Tag Archives: Brian Ettling

The historical person who inspired me to be a Climate Lobbyist 

Brian Ettling in front of the U.S. Capitol Building on June 12, 2018.

Whenever I lobby a Congressional, a legislative office, or speak directly to an elected official to urge them to pass climate legislation, I feel like I am keeping alive the spirit of one individual who made a deep impact on me: William Gladstone Steel. He is also referred to as, ‘Will Steel.’ 

I discovered Will Steel when I worked as a park ranger at Crater Lake National Park from 1992-2017. He was the subject of my ranger lodge talk from 2006-2017. Will Steel lived from 1854 to 1934. I doubt he ever heard about climate change. However, he had a passion for conservation and the environment since he is known to this day as ‘The Father of Crater Lake National Park.’ 

Steel’s tireless tenacity to make a difference impacted me. In every ranger talk I gave, I hoped his story would inspire my audience that each one of them could make a positive impact in the world. If you are reading this blog, I hope his story and mine will influence you. 

This blog is my story how I discovered Will Steel and my ranger talk how I interpreted his life. 

Brian Ettling giving his William Gladstone Steel talk at the Crater Lake Lodge on May 22, 2016.

My Story of Discovering Crater Lake 

I graduated from William Jewell College on Sunday afternoon May 17, 1992, with a degree in Business Administration. I enjoyed my business classes in college, but I decided to never work in an office cubicle. Just hours after the graduation ceremony, I boarded an Amtrak Train heading from Kansas City, Missouri to Los Angeles, California. The fantastic western scenery from the train window helped me close the chapter on my college years and my entire life at that point of living in Missouri. I was eager for my new life adventure in the Pacific Northwest. 

From LA, I caught another train called “The Coast Starlight,” with fabulous scenery of California from the train windows took me to my destination of Klamath Falls, Oregon. The final morning of this trip train started fantastic with a breath-taking view of the 14,000-foot Mt. Shasta as the train curved around the huge mountain.

An employee of the Crater Lake Lodge Company named Kevin picked me up at the train station on May 20, 1992. It took over an hour to drive from the Klamath Falls train station to Crater Lake. Kevin and I chatted a lot during the drive. I was so eager to see Crater Lake. I kept pointing at the scenery and asking him: ‘Is Crater Lake behind that mountain?’ 

‘No,’ he kept responding. ‘Don’t worry! You will eventually see it.’ 

When I arrived at the Crater Lake Rim Village. The scenery did not disappoint. Crater Lake was one of the most spectacular sights I saw in my life. The lake was 6 miles across at its widest point with this deep cobalt blue color. The rim mountains that surrounded it were decorated with snow, looking like an amazing cake decoration with the white icing on top. The pine trees where so tall, unlike the much smaller deciduous or leaf producing trees in my home state of Missouri. It was so quiet standing on the rim admiring the lake, except for the very light whistle of the wind and an occasional airplane flying overhead. 

In a sense, my life changed forever seeing Crater Lake for the first time. I found my new home. I never did like the heat, humidity, and dearth of snowcapped mountains in Missouri. May is still a winter month at Crater Lake and I would see it snow falling within the next day or two. The crisp colder temperatures felt like natural air conditioning to me, compared to the very hot and muggy summer temperatures in Missouri. I could not wait to discover hiking on the trails in the park and wandering to different locations to admire the beauty of Crater Lake National Park. 

Brian Ettling’s first summer at Crater Lake National Park. Photo taken on November 3, 1992

I did not think much about Will Steel in my early years working at Crater Lake. I knew he was the park founder, but that was all.  However, my first impression was similar than when William Gladstone Steel saw it for the first time on August 15, 1885. One year afterwards, he wrote

“Crater Lake is one of the grandest points of interest on earth. Here all the ingenuity of nature seems to have been exerted to the fullest capacity, to build one grand, awe-inspiring temple, within which to live and from which to gaze up on the surrounding world and say: ‘Here would I dwell and live forever. Here would I make my home from choice; the universe is my kingdom, and this is my throne.’”

A key point of that quote is ‘the universe is my kingdom.’ Crater Lake does not just enchant during the daytime. Except for the distant cities of Eugene and Klamath Falls, Crater Lake has minimal light pollution. Thus, the stars really shine on a moonless light like countless jewels, especially clustered around the Milky Way Galaxy trail in the middle of the sky. I never saw so many stars like that before growing up under the light pollution of the St. Louis metro area and going to college in the Kansas City metro area. With the dark skies and endless stars, Crater Lake is an ideal place to contemplate one’s place in the universe. 

Milky Way over Crater Lake. An image given to Brian Ettling by a park visitor.

Crater Lake as a place of romance and wonder 

My first Crater Lake summer was magical. I enjoyed my job working as a stock clerk at the huge Crater Lake Gift Store at Rim Village. I found friends to go hiking with me to help me explore every scenic trail in the park that summer. If no one was available, I happily hiked on my own. 

Crater Lake was a very romantic place that the concession staff found ways to couple off, date, and sneak into each other’s beds in the co-ed staff dormitory. The romance of the location caught up with me when I found my first girlfriend Sheila that summer. Both of us explored intimacy with each of us losing our virginity that fall as the outside temperatures declined with winter fast approaching in October. Crater Lake’ enchanting power and later working in Everglades National Park together kept our relationship going for eight years. We eventually drifted apart as our interests diverged and compatibility waned. Others may say Paris, France is the most romantic place in the world. Personally, the romantic beauty of Crater Lake is like nothing other. 

The romance, the enjoyment of working and living in the park, the opportunities for fabulous hiking right outside my door, the spectacular beauty, and the friends I made kept bringing me back to Crater Lake during the summers for the next 25 years. Like Will Steel, I could not get enough of that park. I found different seasonal summer jobs to keep me rooted there. 

In the summers of 1993 and 1994, I worked as a gift store lead clerk. In 1995, the General Manager of the Crater Lake Company asked me to work as the night auditor at the newly rehabilitated Crater Lake Lodge, which reopened that year. I soon discovered working all night and sleeping through the daytime splendor of Crater Lake was not my cup of tea. In 1996, the National Park Service (NPS) hired me to be an entrance station fee collection ranger at Crater Lake. I enjoyed this job, except for the occasional angry visitors who were upset when I charged them the then $5 entrance fee that to enter Crater Lake National Park. 

I worked this ranger job the following summer in 1997. Around that time, NPS then changed the job title to Visitor Use Assistant (VUA). I didn’t care what they called me. I just loved wearing the ranger uniform, as well as living and working at Crater Lake. I did not become financially rich working at Crater Lake, but my life experience seemed so incredibly rich working there. 

Photo by Brian Ettling of Crater Lake National Park. Photo taken on June 19, 2012.

Rediscovering Crater Lake and becoming an interpretations ranger 

From 1998 to 2002, I found a year-round position working as a naturalist guide on the boat tours at the Flamingo Outpost in Everglades National Park. I enjoyed the convenience of living in one location all year, as opposed to only working from May to October at Crater Lake. The Everglades wildlife was magnificent with the alligators, crocodiles, dolphins, manatees, and wide variety of colorful birds. I loved narrating about the history, ecology, and pointing out the wildlife to the park visitors and birdwatching on my own in my free time. However, by the spring of 2002, I was burned out of working my job in Flamingo. Crater Lake was calling me back home. 

Renowned American naturalist John Muir once wrote“The mountains are calling and I must go.”

I totally understood that sediment. On February 22, 2002, I bought a brand-new green Honda Civic, which I still drive to this day. I no longer felt stranded to the Everglades without a car. It was time to leave and return to the place I loved so deeply: Crater Lake National Park. Like the summers of 1996-97, I worked as a VUA ranger at the entrance stations during the summer of 2002. It felt like such a blessing to wear the ranger uniform again. Sheila and I ended our dating relationship in Flamingo in 2000. It took years for me to rediscover myself. Crater Lake was a place of rejuvenation and healing for me to create a new life for myself as a single person. 

In the summers of 2002-2005, I worked this VUA ranger position at Crater Lake. By 2006, I wanted a new job at Crater Lake. The Crater Lake naturalist rangers, or interpretation rangers as the NPS called them, seemed to really enjoy their jobs at Crater Lake. They narrated the boat tours, lodge talks, guided hikes, and led evening campfire programs for the park visitors. I hung out with them in my free time. I wanted to be one of them. I was very excited receiving the phone call in early May that I was hired as a Crater Lake interpretation ranger for the summer of 2006. 

In June 2006, the Crater Lake Interpretation staff had three weeks of training before we gave our ranger talks during the summer. Time was short to create an original lodge talk. 

Photo of Park Ranger Brian Ettling at Crater Lake National Park on taken on June 9, 2015.

Creating a ranger lodge talk around William Gladstone Steel

For some reason, the park founder, William Gladstone Steel, intrigued me. His life story, especially how it related to the history of how Crater Lake became a national park, seemed like a very rich story to interpret for park visitors. Like any historical person, his life story included bravery to overcome steep obstacles. At that same time, his story contained some humor how he would step on toes and push other people around to get what he wanted. He made enemies how he treated people. Steel’s enemies were not always the bad guys, sometimes he was. He was not always an angel. Quite frankly, at times, he could be a jerk. 

The lead naturalist Dave Grimes and I both thought Will Steel could be perfect subject for a lodge talk because he was relatable. He was a flawed human being that succeeded because of and despite his flaws. He was like a family member in that you could love and admire, but other days you would want to scream and even disown them. My talk would not be a ‘living history talk’ where I would pretend that I was Will Steel, wear a costume, and portray him to an audience like an actor would. However, this would be the type of character that a stage or screen actor would kill to play since he is such a complex and dynamic character. 

When I later described how I interpreted Will Steel in my lodge talk, I would tell anyone that talking about Steel was similar to giving a ranger talk on the late President Richard Nixon. I would say that ‘Like Nixon, there was some good things and some not so good things.’ 

Ironically, my mentor in the national parks, Ranger Steve Robinson, who I knew from 1993 from working in both Crater Lake and the Everglades thought that Steel was a charlatan and a greedy fraud. He could not stand him and thought he had few redeemable qualities. 

Park Ranger Steve Robinson 1950-2007

As I researched Will Steel for my lodge talk, I met with the Crater Lake Park Historian, Steve Mark. In my meeting with Steve Mark, he had a more nuanced view. He tends to choose his words very carefully. He would quickly acknowledge Steel’s impressive accomplishments. At the same time, I got the impression from Steve Mark that Steel was a self-promoting showman who could really alienate people while accomplishing great things for Crater Lake and himself. Again, Steel was a complicated man that would be wonderful to interpret for a park audience. 

On the July 4th holiday weekend in 2006, my William Gladstone Steel lodge talk was ready. I even practiced it for a fellow ranger Dave Harrison the night before. Dave really liked my talk. He gave me some helpful tips for this talk that I use to this day.  

The title I gave my lodge talk was “Let’s Have a Toast to the Man of Steel!” The visitors seemed to love my talk. I received a very positive response from them. This talk was given on the back porch of the Crater Lake Lodge or inside in the Great Hall if the weather was cold, rainy, or snowy outside. Visitors would typically order alcoholic drinks from the Cocktail servers from the Lodge Dining Room. Steve Mark described it as ‘giving a ranger talk in a bar.’

That atmosphere intimidated some of my fellow rangers, but not me. In fact, I would even encourage my audience before I started my talk by saying: ‘Please order drinks because I have heard that my jokes are not funny when people are sober.’  

That received a big laugh from the visitors who happened to be there. They could tell this would be a fun and entertaining program. My humor enticed them to stay for my entire talk.

Brian Ettling giving his ranger talk at the back porch of the Crater Lake Lodge on June 14, 2019.

Even more, I told my audience that the title of my talk happening at 4 pm was Let’s Have a Toast to ‘the Man of Steel.’ I explained that I would have a toast at the end of my talk around 4:20 pm. I even handed out plastic margarita glasses that I joked that I stole from my mom’s liquor cabinet. I informed them that I would not provide drinks to fill up those glasses. Even more, the glasses were dirty. I never washed them. They were just props. I wanted everyone to have glasses to give a toast at the end of my talk, especially the children. 

Again, I did this to draw in an audience to my talk and work with this venue. I wanted to show that this would be a fun and historical talk where I would not be taking myself too seriously. 

A couple of weeks later, lead ranger Dave Grimes saw my ranger talk. He was very impressed and full of praise for it. He thought it was so good that he thought we should video tape it. He suggested that we then send the recorded ranger talk to the NPS Interpretive Offices in Harper’s Ferry, Virginia. If they approved, those rangers would then certify my lodge talk, which would look great on NPS job evaluations and ranger job applications. 

Thus, Grimes recorded my 2006 talk. I later uploaded it to YouTube where you can see it here. 

On February 27, 2008, The Stephen T. Mather Training Center for NPS sent a letter to Crater Lake National Park that this submitted ranger talk “demonstrates the certification standards.”

My lodge talk ranger “Let’s Have a Toast to the ‘Man of Steel!’”

In this next section, I posted the text from my Will Steel ranger talk that I gave at the back porch or inside of the Great Hall of the Crater Lake Lodge from the summers of 2006-2017. It is basically what I said in the YouTube video. I copied and pasted the transcript from the YouTube video, while also weaving in text that I thought improved this talk over the years. 

“I am showing four o’clock on the nose here this afternoon.

I’m going to get started with my Ranger talk. 

My name is Ranger Brian, and the title of my talk is let’s have a toast to the Man of Steel. We’re going to be talking about William Gladstone Steel who’s considered to be the founding father for Crater Lake National Park, the first man to research on the lake, our first concessionaire for Crater LakeNational Park and the second superintendent.  

But before I go any further, I thought I would start off with an inaccurate historical reenactment that’s something that William Gladstone steel did to help make this a national park. 

Picture this: the year is 1888 and William Gladstone Steel went to the headwaters of the Rogue River about 40 miles from us here. He then gathered up about 600 baby rainbow trout and he put them in a large milk bucket. (I demonstrated this by dumping Goldfish crackers into two plastic buckets filled neared the top with water)

He started transporting the fish in a horse-drawn wagon but the buckets were sloshing out too water on that bumpy wilderness terrain. He then decided to carry the full buckets by foot 40 miles up to the rim of Crater Lake.

Brian Ettling carrying goldfish crackers in two plastic buckets filled with water during his lodge talk in the Great Hall of the Crater Lake Lodge. Photo taken on May 22, 2016.

Can you imagine what was going through his mind as he was doing this?  

I know what’s going through my mind right now. Something like: 

‘Boy are these buckets heavy but I still yeah 40 more miles to go. 

I sure wish somebody would carry these buckets for me, but I guess it’s going be up to me! Oh wow! My back is killing me, and I still have 38 more miles to go.’

But just think: If I can get these fish in Crater Lake maybe fishermen will join me in the efforts to make this a national park. However, until then my back is still killing me.’ 

Well, you get the idea. He carried these fish up to the rim. In a sense, that was the easy part. There was no trail down a lake surface here in 1888 so he then hauled these fish by foot down a lake shore on these unstable rock ledges. He successfully planted 37 fish in Crater Lake.  

Now what were you thinking as I was carrying these buckets: 

‘Man, that ranger is crazy!’ 

The reason why I carried these buckets and expended all that energy was to demonstrate just a small fraction of energy that William Gladstone Steel took to make this a fabulous national park so we can enjoy this beautiful view from the back porch of the Crater Lake Lodge here today.

