Monthly Archives: April 2023

For Climate Action, Reaching for Your Dreams

Brian Ettling speaking at the South County Toastmasters meeting at the Sunset Hills Community Center on April 19, 2023.

Below is the text of the speech I gave to the South County Toastmasters Club, where I was a member from 2011-2017. South County Toastmasters meets weekly at the Sunset Hills Community Center, located in south St. Louis County, Missouri.

“How many people here have a dream, a goal, a target that you want to accomplish? Raise your hand.

Here’s my story how I did that as an entertaining and inspiring public speaker.

‘Fine!’ I said, ‘If I could be anything, I would like to be the “Climate Change Comedian”!’

My friend Naomi nearly fell out of her hear laughing and responded: ‘That great! I would like you to go home and grab that website domain right now!’ I went home immediately and bought the domain,

Screenshot PowerPoint image from the talk Brian Ettling gave at South County Toastmasters on April 19, 2023.

This event happened in Ashland, Oregon in the fall of 2009. At that time, I was housesitting for a friend and unsure what to do with my life. At that point, for seventeen years, I worked as a seasonal park ranger at Crater Lake National Park, Oregon in the summers and Everglades National Park, Florida in the winters. I absolutely loved every minute of standing in front of an audience giving ranger talks in these iconic places sharing about nature.

In 1998, I started giving ranger talks in Everglades National Park. Visitors then asked me about this global warming thing. Visitors hate when park rangers tell you, “I don’t know.” Visitors expect park rangers to know everything. Don’t you?

Soon afterwards, I rushed to the nearest Miami bookstore and to the park library to read all I the scientific books I could find on climate change.

Ranger Brian Ettling giving a ranger talk at Crater Lake National Park July 2015.

The information I learned really scared me, specifically sea level rise along our mangrove coastline in Everglades National Park. Sea level rose 8 inches in the 20th century, four times more than it had risen in previous centuries for the past three thousand years. Because of climate change, sea level is now expected to rise at least three feet in Everglades National Park by the end of the 21st century. The sea would swallow up most of the park and nearby Miami since the highest point of the park road less than three feet above sea level.

It really shocked me that crocodiles, alligators, and beautiful Flamingos I enjoyed seeing in the Everglades could all lose this ideal coastal habitat because of sea level rinse enhanced by climate change.

A photo by Brian Ettling of the wild Flamingos in Everglades National Park. Photo taken in 1999

However, climate change is not just bad for wildlife. It’s also bad for people.

Over the past 10 years, the evidence is mounting for what is now called ‘sunny day flooding.’ This is flooding from ocean water showing up on Miami streets during the highest tides or what’s called ‘king tides’ of the year.

I shared this image in my last South County Toastmasters speech in January 2017. Highlighted in yellow are all the coastal counties in the United States. On the west coast, you can see the coastal counties of Washington state, Oregon, including Multnomah County where my wife Tanya and I live. You also have the coastal counties of Texas and Louisiana, which is highlighted in red because of a very high danger there. Then you have Florida. And on the east coast, just to name a couple of states you have North Carolina, New York, and Maine. National Geographic projects up to a 6-foot sea level rise by the end of this century. I am only 5 feet and 8 inches tall, so this would be higher than me. A 6-foot sea level rise would displace up to tens of millions of Americans who live in these coastal counties.

Image Source, “Americans in Danger From Rising Seas Could Triple,”, March 14, 2016

I became so worried about climate change that I quit my winter job in Everglades National Park in 2008. I moved back to St. Louis in the winters to give speeches and organized about climate change. However, up until 2017, I still worked my summer job Crater Lake National Park. I loved the incredible beauty there and wearing the ranger uniform with pride while engaging with park visitors.

As I was in the process of making the transition from park ranger to climate change organizer, I leaned upon my experience as a park ranger. As a park ranger, I learned two lessons with engaging with audiences.

First, as I shared before, people expect park rangers to know everything.

The second lesson I learned is that visitors want a sense of humor. They don’t want rangers to take ourselves too seriously. They want us to have fun.

Brian Ettling at Crater Lake National Park. Photo taken in August 2016.

As a result, I had to create some of my own jokes as a park ranger, such as:

‘What did one continental plate say to the other after the Earthquake?’

Any guesses?

‘It’s not my fault!’

Yes, I will admit that joke is a bad dad joke groaner.

So, recently my friend and fellow Toastmaster Susan McConnell asked me: ‘Brian, why the title of “Climate Change Comedian?”’

The answer, Susan, honestly comes from Toastmasters.

I once heard a story in Toastmasters that one Toastmaster turned to another Toastmaster to ask: ‘Do I need to be funny to be a professional speaker?’

And the answer is: ‘Only if you want to get paid!’

Seriously, does anyone know where this picture was taken?

Creve Coeur Park in west St. Louis County, Missouri. Photo taken by Brian Ettling on January 1, 2016.

This photo was taken on January 1, 2016, New Year’s Day, at Creve Coeur Park, less than two miles from where my in-laws live. It is where my wife, my in-laws, and I like to go hiking a lot, but not that day.

Does anyone know where this picture was taken?

This was taken just west of Lambert International Airport (in the St. Louis area) on June 7, 2019, when the St. Louis Blues hockey team were in the Stanley Cup Finals. Believe it or not, I was not visiting St. Louis at that time. I was flying across country from Portland, Oregon to Washington D.C. and I just had a layover in St. Louis. As we were coming into Lambert, I could not believe the water everywhere from the flooding that was happening at the time. The white dots you are seeing in the picture is actually farmhouses. It really shocked me to see this.

Photo by Brian Ettling taken just west of Lambert International Airport in St. Louis, Missouri on June 7, 2019.

From my experience of seeing climate change in the Florida Everglades, my hometown of St. Louis Missouri, and in my adopted home of Crater Lake, Oregon, I wanted to educate people about the threat and solutions to climate change using my plethora of experience as a park ranger to educate, entertain, and inspire an audience.

In the spring of 2010, a family friend named John helped me create the website,, which is still an active website to this day.

I started giving climate change talks locally in my hometown St. Louis area in 2011 when I joined South County Toastmasters. However, I felt I was not getting notoriety to make a name for myself nationally. To up my exposure, I created a YouTube video in February 2014, with my mom, Fran Ettling, titled, “Climate Change Comedian and the Pianist!”

In April 2016, Comedy Central’s TV show Tosh.o noticed this YouTube video. They flew my mom and me out to Los Angeles to appear on a videotaping to be interviewed by the host Daniel Tosh. The TV show aired nationally on the Comedy Channel on August 2, 2016. Do some of you Toastmasters remember that?

Brian Ettling and his mom Fran Ettling appearing on Comedy Central’s Tosh.o on August 2, 2016.

To this day, appearing on Comedy Central’s Tosh.o was one of the highlights of my life. It was a dream come true for me to talk about climate change using humor on national TV to be seen by millions of people.

As the Climate Change Comedian, I did not know how I would top that appearance on the show, nor did I have ambition to top that appearance. The Tosh.o appearance and the title of Climate Change comedian felt like it opened some doors for me. As a with my background as a park ranger, Toastmaster, and Climate Change Comedian, I was was able to reach my dreams to give over 200 climate change talks in 12 U.S. states, Ottawa Canada and Washington D.C. over the past 12 years. Tosh.o even invited me to be back on this show on November 10, 2020.

Screenshot from Brian Ettling’s Powerpoint of all the places in North America where he has given a climate change talk.

However, during 2020-21 COVID Pandemic, I did not feel like doing Climate Change Comedy. It was heavy times we were living in. So, the last three years, I switched to political organizing.

However, Robin Riddlebarger, Park Superintendent of Hanging Rock State Park, North Carolina sent me an email in May 2022.

Robin wrote: “Howdy! Stumbled upon your ( website as I was searching for inspiration about a guest for our annual conference of superintendents for North Carolina State Parks. I am organizing this year’s conference.…We want this conference to be inspiring and refreshing instead of depressing like it usually is. I’d love to find out (if you could give) an in-person presentation to a bunch of crusty superintendents.”

This looked like a good opportunity to jump on, so I immediately emailed Robin back. I expressed an interest to speak to her group. In that email, I asked why they were interested in me as a speaker. Why me?

Robin’s response: “Myself and three other superintendents are brainstorming guest speakers that will inspire us. We found that we usually leave the conference feeling more burnt out than we were when we arrived. (We) are determined that this year will be different. We will at least learn something. Instead of listening to boring HR polices that could have been handled in an email.”

As a professional speaker and former park ranger, it seemed like a perfect fit for me. I then spent the next five months preparing for this talk. I flew out to North Carolina in November 2022.

Brian Ettling getting ready to give a climate change talk to the North Carolina state parks superintendents conference on November 14, 2022.

The North Carolina State Parks Superintendents Conference scheduled me to speak on November 14, 2022. My title for this talk: Our Parks: Places of fun, healing, and inspiration to change the world.

With her approval, I included Robin’s email to me in my PowerPoint why she thought I would be ideal to speak at this conference, ‘Instead of listening to boring HR polices that could have been handled in an email.’

When I shared Robin’s HR comment, it received the biggest laugh from the audience. The organizers of this conference joked about that line afterwards. They were still making jokes about dry HR presentations the next day.

It felt like I got my groove back with this talk. I was back to my old self before the pandemic of traveling to other states once or twice a year to give educational, entertaining, and inspiring climate change talks. I hope I will get more invitations like this in the future since I am a big step up from talks on “boring HR policies.”

I hope my story of how I became “The Climate Change Comedian” will inspire you to have fun saving the planet.

My involvement with South County Toastmasters from 2011-17, with help from folks in this room, enabled me to become a coast-to-coast paid speaker, giving talks from the Oregon Coast to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. In closing, there’s a classic expression in this club that ‘If Steve Winheim can do it …………anybody can do it.

Well, I’m here to say that if Brian Ettling can get paid to be a climate change comedian, you can reach your dreams.”

Brian Ettling speaking at the South County Toastmasters meeting at the Sunset Hills Community Center on April 19, 2023.

For Climate Action, attending Congressional Town Halls 

U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley with Brian Ettling at a town hall meeting in Clackamas, Oregon. Photo taken on March 7, 2020

Want to get the attention of your member of Congress to prioritize effective climate legislation? Then attend one of their town halls. According to Congressional staff and members of Congress, they pay very close attention to the issues and pending legislation that constituents engage with them at their town halls.

In February 2017, my wife Tanya Couture and I moved from St. Louis, Missouri to Portland, Oregon. At that point, I was involved in the climate movement for several years as a volunteer for Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) and a Climate Reality Leader. For several years, I was the CCL volunteer liaison for GOP Congresswoman Ann Wagner (MO-02).

This CCL liaison role involved organizing meetings with Congressional staff twice a year for the CCL lobby days in the Washington D.C. Plus, organizing a spring in district lobby meeting with Congressional staff. As CCL Congressional liaisons, we would let the Congressional staff know if a CCL member had a published letter to the editor or opinion editorial mentioning the member of Congress. We would alert the Congressional staff periodically on legislation we were supporting. In addition, we were available to answer any questions the members of Congress or the staff had about CCL’s policies or other ways we could be beneficial to them.

When Tanya and I moved to Oregon, I gave up my CCL volunteer role as liaison to Republican Rep. Ann Wagner. This liaison role was very challenging because climate change was not a high priority for Rep. Wagner. She co-sponsored Rep. Steve Scalise’s anti-carbon tax resolution and she bitterly opposed the Obama Administration’s EPA Clean Power Plan. It was going to be a huge lift for her to support any legislation supporting clean energy and CCL’s carbon fee and dividend proposal. At the same time, I love an impossible task. Even though I did not shift her position at all when I was her CCL liaison from 2013 to 2017, I still developed a positive rapport with her Washington D.C. and local Ballwin MO Office Congressional staff. I enjoyed that volunteer position and I did not give it up until several months after I moved to Portland.

Brian Ettling getting ready to lobby in the Washington D.C. office of U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner (MO-02).

Once I moved to Oregon, I wanted to new challenge. When Tanya and I moved to Portland, we became the constituents of Democratic U.S. Representative Earl Blumeneaur. At that time, Blumenauer did not seem like much of a challenge for me as a climate organizer. Climate action was a strong priority for him. He introduced his own carbon pricing bill in Congress in 2017. Even more, he joined the bipartisan House Climate Solutions Caucus, a safe space for Democratic and Republican members of the House to exchange ideas for climate policies and possible legislation. Oregon CCL already had a well-seasoned CCL liaison and even an assistant liaison for Rep. Blumenauer. Thus, I was going to need a new challenge.

