Dr. Michael E. Mann says: ‘We need urgency & agency to solve the Climate Crisis’

Image used by permission by Dr. Michael Mann

Looking to read a good book for what you can do for the problem and solutions to climate change? I highly recommend climate scientist Dr. Michael E. Mann’s 2021 book (soon to be a paperback edition coming out on May 10, 2022), The New Climate War: The fight to take back our planet.

Dr. Michael E. Mann is the Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science at Penn State University. He is also the director of the Penn State Earth System Science Center (ESSC). In Fall 2022, he will become Presidential Distinguished Professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Science at the University of Pennsylvania, with a secondary appointment in the Annenberg School for Communication.

As you read this book, you will be able to dig deeper into Dr. Mann’s message that ‘We need urgency and agency to solve the climate crisis.’

My Admiration for climate scientist Dr. Michael E. Mann goes back many years

For over a decade, I have been reading Dr. Mann’s books and following his appearances the media. As a seasonal park ranger in Everglades National Park, Florida in the 2000s, I took an interest in organizing and giving public presentations in climate change as far back as 2008. To prepare for my own climate change presentations in 2010, I read Dr. Mann’s book, that he co-wrote with University of Pennsylvania Professor of Geosciences Lee R. Kump, Dire Predictions: Understanding Global Warming, The illustrated guide to the findings of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). I mentioned his famous Hockey Stick Graph in the very my very first powerpoint that I created to share with friends in 2020, “Let’s Have Fun Getting Serious about Resolving Climate Change.”

Dr. Michael Mann’s 2008 book.
Image source: michaelmann.net/books/dire-predictions

In February 2011, I joined my local Toastmasters public speaking support group in my hometown of St. Louis MO to be a better public speaker for my climate change advocacy. About one third of this group were climate change deniers or doubtful of the science of climate change. On February 16th, I gave my “icebreaker” speech where I shared that I joined Toastmasters to be a more effective climate change communicator. Afterwards, one of the climate denier club members immediately challenged me with a question. She wanted me to address in a speech this question: ‘What is the exact evidence that scientists know that humans are causing global warming?’

Her question seemed like a fun challenge for me to learn what is this key bit of evidence that we can point that humans, not natural causes, are the primary cause for present day climate change. The best source I could find then was was the text and graphs from Dr. Mann’s book, Dire Predictions on pages 34-35, with the heading, “Couldn’t the increase in atmospheric CO2 be the result of natural cycles?”

With so many climate deniers and doubters in this Toastmaster audience, plus climate change considered to be a dour subject by others undecided members, I knew this was going to be a heavy and awkward experience to give this speech. It felt like it was going to be as about awkward as farting or passing gas at a cocktail party. Thus, I decided to acknowledge the obvious and call my speech I AM GOING TO DROP A STINK BOMB ON YOU!

Unlike many other speeches, I was not voted Best Speaker for this speech when I gave it on April 13, 2011. However, I was grateful this climate denier Toastmaster challenged me with that question. With reading Dr. Mann’s book, it helped cement in my mind how we knew a key bit of evidence that points to humans as the major influence on present day climate change.

As my interest in communicating and organizing in climate change became more of a passion in 2011, a friend in Washington D.C. urged me to attend the AGU (American Geophysical Union) Conference in San Francisco CA in December 2011. Many of the top climate scientists and science communicators would be giving presentations on the science of climate change and science of communicating about climate change. Thus, I made arrangements to crash on a friend’s couch in San Francisco so I had a place to stay while attending the conference. It turned out to be very valuable advice for my friend to push me to attend AGU. I attended so many outstanding climate change presentations and had a chance to meet so many renowned climate scientists and communicators.

Scott Mandia, professor of Earth and space sciences at Suffolk County Community College in New York, and Brian Ettling. Scott graciously introduced Brian to Dr. Michael Mann at the 2011 AGU conference.

During the first morning of AGU, I ran into a friend, Scott Mandia, professor of Earth and space sciences and assistant chair of the Physical Sciences Department at Suffolk County Community College, New York. He encouraged me to follow him around to hang out for a few minutes before we headed to attend a lecture. As we walked into one of the conference rooms, I saw Professor Mandia walk right up to Dr. Michael E. Mann. I was stunned to see this well known climate scientist in person. Scott introduced me to Dr. Mann. I was tongue tied and star struck to be introduced to him on the spot. Dr. Mann was minutes away from giving his presentation, so I did not want to be a any kind of distraction. I enjoyed his talk. I wish I would have brought my copy of his Dire Predictions book for him to sign after his talk.

In email exchange over a year ago, Dr. Mann responded that he did remember meeting me a number of years ago and he enjoyed it! Very kind of him to say that. I felt more like an interloper at AGU just trying to soak up all the information on climate that I could. I was not presenting a published paper, a ground breaking study, or findings from research, nor was I known in the climate community. I had just started giving my climate change evening program at Crater Lake National Park in August 2011. Just two weeks earlier, I gave a speech to my Toastmasters group about individual climate change solutions, called ‘It is Easy to Be Green’. I was voted as Best Speaker by my fellow Toastmasters for that speech. None of these personal accomplishments were going to turn heads at AGU, nor should they compared to excellent science presentations from the distinguished scientists at this conference, such as Dr. Mann. It is an honor that Dr. Mann might just remember me from our 2011 very brief introduction.

Dr. Michael Mann’s 2013 book. Image source: michaelmann.net/books/hockey-stick

Just a few month later, in March 2012, I blogged a review of his 2012 book, Dr. Michael E. Mann’s Hockey Stick Book is a ‘Very Gripping Read.’ In the blog, I contrasted Dr. Mann with “the polar opposite of the Dos Equis `Most Interesting Man in the World’ beer ads.” It seemed funny when I wrote that 10 years ago. However, the more I see Dr. Mann on TV and hear him in recorded podcast and radio interviews, I think that Dr. Mann has a very compelling personality, with a great sense of humor who would be an enjoyable presence at any kind of gathering. I was so inspired by his 2012 book, The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars, that I wrote a second blog about Dr. Mann one month later for Easter 2012, False Witnesses whose Testimonials Did Not Agree. In both blogs, I really connected with Dr. Mann’s “six stages of denial” that climate deniers cling to avoid accepting the reality of climate change.

I was big fan of Dr. Mann’s 2017 book, The Madhouse Effect, with illustrations by the Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist Tom Toles, to push back against climate denial. Unfortunately, I was not able to review the book due a busy 2017. That February, my wife and I moved from St. Louis MO to Portland OR. In March 2017, I gave a climate change speaking tour across my home state of Missouri. I then worked my summer job as a seasonal park ranger at Crater National Park from May to October. Most of 2017 was also spent planning and leading a climate change speaking tour across Oregon in the last week of October to the first week of November.

In November 2020, Comedy Central’s Tosh.o invited me to appear again as “The Climate Change Comedian” after my successful appearance on the TV show in August 2016. This time, as the comedy would take center stage on this show, I still wanted to try to slip in a climate change message if possible. With the pandemic, I had not given a climate change presentation in months and I was feeling very rusty. Thus, I emailed Dr. Mann for his advice for climate change messaging for this TV appearance, and this was his response:

Hi Brian…
Sounds like a great opportunity indeed. These days, my messaging is focused on just two words: urgency and agency.

Yes, bad things are happening, we can see them playing out in real time now. But we can prevent the worst from happening. Assuming the election goes our way, there will be leader ship once again in Washington DC. And we have ready climate plans on the table from both Congressional Democrats and the Biden campaign. We need to hit the ground running, and in his perspective first hundred days, Biden and a hopefully Democratic Congress need to pass a climate plan that put a price on carbon, incentivizes clean energy, enforces regulations, and blocks support for new fossil fuel infrastructure.

That’s sort of my elevator pitch!

That was an amazing gift to exchange emails with one of the world’s top climate scientists, Dr. Mann. After his email, I wrote up my own answer to prepare to a climate change elevator pitch for this Tosh.o appearance. I practiced it over and ever to have it memorized to try to say it naturally during the TV taping. Because of the COVID pandemic and the short notice to film, this time I was filmed at home over Zoom, not flown to Los Angeles like the previous taping. Thus, it was nice not to have to leave home. As I shared with Dr. Mann over email afterwards, very disappointing that I was not able to squeeze in any message on climate change. This was his very gracious response:

“HI Brian,
Happy to have been of any help. Sorry they didn’t use that material.
I’ve had a number of frustrating experiences before where a lot of stuff (and what I considered was the best stuff), got left on the cutting room floor.
It’s one the real challenges in the world of media interviews.
Good on you for the effort though, keep it up. It will ultimately pay off!”

It was around this time that I heard from Dr. Mann that his newest book, The New Climate War, would be be release in January 2021. I was really looking forward to reading and reviewing in early 2021. However, I was very busy from January to June 2021 leading the effort for Oregon Senate to pass a Climate Resolution on April 7th that almost passed the Oregon House in June. For the last two years during the pandemic, I was not motivated to write or blog due to a bad depression I felt at that time with the social isolation.

Daniel Tosh, host of Comedy Central’s Tosh.o with Brian Ettling in April 2016.

The comedic Adam McKay film “Don’t Look Up,” which I saw on Christmas evening 2021, finally inspired me to start writing and blogging again. I eagerly awaited for Netflix to start showing the movie on December 24th partially because of Dr. Mann’s glowing review. “Don’t Look Up” is about scientists warning their projection that a huge “planet killing” comet will hit the Earth in 6 months unless appropriate action is taken to deflect or destroy the comet. The film stands as a metaphor for climate change. Pardon the pun, but the movie had a deep impact on me. I ended up seeing it twice. I ended up writing a ridiculously long blog about the movie where I quoted Dr. Mann several times.

After writing several blogs in early 2022, I felt motivated to read Dr. Mann’s book and give it a full review.

My Thoughts on Dr. Mann’s 2021 book The New Climate War

Let me say that when I finally read Dr. Mann’s book in early 2022, I really enjoyed reading it. As a climate organizer for over 10 years, I found myself relating with many things that Dr. Mann wrote in this book. I ended up taking over 64 pages of notes from statements Dr. Mann wrote about throughout this book.

In the introduction, Dr. Mann makes it very clear why he calls this book, The New Climate War. On page 3, he makes the case that the past climate deniers (the fossil fuel industry, far right-wing commentators, very conservative Republican members of Congress, etc) “can no longer insist with a straight face, that nothing is happening. Outright denial of the physical evidence of climate change simply isn’t credible anymore. So they have shifted to a softer form of denialism while keeping the oil flowing and fossil fuels burning, engaged in a multipronged offense based on deception, distraction, and delay. This is the new climate war, and the planet is losing.” (his emphasis)

Because I am a climate organizer, Dr. Mann states a position that is music to my ears: “The enemy (mentioned in the last paragraph) has masterfully executed a deflection campaign…aimed at shifting responsibility from corporations to individuals. Personal actions, from going vegan to avoiding flying, are increasingly touted as the primary solution to the climate crisis. Though these actions are worth taking, a fixation on voluntary action alone takes the pressure off of the push for governmental policies to hold polluters accountable.”

Amen, Dr. Michael Mann! Thank you so much for writing this and giving major focus in your book that individual solutions are not enough to solve the climate crisis. I talk more about this further on in this blog about my pet peeve of all the conversations I have had with fellow climate activists lecturing me about individual solutions, such as buying an electric car, going vegan, not flying, not driving, not buying anything, etc. Yes, I try to do many individual actions myself, but I am under no delusions that my individual actions will reduce the threat of climate change on its own merits.

As a matter of fact, I saw writer, climate activist, and founder of 350.org, Bill McKibben address this situation when he gave a lecture in Portland Oregon in May 2019 to promote his book Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out. During that lecture, an audience member pressed McKibben why he was not pushing harder for a vegan diet, no flying, and other individual solutions. McKibben responded that he never felt like he was under any delusions that putting solar on his home, changing his diet, and not flying was going to solve the climate crisis. Twice I have seen Bill Mckibben speak in person (more on that later on in this blog). Both times he emphasized creating a climate movement large enough and strong enough to defeat the fossil fuel interests. Thus, I really applaud Dr. Mann’s emphasis on collective action, rather than just individual actions, to address climate change.

Writer, climate activist, and founder of 350.org, Bill McKibben speaking at Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon in May 2019.

Even more, a couple of times in The New Climate War, Dr. Mann cites a study, which is by David Hagmann, Emily Ho, and George Loewenstein, “Nudgling Out Support for a Carbon Tax,” Nature Climate Change 9, no. 6 (2019): 484-489, that, in Dr. Mann’s words, “actually shows that emphasis on small personal actions can actually undermine support for the substantive climate change policies needed.” With all the attention in the climate movement on individual solutions, this finding should be shouted from the rooftops.

Dr. Mann has given a lot of thought to the word “war” to describe the situation that we are facing to counter act the forces of denial or inactivists, as he would now call them. In the introduction, Dr. Mann directly addresses how he has scientific “colleagues who have expressed discomfort in framing our predicament as a ‘war.’ But, as I tell them, the surest way to lose a war is to refuse to recognize you’re in one in the first place. Whether we like it or not, and though clearly not of our own choosing, that’s precisely where we find our ourselves when it comes to the (fossil fuel) industry-funded effort to block action on climate”

Dr. Mann then devotes Chapter 1 to the “Architects and Misinformation and Misdirection”, such as Frederick Seitz and S. Fred Singer. They were contrarian scientists who came out of defended the tobacco industry in the 1950s from the claims that smoking cigarettes caused cancer to then attack Rachel Carson’s warnings of the danger of DDT, the science behind the hole in the ozone, the dangers of acid rain, the extreme danger of wide scale nuclear, etc. All of this history is also covered more extensively in the Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway’s 2010 book Merchants of Doubt. However, it is good to see Dr. Mann’s perception of this history of science denial.

Even though Dr. Mann is a highly respected climate scientist well familiar with the fine minute technical details of science, I must say I really like his matter-of-fact, plain English writing style in his books. This probably comes from years of experience writing books about climate change to the general public, plus probably having good editors. However, Dr. Mann knows how to write about science that is engaging and easily understood for the person on the street, like me. This includes how he effectively uses humor and sarcasm to make his point. Such as, when he writes on page 16, “Among those contrarian scientists was the very same S. Fred Singer we encountered in the context of acid rain denial. Get used to that name.”

Chapter 2 then focuses how the science denial wars then shift into the climate wars to deny the scientific consensus on human caused climate change. Dr. Mann starts with his own story how he was lured away from studying physics into the field of climate science in the early 1990s. It just a couple of years after Dr. James Hansen, Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, had testified to Congress in June 1988 that “It is time to stop waffling…(T)he evidence (of global warming) is pretty strong.” As a 20 year old living in St. Louis MO at that time getting ready to start college, I will never forget reading about Dr. Hansen’s testimony and seeing it on TV. We were having an extreme heatwave and drought that summer, with the Mississippi River at record low levels, Dr. Hansen’s words seemed like a eerie warning from what I was seeing around me then.

Photo of Mississippi River from Bee Tree Park in south St. Louis County, Missouri during a record drought in the summer of 1988. Image by Brian Ettling

Going into the 1990s, climate science awareness was emerging ever stronger in the public sphere. In 1995 Dr. Benjamin Santer and his IPCC coauthors, based upon the existing knowledge of climate literature, concluded that “the balance of evidence suggests an appreciable (then changed to the word “discernible” in that final IPCC report to please the oil-rich Saudis) human influence on climate.” Barely after the ink had dried on this IPCC plenary in February 1996, Santer was publicly attacked by S. Fred Singer in the journal Nature. Yes, Dr. Mann, like a bad horror movie where the same villain keeps resurrecting like a zombie, we can see S. Fred Singer causing more havoc. Chapter 2 focuses on the other oily (if I can use that term) bad actors defending the fossil fuel interests in the 1990s and beyond.

One nightmare character mentioned in Chapter 2 that never seems to go away is chemist Arthur B. Robinson. In 1998, he joined forces with Frederick Seitz to create the “Oregon Petition,” which had thirty-one thousand signatures of so-called “scientists” to gin up a fake widespread opposition to the scientific consensus of climate change. Dr. Mann stops mentioning Robinson on page 32 to move onto the brief history of other well known climate deniers.

Ironically, I had a brush with Arthur B. Robinson in 2021. He was elected to the Oregon Senate in 2020. In December 2020 to June 2021, I organized an effort with Oregon Citizens’ Climate Lobby volunteers to almost get a climate resolution, known as Senate Joint Memorial 5 or SJM 5, supporting federal carbon pricing, to try to pass in the Oregon Legislature. To get SJM 5 through the Senate, it first had to go through the Senate Energy and Environment Committee. On March 11, 2021, this committee ended up voting in favor of SJM 5 by a vote of 4 to 1, including one rural Republican Senator supporting this climate resolution. The one committee vote that opposed SJM 5, none other than state Senator Arthur B. Robinson. He actually held up the committee vote for a few minutes so he could share his scientific opinion that humans can’t cause climate change. During the Senate vote on April 7, 2021, Senator Robinson had to again hold up the vote for a brief speech to share his views how human caused climate change is not real. His Senate colleagues, including many of his fellow Republicans, just ignored his remarks. SJM 5 ended up sailing through the Oregon Senate by a vote of 23 to 7 with all the Democratic Senators, plus 6 Republican Senators voting for it (which was half of the GOP Senate caucus). Thus, I can personally attest to Dr. Mann that some of these denier characters reported in his book and elsewhere never seem to fully go away.

Oregon Senator Arthur Robinson speaking on the floor of the Oregon Senate, April 7, 2021.
Image source: Oregon Legislative Information System video media

The later part of this chapter is a summary of Dr. Mann’s defense of his “Hockey Stick Graph” from the numerous attacks of climate deniers and the distraction of deniers to create the giant nothing-burger 2009 Climategate email hack. Again, the actual scandal was the hack of private emails among climate scientists, not the content of their emails. Dr. Mann gives a full history of this struggle in his excellent 2012 book The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars.

Chapter 3 really struck a chord with me with Dr. Mann sharing the story behind the “Crying Indian” ad campaign that aired in the 1970s. I still vividly remember those TV ads showing trash along the side of the road and waterways. Towards the end of the ad, there is a Native American seeing the trash with crying tear of sorrow in one eye, and then the tag line, “People start pollution. People can stop it.” I was just a little child seeing those ads, but it convinced me for a lifetime to never throw litter on the side of our roads.

Dr. Mann points out that ad was nothing more than a charade and a deflection campaing. The character in the ad “Iron Eyes Cody,” was actually an Italian-American actor, not an American Indian. That ad campaign successfully deflected the burden of litter from corporations that produced packaging to consumers.

The litter problem, we were led to believe, wasn’t pollution-generating corporate practices. It was you and me. And the 1970s efforts to pass bottle recycling bills to shift responsibility to beverage producers for packaging waste, then failed. Today, decades later, plastic pollution is so widespread on our planet that it can now be found in the deepest part of the ocean, the Mariana Trench 36,000 feet below. Thus, Chapter 3 is all about deflection campaigns, such as the NRA’s “Gun’s don’t kill people, people kill people”, the tobacco industry blaming flammable furniture, etc. This chapter is setting the table for Chapter 4 how the fossil fuel industry deflects from its responsibility for its leading role for causing climate change to shifting the blame that it’s your/our fault alone.

Dr. Mann correctly devotes pages huge issue of deflection by the fossil fuel industry because we have been so easily deceived by this industry. The New Climate War came out at the beginning of 2021. However, with the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022 causing Americans to worry about a spike in gasoline prices, we are now seeing another deflection campaign by the oil and gas industry to push for more domestic drilling for oil and to ease government regulations. Many Americans still don’t know that oil is a global commodity with the price determined on the global market and the U.S. is already the world’s #1 producer of oil. However, the oil and gas industry wants to convince Americans that ‘Drill, Baby, Drill’ will somehow magically lead to lower gasoline prices, climate be damned.

Getting back to ‘It’s YOUR fault’ theme of Chapter 4, Dr. Mann informs us that it was the oil company BP that came up with the concept of the “personal carbon footprint.” This campaign didn’t arise in a vacuum, but rather on the success of the Crying Indian campaign and so many other previously success deflection campaigns. The oil industry wants us as individuals to focus how much oil we are personally using by calculating our personal carbon footprints rather than any kind of collective governmental policy action that could hurt their profits. Dr. Mann quotes environmental author Sami Grover, “Contrary to popular belief, fossil fuel companies are actually all too happy to talk about the environment. They just want to keep the conversation around individual responsibility, not systematic change or corporate culpability.”

Sadly, it does not stop there. The oil industry, prominent media like The New York Times, and even many climate advocates have incorrectly solely focused on individual solutions, such as going vegetarian/vegan, not flying, not driving or driving less, etc. Again, Sami Grover: “Ask your average citizen what they can do to stop global warming and they will say, ‘go vegetarian’ or ‘turn off the lights,’ long before they talk about lobbying their elected officials.”

That quote really connected with me because I traveled to Washington D.C. eight times in four years (2015-2019) to lobby Congressional offices to act on climate. Plus, I have carpooled with climate advocates to travel to the Oregon state Capitol in Salem numerous times to urged elected officials to pass strong climate policy. Yet, so many fellow climate advocates I encounter in person and on social media don’t seem to understand the importance of voting and lobbying elected officials to prioritize climate policies. Sadly, many climate advocates have been egged on by the climate deniers, or as Dr. Mann calls them now the inactivists, and even the Russians on social media, to just shame fellow climate advocates for flying, eating meat, etc. I really do appreciate the space the Dr. Mann devoted in Chapter 4 on the harmful nature of shaming in the climate movement.

Brian Ettling lobbying Congressional offices as a volunteer for Citizens’ Climate Lobby for climate policy June 2018.

As I also mention in the next section, I have had my fill of shaming by so called climate advocates for for personal decisions such flying, having kids, sometimes eating meat, not buying an electric car yet, etc. The shaming has been so irritating for me that it reminds me of a documentary I saw in 2009 called Lord Save Us from Your Follows by writer & director Dan Merchant. This film asks if evangelical Christians are actually turning Americans away from religion with their heavy preaching of moral values. Some climate advocates may also need to question their tactics with shaming. Dr. Mann cites climate-messaging expert Max Boycoff of the University of Colorado for noting that “flight shaming” for example “is one of the more unproductive ways to have a conversation. Boycoff thinks that all shaming does is make people feel bad, it’s “blaming other people while not actually talking about the structures that give rise to the need or desire to take those trips.”

As a climate organizer looking to struggling to find a way to make collective and systematic change, I loved what Dr. Mann wrote at the end of Chapter 4, “We should all engage in climate-friendly individual actions. They make us feel better and they set a good example for others. But don’t become complacent, thinking your duty is done when you recycle your bottles or ride your bicycle to work. We cannot solve this problem without deep systemic change, and that necessitates government action. In turn, that requires using our voices, demanding change, supporting climate-focused organizations, and voting for and supporting politicians who will back climate-friendly policies––which includes putting a price on pollution––the topic of the next chapter.”

For the past 10 years, I volunteered with Citizens’ Climate Lobby, which primarily advocates for a federal price on carbon. I strongly support a carbon price because most people don’t have time to research whether products they are buying were manufactured and transported using a lot of fossil fuels or not. A policy like carbon fee and dividend puts a tax on the pollution at the source, the oil well, natural gas well, or coal mine, and then that fee is carried over into the cost of the product. Thus, hopefully an apple produced locally using an electric tractor, would be cheaper than an apple shipped from Chile. Thus, I was thrilled to see Dr. Mann devote an entire chapter to this book to carbon pricing.

Unfortunately, Dr. Mann points out on page 108 that carbon pricing “Carbon pricing gets attacked by both left and right wing politics.”

As a Democratic leaning voter, I was particularly dismayed that the Green New Deal (GND), first promoted by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in 2019, advocates against a price on carbon. Even worse, “A letter signed by 626 groups, including Greenpeace and 350.org, was delivered to every member of Congress in early 2019 laying out support for a GND, while stating that the groups ‘will vigorously oppose any legislation that…promotes corporate schemes that place profits over community burdens and benefits, including market-based mechanisms…such as carbon and emissions trading and offsets.” (emphasis added)

Dr. Mann then touched upon how “the Sierra Club helped defeat a 2016 climate tax initiative in Washington (state) because its leaders felt it didn’t satisfy principles of social justice.” That felt like a heartbreak for me since I contacted climate friends in Washington state to urge them to support this ballot initiative. Dr. Mann then warns that “there is a fairly aggressive effort underway by some on the environmental left to turn support for the GND in its current form (including opposition to carbon pricing) into a purity test.”

Dr. Mann makes a good point about carbon pricing, “Despite the divisiveness that has risen around the role of carbon pricing, there is nothing intrinsically partisan about it.” Unfortunately, “It is only relatively recently, as efforts to implement carbon pricing have actually started to move forward––that we’ve seen support for carbon pricing start to erode on both sides of the political spectrum.”

I applaud Dr. Mann for calling out climate and energy policy writer & podcaster David Roberts for being “misguided” in his opposition to carbon pricing. Sadly, Roberts opposition to carbon pricing has steadily continued since the publication of The New Climate War at the beginning of 2021. On January 24, 2022, Roberts gleefully shared a new paper in the journal Nature Climate Change by political scientists Matto Mildenberger (UC-Santa Barbara), Erick Lachapelle (University of Montreal), Kathryn Harrison (University of British Columbia), and Isabelle Stadelmann-Steffen (University of Bern). The paper looked at public opinion in the places where carbon fee-and-dividend policies have been implemented, Switzerland and Canada. The headline of Roberts’ blog and podcast was Do dividends make carbon taxes more popular? Apparently not.

Climate and energy policy writer & podcaster David Roberts. Image source: David Roberts Public Facebook page.

Roberts was all too happy to report from the findings of this paper that ‘Refunds don’t change opinions much (for supporting carbon pricing after they are implemented), many recipients don’t know they exist, and additional information about refunds often doesn’t help (increase their support).’ As a strong supporter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby’s carbon fee and dividend policy, I was skeptical of this new paper and Roberts’ eagerness to showcase it to confirm his opposition to carbon pricing policies.

Fortunately, I was not the only one annoyed by this January 24th blog and podcast of David Roberts. Gerald Butts, who was principal secretary to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau from 2015 to 2019 and Trudeau’s closest personal advisor, and Catherine McKenna, who was the minister of environment and climate change during the same period, noticed the January 24th piece. “They objected to (Roberts’) conclusion that dividends did not make the carbon tax more popular in Canada.”

Roberts then generously had them on his February 16th podcast to set the record straight. According to Roberts, “We talked about how the carbon tax was conceived, what enabled it to secure majority support (yes, they say, refunds were important), and where the politics of carbon pricing stand as we move into the 2020s. Not only were my spirits lifted — it’s nice to know there’s a sane country out there somewhere — I learned an enormous amount. I think you will too.”

It was great to see Roberts, who I really do admire for his opinions on climate policy, change his tune, at least for this climate podcast and blog, on carbon pricing. Roberts is a proud climate curmudgeon who is skeptical that government and society can enact the needed policies to reduce the threat of the climate crisis. However, with his spirits lifted in his conversation with Gerald Butts and Catherine McKenna, hopefully he will stay hopeful for the future, especially with carbon pricing policies.

Anyway, along the lines of that spirit of hope, Dr. Mann reports that on page 117 that “Republican pollster Frank Luntz found that Republican voters under forty favor a fee and dividend model by a whopping 6 to 1 margin.”

