Five years ago today, I completed my first training with The Climate Reality Project. On August 1, 2013, I stepped out of the Chicago convention center and back into a world I suddenly saw completely differently, equipped with my green circle pin and a certificate for completing what would be my first training with the nonprofit climate education organization founded by Nobel Laureate and former US Vice President Al Gore.
In that world, I was new. Really new. My background wasn’t in environmental science. I was an introverted graphic artist with a journalism degree who worked for a nonprofit community service agency in rural Wisconsin. I was just about as far as you could get from being a seasoned member of the environmental movement. But even before the training I knew enough to recognize what we’ve been doing to our planet.
I found The Climate Reality Project by accident. I was searching online for sites about severe weather and storm chasing, inspired by my lifelong interest in weather. (Give me a strong, window-rattling [non-destructive] thunderstorm just about any time—bonus points for hail or lightning that turns the dark of night into broad daylight for a beat.) My searches returned all the links you’d expect to find, plus one that caught my inner journalist’s eye: “24 Hours Of Reality: The Dirty Weather Report.”
To me, the annual “24 Hours Of Reality” broadcast is a bit of an unsung hero in Climate Reality’s catalog of actions. It highlights climate issues time zone by time zone. No matter where you live, the program brings it home. It makes the climate crisis real. It makes it urgent. It makes it solvable. (2018’s broadcast, “24 Hours Of Reality: Protect Our Planet, Protect Ourselves,” will air online from 9 p.m. EST on December 3 to 9 p.m. EST on December 4. Keep your eyes open for a watch party near you. Do you want a taste? View the first hour of the 2017 broadcast here.)
That 2012 broadcast was a catalyst. At the time, I had no idea how stumbling across the link would affect me and my life. It was “24 Hours Of Reality” that led me to The Climate Reality Project, its wealth of well-researched climate facts, and the application for the upcoming training happening just a few hours away from where I lived. I could simply say that the rest is history. But there was a lot of reading and thinking and option-weighing before I applied for the Chicago training. Who was I to spend 3 days at a climate training? Would they even accept a creative like me when they surely had their pick of scientifically-minded applicants? How much of a difference could I possibly make from my red-state town of 10,000? And surely my family’s history of gas station ownership would disqualify me, right?
My answer was basically this: I am me, and I’m applying. Each of us brings our own value to this cause, and the most important qualification is the commitment to raising awareness and sharing strong, timely information about the climate crisis and its solutions. Trainees learn to deliver the most up-to-date version of the slideshow featured in the films “An Inconvenient Truth” and “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power” directly from Mr. Gore. Then these trained volunteer climate leaders pledge to complete at least 10 acts of leadership each year they’re active in the organization, and they have the support of a mentor, a fantastic staff, and countless other resources.
My connection with The Climate Reality Project has made the five years since my first training incredibly rewarding, fulfilling, educational and eye-opening. I am profoundly grateful to the tireless team that drives the organization and to the donors who make it possible. I’m part of a network of people working passionately and feverishly to solve the climate crisis. I have met and worked with amazingly dedicated climate advocates, heard the latest climate news directly from experts in the field, and even met Mr. Gore. Inspiration, collaboration and hope are abundant.
Later this month I will be mentoring at The Climate Reality Leadership Corps training in Los Angeles. It will be my fourth training and third as a mentor. Then soon we’ll learn where The Climate Reality Project will train its next class of climate leaders. That’s your chance to take the leap and join this amazing network. Apply. Fight like your world depends on it. Because it does.
Disclaimer: I’m a passionate volunteer for The Climate Reality Project, but not a staff member or spokesperson. Opinions expressed here are my own.