Attending and asking a question at a town hall for Congressman Greg Walden

For 25 years, I worked as a seasonal park ranger at Crater Lake National Park during the summers. Crater Lake resided in Oregon Congressional District 2, represented by Republican Congressman Greg Walden. Oregon Congressional District two encompassed all eastern Oregon to the city of Bend and southern Oregon to the town of Grants Pass. Rep. Greg Walden accepted the science of climate change and proudly drove a Toyota Prius. At that time, he was the Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. That is a powerful committee in Congress overseeing our energy supply, electrical utilities, and business policies. It was a likely committee that a carbon fee and dividend policy or other vital policies to address climate change might end up being considered. I was part of a CCL lobby meeting with his Congressional staff in Medford, Oregon in 2013. I decided to focus my efforts on Rep. Walden to see if I could shift his position to support a carbon fee and dividend and other climate policies.

From looking at his Congressional website, I saw Rep. Walden had scheduled a town hall in The Dalles, Oregon late morning on April 12, 2017. The Dalles is a one-hour drive east of Portland, so I figured I could easily drive there and back during the day. I put out the word within Portland CCL to see if anyone would be interested in joining me. Retired NASA scientist and Portland CCL volunteer Kathy Moyd rode in my car with me to the event.

It was a dreary overcast Oregon winter day with light rain showers in Portland on the drive all the way out to The Dalles. It was a good day for an indoor event like a Congressional town hall. When Kathy and I arrived, there was several hundred people there to attend this town hall. I recognized one of Rep. Greg Walden’s staff from the Washington D.C. office from lobbying the previous November at his Washington D.C Congressional office as part of the CCL lobby day. She was friendly, as she was with all the constituents attending. She seemed to remember me.

The Dalles attendees at Rep. Greg Walden’s town hall on April 12, 2017. Photo by Brian Ettling

If we wanted to ask Rep. Walden a question, the staff member greeting folks at the welcome desk said that we needed to take a raffle ticket. I drove a long way to try to ask a question, so I did not want to miss out on that opportunity. I held onto that ticket tightly during the event. I stared at it frequently so I would not miss a chance to ask a question if my number was called.

The very large crowd was very agitated because Donarld Trump was elected President just a few months before and they really wanted to let Rep. Walden feel their rage. Walden gave the impression that he was not enamored with Trump. On immigration, he told the audience that he tried to explain to Trump that many farmers in his eastern Oregon district rely upon migrant undocumented workers. Thus, a guest worker program at the very least was vital for Oregon. Many members of the audience were very worried about losing Obamacare. There was a lot of booing from the audience over his positions, which made him nervous and uncomfortable.

The audience was very irritated with him overall. I could have asked him: ‘What do you think of rye bread? When was the last time that you ate it?’ If he would have responded like most of us: ‘Hmm…When I the last time I had rye bread? Trying to think here. I am not sure…”

The audience would have yelled, “Answer the question! Don’t deflect!”

That is how angry people were that day. A part of me did have compassion for Rep. Walden as I wanted to engage him on climate change.

Brian Ettling asking a question to U.S. Rep. Greg Walden at a town hall held for him at The Dalles, Oregon on April 12, 2017.

Towards the end of the town hall, my number was called. I walked up to the microphone in my part of this huge auditorium to ask this question:

“Thank you for coming today to this town hall meeting Rep. Greg Walden. We really do appreciate you holding this event. For the past 20 years, I have been a seasonal park ranger at Crater Lake National Park Oregon, where I have seen the impact of climate change with more intense wildfires and I know you care very deeply about Oregon’s forests, and a reducing snowpack which then provides less water for cities in Oregon. With climate change such a serious threat, are you familiar with Citizens Climate Lobby?”

Rep. Greg Walden: “Yes, I have met with them.”

Me: “Citizens Climate Lobby worked very hard to bring your fellow House members together for the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus. It now has 36 members, 18 Democrats and 18 Republicans, meeting to discuss climate change solutions. Would you consider joining this caucus?”

Rep. Greg Walden: “I have never heard of this caucus.”

Me: “I can get you information on this caucus. Even more, would you please consider co-sponsoring the House Republican Resolution 195 calling for climate action for House Republicans?”

Walden sighed and rolled his eyes at me. They then shared how Oregon has done a lot to reduce emissions. He then had a weird answer that according to the IPCC forest fires give off a big percentage of annual carbon emissions.

The audience booed when he made that last comment, causing him to walk it back a tad. Surprisingly, some of the audience then turned on him yelling: “Why won’t you join the caucus?”

I bet nobody in the audience had heard of the House Climate Solutions Caucus (CSC) before that town hall. It was fascinating to see them boo and shout back at Walden when he seemed very resistant to joining the CSC.

When it was over, a small crowd gathered around him to engage with him individually. I gave Kathy my camera to take pictures of me before I positioned myself to shake hands with him. Kathy got a good photo of us shaking hands.

Congressman Greg Walden shaking hands with Brian Ettling after a town hall for Rep. Walden in The Dalles on April 12, 2017.

Overall, this was a fabulous experience. Rep. Walden had town halls in Bend and Medford, Oregon on the following days. I conferred with CCL friends in Bend and the Medford area to encourage them to attend. I gave them my reconnaissance of what the crowd was like and how to position oneself to try to get your question asked during the town hall. Even more, I wanted to share the questions I asked and how he responded. I hoped that they would ask similar questions so Rep. Walden would find courage to make climate legislation a priority. Unfortunately, the crowds were extremely large. That reduced the chance of my friends getting a winning raffle ticket number to ask Rep. Walden similar questions to urge him to support climate legislation.

From that experience, I wanted to attend more Congressional town halls in the future. Even more, I hoped to inspire other climate advocates to attend Congressional town halls. It is a great way to urge members of Congress to support climate legislation and to bring attention to the issue to members of the community.

Asking U.S. Senator Ron Wyden a question during his town on February 15, 2019

Unfortunately, I would not have another opportunity to attend a Congressional town hall until 2019. After the Congressman Greg Walden town hall in The Dalles in April 2017, I became busy with other aspects of my climate organizing. I returned to work as a seasonal park ranger at Crater Lake National Park from May to October 2017. Several weeks later, I was the lead organizer and speaker for the CCL Oregon Stewardship Tour traveling for 12 days across eastern and southern Oregon at the end of October and beginning of November 2017. In June 2017 and November 2017, I traveled to Washington D.C. for the CCL Lobby Conferences and Lobby Days.

February 2018 to July 2018, I worked for Tesla Energy selling solar panels. In June 2017 and August 2018, I was a breakout speaker for Climate Reality Trainings in Bellevue, Washington and Los Angeles, California. July 2018, I started volunteering for Renew Oregon full time to help their efforts to try to pass their cap and invest bill, known as the Clean Energy Jobs Bill or HB 2020 in the 2019 Oregon Legislative session.

Brian Ettling lobbying at the Oregon state Capitol on March 6, 2020.

In October 2018, I embarked on a speaking tour across his home state of Missouri from October 8 to 17, 2018. During his tour, I spoke at My alma mater William Jewell College (class of 1992), University of Missouri in Columbia MO, St. Louis Community College, Oakville High School in St. Louis (I graduated from Oakville in 1987), and St. Louis University. In June 2018 and November 2018, I traveled to Washington D.C. for the CCL Lobby Conferences and Lobby Days. In addition, in the fall of 2018, I took on the volunteer role as the Program Manager to invite guest speakers and organize the monthly meetings of the Portland Climate Reality Chapter.

While taking all those climate actions, I signed up for the email newsletters for U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley of Oregon to see when I could attend one of their town halls. Since he became a U.S. Senator in 1996, Ron Wyden pledged open-to-all town meetings in each county in Oregon each year he serves in the Senate. As of April 2023, Wyden has held 970 meetings “where he refrains from speeches, listens to the concerns of Oregonians, and answers questions.” Since taking office in 2009, Senator Merkley has kept a similar promise to hold an open town hall for every Oregon county each year.

On November 27, 2018, the bipartisan Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives (H.R. 7173). CCL lobbied for years for a carbon fee and dividend policy bill to be introduced into Congress. On December 19, 2018, Republican Senator Jeff Flake and Democratic Senator Chris Coons introduced bipartisan U.S Senate companion bill to H.R. 7173. These bills died once the new Congress went into session on January 3, 2019. However, it felt vital to urge more U.S. Senators, such as Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, to support these bills in the next Congress. Attending one of their upcoming town halls was one of the best ways to get their attention to make a carbon fee and dividend bill a priority for them.

While receiving their email newsletters, I noticed Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden had nearby town halls at the beginning of January 2019. On January 2, 2019, I attended a town hall for Senator Merkley at the East Portland Community Center, located less than 4 miles from where I lived. Two days later, Senator Wyden had a town hall scheduled in Sherwood, Oregon at their Center for the Performing Arts. The town hall in Sherwood was about 34 miles away and close to a 45-minute drive from where I live in Portland, Oregon. I went both town halls.

Each town hall was packed with people. In fact, many people show up to ask questions or give comments to the Senators. As a result, each of these town halls had raffle tickets that were handed out by one of the Senator’s staff at the front door if one wanted to ask the Senator a question. During the town hall, individual ticket numbers were announced by a local elected official or VIP on the stage with the Senator. If an attendee had that exact ticket number, they would raise their hand to be seen by all. One of the Senator’s staff would then come to that audience member for them to speak into a portable microphone to ask the Senator a question.

I received a raffle ticket each time. However, my ticket number was not called for either of those town halls. I enjoyed attending to hear what each Senator had to say. I prepared questions that I wrote out urging each Senator to support the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (EICDA). I showed the questions in advance to Oregon CCL friends for their input and approval. My heart raced a bit each time a number was called hoping it would be my ticket, but I had no such luck at those town halls. Overall, I enjoyed attending. After attending those town halls, I kept an eye out for future town halls for Senators Wyden and Merkley in my area. I was determined to go to a future town hall to urge one of them to support the EICDA.

Even more, I was a bit disappointed that there were few climate advocates there, especially CCL volunteers. My goal was to motivate other CCL and Climate Reality advocates to attend Congressional town halls to increase the possibility that Senators Wyden, Merkley, or even the local members of Congress would support the EICDA.

Brian Ettling testifying before the Oregon Senate Environmental & Natural Resources Committee showing a message and picture of his parents to urge legislators to support the cap and invest bill in their committee. Photo from February 6, 2020.

The next local town hall that I noticed was for Senator Ron Wyden at the Portland Community College (PCC)) Sylvania campus Performing Arts Center on February 15, 2019. This was going to be a full day for me. I planned to spend the day at the state Capitol in Salem, Oregon. The Oregon Legislative Joint Committee on Carbon Reduction (JCCR) scheduled a public hearing for OR citizens to give oral testimony for their comments about the Clean Energy Jobs Bill (HB 2020). I signed up to give two minutes of oral testimony to the JCCR. This was the first time that I gave oral testimony to a legislative committee. To stay under the maximum allowed time of two minutes for oral testimony, I typed up my oral testimony before carpooling to Salem on Friday morning. My oral testimony before the Committee went well. It felt amazing to participate in our democracy as a climate advocate to testify before a legislative committee to urge legislators to support a strong and effective bill for climate action, such as the Clean Energy Jobs Bill.

My friend and fellow CCL volunteer KB Mercer gave me a ride to and from Salem that day. She did a wonderful job of testifying before the JCCR. After she completed her oral testimony, I began my testimony, joking, “Wow! That’s a tough act to follow!”

KB was very enthusiastic and helpful carpooling with me from Salem to the Senator Wyden town hall that evening in southwest Portland at the Sylvania Performing Arts Center on that PCC campus. Because it was a Friday evening, I talked my wife Tanya into attending this town hall and then giving me a ride back to our home.

When KB and I showed up to this town hall, it was an audience of mostly young people with the progressive climate group, Sunrise Movement. This grassroots organization advocated for The Green New Deal Resolution in Congress that was just introduced in Congress on February 7, 2019, by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Edward Markey. Many of these climate advocates attended with bright yellow signs that read, “WORK FOR A GREEN NEW DEAL.” The other side of their placard read, “WHAT IS YOUR PLAN?”

Audience at the town hall for U.S. Senator Ron Wyden held at the Portland Community College – Sylvania Campus on February 15, 2019. Tanya Couture, Brian Ettling’s wife, is in the lower left corner of this photo.

Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley were co-sponsors of the Green New Deal. The Green New Deal caused division among climate and environmental groups. On January 10, 2019, a letter signed by 626 organizations that supported a Green New Deal was sent to all members of Congress. The letter contained a statement that the signatories would “vigorously oppose…market-based mechanisms and technology options such as carbon and emissions trading and offsets, carbon capture and storage, nuclear power, waste-to-energy, and biomass energy.”

Statements like that caused six major environmental groups to not sign on the letter, such as the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Environmental Defense Fund, Mom’s Clean Air Force, Environment America, and the Audubon Society. It was noted that “Two green groups founded by deep-pocketed Democratic celebrities are also absent: Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project and Tom Steyer’s NextGen America.” In addition, CCL did not sign onto this letter since they were clearly advocating for a market-based solution. The EICDA was a carbon fee and dividend, market-based policy, to address climate change.