Sadly, Dr. Mann informs us on the next page that “Ironically not only is there an increasing tendency among progressives to oppose seeking a middle ground when it comes to climate policy, but we’ve arrived in a “bizarro” world where the climate-change talking points employed on the political left are sometimes virtually indistinguishable from those on the political right.” One example of this that he gives is former Democratic Presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard. She came out on record during the 2020 Presidential primaries against a price on carbon with a stand weirdly in agreement with Putin’s Russia and the Trump Administration.

Since I consider myself a pragmatic climate advocate who strongly supports carbon pricing, it excites me that Dr. Mann states his position towards the end of this chapter that “Carbon pricing is one of the most powerful tools we have for (the systematic changes needed to address the climate crisis). Taking that off the table (as some on the far left and the climate inactivists would love to do) would constitute unilateral disarmament in the climate wars.”

In Chapters 6 and 7, Dr. Mann then shifts gears to point out the ways the climate inactivists put their thumbs on the scale for false solutions while sabotaging support for renewable energy. One example, among many distractions of the inactivists is the crocodile tears that birds are killed by wind turbines, even though the Audubon Society, which actual mission is to protect birds, supports wind turbines. Chapter 7 goes into the non-solution solutions promoted by the inactivists such as natural gas, unclean coal with carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), geoengineering, just planting trees, nuclear energy, “adaptation” and “resilience.”

Wind turbines just west of Great Basin National Park, Nevada in May 2010. Photo by Brian Ettling

In Chapter 8, I applaud Dr. Mann strongly criticizing the climate “doomists” who believe it is too late to act on climate. These individuals and groups exaggerate the threat climate change, which ultimately does a disservice to everyone wanting a healthy planet to live. As he titles this chapter, “The Truth is Bad Enough.” At the start of this chapter, he makes a strong point that “doomism today poses a greater threat to climate action than outright denial.”

Climate advocates will often refer to climate change as driving a car too fast in a fog when you don’t know where we could fall off a cliff. Dr. Mann likes to push back though to assert that “There is no cliff that we fall off of at a 1.5°C (2.7°F) warming 2°C (3.6°F) warming. A far better analogy is hat we’re walking out onto a minefield, and the further we go, the greater the risk. Conversely, the sooner we cease our forward lurk, the better off we are.”

I have thought frequently about Dr. Mann’s minefield analogy. I think it synergizes well with statements of the late climate scientist Dr. Stephen Schneider, who is a hero of Dr. Mann and mine. Dr. Stephen Schneider was the first scientist I turned to in 1998 read his books on global warming to learn about this issue. Dr. Schneider used to say that if we keep burning fossil fuels and releasing greenhouse gases the planet may respond with “nasty consequences” or “nasty surprises.” Thus, Dr. Mann’s warnings about climate change remind me of the warnings that Stephen Schneider was trying to alert the general public over 20 years ago.

Sadly, Dr. Stephen Schneider passed away in 2010. If he was still alive, he probably would be shocked to see so many extreme weather events influenced by climate change such as the 2020 Australian bush fires. This was an extreme weather event made worse by climate change that forced Dr. Michael Mann to cut his Australian sabbatical short and return to the United States. With this in mind, Dr. Mann gives us this sobering message:

“So yes, it’s fair to say that dangerous climate change has already arrived and it’s simply a matter, at this point, of how bad we’re willing to let it get. While climate-change deniers, delayers, and deflectors love to point to scientific uncertainty as justification for inaction, uncertainty is not our friend here. It is cause to take even more concerted action…The consequences of doing nothing grows by the day. The time to act is now.”

Even more, “It is our decision-making henceforth that will determine how much additional warming and climate change we get.” Again, Dr. Mann is clearly telling us that it’s up to us with our actions to determine how much of a threat climate change will be in the future. With this in mind, it’s important that we don’t get distracted by the deniers or delayists but also not the doomists either. As Dr. Mann writes: “It is appropriate to criticize those who downplay the threat (of climate change). But there is also danger in overstating the threat in a way that presents the problem as unsolvable.”

Dr. Mann then provides a great quote by clean-tech author Ketan Josh, “Doomism is the new denialism. Doomism is the new fossil fuel profit protectionism Helplessness is the new message.”

Dr. Mann warns that “Climate doomism can be paralyzing. As one observer noted, ‘[climate] doomism has been used as a tool to turn people off action and to pervert election results.'”

I could write many paragraphs agreeing with Dr. Mann’s strong pushback against the “doomist” messaging that sadly sways a number of potential climate advocates from taking significant climate action. It always makes me sad and leaves me feeling deflated when friends and some well known individuals voice their opinion that there’s not much we can do to avoid a bleak future with climate change. I will never buy into that. At the same time, it’s so important that we collectively and individually take all the climate actions that we can to avoid stepping out further into the climate minefield. Thus, Dr. Mann does provide inspiration and hope for me to fight on at the end of this chapter when he writes:

“We do not face a scenario of near-term societal collapse or human extinction. The only assurance of such scenarios would be our abject failure to act. If there were not still a chance of prevailing in the climate battle, I would not be devoting my life to communicating the science and its implications to the public and policy makers. I know we can still avert catastrophe. And I speak with some authority on the matter. As a scientist who is still engaged in climate research, my views are informed by hard numbers and facts. In the final chapter of the of (this) book, we confront the remaining front in the new climate war – ourselves, our own self-doubt that we have it within ourselves as a species to meet the challenge at hand.”

Indeed, the final chapter of The New Climate War is titled “Meeting the Challenge.” Dr. Mann begins the chapter by writing:

“Despite the challenges detailed in this book, I am cautiously optimistic ––that that is to say, neither Pollyannaish, nor dour, but objectively hopeful––about the prospects for tackling the climate crisis in the years ahead.”

There’s so much more I would like to comment, but I want to give others a space to read this chapter and the book to develop their own opinions and responses. Like I wrote previously in this review blog, this book really connected with me on many levels. Thus, it has been hard to write a brief review with so many items that I want to comment about.

Bottomline: I highly recommend the 2021 hardback version of the book. At the same time, I look forward to the paperback edition coming out in May 10, 2022 to see if Dr. Mann has included any updated thoughts.

My one suggestion to Dr. Mann: ‘Give the Do-ers very clear marching orders’

In The New Climate War, Dr. Mann proclaims on page 45 that ‘The most hard-core (climate) deniers are in the process of going extinct (though there is still a remnant population of them). They are now being replaced by other breeds of deceivers and dissemblers, namely downplayers, deflectors dividers, delayers, and doomers.” (his emphasis)

That would make for a great group of Seven Dwarfs for the next Adam McKay (writer/director of the film Don’t Look Up) like climate change Hollywood satire! Seriously, though on the flip side, I would like to add another D to Dr. Mann’s list. Unlike the other Ds, this is a good D. This is a D of what I call the folks like me who want to be the Do-ers. In other words, folks like me who want to Do Something Now for climate action.

These would be the folks who are paying close attention to what Dr. Mann is writing about in this book and other publications, his public speeches and media interviews, etc. The segment of the population who are paying attention to the latest IPCC reports, published scientific findings on the climate, and credible media reports on the climate. As a result, they want to Do Something Now for climate action. Sadly, the other seven Ds that Dr. Mann wrote about in his book do take up most of the oxygen in the room. Yes, I do get why he focused on them since we do need to understand our opponents in The New Climate War.

The good news is that there are a lot of us Do-ers or Do Something Now folks for climate action. The most recent Yale Global Warming’s Six America’s Survey from September 2021, published in January 2022 shows that 33% of Americans are alarmed about climate change. That’s one in three Americans! This survey defines Alarmed as “convinced global warming is happening, human-caused, an urgent threat, and they strongly support climate policies.”

When you add in that 25% of Americans are concerned about climate change. This survey defines Concerned as the people who “think human-caused global warming is happening, is a serious threat, and support climate policies. However, they tend to believe that climate impacts are still distant in time and space, thus climate change remains a lower priority issue.”

When you combine the Alarmed and Concerned segments of the American population, that’s 58%, a clear majority of Americans who think human-caused global warming is happening, is a serious threat, and support climate policies. On the other hand, only 9% of Americans are Dismissive of climate change, meaning they “believe global warming is not happening, human-caused, or a threat, and most endorse conspiracy theories (e.g., ‘global warming is a hoax).’ Sadly, it’s the Dismissives, especially those who are members of Congress, fossil fuel executives, and right wing media figures, who still can garner way too much attention in the public sphere with their outlandish statements, outsized media influence, and piles of lobbying money to sway Republicans and the Senator Joe Manchins in Congress. Dr. Mann refers to the climate deniers as inactivists, which he defines as The forces of inaction – that is fossil fuel interests and those who do their bidding – (who) have a single goal of inaction” as the forces we must overcome in this new new Climate War.”

Yes, in order to win a war, especially The New Climate War, you must successfully define and learn the tactics how to prevail against your opposition. At the same time, the do-ers, climate warriors, and alarmists do need clear precise marching orders to defeat our opponents and reduce the threat of the climate crisis. That’s exactly what I did when I saw writer, climate activist, and founder of 350.org Bill McKibben give a public presentation at St. Louis University in November 2012. During the question and answer time with the audience, I was the first one to walk up to the microphone and ask him directly: “What’s our marching orders, Bill?”

His response: “Contact your local college or university as a student, professor, or alumni and ask them to divest their endowment from fossil fuels.”

Brian Ettling speaking with Bill McKibben at Washington University in St. Louis on November 1, 2012.

That was clear enough and I did just that. Four months later in February 2013, I did write to the President of my alma mater, William Jewell College, to ask him to consider divesting William Jewell’s endowment from fossil fuels. I followed it up with a letter to the editor to the William Jewell student newspaper urge the students, faculty, and administration to divest the college’s endowment from fossil fuels. I didn’t stop there. As a 1992 alumni, I made connections to arrange for the college President to call me that summer to have a conversation about divestment. Was I successful? No. However, I blogged about my efforts to hopefully inspire others to copy my efforts. Even more, following those marching orders from Bill McKibben gave me confidence to do more for climate action.

Dr. Mann does have a great succinct message in this book regarding climate action that “There is clearly a sense of urgency. But there is also recognition of agency – a sense that action is possible, that our future is, at least to an extent, still in our hands.”

If you recall above, that’s also the theme, urgency and agency, in the email response that Dr. Mann sent me in November 2020. Again, his very generous advice when I was getting ready to appear on a national TV comedy show to possibly discuss climate again. In The New Climate War, Dr. Mann does give a lot of great advice and insights for fighting this war, such as staying objectively hopeful that we do have the tools and ability to reduce the threat of the climate crisis and disregard the Doomsayers. He urges us to support and respect the climate youth activists, such as Greta Thunberg, Alexandria Vilaseñor, and Jerome Foster (who I had the privilege to meet and attend lobby meeting with at a Congressional office for climate action at a Citizens’ Climate Lobby conference in Washington D.C. in November 2018).

Jerome Foster II (second from left) lobbying with Brian Ettling (center) at the Washington D.C. office of GOP Congressman Greg Walden, November 2018.

Even more, Dr. Mann advises us to Educate, Educate, Educate our friends when a false claim about climate change moves outside of the denalist echo chamber and tries to infest well meaning folks that we know. It’s important that we arm ourselves with helpful credible sources like skepticalscience.com to be able to rebut to help the confused middle so they can join us battle. Finally, Dr. Mann hits hard on this crucial idea that “Changing the system requires systematic change.”

I can’t applaud enough for Dr. Mann emphasizing this thought throughout his book. As a matter of fact, that has been my biggest frustration with the climate movement, the lack of organizing together on systematic solutions. My pet peeve is all the conversations with fellow climate activists lecturing me about individual solutions. I had a block a climate activist on Facebook who would not stop harping on me that my wife and I should not have kids. This is a very sensitive subject for me because my wife and I got married in 2015 when I was 47 years old and she was 40 years old. We would have loved to have children of our own, but it was not meant to me. This activist would not stop browbeating me about this. He nearly had me crying as I tried to explain the situation. I finally had to block this person to end the conversation for once and for all. Thus, for anyone reading this, please be sensitive when bringing up the subject of world population and having kids. I respect anyone who decides not to have kids due to bringing them into the world in the midst of the climate crisis. At the same time, for others like me, not having children is a very touchy subject since it was not meant to be for my wife and me.

I have met folks who just thought that living in an eco-village, eating a vegan/vegetarian diet, not driving, or flying was doing their part to solve climate change. I do admire and appreciate their actions. At the same time, it’s not enough. As Dr. Mann stresses in this book systematic change is needed. I proudly drive 20 year old manual transmission green Honda Civic. It was the most fuel efficient car I could afford when I bought it new in 2002 and it still runs great today at over 300,000 miles. My wife and I fully know that this car won’t last forever. We get really excited when we see a Tesla or any kind of electric car when we go out for a drive. When my car does eventually seem to be on its last legs, we plan on replacing it with an electric car. We test drove a Tesla in December 2015, so it has been a dream for my wife and I to get an electric car for years. Yet, whenever I post about my car on social media when it hits a major milestone such as 300,000 miles or 20 years old, some of my climate friends will post “You need to get an electric car!” Yes, my wife and I know this!

Brian Ettling and his wife Tanya Couture test driving a Tesla in St. Louis MO on December 26, 2015.

I could go on and on about the tunnel vision about individual solutions. Yes, they are important, but they are not the cure all. I will never forget a statistic mentioned towards the beginning of the January 10th, 2020 Climate One Podcast, INCONSPICUOUS CONSUMPTION: THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT YOU DON’T KNOW YOU HAVE by host Greg Dalton: “The small choices we make everyday can have a big collective impact on climate. But experts say individual actions can only get us about 30 or 40 percent of the way to safety. The rest falls on governments and companies.”

Dr. Mann does a superb job of stressing that individual actions are not going to cut it towards reducing the climate crisis. Page 264 he writes: “The answer is that there is no path of escape from climate-change catastrophe that doesn’t involve policies aimed at societal decarbonization…We won’t get those policies without politicians in office who are willing to do our bidding over the bidding of powerful polluters. That means we must put pressure to bear on politicians and polluting interests. We do this through the strength of our voices and the power of our votes.” (My emphasis)

Right on, Brother Mann! Preach! Preach! Having said that, I would invite Dr. Mann to go much further. I think he needs to be even more clear and direct in his marching orders of what climate advocates need to do right now. A good example of this was one of the promotional interviews with the cast of the “Don’t Look Up” film in December 2021. Around the 13 minute mark of this YouTube video, comedic actor Jonah Hill asks: ‘What can one person do to take climate action?’ Leonoardo DiCaprio’s response: ‘The #1 thing is vote in elections for people who take climate change seriously.’

Having said that, I would really encourage Dr. Mann to be very direct with his marching orders in future writings, media interviews and public talks. Literally, I can’t stress this enough as a climate organizer, PEOPLE DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO TO TAKE CLIMATE ACTION. Sadly, according to the Yale Global Warming’s Six America’s Survey, this includes many of the Alarmed segment of the U.S population. “Most (Alarmed) do not know what they or others can do to solve the problem (of climate change).”

I heard Dr. Anthony Leiserowitz say directly in his keynote address at the Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) Conference in Washington D.C. in June 2017, now on YouTube. He noted at the 24:45 minute mark that the number one question of the Alarmed and Concerned, which is currently 58% of the U.S. population is ‘Ok! I get it! Climate change is real, bad, scientists agree, and we need to do something, but what can I do?’ Sadly, we have millions of Americans in these groups that want to do something, but they don’t know what to do. Dr. Mann and I both know that we ultimately have to change the government policies. This then consequently involves larges numbers of the Alarmed contacting and engaging with their elected officials, especially their members of Congress. Sadly, large percentages of the Alarmed and Concerned are still not contacting their members of Congress. When the Yale Global Warming’s Six Americas asked the Alarmed and Concerned why aren’t they contacting their members of Congress. The number one response was no one asked them to contact them! Dr. Leiserowitz then jokingly yelled at the CCL audience of committed climate activists: “JUST ASK!”

Even more, Dr. Jennifer Carman, a postdoctoral associate with the Yale Program, spoke about this when she was the guest speaker for the Citizens’ Climate Lobby March 2022 Monthly Meeting. She highlighted that of the Alarmed group, recent findings show that just 34% are politically active, 46% are willing to take action, and 20% are inactive at this time. She stated that “We found from our research that one of the big barriers that prevents people is that no one has asked them (to take action).”

Image source: Citizens’ Climate Lobby March 2022 Monthly Meeting.

I know from Dr. Mann’s public statements and an email exchange with me that he is hesitant of crossing “the line of being policy prescriptive rather than just policy informative.” That’s fair. Dr. Mann is one of the most respected climate change scientists who is willing to engage the media and the public on climate science. As he talked about in The New Climate War and his previous books, speaking publicly about climate science was not something he envisioned for his career. Specifically, he was forced to “go public” when he was unfairly attacked by climate deniers and denying elected officials going back many decades now. He has proudly embraced his public role to defend himself and climate science. I applaud this. Dr. Mann is one of my heroes. His books and public appearances has had left a big impression on me. Even more, he has been personally generous to me with his time and advice.

Having said that, I do want to push back a bit against the hesitation of Dr. Mann and other climate scientists who don’t want to be policy prescriptive or put on a spot to advocate for specific solutions. Many climate scientists feel like it’s “not my job” to go beyond working on the science and publishing the results. Sadly, as I wrote about above, we are not making the progress that we need because many Americans who alarmed about climate change don’t know what to do, what to say, who to contact or what or what solutions to advocate. Sadly, too many of the most committed climate advocates are caught into side show distractions about just going vegan, preaching about over population, or even giving dangerous doomerism or nihilistic messages that ‘It’s too late!’ Just like the deniers, the climate advocates caught up in bad messaging can also take up the oxygen in the room, leaving the public confused, which inadvertently, helps the deniers and inactivists that Dr. Mann and I want to defeat in this New Climate War.

Thus, I would really encourage Dr. Mann and other climate scientists to come up with very clear marching orders and specific advice on what the millions of us climate do-ers can jump in and immediately do. We are standing by eagerly wanting to help! As I blogged about over 10 years ago, a climate advocate friend of mine had just returned from a presentation by Project Ocean at a conference. That speaker stressed the point that when people hear they have cancer, they do not research the molecular biology of cells. They want the solutions now on how they can fight cancer successfully. ‘Is it exercise, diet, meditation, prayer, medication, surgery, sense of humor, or anything else Doctor?’ The huge planetary problems associated with climate change can be very scary for your audience to comprehend. What is your solutions for them?

I had this happen to myself recently when I felt a very severe pain in my left arm in late December 2021. Ironically, I had basically the same injury in December 2015 that I blogged about then. Like any pain, I denied it was happening for a few days and even weeks. I then started putting a pack of ice on my arm hoping that would do the trick. It did not. I finally went to see my doctor on January 12th this year. With any family doctor/general physician, I knew in this specialized age of medicine that my doctor was not going to be able to heal me on the spot. She diagnosed the problem as a rotator cuff strain. However, she didn’t then say, ‘Sorry it’s not my job to fix it.’ She did what any good doctor would do, she assigned me to a specialist. In my case a physical therapist, who could help me with daily exercises to regain my mobility in my left arm, reduce the pain, and bring me to a road of recovery. After several months of physical therapy, I can report that I am completely healed and basically back to normal.

Another way to think of this is something I heard from a very influential climate scientist, the late Dr. Stephen Schneider, a who is hero of Dr. Mann and I. In 1998 when I needed to learn something fast about global warming to answer visitor questions as a naturalist guide in Everglades National Park, I went to a Miami bookstore and bought Dr. Stephen Schneider’s book, Laboratory Earth: The Planetary Gamble We Can’t Afford to Lose. I then became a fan and follower of Dr. Schneider’s public statements and warnings about climate change. In his TV, documentary, and recorded podcast interviews, I found him to be a master of using amazing metaphors and analogies to explain to non-scientists the complex science of climate change in a way that the public could truly understand. In my opinion, no scientist or communicator before or since can touch the outstanding communication style of Dr. Stephen Schneider.

Dr. Schneider had a fantastic metaphor, ‘Would you argue with you doctor over a heart condition?’ in a 2006 HBO climate change documentary, Too Hot Not To Handle. This analogy is still stuck in my mind sixteen years later. I blogged about this back in 2015.

Here is the full quote from Dr. Schneider:
“Some people say ‘When you are sure about climate change, then we will do something about it.’
Suppose your doctor says ‘Well, I am very concerned about your heart condition. I think you should be on a low cholesterol diet and exercise.’ Would anybody say to their doctor ‘If you can’t tell me precisely when am I going to have the heart attack and how severe it will be.’ then why should I change my lifestyle?’

That is how absurd it is that when the political world tells us in the climate world: ‘tell us exactly how bad it is going to be and when and when you are sure, come back and talk to us.’ That is not the way it works in any other form of life. Not in business. Not in health. Not in security. We have pretty good ideas about what could happen. We do not have the detailed picture and we are not going to for several decades. What we are doing is taking a risk with the life support system of the earth and humans have to decide if we want to slow that down.”

This is a brilliant quote to respond to the vast climate denial that was happening in 2006 and is still lingering around today in 2022. Again, on the flip side, there are also millions of climate alarmed citizens and even climate do-ers, who would hear these warnings from Dr. Schneider, like I did back then in 1998 and 2006, and Dr. Mann today, and would respond, “Ok, Doc, I get it! tell me what I should do right now now to reduce the threat of climate change.”

If I could have Dr. Mann and other climate scientists sit down to watch one video of my frustrations with how we communicate how climate change to this day, it would be this short clip from the 1992 Spike Lee film Malcom X. In this scene, a sympathetic young white woman expresses admiration for Malcolm X and his fight for racial equality. She directly asks him what she can do. Sadly, his response was “Nothing.”

Director Spike Lee included this scene in his film because Malcolm X wrote about this encounter in his autobiography. Upon later reflection, Malcolm X seemed to regret that he wished he could have had a better answer for her in that moment.

Too often, I have felt the same way in my eleven plus years of being involved in the climate movement and asking climate organizers to mentor me so I could become an effective full time climate organizer. I blogged about this twice of very deep personal frustration five years ago. Often it has felt like climate scientists don’t have that clear answer when the public asks them: “What can I do?” On page 222, Dr. Mann admitted to learning the hard way in his public presentations that he gave for years that he “focused only on the on the science and the impacts, because I am a scientist. I would then only pay lip service to ‘climate solutions,’ with the obligatory final slide.” Afterwards, audience members frequently gave him this feedback, “That was a great presentation. But it left me so depressed.”

As he reflected on this audience feedback, he thought his presentations were deficient. He needed to also include “reasons for hope” in his public lectures. I applaud Dr. Mann’s candor to adjust his public presentations to include hope to try to inspire his audience to take climate action. From 2010 to 2019, I gave over 200 climate change public presentations in 10 U.S. states, Washington D.C. and Ottawa Canada. I tried to learn and evolve to give my audiences very specific solutions they could do on the spot (signing letters to members of Congress) and to take with them after they got home. It’s so important that we are improving our messages that our audiences have hope and know exactly what they can do to act on climate.

Brian Ettling speaking at the Florida Citizens’ Climate Lobby Conference in February 2018.

An audience eager for Dr. Michael Mann and David Wallace-Wells to focus on climate change solutions

From pages 205-217, Dr. Mann is quite critical of author David Wallace-Wells’ July 2017, “The Uninhabitable Earth” New York Magazine article and then subsequent 2019 book by the same title. He gave a searing opinion about Wallace-Wells’ New York Magazine article writing, “It was to climate doom porn what Shakespeare is to modern literature. Yes, Wallace-Walls article and then best-selling book did have a profound impact on the larger conversation on climate. I totally agree with Dr. Mann that the article did “present an overly bleak view of our climate future.” The 2017 article didn’t connect with me. Back in 2008, I had seen the National Geographic climate change documentary Six°Degrees Could Change The World and read the book it was based on, Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet by journalist Mark Lynas. I thought that 2008 National Geographic documentary and Mark Lynas’ book had already informed me what could happen if humans don’t act to reduce the threat of climate change. Thus, I found David Wallace-Wells’ 2017 New York Magazine article did not connect with me at all.

Even more, I had already learned as far back as 2011 that dire messaging does not work. Even worse, it can have a backfire effect causing people who hear climate doom messages to be even less likely to take climate action. In December 2011, I heard Susan Joy Hassol, Director of Climatecommunication.org speak at the American Geophysical Union Conference in San Francisco. During her presentation, she stated that “Most people will find it difficult to accept the science of climate change if they feel there is no solution.” She was citing the December 2010 research paper, Apocalypse Soon? : Dire Messages Reduce Belief in Global Warming by Contradicting Just-World Beliefs by Matthew Feinberg and Robb Willer who uncovered this finding with experimental studies on 97 Berkeley undergraduates. Susan Hassol explained to me by e-mail soon after her lecture, “that people who believe in a ‘just world’ have trouble accepting something that is hopeless.” Too much emphasis on doom and gloom without providing hope can influence people to be even more pessimistic about climate change and the science that supports it.

In 2017, Dr. Mann expressed his concern about the 2017 David Wallace Wells article in a Facebook post writing, “The evidence that climate change is a serious problem that we must contend with now is overwhelming on its own. There is no need to overstate the evidence, particularly when it feeds a paralyzing narrative of doom and hopelessness. I’m afraid this latest article does that.” Dr. Mann’s strong criticism sparked a lot of discussion, which led to a November 2017 New York University event, called “The Doomed Earth,” where Dr. Mann had an in person discussion with David Wallace-Wells, narrated by Robert Lee Holtz, a science writer at the Wall Street Journal. Dr. Mann mentioning this event on page 209 inspired me to find the YouTube video from this event.

Why mention all of this? At the 1:05 (one hour and five minute) mark on this video during the question and answer period, a participant asks the audience: “A show of hands. How many people here are frustrated and want to hear about solutions?”

It’s off camera, but the participant remarks that a number of people raised their hand wanting to hear about solutions. This prompted the host Robert Lee Hotz to point out that the symposium with Dr. Mann and David Wallace-Wells was about climate change communications. This audience member then quotes Kurt Vonnegut that “In American history, in the battle of forces between good and evil, greed and compassion, there’s only one thing that has made a difference and that’s organizing.”

This audience member then asks Dr. Mann and David Wallace Wells, “What have you come across in your writings that has excited you about some new ways to organize that could solve ‘the mother of all challenges,’ which is to recruit a lot more people to do a lot more courageous tasks (to solve the climate crisis?”

Although this audience member was very long-winded and irritating to watch as he hogged the microphone to plug his app and organizing group, I still thought his question was spot on though as a long term climate organizer with similar frustrations.

Before he got to the point of his question, he defined the ‘mother of all challenges’ as “If the major grassroots organizations are going to have any success in the very near future to be able to recruit the vast larger numbers of people that they need to do the much bigger tasks from willing to get arrested at a pipeline to be willing to knock on 200 doors on a weekend to get the right person elected. We’re going to need some way to solve that problem, which I call ‘The mother of all challenges.’ (Which is) what can we do to get a lot more people to wiling to join groups to do a lot bigger things than to just show up at a protest, which really does not do much or just call your members of Congress?”

David Wallace-Wells then responded that “What I find interesting is that most of the people who have asked about what they can do in the aftermath of my (New York Magazine) piece were really focused on personal consumption choices and…”

The audience member then interrupted Wallace-Wells to say, “I call that the lifestyle delusion.”

