For Climate Action, organizing 3 big public events

Brian Ettling speaking at a Climate Reality Chapter Event in Portland, Oregon on June 18, 2019.

“Fight for the things that you care about but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”

– Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court

As a climate organizer, one of my proudest accomplishments was organizing three large climate events. I am a climate change speaker who has given talks to groups of over 200 people. At the same time, it was fun for me to plan three separate events where I packed a large room with over 80 and even 100 people to see speakers that I had invited. All of these events happened before the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, when it was easier to gather large groups of people. I organized one of these events in St. Louis, Missouri in 2017 and two in the Portland, Oregon area. My final large event happened in Portland in January 2020, less than 6 weeks from when the COVID pandemic shutdown started.

I learned a lot from organizing these events. These events would not have been a success without friends from the Climate Reality St. Louis Meet Group (now known as Climate Meetup-St. Louis), the St. Louis Chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) the Climate Reality Portland Chapter, the Metro Climate Action Team, and the CCL Portland, Oregon Chapter. I wanted to share my story of organizing these three large events with this blog as I aim to document about my life as a climate change organizer.

My Climate Change story

As I blogged about previously, I was a seasonal park ranger at Crater Lake National Park, Oregon and Everglades National Park, Florida for 25 years from 1992 to 2017.

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.

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 shocked me that crocodiles, alligators, and 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

I became so worried about climate change that I quit my winter job in Everglades National Park in 2008. I moved back to my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri 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.

During my winters in St. Louis, I started organizing slowly for climate action because I was unsure how to go about it. I started giving climate change talks at my nieces and nephews grade schools in the spring of 2010. In the winter of 2011, I joined South County Toastmasters to become a better climate change communicator. That same winter, I worked at the St. Louis Science Center at their temporary climate change exhibit from March to May 2011.

Up until 2017, I still worked my summer job Crater Lake National Park. While working there for many years, the impacts of climate change became apparent with the average annual snowpack diminishing. I noticed more mild winters with below average snowpacks. The summer wildfire seasons became more longer, hotter, dryer and more intense. By August 2011, I had gathered enough information to start giving a climate change ranger evening program at the campground amphitheater to the park visitors.

Getting involved with Citizens Climate Lobby and The Climate Reality Project

In April 2011, while attending a St. Louis Science Center lecture about how climate change is impacting the weather , I met and became friends with St. Louis businessman Larry Lazar. We had a mutual longing to do something about climate change. Thus, Larry and I co-founded the St. Louis Climate Reality Meet Up group in November 2011 (now called Climate Meetup-St. Louis) to organize regular meetings and promote events in the St. Louis area to create more awareness about climate change.

Larry and I had our first meeting at Cafe Ventana in St. Louis on December 11, 2011. Larry organized the meeting around all of us getting to know each other and our concerns about climate change. We had about 16 people attend the meeting, including Tom and Carol Braford. Larry did a great job making our initial Meet Up meeting a success. After the meeting, I will never forget Carol personally inviting me to a Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL) conference call meeting.

Over that winter of 2011-12, Larry Lazar and I led our Climate Reality Meet Up meeting on the third Sunday of each month. Up to 20 people attended our meetings, including Tom & Carol Braford. Carol was very persistent in promoting CCL and inviting me to their meetings. I felt in a bind because attending a CCL meeting intrigued me, but my job schedule made it hard.

Brian Ettling and Larry Lazar. Image taken on January 8, 2012.

Finally, the timing was right when my winter seasonal job ended at the Science Center at the end of April. I was free Saturday, May 5th. I was very impressed with CCL and immediately became involved. At the close of the meeting, I boldly told Carol that I was going to establish a CCL group in southern Oregon when I returned to Crater Lake National Park to work as a park ranger that summer. It took all summer, but I eventually helped establish the southern Oregon CCL chapter that regularly meets in Ashland, Oregon.

In 2011 and into 2012, I also became very interested in the Climate Reality Project (CRP), founded in 2007 by former Vice President Al Gore. I networked with friends involved with CRP to see if I could attend one of their trainings. In the spring of 2012, I applied to attend their next three-day U.S. training that was scheduled in San Francisco in August 21-23. In June 2012, CRP invited over 850 applicants, including Larry and me, to attend this training. As trained Climate Reality Leaders, Larry and I started giving climate change presentations in the St. Louis area that winter. Larry and I gave several joint presentations with Lucas Sabalka, a mathematics professor at St. Louis University who had also attended the Climate Reality San Francisco Training.

In the winter of 2012-2013, Larry, Lucas, and I gave several joint Climate Reality Presentations to large audiences at churches in the St. Louis area. Lucas and his wife left St. Louis in May 2013 to accept a job in his hometown on Lincoln, Nebraska. Up until January 2017, Larry Lazar and I continued to organize monthly meet up events and give regular joint Climate Reality presentations in the St. Louis area. Larry and I gave climate change presentations at some of monthly meet ups, but we mostly invited other speakers.

Because of the magic of Skype and Zoom, we brought in national speakers such as

  • Scott Mandia, Professor of Earth and Physical Sciences and Assistant Chair of the Physical Sciences Department at Suffolk County Community College, Long Island, New York. He co-authored the book, Rising Sea Levels: An Introduction to Cause and Impact highlighting the impact of sea level rise on 25 major cities around the world.

  • Dr. Michael E. Mann, Presidential Distinguished Professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Science at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of several books. Dr. Mann is well known as creator of the “Hockey Stick” temperature graph, an icon in the intense political battle over human-caused climate change.

  • John Cook, founder of the Skeptical Science website in 2007. He is now a Senior Research Fellow with the Melbourne Centre for Behaviour Change at the University of Melbourne. John authored several books on climate changes, such as Climate Change Denial: Heads in the Sand. More recently, in 2020 he wrote and drew the cartoon illustrations for the book, Cranky Uncle vs. Climate Change: How to Understand and Respond to Climate Science Deniers.

  • Peter Sinclair, a Michigan-based videographer, specializing in climate change and renewable energy issues. He has created hundreds of educational videos correcting climate science misinformation, including his independent “Climate Denial Crock of the Week” series, and the monthly “This is Not Cool” series for Yale Climate Connections, which has run since February 2012.

  • Brian Malow, Earth’s Premier Science Comedian (self-proclaimed). He was featured on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, co-hosted shows on The Weather Channel, and been profiled in Nature, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Washington Post, and the New York Times. “Brian worked in science communications at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh, and blogged for Scientific American. His website describes Brian “as currently freelancing as a speaker, performer, consultant, writer, producer, and whatnot.”

