Remember the grassroots


I just watched one of the most charming, funny, and educational climate videos ever.

Lanny Smith, an award winning, earthman suit wearing, hip hop rhyming climate change educator combines music, video, and visual arts with excellent web design to explain the complexities of climate change with surprisingly clarity — all without dropping a beat. He manages to take even some of the more complex aspects of climate science (like how melting sea ice creates feedback loops by decreasing the average albedo of the earth’s surface, thus accelerating warming), and makes them accessible through rhyme at the middle school level.

Climate Progress tends to focus on the science and politics behind the climate change problem, but it is also important to stay in touch with what is going on at the grassroots level. After all, public opinion does occasionally play a role in the political process.

Earthman Lanny Smith’s most recent piece is a catchy theme-song for the World Wildlife Fund’s Earth Hour, another great public awareness event. On March 28th at 8:30, WWF is asking “individuals, businesses, governments and organizations around the world to turn off their lights for one hour” (hence the Earth Hour).

Of course, lighting candles is not a terribly realistic alternative to mass electric illumination, but the point is to engage people, to make a statement, and to demonstrate that the sum of many small actions can have a large impact.

Power Shift 2009, which brought over 12,000 students and youth to Washington to exchange ideas and lobby congress in the beginning of March was another truly inspiring grassroots event.

I managed to attend a just a few parts of the conference, but I was awed that over 2,500 students braved frigid weather to wave signs and chant “green jobs now” on the west lawn of the capitol, and to hold 350 separate lobby visits with elected officials (there is a really good account of the event on the Huffington Post).

Beyond the visibility of the event on capitol hill, the real value was that it gave 12,000 students the tools they need to become active participants in democracy. I had never lobbied a representative in my life before I signed up to do it at Powershift, but I walked away (along with thousands of my colleagues) with a real sense of empowerment.

Without the tireless work of grassroots activists and educators like Lanny and the Powershift organizers, there would be no reception for the ideas in this movement. No matter how many times policy wonks make the case for climate change legislation, progress would be impossible without a well-informed public putting pressure on its representatives.

If kids aren’t growing up with a basic understanding of the problem then they won’t become engaged as adults in the solutions. So while we definitely need more Auden Schendlers and Phil Clapps in the world to work out solutions to our many climate ailments, we also need more Lanny Smiths, more Earth Hours, and more Powershifts to make sure that we have a public that is willing and able to see those solutions through.

— Sean Pool

5 Responses to Remember the grassroots

  1. paulm says:

    For grass roots starters everyone should try to cut the consumption in 1/2.

    …Spend 1/2 time in the shower.
    …Reduce you meat in take in half.
    …use one car instead of two (that will force you to car pool)
    …watch half as much TV.
    …heat/cool half your house half the time
    …take half as many long haul holidays and flights.
    …eat out half as much
    …buy half as much stuff ie useless items, cloths and gadgets etc.
    …double your investments in green technology

  2. papertiger says:

    – also instead of wasting energy viewing cutsie video with catchy theme-songs, which expend precious resources and time in the download, experience the non electric version of the World Wildlife Fund’s Earth Hour performed in a grass roots fashion bathed in candle-light, and transmitted by Morse code via coconut conga drum.

  3. Dan B says:


    I’m so sorry you only got two responses to your post, except for me – who makes three.

    I’ve been involved in change movements and idealistic movements for 40 years and more. Every so often you hit the ball out of the park. Every so often you hear MLK and know the way.

    I marched in the Civil Rights Movement, and the Anti-Vietnam War Movement, and with the Feminist Movement, and in Gay Liberation in Chicago. We changed the world in a few months.

    It has fought back ever since. It has not prevailed.

    Did you ask your love if they wanted to be your property? Did you ask your friends if they wanted to squander their future?

    These would have been easy questions with simple, and horrible, answers 40 years ago.



  4. papertiger says:

    I don’t care what the bleeding hearts say. MLK was a Republican.

    {sing it with me}

  5. papertiger says:

    Quick, with out googling tell me which President made segregation the federal policy?

    Give up?

    Here’s a hint: Black and whites served together in the Civil War, the Indian wars, the Spanish American War, but not in World Wars 1&2.

    Bonus follow up question: What party was he a member of? And what radical faction of that party does he represent up to this day?

    Ah what the heck go ahead and google it.