David Wallace-Wells felt a little defensive and replied, “I am actually totally with you and I feel like what I actually say is that organizing is actually the thing to do…It’s good to live in a responsible way, but political organizing is overwhelmingly the thing that is going to solve the problem if we are going to solve the problem.”

The audience member then interrupted to ask: “Then that begs the question: How can we organize in a lot more cleverly and a much more bigger way?”

In my opinion, Wallace-Wells struggled to answer that question when he responded, “To me, it feels like, first of all, the climate is doing a lot of the work for us…with the extreme weather, with the hurricanes and the wildfires, that I do think the public is really waking up to climate change in a much more profound way than they ever have before. And I think it is important to keep in mind, given what I was saying earlier about the incredible speed in which we have created this problem with that the fact that the public is even aware at all, on some level should be a cause for hope rather than a cause for despair…”

Dr. Mann: “I would underscore some of (David Wallace-Wells) points that if you take an issue like gun control, upwards of 90% of the American public supports common sense gun legislation. Yet, we have a gerrymandered Congress which is not willing to do anything about the problem. And, so public acceptance and even public concern in the political system that we operate in today is not always sufficient. It is necessary, but not necessarily sufficient for political change.”

I thought this was an interesting exchange and brief conversation. However, like many of us in the climate movement that want to do something, I wanted to hear more. To me, this brief conversation at this public discussion with Dr. Mann and author David Wallace-Wells shows that there is a segment of the public that is very hungry to hear more about climate solutions and how we can organize politically to try to solve the climate crisis.

In a future book by Dr. Mann or other climate scientists, I would like to hear more specific climate solutions and marching orders on what we can do. Let me add, that it’s ok if Dr. Mann does not have all the answers or does not feels comfortable suggesting solution as an impartial climate scientist just trying to provide non-biased scientific answers. 11 years ago, I heard a scientist with the National Park Service, Patrick Gonzalez, say at a government climate conference that “it took millions of actions by people to get us into the climate crisis, and it will take millions of actions to get us out of it.”

The key question is which solutions are needed to solve the climate crisis?

After all, it was an overwhelming consensus of climate scientists over many decades who established through science that climate change is real, bad, happening right now, it’s caused by us humans, and we can limit the damage if we choose. In 2018, the IPCC (the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) released a summary report that we must cut our global greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 and down to net zero by 2050. By how? What are the best scientific solutions to get us to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050?

At the very least, I would like to see Dr. Mann in a future book or writing point us to the solutions that we should be doing. Or, to be respectful of his position to not be prescriptive, who can he point us to that can show us the modeling, range of solutions, or needed collective actions to get us globally to net zero by 2050? Is it Project Drawdown or 2017 book Drawdown: The most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, edited by Paul Hawken? Is it the 2018 book Designing Climate Solutions: A Policy for Low-Carbon Energy by Hal Harvey, CEO of Energy Innovation? Is it the En-ROADS Climate Solutions Simulator that was created by Climate Interactive? It is not one of these?

For the millions of of climate do-ers who want a road map how we globally get to net zero by 2050 based on the best science, which is the collective solution. To quote the 1996 film Jerry Maguire, “You had us at hello,” Dr. Mann, with your published papers, books, public presentations, and media appearances on climate change. Just advise or point us in a direction with very clear marching orders on what we should do next for climate action.

Brian Ettling speaking at the Beyond Coal Rally in St. Louis, MO in April 2013.

In September 2018, a friend on Facebook asked me “When you have time I would love to see some everyday things we can do to help the earth.” Thus, I responded with this blog in December 2018, For Climate Action: 8 Everyday Actions you can do to help the Earth. No, I just did not give my friend a list of individual solutions for her to feel better. My top solutions were:
1. Vote in every election for candidates who support climate action.
2. Regularly contact your members of Congress
3. Organize
4. Talk about climate change to your friends, family, co-workers and neighbors.
5. Weatherize your home
6. Install solar
7. Switch to an electric car, if you can afford it.
8. Be hopeful

Oddly, my friend hoped I would tell her to bring her reusable bags when she goes grocery shopping. Yes, that is helpful for the planet to not use single use paper and plastic bags when one is grocery shopping. Yes, do that! And, we need folks to take many additional actions to reduce the threat of climate change.

My advice for Dr. Michael Mann for messaging for climate action

If Dr. Mann is open to it, maybe we could even write a joint guest opinion in a newspaper sometime on ways that climate do-ers can take action now.

Conservationist writer and activist Edward Abbey once wrote: “The idea of wilderness needs no defense. It only needs more defenders.”

In 2022, I would say that the idea that climate change is real, it’s human caused, it’s bad, scientists agree, and we can limit it if we chose needs no defense. It only needs more people taking action.

Therefore, if I could advice Dr. Michael Mann on a concise message for climate action, it would be:

“Yes, we have urgency to try to reduce the threat of climate change now. At the same time, we must step up our personal agency to vote, organize, and support strong climate candidates in the November 2022 mid term elections. Then, after we elect them, we must strongly lobby them to prioritize effective climate legislation.”

Talking to Your Dad about Climate Change: My Personal Story

(Note: This is an updated version of my guest blog from my friend Harriet Shugarman‘s website climatemama.com. My 2015 guest blog for that website was Talking to Your Parents about Climate Change: A Personal Story)

A Sudden phone from My Dad about having an emergency high risk surgery

Late in the evening on October 23, 2019, I received a phone call that I will never forget. I live with my wife Tanya in Portland OR, but I got a phone call from my younger sister in St. Louis MO that my Dad was at the hospital for emergency abdominal surgery for an aneurysm . His doctor felt that my Dad had to have immediate surgery to relieve this blockage, otherwise he might not be alive much longer.

My sisters, their husbands, and my Mom came to the hospital to be with him before he was wheeled into surgery. My Dad been fighting stage four bladder cancer since 2013. He had been in and out of hospitals during the past month struggling with health issues related to his cancer. The doctor was not certain that my Dad would survive this surgery, so my Mom and sisters were there to possibly say goodbye. While they were gathered around him minutes before he was scheduled for surgery, he had one request before being wheeled into the operating room. He wanted to call me on the phone, so my sister called me so he could talk with me.

I was speechless to receive this phone call. I had a lot of anger towards my Dad during the course of my life. I always appreciated that he was an excellent provider for our family, working 2 jobs for over 40 years to support his family. My parents paid for my college education and they would let me live with them between my seasonal park ranger jobs as an adult. Yet, I had felt a lot of hurt from my Dad having an unpredictable volatile temper as a child that did leave some really bad emotional scars. As adults, our politics had a deep divide and sometimes we had screaming arguments about it.

As I shared in the 2015 Climate Mama blog, we had bitter confrontation in my late 20s. He did not like that I was working as a seasonal park ranger for years after I graduated from college in 1992. He wanted me working a steady office or management job, which was not how I envisioned my life. I loved him as my Dad, yet our relationship had always felted strained to me. I felt a lot of frustration towards him because it always felt like he did not understand me and get who I was as a person.

My Dad started the conversation saying that the doctor said he must be operated on to dissolve this aneurysm. Without the surgery, my Dad may not have long to live. The doctor also said that he had no idea if the surgery would be a success. My Dad told me: “The doctor said he feels like (the operation) will be like shooting an arrow straight into the air. He has no idea where it will land.”

With that in mind, my Dad wanted to let me know how proud he was of my climate change work and he wanted me to keep doing that. He acknowledged that things had not always been smooth for us, but that he was thinking of me and he loved me. I was speechless except to thank him for all that he did for me and tell him that I loved him. I told him how much I enjoyed when my mom and him came to visit Tanya and me the previous May. I shared that think of him whenever I hear and see the freight trains pass by our apartment in Portland, since he loves trains so much. I encouraged him to get better so they could come visit Tanya and me again. If he came back, I promised to show him more sights around Portland and he could see the trains by our apartment. He liked that idea and I wished him all the best to make it through the surgery before we wrapped up the call.

The Bible tells the story of the Prodigal Son who is forgiven by his father for running away and living a dangerous life. However, I felt like I was experiencing a story of a Prodigal Father who knew he had hurt me in my life and he wanted my forgiveness before it was too late.

That evening, I did something I never do, I kept my iPhone on all night in case my Mom or sister called with any news. I just didn’t know what would happen. I tried to prepare my mind for any outcome, but I just didn’t know. The phone never rang again that night or into the morning. It was another case of ‘no news was good news.’ The next day my Mom called to say that my Dad made it through surgery. It was a success. We dodged a bullet. I still booked flight to St. Louis to go visit them for several days after experiencing this close call and to support my Dad with his recovery. He was very happy to see me when I visited him at the hospital.

For years, I have meant to write this blog to show gratitude to my dad for his support

The news about my Dad was sobering for the next several months. He was not going to be able to walk again, confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. In late December 2020, it was determined that there was nothing else the doctors could do to treat my Dad’s bladder cancer. His doctor thought he might have just months, maybe weeks to live. He was put on hospice care. Tanya and I flew back to St. Louis the second week of December to be with our families. We wondered if we would be soon be flying back to St. Louis for a memorial service for my Dad.

In spite of the fact that my Dad would never walk again and his cancer not curable, he was in good spirits going into 2020. Then the COVID pandemic hit in March 2020. The rehabilitation place where he was living was shut down to outside visitors indefinitely. Except for waving at him through a window and phone calls, my Mom and sisters could not visit my Dad for months. Since I live in Portland OR and was unable to travel with the pandemic, I was not sure if I would see him alive again. Finally, in May 2020, my Mom was able to bring my Dad back to their home with hospice nurses there during the day to care for my Dad.

Tanya and I did not feel safe traveling in 2020 due to the pandemic, so I was not sure if I would see my Dad alive again. During the first half of 2021, Tanya and I were able to get both doses of the vaccine and my parents got both doses of the vaccine. We finally felt it was safe enough to visit them at the end of June and the first two weeks of July in 2021. We had a big family dinner with Tanya’s parents and my parents on Sunday, July 10th, the day before our flight back to Portland. At the end of that visit, I was unsure if I would see my Dad alive again since he was still considered to be on hospice care.

My in-laws Nancy & Rex Couture, my wife Tanya, me (Brian Ettling), my mom Fran Ettling (in front of me) my Dad LeRoy Ettling sitting, and Hopper the Dog staring at us.

Tanya and I got our booster shots in early December 2021 and then flew back to St. Louis in the 3rd week of December to visit Tanya’s parents and my parents. Just like all of my previous visits, my Dad was in good spirits. My Mom, Dad, Tanya, and I even played cards like we did during July 2021 visit. When I last saw him on December 17, 2021 before flying back to Portland, I wondered if I would see him alive again. Technically, my Dad is still considered to be in hospice care because his condition is still the same. The doctors can’t treat his bladder cancer. At the same time, he keeps chugging along. The universe seems to whisper in my ear though that this good fortune won’t last forever.

My Dad seems to be on “borrowed time,” as the expression goes. However, he has been borrowing time for over two years now. His Dad, my Grandpa Roy Ettling, lived to be 94 years old. Thus, my Dad seems to have some kind of genetic knack to keep going. At the same time, it is been tugging at me for many years to write this blog to my Dad while he is still alive and has a sharp mind. For many years, especially for Father’s Day or his birthday in June, I wanted to write a blog of gratitude to my Dad for being so supportive of my climate change work.

Until I felt inspired to start blogging again this month, I had not felt inspired to write a blog since March 2019. Since then, I had been so busy with my climate organizing. Then, since March 2020, I felt so unmotivated and too depressed to do any blogging with the COVID 19 pandemic. Even though the pandemic is still raging strong with the omicron variant now, I am not going to let all that bad news from keeping me to write this blog.

My Gratitude for my Dad for his support of my climate change organizing

21 years ago, Bill Moyers interviewed George Lucas about how Lucas came up with the Star Wars mythology. In this interview, George Lucas explains how it was his father’s dream for his son to work in and eventually inherit the family office equipment store in Modesto, California.

However, George had no interest in taking over his father’s business. He decided in college that he wanted to be a filmmaker. When George decided to go to the University of Southern California film school and pursue his dream, his dad felt crushed that George was not going to take over the family business.

George Sr. felt young George was making a huge mistake because he had built up this successful business for his son to eventually take over. It was a big source of friction between them until George Sr. saw son George’s huge success with the Star Wars films.

George said his dad was very proud of his achievements as a filmmaker. George told Bill Moyers “the only thing you have to do, in the end, if you have to accomplishment one thing in life, is to make your parents proud of you. If you are healthy and you can take care of yourself, and you are a good person…one who contributes to society and does not take away….that is all your parents really want in the end.”

I loved this story because my Dad and I are both big fans of the original Star Wars movies. As a kid, one of my best memories of him was that he went out of his way to buy tickets to surprise us so our entire family could see the much anticipated Star Wars sequel, The Empire Strikes Back, on opening day on May 21, 1980. This film is still one of my favorite movies of all time. (Spoiler Alert) It became a cultural icon when Darth Vader announced to Luke Skywalker: “I am your father!”

Image source: Brian Ettling. A Darth Vader mask that he owns.

I will never forget this gift from my Dad because there was an audible gasp from the movie audience when Darth Vader said that. At that moment, no one wanted to believe that plot twist. It took years for me to accept it. Not even the actor James Earl Jones, who played the voice of Darth Vader, believed it, when he recorded that line of dialog for the film.

Since Darth Vader was the villain in those Star Wars films until Luke redeems him, George Lucas has said that the original Star Wars trilogy films is ultimately a space soap opera about a father and son relationship. As mentioned above, George Lucas struggled with the relationship with his father. I certainly struggled in the relationship with my Dad.

When I decided to become a seasonal park ranger bouncing around national parks, it disappointed him for years. He asked me several times, “When are you going to get a real job?” To compound my Dad’s disappointment, I made it my life’s mission to write, teach and give public presentations about the impacts of climate change, which I witnessed first hand and up close, through my work as a park ranger. For my dad, it was initially beyond his comprehension that humans could damage our planet. As I became more aware of climate change and began my work as a climate change activist, my Dad displayed open hostility at my life choice. He tried telling me that: “climate change was not real, that humans cannot change the climate, and that this was liberal nonsense.”

However, like George Lucas, I found my passion in life and nothing was going to stop me. There was no looking back. In the spring of 2010, I put together my first climate change powerpoint presentation to share with friends. In August 2011, I delivered my first climate change evening program as a seasonal park ranger at Crater Lake National Park.

In August 2012, I attended a training in San Francisco along with nearly 1,000 other people led by Al Gore to become a Climate Reality Project Leader to give presentations on climate change. Since that training, I have given over 200 climate change presentations across the United States and even Ottawa, Canada. Some personal highlights are as a guest presenter for NASA in Hampton, Virginia in 2012, a guest speaker at Grand Canyon National Park in 2013, a presenter for the Oregon Wild Conference in Portland, Oregon in 2014, and a guest speaker at the Citizens’ Climate Lobby Canada Conference in Ottawa Canada in November 2016.

I have attempted every avenue I know to get out the message about taking action on climate change, including writing this blog since 2011, writing opinion editorials in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Oregonian starting in 2013, doing local radio interviews, and in 2014, making funny short videos with my wife (then girlfriend) Tanya and my mom Fran Ettling.

My dad also played a role in our videos, as my cameraperson. After filming our third video in January 2015, my dad seemed to get antsy behind the camera and he told me he wanted to be in front of the camera with me. I decided to take him up on his suggestion, and to see where this would lead..

In February 2015, my dad and I filmed our first climate video together. I interviewed him about how he had changed his mind about climate change. He explained to me that it was me, his son, who had changed his mind. I had helped him understand and see the weight of the evidence before us. Over the years, I watched a shift in my dad’s thinking and I gained a new respect and admiration for him. He evolved from being hostile about my climate activism to being my biggest cheerleader. Yet, as I was making this video with my dad, I kept thinking how crazy this idea would have been 10 years before.

These short YouTube videos that I did with my parents and Tanya caught the attention of Comedy Central’s Tosh.o TV show. A year later, a producer of the show called me to invite my Mom and I to fly to Los Angeles to do a comedy segment with the show’s host, Daniel Tosh. Our comedy segment first aired Comedy Central on August 2, 2016, Climate Change Comedian. The cool thing about this segment is that a very short clip of my Dad was included, so my Dad had a brief moment on TV using comedy to promote climate change awareness.

My parents’ support of my climate change communication efforts did not stop there. Around that same time, my Mom came home to tell me a story. They were at a party of one of their friends. The host of the party remarked, ‘I think that climate change is a bunch of nonsense.’

My Mom responded, “That’s interesting. Can I show you a video?”

My Mom then showed the YouTube video of my Dad and I talking about how I changed his thinking on climate change. My Mom said that the host of the party was silent and did not say another word about climate change for the rest of the party.

A Science Communicator shifts her Dad’s thinking about Climate Change

Around this same time I made the YouTube video with my Dad, the cover story of the March 2015 issue of National Geographic, was The War on Science by Joel Achenbach. This article includes a story about Liz Neeley who helps to train scientists to be better communicators. As it turns out, Liz’s father is a climate change doubter. He gets most of his climate change information from conservative media. In frustration she finally confronted him: “Do you believe them or me?”

She told him she believes the scientists who research climate change and knows many of them personally. “If you think I’m wrong,” she said, “then you’re telling me that you don’t trust me.” Her father’s views shifted; and in the end it wasn’t the facts that finally convinced him, but rather his relationship with his daughter.

Science Denial expert Dr. John Cook’s Dad shifted his opinion on climate change

One of the leading experts on science denial is John Cook from Brisbane, Australia. As the founder of skepticalscience.com in 2007, he started this website as a way to put together scientific peer-reviewed information on climate change in layman’s terms to counter the most common denial myths on global warming. He was motivated to do this by “some ‘vigorous discussions’ with a few in-law family members (primarily his father-in-law) who happened to be global warming skeptics.” His own father was also a skeptic who would ‘run out of the room’ when the subject came up.

I have closely followed John’s work to counter climate science denial since since I first heard of him and skepticscience.com in 2011. I even met John at a house party during the AGU (American Geophysical Union) Conference in San Francisco, CA in December 2011. I used his 2011 “The Debunking Handbook” that he co-wrote with Stephan Lewandowsky, as a guide with much success when I gave climate change speeches from 2012-2017 to my local St. Louis Toastmasters group, which contained my climate change doubters. (This handbook was revised in 2020 to reflect updated knowledge about debunking misinformation).

In so many ways, John is the “go-to” source to counter science denial, especially with countering climate change denial. More recently, I highly recommend his 2021 book, Cranky Uncle vs. Climate Change: How to Understand and Respond to Climate Science Deniers. John is also a very talented cartoonist. He uses amazing cartoons and great illustrations in his book to show how to counter act climate denial arguments. On top of that, John created the fun Cranky Uncle phone Ap game in 2021 to help inoculate and build immunity against science denial.

John Cook with Brian Ettling at the 2017 Citizens’ Climate Lobby Conference in Washington D.C. Wearing these very similar shirts is purely a coincidence.

In spite of John’s world renowned expertise on combating science denial, his own conservative father would not budge in his refusal to accept the science of climate change. In Dr. Katharine Hayhoe’s 2021 book, Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World, she shared the story how John Cook installed solar on his house. However, when he mentioned the benefits of solar to his dad, John said, “He was initially resistant, probably because I was the one saying it and it seemed like a green-y thing to do.”

Then one day, John’s dad crunched the numbers and he thought it was “a financial no-brainer to get solar power.” Saving money is one of his core values, so he had sixteen solar panels installed on this roof. Soon, he started getting checks from his electric company from the power the solar panels were creating for the local power grid. Every time he received one of these checks, he would call John to tell him about it. John’s dad estimated he was saving over twelve hundred dollars a year. Dr. Hayhoe wrote:

“Having solar panels wasn’t just consistent with his values – they were turning him into an even better version of himself, thriftier and even more conservative (in the true sense of the word). They enhanced rather than challenged his identity.”

A few years later over dinner, John’s dad told him unexpectedly, during a conservation, “Of course humans are causing global warming.”

John was dumbfounded, asking him, “What changed your mind?”

John was even more surprised when his dad responded, “What are you talking about? I’ve always thought this.”

Oddly, John’s dad had “denied the science for years, and now he was denying that he’d ever denied it.

With his background as a cognitive psychologist, John thinks that his dad changed his behavior to be more climate friendly first out of a value to save money then it caused a change in attitude towards climate science. Katharine Hayhoe and John Cook believe that “His dad’s perception of who he was had been altered, and at such a fundamental level that he literally couldn’t recall that he’d changed.”

In Conclusion: We should never give up on our Dads (or Moms) accepting climate science

During the Bill Moyers interview, George Lucas talked about how parents can be redeemed by their children. This was part of what he demonstrated through his Darth Vader character. My own dad and Liz Neeley’s dad, all initially found it hard to comprehend that humans could put our future and that of our planet in peril through the burning of fossil fuels. They changed their views and opened themselves up to hearing the reality about climate change because of their love and respect for their children. Or, in the case of John Cook’s dad, he changed his mind on climate science with the money he had saved installing solar panels on his home.

So for those of you whose parents or other loved ones may still be reluctant to see, hear and understand the facts and realities about climate change, don’t give up! If Darth Vader, one of the biggest movie villains of all time can be redeemed by his children Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia Organa, then there is certainly hope that we all may still be able to redeem our own reluctant parents.

I hope my Dad gets a chance to read this blog. I just want him to know how much I love him and how much I appreciate how supportive he has been for all of my climate organizing.

LeRoy Ettling with his son Brian Ettling

In 2021, I led the effort for Oregon Senate to pass a Climate Resolution

Brian Ettling at the Oregon state Capitol in Salem, Oregon. March 6, 2020.

In the first half of 2021, I achieved one of my biggest successes in my 11 years as a climate organizer. As a volunteer with Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL), I led the efforts to engage with Oregon legislators and CCL volunteers around the state for the Oregon Legislature to almost pass a state wide climate change resolution. This CCL resolution nearly succeeded because of years working to understand the state legislative process for climate action, while consistently using the CCL core values when engaging with the Oregon Legislators.

Lobbying as a Renew Oregon Volunteer to urge Oregon Legislatures to pass a carbon pricing bill 2018-2020

In July 2018, Sonny Metha, Field Director at Renew Oregon at that time, invited me to join the weekly Clean Energy Jobs Grassroots call. These calls were part of the ongoing organizing by Renew Oregon, a coalition of businesses, non-profits, climate & environmental community organizations, and individual Oregonians, like me, working together to get the Oregon Legislature to pass effective climate change legislation. Renew Oregon focused on urging the Oregon Legislature to pass a state level carbon pricing bill, whcih was a cap and invest bill. This bill became known as the Clean Energy Jobs Bill or HB 2020 during the 2019 Oregon Legislative session.

Soon after I started volunteering for Renew Oregon, I became hooked on Oregon politics, organizing for climate action at the state level, and lobbying the Oregon Legislature. I loved every action I took to be involved with Renew Oregon’s efforts. I wrote letters to the editor and guest opinions in Oregon newspapers, contacting my state legislators by email and letters to support the Clean Energy Jobs Bill, lobbying my state legislators at their offices at the Salem Capitol and meeting with them in district, attending legislative hearings about the Clean Energy Jobs Bill, and giving oral testimony at legislative hearings.

My own state Representative at that time was Diego Hernandez . He liked to post constituent letters on his office bulletin board. I wrote so many letters to him that pointed to his bulletin board during a February 2019 lobby meeting. He wanted to let me know that he had kept all my letters and they dominated his bulletin board.

Letters from Brian Ettling on the office bulletin board of his state Representative Diego Hernandez. February 6, 2019.

With my involvement with CCL and The Climate Reality Project, I helped recruit numerous friends and volunteers from these groups to attend the massive Renew Oregon Lobby Day rallies in Salem in February 2019 and 2020.

Even more, I organized two events in Portland to support the Clean Energy Jobs Bill. The first one that I held in Milwaukie Oregon in September 2019 had over 80 people in attendance. The second event I held in January 2020 in Portland had around 100 people in attendance. The speakers at the second event was Oregon Senator Michael Dembrow and Representative Karin Power, who were the legislative leaders of the cap and invest bills. At each of these events, I encouraged participants to sign postcards to their legislators urging them to support the cap and invest bills. On my next trip to the Oregon Capitol, I then delivered over 50 constituent postcards that I would then divide up and personally deliver to the various offices of the Representatives and Senators. I lobbied so frequently at the Capitol that I got to develop a good rapport with a number of the legislators.

Brian Ettling, Oregon Representative Karin Power, and Oregon Senator Michael Dembrow at the Climate Reality & MCAT (Metro Climate Action Team) Even, ‘How do we pass climate legislation in Oregon? organized by Brian on January 21, 2020.

All of these actions build up to a pinnacle of excitement. I was in the Oregon House of Representatives gallery, along with so many of other Renew Oregon volunteers, to see The Clean Energy Jobs Bill pass by the Oregon House on a vote of 36 to 24 on June 17, 2019. Sadly, this all came crashing down on June 20, 2019. The Oregon Senate Republicans fled the state to deny the 2/3rds floor voting quorum for the Senate vote on the cap and invest bill. They stayed out of state until June 28th. Senate Democrats agreed to kill the climate bill in order to pass all their other remaining bills before the session ended on June 30th. It felt all my climate organizing in Oregon over the past year had gone down the drain. Through much of July 2019, I did not feel like getting off the couch to do anything. I felt so disheartened by the outcome.

Sadly, the cycle repeated itself during the 2020 Oregon Legislative session. Renew Oregon organized with Oregon Democratic Legislators to try to pass another cap and invest bill. This time, Oregon House and Senate Republicans fled the state to deny quorum for floor votes in either chamber in March 2020. This tactic worked again to run out the clock to kill the climate legislation before the 2020 session ended on March 6th. There was a small silver lining that Oregon Governor Kate Brown did sign strong climate executive orders on March 10, 2020. I attended the Governor’s signing ceremony at the Oregon state Capitol and I wrote a CCL blog about it afterwards, Oregon Governor Kate Brown signs strong climate executive order.

Oregon Governor Kate Brown signing her climate executive orders, March 10, 2020. Image source: Governor Kate Brown Flickr

While Governor Kate Brown’s climate executive orders were helpful, I felt very depressed that all the hard work and organizing to pass a climate bill in Oregon proved futile with Republican legislative walkouts. The 2020 legislative defeat felt worse due to the beginning of the COVID pandemic. All climate organizing shut down for months since legislators were then strictly focused on the pandemic and the economic fallout. There was nothing to do but sit at home for several months to adhere to social distancing and to avoid catching COVID 19.

Leading the Effort to try to get the Oregon Legislature to work on a Climate Resolution

However, with my experience learning about the legislative process, I saw a way forward. During the summer of 2021, I started meeting by Zoom and phone with Oregon Legislators that I had met during my lobbying for the cap and invest bills in 2019 and 2020. As a Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) volunteer, I urged them to endorse the federal carbon pricing bill supported by CCL, The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (EICDA).

As I organized CCL volunteers across Oregon, we successfully urged over 30 Oregon legislators to endorse the EICDA by early 2021. As we met with the state legislators, they really liked the bipartisan market-based solution of the EICDA. Even more the CCL values of respect, appreciation and gratitude seemed to make very easy for many of these legislators to say yes to endorsing the EICDA.

September 17, 2020, I met Rep. Tiffiny Mitchell to ask her to endorse the EICDA. In addition to her endorsement, Tiffiny asked if she could introduce a statewide resolution supporting the bill. I was very excited that Rep. Mitchell was willing to devote time and energy to a possible resolution. She then instructed Oregon Legislative Counsel to draft a legislative resolution that was ready in December 2020.

