New volunteer’s experience at the June CCL conference and lobby day

By Anna Ziola, CU Boulder chapter

Although our changing climate affects every human in the world, working to mitigate it often feels isolating. In my daily life, I think about, “What can I do?” I can take the bus to work. I can recycle. I can do research into the companies I buy from, ensuring that they prioritize sustainability. I’m fortunate that I can do these things, but it feels frustrating and defeating because it feels like it is not enough. But attending this CCL June Conference has reminded me that there is a massive community that is transforming these, “What can I do?” statements into, “What can we do?”

Before discussing what I gained from the conference, I want to talk about what I learned. Two of the many programs that stood out to me were Climate Emergency: Feedback Loops and Building Political Will. The first event about the role of feedback loops was a screening of a series of short films about forests, permafrost, the atmosphere, and the albedo effect. They not only explained why the temperatures are increasing in a way that made it easy to understand but also emphasized how these different environments are intertwined and affect one another.

After learning why climate action is important, discovering how we can best act is just as crucial. This how might be one of the most difficult questions to answer because action seems to work best and is more fulfilling when we tailor it to our own strengths and interests. This journey to discover how I can best be involved in CCL has been ongoing. I have attended meetings, tabled, lobbied, and talked with fellow University of Colorado Boulder students. Still, I am searching for the niche of CCL environmental action that works best for me. Fortunately, the Building Political Will workshop at the June conference has encouraged me to really reflect on what the best kind of action for me might be. Organized as a “speed dating” program, each table focused on a topic, and you chose and rotated among tables that you found most interesting. Some of the topics involved: How to Write a Press Release, Onboarding Best Practices, and Climate Classroom, a curriculum of science and social studies lessons for middle school students. My favorite parts were hearing how others have chosen to work within their communities, and discussing with them how those ideas could be incorporated into other communities.

While in DC, I prepared for and attended lobby meetings with Rep. Joe Neguse’s aide, Abbie Callahan, and Sen. Michael Bennet. These were my first in-person meetings with CCL. In the past, I have attended a handful of virtual meetings with Rep. Neguse and Sen. Hickenlooper’s offices. To prepare for those virtual meetings, I completed the online CCL training, met with the other individuals on Zoom who were also attending the meetings, and thought through our meeting goals. These in-person meetings, because they were in tandem with the conference, felt so collaborative. The conference did a wonderful job at not only preparing us for the lobby meetings themselves but also teaching us about the context in which we would be meeting our congressmen. What is at the forefront of their minds? Which policies are time-sensitive? How do we ask good questions? Then, I met with the individuals who were attending the same lobby meetings, and we determined everyone’s role and our main asks. Finally, we walked through the House and Senate office buildings, were escorted to our congressmen’s offices, and talked with both Rep. Neguse’s office staff and Sen. Bennet. In both cases, we volunteers agreed it was a productive meeting. I left both congressional office meetings feeling heard and hopeful and got to share in the excitement with my fellow CCL members.

While the speakers and programs throughout the conference were wonderful, the most fulfilling aspect was meeting people from across the world. I arrived at the conference knowing no one, but left with new friends, exciting conversations, and fun experiences. Even after the conference ended and I arrived back in Colorado, I was still texting and calling people I had met in DC. These people have become a way to talk through the more difficult conversations about climate, to ask for advice, and to receive support. Instead of feeling like I’m fighting an isolating, losing battle, this conference has reminded me that I’m part of a huge team that continues to answer the question, “What can we do?”

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