The planting of fish into Crater Lake was a success. NPS continued this tradition until 1941. Today, two different species of fish live at Crater Lake, rainbow trout and kokanee salmon. 

Because of Will Steel, Crater Lake is now a fun place for fishermen. Since the fish are exotic and non-native, you don’t need a fishing license to fish in Crater Lake. There’s no size limit, number limit, and catch limit. You can catch as many fish as possible to your heart’s content, but you have to take them home with you. There’s no catch and release. 

But William Gladstone Steel is so much more than just ‘the fish guy.’ He’s considered be the founding father of Crater Lake National Park. 

So, who is this guy? 

Photo from Crater Lake National Park Historical Photo Collection.

William Gladstone Steel was born in Stratford Ohio in 1854. As a schoolboy in Kansas in 1870, he claimed he read a newspaper article about this beautiful lake in Southern Oregon mountains called Crater Lake. This newspaper was wrapped in his lunch. He made a mental note that someday as an adult he was going to visit crater lake. 

Well, in 1872 his parents moved to Portland, Oregon. Here is a picture of him. Isn’t he a handsome man, ladies? Our park curator thought so as she put together these pictures for me.

Finally, in 1885 he ventured to Crater Lake. He took the train down from Portland to Medford, Oregon. It took several days for him to get here by horse. The last couple hundred yards, he was so eager to see Crater Lake, that he ran ahead of his horse to get a look at the edge of the Rim. He saw it from around this area here where the Crater Lake Lodge is located here today. 

On August 15, 1885, he saw Crater Lake for the first time. This is how he described seeing it:

“Not a foot of land about the lake had been touched or claimed. An overmastering conviction came to me that this wonderful spot must be saved, wild and beautiful, just as it was for future generations, and it was up to me to do something. How, I did not know, but the idea of a national park appealed to me.”

After William Gladstone Steel saw Crater Lake, it changed his life. When he returned to Portland Oregon, he started a petition drive. He got hundreds of signatures from friends, associates, and anyone he could find to start a campaign to make Crater Lake a national park. On top of that, he wrote close to a thousand letters nationwide basically every major magazine and newspaper in the country. He proclaimed to them that Crater Lake should be a national park. 

Brian Ettling in his Crater Lake Lodge ranger talk demonstrating with a sample letter that Will Steel wrote over 1,000 letters nationwide urging Crater Lake should be a national park.

Even more, he wrote every single member of Congress a letter trying to lobby them to make this a national park. However, none of these efforts were enough. William Gladstone Steele then had to make numerous trips to Washington DC to personally lobby senators and congressmen to make this a national park. He became such a fixture at the Capitol that senators and congressmen would duck around doors and hallways whenever they saw him. 

They thought William Gladstone Steel as a pest and a crackpot. They probably even told at one point, ‘Will Steel, go home! Give it up! We are not going to turn your little lake into a national park!’ 

But Will Steel would not give up. He said at one point, “I got licked so often that I learned to like it!”

After 17 years of having a force of will and a persistent determination, Congress finally gave into Will Steel to get him off their backs. In 1902, Congress passed a law to make Crater Lake into a national park. President Theodore Roosevelt signed it into law on May 22, 1902. Today Crater Lake National Park is the fifth oldest national park in the United States. 

William Gladstone Steel is quite a success story. But think about it. From the first time he saw Crater Lake until it became a national park, took 17 years of his life for his dream to come true. 17 years that’s a long time. It’s about the same amount of time it takes to raise a child from when they’re born until about the time, they’re ready to graduate from high school. 

So, what does that say? 

  1. It says that one person. Any one of us here today can make a difference. 
  2. It also says never give up on your dreams, no matter how crazy they may be.
  3. It also says it may take an incredible amount of persistence and determination, as well as hearing a lot of ‘no’s for your dreams to come true.  
Photo from Crater Lake National Park Historical Photo Collection.

That’s a great story by itself. But Will Steel is more than ‘the fish guy’ and the founding father of Crater Lake National Park. He was the first person to do scientific research on Crater Lake. 

After he saw Crater Lake in 1885, he was determined to find out the lake’s depth. He applied and received funding from the U.S. Geological Survey to try find out the depth of Crater Lake. 

Now the high-tech equipment in 1886 determined depth was a lead pipe, a piano wire, and hand crank. After he attained this equipment in Portland, he then three boats built up to survey the bottom of Crater Lake. He then had all this equipment shipped by rail from Portland down to Ashland. Next they had to use horse-drawn wagons to get this equipment up to Crater Lake.  

Just right after they left Ashland and were Phoenix Oregon, Will Steel and the surveying party were heckled by a teenage boy. The boy told Will Steel, ‘I don’t know who built your boats, but they probably never seen a body of water before. Your boats won’t float on Crater Lake.’  

William Gladstone Steel was not one to listen to his critics. He thought about what that boy said, and this is what he wrote in his book afterwards, ‘This brings to mind the fact that a critic is a person who finds fault with something of which he is densely ignorant.’  

Kids, keep that in mind next time somebody makes fun of you. Or tells you your dreams can’t come true. They’re nothing more than a critic and a critic is no more than a person who finds fault with something of which he is densely ignorant.

Brian Ettling addressing the children during his ranger talk at the back porch of the Crater Lake Lodge. Photo taken June 14, 2019.

It took over a week on those poor trails with those horse-drawn wagons, but they got the boats up to the rim around the Rim Village area. In a sense, that was the easy part because they had to get the boats from the rim to the lakeshore. It’s about a thousand feet down here so they had to use ropes and pulleys to slide the boats downhill. Will Steel later wrote that as they slid the boats downhill, it caused a few rockslides He claimed that was a rockslide just left of the boats. However, the boats made it safely the shoreline. The boats could float. 

They used that lead pipe, piano wire and hand crank to do 168 soundings determine the depth. They determined in 1886 that Crater Lake was 1996 feet deep. It was the deepest lake in the United States and one of the deepest lakes in the world. We knew that as early as 1886. 

Now 1996 feet deep sounds a little off, doesn’t it?  In 2001 we used advanced sonar, and we now know the lake is 1,943 feet deep.  Will Steel and his surveying party for about 53 feet off from today’s measurement. That sounds like a lot. However, if you do the math, they were only about 3% off as they knew an 1886 this was the deepest lake in the United States.

With that fact, they could more persuasively tell Congress this should be a national park. 

Not only is William Gladstone Steel ‘the fish guy,’ the founding father of Crater Lake National Park and the first person to do research, but he is also the first concessionaire. 

In 1902, after this became a national park, William Gladstone Steel hoped to become the first Park Superintendent. He figured he’d spent 17 years of his life blood, sweat, and tears trying to make this a national park. If you were a member of Congress in 1902 who would have been the logical choice to pick as the first Superintendent of Crater Lake National Park?

Will Steel, Of course!  

Brian Ettling holding up a picture of William Gladstone Steel during his lodge talk at Crater Lake Lodge. Photo taken on May 22, 2016.

However, many members of Congress then didn’t like William Gladstone Steel. They thought he was a pest, a crackpot, and a zealot so they were very happy to turn down his request. Understandably, William Gladstone Steel was very disappointed, but he was not going to be denied increasing the enjoyment of Crater Lake for himself or all of us here today. 

In 1907, he formed the first concessionaire here and that year he started the campground at Mazama Village located roughly where it’s at here today. It was referred to as the Anna Springs Campground then. Besides the camping he also started the boat tours around 1907. 

Back then, you would take a trail from the Rim Village area down to Lake Shore and then you take a rowboat out to Wizard Island. Besides the boat tours and the camping, he also started something else. Just curious: has anybody ever here ever been to the Crater Lake Lodge?

Yes, this is where we are at today. In 1909, Will Steel received funding from friends to start building the lodge. The original Crater Lake Lodge was constructed between 1909 to 1915. 

This was how William Gladstone Steel this described all of his efforts as the park concessionaire, “All the money I have is in the park and if I had more it would go there too. This is my life’s work making Crater Lake accessible for folks because what good is scenery if you cannot enjoy it fully.”  

So, in a sense, with fish to catch, boat tours and these comfortable rocking chairs, William Gladstone Steel but want us to have a completely fulfilling visit to Crater Lake. It’s as if he personally invited all of us here today with the rocking chairs, a nice place to have dinner in the dining room, a comfortable bed to sleep in here tonight, and the campground. 

Besides all that, he also did one more thing to make this a fun national park to visit. Did anyone here drive up to crater lake from the outside? 

Yes, all of us did. Unless you came in by helicopter or parachute. None of us would come up here without a good road system. In 1907, if you came to Crater Lake from Klamath Falls, it took about two full days by horseback. Today, it is little over one hour drive. Around that time from Medford, it took between three to five days to get here by horseback on those very poor trails.  

In 1909, he pushed Congress to obtain road surveying funding so roads could be built to connect to nearby Oregon cities. He dreamed up a circular drive around Crater Lake so we can enjoy the views of the lake from many different angles. The original Rim Road received federal funding for construction between 1913 to 1916. The modern Rim Drive replaced it in 1934. 

Brian Ettling photo of the Crater Lake trolleys on the East Rim Drive at Crater Lake take in June 2013.

In a sense, with the road system, boat tours, these rocking chairs, and the lodge, it was as if Will Steel invited each and every one of us here today. He would want us to be able to admire and appreciate Crater Lake just as he admired and loved Crater Lake over 100 years ago. 

I don’t want to give you the impression that Will Steel is a saint because he is not. He is human just like all of us here today. During those years when he was the concessionaire, he wasn’t satisfied. He was determined, even hell bent, to become the park superintendent.

He did everything he could to become superintendent, even starting false rumors about the first superintendent, William F. Arant. History shows William Arant was a decent superintendent but Will Steel rarely said anything nice about him. He used his connections to have William Arant removed. Arant knew he was being pushed out. Like any of us losing our jobs because of political means, William Arant was not going down without a fight.

He and his wife refused to leave his superintendent’s office. Even more, he refused to leave sitting at the chair at his desk. Therefore, two U.S. Marshals had to pick him up from his chair and toss him out into the street. He didn’t get the message the first time and went back inside the Superintendent’s residence. The U.S. Marshals then ejected him out of the home again. 

If anybody drives into Crater Lake in from the south entrance, you might notice a sign for the Goodbye Picnic Area. That is literally the spot where the US marshals escorted out William Arant as the first superintendent. William Arant said ‘Goodbye!’ as defiantly as he could. 

The park then said ‘hello’ to our second superintendent William Gladstone Steel.  He was the Crater Lake Park superintendent between 1913 to 1916. 

Photo from Crater Lake National Park Historical Photo Collection.

As we all know, unfortunately, what comes around goes around. 

In 1916, Congress created a new organization to bring all the national parks under one government agency. It was called the National Park Service (NPS). 

The first Director Stephen Mather did not like Steel’s antics. He wanted park superintendents loyal to him and the NPS mission. Mather did what he could to push out Steel. 

Steel then used his political connections in Oregon to create the job of the Park Commissioner for himself. Steel would then be the official magistrate overseeing any federal court cases involving Crater Lake. It was just a ceremonial job. The only court case he ever heard was some teenage boys throwing rocks at people below them.  

He now had a way to support himself for the rest of his life with his park commissioner salary. In one way, he felt blessed with all he was able to accomplish for Crater Lake. 

At one point he said, “I set out what I accomplished to do and I’m now happy.”  

Photo from Crater Lake National Park Historical Photo Collection.

At the same time, he felt like he did so much for Crater Lake. Yet, he felt kind wounded and empty towards the end of his life.  

Do you remember the pictures of that dashing young man I showed you towards the beginning of my talk? Let me show you some pictures as he gets up in years. You will notice that he starts to look more stern, serious, and sad here as he advances in age. As he was getting up in years, he felt like he still had a lot of ideas for Crater Lake here. 

In 1916, his friend Williams Jennings Bryant stayed at the lodge. He told Will Steel that ‘If you want to do boat tours you need to have an elevator that goes down to the lakeshore.’ 

Anybody who has taken a boat tour and walked down the 1.1 miles and the 700 foot drop on the Cleetwood Trail knows that’s a great idea. The National Park Service said ‘no’ to that. 

When the Park was constructing the Rim Road, William Gladstone Steel wanted a section of the Rim Drive to go to the lake shore. He envisioned driving your car to Lake Shore to open up your car door and touch the water. Again, the National Park Service said ‘no.’ 

Besides the Crater Lake Lodge, Will Steel wanted to construct at least three more lodges, so more people had places to stay at Crater Lake. Again, the National Park Service said ‘no.’ 

Even more, Steel wanted a bridge out to Wizard Island so a driver could drive their car to the island and then drive to a big sprawling parking lot at the top. Again, NPS said ‘no.’

Photo from Crater Lake National Park Historical Photo Collection.

Will Steel was feeling more wounded as he got up in years feeling like the National Park Service and the public forget about him.  He felt like he did so much to create Crater Lake National Park, protect research, and promote it. Yet, he felt was being forgotten about over time. 

Maybe some of us could relate today. How many folks here are parents or even grandparents?

Do you ever feel like sometimes your kids fully don’t appreciate all the efforts and sacrifices you took to raise them? 

That’s kind of how William Gladstone Steel felt.  Again, he was born in Ohio in 1854 and he died in Medford, Oregon 1934.  A couple of years before he passed away, he wrote, “My heart is full of sorrow of forgotten old man broken and condemned to solitude…I look across my little valley and see strangers and friends passing and review, but they know me not, neither do they care.”  

Unfortunately, he felt like he was forgotten about towards the end of his life.  

Well, in a moment we’re going to do what we can to correct this here today because we’re going to celebrate William Gladstone Steel with a toast. 

So, grab your wine glasses, plastic water bottles, your beer bottles, my plastic margarita glasses, your paper cups, your coffee mugs, and your fish buckets. Anything you have here. Get ready because we’re going to do a toast here. 

Everyone ready?

So, in conclusion, to William Gladstone Steel, The Father of Crater Lake National Park. He did so much throughout his life so we could enjoy this beautiful view from the back porch of a Crater Lake Lodge here today. Cheers!”

Brian Ettling giving a toast to William Gladstone Steel at the end of his Crater Lake ranger talk on May 22, 2016.

 William Gladstone Steel information not included in my lodge talk 

William Gladstone Steel had an amazing life story. My lodge talk felt like it wrote itself when I created it. However, I could not squeeze into my talk many fascinating aspects of his life. His parents were abolitionists when he was growing up in Ohio in the 1850s. They were anti-slavery zealots and this idealism rubbed off on Will Steel. As I would tell visitors in conversations, Will Steel became a zealot following his parents example, but he was a zealot for Crater Lake. 

He was an idealist that hated the Ku Klux Klan when it was showing some prominence in Oregon during the 1920s. He enrolled his only child, his daughter Jean, into a Catholic High School in Medford, Oregon in the 1920s, and he was not even Catholic. He just wanted to thumb his nose at the KKK. Oddly, this was one of the very few things that we knew about his personal life.

He never talked about his wife Lydia Hatch that he married in Portland in 1900 or his daughter Jean Gladstone Steel, born in 1902. All his writings and numerous scrapbooks were all about Crater Lake. After my lodge talk, visitors wanted to know about his personal life and if he had any direct descendants. His daughter Jean took over the Crater Lake Park Commissioner job after Will Steel died in 1934, but she had no children. 