KB and I were clearly outnumbered by the Sunrise Movement volunteers dominating this event. My wife Tanya showed up before the town hall started to rendezvous with us. The three of us sat in the front row with a sea of yellow Sunrise Movement Green New Deal signs held up by a very enthusiastic audience behind us. When Senator Ron Wyden started the town hall acknowledging all the folks from the Sunrise Movement there and their support for the Green New Deal (GND). He acknowledged that he did sign as a co-sponsor to the resolution. However, he admitted to this audience that the resolution was unlikely to pass in this Congress. He referred to it as ‘a resolution with goals.’

Even more, the GND did not have the support of many Congressional Democrats. Senator Wyden tried to be realistic where the GND stood in Congress. The audience booed a bit and felt a bit frustrated with Senator Wyden. I understood though that Senator Wyden was walking a fine line of supporting what these constituents wanted with the Green New Deal and realizing what was possible to pass Congress with a Republican controlled Senate.

Like the previous town halls I attended, Senator Wyden’s staff issued raffle tickets to audience members interested in asking questions. My wife Tanya is the opposite of me. She does not like public speaking at a large event like that. Thus, she handed me her ticket, which doubled my chance of a question getting asked. Right before the event started, another audience member changed their mind about asking a question. They asked me if I wanted their ticket and I jumped at the opportunity to say, ‘yes!’

Like the Congressional town halls I attended, I had a question typed out and prepared to read. As the town hall progressed, I nervously kept staring at my three tickets to see if I one of my numbers was going to be possibly called this time. Senator Ron Wyden then announced, ‘Looks like our time is just about over and I have time for just one last question.’

The VIP at the front of the room announced the ticket number, which happened to be the same number as one of the tickets I held in my hand. I then raised my hand to say, ‘That’s me!’

Brian Ettling asking a question to U.S. Senator Ron Wyden at his town hall at Portland Community College – Sylvania Campus on February 15, 2019.

A member of Senator Ron Wyden walked up to where I was sitting and held a microphone just a few inches from my mouth. I tried to grab the microphone, but he was not going to let me have control of the microphone. Looking back, I totally understood afterwards why he did not want me to have possession of the microphone. Some of the people at these town halls would never give back the microphone. They would want to keep sharing their point of view with the Senator. When I understood afterwards what the staff member’s action, we laughed about it immediately after the town hall.

Once I could speak into the microphone, this is what I said:

“My name is Brian Ettling. I live in northeast Portland. For 25 years I was a park ranger at Crater Lake National Park, one of the most beautiful places on the planet. Sadly, I saw climate change while working there with a lower snowpack and more intense wildfire season. Because I am very worried about climate change, I now volunteer with Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Have you heard of them?

Senator Wyden responded that he had heard of CCL

I then continued: “They are a grassroots volunteer led organization lobbying Congress to pass the Energy Innovation & Carbon Dividend Act (HR 763). This bipartisan bill would lower climate pollution by 40% over 12 years, while growing the economy, creating jobs, and improving people’s health. Could you work with your colleagues, especially Senator Chris Coons to create a Senate companion bill for the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act?”

Senator Ron Wyden paused for a moment and then responded, “I have not heard about that bill. I will think about it. Please send me an email and talk to my staff that’s here this evening.”

Then Senator Wyden wrapped up the town hall. Afterwards, a couple of the Sunrise Movement folks approached to thank me for my question and briefly chat. A couple of members of Senator Wyden’s staff also approached me to briefly chat. I asked for one of their business cards. I did send a follow up email to the Field Representative of Senator Wyden two days later. I briefly explained about CCL and the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (EICDA). The Field Representative thanked me for my email and said she had a meeting on February 28th with Portland area CCL volunteers to discuss the bill.

U.S. Senator Ron Wyden speaking at his town hall at Portland Community College – Sylvania Campus on February 15, 2019

Although I did not successfully persuade Senator Wyden to support, introduce a Senate companion bill, or co-sponsor the EICDA, it still felt very empowering to ask him to support specific effective legislation to address climate change. It was my third town hall I had attended for U.S. Senator from Oregon in the first six weeks of 2019. It felt like the third time was the charm to promote the EICDA with a U.S. Senator and the local town hall audience.

Co-presenting about town halls as a Breakout Speaker at a CCL Conference

Directly asking Senator Ron Wyden to support a climate change bill at his February 2019 town hall felt like a glorious moment for me. Two days later, I emailed senior staff at Citizens’ Climate Lobby to pitch the idea of having a breakout session on being effective at attending local Congressional town halls for the upcoming June 2019 CCL Conference. They immediately said yes to my idea. The only suggestion they had for me was to in the interest of meeting their diversity goals, they wanted me to add a woman or a person of color as a co-presenter.

I thought that was a great idea since I had a wonderful time co-presenting over the years at Climate Reality Trainings with Maddie Adkins, Itzel Morales, and Maria Santiago-Valentín. Plus, I had co-presented over the years in St. Louis with other Climate Reality Leaders. I loved co-presenting because it is fun to have a partner to collaborate on a presentation. Even more, when I am giving a presentation, I sometimes find I am stumped by audience questions. Thus, it can be a relief to I have a co-presenter bail me out when there’s a question from an audience member that I don’t know an answer. Even more, I am all about diversity, equity, and inclusion. The speakers on the stage should reflect the audience and the audience should be able to relate to the speakers on the stage.

It was going to be up to me to find a co-presenter. It took over a month, but I found someone that I barely knew from Climate Reality Project and CCL, Eve Simmons. We chatted on the phone in late March. She had some great ideas and we started brainstorming some ideas to make this session a success.

Brian Ettling and Eve Simmons getting ready to give their Mastering the Town Hall presentation at the Citizens’ Climate Lobby Conference in Washington, D.C. on June 9, 2019.

Eve and I met many times over Zoom during the spring of 2019 working very hard trying to stitch our presentations together. We gave our presentation Mastering Town Halls on Sunday, June 9th during the CCL Conference in Washington D.C.

For my portion of the presentation, I began with the question: “Why town halls?”

I defined town halls as “A face to face meeting with your members of Congress (and/or your state and local elected officials, but the whole town is involved.”

I stressed that town halls are “a great way to promote CCL to your members of Congress and your community.”

I warned that if you don’t attend town halls, others will be there to promote their ideas. I included an image on this slide of the February 2019 town hall with Senator Ron Wyden where it was basically a sea of Sunrise Movement supporters promoting the Green New Deal. In the front row, my wife Tanya was seated off to the side. Thus, I advised to “if you can, try to bring your spouse, family and CCL friends to attend.”

For our tips for mastering town halls:

  1. Go to or subscribe to the e-mail list of your members of Congress to see when their next town hall is located conveniently to you.
  2. Get there early! If you can, one hour in advance.
    a. To get a good seat close to the front.
    b. Network with the Congressional staff & community members.
    c. Find out how they are going to do the audience questions.
    *Don’t forget to wear your CCL buttons, t-shirts, hats, etc.
  3. If you get a chance to ask a question, keep your question brief, positive, and to the point.
    a. Start with your name and the area where you live.
    b. Show gratitude.
    c. Share your elevator climate story.
    d. Ask the member of Congress if they have heard of CCL.*
    • I put as asterisk there to ask the question quickly, if comfortable to get a quick yes or no response from the elected leader. Don’t let them take over and not give you a chance to ask the rest of your question.
    e. Briefly explain about CCL & our bill (HR 763) to the member of Congress and to the audience.
    f. Ask them to co-sponsor the Energy Innovation & Carbon Dividend Act

I then broke this down with my question for Senator Ron Wyden from his February 2019 town hall:

  1. My name is Brian Ettling. I live in NE Portland.
  2. Thank you for hard work in Congress and holding this event today to hear from your constituents.
  3. For 25 years I was a park ranger at Crater Lake National Park, one of the most beautiful places on the planet. (pause for effect)
    Sadly, I saw climate change while working there with a lower snowpack and more intense wildfire season.
  4. Because I am very worried about climate change, I now volunteer with Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Have you heard of them?*
  5. They are a grassroots volunteer led organization lobbying Congress to pass the Energy Innovation & Carbon Dividend Act (HR 763).
    This bipartisan bill would lower climate pollution by 40% over 12 years, while growing the economy, creating jobs, and improving people’s health.
  6. Could you work with your colleagues, especially Senator Chris Coons to create a Senate companion bill for the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act?”

I then shared types of bad town hall questions:
• Attacks the member of Congress
• Long winded
• Alienates the audience
• No specific ask
• Makes everyone feel uncomfortable.
• Makes CCL look bad to the community.

I then concluded by talking about how Speaking Up at a Town Hall might be out of your comfort zone. I showed a picture of the audience looking very serious before Senator Ron Wyden’s February 2019 town hall that I attended.

Audience at the town hall for U.S. Senator Ron Wyden held at the Portland Community College – Sylvania Campus on February 15, 2019.

I then ended with one of my favorite quotes by Maggie Kuhn, American activist & founder
of the Gray Panthers movement: “Speak Your Mind, even if your voice shakes.”

Eve Simmons had some good advice in her portion of our talk, such as

Practical tips…
• Register for the town hall. Some MOC’s won’t let you in if you are not on their attending list.
• When checking in, ask if stationary audience mics will be used. Sit as near to one as possible.
• Bring a brightly colored pen in case you’ll be given question cards to write on and turn in.
• Write out your concise question ahead of time and practice it.
• Have a secondary question prepared in case someone else asks your question first.
• Bring friends! They can applaud your question, reinforce it, and ask follow up climate questions of their own.
• Be ready to seize the opportune moment, tying in good points that have been made earlier.
• Speak slowly and clearly for dramatic effect.

Eve advised the audience to FRONTLOAD your question with…
• Thank you
• Emotion/feeling, a personal story
• Current or recent event
• Locally relevant connection
• Compelling point
• Credible source
• Memorable or catchy phrase

Like me, Eve shared example town hall questions. She then ended with a very inspiring thought:

Slide from Brian Ettling and Eve Simmons’ 2019 CCL Mastering Town Halls presentation

Eve and I did not get a big audience for this breakout session. I remember us having less than 20 people in a room that could have probably held around 40 people. Except for a couple of people who had questions for us and gave us feedback that it was helpful, we did not seem to get much of a response from the audience.

One older audience member seemed skeptical that my sample question would be effective for his member of Congress. Senator Ron Wyden is a very progressive Democratic U.S. Senator. His member of Congress was more conservative and possibly a Republican. I acknowledged that when I was a constituent of Rep. Ann Wagner in St. Louis, who is a conservative Republican, I would probably be asking a different kind of question than I did for Senator Ron Wyden. The point of my talk was to help my audience think creativity how to pose a question to their member of Congress at a town hall, not necessarily mimic and copy my style of town hall questions.

Eve and I struggled at times to get our ideas and messaging in our talk in sync. As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, the audience response seemed to be subdued. However, I was very proud to give this talk on the importance of Mastering Town Halls. In my experience in Oregon, I had not seen much climate advocates, especially CCL volunteers, at town halls. I hoped to raise awareness about that in some way that I could.

Attending a town hall for Senator Ron Wyden at the end of August 2019.

After asking a climate change question directly to Senator Ron Wyden at his February 2019 town hall and giving the Mastering Town Halls presentation with Eve Simmons, I was eager to attend more Congressional town halls. I especially hoped to attend another town hall in the future with a chance to engage with Senator Wyden or Senator Merkley. Over the next four months, I mostly focused on Renew Oregon’s efforts to pass the Clean Energy Jobs Bill. After I went to the CCL Conference and Lobby Day in Washington D.C. and presented with Eve, I had climate change commitments back in Oregon.

A week after the early June CCL conference, my wife Tanya and I traveled to Crater Lake National Park, where I worked as a seasonal park ranger from 1992 to 2017. I returned there as a guest speaker during the park ranger seasonal training to give a talk how to talk with park visitors about climate change. During the last part of June, I traveled to the state capitol in Salem almost daily to rally support for the Clean Energy Jobs Bill, HB 2020. Unfortunately, the Republican Senators fled Oregon during the last ten days of June to deny the 2/3 quorum rule for a floor vote. Sadly, their walk out killed the Clean Energy Jobs Bill.

For the first half of July, I was very depressed over the defeat of the Clean Energy Jobs Bill. To find a sense of renewal, I became the interim Chair of the Climate Reality Portland Chapter. I took this role to specifically organize Climate Reality events in partnership with other climate groups to pass Renew Oregon’s cap and invest bill in the 2020 Oregon Legislative session. With all the ups and downs with my climate organizing in 2019, Tanya and I were able to take a short vacation in the second week of August to visit North Cascades National Park, Washington.

After I returned from vacation, I noticed that Senator Ron Wyden had a town hall scheduled for the East Portland Community Center on August 29, 2019. This was the same location that Senator Jeff Merkley held his town hall on January 2nd. I had determination to get other CCL volunteers to join me for this town hall. I had at least four CCL friends join me for this town hall, plus Tanya joined me. I conferred with others in CCL to try to put together a great question to see if Senator Wyden would support carbon pricing, returning the revenue to households vs. investing it in solutions, while acting to solve climate change in a timely manner.

