Wall mural next to Canal Park and leading to Lock 3. (Photo: Shane Wynn / Akronstock)

A new climate activist group, Citizens Climate Lobby, launches in Akron

by Derek Kreider 

Citizens’ Climate Lobby is bringing its brand of activism to the Akron-Canton area. 

Founded in 2007 by Marshall Saunders, a former real estate broker from California, CCL is a grassroots organization that provides training and resources to ordinary people, enabling them to engage politically at the local, state, and federal levels on behalf of a cause that is becoming more and more urgent with each passing day: Protecting the Earth and slowing climate change.

As a non-profit, non-partisan institution, organizers say CCL is a lobby built on people and relationships, not money.

During the afternoon of Jan. 11, in a conference room at the Green Branch Library, 25 people with an interest in change gathered together to learn how they can help speed the transition to a carbon-neutral future. 

To the organizers of the inaugural meeting, the need for involvement has never been more urgent. “When I read the news, there is a different natural disaster almost everyday that leaves so many people in precarious positions, and that’s why advocacy is so important,” says Stephanie Baker, one of the activists who helped plan the event.

Chad Mason, Jack Bouer, Chuck McClaugherty, and Stephanie are the four who initially organized the meeting. As of now, they’re also leading the Akron-Canton group. According to Chad, “Once we begin having regular meetings beginning on Feb. 8, the active chapter members will be able to determine leadership accordingly.”

John Sabin, the CCL regional co-coordinator for the Great Lakes region, joined the group for their kick-off meeting. He quieted the dull roar of conversation and began his presentation. 

“I am a social worker by profession. I’ve been a social worker for about 30 years,” John said. This is important, he explains, because as a social worker he didn’t think that he had anything to offer the climate movement. But when it became apparent that people with backgrounds in environmental science, economics or politics weren’t stepping up, John got involved. Everyone, he says, has something they can contribute to the work. 

This rings true. The crowd assembled at the January meeting represented a wide swath of experience: Retirees, mechanical engineers, skateboarders, and architects filled the seats, men and women united in common concern..  

“Our group is open to all who are serious about solving climate change,” John said. “We work with elected officials and community leaders across the political spectrum because we believe that everyone is a potential ally.”

With more than 400 chapters in the United States and more worldwide, CCL has been producing results in Washington including legislative accomplishments and the formation of a caucus in Congress.

Through the work of a CCL volunteer and Florida Democrat Ted Deutch, a member of the House of Representatives, the Climate Solutions Caucus was founded in the House in Feb. 2016. “The idea was to have equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats who would agree to talk to each other about climate solutions,” John says. By the time of the 2018 midterm elections, there were 45 Republicans and 45 Democrats in the caucus.

Summit County’s northeastern corner is represented in the Caucus by Republican Dave Joyce of OH-14. Democrat Marcy Kaptur of OH-9 is also a member of the caucus. 

Due to the results of the “Blue Wave”  of the 2018 elections, there are now a disproportionate ratio of Democrats to Republicans in the House Climate Solutions Caucus. Members looking to join the caucus must still join in pairs of Democrats and Republicans, in a demonstration of their commitment to staying non-partisan.

In 2019, a bipartisan group of Climate Solutions Caucus members introduced H.R. 7173, the Energy and Carbon Fee and Dividend Act. This piece of legislation seeks to impose a fee on carbon-based fuels and then rebate the fees collected to American citizens. Each year the fee will increase, causing the amount of money rebated to American households to go up as well. The idea is that eventually the fees will become so high that carbon-based fuels are priced out of the market in exchange for a renewable energy infrastructure. 

The bill died at the end of the 115th Congress, but was reintroduced when the 116th began.

Building “political will” is key to the work the volunteers do. Essentially, political will is an environment in which you normalize the cause you’re working for, advancing that interest. Backing a Republican senator sympathetic to the cause by writing positive letters to the editor about them to a local paper or other news outlet is one way volunteers might build political will behind their cause. 

Writing letters to representatives in the House and the Senate, making phone calls, serving as a chapter’s liaison to a Congressional office, or reaching out to local businesses and community leaders asking them to endorse legislation are all ways in which members can interact with the political machine responsible for passing meaningful policies addressing climate change. 

Volunteers can also staff a CCL table at an event, participate in meeting with editorial boards of local newspapers, or creating advertising for the chapter’s events help the chapter to function and hopefully grow in numbers. 

Once a year in June, in Washington, D.C., a three-day national conference of CCL volunteers is held. The first two days are spent training members to effectively lobby for their cause. The third day is spent on Capitol Hill.

“Last year, our biggest conference to date, 1,500 volunteers divided into teams of six and met with over 500 Congressional offices in a single day,” John said via email. 

Parinita Singh, a mechanical engineer at Goodyear, said that she was drawn to CCL because the consequences of a drastically changing climate have been brought to bear on her generation. “I feel like our generation right now is the one seeing all these problems at [their] full effect right now. We need to do something about it,” she says.

Alyssa Mauser, a nurse, named a reason more visceral: “The climate keeps me up at night, honestly,” she says.

The next Citizens Climate Lobby will be held Saturday, Feb. 8 at the Green Branch Library at 1 pm. 

Derek Kreider is a freelance writer and sort-of musician hailing from parts unknown.

Photo: Shane Wynn via Akronstock.