I was very excited when the draft resolution language was complete in mid December 2020. To be honest, I was very disappointed with the response of the Oregon CCL Leadership. After I shared the news about the resolution, this was the response I received:

This IS exciting!
I have to say though, it would be a lot more exciting to me if it were proposed as a bipartisan resolution.
I almost think that an only-D introduction and then vote of support could be harmful to our cause. (I could be convinced otherwise, but that’s where I am now)”

The response felt like huge letdown because I was thrilled that the Democratic legislators would want to even consider trying to pass a resolution for us. I tried to convey this in my response:

“Like Congress, the Oregon state Legislature is going to be swamped with legislative priorities such as COVID relief, economic assistance, racial justice & police reform, etc. Thus, we want to make this as easy as we can for them to pass this quickly while they are giving their lion’s share of attention to the huge issues I mentioned hammering the state and their constituents right now.”

My plan of action was to get the resolution started in the Oregon Legislature. Then we should try to see if we could get Republican co-sponsors and support. Over the next month, I was feeling very angry because one of the Oregon CCL Leaders kept saying: ‘If we don’t have any Republican support, I don’t think we should do this resolution.’

Fortunately, the national CCL staff backed up what I my efforts for the Oregon Resolution. In a group email that included Oregon CCL leaders, a staff person wrote: “Bipartisanship is always good but not a deal breaker. We’ll take what we can get! Oregon would be the first state to pass an EICDA resolution.”

Rep. Tiffiny Mitchell did not run for another term in the November 2020 election. Thus, she asked her friend Senator Michael Dembrow to be the Chief Sponsor. Senator Dembrow then asked me to come up with additional Legislative co-sponsors for SJM 5. Working with CCL volunteers across Oregon, I got 9 Oregon Democratic Legislators to agree to be co-sponsors, including 4 Senators and 5 Representatives.

The resolution was introduced on the Senate floor February 4, 2021, when it officially became known as Senate Joint Memorial 5 or SJM 5. The title specifically “Urges Congress to enact bipartisan climate change legislation.” Towards the end of the resolution text, it states: “we respectfully urge the Congress of the United States to pass, and the President to sign, the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act.”

Oregon Senator Michael Dembrow in his floor speech urging fellow Senator to vote in favor of Climate Resolution SJM 5 on April 7, 2021.

On February 10th, SJM 5 was assigned to the Senate Energy and Environment Committee for consideration. SJM 5 would be in good hands, since 3 out of 5 members of the committee had already endorsed the EICDA. Senator Dembrow’s staff then contacted me to organize 5 volunteers to give oral testimony supporting SJM 5 for a committee hearing scheduled on February 25th. Due to the committee hearings and work sessions for other bills and resolutions under consideration, the 5 volunteers I assembled finally had a chance to give their oral testimony on March 4, 2011.

Gaining bipartisan support to pass the Oregon Senate

With the successful introduction of SJM 5 in the Oregon Legislature, state coordinator Daniela Brod and other fellow Portland chapter members wanted to get Republican legislators on board, too. In November, they met with GOP House Minority Leader Christine Drazan to talk to her about climate action and putting a price on carbon. To their delight, she was very enthusiastic about the EICDA.

In her oral testimony before the Senate Energy & Environment Committee on February 25th, Republican Representative Drazan stated:

“The Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act is not perfect, but it is an opportunity and we shouldn’t squander it. It is an opportunity for Congress to stop playing small ball on climate.”

A Citizens’ Climate Lobby video summerizing GOP Oregon House Minority Leader Christine Drazan’s February 25, 2021 oral testimony to the Senate Energy & Environment Committee supporting SJM 5 climate resolution.

Immediately after her testimony, a GOP member of the committee, Senator Lynn Findley, enthusiastically responded, “This is a great thing (and) a process that I fully support.”

On March 11th, Republican Senator Findley joined the 3 Democratic Senators on the Energy & Environment Committee to pass SJM 5 out of committee with a recommendation “to be adopted” by the full Oregon Senate..

For the rest of March and into April, I organized closely with CCL volunteers across Oregon to lobby nearly all the Oregon Senators, Democrats and Republicans, to support SJM 5. We had high confidence that we had the vote of GOP Senator Lynn Findley. However, we did not want to take any vote for granted, Democrat or Republican. Daniela and Oregon CCL volunteer Elizabeth Graser-Lindsey successfully got a meeting with GOP state Senator Bill Kennemer in early April 2021. On April 6th, he agreed to co-sponsor SJM 5 the day before the Senate vote.

SJM 5 passed the Oregon Senate on April 7th by a vote of 23 to 5, with 6 Republican Senators, half of the Oregon Republican Senate caucus, joined with all the Democratic Senators present to vote to support SJM 5. Senator Michael Dembrow gave an amazing floor speech to urge his fellow Senators to support SJM 5. For his floor speech, Senator Dembrow wore an Oregon Climate Reality Green Ring pin that I gave him one year earlier. It was a gift to thank him for speaking in the Climate Event I organized on January 21, 2020.

Of the 23 Senators who voted yes, I directly lobbied only 3 of them by email, phone calls, and personal texts. From engaging with friends across Oregon to ask them to contact their Senators, I indirectly succeeded with 17 Senators voting in favor of SJM 5. I played no role in 3 Senators voting in favor of SJM 5, including the affirmative votes of two GOP Senators. Thus, this was a team effort with the legislators, CCL volunteers and friends across Oregon, but I did play a major part in getting many of the Senate votes and legislative co-sponsors.

Source: A screenshot Oregon Legislative website (OLIS) of the Oregon Senate vote for SJM on April 7, 2021. The Senators highlighted in green (17 Democrats & 6 Republicans) voted to pass SJM 5.

Falling short in the Oregon House

On April 8th, SJM 5 was introduced in the Oregon House. It was then referred to the House Rules Committee. To build support for SJM 5, I worked closely with Oregon CCL Leadership as well as CCL volunteers across Oregon engaged with their representatives. As a result, 30 House members, including 7 Republicans, endorsed SJM 5. The Oregon House has 60 members. Thus, half the chamber were co-sponsors of SJM 5.

For the first half of 2021, it was a full time effort for me to build as much legislative support as possible for SJM 5. Of the 39 legislator co-sponsors for SJM 5, I was directly involved in meetings, phone calls, and emails with these legislators or their staffs to persuade 17 to sponsor SJM 5, including three Republicans. From engaging with friends across Oregon to ask them to contact their legislators, I indirectly succeeded in getting 16 legislators to endorse SJM 5. 6 legislators signed up to be co-sponsors, including 5 Republicans, without any interaction from me.

The Oregon House proved to be a tougher beast for us to navigate. We did not have a champion to guide SJM 5 through the Oregon House, like we had with Chief Sponsor Senator Dembrow to guide it through the Senate. Even though House Minority Leader Christine Drazan gave strong supportive oral testimony on SJM 5 to the Senate Energy and Environment Committee on February 25th, she did not seem interested in guiding it through the Oregon House. She seemed hesitant to co-sponsor to put her name officially on the resolution. I could sense that she needed some support within her GOP House caucus for SJM 5 before she was willing to publicly support it.

On March 12th, I was able to get a meeting with former Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury and his GOP Rep. David Brock Smith. It took a little coaxing in this meeting, but Rep. David Brock Smith did say yes to co-sponsoring SJM 5. This was actually our first GOP House co-sponsor. Then, when Christine Drazan was starting to see that some of her caucus members were starting to sign on to co-sponsor SJM 5, she co-sponsored it. Thus, I actually got the first Republican House co-sponsor for SJM 5. This was a team effort since other Portland CCL volunteers had a meeting with Rep. David Brock Smith the previous autumn. They laid the groundwork for my successful meeting with David Brock Smith.

Brian Ettling at the Oregon House Gallery. June 17, 2019

Sadly, on Wednesday, June 9th, a state Representative called me to share the bad news with me. He informed me that House Democratic Leadership was not going to allow SJM 5 to have a vote in the Rules Committee or on the House floor before the 2021 Legislative session ended on Saturday, June 26th. Ironically, they considered SJM 5 to be ‘too bipartisan.’ They were worried that if they allowed SJM 5 to pass, it could give Republicans in the legislature cover to tell their constituents that they were acting on climate by supporting SJM 5 while opposing climate policy bills supported by the Democrats. Sadly, the bitter rancor over the cap-and-trade bills from the previous legislative sessions had spilled over to doom SJM 5 from passing the Oregon House.

My Final Thoughts and advice to organize for a state legislature to pass a carbon pricing resolution

As the Lead Organizer of SJM 5, the big lesson we learned was that we needed a stronger effort to build relationships to persuade the vital gatekeepers, such as the Speaker of the House and the House Majority Leader, that it was in their best interests to support passage of SJM 5. Getting bipartisan support was not enough.

There is another takeaway besides fully understanding the legislative process and trying to successfully engage the vital gatekeepers. It is crucial not to forget the CCL core values of respect, appreciation, gratitude, and motivated listening to the legislative priorities and complicated politics facing the key legislators that can stop or move a bill to passage. If they don’t feel like we are fully listening and supporting them, the chances are they will be less inclined to pass a CCL high priority bill.

Undoubtably, there can be hard feelings with CCL volunteers if a House Speaker, Majority Leader, or Senate President decides to kill a CCL high priority bill. It must be stressed not to take those decisions personally. Instead, it should be emphasized to try to positively maintain those relationships for the constructive next step.

For CCL members who feel a little intimidated or unsure how to approach Congressional offices, engaging with your state legislators can be a wonderful way to learn retail politics that can be used to then lobby your members of Congress. When I lobbied state legislators, especially legislators where I was not a constituent, I was amazed how much easier it was to access them and develop relationships with them.

Again, many state legislators work closely with members of Congress. Thus, developing positive relationships with state legislators so that they feel comfortable endorsing the EICDA or other CCL high priority bills can make a difference in shifting members of Congress to support CCL priorities.

When SJM 5 passed the Oregon Senate on April 7th, this was the first legislative resolution to pass through a state legislative chamber supporting the EICDA. I hope my action to lead Oregon CCL volunteers to nearly pass a state resolution in 2021 will inspire someone. My dream is that my efforts can provide a template for CCL volunteers in other U.S. states or even internationally to pass carbon pricing resolution through both chambers of a legislature in 2022 or beyond. Hopefully, passing a state carbon pricing resolution will then influence our members of Congress to pass federal carbon pricing legislation.

As a decades long climate change organizer, I applaud “Don’t Look Up” film

Photo by Brian Ettling of Comet Hale–Bopp. Taken in St. Louis MO in spring 1997

“Only poets can approach this task (describing the threat of climate change) until we come up with the right metaphor.” — Donald A. Brown, Associate Professor, Environmental Ethics, Science, and Law, Penn State University.

If you have not seen the Netflix film “Don’t Look Up,” I highly recommend that you watch it. Judging by the number of viewings on Netflix, you might have seen already. As of January 11th, ‘Don’t Look Up’ has become Netflix’s second biggest most watched film of all time, according to the Hollywood news website Deadline. Even though, it had 152.29 million hours watched globally in the week December 27-January 2 alone on Netflix, that does not mean that everyone loved it. Rotten Tomatoes, which is a composite of many movie reviews, gave it a score of 54%, which is not that great, kind of a meh score. On Rotten Tomatoes tomatometer scoring, it says: “When less than 60% of reviews for a movie or TV show are positive, a green splat is displayed to indicate its Rotten status.” Audiences on Rotten Tomatoes had a better response 78%.

I was intrigued to see it in December from reviews I read from people I respect and follow closely. Climate and energy writer, David Roberts called it “the first good movie about climate change.” On December 21st, climate scientist Dr. Michael E. Mann wrote an opinion commentary published in the Boston Globe that “‘Don’t Look Up’ succeeds not because it’s funny and entertaining, but because it’s serious sociopolitical commentary posing as comedy.” It wasn’t just Dr. Mann that liked it. Forbes magazine published Why Sneering Critics Dislike Netflix’s ‘Don’t Look Up,’ But Climate Scientists Love It. My friend Brian Kahn, Managing editor at Earther, writing about climate change & environmental justice, wrote Why People Can’t Stop Talking About Don’t Look Up. Well-known Astrophysicist Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted this amazing response to the film:

I was surprised when I posted this screenshot of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s tweet on my Facebook wall on January 1st and over 200 people soon re-posted it. I don’t ever remember anyone ever re-posting one my tweets or Facebook posts in that high of a number before. Clearly, the humor of “Don’t Look Up” connected with deGrasse Tyson and others. The title of the above mentioned Dr. Michael E. Mann’s Boston Globe op-ed was “Global destruction isn’t funny, but when it comes to the climate crisis, it might have to be.”

My Journey to Attempt Climate Change Comedy

Dr. Michael E. Mann’s title really hit home for me because I had tried to use humor for over the past 10 years to try to educate and inspire people to act on climate. In early December 2009 when I was temporarily living in Ashland Oregon, a friend and I were arguing over what I should do with my life. I finally yelled: “Fine! Do you know what I would like to do? If I could do anything, I would like to be the climate change comedian!”

My friend Naomi just about fell out of her chair laughing and responded: “That’s great! When you get home, I want you to immediately grab that website domain and start working on being ‘The Climate Change Comedian.'”

I went home and immediately grabbed that website domain. Several months later, a family friend helped me set up the climatechangecomedian.com website, which I maintained to this day. During the early months of 2010, I created my first climate change powerpoint called, Let’s Have Fun Getting Serious About Climate Change. It was not that funny of a powerpoint, but I did find a couple of good quotes why using humor is important for educating people about science:

‘Good teaching is one-fourth preparation and Three-fourths Theater.‘ – novelist Gail Godwin

“Jokes of the proper kind, properly told, can do more to enlighten questions of politics, philosophy, and literature than any number of dull arguments.” – science fiction writer Isaac Asimov

“When humor goes, there goes civilization.” – humorist Erma Bombeck

“If I had no sense if humor, I would long ago have committed suicide.” – Mohandas Gandhi

Nobody ever laughed at that last quote when I gave this presentation to friends, even though I thought it was very funny when I first saw it. I am a big fan of Gandhi and all he was able to accomplish. This quote shows me that he did not take himself or life too seriously. Nobody in the audience seemed to get that logic though. This was my start to try to do comedy. The key word is try.

As I started marketing myself as The Climate Change Comedian, I had a friend take pictures of me with my inflatable Earth Ball in April 2010.

Brian Ettling, April 2010

Outside of showing my powerpoint to friends, I didn’t know what to do with the title Climate Change Comedian. However, to do something on climate, I worked for the St. Louis Science Center for their temporary climate change exhibit in the spring of 2011. When I was working as a seasonal park ranger at Crater Lake National Park in the summer of 2011, I started giving a 40 minute evening campfire powerpoint talk on the impacts of climate change at Crater Lake. The title of the talk was called The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, which I was able to record for YouTube in September 2012.

I wove some humor into this ranger talk and the audience really seemed to connect with it. My humor was effective enough that Eric Knackmuhs, an Associate Instructor and Ph.D. Student at Indiana University, contacted me in November 2013 that he had found that YouTube video. He contacted me to let me know that he gave a presentation to other rangers, Using Humor to Introduce Controversial Topics, at the National Association of Interpreters Annual Convention in Reno, Nevada in November, 2013. Soon after Eric emailed me, we chatted on the phone because I was curious to find out what he thought I was doing well to connect with my audience. I wrote about this conversation in a February 2014 blog, Using Humor Effectively to Communicate Climate Change.

Besides giving this climate change ranger evening program at Crater Lake from 2011 to 2017, I was involved during the winters in my local St. Louis Toastmasters public speaking group around that same time. I gave around 20 speeches, 8 of which I was voted by my fellow speakers as “The Best Speaker” for out of the four speeches presented by members at their meetings. Nearly all of those speeches were about climate change. I inserted humor where I could in those speeches. Many of those Toastmaster speeches I recorded for YouTube.

My national TV appearances for climate change comedy

While in St. Louis, I thought it was time to promote myself as The Climate Change Comedian in a bigger way. In 2014, I released a short YouTube video with my wife (then girlfriend) Tanya Couture, Climate Change Comedian and the Violinist! I followed it up with a video with my Mom, Fran Ettling, Climate Change Comedian and the Pianist! and a 2015 video with my Mom and Dad, LeRoy Ettling, Climate Change Comedian and his Skeptical Dad! These videos actually led to Comedy Central’s Tosh.o inviting me to fly out to their TV studio in Culver City, CA to appear on their national TV show, which aired on August 2, 2016.

Daniel Tosh and Brian Ettling. Taken at where the TV show Tosh.o is filmed at the Tennis Studio in Culver City, California in April 2016.

This ended up being the coolest experience of my life to on national TV using humor to promote climate change. Most of it was absurd because Tosh.o is an absurd and raunchy TV show. However, I was able to slip in some facts on climate change in between the crazy humor of Daniel Tosh. Before the show, he told me that he did accept the science of climate change and allow him to be funny, unless I wanted to come across on TV as weird. I took in his advice and I had a blast filming our TV segment. My mom appeared at the end of this comedy bit and Tanya got to witness the taping in the TV studio. Thus, it turned out to be an unforgettable family experience. Tanya, my mom and me were very nervous after the taping how my segment would be edited. However, we were very happy and relieved when it aired on national TV in August 2016.

I never thought I could top that experience in my life, nor did I want to out due it. Actually, I was invited back to Tosh.o in November 2020 to appear as part of a panel commenting about the 2020 Presidential election, in a segment spoofing CNN called “Danderson Cooper 361.” All I can say is that, just like they frequently say in Hollywood, ‘The sequel was not as good as the original.’ I was hoping to squeeze in some information about climate change, but none of it made it onto the segment. It felt similar to the Don’t Look Up film where Dr. Randall Mindy character (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his Ph.D student Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) appear on the TV show The Daily Rip. Those fictional TV hosts (played by actors Cate Blanchett and Tyler Perry) aren’t interested at all in hearing the scientists warn that a comet would hit the Earth in 6 months, being being entertaining. Nothing against Daniel Tosh, but the same thing happened here. He did ask me some climate related questions in the pre-recorded interview, but it was all edited out.

The best part of preparting for this national TV appearance was I did exchange emails with climate scientist Dr. Michael E. Mann of Penn State University to ask his advice on what to say. This was his response:

“These days, my messaging is focused on just two words: urgency and agency.
Yes, bad things are happening, we can see them playing out in real time now. But we can prevent the worst from happening. Assuming the election goes our way, there will be leader ship once again in Washington DC. And we have ready climate plans on the table from both Congressional Democrats and the Biden campaign. We need to hit the ground running, and in his perspective first hundred days, Biden and a hopefully Democratic Congress need to pass a climate plan that put a price on carbon, incentivizes clean energy, enforces regulations, and blocks support for new fossil fuel infrastructure.

That’s sort of my elevator pitch!”

That was an amazing gift to exchange emails with one of the world’s top climate scientists, Dr. Michael E. Mann. Ironically, Leonardo DiCaprio said he based his scientist role in Don’t Look Back, Dr. Randall Mindy, in part on climate scientist, Dr. Michael Mann. After Dr. Mann’s email, I wrote up my own answer to prepare to a climate change elevator pitch for this Tosh.o appearance. I practiced it over and ever to have it memorized to try to say it naturally during the TV taping. Because of the COVID pandemic and the short notice to film, this time I was filmed at home over Zoom, not flown to Los Angeles like the previous taping. Thus, it was nice not to have to leave home. As I shared with Dr. Mann over email afterwards, very disappointing that I was not able to squeeze in any message on climate change. This was his very gracious response:

HI Brian,
Happy to have been of any help. Sorry they didn’t use that material.
I’ve had a number of frustrating experiences before where a lot of stuff (and what I considered was the best stuff), got left on the cutting room floor.
It’s one the real challenges in the world of media interviews.
Good on you for the effort though, keep it up. It will ultimately pay off!

Hopefully, you can see from my story that I have some experience with climate change comedy, good and bad, especially trying to convey this message on national TV. Thus, I am very appreciative of Don’t Look Up writer/director Adam McKay using humor and the allegory of a comet hitting the earth to bring attention to the issue of climate change.

Frankly, since the election of Donald Trump as President in 2016 and the arrival of the COVID pandemic in early 2020, I have not felt funny in years nor I have had much interest these past few years in climate change comedy. Last September 2021 two international climate organizers emailed me about joining them for a Zoom event on climate comedy to respond to the November 2021 COP26 Climate Talks in Glasgow, Scotland. I was happy they wanted to use comedy and humor to promote climate action to help organize to pressure countries for effective climate negotiations at the Glasgow conference. However, I had to be honest with these organizers that I was flattered that they wanted to include me, but I had to decline. I didn’t feel like I had much of a sense of humor since the start of the pandemic. For the past several years, I just felt out of gas and ho hum.

The struggle for scientists, the news media and pop culture to alert the public about climate change

Quite simply, it has been an enormous struggle for scientists, the news media and popular culture to talk about climate change. I started this blog with abridging the quote from Donald A. Brown, Associate Professor, Environmental Ethics, Science, and Law, Penn State University. It is taken from his August 18, 2010 essay “On The Moral Imperatives Of Speaking Publicly About the Ethical Dimensions of Climate Change-And How It Must Be Done.” Here’s the full quote from the conclusion of his essay:

“Words fail us about how to characterize the magnitude of the harm that is being done in the name of ideology. It is too absurd on its face to think that any reasonable observer can seriously conclude that climate change science is a hoax or that the consensus view that humans are causing climate change has been debunked. In fact we are looking for the right metaphors to simply describe the sheer harmfulness of what has been happening. We would appreciate ideas on this issue. Only poets can approach this task until we come up with the right metaphor.”

It’s been a daunting problem for scientists to communicate about the climate crisis because it’s been referred to for years as “A wicked ‘Problem from Hell.'” Scientists, advocates, and policy makers have had a difficult time for years trying to communicate to the public about the urgency to address climate change because the problem is
1. Long term – over decades if not centuries
2. Global – all countries of the world emit greenhouse gases with the U.S, China, Russia, Brazil, European Union, etc. as the biggest emitters.
3. Invisible – typically hard to see greenhouse gases unless you are looking directly at a smokestack or urban smog. 4. Everywhere – the enemies range from the 100 companies responsible for 71% of global emissions to also most people on the Earth relying on the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil & natural gas) to provide energy for their homes, cars, businesses, farms, etc.
5. Vested enormous special Interests deliberately misleading the segments of the American and global public to oppose collective action to solve climate change.

Some scientists, like Dr. Edward Maibach, the Director of The Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University, focused their research helping scientists and communicators, like me, to more effective in their messaging on climate change. I met Dr. Maibach twice. The first time was when I attended his talk at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Conference in San Francisco, CA in December 2011. Then I met with him in his office at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA in February 2012. He directly told me then in a tone bordering on frustration about his work that ‘I just want scientists to speak more effectively to the public about climate change!’

Brian Ettling with Dr. Ed Maibach, Director of George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change Communication, Photo taken at George Mason University, February 2012.

Exactly, 10 years ago, I blogged about Dr. Maibach’s sticky formula for effective public communication:
“Simple clear messages, repeated often, by a variety of trusted sources.”

Through his research polling the American public, Dr. Maibach also promoted this Five messages about global warming – identified through audience research – that you may wish to convey:

• It’s real.

• It’s us. (people are causing it)

• Experts agree: human-caused climate change is happening

• It’s bad for us.

• People can limit it, if we choose.

It was not just Dr. Maibach trying to get scientists to be more effective in their communications with the general public. Dr. Randy Olson, a Harvard Ph.D educated scientist and a former tenured professor of marine biology at the University of New Hampshire who resigned to become a filmmaker, wrote a book in 2008 called Don’t be Such A Scientist. I heard much buzz from scientists and fellow climate change communicators talking about this book when I attended AGU scientific conference in 2011. The theme of the book is the challenge scientists face in when communicating science to the general public that feels distracted by information overload. This was also a theme of Don’t Look Up that was portrayed very well by the actors Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, and Rob Morgan who played the scientists in the film.

Besides scientists struggling to communicate about climate change, pandemics and other scientific issues, the problem has been exponentially worse by the mainstream media that does not seem to know how to report on climate change. In a July 24, 2018 tweet, MSNBC TV host Chris Hayes famously called climate change a “palpable ratings killer.” In July 2021, climate & energy writer Molly Taft wrote in Gizmodo, Why TV Is So Bad at Covering Climate Change. This piece starts with climate scientist Dr. Katharine Hayhoe of Texas Tech University tweeting that she was bumped off of a scheduled interview CNN with Fareed Zakaria to talk about the record-breaking heat wave gripping the West “due to billionaire (Richard Branson) going to space.” Ugh!

Dr. Hayhoe didn’t hold back with her opinion in the tweet thread:

“That’s one of the big problems with climate communication, that its impacts accumulate over days, years, and decades. So there is always “breaking news” to displace it in our day to day conversations and media coverage both.

As a society it’s as if we have a collective cat brain: fixated on the latest shiny toy that’s waving in front of our eyes while in the meantime our tail is on fire.”

All of us climate advocates feel your pain, Dr. Hayhoe! Another reason why I liked Don’t Look Up was the way it made fun of TV infotainment shows with it’s fictional show The Daily Rip and their spoof of shadow and superficial TV hosts, played brilliantly by actors Tyler Perry and Cate Blanchett.

Overall, scientists and the media have done a dismal job communicating climate change to the general public. Hollywood and popular culture has been silent for the most part also. Outside of 2004’s Day After Tomorrow, which I had no interest in seeing since it was panned by scientists and film critics, I can’t think of any obvious pop culture attempts at climate change that wowed me or a large audience.

(Warning: spoiler in this paragraph and if you click on this YouTube video below) I don’t remember any great popular songs about climate change either. Having said that, the song “Just Look Up” by Ariana Grande & Kid Cudi in the Don’t Look Up film just blew me away. I am seriously thinking about downloading this song for my iTunes. To be completely honest, I had never heard of Ariana Grande before this film. Since then, I just learned she is is one of the world’s best-selling music artists. I was very impressed with her comedic performance in the film when she interacted with actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence. The song “Just Look Up” in the film is beautiful and hilarious at the same time.

(Warning! Spoiler alerts in the next three paragraphs if you have not seen the film already) I loved how Ariana Grande dressed as a comet for a stage performance during the film. Even more, she was hung from wires with a ridiculously long train on her dress with a moving star scape background behind her to look like a comet. The lyrics to the song and the way that Ariana sung them with full force still has me has my wife and I laughing out loud in appreciation almost a month later. As a climate organizer, I can’t think of a funnier song that made me feel heard with these lyrics:

“Look up, what he’s really trying to say
Is get your head out of your ass
Listen to the goddamn qualified scientists
We really fucked it up, fucked it up this time…

Just look up
Turn off that shit-box News
‘Cause you’re about to die soon everybody”

That song alone has now made me an Ariana Grande fan.

Personal Favorite Films that inspired me to be a climate organizer

Having aired my personal frustration about the media and popular culture not being able to convey the gravity of climate change. I do want to say that there are Hollywood films that did inspire me to become a climate organizer.