Like all the previous town halls I attended for Senators Wyden and Merkley, Wyden’s staff gave out raffle tickets before the start for anyone interested in asking a question. Unfortunately, even with six of us there in this big audience connected with CCL, none of our ticket numbers were called to ask a question. That’s how it goes sometimes. However, we still had a better chance of directly asking Senator Ron Wyden a question by attending his town hall that if we had stayed home.

Senator Ron Wyden at his town hall at East Portland Community Center on August 29, 2019.

Giving a climate presentation at Senator Jeff Merkley’s Portland office in November 2019

In the fall of 2019, I was very busy as the interim Chair of the Climate Reality Portland Chapter. I was planning the monthly meetings, creating agendas for the monthly Leadership Team meetings, and organizing large events, such as one that was held at a local theatre in Milwaukie, OR on September 16, 2019. We filled this theatre with over 80 local climate advocates and Climate Reality Leaders. Our event was called: Climate Legislation: Where do we go from here in Oregon? We had a panel of three speakers: Milwaukie Mayor Mark Gamba, Dylan Kruse from Sustainable Northwest and Shilpa Joshi from Renew Oregon. They talked about what we needed to do to pass strong cap and invest legislation in the 2020 Oregon legislative session.

While I was focused on leading the Climate Reality Portland Chapter, Climate Reality Project announced their 24 Hours of Action campaign scheduled for November 20-21, 2019. In past years, Climate Reality Project hosted a 24-hour webinar called 24 Hours of Reality. That was a live internet broadcast they had hosted for several years each November. Each hour of those previous live webinars focused on how climate changed impacted a country or region in a different time zone on planet Earth. For 2019, Climate Reality wanted as many Climate Leaders as possible giving presentations over a 24-hour period from Tuesday to Wednesday, November 20-21.

To participate, I immediately reached out to a local Portland organization where I previously spoke earlier that year called Thirsters. I asked if I could speak at their weekly meeting, Thursday, November 21st, 7pm- 8 pm. Always looking for weekly speakers, they immediately accepted my offer. I hoped this would inspire other Climate Reality Leaders in the Chapter to reach out to local organizations and schools to give climate change talks. Climate Reality really wanted to make this 24 Hours of Action a success. Thus, the organization reached out to members of Congress, Congressional staff and other organizations to see if they would want a Climate Reality Leader to come speak to them on November 20th or 21st. Senator Jeff Merkley’s Portland Congressional office said yes to this invitation.

Climate Reality Project reached out to me if I would be interested in speaking at Senator Jeff Merkley’s office on Thursday afternoon, November 21st. I immediately agreed to lead this talk. I participated in CCL lobby meetings at Senator Jeff Merkley’s Portland office in March 2018 and 2019. Thus, I knew the exact location of his office in downtown Portland. I met his Portland office staff previously from attending town halls and lobby meetings in the Portland and Washington D.C. offices. On November 21st, I gave this talk to six of Senator Jeff Merkley’s Portland Office staff in a beautiful conference room at their office. Their office is in a downtown Portland high rise building. The conference room has large windows that looks out into downtown, with distant views of Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams, and Mt. St. Helens on a clear day.

Senator Merkley’s staff really seemed to like my presentation for them, titled My Solutions for Climate Action. They especially liked one of my solutions to “Regularly call, write and lobby your members of Congress!” As I wrapped up my visit to Senator Merkley’s office, one staff member told me that Senator Merkley and his staff especially pay attention to the issues that constituents urge him to support during their town halls. I then asked Senator Merkley’s Portland Field Representative if he would introduce me to Senator Merkley at his next town hall in the Portland area. This staff person told me he would be happy to do that.

Brian Ettling giving a climate change talk to Portland staff of U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley on November 21, 2019.

Attending two of U.S. Senator Ron Wyden’s town hall meetings in January 2020

After my two talks for Climate Reality’s Day of Action on November 21, 2019, I next focused on the December Climate Reality Portland holiday meeting. In mid-December, Tanya and I traveled to our hometown of St. Louis, Missouri for over a week to visit family. While we were in St. Louis, I gave two climate change talks for the St. Louis Zoo, plus a Climate Reality talk at Carpenter’s Library in south St. Louis. This was a renovated library that my parents used as children growing up in the 1940s and 1950s in St. Louis.

2020 started as a new year for me for climate organizing and to attend Congressional town halls. My first event I attended for 2020 was a town hall for Senator Ron Wyden held at Roosevelt High School auditorium in northwest Portland on January 5, 2020. Tanya came with me. Thus, I had two raffle tickets to double my chances to double my chances of my raffle number getting called to ask Senator Wyden a question. I talked a couple of CCL volunteers into attending with Tanya and me. Unfortunately, my raffle numbers were not called, neither were the raffle numbers of the other CCL volunteers in attendance. Thus, we were not able to ask Senator Wyden about carbon pricing, supporting the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, or what he would do to act to solve climate change in a timely manner.

I do want to give Senator Ron Wyden credit that in each of his town halls he talks about his solutions to climate change. He always focuses on what he can do as the ranking member or Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. He primarily wants to get rid of the 44 fossil fuel subsidies that keeps the U.S. hooks on dirty energy and replacing those subsidies with 3 subsides to incentivize investments in clean energy. Yes, I do applaud everything he wants to do for climate action. He does take the issue very seriously. At the same time, I wish he would listen to climate scientists, like Dr. Michael Mann, who say a price on carbon is needed so we can reach the IPCC goal of reducing global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in half by 2030 and reaching net zero GHG by 2050. In fact, Canada discovered this when they implemented their climate change solutions. They could not reduce their emissions to the IPCC goals without a price on carbon.

Urging Oregon’s U.S. Senators to put a price on carbon kept motivating me to return to their town halls to urge them to support that policy. Thus, Tanya and I went to Senator Ron Wyden’s town hall in Wilsonville, Oregon, less than 30 minutes south of Portland, to attend his town hall on January 18, 2020. Again, I got two raffle tickets for Tanya and me hoping to urge him to support the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act. This was another town hall where I struck out. My raffle ticket numbers were not called, and I was not able to ask him a question. Even if I don’t ask him a question, I still fill out a card at the welcome table stating why I am there. Furthermore, I always re-introduce myself to the staff and try to develop a good rapport with them.

Brian Ettling attending a town hall for Senator Ron Wyden in Wilsonville, Oregon on January 18, 2020.

Briefly chatting with Senator Jeff Merkley at his March 2020 Clackamas County Town Hall

Like the Energizer Bunny, I will never give up. Like Sisyphus in Greek mythology, I will continue to try to roll the giant boulder uphill. In January 2020, I went to town hall events for members of Congress from Oregon, Reps. Suzanne Bonamici, Kurt Schrader, and Earl Blumenauer, whom I am a constituent. I was not able to ask a question at their events. However, the most important thing for me is to show up and try. You just never know when you might be able to have a conversation with a member of Congress and ask them to support carbon pricing.

On March 7, 2020, I attended a town hall for Senator Jeff Merkley at the auditorium at the National Guard Recruiting at Camp Withycombe, Clackamas, Oregon. It was located about 10 miles south or a 20 minute drive from where I live. I found out about it on the day before. Tanya could not make it nor could anyone else make it from CCL. It was just me.

The rumored threat of Covid-19 or coronavirus was starting to hang over everything. People were a little leery to shake hands, stand close together, and the seats at this town hall were spaced a few feet apart from each other. People were advised that if they had symptoms of any kind of cold to not come to an event like this. Like all the previous town hall events I attended, there were probably over 100 people or more at this event. I did receive a raffle ticket from Senator Merkley’s staff at the welcome table before the event. However, my raffle ticket number was not called, and I was not able to ask a question.

At this town hall, I had a breakthrough moment. I recognized Senator Merkley’s Field Representative from the Climate Reality 24 Hours of Action that I gave at Senator Merkley’s Portland Office last November. He recognized me when he saw me before the town hall. He was friendly and glad to see me. I asked him if he could introduce me to Senator Merkley after the town hall. He responded that he was happy to do that.

I waited patiently after the town hall to chat with Senator Merkley. Lots of other people were gathered around him to ask him to informally chat with him. Some of the individuals looked like Senator Merkley knew them for years and he was thrilled to see them. I enjoyed watching the Senator interact with people. He is shy and reserved, but he enjoys being around people. Those sticking around after the event were excited to have a chance to interact with him.

U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley speaking at his town hall in Clackamas, Oregon on March 7, 2020.

The Field Representative waited patiently for a chance to introduce me to Senator Merkley. While we were waiting, I gave the Field Representative my iPhone to get a picture of us. The staff person was happy to help me with this. Finally, there was a break in line of people wanting to talk with Senator Merkley that the Field Representative walked up to Senator Merkley to introduce him to me. I remember he was hesitant to shake hands or stand too close because of the possible threat of coronavirus. At the same time, Senator Merkley was very kind and generous with his time with me. He allowed me to get several pictures with him. I was able to urge him to support CCL’s Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (EICDA).

The Senator looked exhausted from chatting with all the people one on one, thinking on his feet for over an hour with this town hall, plus the town hall he did in Marion County earlier that day. He did not have a response to my request to urge him to support Citizens’ Climate Lobby’s EICDA. He did look at me very sympathetically though like he really did appreciate what I am doing and the very steep uphill climb to get anything passed on climate in the Senate right now.

I did not have a problem with this interaction with the Senator at all. I know that tired look after I have given presentations and chatted with audience members one on one afterwards. I could relate to his facial expression how hard it is to get anything passed on climate in Congress right now. Still, I wanted to get this idea on his radar and hopefully other CCL friends are doing the same thing. Even more, I wanted to be an example of reaching out to our members of Congress to support climate legislation.

This was probably Senator Merkley’s last in person town hall before the full shutdown of the covid-19 pandemic happened in March 2020. Thus, this was the last opportunity to speak with him directly until the pandemic subsided. On October 15, 2020, I went to an outdoor campaign event when my Oregon Senator Shemia Fagan ran for Oregon Secretary of State. U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley were in attendance. However, they were leery to have anyone stand close to them and we all had masks on at this outdoor event due to the pandemic. It was hard to ask questions or engage with them on policy issues because of that.

Brian Ettling with U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley at a campaign event in Portland, Oregon on October 15, 2020.

Final Thoughts

I left that March 2020 town hall feeling great. After our conversation, Senator Merkley did not shift his position supporting carbon fee and dividend or the EICDA. I did the best thing you can do in a democracy: petition and speak directly with an elected official to urge them to support climate legislation. I did my part.

Now it is up to others, especially anyone reading this (you), to call, write, email, and attend town halls to directly urge members of Congress to support effective climate legislation. Even more, I challenge you to be even more effective than me. If you are more effective than me, we will have even a better chance of success of reducing the threat of climate change.

Now that the pandemic is over and in person Congressional town halls are happening. I encourage you to attend Congressional town halls if your members of Congress or U.S. Senators are holding them. It is a great way to learn about the issues impacting your fellow citizens in your community and to hear the perspective of your member of Congress.

Maybe, if you are just lucky, you might be able to ask them a question or even urge them to support effective climate legislation.

Brian Ettling April 2023 ©

For Climate Action, my honor as a breakout speaker at Climate Reality Trainings 

Brian Ettling and Maddie Adkins speaking at the Climate Reality Project Training in Bellevue, WA on June 29, 2017.

Since I became involved in the climate movement around 13 years ago, my aim was to be a top climate organizer and speaker. I wanted to inspire others to take action to reduce the threat of climate change. One place that helped me be a more effective climate advocate was attending a Climate Reality Training in San Francisco in August 2012. After attending that training, I was very proud to become a Climate Reality Leader and become active in the Climate Reality Project

I was honored when Climate Reality selected me to be a mentor to assist the new trainees at seven Climate Reality Trainings: Chicago, IL 2013, Cedar Rapids, IA 2015, Houston, TX 2016, Denver, CO ­2017, Bellevue, WA 2017, Los Angeles, CA 2018, Atlanta, GA 2019, and a virtual training in 2020. On top of that, the peak experience for me was the three trainings that Climate Reality invited me to be a breakout speaker, Bellevue 2017, Los Angeles 2018, and Atlanta 2019. I will always be grateful to Climate Reality Project for those opportunities. 

Taking Climate Action to be Noticed by the Climate Reality Project 

To grab an opportunity, you have got to get your foot in the door. To get your foot in the door, you have got to get yourself noticed somehow. After I became a Climate Reality Leader in 2012, I was determined to be one of the best Climate Reality Leaders. 

