Volunteer Spotlight: John Doherty
By Flannery Winchester
What’s a man to do after retiring from a 52-year career? Start volunteering! That’s what John Doherty has done. His work years included a stint in the Marine Corps, the corporate world, and post-corporate consulting. Now that he’s “happily retired,” he spends his time volunteering with CCL, tutoring with the Tacoma Area Literacy Council, and taking care of his grandkids.
“I would describe our chapter as very, very active – thanks to the energy, skills, and passion of our volunteers,” John says of the group in Tacoma, WA, which usually tables frequently, testifies at public hearings on climate-related issues, publishes media, and has grown their chapter’s membership list by the hundreds in recent years.
John himself brings a lot of that energy and passion to the table, giving dozens of climate presentations and even hosting his own climate-focused radio show. Especially since the COVID-19 pandemic, John says the radio show has been “a good outlet” for his climate advocacy. As for the chapter, he adds, “We have been conducting our meetings via Zoom. That has been a significant source of maintaining connection.”
In this Q&A, we chat with John to find out how he got started with CCL, what he’s been up to since, and how he stays motivated in his climate advocacy.
How did you first get connected with CCL?
I first connected with CCL in the months leading up to the 2016 election. There was a climate initiative on the Washington state ballot that year, and that drew my attention to climate. Around the same time, I heard a CCL presentation by a chapter member from a neighboring community. From there it was a natural transition for me to contact the recently formed Tacoma CCL chapter. During those initial contacts, chapter co-leader Chuck Jensen reached out to me, answered my questions, and encouraged me to become active in the chapter. His early, thoughtful contacts with me were foundational to my future activism.
What did you like about CCL?
I really liked and admired the people involved locally with CCL. I found them to be passionate about climate and at the same time well grounded in reality and the practicalities of bringing about political change related to climate. I was also blown away by the effective and voluminous support offered by national CCL to folks out in the local chapters, both on the web and one-on-one. I made several phone calls to national folks as I was trying to figure things out early on and always got clear and prompt responses to my requests for information and guidance. Aside from the natural focus on climate, I found CCL to be well-organized and effective.
Tell us about your main efforts related to climate advocacy.
I have done over 30 climate presentations in the last three years, including to a local college, several Rotary Clubs, senior centers, at Earth Day events, a high school environmental club, political parties, church groups, labor councils and so on. I enjoy doing the presentations, and they have been well received. But the presentations, by their nature, are limited to 40 minutes or less—and of course, I can only scratch the surface of climate in that time.
So I also do a twice-monthly radio program called Climate Talk on our local low-power FM station KTAH 101.9, where I talk in depth on local topics related to climate. And I teach an adult continuing education class, Humans and Climate Change, at the Tacoma Community College.
I find the radio program and teaching to be so important because they create opportunities to really dig into the issues and understand what people think and how they make up their minds regarding climate.
I have also found that as we become better known by getting out into the community, other outreach opportunities show up all by themselves. For instance, we were invited to present at a Women’s Wellness Weekend in May on the topic of Wellness and Climate Change—though the event has since been cancelled due to the pandemic, it’s encouraging that the organizers sought us out, rather than the reverse.
What keeps you motivated to do this work?
I’m 76, and I will not live to see the worst of what could happen regarding climate-related suffering. I feel a personal responsibility to those who may experience those things—to do what I can in my own small way to reduce the possibility of climate-related suffering that may be experienced by future generations. 2100 can seem like a long way off, but my grandchildren will more than likely live to see those days. So in that regard, climate change is a very real and personal concern to me.
The environmentally connected friends I’ve made along the way are an important part of keeping me motivated, too—when I’m feeling gloomy or despairing about the future of the Earth, it’s a help to know that I am not alone in those feelings and to be reminded by friends that hope comes from taking action. So I continue to take action and, from there, to hope.
Got a suggestion for our Volunteer Spotlight series? Send the name, chapter and some brief info about the volunteer to Flannery Winchester at flannery @ citizensclimatelobby.org.