10 years ago, I blogged how the film Titanic inspired me to be a Climate Change Communicator when I first saw it in a movie theatre just a week after it had opened on December 19, 1997. The 1912 British passenger liner Titanic sinking on its maiden voyage due to hitting an iceberg was 100% caused by human error. It was completely avoidable, if the ship’s captain and crew had taken the proper precautions. As I wrote in that blog,

“What was striking to me then in 1998 and to this day was the hubris and arrogance of White Star Lines and the ship’s designer, Harland and Wolff. They thought they had outsmarted nature with their watertight compartments on board and other engineering advances. They then foolishly believed their innovations would enable the ship to be “unsinkable.” Well, we all know how that turned out once the ship hit that iceberg.”

Ironically, I first starting learning about climate change back in 1998 as a naturalist guide in Everglades National Park. Park visitors were asking me about global warming when I was narrating the boat tours then. Back then, I learned that sea level rise had risen 8 inches in the Everglades 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. This scared me in 1998. It was like witnessing the Titanic had already hit the iceberg from the ship’s crow’s nest and the boat was already starting to take on water. Sadly, back in 1998, we knew that Everglades was already starting to take on water. The ocean was very slowly starting to creep in on this world class treasure.

In the back of my mind, I always wondered if anyone else had noticed dangerous parallels with the Titanic sinking and the modern day threat of climate change. It turned out that Titanic director James Cameron noticed the similarities. In April 2012, to mark the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, the National Geographic TV Channel aired a two hour special Titanic: The Final Word with James Cameron.

This is how James Cameron connected the Titanic sinking to the current threat of climate change:

“Part of the Titanic parable is of arrogance, of hubris, of the sense that we’re too big to fail. Well, where have we heard that one before?…

Within that human system on board that ship, if you want to make it a microcosm of the world, you have different classes, you’ve got first class, second class, third class. In our world right now you’ve got developed nations, undeveloped nations.You’ve got the starving millions who are going to be the ones most affected by the next iceberg that we hit, which is going to be climate change. We can see that iceberg ahead of us right now, but we can’t turn.”

I am a big James Cameron fan, also because of his 2010 film Avatar, which really impacted me. That film is set in the 22nd century on the fictional planet of Pandora. It is about a greedy mining corporation from Earth have transported human colonists to try to strip Pandora’s natural resources and displace the Na’vi – a humanoid species indigenous to Pandora. In their lust for the planet’s natural resources, the humans push too far in their destruction of nature and attacking the Na’vi and nature strikes back. To me, it felt like James Cameron had made great allegorical film about human hubris in trying to dominate nature and nature having the final say. Besides me, others might not see these films as metaphors about climate change, but I could certainly see some parallels.

Besides these hugely successful films, it was the 2006 documentary film about Al Gore, An Inconvenient Truth that had an enormous impact on me. I was a huge fan of Al Gore ever since I read his 1992 book Earth in the Balance. I read this book in January 1993 during my first winter working as a seasonal employee at the front desk of the Flamingo Lodge in Everglades National Park, Florida. I had spent the previous summer working as a summer employee at Crater Lake National Park, Oregon. I had really fallen in love with nature, the national parks, the great outdoors, and our planet. Al Gore’s book really connected with me how he wrote about the negative impacts we humans were doing to the Earth in the early 1990s. Even though I had not voted for the Clinton/Gore Presidential ticket the previous November, this book made me feel very pleased that he was our Vice President with his deep caring for our planet. This book started me on a path for voting for the Clinton/Gore ticket in 1996 and I eagerly awaited him running for President in 2000. I just hoped he would win so he could steer the United States and the world on a more sustainable path if he was elected President.

A link to the complete Inconvenient Truth Film on YouTube, with ads, if the link works.

Needless to say, I was deeply crushed when Al Gore lost the 2000 election. It’s still tough for me to talk about to this day. I personally knew friends in the Miami Sierra Club who voted for Presidential third party candidate Ralph Nader instead. Al Gore lost Florida by only 537 votes to Republican candidate George W. Bush. Ralph Nader received over 97,000 votes in Florida. As Al Gore said in An Inconvenient Truth, “Well, that was a hard blow. But, what are you going to do? You make the best of it.”

In my case, I hoped Al Gore would run for President again in 2004. He didn’t, but I eagerly anticipated his upcoming flim in 2006 when I heard that An Inconvenient Truth was coming to theaters. I had heard about climate change for years, but I had never seen a presentation on climate change so clear and easy to understand before like I had seen Al Gore do in the documentary. The film managed to be a summer hit making over $24 million in the U.S. and $25 million overseas. To my delight, An Inconvenient Truth was nominated for two Academy Awards for Best Original Song and Best Documentary, winning both at the 2007 Oscars. After first learning about climate change while working in Everglades National Park 1998, I was so happy that Al Gore and An Inconvenient Truth was finally bringing a much needed spotlight to this problem to the general public. More publicity for climate action happened when Al Gore was awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, along with the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), “for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change.”

With An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore’s Nobel Peace Prize, and extreme weather events like Hurricane Katrina which did severe damage to New Orleans in 2005, I was hoping that some event would awaken the American public to truly take action on climate change. It was always frustrating for me that the public would never seem to mobilize for climate action. To be honest, I didn’t even know what to do for climate action after seeing the film, except I bought the DVD to watch it multiple times to absorb the information. I continued reading scientific books on climate change to educate myself on the subject to try to become more knowledgeable to talk about it.

Seeds were being planted though. Al Gore took all the profits he received from An Inconvenient Truth film and companion book, as well as the $1 million award from his Nobel Peace Prize to build the Alliance for Climate Protection, an organization founded and chaired by Gore to build grassroots momentum to solve the climate crisis. The Alliance for Climate Protection later became known as the Climate Reality Project. Their mission is to “recruit, train, and mobilize people to become powerful activists, providing the skills, campaigns, and resources to push for aggressive climate action.”

Even more, Climate Reality’s “signature activist program, the Climate Reality Leadership Corps, has trained over 42,000 change makers worldwide since 2006.” I was one of those individuals trained by Al Gore to become a Climate Reality Leader. Along with over 800 others from across the U.S. and other parts of the world, I attended a Climate Reality Training led by Al Gore in San Francisco, CA in August 2012. Since then I attended 7 more Al Gore led Climate Reality Training held in other cities in the United States where I mentored others attending the Climate Reality Training for the first time. I blogged about this experience in 2016, Want to be effective? Consider becoming a Climate Reality Project Leader.

For years, I said that attending a Climate Reality Training felt like jet fuel for me. Over the past decade, the trainings to give over 200 climate change talks in over 10 U.S. states and Ottawa Canada, co-leading the St. Louis Climate Reality Meet Up group from 2011 to 2017, give radio interviews, write 19 opinions editorials that were published in newspapers in St. Louis and Oregon, co-found the southern Oregon Citizens’ Climate Lobby group, give climate change speaking tours across Missouri and Oregon, organizing public climate events in St. Louis and Portland OR etc. All this led to being in the audience and very briefly being seen on screen when Al Gore was filmed for the 2017 film An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power. Even more, a small picture of myself giving a climate change presentation was included in the 2017 companion book, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power.

Besides all this, my biggest highlight was personally meeting Al Gore at the 2015 Climate Reality Training in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I blogged about our conversation afterwards, Asking Al Gore directly how to respond to his critics.

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

With all I have been able to accomplish as a Climate Reality Leader and Climate Change Organizer, maybe a film like An Inconvenient Truth did have a big difference for me and the thousands of Climate Reality Leaders trained by Al Gore or who just saw the film as far back as 2006. However, scientists keep telling us that we are not moving fast enough to reduce the threat of climate change.

In a March 2021 Washington Post interview with climate scientist Dr. Katharine Hayhoe she noted:

“During the (2020) lockdown around the world, during the pandemic, clean energy took off. The International Energy Agency estimates that 90 percent of new electricity installed around the world in 2020 will have been clean energy. Ninety percent. So the world is changing. It just isn’t changing fast enough. We need more hands rolling that giant boulder. It’s already rolling downhill slowly. And we need it rolling faster.”

Thus, we have to find ways to inspire the general public to step up their game for climate action. The latest news from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication’s Global Warming’s Six Americas, September 2021, where they survey Americans’ opinion on climate change is that 33% of Americans are alarmed about climate change. Since the 6 Americas survey began in 2008, the alarmed “have grown rapidly to become the largest segment of the U.S. population today.” Trend of this ongoing polling shows that “Americans’ understanding of global warming’s reality and risks, and support for climate action is growing.”

According to 6 Americas researchers, the growth of the segment of Americans who are alarmed about climate change “is encouraging because progress on climate change requires strong, coordinated, and sustained action, and the Alarmed are the most likely to demand and support these actions by leaders. Yet, this potential ‘issue public’ still needs to be organized and mobilized to demand action at all levels of American society.

Source: Yale Program on Climate Change. Global Warming’s Six Americas, September 2021.

We still have a ways to go to realize inspire, mobilize, and energize the American public towards climate action. Scientists, the media, and popular culture has fallen short on the urgency to act on climate change now. This was why I was excited in December 2021 when I had heard that writer/director Adam McKay had taken on the task of creating a major movie release centered on a metaphor about climate change using comedy with an all star cast of Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Rob Morgan, Jonah Hill, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Tyler Perry and others.

If someone could pull off this high wire act, I had confidence that Adam McKay could do it. I was a big fan of his previous two films using comedy to focus on the 2008 financial collapse, The Big Short, and the biography based on the life of former Vice President Dick Cheney, Vice.

My perspective from watching “Don’t Look Up”

I really do appreciate writer/director Adam McKay’s film “Don’t Look Up.” It feels good that others are taking up humor and comedy to bring attention to the issue of climate change. As soon as I heard buzz about Don’t Look Up in December and heard it was going to be released on December 24th, Christmas Eve, I knew my wife and I would be watching it as part of our Christmas celebration. It’s a film that made quite a deep impression that my wife and I are still talking about weeks later.

To be honest, I enjoyed Don’t Look Up, but I still found it to be a heavy movie experience the first time I watched it. I had listened to climate writer David Robert’s Volts podcast on December 10th, Don’t Look Up: the first good movie about climate change. I knew from his review that this film was going to be “fantastic” and “It’s hilarious, and if you’ve spent years banging your head against a wall trying to get people to pay attention to climate change, you will find a great deal of catharsis in the laughter.”

Watching it felt like one of those amusement park log flume rides where you are riding inside of a log like compartment, flowing on the water, trying to enjoy the ride, but having that knot in your stomach the whole time that you will be dumped down a big hill into the water at the end. It’s different than a rollercoaster where you face the biggest hill in the beginning then you get the feeling of flying, going up and down, sideways, before the rollercoaster car slows down to return you to the unloading zone. Between the lines on David Roberts’ blog and elsewhere, it was implied that Don’t Look Up would not have a happy ending. Thus, I did feel a sense of heaviness watching it.

Compounding the heaviness is that no one wants to listen to the scientists during the film. Not the media, the government, big business, or the general public. Sound familiar?

As a climate organizer, I will repeat what other writers, scientists, and organizers have said: I felt heard watching this film. As far back as 1998, when I was a naturalist guide in Everglades National Park. There was times when I was talking about the human destruction of the Everglades and my feeble knowledge of climate change with it’s impact on the Everglades back then. Tourists traveling to Everglades National Park are typically checking Everglades off their list in between going to the beach, visiting Disney World, partying at Miami Beach, and seeing the Florida Keys. Some boat tours that I narrated had Floridians, Americans, and Europeans who did not give a shit about the human caused destruction of the Everglades. At the same time, they were asking me, ‘Where’s the wildlife?’ A number of them didn’t want to hear that the pollution and human drainage of the Everglades to divert water to the cities and farms caused populations of wading birds to drop over 90%, as well as huge losses of the fish and alligator populations. Thus, I could relate to the scientists in the film trying to warn humanity that a comet was going to slam into the Earth in 6 months, but no one seems to care.

The acting by the entire cast was amazing by Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Rob Morgan, Jonah Hill, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Tyler Perry and others. This was the best casting Hollywood could get for this movie and everyone was on the top of their game. They were all a joy to watch. I especially thought that Jonah Hill, playing the Chief of Staff and President Susan Orleans’ son Jason Orleans, steals the movie with his quirky insults and wit.

(Warning! spoiler in this paragraph! ) Having said that, I didn’t get the Cate Blanchett character the first time I watched it. Nor could I understand why the Jennifer Lawrence character is obsessed when the military Army General charges her and others for snacks that are free at the White House. The first time viewing the film, I didn’t get those film aspects. I needed to ponder those things days after seeing the film. I was determined to watch the film again a week later to appreciate what was happening.

The comedy of this film comes at you quick since it is mocking many targets. Watching the first time, I felt like I was being hit not just by a comet, but by an asteroid field. It was hard to keep track of everything. Don’t try! Watch it again several days later and you will catch so much more that you were not able to notice the first time. The film’s subject is heavy with a huge comet is headed towards Earth but most of the characters are too dense to care. About halfway through the movie, I asked my wife , “Are you enjoying this movie?”

She can be a tough critic watching when she is watching some films with me, but this time she enthusiastically said, “Yes!” Thus, this is a good date night film with your partner and a good film to watch with family and friends to discuss afterwards. Weeks later, we are still laughing about items we remember in the film.

Even though I was not able to understand all the characters or plot devises the first time I watched it, I still see it as a great film. Many great films take more than one viewing to truly appreciate their message and story. That could also be the case for you if you didn’t quite understand Don’t Look Up. Give it a chance to watch it a second time.

My second viewing of Don’t Look up. (Warning! Many spoilers here!)

The second I watched Don’t Look Up was just sitting by my laptop by myself to try to fully absorb the messaging of the film. I took notes and I ended up with 24 pages of things I liked and connected with me. I felt like I was able to catch and appreciate so many of the jokes and humor on the second viewing. I already knew the somberness of the ending. Thus, I didn’t have the knot in my stomach knowing that film would not have a happy Hollywood ending where everything turned out ok.

Actually, to take notes, catch as many details as I could, and truly try to listen to all of the dialogue, I would stop the button. Thus, it took me many hours over a couple of days to watch the film completely in that manner.

For other serious climate advocates, I recommend doing the same thing, realizing that would be very time consuming. However, it would be very rewarding to do this to see all the small items that appear on the scene for a brief moment and the jokes one might missed watching the movie the first time. For instance, did you catch the astronomer Carl Sagan figurine placed suddenly on the character Kate Dibiasky’s (played by Jennifer Lawrence) desk just one minute into the film?

Many people did. This included climate scientist Dr. Michael E. Mann remarking on this in his January 18, 2021 discussion with film Adam McKay.

Just one minute later in the film, you can very briefly see a drawing of Darwin and Galileo on the bulletin board in the astronomy lab with the post-it-note sticking to it a handwritten quote “Throw my telescope in the air sometimes singing ayyyo Galileo!” (It’s in reference to a 2010 pop hit song Dynamite by Taio Cruz, where the actual lyric was “I throw my hands up in the air sometimes, Saying ‘Ayo! Gotta let go!'”) Looks like the geeky science humor that you might see in any science lab. Yet, the movie seems to be saying that it takes science and the scientific process seriously.

Then 13 minutes into the film, there’s a quick camera shot focusing in on part of a painting in the fictional White House. The scientists (played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence) are in a waiting area for a meeting with the President of the United States to brief her on the comet heading towards Earth. The painting in a close up shot is of a Native American going into battle in the 1800s probably fighting again the U.S. Army. I thought it was a subtle reference how the Native Americans were overrun by the white colonists and U.S. government. I interpreted this as how the Native Americans screwed then with the settlement of the U.S. and the people in the film were about to be screwed by a comet hitting planet Earth.

There was so many other details like this that caught my eye very quickly in my first viewing, but the details were really able to jump out at me when I watched the film again.

With details like this, I think that Don’t Look Up will still be talked about decades from now, if we humans are still around then with the threat of climate change, nuclear war, Russian or Chinese cyber wars, etc. I have no idea where the film will land in the pantheon of great films. However, with all the amazing small details and quick jokes serving as a reference to climate change, I would suggest that a group of climate advocates get together to watch the film over several hours. Attendees could then yell “Stop!” when there’s something they want to discuss. In his 1991 essay, ‘Citizen Kane’ a masterpiece at 50, film critic Roger Ebert wrote how in 1991 how he showed Citizen Kane at the University of Colorado “joined by several hundred students, faculty and townspeople. We sat in the dark, and audience members called out “stop!” when there was something they wanted to discuss. Scene by scene and sometimes shot by shot, we looked at the performances, the photography, the special effects.”

I am not saying that Don’t Look Up is as good as Citizen Kane or other Hollywood great films but compared to other Hollywood dramatic, action, and satirical films about climate change, Don’t Look Up is so much better than other Hollywood attempts to at a climate change themed movie. Citizen Kane is Citizen Kane. It’s a fantastic film that I highly recommend, if you get a chance to see it. However, I do think that Don’t Look Up is the Citizen Kane of any Hollywood scripted climate change attempted movie so far.

More items that jumped out at me while watching Don’t Look Up. (Warning! Many spoilers here!)

When I was watching Don’t Look Up for the first time, I didn’t understand why the General Themes character (played by actor Paul Guilfoyle) charged the scientists (played by Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence and Rob Morgen) for snacks when they were waiting for hours to a meeting with the President of the United States. It made no sense to me.

Then, I heard there was several interpretations for this, which I now totally understand. First, I heard writer/director Adam McKay say in a podcast interview that the General charging the scientists for snacks does not mean anything. He was just toying with the audience. However, the Kate Dibiasky character (played by Jennifer Lawrence) does seem distracted by General Theme’s action for the rest of the film. It showed that even the scientists could get distracted when the moment called for her to stay focused to educate the public about the dangerous pending comet. It’s funny that I was not the only one pondering about this after seeing the film. There are multiple articles about this on the internet with others asking the same thing. In kevin Erdmann’s article for Screenrant, Don’t Look Up: Why The General Charges For Free Snacks he called it a “a humorous commentary on a much bigger societal issue.”

Erdman believed that “the general charging for free food is certainly in line with the film’s core message about the rich and powerful taking whatever they want simply because they can, regardless of the consequences or impact on the greater good.” He went on to say that, “charging for free food is seemingly insignificant, but it serves as a microcosm of the grander issues and commentary at play about rampant greed.”

Thus, with these different perspectives, It’s really up to you why General Themes charged for the snacks.

The first time I saw Don’t Look Up, I was really creeped out by the female TV host Brie Evantee (played by Cate Blanchett) on the fictional TV show The Daily Rip. I just found the character to be repulsive in her phoniness. The character had platinum blonde hair, super shiny pearly white teeth with a fake smile to go with it and a super chipper personality to perform for her morning TV show with no shred of authenticity. Brie was more interested in hitting on Dr. Mindy than hearing his breaking news that a planet-killing comet was headed directly for Earth. I just didn’t like this character at all the first time I saw Don’t Look Up.

It was a few days later that I started understanding this character. She is a female compilation of sleazy TV news anchors Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, Bill O’Reilly, etc. who lost their jobs during the #MeToo Movement that blew up in 2017 because they seemed more interested in scoring with the opposite sex than being reporting the news. She also seemed like so many blonde bubbly TV hosts, especially on Fox News, that all look like eye candy and seem about as geniune as cotton candy. Cate Blanchett is a terrific actor. I have enjoyed her work in previous films. She did a great job of inhabiting this role and kudos to Adam McKay for creating a character that I was still trying to figure out days after seeing the film.

The character that just made my skin crawl was the big tech billionaire Peter Isherwell (played brilliantly by actor Mark Rylance). He had no redeeming qualities and I found him to be so fascinating by his lack of humanity. He never gave eye contact to another character. He was so in love with his own creative tech world. He was all about making money for his corporation, even if it had a chance of destroying planet Earth. Hats off to actor Mark Rylance and writer/director Adam McKay for creating a weird high tech giant with a that clearly seemed to be a composite of Mark Zuckerberg, the late Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Tim Cook of Apple Computers, Jeff Bezos, etc. Netflix Diaries created this meme about Peter Isherwell posted on Twitter on December 27, 2021:

Image Source: Netflix Diaries @netflxdiaries on Twitter, December 27, 2021.

I briefly worked for Tesla in 2018. I never met Elon Musk. I was just entry level staff. My job was was to try to convince customers at Home Depots in Portland Oregon to schedule an appointment with Tesla solar advisors come to their homes to sell them on installing Tesla solar panels on their home’s roof. The frustrating part of working for Elon Musk is that he would say weird things in the news that would trigger a drop in the value of Tesla stock. We would then wonder if we would have jobs if the price dropped too much. I remember thinking when I worked at Tesla: ‘I wish he would keep his big mouth shut!’

Don’t Look Up also (correctly) poked fun of moderate climate advocates like me caught in wishful thinking

Many other things I could mention, but one thing did jump out at me that I do want to highlight. For the movie critics that didn’t like Don’t Look Up, some them complained that actors like Chris Evans “show up for literally no reason at all” in the film. I beg to differ.

(Warning! Another spoiler) Chris Evans plays actor Devin Peters. As the comet is headed towards Earth, actor Devin Peters is on the TV show The Daily Rip and doing interviews with the press for his new action film Total Devastation. Ironically, Total Devastation is scheduled to open in theaters the same day that the comet is projected by scientists to hit the Earth. During his interview with a TV entertainment reporter, asks about his button with the Don’t Look Up and Just Look Up arrows. Devin Peter’s response:

“I think as a country we just need to stop arguing and virtue signaling. Just get along.”

The reporter then commends him saying, “This is so refreshing. I think we are all tired of the politics.”

That connected with me. I felt like it was spot on in also poking fun of folks like me who have tried to find a middle ground to reach out to both sides on the climate change. I consider myself a moderate who has tried to connect with progressives and conservatives, with blogs like The Conservative Case for a Carbon Tax, The Best Way I know to Reach Climate Change Doubters, and My Winning proposal for you (for climate contrarians looking to change my mind). By joining a Toastmasters group in my hometown of St. Louis MO from 2011 to 2017 and giving climate presentations in the conservative areas of Missouri and Oregon, I have tried to reach out to conservatives, moderates, and progressives to take climate action. I have tried to be the person between the two arrows, like what was on Devin Peters’ button. At the same time, I have learned the hard way that you are never going to convince hard core climate deniers. Constantly trying to appeal to both sides can lead to magical, wishful thinking. Thus, I also realistically blogged My 9 tips to Respond to Climate Denial when giving a Climate Change Talk.

Having seen myself in the film as one of those folks striving to appeal to both sides, I wished I could have access to the script to weave in the story somehow the people in the climate movement whom I find frustrating. I call them ‘The Climate Individualists.’ I think of them as the folks who say: ‘I am fighting climate change by going vegan, putting solar panels on my roof, driving an electric car, riding my bike as transportation, not having kids, living off the grid in an eco village, growing my own food, not flying in an airplane, reducing my personal carbon footprint, not shopping for new clothes, buy local, etc. You should too. If everyone does this, we will stop climate change.’

Those are all virtuous, well-meaning solutions that will help reduce the burning of greenhouse gases which causes climate change. I applaud these efforts. I try to do as many of these solutions as I can to reduce my carbon footprint. However, it’s simply not enough to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Individual actions let government, corporate polluters, factory farms, large scale clear cut logging companies, coal extraction companies, oil companies, etc. off the hook. It’s magical, wishful thinking to believe that individual solutions alone will fix climate change. As I wrote earlier on this blog post, 100 companies responsible for 71% of global emissions.

Climate scientist Dr. Michael E. Mann addressed this problem of climate individualism in a 2019 USA guest opinion, You can’t save the climate by going vegan. Corporate polluters must be held accountable. The sub headline of this opinion editorial is “Many individual actions to slow climate change are worth taking. But they distract from the systemic changes that are needed to avert this crisis.”

In the middle of this op-ed, Dr. Mann writes: “a fixation on voluntary action alone takes the pressure off of the push for governmental policies to hold corporate polluters accountable. In fact, one recent study suggests that the emphasis on smaller personal actions can actually undermine support for the substantive climate policies needed.”

For effective action, we must be contacting our members of Congress to enact policies such as carbon taxes so that the large corporations, such as those 100 companies, and businesses in general will reduce their emissions. As Dr. Mann states in this op-ed, “We need corporate action, not virtue signaling.”

It can’t be stressed enough. INDIVIDUAL ACTIONS ALONE WILL NOT SOLVE CLIMATE CHANGE. Dr. Mann ends this op-ed writing: “There is still time to avert the worst impacts of climate change, but not without immediate, collective action.”

Climate scientist Dr. Katharine Hayhoe also addresses her 2018 YouTube video, The easiest ways to fix climate change is population control and going vegan – right?

I am happy that Adam McKay poked fun of moderate climate advocates like me who has tried to appeal to progressives and conservatives. I think that the plot and story is great of Don’t Look Up the way that it is. At the same time, if I had a chance to nudge him when he was writing his script, I would have also included a spiritual minded character preaching that we are all sinners and the comet is God’s punishment for our pollution and harming the environment. Thus, if we atone for our sins by praying, going vegan, having less or no kids, putting solar on our roofs, buying electric cars, weatherizing our homes, riding our bikes instead of driving cars, join him in living in an eco village off the grid, etc, but not worry about what corporations or the government is doing. If we all live in a simple virtuous way in our individual lives that pollutes less and pleases God, that will cause the comet to alter its course. Just an idea for a future movie, if anyone wants to grab it. (Hint! Hint!)

Seriously, if you read this blog, Adam McKay (especially if you read this very long blog up to this point, God bless you!), I love this film just the way it is!

Having said that, my personal pet peeve is that it’s not enough to do individual actions on climate change. It is vital to contact elected officials, such as your members of Congress, to urge them to make polices addressing the climate crisis the highest priority. I venture to say that Leonard DiCaprio would agree with me on this one.

In a promotional roundtable interview with the cast of Don’t Look Up, Jonah Hill asks: ‘What can one person do to take climate action?‘ Leonardo DiCaprio’s response: ‘The #1 thing is vote in elections for people who take the climate crisis seriously and want to take action.’

Leonardo then went on to say, “And there has always been a conversation about what you can do in your personal life and that has a lot of validity, but there are powers that be that are going to create massive change. And that comes from the private sector. It comes from government and we need to put pressure on the powers that be in the best we can in our own possible way.”

Jonah Hill then tries to clarify: “So awareness in the minutia of your voting towards these climate issues?”

Leonardo DiCaprio: “Absolutely!”

Don’t Look Up has a fantastic conclusion (Spoiler Alert!)

For some movies, they can be great to watch most of the way through, but then they screw up the ending. Don’t Look Up delivers perfectly at the end. It’s not a typical Hollywood ending. Actually, the ending hurts to watch and nearly brought tears to my eyes. This is because it is conveying an important message what happens when we don’t take science seriously.

I knew from climate writer David Roberts Volts blog from December 10th, Don’t Look Up: the first good movie about climate change that Leonardo DiCaprio’s “final words in the movie, as he is surrounded at the dinner table by family and friends: ‘We really did have everything, didn’t we?'”

Like David Roberts, I can’t stop thinking about those final words. Leonardo DiCaprio’s character says it with a lot of love for his family, the blessings he saw in his life all around him, and the fantastic experience of living on Earth with the ability to have everything. It is a beautifully delivered line by Leonardo DiCaprio. Even more, the true story is that the line was DiCaprio’s idea. It was not in the script, according to writer/director Adam McKay.

If Don’t Look Back stands the test of time as a great film, that line will be quoted and remembered as one of the great closing movie lines in history.