Former Vice President Al Gore founded the Climate Reality Project in 2007 from the proceeds he received from the 2006 Academy Award winning documentary film An Inconvenient Truth and other sources. To this day, Al Gore actively oversees Climate Reality and leads their annual U.S. and international Trainings. Thus, one incentive for me to be recognized as a top Climate Reality Leader was the possibility to meet Al Gore. Fortunately, I had a chance to do that at the May 2015 Cedar Rapids Trainings. Even more, I asked him directly how to respond to his critics. 

Former Vice President Al Gore with Brian Ettling in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on May 8, 2015

Besides meeting Al Gore, another motivation for me to strive to be a great Climate Reality Leader was the chance to be a breakout speaker at one of the Climate Reality trainings. These Trainings typically had the attendance of over 1,000 people who come from across the U.S. and internationally. The Trainings were an outstanding place to network among other top Climate Reality Leaders and advocates. Even more, it was a great place to be seen “on the stage” giving a breakout talk to advise the attendees how they could give impactful climate presentations and inspire others in their community to join them in the climate movement. 

After we are trained as Climate Reality Leaders, the Climate Reality staff urged us to log our “Acts of Leadership,” on the Climate Reality Project hub website, the resource access website for Climate Reality Leaders. Thus, I logged various actions to get myself noticed. I recorded each time I presented my ranger climate change evening program that I performed at Crater Lake National Park during the summer from 2011-2017. I submitted each of the climate change speeches I gave during the winter in St. Louis as a member South County Toastmasters

In Addition, I logged all my climate change talks, as well as the opinion editorials I wrote that were published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and newspapers across Oregon. I recorded each of my blogs from my website and my writing contributions for the website. I submitted each time I taught a continuing adult education class for St. Louis Community College and the Oasis Continuing Education Center in St. Louis. I logged each time I lobbied a member of Congress, wrote a letter to them, emailed them, and called their office. I recorded each time I attended climate related meetings and organized climate events. Because of all the times I submitted climate actions, I became known from 2014-2020 as one of the top Climate Reality Leaders for my recorded Acts of Leadership. 

Climate Reality Project recognizing Brian Ettling for logging his Acts of Leadership on the Climate Reality Hub website. Screenshot taken on September 30, 2016.

Another type of Leadership Action I did was recording the four YouTube videos with my wife Tanya Couture, my mom Fran Ettling, and my dad, LeRoy Ettling. My YouTube videos inspired Climate Reality to invite me to speak as part of a webinar panel with fellow Climate Reality Leaders Dr. Cara Augustenborg and Stian Rasmussen. Cara was a assistant professor at the University College in Dublin and the Trinity School of Business in Ireland. Stian was a videographer, photographer, and music producer. This webinar was called Inspiring Action through Video. It streamed internally on the Climate Reality Hub website on July, 29, 2016. This brief training encouraged Climate Reality Leaders to create short videos to promote climate action and a build up for Climate Reality’s 10 Year Anniversary Project they were planning for 2017.  

On the Climate Reality website Hub, the organization encouraged Climate Reality Leaders to log their Acts of Leadership. Climate Reality urged us to log these Acts to keep track of the actions of their volunteers to determine how they could best support us. Even more, they wanted us to log our Acts of Leadership as a metric to show their large donors the effectiveness of funding Climate Reality. Thus, I gladly logged all my Acts of Leadership to see how many I could post and to be supportive in supporting the metrics tracking of the volunteers. This did not go unnoticed by Climate Reality. In August 2016, they acknowledged me on their website as one of “THE TOP TEN CLIMATE REALITY LEADERS HELPING US REACH 10,000 ACTS OF LEADERSHIP.”

In February 2017, it felt like I was really on a roll with Climate Reality. They featured me in their February 2017 online newsletter report in their Climate Reality Leader Spotlight section. At his opening remarks of the February 2017 Climate Reality Training in Denver, Climate Reality President Ken Berlin mentioned me and two others as good examples of Climate Reality Leaders. As Ken briefly spoke about me, he showed this image to the screen to the audience: 

A slide in the opening remarks by Climate Reality President Ken Berlin at the Climate Reality Training in Denver, Colorado on March 2, 2017.

During the Denver training on March 2-4, 2017, Al Gore led a panel discussion called CLIMATE REALITY LEADERS: WHO WE AREClimate Reality selected three Climate Reality Mentors join him on the stage to discuss their experiences as Climate Reality Leaders and their advice to the new Climate Reality Leaders. Al Gore asked the mentors on the panel how they stay motivated to take climate action. Totally unexpected to me, one of the mentors, Lucia Whalen remarked: “I don’t know if you ever Facebook stalk your friends, but the same thing can happen on the Climate Reality Hub website. Go on Brian Ettling’s page and it will be like, ‘What am I doing with my life?’” 

Lucia was very kind to say that in front of an audience of over 1,000 people at the training. Immediately afterwards, I thanked Lucia for her very gracious extemporaneous comment. When I took various climate actions and reported my Acts of Leadership, I always hoped that I could have been selected for the CLIMATE REALITY LEADERS: WHO WE ARE discussions led by Al Gore at one of the trainings I attended as a mentor. Lucia Whalen is a great Climate Reality Leader and a stand-up comedian in Chicago, Illinois. Therefore, when she mentioned me from the stage to Al Gore and to a huge audience of Climate Reality Leaders, that was a big thrill for me. 

Al Gore and Climate Reality Leader Lucia Whalen giving a shout out to Brian Ettling during the Climate Reality Training in Denver, Colorado on March 4, 2017.

Presenting as a breakout speaker at the March 2017 Climate Reality’s Denver Day of Action 

Because of all the climate change talks I gave beforehand in Oregon, Missouri, Illinois, Virginia, Arizona, and Ottawa, Canada, the Climate Reality staff invited me to be a guest speaker at their March 5th Denver Day of Action. This event took place after the March 2017 Climate Reality Training in Denver, Colorado March 2-4. The staff asked me to speak about Spreading the Word: Mastering Presentations. 

In that talk, I shared my 6 tips for Mastering Presentations such as: 

1. Sharing your story.
I told my story I how saw climate change working as a park ranger in the national parks. 

2. What common values do you share with your audience.
I shared how I related to my audiences with their love of the national parks. When I lived in St. Louis, I would stress that I was born and raised in St. Louis. For conservatives, I shared that I was the President of my College Republicans in my sophomore year of college. In addition, I shared my love of nature and quoted Ann Frank from her book, The Diary of a Young Girl:

“The best remedy for for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature, and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be…amidst the simple beauty of nature.”

3. Include the mission statement for the group that invited you.
When I spoke at Second Presbyterian Church in St. Louis, Missouri in January 2017, I included their website statement that they are “a certified ‘Earth Care Congregation.’” 

From Rotary Clubs, I included their Four Way Test

Brian Ettling and Maddie Adkins giving their presentation at the Climate Reality Training in Bellevue, Washington on June 29, 2017.

From working in the national parks for 25 years, I included their mission statement in my evening climate change program: “to conserve the natural scenery, historic objects and the wildlife and to provide for the enjoyment that leaves them unimpaired for future generations.” 

When I spoke at the Shepherd’s Center in St. Louis, I shared their motto of “where neighbors help neighbors.” I then wove it into the title of my talk How to be a Good Neighbor for Our Planet.

4. Include your audience in your talk.
I then talked about how I would show up at meetings of an organization before my talk to get permission of individual club members to weave them into my talk. The audience loved seeing their friends and themselves in my PowerPoint images. In the training presentations I gave to the Crater Lake rangers how to chat with park visitors about climate change, I would include a picture of my friend and fellow Crater Lake ranger David Grimes. In that picture, Dave is shrugging his shoulders with the Dan Miller TED talk quote above him, “Talking about climate change is like flatulence at a cocktail party.” 

Crater Lake National Park ranger Dave Grimes in a June 1012 image from Brian Ettling’s climate change talks with the Dan Miller quote from his TED talk.

5. If possible, Include some humor.
I would share the viral image Positive proof of global warming that shows the changes in underwear fashion over the years. I also included the Bloomberg Business article that I had the unfortunate experience to wake up to the day after my wedding on November 2, 2015, “Climate Change Kills the Mood: Economists Warn of Less Sex on a Warmer Planet.” 

6. Share local stories of the problem and solutions to climate change.
I showed the image of the extreme flood that I saw in St. Louis on January 1, 2016. I then shared the story in the St. Louis South County Times, “Living Green With Solar Energy,” from December 14, 2012. The article highlighted St. Louis residents Jim and Judy Stroup. They installed solar panels on their house the year before and saved around 87% on their electric bill. I included the quote from Jim Stroup: 

“This past month, I spent more beer & pistachios than I did on gas & electric.  And I am not a big drinker. It’s amazing how much (solar) cuts down on your bills and how economical it is to install.” 

I then wrapped up my presenting by listing my 6 tips for mastering the presentation for the audience to see it one last time.  

This presentation was well received by the audience of primary Climate Reality Leaders and staff. I remember seeing fellow Climate Reality Mentors there such as Harriet Shugarman, Jill MacIntyre Witt and Maria Rotunda. They gave me positive feedback about my talk. Maria’s son, Ian Marchegiani, took a great picture of me speaking. 

Brian Ettling speaking at the Climate Reality Day of Action in Denver, Colorado on March 5, 2017. Photo by Ian Marchegiani.

Co-presenting with Maddie Adkins at the June 2017 Climate Reality Bellevue, WA Training 

After this Denver presentation, Climate Reality staff kept in contact with me. They invited me to be a breakout speaker for an April 2017 webinar for Climate Reality Leaders, called Settled Science: Speaking to Climate Deniers. Like the August 2016 Climate Reality webinar that I participated, this was a panel presentation of Climate Reality Leaders that included Greg Jones, Dr. Joe Silverman, Laura Schmidt, and me. Greg Jones was a Climate Science Advisor at Climate Reality. Joe Silverman had a PdD in school and counseling psychology. Laura Schmidt founded the Good Grief Network.  Sadly, this was internal Climate Reality training, so I don’t have access to share any video from that webinar. However, participating in that webinar inspired me to write my own blog in April 2017, My 9 tips to Respond to Climate Denial when giving a Climate Change Talk.

The Climate Reality staff was very pleased with my volunteer actions. As a result, they invited me to be a co-breakout speaker with Maddie Adkins at the Climate Reality Training in Bellevue, Washington on June 27-29, 2017. This was very exciting because I was Maddie’s mentor at the Climate Reality Training in Houston, Texas in August 2016. She was 17 years old when I met her in 2016. I helped her with her mentor application for the February 2017 Denver training. I was so happy for her when Climate Reality invited her to be a mentor. Even more, it was very exciting when she was selected as one of the panelists, along with Lucia Whalen, David Ellenberger, and Nana Firman CLIMATE REALITY LEADERS: WHO WE ARE panel discussions led by Al Gore at the Denver Training. From meeting her at the Houston Training, we developed a great rapport. 

Maddie Adkins is the name she is known by her family, friends and Climate Reality. She writes and promotes herself professionally under her given name of Madison Adkins. As a teenager, she created a lot of buzz when she lived in Carmel, Indiana. She worked with her mayor and city council on a climate change resolution. She gave speeches at schools and universities to educate young people about climate change and their power as citizens. In 2017, she worked at iMatter, an international youth-led organization that empowers youth to join the climate movement. Before I left for the training in Houston, I received messages from friends telling me how excited they were that I was her mentor and the great things she was doing for climate action. 

Maddie Adkins and Brian Ettling just before giving their breakout presentation at the Climate Reality Training in Bellevue, Washington on June 29, 2017.

It happened to be very beneficial that my wife Tanya and I moved to Portland, Oregon in February 2017. Maddie lived in Portland with her parents at that time. Thus, we met in person to prepare and practice our presentation in early June. We were scheduled to give this talk in Bellevue at the Climate Reality Training at the end of June. I really did appreciate her bubbly, joyous youthful enthusiasm, and excitement to give this joint presentation with me. Her playful and exuberant personality helps bring out the fun and creativity in those around her, especially me. I fed off her playful teen energy and she enjoyed my goofy and wacky personality. We practiced hard to do a great job giving this presentation at the training. 

We enjoyed weaving together our presentations together in a cohesive talk. Maddie focused on how to speak to youth and schools. I focused on how to speak to adults. I shared the six tips for mastering the presentation and finding an audience that was from the Climate Reality Day of Action talk I gave in Denver just a few months before this June talk. I added a new original quote I created that I have used in the conclusions of my climate change talks since then: 

“The most important person who can make the biggest impact reducing the threat of climate change is the person sitting in your chair.” – Brian Ettling

Maddie had great tips for our talk that she later wrote about for an August 7, 2020 article for, “How I Grew My Public Speaking Audiences from 10 to 1,000.” In her 2020 article, her helpful tips included practice, invite your friends to your presentation, expect tech issues, tell your story, follow up, and your authenticity is what makes your presentation powerful.

Brian Ettling and Maddie Adkins sharing a laugh at their presentation at the Climate Reality Training in Bellevue, Washington on June 29, 2017.