  • Dr. Richard Alley, a Professor of Geosciences at Penn State. He was presenter for the PBS TV miniseries on climate and energy Earth: The Operator’s Manual and author of the book. His book The Two-Mile Time Machine, tells a riveting history of global climate changes that is discovered by reading the annual rings of ice from cores drilled in Greenland.

  • Dr. Margaret Klein Salamon, a clinical psychologist turned climate activist who founded and directed The Climate Mobilization from 2014-2020. She is the Founding Principal of Climate Awakening, a project to help foster the power of climate emotions through meaningful small group conversations. She is the author of Facing the Climate Emergency: How to Transform Yourself with Climate Truth, a self-help guide for the climate emergency.

  • Karen Street, a science writer and retired teacher who helps educate the public on climate change science and solutions, sharing the best understanding of scientists and economists. She has a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering from UC, Berkeley. She worked as an electrical engineer for several years before becoming a high school math and physics teacher until 1994. As she transitioned to become a science writer, Karen researched the differences between coal and nuclear energy and became aware of the serious threats from climate change. Since then she has become a strong proponent of nuclear energy as a key solution to address climate change.

  • Sam Daley-Harris, an organizer, author, and founder of the anti-poverty organization RESULTS. He wrote a very inspiring book for organizers, Reclaiming Our Democracy, Healing the Break Between People and Government. In 2012 Daley-Harris launched the Center for Citizen Empowerment and Transformation to help organizations more deeply engage their supporters and create champions in Congress and the media for their cause. With his background of creating and building RESUTS, Sam was a mentor to Marshall Saunders over 15 years ago when Marshall created Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

I met nearly all these speakers at scientific or climate conferences. However, Larry had a genuine gift of recruiting nearly all these guest speakers and turning out good size audiences in the St. Louis area. The exception was I successfully invited Peter Sinclair, Brian Malow, and Sam Daley-Harris to speak to our Climate Reality St. Louis Meet Up. Because of Skype and later Zoom, I marveled how fabulous it was to be able to invite these national speakers to chat with us by video over 10 years ago, before it became commonplace today.

Organizing my first large meet up event in St. Louis with over 80 people in attendance

In January 2017, my wife interviewed for a job in Portland, Oregon, so we knew we had a good chance of moving there. She accepted the position towards the end of the month, so we decided to move to Portland in early February. Before we knew for sure we were moving, I wanted to start off 2017 on a positive note as a climate organizer.

January 2017 felt very gloomy with Donald Trump’s inauguration as President. Trump vowed to reverse all of Obama’s climate policies. Climate advocates viewed this with a sense of doom and a heaviness of not knowing what to do next. I believed I had the perfect speaker in mind to provide hope and inspiration to St. Louis area climate activists: Jay Butera. He was a volunteer with CCL from Gladwyne, PA. In 2016, after years of effort, “Jay was the concept-originator and driving force behind formation of the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives.” For several years, Jay served as CCL’s Senior Congressional Liaison in Washington, working to maintain a continuous year-round presence for CCL in the Halls of Congress.

In November and December 2017 it took several emails to Jay and a few mutual friends reaching out to him for Jay to say Yes to speak to our Meet Up. We met via Skype in mid-January to plan this event.

Jay and I agreed upon the date of Sunday, January 29, 2017. He would speak to us live by video link at Schlafly’s Bottle Works in St. Louis, Missouri. Before Jay spoke, he wanted me to play the 2016 National Geographic Years of Living Dangerously episode, “Safe Passage.” This episode featured former West Wing TV star Bradley Whitford returning to Washington D.C. to try to lobby Republicans to act on climate change. In the process, he learns about Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) and CCL’s Senior Congressional Liaison in Washington D.C, Jay Butera.

Larry Lazar and I found a way to pack the room with 80 people to hear Jay Butera speak that evening. You could have heard a pin drop when I played that Years of Living Dangerously episode for the audience. They gave Jay a resounding applause when the video stopped. The audience seemed to hang onto every word that Jay spoke. He seemed to have gained a deep respect from this audience. Many folks in this audience were progressives, deeply cynical about Republicans or any politicians solving climate change. They felt deep hurt by the outcome of the 2016 election with the recent inauguration of Donald Trump as President. You could feel Jay giving them a sense of hope and a way to step forward on climate. Jay showed a way to reach Republicans on the issue of climate. It had a sincere impact on this audience.

As a climate organizer, it felt like a peak moment for me. Around that time, I found that that Madeleine Para, then Vice President of Programming for CCL, reluctantly approved of Jay speaking to our Climate Reality St. Louis Meet Up. However, she made it clear that she did not want Jay to speak to any other CCL or climate group. She strictly wanted him to be focused on lobbying members of Congress in Washington D.C.

I wish Madeleine could have been in that room that evening to see how Jay was impacting progressive, more cynical climate advocates. That felt bittersweet at the event that I successfully persuaded Jay Butera to speak this this St. Louis group. At the same time, there seemed to be a bit of resentment from national CCL that I persuaded Jay Butera to speak to this CCL group. When Jay spoke at that meeting, I could not think of a better speaker at that moment. I was very proud of what I had accomplished in that moment and place for climate action.

Pennsylvania business man and CCL Senior Congressional Liaison speaking to over 80 people at the St. Louis Climate Reality Meet Up group on January 29, 2017.

Unfortunately, everything soon went sideways at this meeting and this era of good feelings quickly fell apart. After Jay spoke, Larry Lazar took over for the second half of the meeting. Early that week, Larry asked me if he could invite a new group to attend this meeting. It was a group I had never hear of before called Indivisible. At that time, I thought they were called Invincible.

Early that same day, there was a protest rally at Lambert International Airport to express over the ban of Muslim immigrants to the U.S. that the new President Donald Trump had just imposed with an execute order. Most of this audience came directly from that protest. They were still simmering with anger over this recent decree by Donald Trump.

They made those feelings very clear when the break was over and we moved into the second half of this meet up. The good vibe that Jay Butera had dispelled over the room suddenly evaporated. One of the first speakers said: ‘I am mad as hell at Donald Trump and something must be done immediately to stop him. We need to impeach him!”

The room then burst into a strong applause. I urged them to follow the path that Jay Butera laid out for us just a few minutes earlier. I tried to counter with a sense of reason that even if we impeached Trump, we would then have a President Mike Pence. I pleaded with the audience that a President Pence would also be terrible for America, especially on the issue of climate change.