As it was, my talk was very long. Sometimes it would go over 25 minutes for a 20-minute program. I tried to include my audience where I could with rhetorical questions scattered throughout the talk and the toast at the end. Plus, I sprinkled in humor where possible to share the oddities about Will Steel and myself. To my frustration, the limited time of this talk prevented me from sharing that William Gladstone Steel organized and founded the Mazamas. He established this mountaineering climbing club on the summit of Mount Hood in 1894. 

The Mazamas, located in Portland, Oregon, promotes climbing, responsible recreation, and conservation values through outdoor education, advocacy, and outreach. Steel’s goal was to create a climbing organization run by climbers for climbers. He insisted that summiting a glaciated peak be a requirement for membership (a threshold that was removed by vote of the membership in January 2023). Remarkably, the Mazamas were never a ‘Boys Only Club.’ Women did not obtain the right to vote in Oregon until 1912. Yet, Steel designed the Mazamas in 1894 to be open to men and women as long they climbed a glaciated peak.

Photo by Brian Ettling of the 125th Celebration of the Mazamas that happened at their facility in Portland, Oregon on July 28, 2019.

Crater Lake sits in a collapsed volcano that had an enormous eruption that imploded upon itself 7,700 years ago. Today the collapsed dormant volcano is referred to as Mt. Mazama. Steel organized a Mazama excursion to Crater Lake on August 21, 1896. One of their activities at Crater Lake was to hike up to the summit of Wizard Island to christen the volcano as Mt. Mazama. No doubt it was probably another way for Steel to get his mountaineering buddies to help his campaign to urge Congress to pass a bill to make Crater Lake a national park. 

In 1885, to start his campaign to make Crater Lake a national park, I shared in my lodge talk that Steel “wrote close to a thousand letters nationwide basically every major magazine and newspaper in the country…Even more, he wrote every single member of Congress a letter trying to lobby them to make this a national park.” 

It was tough to squeeze in my talk that Steel’s job in 1885 was the Supervisor of Postal Carriers in Portland, Oregon. This probably greatly helped his letter writing campaigns. Even more, I liked to joke during my talk that Steel might have even pressed some of his employees into his service to write Congress to make Crater Lake a national park. 

Frequently, visitors asked me after my talk what Will Steel did for a living. I would respond that he was the Supervisor of Postal Carriers in Portland. According to Crater Lake historian Steve Mark, Steel also dabbled a bit in real estate. He never seemed to be a wealthy man. Any money he seemed to make went towards developing Crater Lake into a national park. 

Steel seemed unbothered the way he offended people. This included the sheep herders, loggers, members of Congress, local southern Oregon residents, the first Crater Lake Superintendent William Arant, and the first Director of the National Park Service Stephen Mather in his singular obsession to turn Crater Lake into a national park with great roads and amenities for the park visitors. He wanted the best possible experience for tourists visiting Crater Lake. He was not afraid to step on toes of others who stood in the way for his vision for Crater Lake. 

From 2006 to 2017, while I was a park ranger at Crater Lake, I never got burned out talking about Steel’s grit, determination, vision, tenacity, and singular focus to make Crater Lake into a wonderful national park to visit today. Will Steel was a fun lodge for me to present. I was always eager to give it since it was such an enjoyable experience for the park visitor and me. 

Brian Ettling giving a ranger lodge talk at the back porch of the Crater Lake Lodge on June 14, 2019.

Traveling to Everglades National Park for the winter from Crater Lake 

When I gave this talk, I was always a political person looking how I can make the world a better place. I wanted to do this by somehow lobbying Congress to pass better policies, especially for climate change. I felt a kindred spirit with Will Steel with our deep love for Crater Lake, living life on my own terms, finding my passion and being a zealot about it, not caring what people think who don’t share my passion, and a ‘steel determination’ to make a difference in the world. While William Gladstone Steel’s single focus was to make Crater Lake a terrific national park to visit, my singular focus for over 15 years now is to make a difference for climate action. 

I have always considered Crater Lake to be my place where my heart sings from when I first saw it in May 1992. However, Crater Lake was always a summer job for me. Because of the very snowy and long winters there, I could never find a way to get a permanent year-round job there. It’s also a very isolated place in the winter. I did get to work there into mid-November 1993 for the Crater Lake gift store and work from mid-March to May as an interpretive ranger for the Classroom at Crater Lake program. It was sublime to be there with all the snow.

At the same time, I felt like I got cabin fever with all the snow. It did not feel like an ideal match to work those jobs during those months. After enjoying Crater Lake for 6 months, I was typically eager to travel and work elsewhere during the winter months to see other beautiful places.

In my first winter away from Crater Lake National Park, I worked a season 1992-93 for the concessionaire, TW Services which then became part of the Amfac Corporation, at the Flamingo Outpost in Everglades National Park. After spending 6 months in the snowy mountains of Crater Lake, the Everglades was the exact opposite with a very flat landscape. 

The highest point on the park road was just 3 feet above sea level. The majestic snowcapped mountains surrounding Crater Lake were a distant memory in the Everglades. Plus, when I arrived in December 1992, the weather was hot, humid, and muggy, the kind of summer weather I had escaped from my home state of Missouri to spend the summer at Crater Lake. When I looked out into the sawgrass prairie, one of the dominant landscapes of the Everglades, it looked no different than a bland Midwest farm field to me. 

Photo by Brian Ettling of the Everglades “River of Grass” taken in 1993.

Moreover, I was picked up by a concession employee in Homestead, Florida. I had an amazing Amtrak two day train ride from St. Louis to Miami, Florida, arriving in mid afternoon. However, there was no friendly concessionaire employee to pick me up when I arrived. When I called the company, they said I was going to have to take a bus down to Homestead, located just outside of Everglades National Park. I was informed that they don’t pick new employees up at the train station or airport, just the bus stop in Homestead. I was not planning on taking a bus to Homestead and I was livid. I wanted to immediately turn around and spend the winter with my parents in St. Louis. However, something told me not to do that to give this experience a try. 

Arriving in Homestead that evening, it looked like a war had just been fought there. Hurricane Andrew destroyed the area just three months earlier. The city still had piles of debris and not much electricity making it a very dark place to meet someone at night. I had never seen an aftermath of a natural disaster, and it looked very creepy and bleak. When we drove into the Everglades late that moonless night, it was very dark outside. It felt like I was being driven into the depths of hell. I wanted to turn around and leave, but I did not know how. With his love of Crater Lake, I don’t think that Will Steel would have liked to have been in this situation either. 

Everglades National Park inspires me to take Climate Action 

At the same time, I make the most of this time working in Everglades National Park. In February 1993, I even went on an overnight canoe trip in a mangrove creek called Alligator Creek with friends Jim and Rob. This felt like an Indiana Jones experience to be canoeing in the mangrove creeks where the trees would form a canopy overhead, making me feel like I was going to be swallowed up by the Everglades. The mangroves have a lot of dissolved muck at the base of their watery roots which gives off a hydrogen sulfide smell, like rotten eggs. We were irritated by mosquitoes at times during this trip in the mangrove creek and at our shoreline campsite that evening.  The mosquitoes got so bad that we made a campfire at night not to stay warm by to stand close to it to try to get some relief from the mosquitoes. 

We saw an alligator or two during this trip, as I did nearly every day that I worked in the Everglades. However, alligators don’t like to live in the brackish saltwater mixture of the mangroves. They prefer the interior freshwater areas in the Everglades and throughout Florida. When we spotted an alligator, Jim would humorously say, “Alligator Creek lives up to its name!” 

Jim said it often enough that Rob and I started laughing and would later on impersonate the way he would say that. In the middle of this trip, we did see the endangered American Crocodile. It laid totally still on an embankment by the mangrove shoreline. It wanted to regulate its body temperature, like all crocodilians do, on a warm day. At the same time, it had its mouth open so the salvia on its tongue could cool off its head, similar to how us humans sweat on a hot day. The mangrove creek was only about 8 feet wide. There was not much room when we were paddling down the creek getting close to it. When we got too close, the shy crocodile wanted no part of us. It jumped in the water and disappeared faster than you could blink.

Photo by Brian Ettling of an American crocodile in Everglades National Park. Photo taken in 1993.

I am glad that I did not give up on the Everglades from my first impression. The area started to grow on me. Like discovering the stories of Will Steel determined to make Crater Lake into a national park around 1902, I started reading about Marjory Stoneman Douglas. She is considered to be the mother of Everglades National Park. I remember seeing some TV show about her when I was growing up in Missouri. I became intrigued about her. She was still alive then at the age of 102 and still making public statements how the Everglades must be protected. 

In my spare time, I read her 1987 autobiography Voice of the River. I found her book to be very inspiring, insightful, and even humorous. Like William Gladstone Steel, Marjory Stoneman Douglas became another huge hero of mine and deep influence on my life. At that time, I was religious, but I loved her ending sentence in her autobiography, “I believe that life should be lived so vividly and so intensely that thoughts of another life, or a longer life, are not necessary.” 

Unlike the love at first sight when I first saw Crater Lake, it took time for me to develop a love and deep appreciation for the Everglades. Looking at the Everglades through the eyes of Marjory Stoneman Douglas, as well as my mentor Steve Robinson really helped. 

Brian Ettling’s copy of Voice of the River by Marjory Stoneman Douglas. He purchased this book in the Everglades in 1993.

Steve was a fourth generation Floridian, originally from the Tampa Bay area, who worked seasonally in Everglades National Park for 25 years from 1980 to 2005. He was an amazing storyteller about the Everglades and nature that people flocked to see his ranger talks. Ironically, Steve started working as a summer interpretation ranger at Crater Lake National Park in 1993. Like me around that time, he was spending his summers at Crater Lake and his winters in the Everglades. With his long hair and long beard, he looked and talked like Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax.

Steve had a deep knowledge of the Everglades with enchanting stories to go with it, that I would hang onto every word he said. Everyone else I met who knew Steve did the same. Even when I strongly disagreed with Steve, I still thought he had a very valid, well-thought-out point of view that was worth considering. For instance, he was no fan of William Gladstone Steel. Steve did not think Will Steel was a worthy conservationist or should be put on a pedestal as ‘The Father of Crater Lake National Park.’ He thought of him as nothing more than a carnival huckster like P.T. Barnum. Steve did not like how Steel pushed so hard to be the concessionaire at Crater Lake and wanted to make a lot of money as the Crater Lake concessionaire. 

On the other hand, Steve thought Marjory Stoneman Douglas was someone to be admired and emulated. He met Marjory years ago by chance while working as an Everglades ranger. He was very impressed with her. He found her to be very humble, knowledgeable yet self-confident in his brief conversation with her. I spent hours at Steve’s park housing residence in Flamingo and Crater Lake hanging onto every word that he told me. Fortunately, Steve’s wife Amelia and their young son Darby did not mind my frequent presence to learn from Steve. 

I found the stories of the Everglades, especially in the Flamingo area, to be very captivating. I loved all the wildlife I in the Everglades, such as the alligators, crocodiles, dolphins, manatees, and the wide variety of birds. By April 1993, I was eager to return to Crater Lake. However, the Everglades, especially the Flamingo area drew me back to work there again in the winter of 1995-96 and again during the winter of 1997-98. 

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

My first winter, 1992-93, I started working in housekeeping for the Flamingo Lodge and then moved my way up to a Front Desk Clerk Position. In the winter of 1995-96, I tried working as a night auditor at the Flamingo Lodge. I made it through the season, but it was not my cup of tea. That time, I brought my girlfriend Sheila with me, and she enjoyed working there with me at the Flamingo Lodge. We then returned to work there for the winter of 1997-98. 

By 1998, I saw the concession naturalist guides looking like they had a great time narrating the boat tours. I wanted to work that position and jumped at the opportunity when an opening happening in January 1998. By this point, I had worked in the Everglades for several seasons, but I still knew so little about the birds, the history, the ecology, and other subjects that the visitors wanted information. I spent those first few months reading, studying, and cramming all I could to appear as a competent and well-versed naturalist guide.

As I have blogged about before, I became concession naturalist guide on the boat tours in the Everglades in January 1998. Soon afterwards, visitors started asking me about global warming. I knew next to nothing about that subject. Visitors hate when park rangers and naturalist guides tell you, “I don’t know.” Soon afterwards, I rushed to the nearest Miami bookstore and the park library to read all I the scientific books I could find on climate change.

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

Photo of Rock Reef Pass in Everglades National Park.

It really shocked me that crocodiles, alligators, and beautiful Flamingos I enjoyed seeing in the Everglades could all lose this ideal coastal habitat because of sea level rinse enhanced by climate change. I just did not know what to do about it. 

I enjoyed my job as a year-round naturalist ranger at Flamingo in Everglades National Park. However, by the spring of  2002 I was burned out of that job. I wanted something new. In the winter of 2003, I worked as a seasonal interpretation park ranger at the Everglades City Visitor Center at Everglades National Park. From 2003-07, I enjoyed this winter job of narrating the boat tours, leading guided canoe trips, giving ranger led bike tours of Everglades City, giving ranger talks, and creating an evening presentation on the birds of the Everglades. 

My supervisor at Everglades City offered me a choice for the winter of 2007-08 to return to Everglades City or work as a winter seasonal interpretation ranger at Shark Valley Visitor Center in Everglades National Park. I always had enjoyed taking the Shark Valley Tram Tour or renting bikes to traverse on the 15-mile Tram Road. With the man canal next to the west side of the Tram loop, it was a great waterway to see alligators and many wading birds. 

During that winter, I became so worried about climate change that I could not sleep at night. In the spring of 2008, I quit my winter job in Everglades National Park. In 2009, I started spending the winters in my hometown of St. Louis, MO to start organizing for climate action. I did not know what to do, but I was determined I was going to make a difference for climate action.

Brian Ettling leading a ranger led canoe trip in Everglades National Park. Photo taken around 2004-2007.

Becoming a climate change organizing zealot in Missouri and Oregon 

By 2009, for seventeen years, I had worked as a seasonal park ranger at Crater Lake National Park, Oregon in the summers. Everglades National Park, Florida was where I worked in the winter up until 2008. Two years before, in 2006, I became an interpretive park ranger at Crater Lake. I absolutely loved my job as an interpretation ranger at Crater Lake giving ranger talks, guided hikes, leading evening campfire talks, and narrating the boat tours. I loved every minute of standing in front of an audience, in these iconic places sharing about nature.

2006 was also a pivotal summer for me because I saw in a nearby movie theatre the climate change documentary, An Inconvenient Truthabout former Vice President Al Gore. That documentary lit a spark to do something about climate change, but I did not know what to do. 

This climate change calling went for years without an outlet to act. In 2009, I gave myself the title of The Climate Change Comedian on a dare from a friend in Ashland, Oregon. While spending the winter of 2010 in St. Louis, my sisters booked me to give ranger/climate change talks at my nieces and nephews schools, and for their boy and girl scout groups. A family friend in St. Louis helped me develop my own website www.climatechangecomedian.com, which is still active today. That same winter, I created my own climate change PowerPoint talk, Let’s Have Fun Getting Serious about Solving Climate Change.

In the spring of 2010, I gave this PowerPoint talk with friends in St. Louis. In August 2010, I showed it to fellow rangers at Crater Lake National Park. In February 2011 while spending the winter in St. Louis, I joined South County Toastmasters to improve my public speaking skills and follow my ambitions to be a good climate change communicator. That same month, I started writing this blog and posted two entries that month.

