Wednesday, 23 May 2001

PORTSMOUTH, N.H.

One of the joys of a New England spring, the fine fragrance of lilacs, is in the air everywhere today. Unfortunately, it’s been cold and hasn’t seemed very springlike lately. Where is global warming when you need it? Even though it seems unusually cool this week, we do know that the long-term trend is towards earlier signs of spring. Lilacs in gardens all over the Northeast are blooming five or more days earlier on average than they did 40 years ago.

My first hour in the office today was spent finalizing the agenda and preparing background documents for tomorrow’s communications strategy meeting. We’ll be trying to set priorities for our outreach and media work and to devise an effective plan to motivate people and institutions to implement climate solutions. We need to do a lot of work to find messages that shift people from apathy to action. Somehow, the issue of climate change needs to be elevated to the same level of concern that an issue like clean water generates. Many people feel that global warming is a future problem that is too big for any one person to contribute to solving. We want to transform that attitude, so that people see the relevance of climate change to their community and daily lives and feel empowered to help change things for the better. We learned during the presidential election that every vote does count. Well, every action to reduce emissions counts, too, and individuals can make a difference.

Sorting through my recent email, I found one from an old friend in the U.K., Chris Rose, who I worked with at Friends of the Earth in London in the early ’80s. He wanted to draw my attention to a new British grassroots group Families Against Bush (For Our Climate). It’s one of many new initiatives springing up around the world in response to the U.S. rejection of the Kyoto Protocol. Here in the U.S., that depressing news was followed up with a series of other environmental setbacks and capped off last week with the president’s new energy policy proposals. The energy plan is the topic of a lot of conversations I’m having these days. Not just with journalists and other environmentalists, but with business people, neighbors, and even the guy who runs the coffee shop downstairs. To update myself, I go back frequently to the excellent critique of the plan posted on the web by the League of Conservation Voters.

Later today I’ll be making some calls to help with a response to the energy policy from the higher education sector. One of our partners, the Tufts Climate Initiative, is circulating a letter drafted by Tufts’ president, John DiBiaggio, calling for President Bush to place greater emphasis on energy efficiency and renewable energy and a shift away from oil and gas. More than 40 college and university presidents from around the country have signed on so far and we are looking for more who would be willing to do so.

Now it’s time to head into Boston for a meeting with one of the foundations that provided seed money back in 1999 to help Clean Air-Cool Planet get started. Without this kind of risk-taking philanthropy, it would be very hard for a new organization like ours to get off the ground and start making a difference. Maintaining the financial health of the organization and constantly working to identify possible sources of funds to help expand our program are big parts of my job, so I try to spend at least a part of each and every day on the fundraising trail.

Usually I take the bus if I have to go into the city, but I’m looking forward to having the choice of a train when Amtrak inaugurates its new route from Portland, Maine, to Boston, which will stop nearby at Exeter, N.H. Taking public transport not only helps reduce emissions, it also gives me time to do some reading. Today, I can’t wait to see what the papers have to say about Sen. Jeffords of Vermont’s possible defection from the Republican Party. Will he? Won’t he? Who’ll be chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee?

When I get back to town this evening, I’m planning on meeting up with Jon Coifman from the Center for Energy and Climate Solutions. He’s coming up from D.C. for our communications workshop. Portsmouth was famous for the Frank Jones breweries in the nineteenth century and is still home to some excellent ales. I’m going to introduce Jon to the Smuttynose Brewing Company in exchange for hearing the latest news from inside the beltway.