After this heavy ending, writer/director Adam McKay also included two post credit “endings” that are more on the humorous side. I don’t want to give away too much, except that the super rich try to move to another planet. Ironically, it does not end up well for them. I loved those extra scenes, so you don’t want to leave as soon as the credits starts.

Because I have been alarmed about climate change for decades, Thank you Adam McKay and the entire team who made Don’t Look Up for this very impactful film experience.

For Climate Action, read “From Knowledge to Power”

Looking for a good book to start off 2022 to learn about the science and solutions to climate change? Then I recommend the new book released towards the end 2021, From Knowledge to Power: The Comprehensive Handbook for Climate Science and Advocacy by Dr. John Perona. With a Ph.D in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry from Yale and LL.M (masters degree) in Natural Resources Law from Northwestern College at Lewis & Clark University and currently on the faculties of Portland State University, John has the understanding and expertise to give you a better depth of knowledge to Earth’s climate system and range of solutions to reduce the threat.

The first half of his book focuses on how Earth’s climate system works. He then writes how it became out of balance with humans releasing large amount of greenhouse gases into our atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels (oil, coal, and natural gas) to provide energy for our homes, cars, businesses, etc. John devotes Chapter 3 to climate models and carbon budgets so we have grasp of these concepts that are frequently used by climate scientists. This leads a sobering Chapter 4 on the negative impacts on climate change on sea level rise, weather, forests, endangered species, and us humans with our food & water, health and economy. In the international Paris Agreement of 2015, nearly all the countries in the world agreed that greenhouse emissions should be reduced to avoid an average global temperature rise above 1.5°C (Celsius) by 2100. Basically, if we collectively choose to continue with business as usual to muddle around to just keep burning fossil fuels and clearing forests, the future climate modeling provides a very clear warning. The models project nasty consequences that could threaten our civilization and future to live on Earth. That is, if we allow the average global temperature rise to go beyond 2°C or much greater by 2100.

John does not use this analogy in this book. However, the experiment that humanity is currently conducting on Planet Earth reminds of the Chiffon Margarine TV commercials that I saw as a child in the 1970s. If you old enough to remember (yes, I am dating myself), the ads always ended with thunder and lightning in the background. The actor Dena Dietrich saying with anger: “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.”

Sadly, with climate change, we are fooling with Mother Nature and already experiencing some negative impacts.

With the 1.1°C increase in global temperature since the start of the industrial revolution around 1850 due to the ever increasing human caused greenhouse gas emissions , climate scientists are now using methods of attribution science to tease out the human contribution to specific recent weather events. John shares a table chart with the examples of the 2020 Australian heat wave (contribution to devastating bushfires), 2019 Tropical storm Imelda (Texas), 2019 European heat wave (results for France) and 2017 Hurricane Harvey rainfall (Texas). Scientists using attribution science have determined that the magnitude and severity of these events could not have happened without human caused global warming.

At the same time, John points out in his Interlude chapter that “The US energy transition (to cleaner energy that emits little or no fossil fuels) is taking place with similar efforts going on all over the world.” The problem John then notes is that “Worldwide, however, (greenhouse gas) emissions are still increasing, and the modest progress so far is not enough to stabilize atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations at levels consistent with either 1.5°C or 2.0°C worlds.”

John thinks that the trends indicate that we are potentially headed towards a future primarily using clean energy. The unanswered question for John and climate scientists is: Can we make this global transition to a clean energy future fast enough in the time frame needed to avoid going above a 2° degree warming with the resulting dangerous consequences that could then ensue?

Thus, individually and collectively we need to step up our game to take action to help usher in this clean energy future. John’s thoughts on the climate energy transition reminded me of a March 2021 Washington Post interview, with climate scientist Dr. Katharine Hayhoe. During the interview, the reporter asked Dr. Hayhoethis question: ‘What’s your thinking for what’s possible in fighting climate change?’ Her response:

“If we implemented all currently available efficiency measures, that would cut U.S. carbon emissions 50 percent. That’s efficiency — not even clean energy. And during the lockdown around the world, during the pandemic, clean energy took off. The International Energy Agency estimates that 90 percent of new electricity installed around the world in 2020 will have been clean energy. Ninety percent. So the world is changing. It just isn’t changing fast enough. We need more hands rolling that giant boulder. It’s already rolling downhill slowly. And we need it rolling faster.

Thus, it is very helpful that Dr. Perona spends that second have of his book, the last 6 out of the 10 chapters in the book, analyzing the major climate solution tools available to us right now. Chapter 5 is a beneficial chapter on Climate Advocacy giving a brief description of the climate advocacy organizations, such as The Sunrise Movement, 350.org, The Climate Reality Project, and Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL). Even more, he includes a graphic table of where these groups fall on the political spectrum. Personally, this chapter was helpful for me because I have been involved with CCL, The Climate Reality Project and other climate groups for almost 10 years. As a climate organizer for over 10 years, I advised new and fellow climate advocates to get involved with a climate advocacy group. I feel like advocates who are involved with a group are much more effective than if they simply act alone. Thus, I applaud John for having this chapter.

Dr. John Perona with Brian Ettling. Taken February 23, 2017.

Even more, I was very excited he devoted Chapter 7 to Carbon Pricing. Currently, John and I know each other from our involvement with the Portland chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL). CCL primarily advocates for a federal carbon price to tax fossil fuels at the source (the coal mine, oil/natural gas well, or the U.S. border). It’s a policy known as carbon fee and dividend. Even more, CCL empowers volunteers across the U.S. to lobby their members of Congress to support a bill before Congress presently known as the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (EICDA). I am a strong supporter of this bill. I have attended some lobby meetings with John in Washington D.C. and Portland Oregon with the staffs of our Oregon members of Congress to urge them to support the EICDA. Besides giving information on the EICDA and carbon fee & dividend, John writes in this chapter about the other policy option for pricing carbon, which is cap & trade. He provides analysis of two US current cap & trade systems, the one in California known currently as Senate Bill (SB 32) and Northeast Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

Chapter 8 focuses on Carbon-Free Power such as solar, wind, hydroelectric, geothermal, and nuclear. John also dives into polices for renewable energy, like renewable and clean energy standards, advocacy for influencing state electricity policy, modernizing the electricity grid, and distributed solar power. Chapter 9 highlights Carbon-Free Lifestyles, such as polices to reduce industry emissions, electric vehicles, and urban climate plans. Chapter 10 covers Carbon Removal & Solar Geoengineering, such as forest restoration, using agriculture and grasslands to drawdown carbon dioxide from the air, carbon capture & storage, solar geoengineering, etc.

I did attend the book launch for John’s book on November 30, 2021. During his remarks for talking about this book John stated: ‘This book is very comprehensive, as the title suggests.’

John was not kidding. The book does read like a college textbook, which makes sense since John is a college professor and a scientist. I can easily see this book being used as a college textbook. Even more, when promoting this book on my social media recently, a friend of mine responded that she plans “to use it to inform the online courses I am creating.”

This book is dense. It was not the easiest book I had read. It took me several days to read through it, during a vacation no less. At the same time, John is extremely intelligent and really knows his stuff on climate change. As you read this book, it jumps out at you that John has really devoted himself for many years to having a deep understanding of the science and solutions to climate change. Climate change science and the solutions are complicated. Thankfully, John treats this subject with the seriousness that it deserves if you really want to gain knowledge and look for ideas for advocacy. It’s dense and comprehensive because it needs to be. I found this book to be very helpful and so will you.

As I mentioned above, I have known John Perona for years through the Portland Oregon Chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL). However, I first met him when I mentored him and 16 others at the Climate Reality Training, led by former Vice President Al Gore, in Houston, Texas in August, 2016. When I moved to Portland in February 2017, I ran into John at various CCL events. In January 30, 2018, John was scheduled to give a presentation on carbon fee and dividend in Newport Oregon. Weeks before, I asked John if I could tag along to hear his talk. One week before, John called me to tell me that he was not feeling well and he asked me to speak in his place. I was happy to help him. He generously gave me his slide deck for this presentation. I changed it up to fit with my style of public speaking and understanding of carbon fee and dividend. The talk went very well, thanks to John helping me prepare.

Brian Ettling with other Citizens’ Climate Lobby volunteers, including Dr. John Perona, pictured in center, at a lobby meeting at the Portland office of U.S. Senator Ron Wyden on February 26, 2020.

During the winter of 2017-18, I attended a series of public lectures that John delivered to the environmental advocacy community in Portland, Oregon. The meeting room was packed for these public events for local climate advocates to attend and learn from John. As noted earlier, John and I have lobbied the staff of our Oregon members of Congress in lobby meetings at their offices in Portland Oregon and Washington D.C. Along with other CCL volunteers who attended these meetings, we urged these members of Congress to support carbon fee and dividend, specifically the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (H.R. 2307). Our most recent lobby meeting February 26, 2020 at Senator Ron Wyden’s Portland Office. John assigned me to be the note taker to try to capture the information we received from the Congressional staff to learn their position. These meetings are confidential to retain the trust of the Congressional staff. However, I can report that I could barely keep up with John’s conversation with Wyden’s Energy and tax policy advisor. Both of them spoke very quickly about the fine and complex details of energy tax policy. It was great to be a fly on the wall, but horrible to be a note taker. Again, John really knows his stuff.

In 2021, I was the lead organizer for an effort to lobby the Oregon Legislature to pass a resolution, known as Senate Joint Memorial 5 or SJM 5, supporting CCL’s Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act. In February 2021, a Senate staffer informed me to organize a group of five volunteers to provide oral testimony to the Senate Energy and Environment committee at a February 25th hearing to urge the Senators to pass SJM 5. I asked John to testify and he said yes. Since this was happening during the pandemic, all public testimony for these legislative hearings was given strictly online. Thus, no one had to drive over an hour to the Oregon Capitol from Portland or drive even further from elsewhere to give their oral testimony. The frustrating part was that this legislative committee twice bumped the group I had assembled off their committee meeting schedule over a week due to other bills and resolutions they were considering. John and my other friends that I had assembled were very flexible and patient as the Oregon Senate Energy and Environment Committee. Along with the others, John gave an excellent oral testimony to this legislative committee on March 4th. This committee voted 4 to 1, with one of the Republican Senators joining with the 3 Democratic Senators, to vote SJM 5 out of the committee on March 11th with a recommendation to pass on the Oregon Senate floor. On April 7th, the full Oregon Senate voted to pass SJM 5 by a vote of 23 to 5, with 6 Republican Senators joining with all the Democratic Senators present that day to support it. Sadly, we were not able to persuade the House Democratic Leadership to hold a vote on SJM 5, so it was not able to pass the Oregon Legislature in 2021.

Having said that, I will always be grateful to Dr. John Perona for his help on SJM 5, all of his efforts to educate the Portland community about climate change, his climate lobbying efforts for Congressional offices, and his friendship & support to me with all of my climate advocacy. Since I had the privilege to get to know John over the years, I can say with full confidence that it will be worth your time and effort to read his book, From Knowledge to Power.

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Climate Action vs. “Let’s Go Brandon!”

“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere.” – Elie Wiesel. Author, Holocaust survivor, and 1986 Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

Sometimes it is easy to choose right from wrong when it comes to climate action and choosing to stand with those organizing to make a difference for climate action. Now as we head towards 2022 is the time to take that stand. Hesitation, indifference, and apathy are not acceptable.

A couple of weeks ago, I was scrolling Facebook, when I saw a friend post a picture of a gas pump she had taken on a recent trip she took to Las Vegas, Nevada. The gas pump as a sticker with an image of President Joe Biden pointing with the written caption saying: “I did that.” The sticker is conveniently placed so that Joe Biden is pointing towards the price of gas. My friend, Shelly, that typed on Facebook a caption above the picture that said: “Let’s go Brandon.”

Normally, I keep scrolling and I ignore much of the posts similar to this that I see on Facebook that friends have posted. However, this posting hit a nerve with me because years ago my friend Shelly had attended one of my climate change talks back in 2013. Even more, she said very supportive things about my climate organizing as far back as 2010.

In one 2010 Facebook message she wrote to me: “you think you could convince my parents that there really is such a thing as “global warming”? They are in complete denial.” Shelly and I knew each other from when we were kids in the late 1970s and early 1980s growing up at the same church in Oakville, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis that this located at the southern tip of south St. Louis County. We had lost touch but then we got reacquainted when I became active on Facebook in 2009. In between my summer job working as a park ranger at Crater Lake National Park, Oregon, I spent my winters in my hometown of St. Louis visiting my parents and family. When I was in St. Louis, we messaged frequently about trying to meet up for coffee, but we could never work out our schedules to make it happen.

I did invite her to attend a Missouri Sierra Club Community Forum on Coal and Clean Energy at Cliff Cave Library, March 27, 2013 where I had been invited to be a speaker. Shelly sent me a message the day before that she planned to attend. Even more, she wrote that she planned to bring her 14 year old son. He asked Shelly if he could come, since he had just read a book about water pollution and he was very concerned. I responded:

“That is fabulous that your 14 year old son wants to come and he. I won’t turn him away. As a matter of fact, I wish I could have gone to a meeting like this when I was 14 years old. I am excited to meet your son and see you again after many years tonight at Cliff Cave Library.”

Brian Ettling speaking about climate change at Cliff Cave Library in Oakville MO on March 27, 2013

Shelly and her son Conner did make it to this event. Afterwards, she sent me this Facebook message:

“Wanted to drop u a quick line. My son, Connor, the one u met at the library, has decided on a college and major. He has chosen Missouri S&T and environmental engineering. He says he wants to do what he can and find new ways to get what is wanted without any loss to the animals or land. Thats 3 years from now anyway. We will c.”

In my response, I wrote that it was great to see her at this event and to meet her son Conner. I encouraged her to stay in touch. Her reply:

“Will do. And, btw, u were instrumental with his eye opening and increased concern with climate and environment and what WE have done to it and what WE can do to repair it. U R awesome Brian. U r forever my inspiration that one person CAN make a difference.”

My friend Shelly and her son Conner (front row center) at the Sierra Club Beyond Coal event at Cliff Cave Liberary, March 27 2013

I was inspired that I may have influenced Shelly and her son Conner by encouraging them to attend and the information they received from this Sierra Club Beyond Coal event. With the hundreds of climate change talks I had given in St. Louis and across the U.S. over the past 10 years, I hope I have inspired many people to take climate action. However, I felt that the 2016 election of Donald Trump as President was a giant step backwards reducing the threat of climate change. It felt like all of my climate change efforts had gone down the drain.

At the same time, I didn’t let Trump’s election in 2016 slow me down one bit. When I decided after the summer of 2017 that I didn’t want to be a seasonal park ranger at anymore, I wrote this blog in January 2018, For climate action, never forget: you own our national parks. As a former federal employee and a private citizen, I wrote this to push back against what I perceived as the anti-environmental efforts of the Trump Administration. The Trump Presidency felt like a very dark time to me because of his sexism, racism, divisiveness, caustic tweets, love of international autocrats, attempts to roll back access to healthcare, and worst of all, his hostility to climate policies. I was never going to give up hope and I didn’t want others I knew, especially in the climate movement to give up hope either. Thus, I created this meme that I frequently posted on my social media:

In the last year of the Trump Presidency, I was horrified by his refusal to listen to the science and provide the necessary leadership to reduce the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thus, I was not surprised when the British medical journal The Lancet published a report in February 2021 that Trump’s Policies Resulted In The Unnecessary Deaths Of Hundreds Of Thousands Of Americans. Even more, the insurrection by an angry and violent mob of Trump supporters that I saw live on TV on January 6th broke my heart and has left me fearful for the future of American democracy. Recent articles like TRUMP’S NEXT COUP HAS ALREADY BEGUN by Barton Gellman in The Atlantic are sounding the alarm that “January 6 was practice. Donald Trump’s GOP is much better positioned to subvert the next election.”

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that I was very relieved when the major news networks announced that Joe Biden won the votes in Pennsylvania on Saturday, November 7th and declared he won the election to become President of the United States. My wife and I were so excited that we drove to a local food cart near our home in Portland, Oregon to order a Phily cheesesteak sandwich in honor of the Philadelphia suburbs voting in large enough numbers to carry the state for Joe Biden. My wife Tanya and I were so happy that he won, but the sandwich was disgusting. We didn’t feel like eating for the rest of the day.

On issues such as climate change, women’s rights, racial equity, tackling the COVID pandemic, healthcare, voting rights, gun contraol, immigration, and so many other issues, it felt like a new day that America. That we might be able to achieve progress on the issues facing the U.S. On climate change, it felt like there would be a fighting chance that we might be able to achieve the United Nations IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) advised goals for global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) to fall by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030 and reach ‘net zero’ around 2050. With a Joe Biden Presidency, there was a chance he could provide leadership to aim for these IPCC global targets which could help planet Earth by “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.” A global increase of temperatures of 2°C and even preferably 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels could help reduce the nastiest consequences of climate change harming human civilization.

Even more, Joe Biden was basically all that stood in the way of a functioning U.S. democracy and Donald Trump. For years, many academic and political experts have been sounding the alarm that Since day one, Donald Trump has been an autocrat in the making. Thus, I felt like there was a lot at stake with the Joe Biden Presidency.

Brian Ettling & his wife Tanya Couture eating Phily Cheesesteak sandwiches when Joe Biden was declared the winner of the 2020 Presidential election on Saturday, November 7th.

With this in mind, I felt very mystified and disappointed when my friend Shelly recently posted on Facebook, “Let’s Go Brandon” when she spoke glowingly of my climate organizing over the years. Thus, I felt I needed to write a response to her post:

Hey Shelly, “For almost 2 years, we have been living in a global pandemic with folks having to stay home and do social distancing to do what they could to avoid catching and spreading a deadly disease, COVID-19. This pandemic led to supply chain disruptions and now the economy roaring back that has led to inflation and high gas prices. Do you really believe that high gas prices is the fault of President Joe Biden?

Did you know that the burning of fossil fuels lead to almost 9 million deaths each year from the resulting air pollution?

Sadly, the true damage to our health is not factored in when we fill up on cheap gas at the gas station.
Even more, I am surprised at you using the slogan “Let’s go Brandon!”

Do you support the previous President who would not accept the result of a free and fair election and then he instigated his followers to storm the Capitol on January 6th in an attempt to end our democracy?

If this is true, then I am shocked because you came to see my climate change talk in 2013, even bringing your son to meet me to possibly also work on climate organizing.

If you really do stand by your post, then I don’t think I could be friends with you any longer. Please let me know that this post was a joke, a mistake and you don’t really stand by it.”

My comments triggered a nasty response by her friend Frank who accused me of not being open minded to listen to the other side. He then had inflammatory comments about liberals, government spending, climate denial talking points, etc. He seemed very set in his opinions and he seemed like he was itching to have an online heated debate with me. It just seemed best to ignore Frank to not give his opinions any oxygen and go down a rabbit hole political argument with him, which was not going to change his mind. I didn’t waste my time responding. Oddly, his comments were deleted by either Frank or Shelly.

Shelly soon wrote a quick reply: “Brian Ettling , first of all I LOVE all that u do and what u stand for. I did not place the sticker there I just thought it was funny. I truly wish there was an answer to all of these tribulations that are before us. Connor still references the eye-opening education u provided to both of us. Time well spent.”

Her comment still left a lot of questions for me though, so I then wrote this response:

“Hey Shelly…Thank you for your response. I am still confused by what you wrote though. You wrote: “first of all I LOVE all that u do and what u stand for…Connor still references the eye-opening education u provided to both of us. Time well spent.” Yet, your post caption reads “Let’s go Brandon.” Your friends are latching onto that. Even more, they are restoring to name calling referring to me as ‘a snowflake, a LBGTQRSTXYZ member,’ etc. Thus, you should think about posting things like this.

What exactly do you mean by “Let’s go Brandon”? Please explain. You say you respect my work as a climate organizer and your son is still quoting my presentation. However, the election of Donald Trump in 2016 was a gigantic setback for me and everyone fighting to reduce the threat of climate change. “Let’s Go Brandon” has become the catchphrase for ‘F*#k Joe Biden.’ For me, Joe Biden is a moderate pragmatic leader who wants to do what he can to reduce the threat of climate change and he is all that’s left standing in the way of an autocratic leader (Trump) who does not respect the rule of law, women’s rights, voting rights, the 1st amendment, and free & fair elections. We are literally running out of time with climate change and we can’t afford to have another term of Trump or a Trump wannabe leader.

Yes, I realize that you did not place the sticker there and on the surface I can see how that would be funny. Yes, these issues that we are dealing are very complicated.

As I tried to explain in my post, the inflationary pressures and high gas prices have very little to do with Joe Biden. Gas prices are low or high because they are a global commodity. The pandemic has led to supply chain breakdowns and high demand for oil/gasoline as the economy has been revved hot lately. Even more, as I have organized for climate action these past 12 years, I have learned that our dependence on burning gasoline is killing millions of people each year due to the resulting air pollution. 20 years ago, then President George W. Bush said we are addicted to oil. Cheap gas prices or not, we have got to find a way to get off this addiction to have a livable planet. Yes, these issues are complicated, but we do need to dig deeper and more creatively to solve them.
Thus, I am still confused why you titled your post “Let’s Go Brandon” when that expression goes against what I am trying to do as a climate organizer. Please explain.”

Shelly never responded to my comments. However, three of her friends did respond with a “Let’s Go Brandon!” to make sure she knew they liked her post. Even more, her friend Frank still seemed triggered by my comments. He tagged me in his comments calling me ‘a snowflake, a LBGTQRSTXYZ member’ etc. Oddly, someone (either Shelly or Frank) deleted those comments, but Frank was not finished. He tagged me on another comment, which is still on Shelly’s wall that says: “Brian Ettling, FJB.” Just in case, I didn’t know what FJB meant, he included this image for me to see:

It’s times to choose sides: Climate Action or “Let’s Go Brandon!”

As I have tried to make very clear in this blog, it’s time to choose sides. Do you want climate action or do you want to support an autocratic leader (Donald Trump) who will try to do all he can block policies to reduce the threat of climate change?

Make no mistake that I do firmly believe that this is very clear binary choice between Joe Biden (a man that can be pushed to do more to act on climate) vs. a dangerous autocrat like Donald Trump who will do everything we can to prevent progress on climate policies.

Yes, I will admit that Joe Biden could be doing more to enact climate policies and work with Congress to pass legislation to address the climate crisis. Many climate activists feel frustration with President Joe Biden. Today, I saw a tweet from 16 yo Climate Justice Activist & Author, Alexandria Villaseñor. She was retweeting an article by 18-year old Swedish environmental activist, Greta Thunberg says it’s ‘strange’ Joe Biden is considered a climate leader.

Alexandria retweeted that article with her comment: “I don’t think it’s strange, but it’s wrong. We haven’t stopped Line 3 or passed BBB, we’ve sold miles of space for new oil/gas leases while people die from heat domes & super storms.Wake up. Joe Biden is not a climate leader. He’s sold our generation out.”

It then looks like she got pushback direst messages from supporters of Joe Biden because she then tweeted:

“The apologists have found my dm’s. Show solidarity, they say. He’s doing his best, they say. But, there is SO much he could be doing, that he’s not. How much hotter will the world get? how many more new emissions will be created by this administration? That’s what matters.”

I am not giving up hope yet on Joe Biden taking significant action to reduce the threat of climate change, but I understand her frustration. WE ARE RUNNING OUT OF TIME TO TAKE THE SIGNIFICANT ACTION NEEDED TO ADDRESS THE CLIMATE CRISIS.

Since U.S. Senator Joe Manchin recently announced that he would not support Biden’s Build Back Better bill, many climate advocates and policy experts are worried that the collapse of Biden’s Build Back Better is a major blow to the climate fight. This recent Guardian article warns: “It would be almost impossible for the US to comply with its greenhouse gas reduction pledges without the $1.75tn package that Manchin refuses to support.”

Simply getting mad at President Joe Biden, Senator Joe Manchin, or the entire gridlocked American legislative process won’t solve the issue of climate change. We don’t have time for handwringing. We have got to act and act fast! We have to create the political will to enact policies that can take the largest greenhouse gas reductions possible. Period. As my Grandma would say: ‘We ain’t got time to mess around.’

The 2022 mid term elections are coming and there’s an excellent change that the Republicans are posed to take over one or both chambers of Congress. As the NY Times reported in November: Republicans Gain Heavy House Edge in 2022 as Gerrymandered Maps Emerge.

Thus, many climate advocates and political experts see 2022 as the last, best year for Democrats to pass effective climate legislation before everything goes dark for 10 years, if not longer. We have got to push hard to get President Biden, Senator Joe Manchin and Congress to pass some kind of Build Back Better in 2022. Period.

To quote the French left, “The hour calls for optimism; we’ll save pessimism for better times.” (“L’heure est à l’optimisme, laissons le pessimisme pour des temps meilleurs.”)

And, as I like to say:

There’s the mythical story of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt meeting a group of activists, possibly led by A. Philip Randolph of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. During the meeting, the advocates laid out their bold action plan for change that they wanted president to do with his bully pulpit and his executive power. FDR listened and considered their demands they presented. He then retorted, “You’ve convinced me. I agree with what you’ve said. Now go out and make me do it.”

Whether or not it’s true the story points to historical evidence that “Politicians fear the disruptive power of a mobilized base, even when it helps them succeed.”

Thus, those of us alarmed about the threat of climate change and want policies enacted for a livable and sustainable planet must mobilize and push President Biden, Senator Joe Manchin, and Congress to pass meaningful climate legislation. No excuses.

As we do all we can to pass climate legislation in 2022, all of us climate advocates must also do all we can to elect Democrats in November 2022. We can’t let any frustration with President Joe Biden, Senator Joe Manchin, and Congress prevent us from advancing impactful climate legislation and policies. After Senator Joe Manchin announced he was a no vote on Build Back Better on December 19th, this is what former Republican Congressman David Jolly tweeted:

Even more, a similar point was made recently in a promotional interview for the new “Don’t Look Up” Netflix film. At one point comedic actor Jonah Hill asks: “One thing I do want to say as I learn more about (climate change) is from someone like me who is not on the ground, super aware. It’s like when you are making any big changes, Everest just looks so massive and how do I even take one little step. It’s so daunting. It might be nice for people to hear how gnarly it is and how important it is. Like, what’s a minute step they can take that’s not so overwhelming and doesn’t take an enormous amount of privilege to make that change?”

Without hesitation, Leonardo DiCaprio’s responded: “The number one thing they can do is to vote for people who take science seriously, the climate crisis seriously, that want to take action. That’s the number one thing that people can do. And there’s always been a conversation about what you can do in your personal life and I think that does have a lot of validity. But, there are powers that be that are really going to make massive change and that comes from the private sector and comes from the government. And, we need to put pressure on the powers that be the best we possibly can in our own personal way.

Jonah Hill reflected back: “So awareness in your, in the minutia of voting towards these climate issues?”

Leonardo DiCaprio: “Absolutely. That is the number one thing.”

Take it from Leonardo DiCaprio, one of the most vocal and well known climate advocates as well as one of the top movie actors on planet Earth. He advises that voting for candidates who are committed to climate action is one of the best things you can do to act on climate. I would add on top of that to support these climate friendly candidates by canvassing (knocking on doors to support their campaign) and fundraising/contributing to their campaigns will increase their chances of getting elected. From my personal experience, actively participating in the campaigns of candidates committed to climate action will help them prioritize to meet with you to lobby them if they get elected. Throwing your energy into their campaign can also inspire them to prioritize their political capitol into specific climate policies important to you.

