Tag Archives: climate change

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 Unfortunately, that website was no longer maintained a couple of years afterwards.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.

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.