The Skywriter

Organizing tip: shadowing your senators in August

3
Aug

Organizing tip: shadowing your senators in August

oily-hands-women-200px.jpg

By 1Sky intern Amy Plovnick. -- Luis

If, like me, you are frustrated and angry that the Senate has failed to pass legislation to address the climate crisis, you might be wondering what you can do about it. Clearly, senators need to hear that it is unacceptable that they did not address the biggest challenge of our time. We need to use grassroots pressure to show our senators that they must do their job on climate – and if they don’t, they will risk facing the consequences. But how can we deliver this message?

One way to put pressure on elected officials is through shadowing them at town halls, candidate forums, and other public events. Shadowing, also known as bird-dogging, involves going to public (and sometimes private) events and asking elected officials questions that will get them to take a strong position on climate or expose their lack of effort on the issue. Throughout the August congressional recess, when members of Congress return to their districts, 1Sky volunteers will be asking them to rise above the influence of Dirty Coal and Big Oil and do their job to address climate change.

Here are some tips for making your shadowing event successful, based on the experiences of 1Sky volunteers:

  • Shadowing is a team effort: A successful shadowing squad involves more than one person asking a difficult but relevant question to their elected official. There are plenty of other ways to be involved in an essential way, such as by contacting the media before the event, making signs, recruiting people, and documenting the event. Which brings me to…
  • Take pictures and video: Recording the event is critical for getting the word out, especially if the elected official says something notorious like this:




    So make sure that you have people assigned to record and photograph the question being asked and the senator’s answer, as well as your group with signs and props. To capture a great, compelling photo, remember to…
  • Use visuals! This August, we will be using the visual of oily hands to convey the scope of our addiction to fossil fuels and show the influence of dirty energy money in Congress. You can also make large signs that convey your message. Make sure that the person or people you have designated to ask the question are not holding signs or visuals, as it might make the elected official less likely to listen to them. When you do get to ask a question…
  • Be assertive, and don’t be afraid to follow up. Practice asking the question beforehand so you feel confident about it. If there is a limited amount of time, be assertive so that you have the opportunity to ask your question. If the elected official tries to give an easy answer ( “I support clean energy”), ask a follow-up question to get them to take a strong position on the issue (“What will you do to make sure that we transition to a clean energy economy and don’t invest in new coal-fired power plants?”).

If you follow these suggestions and come up with creative ideas of your own, your shadowing event is sure to be a success. By keeping the heat on our elected officials, we can turn our anger into action, and our action into a reality in which Congress comes to its senses and addresses climate change.

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