From March to May 2011, I worked at the St. Louis Science Center at their Climate Change exhibit. For years, I didn’t feel like I knew enough to talk to Crater Lake visitors about climate change and give ranger talks about it. That changed in August 2011, I was finally brave enough to debut a climate change evening campfire ranger talk called The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, which I recorded for YouTube in 2012

Brian Ettling presenting his climate change evening ranger talk at Crater Lake in the summer of 2015.

I felt very scared when I started giving this climate change talk at the Crater Lake campground Amphitheatre for audiences of up to 100 visitors. I was very afraid that I would get visitors who would want to argue with me about climate change and debate the science. Actually, the opposite happened. The park visitors were very appreciative and gave me a lot of positive feedback. I loved giving this climate change evening program at Crater Lake until I stopped working there at the end of the summer of 2017. Hopefully, Will Steel would have been proud of my climate change evening talk. I shared how climate change impacted Crater Lake. I then encouraged my audience to take action to reduce the impact on Crater Lake and our national parks. 

During the winter of 2011-12, a friend Larry Lazar and I co-founded the Climate Reality Meet-Up group (now known as Climate MeetUp-St. Louis). I met Larry the previous spring when I worked at the Climate Change exhibit at the St. Louis Science Center. In December 2011, we held our first monthly gatherings with speakers to learn more about the science of climate change and how we could act on climate.  

Becoming a volunteer Climate Change Lobbyist 

One of the guest speakers who came to our Climate Reality Meetup group during the winter of 2012 was Carol Braford. Back then, Carol was the St. Louis group leader with Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL). Carol is still active to this day with CCL as the Midwest or “Tornadoes” Regional Coordinator. During the winter of 2012 at Climate Reality Meet Ups, Carol Braford was the very persistent with me that I should come to a monthly Citizens Climate Lobby conference call. I even blogged about Carol in January 2013, Want to change the world? Be Persistent!

I attended a CCL meeting at Carol’s home in April 2012 and immediately became hooked. I then volunteered with CCL for over 10 years. During the summer of 2012 while I was working at Crater Lake, my goal was to start a CCL chapter in Ashland, Oregon. I perceived Ashland as a very progressive community that cares deeply about the Earth and natural environment. I thought it would be a great fit for a CCL group. Plus, I wanted to have a local CCL chapter that met while I was spending my summers working at Crater Lake. In January 2013, my friend Amy Bennett called to inform me that the southern Oregon CCL chapter that still meets in Ashland, Oregon had been established. To this day, it’s one of my proudest accomplishments. 

I started to embody Will Steel’s energy, vision and determination as I threw myself into volunteering for CCL for climate action. Like Will Steel, I wrote letters to the editor and opinion editorials (op-eds) to newspapers to urge members of Congress and the public to support CCL’s carbon fee and dividend policy. I was so proud when my first op-ed was published in my hometown newspaper the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on April 19, 2013, For Earth Day, a GOP free-market solution to climate change. One year later, for Earth Day 2014, the Post-Dispatch published another op-ed I wrote, For Earth Day: Asking our elected officials to be climate heroes.

Photo of an opinion editorial by Brian Ettling in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on April 22, 2104.

On one my cross country drives from St. Louis to Crater Lake, I was invited to be a guest speaker at Grand Canyon National Park on May 13, 2013. I gave my Crater Lake climate change evening program to an audience of over 200 park visitors and staff at the Shrine of the Ages Auditorium. This was my biggest audience ever for a climate change presentation. 

In July, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch published my op-ed, What Keeps Me Up Late at Night. In October, I was on a roll getting climate change op-eds mentioning Crater Lake published in newspapers across Oregon, such as the Klamath Falls Herald and News, Medford Tribune, Grants Pass Daily Courier, Bend Bulletin, Eugene Register-Guard, the Salem Statesman Journal, Ashland Daily Tidings, and Oregon’s largest newspaper in circulation, the Oregonian, out of Portland, Oregon. In 1885 after he saw Crater Lake, Will Steel wrote to newspapers across the United States in his campaign to make Crater Lake into a national park. I did not match Steel’s efforts to submit letters to the editor in newspapers across the U.S. However, I did get published in newspapers across Oregon in 2013. Hopefully, Will Steel was impressed. 

As I blogged about previously, in August 2013, I joined with friends with the southern Oregon Chapter of CCL in lobby meetings with the Medford, Oregon office district staff of then Republican Congressman Greg Walden (OR-02) and Democratic U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon. I remember it as a fun and empowering experience, even if we could not find much agreement in our meeting with Walden’s Deputy Chief of Staff. Merkley’s staff was pleasant and totally agreed with us that climate change is a huge concern. However, neither Congressional staff did not seem to have much to say about the carbon fee and dividend policy.

Those Oregon lobby meetings inspired me to organize my own lobby meeting when I spent the next winter in St. Louis. I organized first my first lobby meetings with the district office of my Missouri Republican member of Congress, Rep. Ann Wagner (MO-02), on February 14, 2014. I don’t have memories of what was said in that meeting, since so much time has passed. However, I remember it being a great experience that we respectfully listened to Rep. Wagner’s staff, and they listened to us. We agreed to meet again in the future to have more discussions.

Citizens’ Climate Lobby volunteers, including Brian Ettling, meeting with staff of Congresswoman Ann Wagner at her Ballwin, Missouri office on February 14, 2014.

In a sense, I loved organizing and attending CCL lobby meetings with Congressional staff that it energized me to travel 8 times from 2015 to 2019 to lobby Congressional offices for CCL for climate action, specifically their carbon fee and dividend policy. In November 2015 and 2016, I flew from St. Louis to Washington D.C, which was roughly a two-hour flight each direction. 

When my wife Tanya and I moved to Portland, Oregon in February 2017, it would take me all day to fly to Washington D.C. I would typically catch a 5:30 am to 6 am flight from Portland and arrive in Washington D.C. very late that afternoon or evening. It was amazing to travel that quickly across a continent. When William Gladstone Steel made his numerous trips from Portland, Oregon to Washington, D.C. from 1885 to 1902, there were no airplanes and airports then. He would be riding trains across the United States. No doubt these trips would take several days to get there. I can’t image the sacrifices he took to travel all the way to Washington D.C. and back on those trains to lobby in Washington, D.C. After I moved to Oregon, I marveled at his dedication and determination to take lobby trips in the era he lived before modern air travel.  

I loved every moment lobbying in Washington D.C. In November 2016, Tanya and I had the thrill to also lobby elegant Parliamentary offices in Ottawa, Canada for Citizens Climate Lobby Canada. I relished the excitement of putting on my best and only dress suit to take the DC Metro commuter trains to the U.S. Capitol. Then seeing the iconic U.S. Capitol Building up close. 

Once I would pass through security to enter the Congressional Office Buildings, it was a fun corn maze to try to find specific Congressional offices where I had scheduled meetings with Congressional staff. It was fun to plan the lobby meetings with other CCL volunteers attending the meetings with me. It was always enjoyable to meet with the Congressional staff to listen to where they are at with climate policies and then petition them to support our carbon fee and dividend bill. I enjoyed the debriefing meetings with the CCL volunteers afterwards and then writing thank you cards which I then dropped off at the Congressional Offices. 

I wonder if Will Steel had as much fun as I did. However, he probably did since he traveled to Washington D.C. so many times. Even more, he did not take it personally when members of Congress would tell him no to his request to make Crater Lake a national park. After all, he famously said, “I got licked so often that I learned to like it.” 

Brian Ettling getting ready to lobby Congressional offices in Washington D.C. on June 11, 2019.

My highlights as a volunteer Climate Change Lobbyist 

Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL) trains their volunteers for the Congressional Lobby days to be respectful, grateful, and appreciative when we lobby Congressional staff and members of Congress. Even more, they want us to be more interested in what the Congressional staff and members of Congress are saying than what we have to say. As a result, over the years, CCL has established a reputation on Capitol Hill of being friendly, appreciative, and great listeners. 

Thus, members of Congress and their staff would say that they enjoyed and looked forward to their lobby meetings with CCL. I had conservative Republican Congressional staff, who I probably did not see eye to eye much with them on policy, tell me how much they liked meeting with me. I especially heard this from the staff of GOP Rep. Ann Wagner. When I spent my winters in St. Louis volunteering with CCL from 2013-2017, I lived in Rep. Wagner’s district. I worked very hard to develop a good rapport with her Ballwin Missouri office and Washington D.C. staff. 

The last time I lobbied her Ballwin MO office in March 2017, I brought homemade chocolate chip cookies from my mother-in-law Nancy. At first, the staff was hesitant to take them fearing that the cookies were store bought and I spent a lot of money buying them. They did not want to be perceived as violating ethical rules for accepting expensive gifts. Only when they fully realized that the cookies were homemade and not a paid gift, they started devouring the cookies. I wonder what Will Steel would have thought about my homemade cookies as lobbying gifts. 

In November 2017, I let Congresswoman Ann Wagner’s office know I had moved to Oregon, I was no longer a constituent, and I might not be lobbying her office anymore. The Legislative Assistant was very complimentary saying that I was still more than welcome to come lobby their office anytime. I found that comment to be very heartwarming. 

All my lobby meetings in Washington D.C. and in the local Congressional offices were always with Congressional staff. The exception to this was when I went to a ‘Missouri Mornings’ coffee gathering in U.S. Senator Roy Blunt’s office. This was a more coffee meet-and-greet where Missouri constituents who happened to be in Washington D.C. could stop by Senator Blunt’s Congressional Office to briefly meet him, shake his hand, and get their picture with him. I did go one time. The picture taking and interaction with Senator Blunt was so brief that I was not able to urge him to support climate legislation. However, this meeting was another great opportunity to chat hand an offhand conversation with his staff to urge his support for climate legislation. 

In November 2016, I signed up for a similar office meeting with U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri. Her morning coffee meeting seemed to be open to any citizen wanting to discuss politics and policy with her. She had a female group of Georgetown University Law students in the meeting with her, as well as a couple of constituents from Missouri like me. She gave great career advice to the female law students. She urged them to get more involved in politics because we do need more women in politics.

Brian Ettling meeting with U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill from Missouri on November 17, 2016.

Each of us at the coffee table shared why we were there. When it came to my turn, I stated it was because of climate change. This meeting happened just two weeks after the November 2016 Presidential election where Donald Trump was just elected President. Claire very angry how voters had chosen Republicans in Missouri and nationally. She remarked, “I hate to be less than lady like and say this but, here it goes. To me, it felt like voters in Missouri and middle America gave the Democratic Party the middle finger.” 

After I shared my concerns about climate change, she retorted, ‘Good luck with anything good happening with climate policies for the next four years.’ Shen pointed her finger at me and snarled, ‘Oh, the Keystone XL pipeline will definitely be passed now.’ 

Sadly, Senator McCaskill was a supporter of the tar sands oil pipeline which would have gone from Alberta Canada down to Texas and Louisiana to the oil refineries there. It was a disappointment that she was still a strong supporter of that policy and she felt so pessimistic about climate policy with Trump becoming President in a few months. Thus, it was not a productive meeting for me to urge her to support CCL’s carbon fee and dividend policy. However, I still felt very happy that I was able to talk to her directly about supporting CCL climate policies, even if she was not in the mood to listen. 

Besides my very brief interactions with Senators Claire McCaskill and Roy Blunt of Missouri, all my Washington D.C. lobby meetings were with Congressional staff.  While that might disappoint some people who want to directly lobby their members of Congress for a policy, I was perfectly fine with meeting with Congressional staff. After all, Congressional staff has the ear of the member of Congress and regularly interacts with them. If the Congressional staff does not like to policy or bill you are advocating, they will probably advise the member of Congress not to support it either. On the other hand, if the Congressional staff likes your policy, you may have a powerful ally that can help sway the Representative or Senator to support your position. 

This happened to me in June 2019 when CCL volunteers and I met with the Washington D.C. Congressional staff of Rep. Fredericka Wilson, Florida District 24. We had a very productive conversation with her Legislative Correspondent, Devin Wilcox. Devin seemed very supportive of the CCL carbon fee and dividend bill we were urging her to support, known as the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (EICDA). I very distinctly heard Devon say towards the end of the meeting that he felt his boss Rep. Wilson could easily co-sponsor our bill.

Brian Ettling (far left) as with a group of Citizens’ Climate Lobby volunteers as well as staff of Congresswoman Frederica Wilson at Rep. Wilson’s office on June 11, 2019.

The Florida CCL volunteers, and CCL Washington D.C. staff stayed in touch with Devin for months afterwards. I stayed in touch with the Florida CCL volunteers to make sure they were in contact with Devin regularly. That June 2019 meeting, plus CCL volunteer and staff follow up conversations with Devin led to Congresswoman Frederica Wilson to join with 96 of her U.S. House colleagues to co-sponsor the EICDA on February 24, 2020. 

Unlike William Gladstone Steel, I was not able to get Congress to create a Crater Lake National Park in my years of climate lobbying. However, I still felt like such a sweet victory when I was part of the effort that led to Rep. Wilson co-sponsoring a climate bill. 

Lobbying Oregon Legislators for Climate Action 

In the summer of 2018, I started volunteering with Renew Oregon with their efforts to work closely with Oregon state legislators to pass a cap and invest bill. For Renew Oregon volunteers like me, much effort would be needed to regularly lobby state legislators to urge them to make passage of the cap and invest bill a high priority.

That summer, I also started writing letters to my Oregon Representative Diego Hernandez. I met him for the first time on September 25, 2018, on a legislative working day at the Oregon state Capitol. I always enjoyed my interactions with him. We had a great rapport. Diego was always very supportive of my climate lobbying and organizing. 

Periodically, I sent him letters and cards urging him to support the cap and invest bill, which became known as the Clean Energy Jobs Bill or HB 2020 in the 2019 Oregon Legislative session. From my conversations with him, I had no doubt that he would vote yes on these climate bills. 

On February 6, 2019, Renew Oregon had a lobby day at the Oregon state Capitol to meet with the state legislators to urge them to support The Clean Energy Jobs Bill. When I met with Rep. Hernandez inside his office, he said, ‘Look right behind you, Brian.’

Photo from Brian Ettling of letters that he and other constituents wrote to Oregon Rep. Diego Hernandez. Photo taken on February 6, 2019.

When I looked right behind me on his bulletin board, he had attached with push pins all the letters I sent him over the previous months. There were at least 3 letters from me. Apparently, Diego liked to display letters from constituents, and most of the letters tacked up on the bulletin board were from me. This showed me very clearly that elected leaders do read letters from constituents and hang on to them when considering policy decisions and votes.

Rep. Hernandez laughed with delight as I was amazed seeing my letters and taking pictures of them hanging from his bulletin board. He continued to be very supportive of my climate lobbying and strongly supporting the climate bills I advocated. He probably would have supported those bills even without my lobbying. However, I think he liked that he had constituents like me cheering him on and strongly urging him to support climate legislation.

Sadly, Rep. Diego Hernandez resigned from office on March 15, 2021 due to sexual harassment charges filed against him from staff and lobbyists at the Capitol. The House Ethics Committee planned to recommend a House floor vote to expel him. We must believe the women and I thought he should be fully accountable for his actions. I was very disappointed that he did not act in a professional manner towards women in his position of power. I considered him to be a friend. I texted him on the day he resigned to offer that I am there for him if he ever wanted to talk. It was sad and totally understandable why he had to resign from the legislature.