Someone yelled out from the audience at me: “I DON’T CARE!”

It felt like I lost control of this audience that they just wanted to grab some pitch forks and storm the castle. Someone else got up to speak that he creates puppets for protest movements, and he wanted to know if anyone would join him. That felt like a face palm moment to me.

Audience shot of the estimated 80 people at the St. Louis Climate Reality MeetUp event at Schlafly’s Bottle Works on January 29, 2017.

It looked like Jay Butera’s message got drown out by the anger towards Donald Trump. I kept thinking: ‘Where were these people in 2016 to organize with the Democrats to prevent Donald Trump from becoming President?’ Most of these folks knew in 2016 that Trump was a threat to climate action, women’s rights, immigration, and our democracy. Yet, they seemed to understate the threat and were super angry now. I felt speechless in that moment.

After another round expressing how angry they were, I responded than you cannot just be against something. Then you automatically have opposition and resistance. You must be smart about your protest, or you can fail. Internally, I was thinking about the 2011 Occupy Wall Street protest. In my view, the 2016 Bernie Sanders movement did not seem to comprehend this.

From a 2016 Toastmasters speech I gave, I shared with this audience an example of something to be in favor of: China plans on spending $361 million dollars on clean energy in the next several years. By that time, they were the world’s largest market and manufacture of solar panels. They also installed more wind turbines than anyone else in 2015 (not sure about the figures for 2016 then). China plans on kicking our ass in the renewable energy race. If we really jump all in on the renewable energy race we clean up our air, provide tons of jobs, grow our economy, become truly energy independent, and best of all, reduce the threat of climate change.

Sadly, my words just seemed to fall on deaf ears.

Larry Lazar soon wrapped up this meeting. Before he adjourned the meeting, Larry announced that my wife Tanya and I were moving from St. Louis to Portland, Oregon in a few days. He shared how much he enjoyed co-organizing the St. Louis Climate Reality Meet Up group with me. His voice seemed almost choked up as he was announcing this. I sure did appreciate Larry saying that. At the same time, I felt deflated from the second half of the meeting. It felt like we lost all momentum for folks in the room to join CCL or try to follow Jay Butera’s example.

After the meeting, I walked up to Larry Lazar who was relaxed and enjoying a beer with an attendee. I asked Larry if he knew inviting the Indivisible or Invincible folks could lead to an uneven meeting like that. Larry responded that if he had not invited Indivisible, we would not have had that huge crowd that evening. He went on to very coldly say, ‘To be honest, I invited them because I doubted most of those folks would be interested in coming to see Jay Butera.’

Larry’s words stung. I had nothing left to say and I just left. Our relationship never seemed to be the same. It was a shame because he was the best man at my wedding on November 1, 2015. I asked him to be my best man because of the great relationship we had co-founding the Climate Reality St. Louis Meet Up group.

Brian Ettling and Larry Lazar. The day that Brian married his wife Tanya on November 1, 2015. Larry was the best man at Brian and Tanya’s wedding.

A few days later, Tanya and I moved to Portland, Oregon. Larry then dropped out of the climate movement. We lost touch soon afterwards. Larry and I exchanged emails this year. In April 2023, Tanya and I went to St. Louis for a week to celebrate my parents’ 60th wedding anniversary. During this visit, I accepted an invitation to give a climate change speech to my old Toastmasters group, South County Toastmasters. I sent Larry an email inviting him to my speech.

He did respond that he would try to make it. He went on to say: “I’m taking classes (on-line) to learn about solar with the hopes of becoming involved in the solar industry. Maybe even becoming an installer or sales person. I’m open to either and will be starting from the ground up. I think it will be the best use of my time and skills going forward.”

Larry did not come to my Toastmasters speech. However, I was happy to hear that he found a new way to be involved in the climate movement. When I knew him well 10 years ago, he constantly organized climate events and gave climate change talks in the St. Louis area. I was sorry to see that he dropped out of the climate movement in recent years. I assumed that he became very busy with work as a businessman, and he could not handle the distraction of climate organizing anymore. If he puts his mind into solar installation like he did for creating and organizing the Climate Reality St. Louis Meet Up group, I know he will be a success as a solar installer.

As time passed, I am now incredibly proud of that Climate Reality St. Louis Meet Up event with Jay Butera as the guest speaker. I have not seen Jay at the most recent CCL conferences in Washington D.C. He seems to have dropped out of CCL, except for now just being a member of CCL’s Advisory Board. I was delighted to show that Years of Living Dangerously episode with Jay Butera and to see how it positively touched the audience.

The first half of that event went beautifully. I don’t dwell about the second half of the event now. I chalk it up to the anger and despair that all of us climate advocates were feeling when Donald Trump became President in 2017. Thank goodness all of us climate activists and so many other Americans found a way to defeat Donald Trump in the 2020 Presidential election.

Brian Ettling smiling on the right side of this photo. He was relieved and somewhat satisfied with the event he organized along with Larry Lazar (pictured in the middle) at Schlafly’s Bottle Works on January 29, 2017.

Leading Climate Change speaking tours in Missouri and Oregon in 2017

After Tanya and I moved to Oregon, it would be a couple of years before I would organize a large climate event like I did in St. Louis in January 2017. When Tanya and I decided that we were moving to Portland in February 2017, I had to call climate friends in Missouri to let them know we were moving so I could not organize events in Missouri with them anymore. At that time, I was the co-state CCL Coordinator in Missouri with George Laur, who lives in Jefferson City, Missouri. George was happy for Tanya and me, but he was sad because we really did enjoy working with each other. George then said to me: ‘Looks like you will have to fly back to Missouri in March because I am planning for you to speak in Jefferson City and Kirksville, Missouri.’

After Tanya and I moved to Portland in February 2017, I became very active as a volunteer in the Portland, Oregon Chapter of CCL. I immediately loved living in Portland, but it felt like ‘a blue bubble’ with many people living there who are passionate about climate change and taking climate action. Thus, I envisioned a road tour to travel to central, southern, and eastern Oregon to inspire Oregonians in those more rural areas to organize for climate action and join CCL.

The CCL volunteers and I who organized this tour called it The Oregon Stewardship Tour. We thought that taking climate action, especially with urging Congress to pass a carbon fee and dividend, is one of the best ways to be good stewards of Oregon’s precious air, and and water.

