The Skywriter

Senate recess update: Thanking climate champs in Colorado

18
Aug

Senate recess update: Thanking climate champs in Colorado

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By 1Sky organizer Micah Parkin. -- Luis

More than 90 people have signed up through 1Sky and our partners 350.org and Energy Action Coalition to be involved with shadowing Colorado’s senators during the August/September recess. And thanks to the primary elections in Colorado on August 10th, opportunities for shadowing around our beautiful mountain state over the last week have been numerous, and we’ve turned out supporters for at least five events.

Colorado Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet have proven they care about the climate crisis and understand the benefits of transitioning to clean energy. Both voted to protect Clean Air Act authority to regulate carbon emissions (i.e., opposed Sen. Murkowski’s 'Dirty Air Act' resolution) and both expressed their disappointment in written statements for the Senate's failure to pass a comprehensive climate and clean energy bill. Sen. Udall was also pushing hard for inclusion of a national Renewable Energy Standard (RES) through an online petition that garnered over 2,500 signatures. So we’re giving them our thanks for these actions and encouraging them to be even stronger leaders on these issues when they’re back in Washington.

Volunteers (including my daughters pictured below) showed up for a kick-off rally for Sen. Bennet’s 24-hour Colorado tour with signs thanking him for being a climate and clean energy champion and urging him to keep fighting for a real climate bill. As Sen. Bennet emerged from his tour bus, he made a bee line straight for my little ones, gave them hugs, read our signs (we were the only ones there with signs other than the standard campaign signs), and then nodded his acknowledgment.

Micah's daughters

Sunday night there was a house party for Senator Bennet at the home of one of our local Boulder City Council members (a serious climate champion who just led our Council to vote against renewing another 20-year franchise agreement with our local energy provider, and instead to forge our own clean energy future). Several other locals working on climate and clean energy issues joined me and the crowd as we congregated in the back yard with a magnificent view of our city nestled against the mountains.

I was noticing that Sen. Udall was also there when I heard someone say “Hi Micah, thank you for coming!” (we had on name tags) and I turned to see Sen. Bennet reaching out to shake my hand. We launched into a conversation about the need for a real climate and clean energy bill, and I thanked him for his votes on the Murkowski “Dirty Air Act” and his statement of disappointment following the Senate’s failure on a climate vote and asked for his prognosis on passage of a climate and clean energy bill. He talked about the need for filibuster reform, the potential for green jobs development, and how that needs to be talked about more.

Then the party hosts urged everyone down to the lower part of the garden so we could listen to our senators address us. During Q&A, I took the opportunity to publicly thank four of our leaders present -- two city council members who had voted that week to pursue a clean energy future for Boulder and of course our senators -- for their recent actions, and I encouraged them to fight hard for a real climate bill when they return to D.C.

Both senators responded. Sen. Bennet reiterated his points to me earlier and pointed out the wind turbine in the distance saying he had done a campaign commercial in front of it. He spoke with facts and figures about how Americans developed solar photovoltaic technology, but last year China surpassed us in manufacturing them and sales. In short, we’re missing this economic opportunity and our share of the growing market. Sen. Udall talked about climate impacts we’re seeing in Colorado -- pine beetles devastating our forests, drought, wildfires -- and about how Colorado’s RES has created thousands of jobs and how we could see this across the nation with a greater emphasis and investments in clean energy. I approached him afterward to thank him additionally for his work for a national RES. He said that the connection must be made abundantly clear that those who oppose climate and clean energy legislation are keeping our nation dependent on foreign oil -- a fact that not many would condone, despite their political persuasions.

Lastly, Sen. Bennet’s key energy and environment staff members invited representatives of Colorado’s conservation community for an informal discussion at a local brewery Thursday night. It was really nice having a chance to discuss the issues we all care so much about in a relaxed setting, and the invitation was another confirmation of Sen. Bennet’s and his staff’s commitment to environmental protection.

The take home message is that we are doing the right things: building the grassroots’ and community leaders’ vocal and visible support for climate action. All of our leaders need to hear from us loud and clear that we find ourselves in the middle of a real crisis of whether or not our planet will continue to sustain life as we know it. The impacts of the decisions made by our leaders now are enormous. On the flip side, if we pass policies to encourage renewable energy technologies and deployment, our economy will benefit, good jobs will be created, and our nation will be more secure. A real, visible climate movement, demonstrated by shadowing activities thanking the best and spanking the worst with “oily hands”, emboldens the best of our leaders to advocate with greater strength to their colleagues for action, shames and puts the fear of political consequences into the worst, and ultimately builds votes for real climate and clean energy legislation.

So this month, let’s all be on the lookout for opportunities in our communities to attend events with our senators and representatives. If you hear of an event, please spread the word to other "Shadow Squad" members in your area. Here are some good tips for finding events in your area (.pdf). You can often make a comment and ask a question during Q&A sessions or simply approach the senator(s) directly before or after the event to shake hands and express your thoughts. For some public events, holding signs or wearing t-shirts with climate and clean energy themes are also appropriate and good ways to visibly get our message out. Thanks to everyone out there who’s continuing to fight for climate solutions and a clean energy future -- it’s only through our persistence in building this movement that we’ll succeed!

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