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Last week, ecoAmerica had the privilege of joining climate leaders from across the globe in San Francisco for the Global Climate Action Summit — recognizing the extraordinary climate leadership by national, but more importantly, sub-national entities. The all-star cast of speakers included a surprise video from President Obama, notable leaders from the United Nations, states, corporations, big cities, and philanthropy, and even a few celebrities. The scripts were flooded with waves of announcements, shifting the narrative from cost and consequence to profits and solutions. GCAS was an important moment for the climate movement, a pivot to a new era of inspirational climate leadership. But, as the greatest climate show on/for Earth, it was missing a few important scenes and star actors.

Cut scenes included:

  • The retrospective scene that streams through the thousands of landmark successes and hard-fought wins by local, regional and national climate advocacy organizations;
  • The war zone scene from the trenches in which those same climate advocacy organizations are still fighting the hard fight to defend the health and future of our planet from a hostile federal government, and;
  • The parade scene, showing millions of American people marching in the streets, ascending capitol building steps, walking door to door, gathering in prayer or protest, collaborating on community improvement, or simply working together to figure out how they can do more to act on climate.

Missing cast:

  • The Heroes – climate advocates and environmental organizations were notably absent from the stage. Rather than featured as leading men and women (the Avengers come to mind), they were relegated to mentions and one or two video cameos.
  • The Mentors – leaders from civil society were given bit parts, shown as featured extras at best. Whether from health, faith, education, labor, or other like sectors, the wisdom of the mentors appeared as interstitial ads, or were sidelined to the wings.
  • The Innocents – sure there were a handful of youth, indigenous peoples, and people from other vulnerable communities, but how many of the speakers actually spoke about people? How many recognized that climate change is primarily a threat to our lives and livelihoods, one that attacks our health and wellbeing while at the same time our culture, identity, and society? How many promoted the need for solutions to enhance the lives of all people, particularly the most vulnerable? Answer: few. Oh, the humanity!

As a delegate, there were several moments in which I wondered what role I had in the grand show. It was energizing to witness landmark announcements, and catch up with fellow advocates (when I wasn’t racing from session to session while skipping lunch because plenaries ran long). Mostly it seemed that my role was simply to be an enthusiastic live audience member, ready to jump from my seat in standing ovation with my fellow 3,999 delegates. Of course, I obliged. I was inspired to do so.

But, we need a sequel. Stay tuned for announcements from ecoAmerica.

ecoAmerica works with leaders and institutions representing faith, health, local and diverse communities to empower climate leadership and action in America.

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