It was also one of the bravest and boldest feats I have done driving 1,600 miles myself in my car to 11 cities for this 12-day tour from October 24 to November 4, 2017. I traveled to give presentations in La Grande, Baker City, John Day, Burns, Prineville, Redmond, Lakeview, Klamath Falls, and Grants Pass to talk to rural and conservative Oregonians about climate change.

This tour was a huge undertaking for me. For a recap, I had

9 public outreach events
2 lobby meetings with district offices of Rep. Greg Walden
2 newspaper editorial board meetings
2 live radio interviews
4 published articles in Oregon newspapers featuring the tour
4 press releases published announcing local tour events.

Like the Missouri tour I completed in March, I did not organize any of the local events of the Oregon Stewardship Tour. All those events were organized by local volunteers in those Oregon cities, plus the CCL volunteers on our tour planning committee. Thus, I can’t take credit for organizing those events. All these events took place in small cities in eastern, central, and southern Oregon. Therefore, we were happy when we had 20 to even 30 people show up at these events. This was quite an adventure for me to give 9 climate change presentations in 12 days while driving over 1,600 miles alone in my car to reach all these destinations. I was running so ragged with this intense schedule that I was exhausted and had a cold by the end of that tour.

Brian Ettling in Grants Pass, Oregon. Photo taken at the end of the Oregon Stewardship Tour on Saturday, November 4, 2017.

Just one week after that tour ended, I traveled to Washington D.C. to attend a CCL conference and lobby day. I gave a presentation about the tour at the December Portland Climate Reality Chapter meeting. Fortunately, my schedule in November and December was much lighter for me to rejuvenate after the intense schedule of the Oregon Stewardship Tour.

Briefly working for Tesla Energy and then volunteering for Renew Oregon

In January 2018, I started working for Tesla Energy. For the next six months, my job was selling solar panels at nearby Home Depots. This was my first full time sales job, much different my ranger jobs or any previous jobs I held.

It quite an adjust for me. I had grown very comfortable having seasonal jobs as a park ranger working the national parks for the previous 25 years. I got used to nearly everyone loving me as a park ranger. In sales, it seems like nearly everyone hates you for bothering them and occasionally you find someone who likes you. It took all my energy to succeed in this job. There was no time, interest or desire to plan large events especially for climate action.

Sadly, Tesla laid off my supervisor, the advisor manager, their regional boss and 9% of Tesla’s staff, mostly in the Tesla Energy Division, on June 12th. My job transferred to Tesla Motors, located just south of downtown Portland. Sadly, the new job was not a good fit for me with the hours, commute, work environment, work culture, so I decided to leave that job on July 9, 2018.

The day I quit Tesla, I ran into Sonny Mehta, an organizing Field Director for Renew Oregon. I just happened to see Sonny when I was walking in downtown Portland as I was getting ready to catch public transportation to go home. I met Sonny the year before on October 22, 2017, just two days before I departed Portland to start The Oregon Stewardship Tour. I stopped by the Renew Oregon office in downtown Portland on that beautiful October day and he gave me handouts from Renew Oregon to share with Oregonians during my tour.

Sonny recruited me to volunteer for Renew Oregon in their campaign to urge legislators to pass cap and trade legislation in Oregon Legislature during the upcoming 2019 session. Looking to do the most effective climate action, I jumped at the opportunity to get involved with Renew Oregon. I soon joined in on their weekly organizing calls. Sonny encouraged me to get involved in various ways such as writing op-eds and letters to the editor (LTE) in newspapers in Oregon.

On September 25th, I attended a Renew Oregon lobby day at the Oregon Capitol in Salem. This lobby day focused on attending a public hearing of the Legislative Carbon Reduction Committee. This would be the joint legislative committee created by the Senate President and Speaker of the House to craft a legislative cap and invest bill in the 2019 legislative session. That same day of the hearing, I lobbied my state legislators for to support a cap and invest bill. This lobby day would be the start of many lobby days over the next 9 months to attend many public hearings of the Joint Carbon Reduction Committee and to lobby state legislators to do whatever I could to help Renew Oregon pass their cap and invest bill.

Brian Ettling getting ready to lobby and attending a legislative hearing at the Oregon State Capitol on September 25, 2018.

On February 4, 2019, the cap and invest bill was introduced in the Oregon Legislature 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.

Recruiting guest speakers for the Climate Reality Portland Chapter Monthly Meetings

On September 17, 2018, around the same time I volunteered with Renew Oregon, I attended the Climate Reality Portland Chapter monthly meeting. I was active with this group since I first moved to Portland in February 2017. At this meeting, I volunteered to be the Program Director booking guest speakers for the monthly meetings. For over the next year and four months, I enjoyed booking the local monthly speakers for the chapter meetings.

• For the October 2018 meeting, I had my friends Marvin Pemberton and Ken Pitts talk about how they give climate change presentation to the schools in the Portland area.

• At the November 2018 meeting, I booked Climate Reality Leader Katy Eymann from Bandon, Oregon shared about her latest efforts to stop the proposed Jordan Cove LNG pipeline and Sonny Mehta from Renew Oregon gave an update about the Clean Energy Jobs bill to price carbon pollution in Oregon.

• For the January 2019 meeting, I asked Lenny Dee, co-founder at Onward Oregon and Just Energy Transition Campaign Co-Coordinator for 350PDX, to share the latest about the Portland Clean Energy Fund and Climate Reality Leader Jane Stackhouse gave a summary on what was happening with Renew Oregon’s Clean Energy Jobs Bill.

• At the February 2019 meeting, I recruited 15-year-old organizers Jeremy Clark and Charlie Abrams to talk about their achievements in climate organizing and my friend Francine Chinitz gave a 10-minute presentation about Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

• For the March 2019 meeting, I reached out to Charlotte Shuff from the Community Energy Project, to share how her organization helps low-income renters in Portland with weatherization to reducing their utility costs. This also helps them lower their carbon footprint.

• For the May 2019 meeting, we invited chapter member Kate Gaertner, founder of TripleWin Advisory to present the necessity and opportunity of pursuing deep corporate sustainability measures within business. During the second half of the meeting, I gave a sample Truth in 10 Climate Reality Talk that went for 20 minutes on the problem and solutions to climate change.

Inviting Kelsey Juliana to speak at our June 2019 Climate Reality Portland Chapter Event

All the planning and recruiting speakers for these meetings led to our Climate Reality Portland Chapter Leadership Team deciding to go big for a June 2019 event. We decided to reach out to Kelsey Juliana one of the lead plaintiffs for a Youth vs. Gov court case, officially known as Juliana vs. the United States. Their complaint asserts that the federal government’s affirmative actions cause climate change. Therefore, it violated the youngest generation’s constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property, as well as failed to protect essential public trust resources.

