Last week I had the pleasure and great honor of becoming a certified Climate Leader, by former Vice President Gore’s organization, The Climate Reality Project.  A couple of weeks before training I began thinking about the weight of this responsibility.  While in the training I became overwhelmed and doubts began to creep up and I wondered if I could do this.  I already have a full life.  How can I take out time to save the planet?  Isn’t that a job for somebody else?

There were Climate Reality trainees in attendance from all across the United States and from around the world.  From Africa, Asia, Europe and as far away as Tonga. In this photo, I am with two trainees that traveled from Tonga, a small Polynisian island south of New Zealand.  The woman is Australian and the man is from Tonga. Out of 1,400 trainees, the number of African Americans in attendance was about 1% from what I could tell. Our communities are hardest hit by severe weather and we need more representation of us.  We need to be in the conversation and in the room.

When I thought back to the memories of bloated black bodies floating down the streets of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, I knew I had to move forward.  I thought of the elder gentleman who shared with anguish in his voice and tears in his eyes the story of trying to hold on to his wife’s hands during the sweeping waters of Hurricane Katrina, and how their hands slipped apart and she was gone forever.  He cried on national television and I cried right along with him. There were people stranded on roofs with no food or water for days, waving white flags in attempts to be rescued.  There were the people who were met with shotguns when they tried to cross the bridge from New Orleans to safety. The horrid thoughts of what people lived through in NOLA’s Superdome during those sweltering days with no help from the government.  And this is just one story out of hundreds of horrible stories growing all around the world.

And most recently, have you heard anything about Hurricane Maria and its impact on the U.S. Virgin Islands?  Not much I bet.  It’s as if those brown and black people don’t matter.

I will never forget the many times my business was unable to open due to severe weather from Super Storm Sandy to days with piles of snow; neither staff nor clients had a way to get to the salon. Often those working for corporate America would be so happy they had a paid day off due to severe weather.  While they were thrilled, I’d be stressing, wondering how was I going to meet payroll, rent and other responsibilities with no income?  Then there’s the flip side from heavy rains and snow to out of control wildfires, sickness, and death from intense heat. Just as many people die from the intense heat these days as they do from floods. This is our new reality.  The earth has been hotter than average for the last 30 years, with the last three being the hottest on record, with each year being hotter than the previous one.

I’ve decided to step up and put my action where my mouth is as it relates to saving this planet. There are many reasons to be concerned, but I am also happy to report to you, I’ve learned that there are also many reasons to be optimistic.

Reasons for Concern:

  • Fossil fuels and greenhouse emissions continue to warm the planet and thereby the waters of the earth.
  • Warm waters rise, causing severe and more frequent storms (hurricanes) that cause destruction and much suffering and death.
  • Warm weather prevents larva from dying, which increases the population of disease-carrying insects, Zika virus, Lyme disease, malaria, etc.
  • Storms cause destruction and destruction leads to unclean water – Cholera, diarrhea and related diseases.
  • Severe weather threatens our overall health.
  • Severe weather is causing the population of refugees to grow by the thousands around the world.

Reasons for Optimism:

  • Those companies and organizations that made a commitment to the Paris Climate Accord to lower their emissions, are sticking to their commitments despite what comes out of the White House.
  • The only nation not a part of the Paris Agreement is Syria.  It will take years for the United States to reverse their commitment and by that time we should have a new president.
  • The largest growing job market is in the renewable energy sector.
  • The cost of renewable energy sources (solar panels, windmills) has been reduced significantly. There are now solar panels on huts in some African villages.
  • More people than ever are becoming aware of their ability and power to make a difference.
  • Electric cars are becoming more affordable.

When we arrived at the Convention Center there were so many people there that I thought they must have just taken everybody who applied.  I said this to someone and another lady overheard us and corrected me.  She said there were actually 3,000 people who applied and 1,400 of us were accepted.  The first training in 2006 had approximately 30 participants.  Gaining momentum as it grows; this was the largest training thus far.

The Climate Leadership training was held in Pittsburgh, which used to be the dirtiest, most air-polluted city in the United States. The steel that built the high risers all over America came from Pittsburgh.  Pittsburgh also provided the coal to heat our homes.  The workers of these mills, their families and neighbors suffered from the air they created through their work.  Unbelievably, those air polluting, last century jobs are the very jobs being promised by the current administration, to “make America great again!”

Today Pittsburgh has become an exceptional example of the positive changes that can happen when people are committed to creating change.  That’s why it was so crazy when Trump said he was pulling out of the Paris Agreement for Pittsburgh.  Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto set the record straight and let everyone know, Pittsburgh has cleaned up its act and doesn’t need his help. Today, Pittsburgh is a clean city and exemplary of what can be accomplished. Pittsburgh and its accomplishments was quite the surprise feature of our training.  The David L. Lawrence Convention Center, where the training was held, “is the first green convention center in the world; this riverside building with a dramatic roofline set a high bar for others to follow. Green is intrinsic to its design, construction, and ongoing operation.”

As if to prove a point, guess what I saw the first night in Pittsburgh? A magnolia tree in full bloom.  What’s so amazing about that?  Well, it’s autumn, magnolias bloom in spring, not autumn.  It’s supposed to be trending towards being too cool in autumn for magnolias to bloom.  This is the warmest October of my 60 years on this planet.

It’s time to get busy people.  And guess what, you can be a Climate Leader too.  Not ready for that yet?  No problem, hire me (for free) to present to your class or organization, the importance of becoming aware of the power we all have to affect positive change for our beloved planet.  Want to be inspired?  Watch one or both of Al Gore’s films An Inconvenient Truth and An Inconvenient Sequel.

I now have a Green Ring, just like Al Gore and all of those who have been through his training or who are doing amazing work to reverse the impact of Climate Change. Please join in the effort to leave to our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews and their children and grandchildren to come, a safe and beautiful planet.

Join me this Saturday, October 28, 2017 for Super Storm Sandy 5th Anniversary March to bring awareness to Climate Change.  Click here  if you are interested  in joining us for Saturday Climate Action March.