While lobbying state legislators with Renew Oregon in 2019-2020, I built very good relations with other state legislators in the Oregon House and Senate. As I blogged about previously, during the summer of 2020, I held Zoom and phone meetings with Oregon Legislators that I met during my lobbying for the 2019 and 2020 cap and invest bills. As a Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) volunteer, I urged them to endorse 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. September 17, 2020, I met by phone then 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. Because of a great rapport I had built up with Senator Michael Dembrow and his friendship with Tiffiny Mitchell, he proudly introduced the resolution on the Oregon Senate floor February 4, 2021, when it officially became known as Senate Joint Memorial 5 or SJM 5.

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. Unfortunately, SJM 5 fell short of receiving a floor vote in the Oregon House in June 2021. The exciting part was that 30 House members, including 7 Republicans, signed on to co-sponsor SJM 5. The Oregon House has 60 members. Thus, half the chamber were co-sponsors of SJM 5.

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

More recently, as I have blogged about, I developed a good rapport with my current Oregon legislators Senator Kayse Jama and Representative Andrea Valderrama, as well as other nearby Oregon Legislators, as I have lobbied them for various climate legislation. 

My favorite part of my William Gladstone Steel Ranger Lodge talk 

One particular section of my Will Steel talk I hope really stuck in people’s minds. This was the central part of my Will Steel talk that deeply connected with me: 

“After Will Steel saw Crater Lake for the first time, it literally changed his life. When he went back up to Portland Oregon, he started a petition drive. He got hundreds of signatures from friends, associates, and anyone he could find to start a campaign to make Crater Lake a national park. On top of that, he wrote close to a thousand letters nationwide basically every major magazine and newspaper in the country. He proclaimed that Crater Lake should be a national park. 

Even more, he wrote every single member of Congress a letter trying to lobby them to make this a national park. However, none of these efforts were enough. William Gladstone Steele then had to make numerous trips to Washington DC to personally lobby senators and congressmen to make this a national park. He became such a fixture at the Capitol that senators and congressmen would duck around doors and hallways whenever they saw him. 

They thought that Will Steel as a pest and a crackpot. They probably told him, ‘Will Steel, go home! Give it up! We are not going to turn your little lake into a national park!’ 

But Will Steel would not give up. He said, ‘I got licked so often that I learned to like it!’

After 17 years of having a force of will and a persistent determination, Congress finally gave into William Gladstone Steel to get him off their backs. In 1902, Congress passed a law to make Crater Lake into a national park. President Theodore Roosevelt signed it into law on May 22, 1902. Today Crater Lake National Park is the fifth oldest national park in the United States. 

William Gladstone Steel is quite a success story. But think about it. From the first time he saw Crater Lake until it became a national park, took 17 years of his life for his dream to come true. 17 years that’s a long time. It’s about the same amount of time it takes to raise a child from when they’re born until about the time, they’re ready to graduate from high school. 

17 years. So, what does that say? 

  1. It says that one person. Any one of us here today can make a difference. 
  2. It also says never give up on your dreams, no matter how crazy they may be.
  3. It also says it may take an incredible amount of persistence and determination, as well as hearing a lot of ‘no’s for your dreams to come true.”  

The part of my talk that would get a big laugh from the audience was when I said that Will Steel “became such a fixture at the Capitol that senators and congressmen would duck around doors and hallways whenever they saw him.”

To emphasize this point, I pretended to duck behind a wall just for a moment during my talk acting like I was a U.S. Senator or Representative avoiding Steel at the Capitol. The audience seemed to know exactly what I was doing which made my talk even more humorous. It was one of my favorite highlights from this talk and a line that stuck in my head for how determined he was in his lobbying to urge members of Congress to make Crater Lake into a national park.

Brian Ettling presenting his ranger talk at the Great Hall of the Crater Lake Lodge on May 22, 2016.

Like Will Steel, someone tried to avoid me with my climate lobbying  

When I was starting to write this blog, I remarked to my wife Tanya, “At least no members of Congress or state legislators tried to duck around doors and hallways when they saw me.” 

“Actually, they have,” she responded, and we both laughed. She remembered me telling the story of how Oregon Senator Laurie Monnes Anderson went out of her way to avoid me.   

On June 25, 2019, I was lobbying as a Renew Oregon volunteer at the Oregon Capitol building in Salem, Oregon to urge state Senators to hold a vote to pass the Clean Energy Jobs Bill, HB 2020. The Democratic Senators had the votes to pass the bill. Unfortunately, the Republican state Senators fled the state to deny the 2/3 required quorum to hold a floor vote in the Oregon Senate. The Democratic Senators who remained at the state Capitol were unsure what to do. 

Renew Oregon wanted volunteers like me to continue raining a presence inside the Capitol Building. They asked us to continue wearing our Renew Oregon t-shirts. They wanted us to be seen in the lobby of the Senate offices and in other parts of the building by the Democratic Oregon Senators. We didn’t want the Democratic Senators to give up on HB 2020. The Democratic Senators were under a lot of pressure to kill this bill so the Republican Senators would return to the Capitol, and they would have the required quorum to pass the state budget and all the remaining bills in the session. The Oregon Constitution stated that the Legislative session had to end by midnight on June 30th. Otherwise, all the bills would die. Thus, it was extremely tempting for the Democratic Senator to sacrifice HB 2020 for all their other legislative priorities. 

As I was sitting in the lobby in front of the Oregon Senate offices, Oregon Senator Laurie Monnes Anderson of Gresham came out of her office talking to some of her staff. At that time, Senator Monnes Anderson held the position of President pro tempore of the Oregon Senate, which is one of the most powerful positions in the Oregon Senate. According to Ballotpedia, “The Senate president pro tempore (“for the time being”), or pro tem, is the second-highest-ranking leadership position in the U.S. Senate and most state Senate chambers (such as Oregon). The president pro tem presides over the Senate body in the absence of the Senate president. In most cases, the president pro tem is a senior-ranking member of the majority party.”

With her high-ranking position, Senator Monnes Anderson was going to be a key vote to keep HB 2020 alive or to kill the bill to pass all of the other pending state legislation when the Oregon Legislative session ending in just a couple of days. We desperately needed her support.  

Senator Monnes Anderson knew me from attending the joint town halls she held in Gresham with Representative Carla Piluso that winter and spring. Just one month before, on May 29th, three Renew Oregon volunteers and I met with her in her office to lobby her to support HB 2020. She took her picture with us holding up the sign that read “Clean Energy Jobs.” In late June, I ran into her in a stairwell in the Oregon Capitol when the Senate was getting close to have a floor vote on HB 2020.

Oregon Senator Laurie Monnes Anderson holding up “Clean Energy Jobs” sign meeting with Renew Oregon volunteers, including Brian Ettling on May 29, 2019.

I was wearing my “Clean Energy Jobs” t-shirt when I saw her in the stairwell. I commented about the situation, “Isn’t this exciting?” 

She gave a tepid and guarded response of “Yes” without saying anything more. 

Thus, she clearly saw me and knew who I was on June 25th when I sat in a chair in the lobby in front of the Senate offices. While walking and talking to her staff into the lobby, she looked up and saw me. She then turned white like she saw a ghost. Without saying a word to her aides or me, she quickly turned around to take another set of stairs to the Senate floor. I had no plans of saying anything to her. However, I had no idea I had the ability to scare high-ranking Oregon elected officials. I was simply there as a physical presence to urge Oregon Senators not to give up on the Clean Energy Jobs Bill, HB 2020. Unfortunately, just my presence in the Oregon state Capitol, as well as other Renew Oregon volunteers that day, really scared the hell out of her. 

I had forgotten that story, but my wife Tanya had not. She reminded me of it this past week as I wrote this blog. Hopefully, William Gladstone Steel would have been proud of me Just like him, some legislators when out of their way to avoid me when I tried to lobby them. In his case, he was urging members of Congress to pass a law to designate Crater Lake as a national park. In my case, I urged Oregon legislators to pass impactful cap and invest climate action legislation.

My New Toast to William Gladstone Steel 

For 17 years, Will Steel never gave up on his dream for Congress make Crater Lake into a national park. In my case, I will never give up on the Oregon Legislature and Congress passing laws to act on climate change. Will Steel famously said, “I got licked so often that I learned to like it.” 

In my case, it stings badly when state or federal level climate legislation I am working on gets defeated. I don’t think I will ever learn to like it, but I am going to stay tenacious and persistent until we pass the necessary climate legislation to reduce threat.  

I always ended my Crater Lake Lodge ranger talk with the toast, “So, in conclusion, to William Gladstone Steel, The Father of Crater Lake National Park. He did so much throughout his life so we could enjoy this beautiful view from the back porch of a Crater Lake Lodge here today. Cheers!” 

After writing the blog, I think I will end with this toast: “So, to William Gladstone Steel, The Father of Crater Lake National Park. He did so much throughout his life to inspire me to be the climate change lobbyist that I am today. Cheers!”

Brian Ettling giving a at toast to William Gladstone Steel at the ranger lodge talk at the Great Hall of the Crater Lake Lodge on May 22, 2016.

Brian Ettling March 2023 ©

Leading a Climate Change speaking tour across Oregon in 2017

Brian Ettling at Pilot Butte in Bend, Oregon on Monday, October 30, 2017

As climate organizer, one of the actions I am most proud is leading a speaking tour across eastern and southern Oregon for Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL) in October 2017. Many CCL friends and volunteers helped make this tour a success. However, it was also one of the bravest and boldest feats I have done driving 1,600 miles myself in my own car to 11 cities over 12 days.

During this 2017 tour, CCL Oregon had an active website where I blogged daily updates about the tour, oregontour.org. Unfortunately, that website was no longer maintained a couple of years afterwards. Fortunately, with the Internet Archive Wayback Machine, also known as web.archive.org that allows people to go “back in time” and see how defunct websites looked in the past. Thank goodness for its founders, Brewster Kahle and Bruce Gilliat, for developing the Wayback Machine to provide “universal access to all knowledge” by preserving archived copies of these now non-functioning web pages, such as oregontour.org.

Because of that Oregontour.org website, for years I did not bother to post about that tour on this blog because I took it for granted that the website would always be there. I noticed this website had disappeared in 2021. I then emailed the Portland CCL volunteer who created the website, Nathan Grey, to see if he could help me revive the website. He responded that he didn’t think there is an easy way to reconstruct it. However, he gave me this link find some snapshots of it on the Wayback Machine. I was relieved to see that important chapter of my life was still preserved and archived there.

This 12-day tour from October 24, 2017 to November 4, 2017 was a huge undertaking for me. For a recap, I had
• 9 public outreach events
• 2 lobby meetings with district offices of Rep. Greg Walden
• 2 newspaper editorial board meetings
• 2 live radio interviews
• 4 published articles in Oregon newspapers featuring the tour
• 4 press releases published announcing local tour events.

Brian Ettling speaking at the Cook Memorial Library in La Grande, Oregon on October 25, 2017.

Starting the 1,600 journey of this climate change speaking tour from Portland, OR

From my home in Portland, Oregon, I drove on the first all the way to Baker City, Oregon to give a community presentation. This was about a 234-mile one way drive to far eastern Oregon. During that drive, not far from my home on I-84 in the Columbia River Gorge, I heard a loud bang underneath my car as I ran over something, not knowing what it was. Fortunately, my car was fine to complete this journey as I worried my car might have been messed up somehow.

It felt like a long drive to Baker City, but I did arrive around late in the afternoon, plenty of time before giving a presentation that evening at the Baker County Library. Two Portland CCL volunteers, Barry Daigle and Jason Lewis met with me at majestic Geiser Grand Hotel in downtown Baker City the to go over the logistics for the next two days. They were originally from that area. They each generously drove from Portland to Baker City to partner with me for these events. They used their local connections to encourage local residents to come to the Baker City talk that evening and the talk in La Grande the next evening.

The trip felt like it was off to a great start because they pointed out to me the front page of the Baker City Herald announcing my talk at the local library that evening. We were not sure what the attendance would be. We were happy that fifteen people did attend.

After Baker City, I spent the next day giving a climate change presentation and newspaper editorial board meeting in La Grande, which was only about an hour away from Baker City. After La Grande, I spent the third day of the trip driving to John Day, Oregon, which was about a three-hour drive. The fall colors of the Aspen trees looked amazing and the 9,036 foot tall Strawberry Mountain looked so majestic towering over the John Day area. I just had to stop at a rest area for awhile to admire the stunning beauty and try to capture it on film.

Image by Brian Ettling of the Strawberry Mountain, located just southeast of John Day, Oregon. Photo taken October 26, 2017.

The fourth day, I drove two hours to Burns to give a presentation. Between giving the presentations, driving to the presentations, setting up for the presentations and various meetings I would have in these towns, I had other tasks. One of the tour organizers, Forrest Roth, told me I must blog at the end of each day to promote the progress on my journey. Very late at night, I would email my daily blog entry and photos to Forrest. He then generously edited what I wrote and uploaded my blogs and images from that day to the Oregontour.org website.

I started to feel bone tired by the third day of my trip. On long car trips, I have always enjoyed when family, friends, or my wife Tanya drives, and I can just sleep in the car. With just me driving, there was no rest for the weary. I could have used a nap so bad! The spare arid eastern Oregon scenery kept me going. It was so beautiful. Sometimes I would drive many miles without seeing another car or person. It made me feel like I was truly in the rugged wide open spacious country of the west.

Every audience for each presentation was so different. My first two presentations in Baker City and La Grande were mostly seniors. High school students in John Day, Oregon made up nearly all the audience on my third night. In Burns, I gave the climate talk in the adjacent community of Hines. It turned out to be a very progressive audience where some of audience members skeptical of the moderate market-based carbon fee and dividend approach that I advocated.

A couple of days later in Redmond, there was a couple of people in their 70s that were quite negative. The woman yelled out that she didn’t believe me when I shared my fear of exposure breathing dirty polluted air of a nearby coal plant growing up near it in St Louis, MO. The man wanted to question the science of climate change and all my sources.

It was exciting to do all this public speaking. At the same time, I never knew what angle they were going to come at me with their questions and comments. At each stop, a CCL volunteer from Portland or nearby city would assist me with setting up the presentation space and networking with the locals attending. Since I was driving by myself several hours from one Oregon city to another, it was always a godsend to see them.

Pacific Crest hikers talk about ‘Trail Angels’ that help them on their journey. I had ‘tour angels’ that helped me along the way such as Barry Daigle and Jason Lewis in Baker City and La Grande, Eric Means meeting up with me on his motorcycle in John Day, Russ Donnelly meeting up with me in Burns/Hines, Russ and Suzanne Butterfield partnering with me in Prineville, Redmond, and Bend, and Sherrill Rinehart working with me in Lakeview, Klamath Falls, Medford, and Grants Pass. Yes, I was driving by myself sometimes for long stretches, but a Tour Angel met me at each location, as well as very friendly local volunteers of the towns where I was speaking.

Portland CCL volunteer Eric Means and Brian Ettling in John Day, Oregon. Photo taken October 27, 2017

Each time, the CCL team in Portland and around the state found local volunteers in advance where I could spend the night in their homes. Each of these homes I stayed in during my trip were always very comfortable. The hosts were always so warm and welcoming. I just wanted to crash in their homes. The problem was that I would get in their homes late after doing my evening presentations and chatting with the attendees afterwards. Then, the next morning, I would need to leave early to drive to the next city. Or, I had morning obligations in that same town, such as meet with the mayor, do a radio interview, newspaper editorial board meeting, meet with Congressional staff, and squeezing some sightseeing.

