When I was growing up, I would watch people complaining on the news about some issue saying that “someone should do something about it.” It frustrated me that there was never any sense of who or what they should be doing. There was always the implication that we are all happy to complain about things but never willing to step up and be the person who took action. Although I have been deeply saddened by the way we treat the natural world since I was a child, the “moment” where I realised that I was expecting someone else to do something about it and that I needed to really step up my involvement was in 2016 with the UK EU referendum vote (Brexit) and the election of Donald Trump in the US. It was a moment I recognised that we were moving in a direction that could potentially derail what I perceived to be progress towards increasing environmental protections. Since then, I have come to realise that maybe these events were gifts – that previously we had been sleepwalking under the illusion of someone doing something. Now it was perhaps clear to a much wider audience that our systems were still answering to powerful lobbies rather than the ordinary people they were supposed to serve, regardless of who was at the helm or however good their intentions.
In October 2021 I attended the 48th Climate Reality Leadership Corps training. The Climate Reality Project was founded by former US vice-president Al Gore in 2006. So far they have trained over 36,000 individuals around the world on the science behind climate change so that these trainees can then go out into their businesses and communities to raise awareness and to pressure policymakers to make choices that help with the climate crisis. Many of the Climate Leaders have achieved some really impressive impacts, including preventing the opening of new coal mines, building community actions and engaging with the general public in many different ways from reaching out to schools to media appearances.
I found the concept of training to be a “leader” more than a little daunting. I do not see myself as an expert or a natural leader and I am more than a little conscious of the huge wisdom and experience of others. It felt a little arrogant and delusional to think that I could step forward as a leader, but maybe being a “someone” who does something about the causes and effects of climate change within my little corner of the world is a form of leadership.
The training took place over a week, with live presentations on both days of two weekends followed by small group discussions. I was particularly impressed with how up-to-date the presentations were and how impactful. With recent examples such as the flooding and heatwaves in Europe and all around the world, it felt relevant.
In addition there were videos concerning building the skills to communicate climate science and more detailed discussions on certain aspects of climate change. The time investment was fairly intense and attendees are asked to commit to undertaking some of the “12 Acts of Leadership” which includes presentations, blogs, contacting influencers, meeting Climate Leaders, creating resources, outreach, participating in an event, media appearances and so on.
The training also provided a fantastic opportunity to meet new people also training as Climate Leaders. Within my small group everyone was relatively local to me. In the larger sessions, it was fantastic to see so much representation from all around the world with attendees from the Philippines, Nigeria, Uganda, the USA, India and many, many more. Whilst there were some attendees who work in sustainability and environment-related businesses, many were attending as parents, teachers and generally concerned citizens, looking for ways to get involved.
There were lots of statistics and facts that were new to me – apparently fossil fuel companies have tripled their investments in renewables and carbon capture and storage to just 4.1% of their total investments. Meanwhile, they are focused on transitioning from the burning of fossil fuels to the production of plastics. Global energy subsidies total $143bn while fossil fuels still attract 42 times as much at $6 trillion.
There was a strong focus in the main presentations on the technological solutions that are available to us in terms of renewable energy and electric vehicles, however this was balanced in the discussions with conversations around circular economies, changes in mindset and the vital role of nature. There was also a very strong element of climate justice and the importance of ensuring the participation and the rights of indigenous people are included in global policy. It was really hopeful to see so many participants from so many different countries and to hear discussion around the decolonisation of climate work. If I am honest, I would have liked to have had more emphasis too on the change of mindset and shifts to fairer economies, but I also understand the need to meet people where they are and transition together.
Overall, the training was excellent. It struck the right balance between the urgency of the climate crisis and ensuring that participants were left feeling hope rather than despair and it certainly is hopeful seeing so many people from around the word stepping up to help. There were plenty of good news stories, like the rapid increase in adoption of renewable energy technologies along with the decreasing costs and the commitments to reducing emissions by more than 50% by 2030. Perhaps the most hopeful and empowering message that I heard was from Red Constantino who said that “everyone counts and everyone matters.” I hope that you also feel inspired to be a “someone” who does something about the climate crisis. If so, you might consider signing up for the next training or reaching out using the form below to find ways that we can act together or to be signposted to options that fit for you.