As we practiced our talk in Bellevue the day the day before we gave it, I mentioned to Maddie one of my all-time favorite quotes associated with the poet and author Maya Angelou:* 

“People will forget what you said…but people will never forget how you made them feel.” 

Maddie loved hearing that quote. She decided on the spot that would be the conclusion of our talk. She ended her 2020 Medium article with that same quote. With the busyness of our lives, Maddie and I lost contact after that talk. It seemed we were two energetic atoms bouncing off each other. We each received an inspirational boost in our climate advocacy since that collaboration and giving this talk in Bellevue together in 2017. I will always be grateful for Climate Reality Project pairing me up with Maddie to give this talk. 

The large audience of Climate Reality Leaders who attended our breakout talk gave us a very positive response. Even more, the Climate Reality staff seemed very pleased with our talk. It felt like the organization really appreciated all my climate advocacy. 

I loved contributing to Climate Reality Project in their efforts to create publicity for climate action, Al Gore, and the organization. In the spring of 2017, Climate Reality asked for my permission to use a 2015 photo of me giving a climate change presentation in St. Louis for their companion book to the 2017 documentary about Al Gore, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to PowerLocal bookstores started selling the published book in mid-July 2017. I rushed to the nearest bookstore when it was available. It was so exciting to see my picture as part of a photo collage of Climate Reality Leaders in action on page 314. The picture showed me giving a climate change presentation at at John Knox Presbyterian Church in Florissant, Missouri on April 26, 2015.

Brian Ettling speaking at John Knox Presbyterian Church in Florissant, MO on April 26, 2015.

The documentary film about Al Gore, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, was released in theaters nationwide on August 4, 2017. Tanya and I went to see the film in Portland, Oregon on August 5, 2017. The scenes with Al Gore presenting his climate change talk to a live audience were filmed at the Climate Reality Training in Houston, Texas in August 16-18, 2016. I happened to be seated in the front row of the audience on the left side of the stage. When Tanya and I watched the film, we were able to spot me for a very brief second smiling in reaction to something Al Gore said to the audience. This felt like a celebration for Tanya and me since it might be the only time that I will be seen in a Hollywood film. 

Climate Reality Project continued to utilize me to promote their organization. The Climate Reality staff asked for my permission to use images of me for a fundraising promotion at the end of July 2018. I was very honored to be a face representing Climate Reality in their 2017 fundraising campaign. That same month for my 50th birthday, I raised over $1000 as a Facebook birthday fundraiser for Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL), the other climate organization that I volunteered. Even though I raised money for CCL that month among friends and family. I hope my picture spurred someone open their checkbook to give money to the Climate Reality Project. 

Photo of Brian Ettling with Crater Lake National Park in the background featured in the July 2018 Climate Reality Project fundraising campaign.

Co-presenting with Itzel Morales at the August 2018 Climate Reality Los Angeles, CA Training 

Climate Reality thought my 2017 presentation with Maddie Adkins was very successful. Their next step was to invite me to be a breakout speaker for the 2018 Climate Reality Training in Los Angeles, California in August 2018. 

For this training, Climate Reality had me co-present with Itzel Morales Lagunes. She was a blessing and a joy to partner with on this presentation. Itzel was from Mexico. She was originally trained as a Climate Reality Leader in Chicago in 2013. Since May 2018, Itzel is the Climate Reality Engagement Coordinator for Mexico and Latin America. She had an impressive background as a biochemical engineer who received a master’s degree from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland. In 2016, the U.S. Department of State awarded her the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship at UC Davis for the 2016-17 academic year. During her fellowship year, she had a professional affiliation with the United States Forest Service and the international Center for the Environment at UC Davis. 

Itzel was extremely intelligent, poised with self-confidence, and very focused on what she precisely wanted to share in our joint presentation. Like Maddie, Itzel has a great and generous heart, giving a warm and caring vibe making one feel great to be around her. We first met briefly when we were mentors at the 2017 Denver Training. We enjoyed briefly chatting at the end of the training. Like many mentors who struck up friendships with each other during the training, we got a picture with each other. I was honored at the chance to co-present with her. 

Brian Ettling and Itzel Morales at the Climate Reality Denver Training on March 4, 2017.

A few weeks before the August 2018 Los Angeles Training, we met on Zoom to practice our talk. Itzel was very dedicated to make our talk a success. She was very professional, detailed oriented, and well centered. Her calm and mature demeanor helps project confidence to those around her, including me. She knew exactly what she wanted. She did not need any advice from me. She was generous with her time to practice with me often before and during the evenings of the conference so we had confidence our talk would go smoothly. 

Because of Itzel’s steady and optimistic confidence, our presentation was a success. I don’t really remember any glitches except I struggled pronouncing the names of a couple of Climate Reality friends that I mentioned in that talk. I shared the same information from my 2017 Climate Reality Training breakout talks in Denver and Bellevue. However, for this 2018 Los Angeles talk, I included information on the October 2017 speaking tour I led across Oregon for CCL. In addition, I showed an image of my friend and fellow Climate Reality mentor Rachel Molloy and her daughters standing in front of her house with the solar panels on her roof. I then shared how Rachel saved a lot of money on her electric bill by installing solar panels on her home. 

Itzel and I gave this presentation along with Tim Ryder, who was the Associate Project Manager at The Climate Reality Project. Tim shared with the audience how the new Climate Reality Leaders could find, access, and utilize Al Gore’s presentation on the Climate Reality Hub website. In my presentation slides, one of my tips advised new Climate Reality Leaders to join and partner with local climate and environmental groups. After Itzel, Tim and I practiced our breakout session before giving it live, Tim urged me to encourage the Climate Reality Leaders attending this talk to join or even create a local Climate Reality Chapter in their community. I was happy to include that in my portion of the presentation. 

In her portion of our talk for creating your story to share in a presentation, ltzel had great advice learning about who is your audience before your climate talk to create a talk that will appeal to them. She advised the Climate Reality Leaders to determine the aspects of your background and personality that best connects with an audience. Itzel nailed the conclusion of this talk with a very inspiring quote that I heard for the first time: 

Image from Climate Reality Leader Itzel Morales’ 2018 co-presentation at the Climate Reality Training in Los Angeles, California on August 28 & 29, 2018.

According to Itzel’s notes in her PowerPoint: “Ijeoma Umebinyuo is a Nigerian author. She was born in Lagos, Nigeria. She is the author of Questions for Ada, her first published collection of prose poems and poems. Her writings have been translated to Portuguese, Turkish, Spanish, Russian and French. In 2016, Ijeoma Umebinyuo was named one of the top ten contemporary poets from sub-sharan Africa by” 

Itzel had a beautiful and stunning dark milky way night sky background behind that quote that made the quote look even more captivating. I took a screen shot of that quote on the day of our presentation and shared it on social media. After that quote, Itzel had a great audience interaction directing the audience to stand and clap with her in unison to motivate them to give their own climate change talks. She would even pretend she was putting her hands together to see if she could trick the audience into clapping before she was ready to clap. The audience loved that moment of deception and that burst of interactive energy at the end of her talk that basically gave the message: You got this! You can do it! 

Climate Reality staff gave very positive feedback they received from the Climate Reality Leaders who attended this joint presentation with Itzel. During this Los Angeles Training, I wanted to promote Climate Reality Project and CCL. I loved volunteering for both organizations and encouraging climate advocates to get involved with one or both amazing organizations. Thus, Steph Zhu a blogger for CCL wrote a blog about me, “One person’s journey to Climate Change Activist” for the Red, Green, and Blue website on September 12, 2018.

Tim Ryder, Itzel Morales, and Brian Ettling getting ready for their breakout presentation at the Climate Reality Training in Los Angeles on August 28 & 29, 2018.

Co-presenting with Maria Santiago-Valentín at March 2019 Atlanta, GA Training 

In the fall and winter of 2019, I stayed in touch with Climate Reality staff. They invited me to be a co-presenter with Maria Santiago-Valentín for their March 2019 Training in Atlanta, Georgia. Maria is from Clark, New Jersey, and she was originally from Puerto Rico. She had a very impressive background as a doctoral student in education, a learning disabilities consultant. She is the author of a 2019 book that is available in English and Spanish, Bipolar Disorder: Etiology and Treatment Overview: Mindfulness, Medication, Digital Psychiatry and Classroom Accommodations.   

Maria attended the Climate Reality Training in Chicago in 2013. Climate Reality noticed her activism as a co-leader of the New Jersey People’s Climate Rally in 2017 and 2018, and a steering committee member of the 2018 New Jersey March for Science. In July 2018, Maria presented at the Global Mental Health Congress in Paris, where she presented her research entitled “An Overview of the Neurological Base of Bipolar Disorder” published by the Journal of Childhood and Development Disorders. She was the treasurer of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, New Jersey Chapter and vice chair of the New Sierra Club Environmental Justice Committee. 

Maria was very humble and shy. She was worried about giving our joint presentation to a huge group of Climate Reality Leaders during the Atlanta Training. She was very modest about her accomplishments and background. She seemed to have limited experience with public speaking and speaking in front of large audiences. Unlike Itzel or Maddie, Maria relied much more on me to create and edit our presentation. Maria had a very kind heart and gentle spirit. I was happy to help her feel comfortable giving this presentation. She was very appreciative of everything I did to help us prepare for this Atlanta presentation. Speaking to hundreds of Climate Reality Leaders at this training seemed quite daunting to her. I did my best to be her rock of support. I had someone take a picture of both of us in Atlanta with our fists pumped, with the attitude of “WE GOT THIS!” 

Brian Ettling and Maria Santiago-Valentín at the Climate Reality Training in Atlanta, Georgia on March 13, 2019.

In fact, that became our theme for the new Climate Reality Leaders attending this talk, “YOU GOT THIS!” Maria even had a picture of herself in the talk not smiling with the text: “OMG!!! I am freaking out! The content and my accent!!!” 

I used that phrase “YOU GOT THIS!” several times in this presentation. I started this talk borrowing from Tim Ryder’s presentation that he gave with Itzel Morales and me at the Los Angeles Training in 2018. I showed an overview of images of Al Gore’s 518 slides from his long presentation. Al Gore gave his nearly three-hour climate presentation using most of those slides the day before. In our breakout presentation, I walked through how they could find Al Gore’s slide decks on the Climate Reality Hub. I then encouraged them to use the 59 slides of Al Gore’s Truth in 10 slide deck that is available to everyone, not just Climate Reality Leaders. It is accessable on the public Climate Reality website. The Truth in 10 slides do not have any copyright limitations. They can be shown to anyone anywhere, especially if the climate presentation is being livestreamed, video recorded, or uploaded to YouTube. 

I then used a Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr quote
“Everyone can be great. Because anybody can serve.
You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. 
You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve.
You don’t have know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. 
You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve. 
You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics to serve. 
You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

This seemed very appropriate to use a Dr. King quote since this presentation was given in his hometown of Atlanta, GA. After I used that quote, I repeated the theme: “YOU GOT THIS!” 

I might have even had Maria say it out loud for effect. I then gave my 6 tips for Mastering Presentations that I which I had been sharing since my Denver breakout talk. 

When I shared my story as my first tip, I then turned to Maria and asked her to share her story. 

She talked about her background with Organizing for Action (OFA) and her involvement with the Climate Change State Team at OFA in New Jersey. She then told the audience how her and her family were impacted by Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey in 2012. Even worse, her relatives were devastated by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico in September 2017. 

In my second tip, Finding Your Audience, I gave my examples of forming a Climate Reality Meet Up Group in St. Louis, then getting involved with the Climate Reality Chapter, joining a Toastmasters Club in St. Lous, and leading the CCL tour across Oregon in October 2017. Maria gave her examples speaking to OFA, lobbying her New Jersey Assemblyman, and speaking at Columbia University. Maria also shared how she organized and spoke at environmental marches People’s Climate Movement, NJ Sierra Club, Food & Water Watch, NJ March for Science and as a panelist for a public screening of the 2017 National Geographic documentary From the Ashes

Maria and I then tag teamed for the rest of this presentation with me providing tips and examples and then Maria responding with her own examples. She was lovely to co-present with as a team.  She really gave it her all, stepping out of her comfort zone to speak to this large group of Climate Reality Leaders. 

I started the conclusion with my standard quote: “The most important person who can make the biggest impact reducing the threat of climate change is the person sitting in your chair.” 

For the final slide, I showed a quote from former President Barack Obama, “We are the ones we have been waiting for!” Then Maria once more proclaimed, “YOU GOT THIS!” 

Like Maddie Adkins and Itzel Morales, it was a huge honor and pleasure to present with Maria. 

Brian Ettling and Maria Santiago-Valentín getting ready to give their breakout session at the Climate Reality Training in Atlanta, Georgia on March 15, 2019.