My two-year wedding anniversary fell in the middle of this trip, and I really did miss my wife, Tanya. I love traveling with her and being around her. She is always so supportive when I give my climate change talks. She would have liked to have seen the scenery in eastern and southern Oregon that I experienced. It would have been fun for Tanya to meet the people along with me. Like any couple, we would have had fun afterwards chatting about the people we enjoyed meeting and those that were a challenge.

Having said that, I love traveling and being on the road. In a sense, I was living one of my favorite Willie Nelson songs, On the Road Again or the Johnny Cash song I’ve Been Everywhere. Even more, I was talking about climate change every single day with actions like presentations, meeting with local officials, chatting with local residents, radio interviews, newspaper interviews, and Congressional staff meetings. In March 2017, I did a mini climate change speaking tour in Missouri organized by my CCL friend George Laur. These trips traveling around a state would start to exhaust me. At the same time, these trips were also exhilarating for me that I was possibly making a difference for climate action.

Brian Ettling speaking in John Day, Oregon to a group of mostly high school students on October 26, 2017.

How The Oregon Stewardship Tour came together for me to take this journey

I got the idea for this tour from my CCL friend Peter Bryn who had organized a tour around Texas in 2015 called ‘Texas Energy Freedom Tour!’ Five CCL volunteers, Peter Bryn, Sandy Pinto, Ricky Bradley, Larry Kremer, and Brett Cease j conducted a successful 29-day, 30-city roadshow.

They held 71 events: 25 public presentations primarily to identify new CCL group leaders, and 46 meetings with various community leaders including Chambers of Commerce, county Farm Bureaus, mayors, newspapers, faith leaders, and Republican County Chairs.

This looked like a lot of fun, so I wanted to organize similar tours for my home state of Missouri and my adopted state of Oregon. I chatted with Peter a couple of times on the phone in early 2017 for his advice to organize an Oregon tour. One of the keys that Peter advised me was to form an organizing committee to plan an Oregon Tour. After I moved to Portland in early February 2017, I worked with CCL Greater Northwest Regional Coordinator Tamara Staton and CCL Portland Group Leader Daniela Brod to form a tour committee.

Other CCL volunteers from Portland and around Oregon did coordinate with the committee which ultimately help me undertake this tour in late October and early November. At one point, early September, it looked dicey that the tour could happen. Tamara even said later on that she came close to pulling the plug at that point. However, the committee worked hard to find the interested people in the eastern and southern Oregon cities to pull it together.

At the same time we were striving to put together an Oregon tour, CCL volunteers in Washington state were organizing their own state tour. They called their excursion the “Water, Wind & Fire” tour. Led by Washington Citizens’ Climate Lobby volunteers Steve Ghan, Dr. Sara Cate, and John Sandvig, and Jen Syrowitz of Audubon Washington, they completed a successful 15-day, 12-city tour through Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho. Their tour started just as mine was ending. From November 2-17, they held 31 events, including:

15 public presentations
3 individual meetings with government leaders
7 meetings with community leaders
5 radio interviews
1 TV interview

During the summer, John Sandvig and I had phone calls to exchange ideas to make our tours successful. The difference between ‘Texas Energy Freedom Tour!’ and the Washington State “Water, Wind & Fire” was that there was a group of people completing those tours. In my case, it was just me driving around the state giving all of the presentations, doing all the radio and print interviews, and doing what it took, along with the local volunteers to make our tour succeed.

Promotional image for the 2017 Oregon Stewardship Tour where I was the lead presenter and organizer.

We called our Oregon Tour “The Oregon Stewardship” Tour. We thought that taking climate action, especially with urging Congress to pass a carbon fee and dividend, would be one of the best ways to be good stewards of Oregon’s precious air, land and water. The goal was to go to the most conservative parts of eastern and southern Oregon to see if we could make an impact to get more volunteers in those areas for CCL. During the summer, it was understood that at least one other person was going to join me for this tour. However, he dropped out in early September. Thus, it still felt like the weight of the tour was all going to be on me, even if there were volunteers helping me at each location.

The Highlight of the Oregon Stewardship Tour: Visiting Lakeview, Oregon

The weight did take its toll on me. When I was staying in Bend around the 7th day of the tour, I noticed that I was starting to come down with a cold. Fortunately, I had a light schedule that day. Bend CCL volunteers and I had a meeting with the Bend Office with the District Director of GOP Congressman Greg Walden. My hosts in Bend generously allowed me to stay for a day to rest up before continuing on the next leg of my trip. Resting for that day helped a tiny bit, but my body seemed worn down by the tour. I am so glad I plowed ahead to complete the tour.

From Bend, I drove to Lakeview, Oregon on November 1, 2017. I had a 3-hour drive to Lakeview, which is about 14 miles north of the northeast California border. Lakeview was one of the highlights of my trip. It’s located in one of the least densely populated areas of the United States. My host was Jim Walls, a local resident who wore a cowboy hat, cowboy boots, and a western belt buckle. He spoke with a down home twang like someone that you would hope to meet visiting a western wide open spaces landscape. One of the first things Jim told me was,

“Son, this is not rural out here. This is frontier country. You could drive over 100 miles in any direction leaving Lakeview and not see another human being.”

Jim Walls was the Executive Director for the Lake County Resources Initiative (LCRI), a non-profit working on natural resource projects to promote local clean energy projects to reduce the threat of climate change. With Jim’s leadership and the efforts of LCRI, Lake County had become one of the first counties in the U.S. to be a net exporter of clean energy.

After I arrived in Lakeview, Jim gave my friend Sherrill and me a tour of the massive field of solar panels next to the town. These solar panels and geothermal wells were providing not just enough energy for Lakeview, but these Lakeview clean energy facilities were exporting energy to California. Jim mentioned that the new tax revenue from solar enabled Lake County to hire new staff for the Lakeview hospital and boosting other job growth for the local economy. All the solar and geothermal looked like the future for the United States and the world. It gave me so much hope. Jim’s efforts have not gone unnoticed.

Brian Ettling with Jim Walls in Lakeview, Oregon on November 1, 2017.

10 years ago, Jim Walls gave a TEDX talk, Lake County, Oregon – America’s 1st Zero-Energy County: Jim Walls at TEDxOSU. In 2020, Lakeview’s large scale solar projects and Jim Walls were featured in the documentary The Other Side of the Hill, which explores the impacts of a changing climate in rural Eastern Oregon. Jim Walls is quite a visionary and a trail blazer showing that the United States, especially rural deep red conservative U.S, can move away from fossil fuels to a clean energy future.

Jim had a great way speaking to his conservative neighbors and fellow community members. When he introduced me when I gave my presentation at that evening, Jim said, “I am not a gambler, so who am I to go against 97% of climate scientists are telling us that climate change is real and we need to do something about it. I believe we should leave the planet stronger than we found it, especially for my 14 grandchildren.”

Pushing myself to complete the tour while savoring the experience

After Lakeview, I drove over to Klamath Falls the next day. The first item on my schedule that day was to give a climate change talk to the Mayor of Klamath Falls and 8 other staff from various government agencies invited by the mayor. That evening, I gave my presentation to a group of residents in Klamath Falls. When I worked at Crater Lake National Park as a park ranger for 25 years, I went to Klamath Falls on many of my weekends for grocery shopping, eat at a local Vietnamese Restaurant, and occasionally see a movie. It was a dream come true for me to give a climate change talk in a community I had been to so often.

On November 3rd, I had another two-hour drive from Klamath Falls to Medford, Oregon. The weather had been pleasant, even Indian summer like weather, for much of my trip. Not so that day. The weather was very rainy even a bit snowy driving over the mountain pass from Klamath Falls to Medford. I was very stressed to drive in that weather over the mountains to make it to my lobby meeting in time at the Medford office of Congressman Greg Walden. It was good to see my Southern Oregon CCL chapter friends at this lobby meeting, especially since I had co-founded that chapter four years earlier.

CCL volunteers Sherrill Rinehart, Forrest Roth, David Morse, and Brian Ettling with Rep. Greg Walden’s Southern Oregon Director, Katelyn Pay. Photo taken on November 3, 2017.

In the afternoon, I had a fun radio interview with independent Ashland radio station KSKQ 89.5 FM. My host and friend in Ashland, Oregon, Sherrill, had a reception for me late in the afternoon with local CCL volunteers. Even though I was feeling blah, I still met up with my friends Graham and Aubrey in Talent to go out for a lovely dinner with them. Talent is located 10 miles up the road from Ashland. I pumped myself with hot tea during dinner to keep myself going.

My cold was raging then from all the running around with this tour, excitement, rushing to make it to events on time, all the talking, and the weather bouncing around from hot to cold. I was dousing a lot of hot tea so I could speak and lessen the irritability of my sore throat.

Saturday, November 4th was my final event. I had an hour drive to Grants Pass for my last climate change presentation of the tour. I doused a lot of hot tea and spoke sparingly beforehand to save my voice for the event. Half of the audience was CCL volunteers from the Southern Oregon Chapter there to cheer me on and to engage with the few locals attended. It was a relief to give my final talk to a friendly group as I felt physically exhausted and was fighting a cold during this last day. I had mixed emotions because I loved hanging out with them. At the same time, after 12 days on the road, I just wanted to go home and start feeling better.

When the event finished that afternoon, I had a five-hour drive from Grants Pass to go home to Portland OR. I did not feel like driving. At the same time, I could not wait to see my wife Tanya. Being reunited with her gave me the much-needed inspiration to make it back to Portland that Saturday evening. I just wanted to sleep in on that Sunday to try to recover from that cold.

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

Lobbying in Washington D.C. for climate action and my final thoughts

Just one week later, on Saturday November 11th, I flew to Washington D.C. for the Citizens’ Climate Lobby November Conference and Lobby Day. On Tuesday, November 14th, CCL had our lobby day meetings with Congressional Offices at Capitol Hill. One of the meetings was with the DC office staff of Congressman Greg Walden. The Congressman hoped to join us for this meeting. However, he was held up on the House floor and could not make it on time. I presented to Walden’s staff a final report on my tour across his Congressional District, one of the largest Congressional Districts in the U.S.

One of the motivations for organizing this tour across this district was to show that he does have many constituents who care about climate change. I was able to present a big stack of constituent letters from attendees at my talks during the tour. I ended up speaking to over 180 of his constituents at all the talks I gave.

When southern Oregon CCL volunteers and I had a meeting at Congressman Walden’s Medford Office in August 2013, the staff informed us that “businesses and rural residents were not expressing climate action as a high priority.”

I did my best to show on this tour that climate action is a priority for many of his constituents. 2017 was an awful year in Oregon for wildfire smoke and many acres of forest that had burned. Many people, including constituents in his district, saw climate change firsthand. They wanted action from him, members of Congress, and our government. Congressman Walden did say publicly that climate change is real, and we must address the problem. Even more, he prided himself on driving a Toyota Prius to use less gasoline and emit less carbon dioxide. Yet, it was still hard to get him to budge to support CCL’s carbon fee and dividend policy.

Brian Ettling speaking at Lake County Senior Center in Lakeview, Oregon on November 1, 2017.

Thus, the tour ultimately did not do much to move the needle with Congressman Walden. That did not bother me. I did my best to swing for the fences. I poured my energy into that tour and gave it my all. I would rather have tried and fallen short than not tried at all and always have regrets. As I mentioned at the beginning of this blog, it is one of the climate actions that I am most proud of to this day. It was one of my boldest and bravest feats.

I had fellow climate organizers in Portland that were very impressed that I had completed that tour. For years afterwards, I had some climate Portland area climate advocates tell me they were amazed that I had accomplished that tour. The Climate Reality Portland Chapter invited me to speak about this tour at their December 2017 meeting. I got invited to give other climate talks in the Portland area after I completed that tour.

After the tour, I was very exhausted and needed some time to breathe. I probably should have done a better job to follow up with the most enthusiastic people I met during the tour who expressed an interest in starting CCL chapters in their communities. I did call the most interested individuals a few times for several months afterwards. Sadly, as time passed, their interest faded in starting local chapters. I still hope I planted some seeds and inspired someone in eastern and southern Oregon with that tour to act on climate.

As a side note, this blog is just a summary for what happened on that 2017 Oregon Stewardship tour. For more details of the daily occurrences on that tour, I wish I could still recommend the website from that tour, oregontour.org. However, since that website is no longer active, thanks to the the Internet Archive Wayback Machine, you can still check out more details of that tour at https://web.archive.org/web/20190109033303/http://oregontour.org/

Brian Ettling in Hines, Oregon on October 27, 2017.

Working at a climate change museum exhibit in 2011

Photo of Brian Ettling at the Climate Change Exhibit at the St. Louis Science Center on March 25, 2011.

“I have never seen someone going to work so happy before,” said my mom. At that time, I was working at the climate change exhibit at the St. Louis Science Center in the spring of 2011.

My mom was 100% correct. This was a dream come true to work at this temporary traveling exhibit, Climate Change: The Threat to Life and A New Energy Future. This exhibit was open to the public at the St. Louis Science Center from January 9 to May 15, 2011. For years, I had been very worried about climate change, so this was an ideal and serendipitous fit for me to me working at this exhibit in my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. The only downside that it was a temporary museum exhibit, and I would never find a job like that again.

Growing up by forests and nature in Oakville, Missouri

I was born in St. Louis, and I am a 1987 graduate of Oakville High School in south St. Louis County. Even more, my family has lived in the St. Louis area for several generations.

In 1973, my parents moved to Oakville, Missouri, located at the most southern part of St. Louis County. I really fell in love with the nature by our house. Oakville had a very sleepy almost rural feel to it back then. We were one of the first houses built on our block in our subdivision. During the summers if we were outside, we could really hear the crickets in the forests around our house and an occasional owl. At night, the roads would get quiet. Sometimes, we could even hear the barge traffic on the Mississippi River, which was less than a mile away as the crow flies.

A big forest bordered the back side of the house another forest was across the street behind those houses. Heck, the name of the subdivision was Black Forest, which seemed to perfectly fit the feel of the area. It was heaven to explore these forests as a kid to follow the creeks as far back until the vegetation became too unforgiving and the rocks seemed too treacherous to explore. Up the street, a horse farm bordered our cul-de-sac. It was fun to stare at the horses and the big rolling field where they comfortably called home.

Brian Ettling’s childhood home in Oakville Missouri. Photo taken by Brian in the winter of 1986

My parents never seemed to mind that I was exploring the woods and neighborhood alone or with friends, as long as I came home in time for dinner and arrived home when it was dark. They were busy working, socializing with neighbors and extended family, barbequing, working on the house and doing their thing. They seemed to like my spirit of adventure to be outside. My parents and grandparents would get a kick out of me telling them that I hopped on my bike to chase the occasional rainbows. I could never reach that mythical pot of gold at the end of the rainbow that I thought was real.

It was a magical childhood with a home that seemed like it had a connection with the outdoors. Our neighbors all knew each other. All of us did not know what to do when I cow became loose on our block one Friday evening. The cow had a bell tied around its neck announcing its presence to all of us. That ringing sound brought us all out of our homes. It dumbfounded us about what to do about the cow. We debated about calling the Police. The cow didn’t know what to do either. It was very scared. It howled in such a way that it wanted to go home until a nearby farmer sheepishly retrieved it that evening.

