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  • Writer's pictureMolly Keehn

Focusing Attention on Climate Action

Updated: Apr 18, 2023

Join us in increasing our attention and focus on this critical issue as we consider creating a CoJourn for Climate Action program. Interested? Let us know here!


For the past decade I have tried (without much success) to pay attention to the issue of climate change. I watched Al Gore break the news in "An Inconvenient Truth" back in 2006. I read some articles, talked about environmental justice in a few of my courses, and attended a march on Earth Day with my nephew. I spent many years in a doctoral program studying social justice education, and I thought, “well, I'm focusing my time and energy on oppression and liberation – I can’t tackle another big topic like climate change!” (despite the fact that they are very interconnected). Even when I tried, I found I wasn’t able to have much attention for the topic. It was just too overwhelming – too scary – too existential. I have learned that I am not alone in this, there is even a term for it! Eco-paralysis. It was easier to go on with my day-to-day life, happily recycling, trying to remember my reusable bags, donating to a couple of environmental organizations, and hoping that someone else was attending to the issue.

Fast forward to 2023, as we are beginning to see the impacts of climate change first-hand. Like many, I will never forget the images of people walking waist-deep in water, and trucks being swept away by flooding in Bangladesh and India, the kangaroos bounding away from the wildfires in Australia, or disturbing images of glaciers melting and crashing into the sea in Antarctica. Closer to home, I am also unsettled by stronger local storms, extreme heat waves, and buds growing on the tree outside my Massachusetts home in February. I am not a parent, but I have many young people in my life who I love dearly, and I keep wondering what I would tell them if they asked me what I had done to prevent the disaster they were about to inherit, the disaster which the March 2023 IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report says will “push the world to the brink of irrevocable damage that only swift and drastic action can avert.”

At around this time, I was approached by a Climate Activist who I know and respect, who encouraged me to consider applying the CoJourn model for peer support to the issue of climate change. He said, “you know CoJourn has worked with moving people toward their goals for wellbeing and for racial justice – why not apply it toward the biggest issue facing humanity today?”

That comment impacted me deeply. As I considered his suggestion, I realized that before I offered our peer-to-peer support program, CoJourn, as a resource to others for addressing climate change, I needed to pilot it on myself. I immediately shifted one of my current CoJourn partnerships to focus on climate change. It has only been eight weeks, but my capacity to engage with the topic has increased dramatically. I am noticing the more I become immersed in the issue and discover ways to take meaningful action, the more the below-the-surface existential dread has shifted. Turns out that taking action and sharing feelings about climate change does, indeed, relieve anxiety, which is something that 70% of Americans (particularly young people) have been struggling with.

This month, I focused on learning more about the issue, and also taking some outward action.

 

Learning


According to the environmental activist Greta Thunberg, “we need to rapidly spread awareness, because the general public still lacks much of the basic knowledge that is necessary to understand the dire situation we are in.” Because of my own lack of knowledge, a number of my CoJourn goals were connected to learning more about the issue, particularly the need for equity for the people in the areas most affected by climate change. Here are 3 examples of ways I have expanded my learning so far:


#1: Blogs


My first step was to return to a couple of climate-related blogs from people I know and respect that I had been following, but rarely making time to read.

This blog, by Russ Vernon-Jones, includes many short, accessible entries with crucial information about the topic of climate change. I appreciated its focus on hope, connection, and ways to talk to others about climate change.


This blog post, written by Kristi Perry, a past CoJourn participant (and a leader in the Sacramento chapter of 350.org) talks about how she used the CoJourn structure of intention-setting to move forward in her climate goals with courage and power. I also appreciated reading this 3-part series about moving from climate anxiety to climate action.


#2: Books

On a recent trip to Chicago, I resisted buying another psychological thriller, and instead got myself Greta Thunberg’s new book, “The Climate Book.” I dove right in, and have not been able to put it down. The book includes essays by over 100 leaders – scientists, historians, philosophers, economists and Indigenous leaders – all offering their expertise on the issue in an accessible way. It has given me a more comprehensive grounding on the topic as I think about my place in creating change. (And next up is Leah Penniman’s “Black Earth Wisdom”)


#3: Shows


I finally joined forces with my dad to watch the 2020 PBS special with David Attenborough, “Climate Change: The Facts. Watching the one-hour film together was a wonderful way to connect with him, and I found I had more ability to absorb the information because I had someone I loved to process it with.


I still have much to learn, but I finally feel as if I am getting my legs under me a bit with the topic.



 

Getting Involved


I realized that simply learning more about the issue of Climate Change is not enough, so I sought out a few concrete actions I could take.


#1: Attending a Protest


Right after I started to focus on Climate Change, I learned about a local march affiliated with a national day of action sponsored by Bill McKibben’s organization “Third Act.”


The purpose of this day of action was to increase awareness of the banks that are funding the Climate Crisis. I had not known that Chase bank was the #1 funder of fossil fuels worldwide, and I was grateful for a way to get involved and educate others about this. Apparently, as a result of public pressure, HSBC (the largest bank in Europe) recently announced it would no longer issue new loans to coal, oil, or gas products and would seek to invest $1 trillion in clean energy by 2030. This shows what a difference this type of public pressure can make!

I decided to invite some friends to attend the local march with me. I know that as I get more involved with the issue of climate change, I prefer to do it together with others. I had seven friends join me at the 200 person protest, and we were all surprised by how much fun we had, and how hopeful, inspiring, and connecting it felt.


#2: Changing My Credit Card

Another action that "Third Act" is calling for is to switch credit cards away from Chase (and other big banks that are funding expansion of fossil fuels) and pursue one of these Green credit card alternatives.

Though I love my Southwest Airlines card, it is offered through Chase, so I made a goal to look into these other cards and I opened one through Green America. I also sent an email to Chase, letting them know that I was planning to close my account because of their funding of fossil fuels.


Integrity is one of my core values, and it feels good to know that though I have a great deal to learn, and many more changes to make, I am one step closer to being in integrity with my role in this crucial moment in history on the planet.

 

Moving ForwardWant to join us?

We are considering creating a CoJourn for Climate Action pilot this summer / fall, so I wanted to pose a few questions to you:

  • Have you already used the structure of CoJourn to make goals connected to this issue? We would love to learn more about your experience!

  • Would you be interested in participating in a CoJourn For Climate Action program if we offer one?

  • Are you interested in being part of an advisory group for a program, or do you have ideas about potential program partners / sponsors?

If you say yes to any of these questions, please get in touch by filling out this form!

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