Yes, it’s important to see the new Adam McKay “Don’t Look Up” film on Netlix or at the theatre to see a metaphorical example of what could happen if we don’t take climate change seriously. Furthermore, read David Wallace Well’s 2019 book, The Uninhabitable Earth, for the very horrific picture he paints using his understanding of the scientific climate modeling of what the Earth may become if we do nothing or very little to reduce the threat of climate change.

Image Source: Six Degrees Could Change The World (preview) YouTube

As a climate organizer for over 10 years now, the knowledge of how dangerous the world could become with a runaway, extreme climate change is something I have had awareness of since I began this journey. One of the early sources I found was the 2008 National Geographic documentary, “Six Degrees Could Change the World” and the 2008 book that it was based on Six Degrees: Our Future On a Hotter Planet by Mark Lynas. Those resources, along with many others, gave me the motivation that we don’t want to cause a change to our planet with huge amounts of fossil fuel pollution that could lead the collapse of human civilization and possibly doom the survival of the humans.

Thus, we need our friends like Shelly to understand this reality. If they admire climate organizers like me and feel blessed to live on planet Earth, they might want to reconsider using phrases like “Let’s Go Brandon.” The former President (Trump) and those pushing this slogan want to block any action on climate change, regardless to the catastrophic future it could lead to on planet Earth.

For Climate Action, how to write your members of Congress

Writing a personal letter to your members of Congress is one of the easiest climate actions you can do.  For several months now, I have been writing to my Representative and my U.S. Senators about once a week.

Sadly, my understanding is that very few us of us write to members of Congress on issues that we deeply care about, such as climate change. I experienced this first hand when I have met with staff of Republican members of Congress in lobby meetings at their Washington D.C. offices. Candidly, the staff has told me: ‘We like you. We like what you are doing. However, we are just not hearing from our constituents on climate change.’

When of the biggest ‘ah-ha’ moments I had as a climate advocate was when Nathaniel Stinnett, the founder and executive director of the Environmental Voter Project, spoke on the June 2018 Citizens’ Climate Lobby Monthly Conference Call. Stinnett showed a graph (pictured below) which clearly explained why members of Congress have made climate action a very low priority up to now. When American likely voters are polled about their top concerns, climate change and the environment appeared at the bottom of the list compared to top concerns such as national security & terrorism, economy & jobs, immigration, health care, crime & public safety, etc.

Image Source: a screen shot from youtube.com/watch?v=JPxOf1rb8c4

According to Stinnett: “It is really important to understand is that when so few voters prioritize climate change. It impacts policy making on all sides of the political spectrum. Democrats or Republicans are not going to pay attention to an issue that voters don’t care about.”

Members of Congress are trying to triage hundreds of issues tugging at them everyday. They are like cats focusing on shiny objects. Therefore, you must regularly contact them, such as writing a personal letter, to make climate change a priority. Otherwise, other constituents are going to grab their attention on other issues.

Even worse, if you are not in consistent contact with them urging climate action, your opposition is. You better believe your opponents are in contact with your elected officials insisting that climate action is a hoax and will take away their jobs. Your adversaries have no problem making this message clear when they contact to your elected officials: they will vote against them in the next election if the elected official acts on climate.

Thus, it is vital that you to regularly write and contact your members of Congress. I love this quote by activist Maggie Kuhn: “Stand before the people you fear and speak your mind–even if your voice shakes. When you least expect it, someone may actually listen to what you have to say. Well-aimed slingshots can topple giants.”

I do encourage you to watch this inspiring and very helpful TED talk on how to write to your elected officials by Omar Admad, the former Mayor of San Carlos, California.

Because of the importance of writing to our elected officials, I now post on my Facebook and Twitter page whenever I write my members of Congress on climate change. I want to try to inspire others to do the same. Sadly, I get very few responses when I post this on social media. My hope though is that enough people will see my posts about my letter writing and it will plant a seed for them to do the same. On February 18th, when I posted about this, my Facebook friend Jennifer Grant responded:

“At the risk of sounding foolish… this is where I know I miss the mark on this journey. When I know what I’m sending and requesting, I always do it. I don’t know where to go to understand it better (the what to send and say). That said, I have reached out a number of times and have always received a response and even met with a few. They are listening… I just want an easy resource to know when and what to send and say.”

Below are my tips for Jennifer and you for writing a letter to your member of Congress:

1. If you feel comfortable and are confident that your hand writing is legible, I would write a handwritten letter. I have heard that gets the attention of the staff of members of Congress. First, it is unusual: Who writes hand written letters anymore in the age of e-mails or typing on your laptop and hitting print? It shows the staff that you really took time to write them about an issue that matters to you.

2. Find something you genuinely admire about your member of Congress. When I lived in St. Louis Missouri, my member of Congress in the House of Representatives was GOP Rep. Ann Wagner. She set a high priority for herself to get legislation passed to stop sex traffficking. Rep. Wagner & her office work their hearts out on that issue, so they always appreciated hearing gratitude on that subject when I contacted them. 

Since I moved to Portland Oregon in 2017, my current members of Congress in Oregon, Rep. Earl Blumenauer, Sen. Jeff Merkley, and Sen. Ron Wyden. Lately, I have thanked them for supporting the Green New Deal to promote climate action.

3. Mention in a sentence or two how climate change has personally impacted you. I always say ‘For 25 years, I was a seasonal park ranger at Crater Lake National Park, one of the most beautiful places on the planet. Sadly, I saw the negative impacts on climate change on this international treasure with a diminishing snowpack and more intense wildfire season.’ 

4. Ask them to support a specific solution to climate change. In my case, I ask them to support and co-sponsor Citizens’ Climate Lobby‘s bipartisan bill in the House of Representatives, the Energy & Innovation Carbon Dividend Act (HR 763). I believe that HR 763 is an essential step towards achieving the goals of the Green New Deal.

Image Source: citizensclimatelobby.org/energy-innovation-and-carbon-dividend-act/

HR 763 now has 15 co-sponsors, including one GOP, Rep. Francis Rooney of Florida, with more GOP co-sponsors expected to come along soon. I then talk about how this bill is effective: reducing U.S. Greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by in 12 years. It’s good for the economy: adding 2.1 million in the next 10 years, thanks to growth in the clean energy economy. It’s good for people: poor air quality caused by burning fossil fuels causes an estimated 114,000 U.S deaths each year and sickens thousands more. Additionally, the carbon dividend will put money in people’s pockets to spend as they see fit, helping low and middle income Americans. It’s bipartisan: both Republicans and Democrats are on board. A majority of Americans support Congress taking climate action, including more than half of Republican millennial voters. Solving climate change is too important of an issue to get caught in partisan politics. Fifth, the fees collected on carbon emissions will be allocated to Americans to spend in any way that they choose. The government will not keep any of the fees collected, so the size of the government will not grow. 

5. I conclude by thanking them for listening to my concerns and I ask them to please respond to my letter. 

6. I then sign off by saying “With much gratitude, Brian Ettling” 

It takes me about 10 to 15 minutes to write each hand written letter, address it, and put a stamp on it. Please send your letter to the local district office of your members of Congress, not their Washington D.C. Offices. If you send it to D.C. It will take weeks before they will see it because it has to be screened for anthrax. 

Let me know how it goes and if you have any more questions. Here’s information on the Energy Innovation & Carbon Dividend Act (HR 763): 

For more tips, also check out this article Tips for Writing Effective Letters to Congress.

For Climate Action: 8 Everyday Actions you can do to help the Earth

Several months ago, my friend Naomi asked me on social media: “When you have time I would love to see some everyday things we can do to help the earth.”

Naomi posed this question to me after I announced on September 7th on Facebook of my upcoming climate change speaking events across my home state of Missouri October 9-17. I did take the time to answer her question immediately. I even responded to Naomi: “Thank you for posing this question to me. You just helped me write my next blog.”

My October tour across Missouri went amazing. I even blogged about it afterwards. However, I got distracted and busy with life, but now I am going to write out for you here:

My 8 Everyday Actions you can do to help the Earth: 

1. Vote. in every single election, even in the most local races. Nathaniel Stinnett, the founder and executive director of the Environmental Voter Project (EVP) gave a very eye opening talk on the June 2018 Citizens’ Climate Lobby monthly call. Nathaniel laid out his case how politicians track likely & committed voters. When we vote, it is public record (how we vote is private). When we consistently vote, elected officials pay more attention to us. Even more, the Environmental Voter Project identified “10.1 million Americans who are already registered to vote and prioritize environmental issues, but…who simply didn’t find the motivation to get to the polls in (the 2016 Presidential) election that was decided by 77,000 votes.”

Bottom line: we must vote in every election. Then, we must educate ourselves about  candidates and the issues when we vote to make voting for the Earth a top priority for politicians.

Brian Ettling and his wife Tanya Couture voting by mail in Oregon on October 20, 2018.

2. Regularly contact your members of Congress about climate change, gun control, women’s rights, civil rights, human rights, and issues that you care about. It just takes a few minutes to write a letter, e-mail or call their Washington D.C. office at (202) 224-3121. Since 2015, I have lobbied Congressional offices in D.C. When I meet with staff of GOP members of Congress, they consistently tell me that they do not hear from constituents on climate change. That has to change.

In order for our elected leaders to make climate change a priority, we must politely demand that they must make climate change a priority. One of the core values of Citizens’ Climate Lobby is this belief“Government will respond to the will of the people, provided we tell the government what we want. Politicians don’t create political will they respond to it!”

3. Organize If your member of Congress is not listening to you and your friends, organize. President Barak Obama said it best in his farewell address: ‘If you don’t like what your elected official is doing, grab a clipboard.’

Engage the grass tops in your community (the clergy, business leaders, local elected officials, personal friends of the member of Congress and other influencers) to bend the ear of the members of Congress on this issue. Organizing works. Organizing is how Citizens Climate Lobby volunteers got every single GOP member of the bipartisan House Climate Solutions Caucus to join that caucus. This caucus began in February 2016 with just two members, GOP Rep. Carlos Curbelo and Democrat Ted Deutch of Florida. By the time on the November 2018 mid term election, this caucus was at 90 members, 45 GOP and 45 Democrats, exchanging ideas on climate issues.

Because of Citizens’ Climate Lobby’s efforts to engage Republicans and Democrats in Congress, the Energy Innovation & Carbon Dividend Act (H.R.7173) was introduced on November 28, 2018. This House bipartisan bill is currently co-sponsored by 3 Republicans, Francis Rooney (FL-19), Dave Trott (MI-11), and Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-08) and 4 Democrats, Ted Deutch (D-FL-22),  Charlie Crist (D-FL-13), Anna Eshoo (CA-18) and John K. Delaney (D-MD-06)

Brian Ettling speaking at the Vancouver WA library on February 15, 2018.

4. Talk about climate change to your friends, family, co-workers and neighbors. Americans are not talking about it in their everyday conversations. In September 2016, the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication published this report, Is There a Climate “Spiral of Silence” in America? According to the report:

“Nearly 7 in 10 Americans (68%) hear other people they know discussing global warming only “several times a year” or less often, and 1 in 4 (24%) “never” hear people they know discussing it.Fewer than 1 in 5 (18%) hear people they know discussing global warming at least once a month.” Even more sad, “About 7 in 10 Americans report that they “rarely” (36%) or “never” (32%) discuss global warming with family and friends.”

Brian Ettling speaking about climate change to a class of college students at his alma mater William Jewell College, October 9, 2018.

5. Weatherize your home for the winter months and if you use AC in the summer. There is a group in Portland Oregon called the Community Energy Project that will come to your apartment complex, teach you how to weatherize your home or apartment to save money and even give you materials to do so.

6. Install solar. If you own your home or live in a condo where you own your roof, install solar. Solar is affordable and it will help you save money in the long run. It is one of the best investments you can make with an outstanding return. Plus, it increases the value of your home. Who wouldn’t want to buy a home with a very minimal or nearly non-existent electric bill.

7. switch to an electric car, if you can afford it. I briefly worked for Tesla Motors in 2018. I was very impressed with their cars. Yes, they are more expensive to buy up front. However, their range is over 200 miles, with numerous charging stations across the U.S. Think of the pleasure of never having to go to a gas station again and the savings on those cars, such as no longer having to pay for oil changes and other maintenance required on internal combustion engines.

Brian Ettling and his wife Tanya Couture test driving at Tesla Model S on December 26, 2015

8. Be hopeful. In 2011, University of California Berkeley scientists, Matthew Feinberg and Robb Willer authored this published paper, “Apocalypse Soon? Dire Messages Reduce Belief in Global Warming.”  This paper showed that when people were given dire messages about climate change but were not shown solutions, they were less likely to take action. However, when people were given dire messages but given solutions where they could take action, they were more likely to take action. Thus, it is always so important to stay hopeful and positive in our conversation with others. As I have been saying for nearly 20 years now:

Naomi was not satisfied with my answer.

Her Response: “Out here we need simple through more demanding actions we can take.
Including ways at home or office or at the mall! Things that help think about bringing our green bags to buy produce or is paper or plastic really better? We need people like you who have studied this to show us how we live our commitment to a healthier earth with spending our lives washing out diapers or sorting recycling. As you know there is too much pushing us to waste. How do we make efforts that make a difference but don’t exhaust us?”

My answer :

“Here are my simple solutions: vote, regularly contact your members of Congress to support a price on carbon, engage your local grasstop leaders to persuade them to contact Congress, regularly engage your friends & family on the subject of climate change and exchange solutions how to act, weatherize your home, invest in an electric car to help usher that vehicle revolution, install solar on your home and if you cannot demand your utility gets its energy from 100% clean sources, and spread messages of hope and solutions.

Economists from across the political spectrum tell us that we need a price on carbon to help us alter our behavior. Products should be priced for their full cost of pollution to society. Yes, Citizens Climate Lobby is showing that it can be done.

Yes, do bring your own reusable bags to the grocery store. That is great! I have been doing that for over 20 years. Yes, do recycle as much as you can. I have been doing as much recycling as I can since I was a child. Yes, do buy less and use less consumption of products. I try to buy second hand as much as I can.

However, my thoughts are that we must push for systematic change and that will also inspire us to also make individual changes. As Al Gore said over the the past decade, “As important as it is to change your light bulbs, it is even more important to change the laws.”

The cool thing is that when one invests in weatherization, solar, electric vehicles, buying second hand as much as they can, consuming less, etc, you save $money$. Conservatives get that too. When we frame it for them that weatherization, solar, electric vehicles, and consuming less saves them money in the long term, my experience is that they are all ears.

The simpliest way to not exhaust people is to put a price on pollution and give people back monthly dividend checks so they can see the benefits. That is my answer.”

Naomi did not comment anymore about this topic after my last answer to her.
Thus, I hope I was able to answer for her and others: My 8 Everyday Actions you can do to help the Earth right now.


Promoting climate action in a speaking tour across Missouri

Looking for a great way to promote climate action? Speak at your old college and high school.

This is exactly what I did when 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.

I am a native St. Louis resident, born there in 1968. My wife, Tanya, and I moved to Portland, Oregon in 2017. Upon graduating from William Jewell College in 1992 with a degree in Business Administration, I became a seasonal park ranger for 25 years at Crater Lake National Park, Oregon and Everglades National Park, Florida. While working in these national parks, I discovered climate change negatively impacted these international treasures. 10 years ago,  I became so alarmed I made it my life’s mission to take action on climate change. I quit working my winter job in Everglades National Park in April 2008. I still spend my summers working at Crater Lake, but I decided to move back to my home of St. Louis during the winters to start public speaking, organizing, and writing this blog about climate change.

One of my first public climate change talks, speaking at my nephew Sam’s grade school in February 2010.

During those winters in St. Louis, I made the first steps down this path as a climate change organizer. I started giving my own climate change talks and created this website in the spring of 2010. I joined South County chapter of Toastmasters International to become a better public speaker in January 2011. I worked at a climate change exhibit at the St. Louis Science Center from March to May, 2011. and I co-founded the Climate Reality St. Louis Meet Up group with local businessman Larry Lazar in October 2011. During these meetups, the St. Louis chapter leader with Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) encouraged get in involved with CCL in St. Louis in 2012. In addition, I became trained as a Climate Reality Leader in San Francisco in August 2012.

Since 2012, I have given over 200 climate change talks as a seasonal park ranger, Toastmaster, Climate Reality Project Leader, and a volunteer for CCL. With all of my speaking, writing, and organizing on climate change, I caught the attention of my alma mater William Jewell College last year. In December 2017, William Jewell College formally invited me to give their Truex Economic Lecture for October 9, 2018. For my topic to address an economic solution to climate change, I chose to speak on a topic I know well: The Conservative Case for a Carbon Tax. I have given this talk around Missouri since 2014, emphasizing CCL’s carbon fee & dividend is the best market based solution to address climate change.

Brian Ettling speaking at William Jewell College, October 9, 2018.

An audience of over 220 William Jewell College students, faculty and nearby community members came to this talk. The professors of economics required their students to attend my talk to write a paper afterwards on their thoughts on carbon fee and dividend as a solution for climate change. During this talk, I encouraged the students to take action by getting involved directly with CCL or Citizens’ Climate Higher Education. I invited volunteers from the Kansas City area group of Citizens’ Climate Lobby to attend. 3 local CCL volunteers attended, included Kansas City area group leader David Mitchell. It was great to see Dave again since I was his mentor at the Climate Reality Training in Chicago in 2013. These local CCL volunteers handed out flyers and sign up sheets to encourage William Jewell students, faculty and local community members to get involved with CCL.

I was very thrilled with my talk since I was able to cover my life since graduating from William Jewell as a park ranger and climate change organizer. Old college friends came to my talk such as Valerie Adair Gallup and Lester Morris. Penny Mahon, my mentor from 2012 San Francisco Climate Reality Training, attended. The college recorded the talk and loaded on YouTube. My microphone did not work that night, so you do have to listen very closely to hear my audio on the video. However, I was still very happy with the result watching the video recently.

A Jewell professor passed along to me positive comments from the students, such as:

“I liked that he used his talk to spread awareness of climate change and I learned that people are taking action to fix things. Climate change is a big deal and its only going to get worse without change.”

“As a student at Jewell, I have learned to think critically, but more importantly differently than others. It seems that Ettling, a Jewell graduate, was making a call to action for Jewell students to take their liberal arts education and make the change that people seek to see in the world.”

“I learned a lot from this Truex Lecture, and it is my favorite one I have attended as student here at Jewell. I was inspired by what Brian had to say, and will make an attempt to impose these ideas on my elected officials, to hopefully make a change for the better, and a change for the future.”

In addition to that lecture, the William Jewell professors teaching the Ecology Class, Immigration Class, Outward Bound Leadership Class, and Philanthropy Class asked me to be a guest speaker in during their classes on October 8 & 9th. They asked me to speak about my experience as a park ranger and how this motivated me to become involved in the climate movement. A highlight for me was giving a climate change talk for the Immigration Class to talk how my understanding how global warming is making the global refugee worse.

Brian Ettling speaking at the Immigration Class at William Jewell College. October 8, 2018.

Ironically, in December 2017, around the same time that William Jewell asked me to speak on their campus, University of Missouri (MU) in Columbia MO invited me to come to their School of Natural Resources to speak on climate change. A doctoral candidate & research assistant at the MU School of Natural Resources, Lisa Groshong, heard me speak in Jefferson City MO in March 2017. She asked me to speak on the same topic that I spoke about in Jeff City: Is Climate Change Impacting Our National Parks? Over 45 MU students, faculty members and community members attended this talk at MU on October 10, 2018.

From the December 2017 invitations from William Jewell and MU, I had the beginnings of a tour across Missouri. My next step: I approached St. Louis Community College to allow me to teach a 3 hour Climate Change 101 continuing education class for the local St. Louis community residents to learn about this issue. I started teaching this class in October 2012. I taught that class every fall since then, except for 2017 when my wife and I moved to Portland.

Brian Ettling speaking to students at William Jewell College. October 9, 2018.

For this 3 hour class on Saturday, October 13th, I taught about the science and threat of climate change. I then spent a lot of time in the class focusing on solutions on what they can do. Specifically, I asked my class attendees to get involved with Citizens’ Climate Lobby. 11 people attended this class. They were so inspired by my information that everyone in the class filled out CCL constituent comment forms. On these forms, the students asked local member of Congress, GOP Rep. Ann Wagner, to take action on climate change and join the House Climate Solutions Caucus.

In organizing this tour, I was not satisfied teaching my old class at St. Louis Community College when coming back to my home town. In August 2018, I reached out to the high school I once attended, Oakville High School (class of 1987), in south St. Louis County, to ask if I could give climate change talks to the students. The school principal and the Head of the Science Department responded to my offer with much enthusiasm. The teacher who chairs the science department at Oakville High School asked me to speak 7 times for 2 days from October 15 & 16 for groups of high school students ranging in size from 100 to 200 students. I ended up speaking to around 1,000 high school students at Oakville High School. The theme of his talk was Caring for the Earth is Up to You!

Brian Ettling speaking at Oakville High School. October 16, 2018.

For this talk, I shared how I became a park ranger after graduating from college. I talked about what a typical day is like as an interpretive park ranger and the skills & education needed to obtain this park ranger job. I then explained how I saw climate change threaten the national parks where I worked, which led me to become a climate change organizer. I then asked the high school students if any of them were interested in writing on postcards asking Rep. Ann Wagner to join the Climate Solutions Caucus. Over 160 students, raised their hand and ended up writing on postcards addressed to their member of Congress.

I plan on taking these postcards from the students, plus the completed constituent comment forms from the participants of my St. Louis Community College class, to Washington D.C. in November. I will be attending CCL’s 2018 Congressional Education Day, where we will be lobbying Congressional offices at the Capitol on Tuesday, November 13th. I intend to present these postcards and letters to Rep. Ann Wagner’s staff during a lobby meeting. My hope this can help create political will For Rep. Wagner to eventually join the Climate Solutions Caucus.

Brian Ettling with his completed postcards from Oakville High School students. October 16, 2018.

In September, while still planning this trip, a friend of mine who is a climate science professor at St. Louis University (SLU), Dr. Jack Fishman, invited me to speak SLU during my trip. Dr. Fishman and I agreed I would speak at SLU on Wednesday, October 17th. For this group of SLU science major students, my topic was How to speak with someone who disagrees with you about climate change. Two local St. Louis area CCL volunteers came to show their support. They were among the 50 SLU students, faculty members and local community members who attended my talk.

To generate publicity for this tour and my speaking events, I wrote 2 letters to the editor that were published in October in St. Louis neighborhood newspapers, Oakville Call and Webster Kirkwood Times. Independent St. Louis radio station KDHX 88.1 FM did an Earthworms podcast episode with host Jean Ponzi interviewing me that was released in early October.

Furthermore, KMOX 1120 AM, the largest news & information radio station in the St. Louis area, recorded a 6 minute radio interview with me highlighting my climate change organizing and St. Louis area events.

This tour was a dream come true for me to travel across Missouri to promote climate action. I felt like I had received such a quality education from Oakville High School and William Jewell College. Thus, I wanted to repay what I had learned. Even more, I hoped to inspire a new generation of students the way that I was inspired by the teachers, professors, and guest speakers I encountered during high school and college.

Furthermore, I hope my tour it inspires you to travel across your home state to promote climate action and speak at your old high school and college. From the sweet memories of my tour, I believe it can be a very rewarding experience to return to your old high school and college inspire students to act on climate. I encourage you to stretch yourself out of your comfort zone to reduce the threat of climate change by going home.

On turning 50 years old, reflections for my climate advocacy

“I believe that life should be lived so vividly and so intensely that thoughts of another life, or a longer life, are not necessary.” – Marjory Stoneman Douglas, ending sentence of her autobiography Voice of the River.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018, I turn 50 years old. This is something I am trying to come to an understanding with this new number. My 50th birthday is a celebration of life, a chance to reflect on my achievements, accomplishments and adventures in living. Yet, I am still very unprepared for the future. I am still a child in many ways that was sheltered most of my life. I still have such a lack of understanding how to relate to the world, plan for retirement, and become financially secure.

It is a milestone of a new decade of life, just like all of the previous start of the decades announced big changes for me.

The pivotal years of my birth, age 10, 20, 30, 40 and now age 50. 

1968. It was a rough emotional pregnancy for my mom. My mother and father really wanted a son and I was a planned pregnancy. However, when my mother was pregnant with me, the world was in turmoil. The peak of the Vietnam War was happening. My dad was in the Army reserves. There was still a chance his unit could be called up to serve in the war. My dad got lucky. His unit was spared. Over a million American men, mostly draftees, were rotated to serve in Vietnam for up to one year the U.S military by the beginning of 1968. military by the beginning of 1968. Months before my birth, the Tet Offensive happened, which marked a turning point in the war when the American public started to serious doubt the war could be won. Martin Luther King, Jr was assassinated in Memphis, with riots resulting in cities across the United States. My parents were very worried for their safety with potential unrest my hometown of St. Louis, MO. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated immediately after winning the California Democratic Primary. With all of this happening, it is no wonder I was born 3 weeks late. I probably did not want to come out into a very dreadful and bleak world.

1978. My first very conscious reckoning with mortality. My grandfather Arthur Johnson Sr. passed away just a few months after my 10th birthday. I will never forget the homemade 8mm movies he was filling on my birthday. I tried to reach up to touch the camera, but he was too tall for me to grab it. He was an amazing man that everyone seemed to admire. He was a Baptist Minister who was an excellent public speaker and superb one on one conversationalist. He created a wonderful natural rapport with people that everyone who knew him seemed to love and admire him. He had a deep love for life, traveling, looking his best, people, and sports. He really wanted to be like him. It was jarring shock when he died very suddenly of a heart attack in November. I still hoped he would be around for years to learn from him. It was very hard to comprehend then and to this day how someone could be gone from life so incredibly quickly. It was the first time I had to think about how my family members or I will not live forever.

1988. I started attending William Jewell College, located close to Kansas City, MO. I graduated from Oakville High School just south of St. Louis in 1987. I felt like I was no where near ready for college so I took a year off in between. During that time, I worked as a cashier in a gas station and traveled briefly to New York and Boston with my Mom. I did a road trip with a friend to Pittsburgh, starting to test my own independence just a bit. I celebrated my 20th birthday in Alaska on a family vacation. We were at the Anchorage Zoo for the exact time and date of my birthday. It was the first time I was outside the contiguous United States. I really loved the mountains and scenery in Alaska. I talked my parents into taking Amtrak trains from St. Louis to Seattle then flying from Seattle to Alaska. On the train trip from out west, we did an Amtrak train route that no longer exists going through the Columbia River Gorge that separates Oregon from Washington. I was so blown away by the mountain scenery and tall pine trees that I knew I wanted to live in the Pacific Northwest someday.

Immediately upon arriving in college in 1988, I became involved with the College Republicans. As a result of my leadership on campus with the College Republicans, I got to meet Governor John Ashcroft in January 1990.

Then Missouri Governor John Ashcroft with Brian Ettling. Photo from January 1990.

1998. In January, I started working as a naturalist guide narrating boat tours in Everglades National Park, Florida. This was my first job performing public speaking to large groups. I explained about nature they were seeing and engaged park visitors on the importance of protecting our natural environment. For the first time in my life, I started getting questions on global warming. Park visitors coming to the Everglades asked me questions about it. I knew next to nothing on that subject, and visitors expect park rangers to know everything. It was starting to plant seeds in me to start reading up on it so I could be versed in my answers. I knew I wanted to stretch myself out a little  more to be adventurous with my life. On the exact time and date of my 30th birthday, I paid to swim with dolphins at a dolphin education center, Dolphins Plus, in Key Largo. It was one of the coolest experiences of my life to interact so closely with these very intelligent and playful animals.

