Want to Change the World? Then Start a Climate Change Group

by Brian Ettling

Brian EttlingIt’s Thanksgiving.  What I am most thankful?  I started two climate change groups: St. Louis, Missouri and southern Oregon. I am even more grateful for Larry Lazar and Susan Bizeau.  The truth is that I would have started ZERO climate change groups without them.  The credit really goes to them for all their hard work.  I was just extremely lucky to be at the right place and right time when they said YES.

LARRY LAZAR. I first met Larry at a St. Louis Science Center lecture in April, 2011.  We both knew we wanted to take some kind of action on climate change when we met, but we were not sure what it should be. We stayed in contact that summer when I returned to my seasonal ranger job at Crater Lake National Park, Oregon.  That October, we started meeting regularly at Starbucks for breakfast to brainstorm ideas.  One morning, Larry announced, “Brian, I am thinking about creating a climate change meet up group.  Would you be interested in joining me?”

I jumped at the idea!  Larry immediately had me go to www.meetup.com to get my own account and become the first member of the St. Louis Climate Reality Meet Up.

Our group meets monthly with a designated speaker to teach us about climate change.  Because of my seasonal job at Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, I am gone six months of the year.  Larry has done amazing job in my absence of holding the group together. Larry does this by scheduling top climate scientists and communicators from across America to speak to our group via Skype, such as Scott Mandia, Dr. Michael Mann, John Cook, Peter Sinclair, science comedian Brian Malow, Paul Beckwith, etc.

As a side note, I met my girlfriend Tanya through our meet up as she was attending our meetings from January 2012.  Hence, I also have Larry to thank for being an accidental matchmaker.  Even more, my advice now for single people looking for to date: Become an activist and start a meet up group!    

CAROL BRAFORD. One person who came to our Climate Reality meetings was Carol Braford, St. Louis group leader with Citizens Climate Lobby.  Carol Braford was very persistent with me that I should come to a monthly Citizens Climate Lobby conference call.

When I finally came to Carol Braford’s house in April, 2012 for a Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL) monthly conference call, I was extremely impressed CCL.  I love their mission to empower individuals to effectively lobby their Congress to pass a carbon fee and dividend.

Various groups from North America called into the conference call: Atlanta, New York, Chicago, San Diego, San Francisco, Toronto, Phoenix, Minneapolis, Albuquerque, Madison, Seattle, and new groups in Portland and Eugene, Oregon.   I immediately thought: Why isn’t southern Oregon represented?  At the close of the meeting, I boldly told Carol that I was going to establish a CCL group in southern Oregon.

When I returned to Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, in May 2012, I persistently sent out over 50 messages to locals in Ashland, Oregon to see who who could help me create a local CCL group.  In late June, I made breakthrough when I was exchanging messages with local southern Oregon resident, Susan Bizeau.

In December, I received an e-mail from Amy Hoyt Bennett, Director of Operations for Citizens Climate Lobby.  She wrote: “I wanted you to know we are headed to a CCL group start workshop in Medford, Oregon on Jan 14!  I am planning this with Susan Bizeau. YAY! Thanks for all your help.”

SUSAN BIZEAU. Ever since I first met Susan in person in August 2012, I have been so impressed with her.  With Susan’s tenacity, persistence, and great organization skills, she was able to get a Citizens Climate Lobby group up and running during the beginning months of 2013.  This whole time, I could not wait to return to southern Oregon to see my new group.

When I returned to work at Crater Lake, Oregon in May 2013, I attended my first Citizens Climate Lobby meeting in Ashland, Oregon on Saturday, June 1st. I was blown away to see 16 people at this meeting!  Susan and I developed a great rapport.  She really challenged me as an activist to write opinion editorials.  As a result, in September and October, I had six op-eds published in Oregon newspapers on the impact of climate change on Crater Lake and the need for a carbon fee & dividend.

Thank you Larry Lazar, Carol Braford and Susan Bizeau for being fabulous leaders and great friends! You helped me manifest one my favorite quotes:

“Leaders don’t create followers; they create more leaders.”  — Tom Peters, business-management writer.

Brian Ettling is a winter resident in St. Louis, MO and a seasonal park ranger at Crater Lake National Park, Oregon. He co-founded Climate Reality-St. Louis Meet Up. He is co- leader of the local St. Louis group of Citizens Climate Lobby. Brian blogs at begreenstartingnow.blogspot.com. He can be reached at b.green.ettling@gmail.com.

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