Published: Aug 18, 2012 07:00 PM
Modified: Aug 19, 2012 12:05 AM
On July 24 a team of North Carolinians arrived on Capitol Hill to talk about our countrys future.
Along with more than 150 others from the Citizens Climate Lobby, we were trying to meet in person with as many members of Congress as we could. No one was paying us a lobbyists salary; in fact, we had paid our own way for travel, lodging and meals. As residents of Durham and Carrboro, we were particularly glad to reach out to staff and legislators from five of North Carolinas 15 congressional offices.
One of our jobs was to talk about how a carbon tax and rebate program could create jobs, secure our nation and improve everyones health. But the more important task was to listen to what we heard from those senators, representatives and their aides. By listening, we were able to find out what values were important to each member of Congress and how they might support a program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
As concerned as we are about climate change, it can be easy to forget that even those we disagree with care about their friends and families just as much as we do. We had no illusions that we were going to reach some glorious meeting of the minds just by talking with each other. But we do know that when we talk to someone and recognize their humanity, there is a little more room for them to do the same for us. Thats all we promise in our discussions: we will be honest, fair and respectful. All we ask is the same in return.
Thats one ingredient in getting things moving in a better direction, but it isnt enough. One thing that became clear in all of our meetings is that Congress cares about what the voters in their districts think.
And thats what gives us hope.
You see, the day before we visited Congress, we heard from Anthony Leiserowitz, a social scientist from Yale. According to the most recent data that he and his colleagues have analyzed, 39 percent of U.S. adults are at a minimum concerned about climate change, meaning they think it is a serious problem that requires a serious national response.
In 2011, there were about 238 million adults in the U.S., so at least 92 million people are looking for serious change. Thats over 800 large football stadiums full of fans of climate progress. Even if not everyone agrees with us, we are far from alone.
So what should you do if youre one of the tens of millions of people who want the government to take a stand?
If you dont know how to start, find out who your representative is by going to house.gov
and entering your ZIP code in the box under Find your representative. Send them a message, in whatever way is easiest for you, saying you want Congress to take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It doesnt have to be long, it doesnt have to be eloquent and it doesnt have to refer to a current bill. It just needs to be from you.
If you still want something to do after that, start talking about climate change with people you respect: maybe your neighbors, maybe the people at your church or maybe officials in your local government. We know it can be hard to bring it up if you havent discussed it before, but all you need to do is follow the same rule that we did on Capitol Hill: be honest, respectful and fair.
You will often find that they do the same.
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