2008. By January 2008, I knew it was going to be my last winter season working in Everglades National Park after working there off and on for 16 years. My mentor Steve Robinson, who worked in Everglades National Park for 25 years as well as Crater Lake for around 16 years, passed away from pancreatic cancer in October 2007. It was 6 weeks after his initial diagnosis of cancer. Friends of Steve jokingly called him the Lorax of the Everglades. Steve had an incredible brilliance of understanding of the Everglades Ecosystem and his eloquent way of explaining to park visitors and anyone who would listen why it should be protected. I was in a daze for a year after his death. His mortality made me re-exam my own life to push my own activism up to the next level. I wanted to carry forth Steve’s message of protecting our Earth and environment since he could no longer share that message. In 2008, I was burned out of the south Florida climate, flatness, long drive to spend the winter in south Florida. Even worse, as a single man, it seemed like I was not going to find a wife there.

By 2008, I had read a number of books on climate change. I saw the film An Inconvenient Truth and read the companion book in 2006. I knew I needed to do something on climate change, but I did not know what. I was very clear though that I was not going to find the answer by continuing to work winters in the Everglades. It was time for me to move on with my life. Thus, I said goodbye to the Everglades at the end of April 2008. I vowed never to return to Florida until I was invited back to speak on climate change and share my story. That dream came true when I was invited to Tampa, Florida in February 2016 to speak at the Florida Regional Citizens Climate Lobby Conference. My topic was the importance of storytelling when talking about climate change and I got to share my Everglades story.

When I came to work at Crater Lake National Park for the 2008 summer, I told the lead naturalist ranger, Dave Grimes, and our boss Eric Anderson, the Supervisor of Interpretation, that I wanted to do some kind of ranger program on climate change. Both were very supportive and excited about my vision. With their support, I started doing more research which led to me switching my evening program to climate change in the summer of 2011. For my 40th birthday in July, I celebrated with a big group of friends at Crater Lake at a nearby Mexican Restaurant.

That October, mutual friends of Steve Robinson, Jeanette Gilbert and John Broward, who also also knew from working as rangers at Crater Lake and Everglades, invited me to visit them on the Big Island of Hawaii. It was my first time traveling outside of North America in 19 years. In January 1989, I visited Germany with a high school friend. I really loved spending time in Europe to get a different perspective of the world. For this Hawaii trip, I really went after stretching myself out of my comfort zone. Jeanette and John took me snorkeling over a Hawaii reef. I tried and loved parasailing.

Even more, outside of my comfort zone, I tried surfing. It was one of the scariest actions I ever did because I do have a fear of being in deep water over my head, especially water where I cannot see the bottom. I do not have a great sense of balance. I am not a strong swimmer, which I quickly learned is vital for successfully surfing. I had my instructor very worried the waves were going to push me into the rocky reefs with all of my struggles trying to learn to surf. He would not give up on me. Finally, I did it. I briefly stood on the board, balancing well and surfed a small ocean wave. It was one of the most sublime and coolest experiences of my life.

I proudly have that picture of me on the surf board showcased prominently wherever I live.

Yes, I had skydived twice in 2007. However, I really did come out of that experience thinking “If I can briefly learn to surf, I can do anything if I set my my to it.”

I returned home to St. Louis that November starting a new seasonal job at Recreational Equipment Incorporated (REI), closing for good the 16 year chapter of working winters in Everglades National Park. I did not know what adventures or paths were ahead for me, but I was determined to chart a new course with climate change.

2018. In January, KMOX radio host Debbie Monterrey did a profile interview with me about my climate change work for KMOX News and Information Radio, which has the largest listening audience of any radio station in St. Louis, MO area. My parents listened to KMOX since before I was born. This is a very conservative radio station, which has played Rush Limbaugh for 3 hours a day, for almost 25 years now. It felt like a big breakthrough for me to be on KMOX to promote climate change action.

in February 2016, my friend Abhaya invited me to Tampa, Florida to speak at the Florida Regional Citizens Climate Lobby Conference. This was a fulfillment of a dream for me to return to Florida for the first time in 10 years to speak on climate change. I shared my story how I first learned about climate change while working in Everglades National Park and how my time there sparked me to pursue my passion to work for the rest of my life for climate change advocacy.

March 2018, my friend Roberta invited me to speak at the Boise, Idaho Greater Pacific Northwest Regional Conference for Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Roberta wanted me to speak on the importance of story telling with climate change. Besides my story telling talk, I also gave a recap of the Oregon Stewardship Tour I led in October to November 2017. These talks marked the 10th state I had given a climate change talk in the past 10 years, as well as giving a climate change talk in Ottawa, Canada in 2016 and Washington D.C. in 2017.

February and April, I spoke to my the largest audiences I could recall on climate change. February 8th & 9th, I gave talks at Covington Middle School to over 250 6th to 8th grade students over two days. On April 16th, my friend Daniela Brod and I spoke to over 800 students at St. Mary’s Academy all girls Catholic High School in Portland, Oregon. St. Mary’s Academy was probably one of my most enthusiastic audiences ever in my 10 years of giving climate change talks, which felt beyond amazing.

Citizens’ Climate Lobby Volunteers Brian Ettling and Daniela Brod

For the first time in 26 years, I did not work my summer job at Crater Lake National Park. I was determined to find a job in Portland, Oregon where I now live with my wife. For the first time, I was working for a job outside of my ranger identity and not working seasonally for the National Park Service. In February, I started a job selling solar panels for Tesla Energy. It was a very huge and painful transition for me going from being a popular ranger that the public adored at Crater Lake to a salesman in Home Depot where most people did not have the time or interest to chat with me. It was a tremendous obstacle for me to go from people approaching me all day as a ranger to having to actually approach people in Home Depot who were not keenly interest in talking to me.

Because of my support wife Tanya and a very supportive boss Mike, I did end up succeeding in the job. I exceeded the company required sales goals for March and April. By the end of May, my supervisor informed me that I was ranked 50th out of 350 employees for the number of home solar appointments booked. I hit a positive strive of booking Tesla Energy Advisors scheduled to come to customers homes in the Portland OR and Vancouver WA area to chat with them about creating a custom solar system for their home. Sadly, Tesla laid off my supervisor, the Advisor Manager, their regional boss and 9% of Tesla’s staff, mostly in the Tesla Energy Division in June. My job got transferred to Tesla Motors, located just south of downtown Portland. Sadly, that job was not a good fit for me with the hours, commute, work environment, work culture, so I decided to leave that job one week ago. Just like 2008, who knows what adventure or path lies ahead for me next.

“Life Begins at 40”

As a child, I hated it when my parents’ friends would say, “Life begins at 40.” As a child and teenager, 40 years old felt so old. However, looking back at my own life, I do believe that expression rings very true for me. I did not discover my passion for climate change until I was nearly 40. Even more, all of the actions I took for climate change happened in my 40s. My proudest life accomplishments are my climate actions, which all happened in my 40s.

Looking back on my life, I was very depressed and full of angst as a teenager, 20 something adult and into my 30s trying to figure out my purpose and passion for my life. It was not until I discovered climate change that I truly knew what I wanted to be.

If I could go back, what would say to my 40 year old self looking to make some impact on climate change?

Advice I would give to my 40 year old self

If I could go back to 2008, I would say to my younger self:

“Believe in you and keep your eye open for opportunities and people to meet because you will accomplish far more than you can even envision right now.

Things will start very slow for you, but hang on! Don’t give up.

Your friend Amelia Bruno at Crater Lake is encouraging you by now to apply for a Climate Reality Training lead by former Vice President Al Gore. I know you feel like you don’t know enough about climate change to apply, but you know more than you think. Be confident of your background. You can do it! You will eventually attend a Climate Reality Training in San Francisco in August 2012, but why not start now? You know this is your passion.

June 2008, National Park Service (NPS) Interpretation Program Manager in the Alaska Region, John Morris will give a an amazing talk at Crater Lake on climate change . Great guy! Get a copy of his climate change talk! Develop a friendship with him. See if you an network with him about attending a Earth to Sky Climate Change Training that is co-sponsored by NASA and the National Park Service to train park rangers how to engage park visitors on climate change.

September 2011, You will eventually attend the Earth-to-Sky V Training in  because of your connection with John Morris. Check with John to see if you can attend an earlier training you can. If not, The Earth-to-Sky V Training in will still be a life changing event for you to learn more about the science of climate change and effectively communicating it to the public.

In November 2009, your friend Naomi will advise you to grab the title, website domain of The Climate Change Comedian. Do it! It will eventually open more doors than you know, such as putting you on national TV. You will start working on your own climate change powerpoint talk in January 2010 that will provide a template for all of your future talks. It’s ok to start earlier if you want! In March 2010, you will start sharing your climate change talk with family friends. You will share it again at Crater Lake with your ranger friends in August 2010.

April 2010, you will create this Climate Change Comedian website with the help of live long family friend John Dantico. The website will be helpful for fleshing out your Climate Change Comedian role and as a way for people to find you on the internet.

In January 2011, you will join the South County Club of Toastmasters International. You will give your first speech in February 2011. Your second speech in March 2011. Your third speech will be in May 2011. It will be the first time of many you will be voted by your fellow Toastmasters as “Best Speaker.”

Overall, from your involvement in Toastmasters from January 2011 until you move to Portland in February 2017, you will win Best Speaker from Toastmasters 8 times out of 20 speeches. You will go on to win Awards such as Competent Communicator, Advanced Communicator Bronze, and 2nd place in a club evaluation contest. Nearly all of your speeches will be about climate change. Roughly a third of the audience will be very hostile to the message of human caused climate change. However, they will still give you helpful tips to be a better speaker. Even more, they will great ideas for speeches as they try to argue with you their worldview that human caused climate change is not real.

You will start writing this blog in February 2011. I would encourage you to even start earlier than that date and write more often. Each day, try to write to crystalize your thoughts and develop, refine, and act on your plan of action.

You will reach a breakthrough in your life when you land a job at the St. Louis Science Center at their Climate Change Exhibit in March 2011. The exhibit will open months earlier in January 2011. Can you try to apply for openings for this exhibit as soon as it is available? If not, this job will still change your life drastically. It will really help educate you on the basic science of climate change, and you will begin to find ways to effectively engage grade school students to adults on this exhibit. Through this exhibit, you will meet St. Louis businessman Larry Lazar.

Like you, Larry Lazar used to be a conservative Republican. Ironically, he first learned about climate change while visiting a national park, in his case in Alaska. Stay in close contact with Larry because he will want to form the Climate Reality St. Louis Meet Up group with you in October 2011. This meet up group will be amazing with holding monthly meetings with climate scientists and organizers to brainstorm on ways to act on climate. Via Skype, we will book well known climate change scientists and communicators, such as Professor Scott Mandia, Dr. Michael E. Mann, John Cook of Skepticalscience.com, Peter Sinclair of climatecrocks.com, Science Comedian Brian Malow, Karen Street, Margaret Klein Salamon, Sam Daley-Harris, Citizens’  Climate Lobby Senior Lobbyist Jay Butera, and others. Larry and you will found such a positive bond and great working relationship that you will ask him to be the Best Man at your wedding 4 years later.

Brian Ettling and Larry Lazar

In August 2011, things are really happening for you as a climate activist. You started giving your climate change evening program Crater Lake National Park. You will continue giving this talk at Crater Lake until you stop working there in September 2017.  With the help of Crater Lake fellow rangers Dave Grimes and Darby Robinson, you are able to film and upload it for YouTube in September 2012.

That same month you start your evening program at Crater Lake, August 2011, a friend from the Everglades, Sundae Horne, will introduce you to her friend Tom Smerling, who had just set up a website Climatebites.org just months before. Tom you I will chat by phone that August and you started contributing writings to his website in October 2011. Over the the period of the next 5 years, you contribute over 216 writings or Climatebite posts to the website which enables you to become a better climate change communicator as you collect these soundbite messages and metaphors.

Tom Smerling and Brian Ettling

December 2011, Larry and you will have your first meeting of the St. Louis Climate Reality Meet Up. At our meet ups, Carol and Tom Braford from Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) will start showing up. Carol keeps asking you to join her monthly meeting with CCL. She will be very persistent. Finally, you go to a CCL meeting at her house in May 2012. You immediately join CCL and make it your life’s mission to start a CCL group in Southern Oregon while you are working at Crater Lake that summer. You keep networking until you find a few somewhat interested people. The southern Oregon chapter of CCL has their first official group start meeting in January 2013.

Meeting of the Southern Oregon chapter of Citizens Climate Lobby, September 2013.

September 2011, from the recommendation of John Morris, you attend the Earth to Sky V: Communicating Climate Change Conference in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. It will change your life to experience climate change talks from NASA climate scientists, such as Dr. Peter Griffith, Dr. Bob Cahalan, Dr. Gavin Schmidt, Dr. Patrick Gonzalez, and many other top speakers. You will gain ideas for climate change talks that you will still be using many years later, such as the talk from Dr. Peter Griffith explaining how understanding climate change comes down a banana vs. a piece of coal. Dr. Griffith posted his own YouTube video with this simple analogy how an influx of old carbon (coal) is adding to the new carbon (banana) in our atmosphere. This additional carbon into our air supply is upsetting a natural balance of the carbon cycle. That is what is causing climate change on a very basic, simple to explain level.

Brian Ettling with NASA climate scientist Dr. Peter Griffith

December 2011, Tom Smerling advises you to attend the 2011 American Geophysical Union (AGU) annual meeting in San Francisco, CA. One of the best pieces of advice anyone will give you. This is one of the largest annual gatherings of scientists to give presentations on their latest scientific findings. At this conference, you are able to meet top climate change scientists and communicators and hear their presentations, such as Scott Mandia, Dr. Michael Mann, Kaitlin Naughten (known then as Kaitlin Alexander) of climatesight.org, Dr. James E. Hansen, Susan Joy Hassol of Climate Communications, Dr. Richard Somerville, John Cook of skepticalscience.com, Dr. Naomi Oreskes author of Merchants of Doubt, Dr. Benjamin Santer atmospheric scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Dr. Ed Maibach who is Director of George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change Communication (4C), and so many others. Attending AGU will help you greatly with networking connections for future writings and organizing, understanding the science, and becoming a more effective climate change communicator.

Brian Ettling with NASA scientist emeritus Dr. James Hansen. Photo taken at AGU in San Francisco in December 2011.

At the winter 2011-12 monthly meetings of the St. Louis Climate Reality Meet Up, a beautiful woman named Tanya shows up interested in the group because of her interest in science. You ask her out for coffee and to practice one of your climate change talks. You actually don’t start going out for coffee until December 2012 and you start dating in February 2013. You end up proposing marriage to her on Christmas Eve, 2014 and getting married on November 1, 2015. Your passion for climate change and co-founding the Climate Reality St. Louis Meet Up group with Larry Lazar will help you eventually find the wife of your dreams.

In April 2012, Yale Change Connections (YCC) publishes an article you wrote, Communicating Climate Change in a National Park. It is the first time you are published on a scholarly academic based mainstream website. YCC publishes articles, radio stories, videos, and webinars to hep the public understand how climate change is already affecting our lives. It does this by telling the stories of the individuals and organizations building a more sustainable world. You will meet Bud Ward, Editor of YCC just months before at AGU. Ironically, you approach Bud for networking to pursue my path with a career climate change communications. He will say to you on the phone, “I am not sure how I can help you. However, I do have a self serving request: Can you write an article for my website?”

August 2012, you attend your first Climate Reality Training in San Francisco, CA. It is a life changing experience to see former Vice President Al Gore for the first time and see his climate change presentation. Even more, you get a copy of his slide deck that you use in presentations for many years to come. You make many friends and strong connections with other Climate Reality Leaders. At this training, you, Larry Lazar and Dr. Lucas Sabalka end up collaborating and giving several climate change talks in the St. Louis area.

November 2012, you teach your first 3 hour climate change 101 Adult Continuing Education Class for St. Louis Community College at the Meramec Campus. 8 people will attend, including your parents and younger sister. The class participants will have lots of great questions for you. Furthermore, you will have such an enjoyable experience  teaching this class that you will teach this class for St. Louis Community College many more times over the years, including October 13, 2018.

November 2012, NASA will invite you to speak at their workshop at the 2012 National Association of Interpreters (NAI) Convention in Hampton, Virginia. You will speak about what it is like to present climate change ranger programs in the national parks. This will be the first time you get an expense paid trip to travel outside of Missouri or Oregon speak on climate change.

December 2012 – You will join with St. Louis volunteers of Citizens’ Climate Lobby and CCL Communications Director Steve Valk for an editorial board meeting with the St. Louis Post-Distpatch. This meeting persuades the Post-Dispatch to write an editorial on December 27, 2012 endorsing Citizens’ Climate Lobby’s carbon fee and dividend, Save the planet. Save Social Security.Save Medicaid. Tax carbon. This meeting will inspire you to eventually submit your own opinion editorials that the St. Louis Post-Dispatch ends up publishing.

Brian Ettling, Carol Braford, Tom Braford, Steve Valk, and Lucas Sabalka in front of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Office Building.

April 2013, You get your first editorial opinion published in a newspaper, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, For Earth Day, a GOP free-market solution to climate change. This leads you to get many more guest opinions published, including 5 more in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in years to come. Even more, you develop a knack to get guest opinions published various newspapers across Oregon in 2013, including the Oregonian, Shrinking Crater Lake snowpack argues for carbon tax: Guest opinion. Years later, you get more guest opinions published, including this 2016 one pictured below, Protect Crater Lake National Park from climate change (OPINION).

May 2013 – Your friend Pete Peterson invites you to be a speaker to give your climate change ranger evening program at the Shrine of the Ages Auditorium at the South Rim Village of Grand Canyon National Park. Over 200 people are in attendance for this ranger program.

August 2013, Climate Reality Project selects you to be a mentor for their 2013 Chicago Training. This will be the first of 6 times and counting that you will be a mentor for a Climate Reality Training. You end up mentoring over 17 people at this training and staying in contact with some of them years later.

Brian Ettling and Climate Reality Leaders he mentored at the August 2013 Climate Reality Training

August 2013 will also mark the first time of many times that you lobby a Congressional office for climate action. You joined the volunteers of southern Oregon Citizens Climate Lobby to lobby the staff of Rep. Greg Walden and Sen. Jeff Merkley to take action on climate change.

Brian Ettling with volunteers from the southern Oregon chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby meeting at the Medford, Oregon District Office of U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley

January 2014, You will make your first YouTube climate change humorous video with your girlfriend and future wife, Tanya Couture.

February 2014, The video with Tanya will then inspire you to make a video with your mom. These videos, along with another video you create with your Mom and Tanya and a video you create with your Dad, Mom, and Tanya will eventually catch the attention of Comedy Central’s Tosh.o.

April 2014 – Along with Larry Lazar and Dr. Fishman, you will do your first radio interview on the local St. Louis NPR radio station on their program, St. Louis on the Air, to promote climate change action. In the same week, you also also do a radio interview about climate change on Earthworms radio show: St. Louis FM 88.1 KDHX. Even more, you will get another opinion editorial published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, For Earth Day: Asking our elected officials to be climate heroes.

Larry Lazar, Brian Ettling, Don Marsh (Host of St. Louis On the Air, and Dr. Jack Fishman at the St. Louis NPR radio studio.

May 2015 – At the Climate Reality Training in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, you get a chance directly speak to Al Gore. You get to address the elephant in the room. The one question everyone seems scared to ask: Asking Al Gore directly how to respond to his critics. Even more, you get a chance to shake hands with him. He directly looks you in the eye and thanks you for all of your climate change efforts. On top of all this, you get your picture taken with him. Because of the depth his answer, you receive this incredible gift: a robust response to conservative Toastmaster friends critical of Al Gore.

Brian Ettling meeting former Vice President Al Gore on May 7, 2015.

November 2015 – You get married to your beautiful wife Tanya on November 1st. Two weeks later, you are able to travel to Washington D.C. for the first of many times to lobby Congressional offices as part of the lobby conferences for Citizens’ Climate Lobby. You then blog about 8 Lessons I learned lobbying Congress on climate change November 17 & 18, 2015.

April 2016 – Comedy Central’s Tosh.o flies you, your Mom, and Tanya to Los Angeles for your Mom and you to do a comedy sketch taping with host Daniel Tosh for an episode of Tosh.o that airs in August 2016 promote your work as the Climate Change Comedian.

November 2016 – You return for a second time to lobby in Washington D.C. This time, you get to have a conversation about climate change with U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill from Missouri.

Brian Ettling meeting with U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill from Missouri.

In addition, two weeks later, Cathy Orlando invites you to speak at the Canada Citizens’ Climate Lobby Conference and Lobby Day. Your wife Tanya gets to join you for this trip. You get the experience of lobbying Canadian members of Parliament for climate action. This will be your first time speaking on climate change outside of the United States. After these trips, you then blog about 8 Lessons learned from lobbying Washington D.C. & Ottawa, Canada 2016-17.

Tanya Couture and Brian Ettling in front of the Centre Block Canadian Parliament Building, November 28, 2016.

March 2017 – You no longer live in Missouri. Your wife and you moved to Portland, Oregon in February. However, you return to Missouri to give presentations on climate change in Jefferson City over over 100 people and Kirksville MO for 60 people. In addition, you help organize 3 meetings with District staff of MO members of Congress. During this tour, Ladue High School student Ian Mason is able to video tape your Jefferson City talk. Ian is then able to take that video and the interview he will recorded with you to turn it into a video presentation report for the Global Student Square website. Your mini-Missouri Citizens Climate Lobby Tour generates a couple of newspaper articles, including Jefferson City News Tribune and Kirksville Daily Express.

Your speaking tour even creates a bizarre but funny political cartoon in the Jefferson City newspaper on March 30, 2017.

Additionally, in March 2017, you will be a breakout speaker for the Day of Action at the Climate Reality Training in Denver, Colorado. At the beginning of this training, Climate Reality President & CEO Kenneth Berlin will mention you and two other Climate Reality Leaders in his opening remarks to an audience of almost 1,000 people as good examples of Climate Reality Leaders. Below is his slide when Ken will use to acknowledge you when he has you stand up in front of the entire audience.

April 2017 – You attend a town hall for Rep. Greg Walden in The Dalles, Oregon. You get to ask him a question in front of several number people about acting on climate change, specifically inviting him to join the House Climate Solutions Caucus. The audience catcalls him when he hedges on giving an answer. Afterwards, you get to shake hands with him.

U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (OR-02) shaking hands with Brian Ettling

June 2017 – You are a breakout speaker for the Citizens’ Climate Lobby International Conference in Washington D.C. Even more, you co-lead a breakout session with fellow Climate Reality Leader Madison Adkins at the Bellevue Climate Reality Training.

July 2017 – The companion book for the upcoming film, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, has a picture of you on page 314 as part of its collage of pictures of examples “some of the 12,000 Climate Leaders giving presentations around the world.” Below is the picture they used. It was taken when I spoke at john knox presbyterian church in Florissant, MO from when I spoke there on April 26, 2015.

October to November 2017 – You are the lead presenter for the Citizens’ Climate Lobby Oregon Stewardship Tour. You will end up traveling over 1,600 miles in your car over 12 days. Your tour will go to over 11 Oregon cities in eastern, central, and southern Oregon. You will end up speaking to over 180 Oregon constituents, not to mention the people who will hear you on two radio interviews you do on Jefferson Public Radio in Ashland, Oregon. Your tour will also generate several newspaper articles, such as the Bend Bulletin and Klamath Herald and News. Best of all, your tour will generate a big stack of constituent comment forms to present to staff of Rep. Greg Walden when you lobby his office in Washington D.C. as part of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby Education Day.

Again, Brian of 2008, be at peace. You will accomplish more than you can envision.”

Mark Twain once said “You should live life so fully that even the undertaker will be sad when you go.”

I doubt I am at the point yet where the undertaker would be sad when I am gone. However, I do feel like I have accomplished much happiness in pursuing making a difference on climate change. I know I will be eventually sad someday in the future when I am no longer able to organize, lobby, write, and take action on climate change.

In order to learn how to live, one must learn how to die

A big transition that happened somewhere from my late 30s to now is making peace with my immorality or that there may not be one. When I was a child, I was raised as a Lutheran within the Christian faith. I was obsessed about making sure I was going to heaven and living a life to make sure I had treasure in heaven, as the Bible puts it. A life so impactful to make the afterlife even more rewarding. I have always been obsessed over making a difference in the world to be judged well in the afterlife. Along the same line, I wanted to live a life so robust and fulfilling that it would inspire others and make an impact in the world.

Two friends helped me make peace over not obsessing over an afterlife but to just live the best life that I can.

One day, a friend Sheryl said something to me that was very jarring to hear with my worldview, but it was so liberating to hear. She said to be in a very calm and relaxed tone, “I have made peace with the fact that when I die someday. That’s it. There is no afterlife. I just simply die.”

I had never heard anyone say that in such a confident yet gentle and humble way. It gave me a sense of peace that there may not be an afterlife. That’s ok. Life is a gift. Enjoy the gift while you can. When it is over, it is over. I don’t have to obsess while I am alive over what is when I am gone. I remember having Sheryl repeat the thought and even explain more about her way of thinking so I could absorb it. However, I understood it immediately and it felt very liberating. I felt very blessed that Sheryl had shared that thought with me.

It was an a-ha moment for me. It was re-affiriming what I had read in 1993 the final line in the autobiography of Marjory Stoneman Douglas. She wrote: “I believe that life should be lived so vividly and so intensely that thoughts of another life, or a longer life, are not necessary.”

When I was raised as a Christian as a child into my teen years, it always bothered me within the Lutheran thought that some people were going to heaven and others weren’t, based upon God’s judgement. That judgement depended upon whether one accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior and asked him to forgive their sins. If they did not do this, most Christians think non-believers are going to hell. Yet, that thought always bothered me. What about people like Marjory Stoneman Douglas who spent their whole lives trying to work for social justice, equality and a healthier environment, yet they were atheists? I could not fathom an afterlife where Marjory Stoneman Douglas was in hell. Yet, there are people who are Christians who commit very evil acts because they can or in the name of their religion. However, in Christian thought, they are going to heaven. It just made no sense for me.

Good friends like Sheryl and influential authors like Marjory Stoneman Douglas were showing me that there does not have to be an afterlife. Enjoy this moment in the here and now.

At the same time, I still struggled with what happened with my life once it is gone, especially if there is not an afterlife. A spiritual teacher, Naomi, that I regularly saw over over many years from my 30s into my 40s helped me be at peace with this thought.

She explained to me that even after I die, my life force will still carry on influencing the lives of others. I found this to be extremely comforting especially with my climate change work. Hopefully, the energy of my work with my organizing, writings, and interactions with others will still influence the world when I am no longer here. Hopefully, all of my blog writings such as this will be saved. Even if they disappear after a time, hopefully that energy I conveyed of striving to live in more harmony with our planet with continue on to influence others. Just as my mentor Steve Robinson’s energy of speaking out to take care of our planet lives on in me after he passed away in October 2007.

On this post, I enjoyed looking back at at last 10 years and 50 years of my life. I hope you have enjoyed taking this journey with me.

Now I am looking forward to my next 10 years. I sure hope to do something big in my 50s, like giving a TED Talk. If life begins at 40 and my life certainly felt like it did, I am eager to see what my 50s and beyond have for me. Let the adventure begin!