Jan 12, 2008

the climate project

i left san francisco last night and landed in DC this morning at 5.30am, checked in, showered, and then headed out to the climate project's DC area regional reunion. it's been about a year since the first climate project presenters were trained at session 1 in nashville, and this was billed as an opportunity for presenters on the east coast to get together and compare stories of a year in the field trying to change mindsets about climate change and spur people to action. i was attending at the last minute to share what i usually call the "how technology can help you tell the story and change the world" presentation which i'll get around to posting some time: a show-and-tell of how the new new media lets people tell powerful stories to big audiences and keep them constantly engaged. the hope was that we'd be able to figure out which of these tools resonated most with the presenters and then find some way of incorporating these into the training curriculum.

i had no idea what to expect when i showed up at the chevy chase village hall. it turned out to be about 70 people in weekend casual who had paid their own way to chevy chase from as far away as new brunswick in canada and boulder, colorado. they were deeply passionate about climate change education in a way that is entirely unlike anything i've seen before -- complex, multivariate causes like climate change only infrequently call forth this kind of devotion (i think they are too difficult to understand). after a 10-hour day, a small group went to dinner and i followed along. i haven't seen people as happy to be doing what they're doing in a long time.

winning a spot at a training session to become a presenter is tough. less than 5% of applicants make it to nashville but those 200 people in each training session come from a gratifyingly broad range of backgrounds. in this reunion (which gathered 70 out of about 1700 trained presenters worldwide), there was a high school senior, a professor at middlebury, an "IT Professional," several business types, doctoral candidates, teachers -- all of whom had paid their own way to nashville and who continue to spend time and money preparing presentations about climate change and delivering them to anyone who will listen. one woman from canada took a bus twelve hours into the boreal north, to the cree country, to present to a cree village. the elders didn't speak english and she had to be translated into cree as she went slide by slide through her presentation. they stumbled on images of penguins in the antarctic: the cree have no word for penguin. it was a surreal and dream-like image right out of star trek, of an envoy from the warming world traveling many hours to the north to tell of birds in the far south for which there are no words.

i heard paul hawken talk about blessed unrest last year at google. in it, he describes the tremendous and diffuse (hence nearly invisible) rise in movements in support of good causes -- as if the world has become a tremendous organism undergoing some kind of collective effervescence. as he puts it, "if you look at the science that describes what is happening on earth today and aren't pessimistic, you don't have the current data. if you meet the people in this unnamed movement and aren't optimistic, you haven't got a heart." it felt just like that.

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