A Moral Call to Action

Last week, I had the privilege of attending the Climate Reality Leadership Project conference in Atlanta, GA. The Climate Reality Project was founded by Former Vice President Al Gore in 2006, after he released An Inconvenient Truth, as a way to train individuals to speak about climate change within their communities. Since then over 19,000 individuals have attended this training and left armed with the tools to go forth and spread the word about climate change- including me! I promise I will do a post on that, but right now I want to focus on the experience of the training itself. BECAUSE IT BLEW ME AWAY.

Cheesing away at the beginning of Day One

Day 1: Pumped to meet new people! But also a little skeptical about the theme of the conference: a moral call to action. In my experience as an environmental economist, people are usually not moved by the “moral” arguments for climate change action. People are moved by the economic reasons- how climate change might affect their bottom line.To some degree, I guess you could say I had written off the moral arguments. It just never occurred to me that it would work. I was about to get schooled.

Pete Davidson showed up.. that was just weird.

Before we get into how I got schooled and who schooled me, I want to first apologize for not having better content for this blog. The Climate Reality project asked us to not record any of the sessions. But, as you can see, I couldn’t help that all the time… especially when Pete Davidson dropped by!

I want to warn people that it’s about to get a little political here. If you’re not here for that, then perhaps you should leave. I am not of the persuasion that scientists should keep their political opinions to themselves. If climate change weren’t a highly political issue, then I could be persuaded. It shouldn’t be one- again it’s a matter of physics. But climate change has been politicized, and therefore I feel an obligation to engage with it.

The one time it was actually ok to take a picture of Al Gore

I only have this one photograph of Al Gore that’s worth sharing. I wish I could convey to you how powerful Al Gore’s presentation was…the man is a force. He stood for three hours, with no notes and very little water, and presented the scientific case for climate change and its effects in one of the most comprehensive and understandable ways I’ve ever seen. And he completely disarmed me. The way he spoke, earnestly and righteously, about the structures and institutions that deliberately take advantage and harm poor people of all races, the way he called it wrong and racist— well, I’m used to politicians not telling it like it is. It was remarkable to hear one stand up for the people the government is supposed to protect. Politics aside, I think we can all agree our civil servants aren’t doing this enough.

Before I get into how I got schooled, I want to shoutout ALL of the incredible activists and leaders I got to hear from and interact with. I was moved deeply by all of them and I encourage you all to check out their work! A few people really stood out to me throughout this incredible experience. This list includes: Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock, Mary Crowe, Karenna Gore, LTG. Ret. Russel L Honore, Dr. Robert Bullard, Dr. Mustafa Santiago Ali, Cherri Foytlin, and Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson.

So back to how I got schooled. I’ll start by saying I feel that this Climate Reality conference was a true privilege to attend because of the moral call to action. The conference drew parallels between the current climate/environmental justice movement to the civil rights movement. And I just wasn’t expecting this. This feeling of being a part of something bigger than yourself, of unifying with people of all races, faiths, classes, and sexual orientations was unabashedly on display at an interfaith mass at Ebenezer Baptist Church- the church of Reverend Martin Luther King Sr. and Jr. This was the highlight of this conference for me…

The original Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Dr. King spoke

… and I originally didn’t want to go! I’m not a very religious person so the thought of voluntarily going to mass didn’t really appeal to me. But my lab mate who attended the conference with me convinced me to go. And I’m glad she did- because I would have missed the privilege of seeing the Reverend William J. Barber II. If you don’t know who Reverend Barber is, I encourage you to spend a few minutes with him on YouTube. I promise those minutes will not be wasted.

Reverend William J Barber at the pulpit of Ebenezer Baptist Church

Reverend Barber is a progressive activist, unifier, a master storyteller, and the pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, North Carolina. He is also the leader of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for a Moral Revival. He isn’t afraid to tell it like it is. He understands the pain of the racial divisions in this country- but he also knows we need to act in unity, in solidarity, to fix our broken political and economic system… and our planet. He calls this “fusion politics.” I’ll let you listen to him for a bit.


I apologize for the video quality here. As you can tell, I had to sneak this one but I couldn’t resist. I mean….he inspired me. Plain and simple. There was so much more I wish I could share with you. But his benediction filled my soul. It made me believe we could do this together. It made me come to terms with this fact climate change is a justice issue (both intergenerational and wealth) and I can’t ignore just some people aren’t moved by it. I was moved by Reverend Barber, and I believe others will be too.

Later on in the conference, I got to hear from Reverend Barber again. He continued to weave the connections between environmental justice, climate justice, social justice, and just JUSTICE. He proclaimed that we need to “mobilize the consciousness of the people, and not wait for messiah candidates.”

Messiah candidates aside, that’s exactly what ELEVATE is about! ELEVATING our consciousness together about what we need to do, and how we need to change in the wake of the climate crisis ( and the environmental and social crises) to rebuild our world. These crises do not exist separately. The solution to one is the solution to all… As we continue this journey together, I will help you understand how this all fits together, so please stay tuned.

Reverend Barber said ” American needs a new Reconstruction, we will be the builders of the new Reconstruction.” I say, “Let’s be ELEVATORS, together”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s