After we moved there, houses sprung up little by little on our street. One time, a big pile of dirt was in front of a house under construction put there by the construction crew. On another summer evening, a large snake laid on top of the dirt mound. Again, this brought the neighbors and our family out of the house with fascination. The snake looked beautiful yet threatening. Like the cow situation, we did not know what to do about the snake either. We admired it, yet we didn’t want it to harm anyone. The kids wanted to get close to poke it, but the parents forbid. The snake got quite irritated as the center of unwanted attention by all of us. Finally, it figured that it had to slither away from us, and it did.

During a couple of weekends during the summer, my parents would take the family on church camping trips in state parks in the Missouri Ozarks, that would be a couple hours of driving from home. My parents would be so happy to visit with their friends and fellow adults that they did not notice when I would slip away to hike in the woods by the campgrounds. I felt like I was in my full glory discovering a new forest, riparian area, or just a new natural area away from home. These camping trips in Missouri also brought a lifelong love for nature for me that eventually inspired me to work as a park ranger.

As I went into high school, I would enjoy riding my bike or walking several miles to the nearby parks of Cliff Cave and Bee Tree Parks. Once there, I loved to admire the wide and historic Mississippi River, that fellow Missourian Mark Twain had made so famous. No, I did not read his books. However, my parents took our family to see the 1973 film The Adventures of Tom Sawyer at a nearby drive-in theatre. The movie scared me badly, especially the scenes with the villain named Injun Joe. At the same time, I found myself carrying on the spirit of Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn. It was heaven for me to hike in the woods, up and down the river bluffs and down to the river shoreline. The huge barges carrying coal and different agricultural products up and down the river now would pass by now and then. They were very impressive to watch from the top of the bluffs or from the river’s edge.

Photo of Brian Ettling taken on Good Friday, April 1986.

I loved going to these parks in all seasons and different times of day to admire the lushness of the trees full of leaves in the summer. Winter brought stark barren trees with no leaves in winter and the sight of snow on the ground sometimes. In autumn, the bright fall colors were on the trees and I loved kicking up the piles of leaves covering the trails. The spring was an enchanting time of cooler comfortable temperatures yet hinting that summer was coming with some flowers blooming and the trees budding in their spring glory.

I could not get enough of this nature by my home. It was my happy place. It was where I wanted to be more than anywhere. In high school, when I was finally old enough to go on dates, I went on one of my first double dates to Bee Tree Park in Good Friday, 1986. It was a fantastic day just to hang with my best friend, Scott, his girlfriend Trisha at that time, and a gal that I liked then Tammy. Scott barbequed for us, and I led us on hikes down to the Mississippi River and back.

I have always felt sad for children that were not able to connect with nature like I was growing up in Oakville, Missouri in the 1970s into the 1980s. My wish is that every child could have had a childhood as wonderful as mine. I was so carefree exploring the woods by my childhood home and nearby parks that I did not want to grow up or do anything else.

Discovering Climate Change for the first time while living in St. Louis

By 1988, it was time for me to move on. I was enrolled to start attending William Jewell College in Kansas City, Missouri in the fall. I loved the woods and local parks by my home. At the same time, I dreamed of seeing and journeying to iconic places elsewhere in the United States. I had pictures on my closet door of New York City, the Redwoods, Yosemite National Park, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Niagara Falls, the Rocky Mountains, downtown Chicago, and a large poster of Mt. Shuskan in North Cascades National Park, Washington.

I wanted to enjoy and relish those nearby parks of Cliff Cave and Bee Tree during my last summer before starting college and eventually following my dream to live in other parts of the U.S. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other ideas that summer. The summer of 1988 had a terrible heat wave and drought for the Midwest. The Mississippi River dropped to the lowest level I had ever seen in my life so far. The drought and heatwave made national news and a topic of conversation on people’s minds that year. It just did not seem natural. Something seemed off with the nature that I knew from my home area.

My fears intensified that summer when Dr. James Hansen, then Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, rang the alarm bell. He 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. With this extreme heatwave and drought that summer, I saw with my own eyes and took pictures of the Mississippi River at record low levels. Dr. Hansen’s words seemed like an eerie warning from what I was seeing around me then.

Photo by Brian Ettling from Bee Tree Park Park, MO of the Mississippi River at a record low level during the summer of 1988

After what I saw that summer and learned about global warming, I felt a bit more assured that fall when global warming became a topic during the 1988 Presidential campaign. Republican Presidential candidate George H.W. Bush promised that if he was elected President, he would counter ‘The greenhouse effect with the White House effect.’ I was a Reagan Republican then, so that sound bite messaging sounded good to me then.

When I was in college, I did not think much about global warming when I was studying business administration in college. The exception was when progressive students in my dorm would bring up news about a large iceberg breaking off the coast of Antarctica ‘the size of Rhode Island or the Island of Manhattan’ to remind me that President George H.W. Bush was not doing much about global warming when he was President. I did not say much, but deep down I knew they were correct. President George H.W. Bush did not seem to do much about this problem as President. The exception was that he did attend Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro United Nations climate in 1992, which did broker some important agreements for that time, as the creation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Finding my climate change passion while working in the national parks

When I graduated from William Jewell College in 1992, I said goodbye to Missouri and started working in the national parks. In 1992 and many years afterwards, I spent my summers working in Crater Lake National Park, Oregon and my winters in Everglades National Park, Florida.

In 1998, I started giving ranger talks in the Everglades. Visitors then asked me about global warming. Visitors hate when park rangers tell you, “I don’t know.” Soon afterwards, I rushed to the nearest Miami bookstore to read all I the scientific books I could find on climate change.

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

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

Photo by Brian Ettling of wild Flamingos in Everglades National Park. Image taken around 1999

I became so worried about climate change that I quit my winter job in Everglades National Park the year in 2008. I started spending the winters in St. Louis with my family to see if I could start organizing for climate action. I did not know how I was going to do this, but I was still determined I was going to make a difference to reduce the threat of climate change.

In the fall of 2009, a good friend and fellow park ranger at Crater Lake National Park knew I did not have any plans for the winter once I reached St. Louis. He then talked me into housesitting at his mother’s house in Ashland, Oregon for the winter. His mother, Barbara, decided by buy an RV and travel across the U.S. He and his mother desperately needed someone to watch her home and take care of her cat. At that point, I was unsure what to do with my life especially with this climate change mission that I had.

By 2009, for seventeen years, I had worked as a seasonal park ranger at Crater Lake National Park, Oregon in the summers. Everglades National Park, Florida was where I worked in the winter up until 2008. I absolutely loved my job as an interpretation ranger at Crater Lake giving ranger talks, guided hikes, leading evening campfire talks, and narrating the boat tours. I loved every minute of standing in front of an audience, in these iconic places sharing about nature.

Pursuing my climate change calling in Ashland, Oregon and St. Louis, Missouri

When I arrived in Ashland, Oregon in the beginning of October 2009, I had too much free time. I had no plans, except to housesit. Ashland was very beautiful to walk around town and take pictures of the fall colors. Yet, I wanted to do something more for climate action. I had no idea what. I looked into studying at Southern Oregon University at their Masters of Business sustainability program. However, the professors and program did not seem to be a good fit for me.

Photo by Brian Ettling of Ashland, Oregon. Taken on October 22, 2009

I then went to see my friend Naomi Eklund in Ashland who is a professional life coach. During our conversation, Naomi became impatient with my hemming and hawing of wanting to do something to make a difference to reduce the threat of climate change. I kept giving her nebulous answers of my life’s vision and it was making her exasperated.

Then she pressed me to answer her directly: “What do you really want to do with your life?”

“Fine!” I yelled with emphatic exasperation, “If I could be anything, I would like to be the ‘Climate Change Comedian’!”

My friend Naomi nearly fell out of her hear laughing and responded: “That great! I would like you to go home and grab that website domain right now!”

I went home immediately and bought the domain, www.climatechangecomedian.com.

Little did I know that my time in Ashland would soon be over. Barbara, the owner of the home where I was housesitting, decided that RV living was not for her. She returned to Ashland to live in her home around Thanksgiving. She then decided she did not want me living in her spare bedroom, so I was needed to find a different place to live for the winter. I loved Ashland, but it did not feel like home for me. I felt like I got everything I needed in those two months in that conversation with Naomi. My parents moved into a new home in St. Louis. They wanted me to come stay with them for the winter.

I was excited to do another cross-country drive like my previous years going back and forth between Crater Lake and the Everglades, stopping in between to see family in St. Louis. This trip, I routed myself to visit my friend Dana in San Francisco. I would then drive down California Hwy 1 along the Pacific Coast to see the Bixby Bridge and Hearst Castle. I then visited my friend Stephanie at Death Valley for a couple of days. I moved on spent the night in Las Vegas. I then stayed with my friends Steve and Melissa in Flagstaff. They talked me into hiking down into the Grand Canyon by myself, one of the best experiences of my life.

During this road trip, when I visited my friend Dana in San Francisco, I met up with her and friends for delicious sushi in the downtown area. Dana and her friends had an evening public holiday reception at the California Academy of Sciences museum, located from the heart of Golden Gate Park. This was a stunningly beautiful museum open in the evening for this community reception. In the middle of this museum, I noticed an exhibit, Altered States: Climate Change in California.

I was very impressed with the information and educational displays about climate change. I made a mental note that I wanted to eventually work in a climate change exhibit like this.

The winter of 2010 in St. Louis, Missouri turned out to be very productive for me. A family friend, John, helped me create my website, www.climatechangecomedian.com, which is still an active website to this day. My sisters booked me to give ranger/climate change talks at my nieces and nephews schools, and for their boy and girl scout groups. I created my own climate change PowerPoint talk, Let’s Have Fun Getting Serious about Solving Climate Change.

Screenshot of the title slide from Brian Ettling’s first climate change powerpoint from 2010.

I started sharing this PowerPoint talk with friends in St. Louis. I then showed it with fellow rangers at Crater Lake National Park in the summer of 2010.

Unfortunately, during the summer of 2010, I got involved in a relationship with a female ranger at Crater Lake National Park that distracted me from pursuing my climate change path. It was a very blissful summer relationship at Crater Lake. However, in the fall and winter, it turned into a nightmare for each of us. Our personalities constantly clashed. No matter what I tried to twist myself into a knot to please her, I was never good enough for her. The relationship left me more depressed as I poured more energy into it. One of the biggest issues is that she could not see that I had any life direction, even though I kept explaining about my life’s mission to make a difference to act on climate.

She finally broke up with me in early January 2011. I was totally heart broken. It took me many months to try to heal from that relationship. In January 2011, I needed something to get my mind off what had happened. I briefly volunteered for the Missouri Botanical Gardens for their Earthways Center, leading a Historical House Tour program for them in February 2011.

In February 2011, I joined South County Toastmasters to improve my public speaking skills and follow my ambitions to be a good climate change communicator. That same month, I started writing this blog and posted two entries that month.

Working at the Climate Change Exhibit at the St. Louis Science Center

In early 2011, I drove around St. Louis trying to find something for me, especially a job. One day, I noticed a huge banner by the St. Louis Science Center for their temporary Climate Change Exhibit. I also heard radio advertisements for it on the local NPR (National Public Radio) station KWMU. After it dawned on me that the St. Louis Science Center had a climate change exhibit, I made it my mission in life to go see it to try to work there. I did not care if I was just going to volunteer or get paid. I had steel determination that I was going to work in that exhibit.

When I visited the exhibit, I talked to a staff person working at the exhibit. He encouraged me to apply. He heard that there was an opening and advised me to apply fast. I immediately went home and applied online. To my surprise, I soon got an interview. It felt like I had the interview went perfect. The St. Louis Science Center offered for me to start on March 14, 2011. My job title was a Special Exhibits Assistant at The Climate Change Exhibition. After seeing the great climate change exhibit at the California Academy of Sciences over a year earlier, plus seeing this amazing exhibit at the St. Louis Science Center, I was ecstatic to be working at a climate change exhibit, especially in my hometown of St. Louis.

Image of Brian Ettling taken while working at the St. Louis Science Center. Photo from April 11, 2011

It was such a Zen, peaceful and blissful experience to work at this exhibit. One of the first things I noticed was that not that many Science Center visitors were entering this exhibit. Many times, it seemed like the exhibit was like an empty tomb, especially on weekday mornings. The only sounds you would hear would be some of the video displays on constant loops. I didn’t like standing around so I would walk around the exhibit for what seemed like several times an hour. It only took about 5 to 10 minutes to walk through the exhibit without stopping.

Typically two other staff members, besides me, wearing our long sleeve green Climate Change St. Louis Science Center shirts, roamed through the exhibit. We would be eager to talk to someone or anyone. The Science Center wanted us to engage with the attendees. However, many visitors just wanted to walk through the exhibit at their own pace and absorb the exhibit on their own without any interruptions. The staff would end up chatting with each other quite a bit, which was really frowned upon by the Science Center supervisors. I would try to quickly end the conversation if I saw a Science Center management type person because they really did not want us to be “fraternizing.”

When I had a chance to chat with my co-workers, they told me that sometimes a few visitors would come to the St. Louis Science Center looking to argue with staff. This would happen when the Science Center would run temporary science exhibits for what some members of the public and media perceived as controversial, such as the previous exhibit on Charles Darwin and then the climate change exhibit. The staff really did not want to argue with those visitors. Even more, the Science Center management did not want them getting into a harsh exchange with those visitors. Those employees were trained to just share with those contentious visitors that the Science Center was there to just promote science. That’s it. My co-workers advised me to do the same if I encountered any argumentative visitors about climate change. Fortunately, I don’t remember getting much hostile visitors.

We had very special cleaning cloths and solutions to keep the displays looking clean and shiny. We had very specific instructions on which cloths and solutions to use so we would not scratch up the displays. I had a tremendous sense of pride working in this exhibit after years of working in something like this. Thus, I had a lot of pride cleaning the displays before and after the Science Center would open each day. I would also clean during the day if the exhibit was not getting much foot traffic.

Image of Brian Ettling by the entrance of the Climate Change Exhibit at the St. Louis Science Center. Photo taken on March 25, 2011.

I loved briefly chatting with the attendees at the exhibit if they were open to chatting with me. Nearly all the conversations were very positive. I did have a few cranky people that would want to nitpick about some of the scientific statistics posted on the exhibit displays. However, the positive conversations way outweighed the few argumentative people.

Sadly, some people, including families, would just walk through the exhibit without stopping. To those folks, I would stop to ask them, “How are you doing? What do you think of the exhibit?” Sometimes those folks would want to chat. Other times they did not. I didn’t care if they wanted to chat or not. I wanted them to think about climate change.

The Most Rewarding Aspects about working at this Climate Change Exhibit

From my positive interactions with the attendee participants and my pride in doing extra cleaning to keep the exhibit looking pristine, my co-workers seemed to take notice and really seemed to like working with me. One day my co-worker Eli humbly said to me out of the blue, “Brian, you make me a better person.”

That was one of the nicest compliments anyone had given me. I felt very touched.

Because the exhibit was often devoid of visitors, especially during weekday mornings and late afternoons, I started taking notes in the exhibit. I meticulously wrote down in my notebooks every word of text on the exhibit displays and videos. My supervisors and co-workers never seemed to mind that I did this as long as I engaged with visitors once they entered the exhibit. Before I knew it, I filled up four notebooks of my writings quoting everything in the exhibit. I still have those notebooks to this day.

