Affecting Climate Change by Getting Involved
We need not feel hopeless when it comes to climate change, because each of us has the power to shape our policies and our future if we use it. Here are some ways to get involved, whether we have 10 minutes to an hour a day or even 10 hours a week to support issues that matter.
Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS, ucsusa.org) puts rigorous, independent science to work to solve our planet’s most pressing problems. Joining with people across the country, this nonpartisan group combine technical analysis and effective advocacy to create innovative, practical solutions for a healthy, safe and sustainable future. Their Chicago office empowers scientists, volunteers and partner organizations to advocate for clean energy and climate action. Here’s how individuals can make a difference.
10 minutes: Sign up for alerts on how to support science and clean energy on the Union of Concerned Scientists website. Scientists can join the Science Network and use their unique voice to support climate action. UCS supporters and scientists helped pass the Future Energy Jobs Bill, bringing more than $12 billion in clean energy investment to Illinois while halving carbon emissions from power generation and working to stop a proposed subsidy for polluting Dynegy coal plants last year.
One hour: Vote for candidates that support climate solutions. Make sure to register to vote, know where the polling place is and mark the Illinois primary election on March 20 and the general election on November 6 on the calendar. A quick Google search will help find candidates that support action on climate change.
10 hours a week: Get active in the climate movement. Contact UCS about bringing an advocate or scientist to talk to a local community group. Consistently call local, state and federal elected officials about important climate bills; these calls matter. Ask friends and family if they’re voting and calling their elected officials, too. Getting friends involved is an important and fun way to multiply our impact.
Moms Clean Air Force (MomsCleanAirForce.org) is a nonpartisan community of over 1 million moms and dads united against air pollution and the urgent crisis of our changing climate to protect our children’s health. Kelly Nichols, Midwest organizer for Moms Clean Air Force, works with supporters in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota, and shares ways to become involved.
10 minutes: Busy people can have an impact, even with limited time. Visit their website to sign petitions and become a member. The petitions will go straight to elected officials. Members receive updates on easy actions to protect clean air and the planet we love. Take a few minutes to follow the organization on social media to get updates on those platforms.
One hour: Do research relating to climate and clean air, and check out the stances of our elected officials from local mayors to our senator in Washington, D.C., to see how they are taking on those issues. Then write an actual pen-to-paper letter. If they are doing great things, say thank-you and ask for more. If they are doing things that we feel need to be different, let them know that, too. Telling our elected officials, “Here’s what I care about and why,” is critical, and part of being an active, engaged citizen. “If showing up is more fun, go to the elected official’s office or attend a meeting or event with an organization you’re passionate about,” says Nichols. Don’t forget to bring a friend; it’s important to grow the movement to make an impact for change.
10 hours a week: Host a house party for Moms Clean Air Force. Gather friends, set up some snacks and reach out to Nichols for help in planning. It doesn’t need to be at a home; do it at school as a part of a PTA meeting or at a church or library. This year, Moms Clean Air Force is working on the Moms and Mayors program, an outreach that encourages women to get engaged in local government and hold local leaders accountable on the environment and climate.
League of Women Voters of Illinois (LWV, lwvil.org) is a nonpartisan political organization that encourages informed and active participation in government, increased community understanding of major policy issues and influencing public policy through education, advocacy and coalition building. Those that join also become members of local, state, national and multi-state leagues, like the LWV Lake Michigan Region. Addressing climate change is a major priority for members on local, state, regional and national levels. Hilary Denk, co-chair of the League of Women Voters of Illinois (LWVIL) Issues and Advocacy Committee, shares ways to channel our interests:
10 minutes: Follow instructions and use talking points on a LWVIL Time For Action alert to communicate with legislators about a specific position. Read monthly emails from LWVIL with reports from issue specialists that analyze legislation. Sign an online petition for action, and add a personal story to make it more likely to be read. Share articles and petitions on social media with short statements about why we care about climate change.
One hour: Attend a local public meeting of a village council or environmental commission as a member of the League Observer Corp and report back to the local League and the public about what’s being done to address climate issues. Join a committee that meets monthly to plan local actions and educational events focused on environmental concerns. Have coffee with friends to tell them about our concerns and share suggestions for ways they can make a difference.
10 hours a week: Sign up for training, such as on the watershed project or to become an advocate in the campaign to ban coal tar locally. “These are two League projects that help preserve the health and safety of your water,” says Denk. “The trainings prepare you to work with others in your community to educate and advocate locally.” Set up meetings with local school board, park district board and city council members to discuss how they are addressing climate issues. Connect them with resources and plan local events for the public that highlight their good work.
Whether we have a few minutes a week or few hours, engaging with local organizations is easier than ever, and the impact has a real ripple effect. Even with a busy schedule, we can always support any of these organizations with a financial contribution.
J.C. Kibbey is the Midwest outreach and policy advocate for the Climate & Energy program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, in Chicago. For more information, email JCKibbey@ucsusa.org or visit uscusa.org.