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Mnookin: Inspiring Action

Last month, Pope Francis released an encyclical on climate change, describing it as the moral issue of our time and calling for immediate, global action. The significance of this publication cannot be overstated. The Roman Catholic Church has 1.2 billion followers worldwide; when he talks, lots of people listen.

Even so, some scientists fear that changes in our atmosphere may already be too great to prevent catastrophic changes in the Earth’s climate. But as a parent of toddler, I can’t allow this belief to prevent personal action. So I’ve joined a climate action book group spearheaded by Post Oil Solutions, a community-organizing group based in Southeastern Vermont.

Twelve of us signed up to read and discuss Naomi Klein’s book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate. Distinct from some book groups, we had the additional goal to use the book as a tool to inspire action, which it has.

A number of participants started a weekly protest vigil outside of TD Bank, the state bank of Vermont and an investor in the proposed Keystone Pipeline. Others attended a hearing for the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline nearby. Still others have written letters to the editor of our local newspaper.

Though each group member is passionate about climate action, many also have a specific focus. One is the owner of a local bookstore and an anti-nuclear activist with two young grandchildren. Another is a filmmaker who’s working on a project about massive deforestation in the Southeastern U.S. A third, herself a vegan, is an outspoken critic of animal agriculture.

Nearly all of us decided to continue the group after our first book. We just started our second one, entitled Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in Without Going Crazy by Chris Johnstone and Joanna Macy. They write, “Active Hope is about becoming active participants in bringing about what we hope for.” On the days when I still get discouraged, my fellow activists inspire me to continue.

In her graduation keynote at the College of the Atlantic, Naomi Klein declared, “That very idea, that we as atomized individuals, could play a significant part in stabilizing the planet’s climate system, is objectively nuts. We can only meet this tremendous challenge together as part of a massive and organized global movement.”

Her words echo a piece of tried and true activist wisdom: to think globally, and act locally. And that’s exactly the kind of action that Pope Francis called for in his encyclical.