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Taking action

by Jane Bender, Board Member, The Climate Center

“I am asking you to believe. Not in my ability to bring about change—but in yours.”

I was surfing the internet for something else when I ran across these words from President Obama’s 2016 farewell speech to the nation.    

Upon hearing these words, a lump rises in my throat and joy seizes my chest. Obama is asking me to join the millions who have brought about change throughout history. And, although he doesn’t say it in his speech, I feel he is speaking to me about the biggest crisis facing humanity today—climate change. 

I look at past social changes and imagine the people who participated. In their time, change must have seemed just as huge, just as daunting, and the opposition just as loud and overpowering. 

The American Anti-Slavery movement of 1833 was a religious and social movement with hundreds of people risking their lives to help end slavery. Slavery was perhaps even more embedded in their society than fossil fuel technology is in ours today. The end of free labor was not an easy sell.

Likewise, sharing power through the vote was not something most men wanted to do in the 1880s. During the Women’s Liberation Movement women suffered terrible ridicule and abuse as they stood up and demanded change. But they won us the vote in 1920.

I would add to this list the Civil Rights Movement. While it had Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to inspire and lead, he was just one man. Ultimately, change came because every day men and women stood up to dogs, fire hoses, and hatred. Change came because children walked into schools through throngs of jeering, angry protests. Every day people standing up to the predominate power of the day brought about the Civil Rights Act. It certainly didn’t eradicate racism, but it is the legal foundation of a better society still in the making and it has made a difference for millions of people.

One of the predominate powers of today is the fossil fuel industry, which is supported daily by all of the miles we drive in our cars. If we really want to address the largest injustice of this time – the injustice of man-made climate change – we have to take a stand, just like people of the past have done. 

It’s our turn. We must begin phasing out our fossil-fueled vehicles and replace them with electric cars. Many countries, including China, have already announced plans to do so. California reduced its emissions two years ahead of its goal, but our transportation emissions continue to climb and still represent roughly half of all of our emissions.

California is now the 5th largest economy in the world. What we do matters and other states and countries will follow us. 

At The Climate Center we are committed to ending the reign of the fossil fuel industry. We will let you know our plans as they unfold in the next month or so. And we will need you with us all the way.  So stay tuned.