Image of Brian Ettling with his nephew Andrew and his niece Rachel. Photo taken at the Climate Change Exhibit at the St. Louis Science Center on April 8, 2011.

Before I worked in the exhibit, I felt like I did not know much about climate change to be able to converse about it as a park ranger, Toastmaster, public speaker or even in casual conversations with friends and community members. This exhibit was a huge gift in helping me feel more knowledgeable and confident to speak about this subject. I will always be grateful for the two months I had working at this exhibit.

My parents enjoyed visiting the exhibit. They were so proud to see me working there. At one point at home, my mom said to me, “I have never seen someone going to work so happy before.”

One day, I saw my older sister at the exhibit. At that time, she worked as a teacher at a St. Louis area Catholic high school. The teachers, including my sister, led the students on a field trip of the St. Louis Science Center, which happened to include this Climate Change exhibit. When these teachers and students entered the exhibit, they had the tendency like all the other teachers and students I saw to just briskly walk through the exhibit without giving it much thought.

I was not going to let that happen though when I saw students and teachers. I would abruptly stop the students and teachers at the giant piece of coal near the exhibit entrance. I would ask the students why the piece of coal was there. I would ask them what the significance of that giant piece of coal was. Most of the time they would not have an answer since I caught them off guard. I would point to exhibit display texts in that area that coal is what funded the industrial revolution. It was the primary source of energy over the 200 years.

Then, I would ask the students if coal is good or bad for humans. If the students answered me, some would respond it was good and a few other students would say that it was bad. I then would answer that it was both. Coal enabled us to have the technology to enrich our lives. However, coal, oil, and natural gas were bad because they contributed to climate change. Hence, the exhibit they were visiting.

I encouraged the students to think about that as they wandered through the exhibit. I then urged them to think about ways we can be less dependent on coal and other fossil fuels in the future to reduce the threat of climate change. The teachers always seemed to be impressed that I was willing to go out of my way to engage with the students. After I engaged with the students, they tended to then go through the exhibit at a slower pace and looked to be absorbing more of the information. The day my older sister was there she did not say anything to me. However, she did give me a big smile. She seemed very proud to see me there. She looked delighted that I took time to engage with the students at her school.

My parents made two additional trips to bring their grandkids, my nieces and nephews to this exhibit. It was such a thrill to see them and for them to see me at this exhibit. At that time, my oldest niece, Rachel, was 14 years old and her brother/my nephew Andrew, was 8 years old. My other niece Bailey was 11 years old and her brother/my nephew Sam was 9 years old. Andrew liked hamming it up in front of the mirrors at one part of the exhibit.

Image of Brian Ettling with his nephew Sam and his niece Bailey. Photo taken at the Climate Change Exhibit at the St. Louis Science Center on April 9, 2011.

Another part of the exhibit had index cards to fill out for people to write their solutions to reduce the threat of climate change. My nephew Sam wrote “I recycle.” It was fabulous for me to get my pictures with my nieces and nephews at this exhibit. One of the biggest reasons for me to work at this exhibit and all of my climate actions over the years was to try to fight for a better future for them. I hope they will think about me someday that I was trying to do all the actions I could for a better world for them.

The exhibit, Climate Change: The Threat to Life and A New Energy Future.

Just outside the entrance of the exhibit, as well as on the website, it was written:

“Climate Change: The Threat to Life and A New Energy Future was organized by the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), New York, in collaboration with the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage, United Arab Emirates, The Cleveland Museum of Natural History, The Field Museum of Chicago, Instituto Sangari, São Paulo, Brazil, Junta de Castilla y León, Spain, Korea Green Foundation, Seoul, Natural History Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen, Papalote Museo del Niño, Mexico City and Saint Louis Science Center…

• Climate Change at the American Museum of Natural History is proudly presented
by Bank of America.
• Major support has also been provided by The Rockefeller Foundation.’

It was very intriguing for me that the exhibit was partially funded by Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage and United Arab Emirates. No doubt the United Arab Emirates obtained their wealth from profits of the oil and natural gas extraction. I would have loved to know why they funded this exhibit. What was their motivation? It amazed me that no visitors or exhibit staff noticed who were the primary donors. Even more, Bank of America partially funded the exhibit while continuing to bankroll major fossil fuel projections in the U.S. and internationally that contributed to climate change. On top of that, it was also funded by The Rockefeller Foundation, which was established in 1913 by Standard Oil magnate John D Rockefeller. A man that struck it rich in the U.S. oil business in the 19th century.

The funding for the exhibit would probably raise eyebrows by some climate advocates. None of this bothered me because I thought it was a great and very scientifically sound exhibit on climate change. I was glad they funded it to educate the public about climate change. They were certainly helping me out to be more knowledgeable about climate change. Detractors would probably say that funding from Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Bank of America and even the Rockefeller Foundation amounted to “greenwashing” while all these organizations continued to majorly profit from fossil fuel investments. I would have never quarreled with someone if they had pointed that out, but no one ever did.

The Curators who created the exhibit were very prestigious scientists. Dr. Edmond A. Mathez was The Curator at Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at AMNH, as well as a Senior Research Scientist at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University and Adjunct Professor at the City University of New York. Dr. Michael Oppenheimer was a top climate scientist at Princeton University. I knew of Dr. Oppenheimier from interviews he gave on climate change documentaries that I had watches years earlier. Thus, I had full confidence these scientists oversaw ever sentence and the smallest bit of details for this exhibit to make sure it conveyed the most accurate depiction of climate change science.

The exhibit was divided up into nine sections:
How Did We Get Here?
Climate Change Today
Changing Atmosphere
Changing Ice
Changing Ocean
Changing Land
Making a difference
A New Energy Future

When you would first walk into the exhibit, you would be greeted with a giant piece of coal in the middle of the first section. The first text to greet you stated: “Coal: The Rock that burns began a revolution.” Industrial Revolution, that is.

The next text box said: “Today, Atmospheric CO2 is at a level that has not been seen on Earth for at least 800,000 years and probably much longer.” You are then starting at a giant wall chart showing a big orange line progressing upward that “tracks the levels of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere over the last 400 years.”

The next text stated, “Coal provides 40% of the world’s electrical needs.” The following panel: “Energy derived from coal creates more CO2 than the same amount of energy from other fuel sources.”

The exhibit then connects the dots that humans burning fossil fuels, especially coal, over the past 250 years is currently causing climate change. The exhibit then had separate sections to demonstrate how human caused climate change is impacting our air supply/the atmosphere, melting the land and sea based glaciers, the ocean, and the land.

My desire to keep working and improve this temporary Climate Change Exhibit

In the Changing Ice section of the exhibit, I created short presentations for children on the importance of Arctic Sea ice for polar bears and us. I brought with me my Grandpa Ettling’s very old small handheld shaving mirror. According to my dad, this mirror was from around the time of World War I. In this Changing Ice section, not far from a stuffed polar bear, was a display using an overhead lamp that would shine on white blocks.

Photo of Brian Ettling in the Changing Ice section of the Climate Change Exhibit at the St. Louis Science Center. Image taken on March 25, 2011.

This display demonstrated the sun’s albedo, which is the amount of sunlight or solar radiation reflected by a surface. Bright white snow, such as the polar and Greenland sheets, reflect almost 90% of the sun’s light back to space, cooling the earth. According to the text at this exhibit, “The surface of the deep ocean is very good at absorbing heat. It soaks up heat almost as effectively as asphalt on a city street.” Unfortunately, with climate change, more of the reflective polar sheets are melting, reducing the sun’s albedo, and warming the oceans and the earth more.

I then shared with the students that less reflective ice reduces the icy areas for polar bears to live. Less reflective polar ice means more climate change for us. I even brought in a tennis or racket ball once or twice. I tried using the bouncing ball to get the students thinking about how the reflective nature of polar and glacial ice. The racket or tennis balls were more awkward to carry around. Even more, I worried about them bouncing too much and damaging exhibit displays. The bottom line was that I was willing to go above and beyond to engage with students and children visiting the climate change exhibit.

My willingness to engage with students using props caught the attention of some of the local teachers visiting the exhibit. Before I knew it, I was exchanging contact information with the teachers. In my spare time, I assisted middle school to high school teachers developing lesson plans for engaging their classes with the special climate change exhibit.

My Science Center supervisors and co-workers did not seem to mind that I experimented bringing props from home to have more meaningful engagement with the school children visiting the exhibit. I was extremely proud to be working at this exhibit. I really wanted to make the most of this opportunity.

From the first days that I started working there, I noticed this temporary traveling display was only showing at the U.S. museums of American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York, The Field Museum in Chicago, and The Cleveland Museum of Natural History. That was just the U.S. version of the exhibit. If I remembered correctly, an additional international version of the exhibit existed traveling to international museums funding the exhibit, such as Instituto Sangari, São Paulo, Brazil; Junta de Castilla y León, Spain; Korea Green Foundation, Seoul; Natural History Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen; and Papalote Museo del Niño, Mexico City.

Photo of Brian Ettling at the entrance of the Climate Change Exhibit at the St. Louis Science Center. Image taken on March 25, 2011

At that time, I remembered reading that the exhibit traveled from the Chicago Field Museum where it was displayed in 2010 to the St. Louis Science Center. When the exhibit closed in St. Louis in May 2011, it would then travel to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, where it would during the summer. I reached out to the Cleveland Museum to see if they could hire me for when it ran there in during the summer, but they did not seem interested in hiring me.

In late June 2011, when I was working for the summer at Crater Lake, I had a phone meeting with Dr. Michael Oppenheimer, one of the original curators of the exhibit. I called him at his office at Princeton University. I thanked him for his efforts putting together this exhibit. I also expressed what an honor it was for me to chat with him, since I had seen him on video documentaries about climate change. I asked him if he thought there was going to be a future for this traveling exhibit. He seemed doubtful. Sadly, I was not able to partner with him to help him create an updated version of this great exhibit.

On February 14, 2012, I visited the AMNH in New York City while I was there to check out the Columbia University master’s program in climate sustainability policy. At that point, the exhibit had wound down. They were doubtful they wanted to continue the temporary climate change exhibit. Thus, they were not interested in hiring me to contribute my ideas to create the next generation of the exhibit to make it more family friendly, kid friendly, and school friendly. I thought the exhibit needed to be more hands on with activities and games for kids to help them, their parents, and their school learn more about climate change. Unfortunately, I was not successful in my conversations with AMNH.

I was able to get my foot in the door at the AMNH in New York City because a friend of a friend worked there. This AMNH staffed member, Stephanie, worked at Crater Lake National Park in 1991, the year before I started. Thus, we did not know each other from Crater Lake, just mutual friends. When I somehow found out during the summer of 2011 at Crater Lake that Stephanie worked at AMNH, I asked my friends if they could introduce us. I was so glad they did. At that February 2012 meeting at AMNH, I was not successful at finding a job to continue the Climate Change traveling exhibit. However, Stephanie did get me free tickets to enjoy the AMNH for the day, including a Planetarium show.

Photo by Brian Ettling of the entrance of the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York City. Image taken on February 14, 2012.

The AMNH did have helpful information about climate change in the geology section of the museum. I took digital images of their information on recent significant volcanic eruptions and ice core sample information that I was able to use in future climate change talks. Even more, the AMNH was right across the street from Central Park in Manhattan. Thus, I had fun touring around upper Manhattan for a day that I never would have realized I would do from a year earlier working at the Climate Change Exhibit at the St. Louis Science Center.

The long term positive impacts for me of working at this Climate Change Exhibit

Although I was not able to obtain a long-term fulfilling successful career from working at this climate change exhibit in St. Louis, this exhibit led other life changing opportunities for me. In addition to this exhibit, the St. Louis Science Center held some public lectures in the winter and spring of 2011 so St. Louis area residents could learn more about climate change.

In April 2011, I attended a St. Louis Science Center lecture where the invited speaker was Jim Kramper, Warning Coordination Meteorologist with National Weather Service. He spoke on “Climate Change – What We Really Know.” At that event, I met Larry Lazar, a local St. Louis area businessman. Over the past few years, Larry read a lot of scientific articles on climate change. He became very worried and interested in this subject to attend that lecture. Larry and I struck up a conversation with our mutual interest in climate change after that lecture.

That summer, I returned to work at Crater Lake National Park, but Larry and I stayed in touch. In October 2011, when I had returned to St. Louis for the winter, Larry and I started meeting for coffee once a week. We would meet very early in the morning before he would drive to work. One morning in late October at Starbucks, Larry announces to me “Brian, I am thinking about creating a climate change meet up group. Would you be interested in joining me?”

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

That winter, Larry and I co-founded the meet up group, Climate Reality St. Louis. (Currently this group is called Climate MeetUp-St. Louis). Our group focus was to exchange ideas on how we can locally and individually reduce our impact on climate change. We had 14 people at our first meeting December 11, 2011. This was such a productive relationship with Larry that he ended up as the Best Man when I got married to my wife Tanya on November 1, 2015.

Larry and I organized Climate Reality Meet Up events in St. Louis up until January 2017. We packed a room of over 80 people for our last event. We probably would have organized more events, but Tanya and I moved to Portland Oregon in February 2017. Who knows if I would have ever met Larry if I had not worked at the Climate Change exhibit at the St. Louis Science Center.

Even more, I met my wife Tanya through The Climate Reality Meet Up that Larry and I co-founded. Tanya attended our meetings from January 2012. As one of the hosts, I struck up a conversation with her and we started dating over a year later. Hence, I thank Larry for being an accidental matchmaker. Who knows if I would have ever met Tanya if I had not worked at the Climate Exhibit at the St. Louis Science Center.

Finally, one of the guest speakers who came to our Climate Reality Meetup group during the winter of 2012 was Carol Braford. Back then, Carol was the St. Louis group leader with Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL). Carol is still active to this day with CCL as the Midwest or “Tornadoes” Regional Coordinator. During the winter of 2012 at Climate Reality Meet Ups, Carol Braford was the very persistent with me that I should come to a monthly Citizens Climate Lobby conference call. I even blogged about Carol in January 2013, Want to change the world? Be Persistent!

I attended a CCL meeting at Carol’s home in April 2012 and immediately became hooked on CCL. I was very involved with CCL for over 10 years. In January 2013, I co-founded the southern Oregon CCL chapter that meets in Ashland, Oregon. I ended up going to 8 CCL Lobby Day conferences in Washington D.C. from 2015-2019 to lobby Congressional offices for climate action. I was even was a breakout speaker for some of their conferences. Tanya and I traveled to Ottawa, Canada to attend the CCL Canada Conference in November 2016, where they invited me to be a breakout speaker. I ended up leading two speaking tours across Missouri for CCL in 2017 and 2018. On top of that, I led a speaking tour across Oregon for CCL in 2017.

No, working at the Climate Change exhibit at the St. Louis Science Center in March to May 2011 did not lead to a long-term job organizing for climate action. I am still looking for that steady job in climate change organizing. However, I learned so much about climate change working at that exhibit. It gave me much needed confidence to speak and give presentations for climate action. Even more, working at that Climate Change exhibit in 2011 led to many rewarding opportunities and adventures, including finding my wife Tanya. For that, I will always be grateful.

Photo Tanya Couture and Brian Ettling. Image from their wedding on November 1, 2015.

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 2020, 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.

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.