From the conversations and email exchanges with Climate Reality staff afterwards, they seemed very pleased with this presentation. Sadly, Atlanta was the last Climate Reality Training I attended in person. I hoped to participate as a breakout speaker in trainings after that, but I was not even invited to attend the trainings. 

The crushing defeat of the Clean Energy Jobs Bill in Oregon in 2019

After Atlanta, the next Climate Reality Training was in Minneapolis, Minnesota in August 2019. 

In May, I applied to attend this training as a mentor. Even more, I hoped to participate in this training in roles such as a breakout speaker, master of ceremonies for one of the training days, or a mentor for the VIP table. Because it’s Al Gore and Climate Reality has earned a stellar reputation for training climate advocates, there are celebrities, prominent individuals, major donors, and prestigious scientists who are typically seated in a table at the front of the room. Climate Reality assigns a mentor to their table to answer their questions and assist their needs. 

My biggest dream was to be selected as one of the CLIMATE REALITY LEADERS: WHO WE ARE panel discussion led by Al Gore. Two of the Climate Reality Leaders that I mentored at previous trainings, Maddie Adkins and Sara Vargas, were panelists for this discussion. As their former mentor, I was so proud of them. At the same time, I always hoped to be part of that panel. I logged hundreds of Acts of Leadership hoping to be selected for that panel, but it was not meant to be.  

A screenshot of the different types of Acts of Leadership that Climate Reality wanted Climate Reality Leaders to log on their Climate Reality Hub website.

After Atlanta, I became very involved volunteering to Renew Oregon to urge Oregon legislators to pass a cap and invest bill. It was known as the Clean Energy Jobs Bill or HB 2020. Renew Oregon and their many volunteers, including me, lobbied the legislators extensively before and during the session to build good relationships with them. Therefore, we were confident we had the votes among the Democratic legislators in the Oregon House and Senate to pass this bill before the end of the legislative session. One of the highest moments of my climate organizing and for all the Renew Oregon climate organizers was the moment HB 2020 passed on the Oregon House floor on Tuesday, June 18, 2019

The Clean Energy Jobs Bill moved on to the Senate floor where we had the Democratic votes to pass this bill.  On June 20, 2019, it was very disheartening when Oregon Senate Republicans fled the state to deny the required 2/3 quorum for a floor vote for HB 2020. Over the next ten days, it felt more depressing as Republicans Senators refused to return to work until the Democrats agreed to kill HB 2020. It felt like a year of effort for me of numerous lobby meetings with legislators, attending organizing meetings, testifying at hearings, helping to organize events and rallies, encouraging residents across Oregon to contact their legislators, and countless trips to the Capitol in Salem was all going down the drain. It was that helpless feeling that a bitter defeat was about to happen and there was nothing we could do about it.  

Brian Ettling at the Oregon state Capitol in Salem, OR delivering 50 postcards to state legislators urging them to support Renew Oregon’s Clean Energy Jobs Bill on September 18, 2019.

The bill had to pass the legislative before the Sunday, June 30, 2019, the last day of the session or it would die. The last day of the session is known on the Oregon Legislative calendar as Sine Die. According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary Sine Die means, “without any future date being designated (as for resumption): indefinitely. the meeting (or legislative session) is adjourned.” We hoped for a miracle that the GOP Senators would come to their senses and return to Oregon. However, it was looking bleaker each day.

On Tuesday, June 25th, Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney announced that he did not have the Democratic votes to pass HB 2020. Therefore, the bill was dead. On Friday, June 28th the Republican Senators returned to Salem to vote on the remaining legislative bills before the Sine Die happened. A friend talked me into going to the Capitol to at least look at the weak-kneed Democratic Senators in the eye. I felt so numb that a major bill on climate action failed. I just needed some good news. Any good news!  

I hoped to hear if I had been accepted to the Climate Reality Minneapolis Training in August. Unfortunately, this email arrived from Climate Reality on that ride to Salem on Friday, June 28th: 

“Dear Brian: 

Thank you for applying to serve as a mentor at the upcoming Climate Reality Leadership Corps training in Minneapolis. Due to overwhelming interest from many exceptional Leaders, we regret to inform you that we are not able to invite you as a mentor to this training.

Several key factors are considered in the review process, including geographic need (matching registered attendees to mentors from their area), travel budget, carbon footprint, application responses, and logged Acts of Leadership. The selection process can be extremely difficult with so many qualified applicants, and this training was no exception.

Please know we value your important work as a Climate Reality Leader and are honored to count you among our volunteers. Though the criteria for putting you on the mentor list did not align this time around, it is possible that another mentor might have to cancel and we would need someone to step in on short notice. Would you be willing to serve as a back-up mentor for the Minneapolis training? If so, we would contact you in the event of a last-minute cancellation to see if you’re available to fill in. Let us know soon if you’d like to be a back-up mentor.

These decisions are never easy, and we greatly appreciate your understanding in the application review process. Thank you for your incredible work and dedication to the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.” 

Climate Reality had no idea what was happening with the timing. However, receiving this email on the car ride to Salem that morning felt like a kick in the stomach when I was already feeling so numb. I always considered the Climate Reality Trainings, even more the honor of being a breakout speaker for three of the trainings, as jet fuel for me to help me with my climate organizing. I could have really used that good news on a day where the Republicans had officially killed the climate change legislation. 

No matter how hard one works as a Climate Reality Leader, you don’t get recognition from Climate Reality Project for climate legislation that does not pass. You don’t get to be on a CLIMATE REALITY LEADERS: WHO WE ARE panel discussion led by Al Gore when you help pass major climate legislation in only one legislative chamber. You don’t get to be a Breakout Speaker or a Master of Ceremonies if you are unable to stop a Republican walkout that kills climate legislation. You don’t even get to be a mentor of the VIPs or even just a mentor if you spend many months lobbying Oregon legislators, encouraging many Oregonians to contact their legislators, attending many legislative hearings at the Capitol, testifying numerous times for climate legislation, and organizing events to urge legislators to support strong climate bills. Sadly, you get nothing. 

Brian Ettling testifying before the Oregon Senate Environmental & Natural Resources Committee showing a message and picture of his parents to urge legislators to support the cap and invest bill in their committee. Photo from February 6, 2020.

I understood that Climate Reality wanted to offer their trainings to other exceptional mentors besides me. Just like Climate Reality, I believe it’s important that we grow the movement. As we grow the movement, it’s vital that we provide support for new Climate Reality Leaders a chance to be mentors. Even though I felt very disappointed, I emailed a gracious response: 

“Thank you for letting me know about the status of my mentor application for the Minneapolis Training. Understandably, I am sad I was not selected as a mentor. However, I totally understand the selection process is extremely difficult with so many qualified applicants. 

Yes! I would absolutely love to be willing to serve as a back-up mentor for the Minneapolis training.
Yes, please do keep me in mind and do contact me immediately if any mentor positions become available. (my emphasis) 

Stay in touch.

Give my best to everyone on the Climate Reality staff.” 

Unfortunately, I was not selected as a backup mentor for that training. 

After the Clean Energy Jobs Bill failed, I spent weeks on the couch at home with no energy to do anything. However, I had to pull myself back up to help Renew Oregon pass a cap and invest bill in the 2020 short session. 

My success and heartbreak as the Chapter Chair of the Portland Climate Reality Chapter

When Tanya and I moved to Portland, Oregon in February, 2017, I became very involved in the Climate Reality Portland Chapter. In the fall of 2018, I joined the Leadership Team for the Chapter. In June 2019, Deb Lev, the Chapter Chair at that time, announced to the Leadership Team that she intended to step down to work full time for another environmental organization. She quickly needed an interim Chair for our Chapter to replace her. I liked Deb a lot. I was her mentor at the 2016 Climate Reality Training in Houston. However, I wanted to take the chapter up to the next level so I asked The Leadership Team if I could take on the role as an interim Chapter Chair. At that time, I served as the Program Manager on the Leadership Team. My role was organizing the monthly meetings, so I would then be performing two roles as the Chapter Chair. 

As Chapter Chair, I wanted to organize two big events over the next six months to urge legislators to take another shot at a cap and invest bill. With these two big events, my goal was for the Climate Reality Portland Chapter to become well known in Portland, Oregon. I hoped that more recognition would help us attract more members and energize our membership. Even more, I intended that we partner more closely with other climate and environmental groups in the Portland area to help get climate legislation passed in the 2020 Oregon legislative session. 

Portland Climate Reality Event with over 80 people in attendance at the Chapel Theatre in Milwaukie, Oregon on September 16, 2019.

Unfortunately, I had three people on the Leadership Team questioning and nitpicking everything I was doing. They did not have any constructive ideas of their own, just criticizing every decision that I made. They were relentless. Half of the leadership team were supporting me, and half were not. The friction grew worse as the summer turned to fall. I contacted a local Climate Reality staff person for advice. Her only feedback was basically, ‘In the organizing world, volunteers can be brutal and vicious and even make you cry hard on some days.’ 

Even though the chemistry on the Leadership Team was bad, I organized two very successful events. The first was held at a local theatre in Milwaukie, OR on September 16, 2019. We filled this theatre with over 80 local climate advocates and Climate Reality Leaders for an event called: “Climate Legislation: Where do we go from here in Oregon?” We had a panel of three speakers: Milwaukie Mayor Mark Gamba, Dylan Kruse from Sustainable Northwest and Shilpa Joshi from Renew Oregon. We encouraged folks to fill out post cards to their legislators. We ended up with 50 postcards and 11 letters. I took the train to Salem and delivered them to legislators. They just happened to be having a workday in Salem two days after our event. 

Brian Ettling leading the panel discussion with Dylan Kruse, Shilpa Joshi, and Mayor Mark Gamba at the Chapel Theatre in Milwaukie, Oregon on September 16, 2019. Photo by Ken Pitts

We had another large Climate Reality Portland Chapter event on January 21, 2020, attended by over 100 people. We packed the meeting space at the Hollywood Senior Center in northeast Portland. The speakers were Oregon Senator Michael Dembrow and Oregon Representative Karin Power, the chief sponsors of the 2019 Clean Energy Jobs Bill. At this gathering, I encouraged attendees to fill out postcards to their legislators urging them to support the cap and invest bill for the 2020 legislative session. I had another huge stack of filled out postcards to take to the Oregon Capitol. I was exhausted from organizing these events. 

At both events, I shot 4 second videos with the packed audience hold up pieces of paper that read, “CLIMATE ACTION NOW!” I then had the audience shout in unison with their fists pumped: “CLIMCATE ACTION NOW!” I sent these videos to Climate Reality staff to use these videos as they see fit, but I did not get much of a response.

Climate Reality Event with over 100 people in attendance at the Hollywood Senior Center in Portland, Oregon on January 21, 2020.

Yet, some members of the Leadership Team endlessly criticized me while offering few ideas of their own. When I incorporated their ideas, it was never enough. They wanted to be in charge, but they said they did not have time to be in charge. We desperately needed to recruit new Climate Leaders in the chapter who would be team players and great at collaborating. Thus, I applied in December 2019 to attend the Climate Reality Training in Las Vegas March 8-10, 2020.  

On February 10, 2020, I received this message from Climate Reality: 

“Dear Brian: 

Thank you for applying to serve as a mentor at the upcoming Climate Reality Leadership Corps training in Las Vegas. Due to overwhelming interest from many exceptional Leaders, we regret to inform you that we are not able to invite you as a mentor to this training.

Several key factors are considered in the review process including geographic need (matching registered attendees to mentors from their area), travel budget, carbon footprint, application responses, and logged Acts of Leadership. Additionally, if you’ve served as a mentor as a recent training, we may have offered the spot to a first-time mentor or someone who has not mentored recently. The selection process can be extremely difficult with so many qualified applicants, and this training was no exception. 

These decisions are never easy, and we greatly appreciate your understanding in the application review process. Please know we value your important work as a Climate Reality Leader and are honored to count you among our volunteers.

Thank you for your incredible work and dedication to the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.” 

That letter looked the same as the first letter in June 2019 that rejected me for the August 2019 Minneapolis Training. 

My feeling of being letdown and pushed aside by the Climate Reality Project 

At that point, I felt done with the Climate Reality Project and the Climate Reality Portland Chapter. I was burned out of putting a tremendous amount of work into organizing meetings and events, plus logging my Acts of Leadership. Yet, I felt no reward. 

I put so many hours into Climate Reality’s Pricing Pollution campaign to turn out CCL volunteers and Climate Reality Leaders for the cap and invest rallies in 2019 and 2020 at the Oregon Capitol in Salem. On February 6, 2019, Renew Oregon had a huge rally and lobby day in Salem. Al Gore even sent in a video message endorsing the Clean Energy Jobs Bill. 

Former Vice President Al Gore a pre-recorded video supporting the Clean Energy Jobs Bill at the Rewew Oregon Lobby Day in Salem, Oregon on February 6, 2019.