Kelsey is originally from Eugene, Oregon. In June 2019, she was a college student at the University of Oregon in Eugene. She is the oldest of the youth 21 plaintiffs taking on the federal government. The plaintiffs in this lawsuit were represented by the non-profit Our Children’s Trust, located in Eugene, Oregon. Hence, that’s why her name is on the lawsuit. The CBS TV show 60 minutes featured these plaintiffs, including Kelsey Juliana, on their March 3, 2019 broadcast.

Someone on our Chapter Leadership Team had connections to Kelsey Juliana, so they asked me to email her to see if she could be the speaker for our June event. I first emailed her in March 2019, but I did not get a response. In April, our Leadership Team started to worry since we had not heard back from her, so I emailed her again in late April. On April 30, 2019, she responded:

“Hi Brian!

I will have just finished my finals by that time, so I’d be happy to come up and present to you all, thanks for the invite. Let me know how to best prepare, however if we could touch base a little closer to the date that would be appreciated. Thanks!

With this confirmation, our leadership team decided to go big for this event. We secured an event space in northeast Portland, known as Tabor Space. A member of our Leadership Team, Jonathan Bailey, was able to persuade the City Club of Portland to help co-sponsor the event. The City Club was a terrific partner helping to split the rental costs of the large room at Tabor Space with us. Everything was falling into place for a fabulous event to happen.

As of late May, we had not heard anything more from Kelsey Juliana. We needed a short bio, a photo, and a brief overview of her topic for promotional purposes. On June 4th, a massive rally happened in downtown Portland supporting the Juliana vs. the U.S. lawsuit as the court case was argued in front of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Afterwards, many of the plaintiffs, including Kelsey Juliana, spoke to huge crowd that was assembled. Since we had not received a recent confirmation from Kelsey about the June 18th event, I hoped to chat with her very briefly.

I stood around for a long time among all attendees hoping to get a brief word with her. As I was just about to say hello to her, Jo Rodgers, Plaintiff Engagement Coordinator for Our Children’s Trust stopped me. She very briskly said to me, ‘I am very sorry, but Kelsey does not have time to talk. She must catch a train back to Eugene right now.’

I responded, ‘I totally understand, Jo. However, Our Climate Reality Leadership Team is planning a big event with Kelsey. We have not heard from her in over a month. We still need items from her like a photo, a short bio, and confirmation that she will be able to make it by 6 pm before the event starts at 6:30 pm.’

Jo replied, ‘She will be there, and I will pass along this information to her.’

Then Jo, Julia and others were whisked away from this rally. It was one of my most frustrating moments as a climate organizer. Our Climate Reality Portland Leadership Team had put hours into planning this event, including me. I felt like I had just been blown off, belittled, and felt very unappreciated. It hurt. At the same time, I was going to have to swallow my pride, and continue doing what I could to make that event a success.

I did send a friendly email to Jo Rodgers the next day and she did apologize for rushing Kelsey out of the rally. She did appreciate my understanding and said that they just made the train on time. I then explained that I would be flying to Washington D.C. to attend the CCL conference June 6th to 12th, plus traveling June 13th to 16th to Crater Lake National Park to be a guest speaker. Thus, I would not be available to answer any questions during that time. During my absence, my friend and fellow member of the Portland Climate Reality Chapter Leadership Team, Amy Hall-Bailey, would be the point of contact.

While I was in Washington, D.C. attending the CCL conference, the Leadership Team did an amazing job putting the final touches on organizing this event for Kelsey Juliana on Tuesday, June 18, 2019. The emails were really flying back and forth between the Leadership Team members as the final details were hammered out. I received an email from Jonathan on the Leadership Team two days before the event on Sunday, June 16th asking if I would MC (be the master of ceremonies) for the event. My wife and I were driving all day from Talent Oregon back to Portland, Oregon, so I was not able to respond until that evening. However, I did respond that I would be happy to be the MC.

On Monday, June 17th, I spent the day at the Oregon Capitol in Salem. It was an exciting day to witness history. I sat in the Oregon House gallery for over six and a half hours while the chamber debated the Clean Energy Jobs Bill when the bill finally passed the chamber that evening. In the meantime, on this same day, emails were flying back and forth for the final logistics of this event. One Leadership Committee member Brenna wrote:

“Has Brian had any time to go over what he plans to say? I know he’s been busy today. With such a short timeline, we need to keep all speaking succinct and maximize our time with Kelsey.”

My friend and Climate Reality staff member Brittany responded: “If Brian is in the Capitol today, I’ll check with him.”

Amy Hall-Bailey replied: “Thanks, I know that you, Jane and Brian are probably really occupied with the events in Salem, but it looks like we have a full house for tonight’s event- 250 people, if they all show. I hope everyone is prepared!”

Fortunately, I did have all day on Tuesday, June 18th to prepare for this event. The turnout was amazing. We estimated we had over 220 people at this event. We did have a professional videographer record the event to Vimeo.

Kelsey Juliana speaking at the Climate Reality Portland Event for her at Tabor Space in Portland, Oregon on June 18, 2019. Photo by Ken Pitts

Even though I printed out the prepared introductions that Amy sent me, I was still a little nervous speaking in front of this very large audience. Lee van der Voo, an award-winning investigative journalist, interviewed Kelsey Juliana. Lee covers the youth in climate change movement for The Guardian and Reuters. She is the author of The Fish Market: Inside the Big-Money Battle for the Ocean and Your Dinner Plate and she was in the process of writing a book for Timber Press about the Juliana v U.S lawsuit.

Liv Brumfield, field representative for U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, (D-OR) was in attendance and sitting in the front row. As the MC, it was my job to introduce her so she could read a brief statement of support from the Portland Congressman Earl Blumenauer. I was so nervous in the moment that I could not pronounce her name correctly. Understandably, she corrected me in front of the entire audience.

Overall, the event went fantastic. I was very proud to have participated in it, sent the initial email to invite Kelsey Juliana to the event, and to be the MC for the event. I was honored to get my picture with Kelsey Juliana. The full credit to making this event a success really goes to Amy Hall-Bailey and her husband Jonathan Bailey, as well as Brenna Burke, Deborah Lev, Wally Shriner, Brittany Kimzey, Jane Stackhouse, Steve Holgate, the Portland City Club, and many others. My friend and fellow Climate Reality Leader Ken Pitts took wonderful pictures of the event. It was great to be at the right place at the right time to see this event come together.

