congressman Zeldin appreciates the open dialogue between our office and CCL and enjoyed taking part in the ‘Years of Living Dangerously’ documentary,” a spokesperson said in a statement. “Our office was pleased with how the episode came out and has received very positive feedback on it. Congressman Zeldin proudly serves as a member of the Bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus. He looks forward to continuing to work with CCL.”
Watch the episode for yourself. Maybe you’ll be moved to host a screening, set up a meeting with your representative, and keep building political will for climate action. As Jay says in the episode, “We will succeed. Congress will act on climate change. The big question is will it be in time?” You can make the difference.