The next day Sonny Mehta, Field Director for Renew Oregon, called me to say over 700 people turned out for that event at the capitol and he wanted to thank me for all my efforts. Numerous attendees told him they came because they were involved with CCL and the Climate Reality Project. Along with others, I went through long spreadsheets of calling CCL volunteers and Climate Reality Leaders to get them at that rally. With his phone call, Sonny thought that I had played a key role. Whenever I showed up at any Renew Oregon planning meeting, I would always say: ‘I am here as a volunteer with Citizens Climate Lobby and the Climate Reality Project.’ 

I became a liaison between Renew Oregon and CCL and Climate Reality to make sure both of those organizations were fully coordinating with Renew Oregon during the efforts to get the Oregon Legislature to pass the cap and invest bills. Climate Reality looked at Renew Oregon’s efforts to pass the Clean Energy Jobs Bill to advance their Pricing Pollution campaign. 

I became interim Chapter Chair of the Portland Climate Reality Chapter in July 2019 to specifically organize Climate Reality events in partnership with other climate groups to pass Renew Oregon’s cap and invest bill. Some of the members of the Leadership Team were lukewarm about these efforts, which created tremendous friction within our Leadership Team. I felt like I received very minimal support from Climate Reality when I was receiving a very hard pushback about this in the fall of 2019. 

I came extremely close to resigning as the Chapter Chair in October 2019 because of all the fighting. However, Oregon Senator Michael Dembrow and Representative Karin Power said yes to a big event where I planned to have them speak on January 21, 2020. We needed this event to be a success and to work closely with other groups in the Renew Oregon coalition. The leading climate champions in the Oregon Legislator were Senator Dembrow and Representative Power. They needed to see that the Renew Oregon coalition, including Climate Reality, had their full support as they attempted another very difficult push to pass a cap and invest bill in the 2020 Oregon legislative session. This was a time for concentrated and coordinated action for Oregon Climate Reality Leaders. 

Brian Ettling leading the panel discussion with Oregon Representative Karin Power and Senator Michael Dembrow at a Climate Reality event in Portland, Oregon on January 21, 2020.

In November 2019, I attended the Citizens Climate Lobby Conference and Lobby Day in Washington, D.C. On the day that CCL volunteers had scheduled lobby meetings with Congressional Offices on Capitol Hill, I organized a breakfast meeting of CCL volunteers who are also Climate Reality Leaders to meet with Climate Reality Project staff. We met for a breakfast meeting at a coffee shop located just blocks from the U.S. Capitol. During that meeting, Climate Reality staff person thanked me for leading the chapter. She then told me how sorry she was how I had been treated by some of the Portland Chapter Leadership Team. Those were comforting words that I heard, but that was the minimal support I received from Climate Reality. 

Sadly, we have members of our Leadership Team that did not have their own vision for the chapter. They just wanted to attack my vision. However, my vision for the Climate Reality Portland Chapter was aligned with Climate Reality Project’s Pricing Pollution Campaign. Their Pricing Pollution Campaign Toolkit had a picture that included me on Page 20. We needed new Climate Reality Leaders within the Chapter and Leadership Team that could see the big picture and had great team building skills. It was important for me to attend the Climate Reality Trainings in Minneapolis in August 2020 and Las Vegas in March 2020 to try to recruit some new Climate Reality Leaders from the Portland area into the chapter. Or at the very least, I hoped to receive some ideas how we could make our chapter more effective. 

Zach Klonoski of Renew Oregon, Oregon Rep. David Gomberg, Rep. Ken Helm and Brian Ettling at an event supporting Renew Oregon’s cap and invest bill in Newport, OR on January 30, 2018.

Thus, I felt crushed when I received that letter on February 10, 2020. For all I did over the years of being loyal and dedicated to Climate Reality, it did not feel like Climate Reality was supportive to me. No matter how many large events I organized. No matter how many speaking tours I led. No matter how many elected officials I lobbied. No matter what I did to try to guide the Portland Chapter. No matter how many people I helped turn out for rallies to try to pass climate legislation. No matter how many letters to the editor and opinion editorials I wrote to my local newspapers.  It did not feel like Climate Reality was there for me anymore. 

The part that hurt the most is that they said nothing after the Atlanta Training about the possibility to be a breakout speaker at a future training. It felt like all of that was forgotten. I would have understood if they would have said, ‘We want to go in a different direction with the NOW PRESENTING: THE MASTERING THE PRESENTATION breakout session. Is there any way you could help us with another role instead at the training?’ 

Part of me would have been thrilled because it took a lot of work to put together these joint presentations for the Climate Reality Trainings. I would have been so honored to be a mentor for the VIPs who attend the trainings, a Master of Ceremonies, or other roles. Even more, I pushed myself so hard to do so many acts of leadership with giving presentations, lobbying elected officials, organizing events, writing letters to the editor, meeting with fellow Climate Reality Leaders, etc. It was my dream to be on the CLIMATE REALITY LEADERS: WHO WE ARE panel that was led by Al Gore or to receive some acknowledge that I was positively contributing to Climate Reality. It just did not seem like no matter how hard I pushed myself or what actions I did that I was going to achieve those things.

Brian Ettling at the Climate Reality event at the Hollywood Senior Center in Portland, Oregon. Photo taken by Ken Pitts on January 21, 2020.

My depths of despair and a beginning sense of renewal as a climate organizer and writer 

When I resigned as Chapter Chair of Climate Reality in March 2020, it was around the time that the COVID-19 pandemic started. Global and American society went into extreme social isolation to try to contain the spread of the virus. That same month, the 2020 Oregon Legislative session ended with the GOP legislators of both chambers fleeing the state over a week before. That action killed all the legislation scheduled for votes in both chambers, especially Renew Oregon’s cap and invest bill. Just like 2019, the Republicans succeeded in killing climate legislation. After all the work that I and so many others put into that effort, that was a heartbreaking defeat. 

The 2020 defeat of Oregon’s cap and invest bill, my disappointment with Climate Reality, and the pandemic triggered a very bad depression for me. For many years before, I received joy and purpose from giving climate change presentations, lobby elected officials, organizing events, and attending meeting. All of that was suspended indefinitely and I felt like I lost my purpose. 

Climate Reality decided to cancel all their in-person trainings for 2020, including Las Vegas. That provided no solace for me. It just made me sad. I really loved attending those trainings as a mentor and breakout speaker. I was selected as a mentor for their virtual July 2020 training, but that was it. They did not seem interested in offering me additional roles for their trainings. 

Before the pandemic, if I felt like I had suffered a defeat or setback, I would just jump to another project. If I got thrown off the horse, I would just jump back onto another horse and ride away. However, I felt like I could not do that during the pandemic. 

The good news is that I did not give up. I started lobbying Oregon Legislators in the summer of 2020 to endorse a bill in Congress, The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (EICDA). Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) asked their volunteers to meet with grass top leaders such as state legislators to endorse the EICDA. CCL figured that more local endorsements would motivate members of Congress to support the EICDA. Working with other CCL volunteers, I led the efforts to get over 30 Oregon Legislators to endorse the EICDA. 

During our meeting in September 2020, Oregon Rep. Tiffiny Mitchell asked if she could introduce a state resolution endorsing the EICDA. Representative Mitchell did not run for re-election. Thus, Senator Michael Dembrow proudly introduced the resolution on the Oregon Senate floor February 4, 2021, when it officially became known as Senate Joint Memorial 5 or SJM 5.

Screenshot from the Oregon Legislative Information System (OLIS) of the Senate Floor vote for the SJM 5 Resolution. Photo taken on April 7, 2021.

SJM 5 passed the Oregon Senate on April 7th by a vote of 23 to 5, with 6 Republican Senators, half of the Oregon GOP Senate caucus, joined all the Democratic Senators present to vote to support it. Unfortunately, SJM 5 fell short of receiving a floor vote in the Oregon House in June 2021. It was exciting was that 30 House members, including 7 Republicans, signed on to co-sponsor it. The Oregon House has 60 members. Half the chamber was SJM 5 co-sponsors.

Even though SJM 5 fell short from passing in the Oregon Legislature, it was one of my best experiences as a climate organizer. At the same time, I struggled to find a new sense of purpose after that happened. In August 2020, I reached out to Climate Reality Leader and Mentor Jill MacIntyre Witt for her advice for my next steps forward. Jill responded in an email: “I am getting certified to be a wellness coach, focusing on climate action coaching. Would you be willing to participate in my practice coaching sessions (Zoom calls)?” 

Jill and I spoke regularly for the next couple of months. In her advice as a wellness coach to me, she urged me to start writing again. I had blogged for over 10 years, but I had completely stopped writing for the previous two years. I was not motivated to write during the pandemic. 

Thus, I took Jill’s advice and started writing in the fall of 2021. I began to write a blog which turned into over 82 pages of writing. It looked like a possible book with the title Why I Quit the Climate Movement. However, that title and those writings felt too pessimistic. I set those writings aside in 2022 to work on political campaigns for state legislators. 

I focused on trying to elect local Democratic candidates who would protect our democracy. The violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C. on January 6, 2021 really scared me that we came close to losing our democracy. Former Vice President Al Gore said it best years ago, ‘In order to fix the climate crisis, we first must fix the democracy crisis.

As a climate organizer, I devoted my energy in 2022 to elect local Democratic candidates who would be strong on enacting climate policies and protecting our democracy. However, Robin Riddlebarger, Park Superintendent of Hanging Rock State Park, North Carolina sent me an email in May 2022. She asked me if I would speak to a group of crusty park superintendents at their annual conference of North Carolina State Parks Superintendents on November 14, 2022.

Brian Ettling speaking at the North Carolina state parks superintendents conference at Haw River State Park on November 14, 2022.

I jumped at this opportunity to travel to North Carolina to give a climate change talk to these state park superintendents. I had a great time speaking at this conference on November 14, 2022. It felt like I had my groove back giving an in-person climate change talk for the first time since before the COVID pandemic started in March 2020. It reminded me of the days when I was a very active Climate Reality Leader. 

In January 2023, I signed up for a Writing Your Story Continuing Education Class at my local community college. This class really sparked my interest and focus on writing again. I decided to go back to write and blog about my highest and lowest moments as a climate organizer. Like the title of this blog suggests, one of my highlights was the three times Climate Reality invited me to be a co-presenter at three of their Trainings. It was such an honor to co-present in the breakout sessions with Maddie Adkins, Itzel Morales, and Maria Santiago-Valentín. 

It was extremely painful to write about my low times as a climate organizer. In this blog, I talked about how incredibly difficult it was to lead the Climate Reality Portland Chapter in the fall of 2019. Even more, it felt very demoralizing for me when Climate Reality stopped inviting me to be a mentor and breakout speaker at their trainings in 2019 and 2020. 

Writing about my high and low points as a climate organizer helped me with some much-needed healing. I can now see that I did accomplish a lot as a climate organizer, especially as a Climate Reality Leader. Even more, I had so much fun! It was a grand adventure along the way.

Brian Ettling getting ready to give a climate change talk to the North Carolina state parks superintendents conference on November 14, 2022.

 My final thoughts 

In 2023, I decided to regularly write and blog to account for the missing chapters of my life’s story. I hope to take these writings and turn it into a memoir to publish as a book. I hope it can be a historical account of what I witnessed in the climate movement. Even more, I hope that the ups and downs of my story can provide helpful lessons for other climate organizers.

To be honest, writing about the low points has been incredibly painful, but cathartic. At the same time, it is a relief to document my peak experiences into writing. 

Looking back over my past 13 years as a climate organizer, I am very proud to receive a beautiful award for giving a climate change lecture at my alma mater William Jewell College in October 2018. At the May 2015 Climate Reality Training in Cedar Rapids, I chatted with Al Gore and asked him a vital question of how to respond to his critics. I appeared on national TV Comedy Central’s Tosh.o as The Climate Change Comedian on August 2, 2016. As I wrote this blog, I recalled the occasions where Climate Reality acknowledged all my hard work as a Climate Reality Leader several times over the years.  

Finally, I had the honor to be a breakout speaker for three Climate Reality Trainings. For each of those occasions, I co-presented with fantastic Climate Reality Leaders: Maddie Adkins, Itzel Morales, and Maria Santiago-Valentin. Each of them taught be valuable lessons in the joy, confidence, and teamwork in giving a great climate change presentation. 

Thank you, Maddie Adkins, Itzel Morales, Maria Santiago-Valentín and Climate Reality Project, for those fantastic opportunities to be a breakout co-presenter at three of your Trainings. 

Brian Ettling at the Houghton Peninsula in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with Lake Superior behind him. Photo taken 0n April 10, 2010.

* Correction: In writing this blog, I discovered that quote is misattributed to Maya Angelou. According to the Quote Investigator website (QI), which “records the investigatory work of Garson O’Toole who diligently seeks the truth about quotations.” According to QI, the quote actually originates from “1971 collection titled “Richard Evans’ Quote Book”. The statement was ascribed to Carl W. Buehner who was a high-level official in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.”

Brian Ettling April 2023 ©