We really did appreciate Kelsey Juliana and Our Children’s Trust for their time and participation. Kelsey was an enthusiastic and engaging speaker with the audience. Lee van der Voo had great questions that allowed the audience to get to know Kelsey, her thoughts on the lawsuit, and her ideas how we should reduce the threat of climate change.

Brian Ettling with Kelsey Juliana at the Climate Reality Portland Event for her at Tabor Space in Portland, Oregon on June 18, 2019.

Organizing my second large climate event in Milwaukie, Oregon in September 2019

The day after the Kelsey Juliana climate that felt so triumphant, disaster happened in Oregon.

The Clean Energy Jobs Bill moved now moved from the Oregon House to the Senate floor where we barely 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, the mood was more depressing as Republicans Senators refused to return to work until the Democrats agreed to kill HB 2020. It felt like a year of my effort of numerous lobby meetings with legislators, attending organizing meetings, testifying at hearings, helping to organize events and rallies, asking residents across Oregon to contact their legislators, and countless trips to the Capitol in Salem went down the drain. It was a helpless feeling that a bitter defeat was about to happen and there was nothing we could do about it.

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. (Example) the meeting (or legislative session) is adjourned sine die.” We hoped for a miracle that the GOP Senators would come to their senses and return to Oregon. However, it looked 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.

My photo trying to hold back sadness as the Senate Republicans returned to the Oregon Capitol on June 28, 2019 after the Clean Energy Jobs Bill died.

The peak experience of the Kelsey Juliana event was just one week previously, yet it felt like a very distant memory under the weight of this very bitter defeat. I felt so depressed by this letdown that I did not want to get off the couch for weeks.

On June 26, 2019, Deb Lev, the Chapter Chair at that time, informed 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 Director 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.

The Kelsey Juliana Event took a lot of effort and energy for the Leadership Team to successfully create. It showed that we could achieve a large event with a great turnout. After the disaster of the Clean Energy Jobs bill getting killed by the Oregon Senate walkout, I needed some event to devote my energy to heal from that devastating loss. I suggested at the June 26th Leadership Team meeting an event in September called Climate Legislation: Where do We Go from Here?”

The group seemed sort of ho hum about it. When I suggested various speakers that I had in mind, a member of the leadership team, Sally remarked in a condescending tone: “I think you need to noodle it some more and then get back to us.”

Ouch. I tried not to dwell on her remarks. I envisioned a panel discussion. The person I approached to be a speaker was Climate Reality Leader and the Mayor of Milwaukie, Mark Gamba. Milwaukie is a suburb town nestled against the southern city boundary of Portland. Mark and I met for lunch on July 8th at the Milwaukie Food Court Station Pod. I took public transit, MAX light rail commuter train – the orange line, to meet up with him. That was the first time I remember showing up to a town or city for the time and immediately having a meal with the mayor. I first met Mark at the 2017 Climate Reality Training in Bellevue, WA.

Brian Ettling meeting with Mayor Mark Gamba of Milwaukie, Oregon on July 8, 2019.

Mark is a former National Geographic photographer who has traveled the world. These experiences made him deeply appreciate our natural world and “acutely aware of the changes in our climate.” He is a strong climate champion. As Mayor of Milwaukie, Mark led the effort for Milwaukie to become the first city in Oregon to declare a climate emergency. Mayor Gamba and City Council members unanimously passed the resolution in January 2020. The resolution speeds up by five years the city’s timeline for achieving the goals it previously adopted in its Climate Action Plan. In addition, the resolution calls for the city to become carbon neutral by 2045.

I knew Mark Game would be a great speaker for our panel discussion. He immediately said yes. The catch was we would have to schedule our event on Monday, September 16th because Tuesday evenings is when Milwaukie has their city council meetings.

I knew securing Mark as a speaker would help attract other speakers to the panel and would draw in an audience. The point of this September event would be to energize climate advocates to push their legislators to pass a cap and invest bill in the 2020 Oregon Legislative session. After Mark agreed to be a speaker, I next approached Renew Oregon for a speaker. Shilpa Joshi, Coalition Director for Renew Oregon, said she was available to speak at this event. I still struggled to find the third speaker.

My friend on the Climate Reality Portland Leadership Team, Amy Hall-Bailey, suggested that I ask Dylan Kruse, Director of Government Affairs & Program Strategy for Sustainable Northwest. Amy set up a meeting for with Dylan at Sustainable Northwest’s downtown Portland office in early August. I was very impressed with Dylan’s knowledge of Oregon’s politics and rural Oregon. Dylan immediately said yes when I asked him. Whew! We had our three panel speakers!

Brian Ettling, Dylan Kruse, Shilpa Joshi, and Mayor Mark Gamba at the Climate Reality Portland event at the Chapel Theatre in Milwaukie, Oregon on September 16, 2019.

I next needed a venue, and I was really racking my brains on this problem. Every place I considered was already booked or too expensive to consider. Someone suggested that I approach Mark Gamba to see if he had any places in mind that could seat up to 100 people. Mark recommended the Chapel Theatre in Milwaukie. With Mark’s permission, I contacted the owners of the Chapel Theater and they generously offered to host the event for free. I asked if I could check out their venue. They graciously met with me at their Theater on Tuesday, August 13th. My in-laws were visiting from St. Louis. Thus, my wife and her parents joined me as I met with the owners of the Chapel Theatre.

I thought it was a beautiful old church that was converted years ago into a dramatic, multi-purpose theatre. It was a very well-kept theatre that looked to be a fun place to stage a play or a community event like ours. When the owners let us inside, there were no seats in the main part of the chapel. Yet, they informed me that the chairs could be set up any way we liked, and the facility could hold up to 99 people depending on seating layout. It seemed like the perfect event space for us. Even more, they did not want to charge us. They seemed like they wanted to help us as a favor to Mark and our cause for environmental activism.

Now that I had the date, the speakers, and the location with over a month to go, we now had to promote the event and invite as many people as possible to pack the house. As always, Amy Hall-Bailey came up with lovely graphic designs artwork to promote the event online. I would have liked to have found an MC, but it looked like it was going to fall onto me. The members of the Climate Reality Leadership Team helped me on the day of the event with setting up the chairs, signing people in as they came in the doors, networking during the event, etc.

