Keeping Gainesville Green with the Citizen’s Climate Lobby
The Citizen’s Climate Lobby is a national organization with a Gainesville chapter that aims to build political will for a livable world, said Florida coordinator Abhaya Thiele.
Thiele and fellow members of the organization will travel to Washington D.C. from June 11 through 13 to attend conferences, seminars and lobby their congressmen.
Recently, it seems that no other environmental issue has been more hotly debated than that of climate change. Scientists, politicians and citizens all over America and all over the world are continuously arguing over whether it’s human caused or if it’s even happening at all.
The issue seems to have split the entire world into opposing sides, and CCL is working to bring people back together.
This organization works at both a national and international level to have legislation pass that will lessen climate change and its impact. Its biggest project to date is called the carbon fee and dividend.
According to Thiele, this is a variation on the already well-known carbon tax being implemented in many countries. The important distinction is that the proceeds of the carbon fee and dividend don’t go to the government– they go directly back to the average citizen.
“Republicans like it because it doesn’t grow the government and because it will be good for the economy. Democrats are focusing on its potential for effective greenhouse gas reductions,” said Thiele, describing this potential piece of future legislation as brilliant.
The Citizen’s Climate Lobby will go to Washington D.C. soon to lobby congressmen to get this piece of legislation passed. This conference includes many seminars that educate attendees about the issues and how to fix them. Thiele said that many citizens are just uneducated about the issues, and even if they are informed, most people don’t know where to start.
“It’s really empowering to get together with normal citizens and try to enact change for something you care about.”
The seminars include teachings and demonstrations of how to get more people involved, persuade them to vote for officials that take a stance on climate change and to lobby political officials to get them to listen to their plea.
“Citizen’s Climate Lobby is unique in that it bases its interactions on respect, appreciation and gratitude,” Thiele said. “This is the most effective way to establish an ongoing dialogue with members of congress and finding common ground. No one wants to be insulted.”
CCL is not an organization of protestesters. At the conference, Jeff Joslin and Terry Schiff, directors of two different chapters in Georgia, will hold climate advocate training that shows members of the organization how to speak both calmly and respectfully to their members of Congress. Thiele said that insults don’t get very far when asking someone for something.
“It’s really empowering to get together with normal citizens and try to enact change for something you care about,” said CCL intern and University of Florida student Marcela Mulholland. Although she is not attending the conference this year, she said she strongly believes in CCL’s mission and goals.
An important aspect of CCL is its focus on bipartisanship. “Our message has always been: be bipartisan; find common ground,” Mulholland said.
Though climate change seems to have split Democrats and Republicans further apart, CCL is working towards bringing the two parties together. “Climate change should be a non-partisan issue because it’s based in science,” Mulholland said.
CCL has also been working to grow the Climate Solutions Caucus. This is a bipartisan caucus with forty members, half Republican half Democrat. Thiele said that this caucus started with just two congressmen and has now grown into a group with true political impact.
An important goal of the Gainesville chapter of CCL is pressuring Ted Yoho, Gainesville’s congressman, to join the caucus and represent the needs and ideas of Gainesville citizens.
Besides working nationally and internationally, this group also strives to make a lasting impact in Gainesville.
John Ward, co-coordinator of CCL’s Gainesville chapter, writes op-ed pieces and letters to editor to many newspapers, mainly the Gainesville Sun. This educates people of the issues while also letting the average citizen know how to get involved.
Ward originally worked at the University of Florida teaching history and painting. After retiring in 2004, Ward began to research the science behind climate change and said he became very interested in the subject.
He said he wanted to make a change, so he joined the Citizen’s Climate Lobby. He said he is excited to attend the conference and teach other people how to get their op-ed pieces and letters to the editor published.
CCL aims to educate people and garner political support for an issue that seems to have split the globe in half. The group hopes this conference can make a real difference in American politics regarding climate change. With America’s current political climate, Thiele says that people now more than ever want to get involved and make an impact in their democracy.