I reached out to my friends in Citizens’ Climate Lobby, the newly formed Metro Climate Action Team, Renew Oregon, Climate Reality Leaders who had not attended an event in a while, and basically anyone I knew in the Portland area to attend this event. The good news is that over 80 people showed up and the Chapel Theatre looked packed.

Mark Gamba, Shilpa Joshi, and Dylan Kruse all did a great job answering questions. I appreciated how they spoke to the audience why it is still important to press forward to urge our Oregon legislators to pass a cap and invest bill in the upcoming 2020 Oregon Legislative session.

Unlike the Kelsey Juliana event, we did not get a video recording of this event. It was a shame because I was very happy how the event happened. I tried something new at the beginning of the program. I printed over 70 signs on white paper with green letters that said, CLIMATE ACTION NOW! I took a short video of the audience shouting those words in unison.

Video Brian Ettling shot of the audience shouting “CLIMATE ACTION NOW!” during the Climate Reality Portland Chapter event on September 16, 2019.

I started the program with a Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. quote:

“Through education we seek to change attitudes; through legislation and court orders we seek to regulate behavior. Through education we seek change internal feelings (prejudice, hate, etc.); through legislation and court orders we seek to control the external effects of those feelings. Through education we seek to break down the spiritual barriers to integration; through legislation and court orders we seek to break down the physical barriers to integration. One method is not a substitute for the other, but a meaningful and necessary supplement. Anyone who starts out with the conviction that the road to racial justice is one lane wide will inevitably create a traffic jam and make the journey longer.”

I wanted to make the point with this event that I won’t solve the problem of climate change by just changing our own hearts and other people’s hearts to kindly be more sustainably. We also must do the heavy lifting of changing the laws to alter people’s behavior to live in a more sustainable way to reduce the threat of climate change. Leadership Team member Wally Shriner complimented me on that quote. I was shocked and pleased to hear him say anything positive because he always seemed to be critical and nitpicking everything I did as the Program Director and interim Chapter Chair.

The most effective part is that 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 have a workday in Salem two days after our event. It felt very fulfilling to deliver these constituent postcards to the offices of Oregon Senators and Representatives on a beautiful fall day on September 18th.

Brian Ettling delivering 50 constituent postcards to Oregon Legislators at the state Capitol urging them to support the Clean Energy Jobs Bill. Photo taken on September 18, 2019.

Organizing my third large climate event in Portland, Oregon in January 2020

Even as I organized this event in Milwaukie Oregon on September 16, 2019, I planning months ahead. The 2020 Oregon Legislative session started on February 3, 2020. In even years in Oregon, the legislative session only goes for 5 weeks. It is very compressed with Senators and Representatives only able to introduce a couple of bills, as opposed being able introduce multiple bills in the long, odd year sessions. Thus, any kind of cap and invest bill must be ready to be introduced at the start of the session so it can pass in that short 2020 Legislative session. In early September, I envisioned having a Climate Reality event around the third week of January 2020. That would be just less than two weeks to the start of the 2020 Legislative session, to urge legislators and energize climate advocates to support another Clean Energy Jobs bill.

Thus, on August 30, 2019, I sent emails to the two Oregon legislators that led the efforts for the Clean Energy Jobs Bill in the 2019 legislative session, Senator Michael Dembrow and Representative Karin Power. In the emails, I asked if they would speak at a Climate Reality event on January 21, 2020. Both immediately said yes to speaking at such an event.

Brian Ettling, Representative Karin Power, and Senator Michael Dembrow at the Climate Reality Portland event at the Hollywood Senior Center on January 21, 2020.

I thought it might be easier organizing a second event since the first event I organized in Milwaukie on September 16th went well. Unfortunately, open warfare broke out among the members of Climate Reality Portland Chapter Leadership Team in August. Some of the Leadership Team were unhappy that I was the interim Chair of the Chapter.

They were critical of everything I was doing, but they had no big ideas of their own. They accused me of having no vision. However, they did not consider that I was organizing a big event in September 2019 and January 2020 while working with them to recruit monthly speakers in between. I thought it was vital for the Climate Reality Portland Chapter to work in coalition with other Portland climate groups, such as Renew Oregon, Metro Climate Action Team, Citizens’ Climate Lobby, etc. to organize to get effective climate legislation passed.

Even more, half of the Leadership Team voiced frustration with the way I moderated the September 16th event. They thought that I talked too much, and I used the word ‘I’ and instead of ‘we’ too much. This was my first time moderating a panel discussion. Overall, I was very pleased how the event happened. It felt like we had plenty of time for the speakers to talk about themselves and answer my questions, answer audience questions, and make community announcements during that event. Everyone who attended seemed satisfied with the event. Most importantly, we got attendees to fill out over 50 postcards and letters to their legislators to urge them to support another cap and invest bill.

Half of the team though supported my leadership. Sadly, it was very hard to lead a group of a house divided. It started to wear me down that I started to dread the Leadership Team meetings. The infighting led to a point where I wanted to resign in early October, but two members of the Leadership Team talked me out of it. I was committed to making this event a success with Senator Dembrow and Rep. Power on January 21, 2020. That focused me to grind it out.

The Climate Reality Project seemed supportive of my chapter leadership since I was very committed to the organization, their Pricing Pollution Campaign, and the chapter. Their Pricing Pollution campaign worked closely with Renew Oregon to urge Oregon legislators to pass a cap and invest bill. At the same time, they did not want to get in the middle of our strife. Sadly, this did not help because we really did need a good meditator with this stressful situation.

The best way to resolve the tension among the Leadership Team was to bring in new members to serve on the Team. The optimal way to recruit new members to serve on the Portland Chapter Leadership Team was to invite new Portland Climate Reality Leaders who had just attended a training. New members could possibly bring positive energy, fresh ideas, and team building skills. After new Climate Reality Leaders just attended a training, they are at their peak enthusiasm to join a Climate Reality Chapter or even a Leadership Team. Unfortunately, there were no upcoming Climate Reality Trainings until sometime in 2020.

As the autumn turned to winter, the January 2020 event started coming together. Like the Milwaukie event, I struggled with trying to find an event space. In November, Senator Dembrow and his staff recommended the Hollywood Senior Center (now Called the Community for Positive Aging) in northeast Portland. This community venue could hold over 100 people and they were willing to not charge us a fee since this was an open community event. I had attended some of Senator Dembrow’s monthly town halls at the Hollywood Senior Center. I thought it would be a great facility to hold this event.

Climate Reality Portland Chapter event at the Hollywood Senior Center in Portland, Oregon on January 21, 2020.

Just like the Milwaukie event and other events, plus climate meetings that I organized, now was the time in December and early January to try to turn out my friends and fellow climate organizers. I called friends and emailed that attended the Milwaukie event. I contacted climate advocates I knew with Citizens’ Climate Lobby, the Metro Climate Action Team, Renew Oregon, etc. to ask them to attend this event. Like the previous events, Amy Hall-Bailey created an excellent online graphic to promote this event that I could include in my emails. This graphic was primarily used in the email newsletter to Climate Reality Portland Chapter members, on, the Climate Reality Portland Chapter Facebook page, etc.

Over 107 people RSVPed on the Eventbrite page for this event. Over 100 people showed up for the event. The room was packed. Senator Dembrow and Representative Power did an outstanding job of addressing what they hoped the next cap and invest bill would accomplish and how we can help them try to get this bill passed in the Oregon Legislature. They did a terrific job of answering audience questions. My friend and fellow Climate Reality Leader, Ken Pitts, took fabulous pictures of the event. My wife Tanya also took superb photos.

Like the Milwaukie event, I MCed this event. Just like before, I had my printed signed on white paper with the words printed in green, “CLIMATE ACTION NOW!” Once again, I made a very short video of the audience hold up the signs and yell in unison “CLIMATE ACTION NOW!”

Video Brian Ettling shot of the audience shouting “CLIMATE ACTION NOW!” during the Climate Reality Portland Chapter event on January 21, 2020.

I injected some impromptu humor into this event by remarking that I planned play that video clip on a repeated loop to my wife later that evening. As I closed out the event, I thanked Senator Dembrow and Representative Power for all their leadership in the Oregon Legislature on the cap and invest bills. I attempted to joke that I sometimes fell asleep when I attended the Joint Legislative Carbon Reduction Committees meetings that they co-chaired because I could not always follow the fine details of the bills. Senator Dembrow chuckled and said that he forgave me, understanding that the public does not always understand the minute details in these bills.

I do not think that Representative Power got my sense of humor. She did not seem to laugh at that joke. After the event, when we were chatting, she asked me point blank: ‘Are you really going to play that video for your wife on a repeated loop this evening?’

I tried to explain to her that it was a joke and that my wife and I like to tease each other. However, I don’t think she was buying it.

Like the previous events, I very proud how everything unfolded. Everyone who attended the event seemed to enjoy it. Because of the fighting within the Climate Reality Chapter Leadership Team, it was basically just Amy Hall-Bailey and I who organized this event. I thought we were a great team putting this event together. I could not have accomplished it without her.

Similar to the Milwaukie event, I had a big stack of postcards and letter filled from the attendees to their Oregon senators and representatives urging the legislators to pass the cap and invest bill during the 2020 legislative session.

Brian Ettling delivering constituent postcards and letters to Oregon Legislators at the state Capitol urging them to support Renew Oregon’s Clean Energy Jobs Bill. Photo taken on February 11, 2020.

Final Thoughts

I did not know it at the time, but this was the last Climate Reality Portland Chapter event or any kind of climate event that I organized. Amy Hall-Bailey did a great job of recruiting speakers and organizing the February 2020 meeting.

At the end of February 2020, the House and Senate Republicans walked out of the legislative session killing all the bills waiting to be passed that session, including the cap and invest bill.
For the second legislative session in a row, Republican legislators used a walk out to deny a 2/3 required quorum to kill a climate bill. It was another kick in the stomach and depressing defeat.

On the bright side, Oregon Governor Kate Brown did not take that bad news lying down. On March 10, 2020, she signed bold climate executive orders aimed to cut Oregon’s greenhouse gas emissions. Governor Brown signed her climate executive orders surrounded by youth active in the climate movement. Governor Brown’s office invited climate advocates from around the state to attend, such as Renew Oregon volunteers. Thus, I was part of the group in her office to watch her sign the climate executive orders. That day provided hope and some solace, but the defeats of the cap and invest bills still felt like open wounds.

Brian Ettling (pictured on the far right side) with Oregon climate advocates and Governor Kate Brown on the day she signed her climate executive orders at her office in the Capitol on March 10, 2020.

The bright spot of Governor Brown’s executive climate orders was soon overtaken within a couple days of the shutdowns with the COVID-19 pandemic. All events, meetings, and indoor activities were soon cancelled indefinitely. For years, I was very active in the climate movement planning meetings, organizing events, lobbying, attending hearing, etc. All my climate organizing seemed like it fell off a cliff overnight. I was not sure what to do. I was very depressed.

In March 2020, I resigned as the interim Chair and Program Director of the Climate Reality Portland Chapter. I was burned out from the feuding within the Leadership Team over the previous six months. Fortunately, the bad apples within the Leadership Team who caused the strife left, but I then I had no energy or motivation left to lead the chapter after all the battles with them.

Amy Hall-Bailey graciously took over as the interim Chapter Chair. She wrote a very sweet and kind note in the April 2020 Climate Reality Portland Chapter online newsletter:

“Brian Ettling is stepping down as Interim Chapter Chair. He offered to be Interim Chair in July 2019. He has done a great job with organizing and leading our chapter including two large successful events around Climate Legislation. He and Amy Hall have been working to keep a Portland Chapter presence as we lost many of our Leadership Team in November 2019. We are grateful for his leadership, and grateful that he has offered to continue to work with us on presentations and other needs!

First of all, thank you to Brian for all your work. It’s been a challenge and I appreciate you staying on longer than you planned.”

With the pandemic and lack of any climate organizing on the horizon, I did fall into a very deep depression. I found a way to pull myself out of it by organizing an Oregon legislative resolution supporting federal carbon pricing during the first half of 2021. After that, I did a lot of writing and journaling in the second half of 2021. In 2022, I worked on legislative campaigns to try to get Democratic candidates who would protect our democracy, climate, and a woman’s right to choose. In 2023, I am writing and blogging a lot to try to document all my climate actions over the years, especially before the pandemic.

In writing this blog, it was fun to reflect on the 3 large climate events that I organized. No doubt there was exhilarating and painful moments. At this point, I still have no plans to organize another large climate event or even a climate meeting in the future. However, anything is possible when inspiration strikes!

Brian Ettling standing in a green sweater holding a clip board leading a Climate Reality Portland Chapter event in Portland, Oregon on January 21, 2020.