Turning Hope Into Action: Changing the Story on Climate Change

When it comes to the topic of climate change, it’s common to hear people bemoaning America’s penchant for denial and indifference. I have a somewhat different take. With hopelessness being the predominant media message about climate change in America, denial and indifference seems understandable if not rational.

If we want to change the response to climate change, we need to change the message, especially when there is real reason for hope. Today, a global revolution in clean energy is quietly underway, offering the very real possibility of avoiding the more dire climate change projections. We have to the technology. We have the economic argument. What we need now is action - for individuals, cities and businesses alike.

This is the core message of “HAPPENING: A Clean Energy Revolution”, a documentary by The Redford Center released last month on HBO. HAPPENING explores how clean energy is creating jobs, turning profits, and making communities stronger and healthier across the U.S. It’s also a film about human resilience, social justice, embracing the future, and most importantly, finding hope for our survival.

On a personal level, making HAPPENING inspired me to do some small but important things: lower the temperature of my hot water heater, lease solar panels, and trade in my gas-powered car for one that runs on electricity. Meanwhile, my colleagues at The Redford Center were looking for ways to offset the co2 created during the making of HAPPENING – the heavy but unavoidable use of cars, airplanes and power to create the film. Luckily for us, we discovered Cool Effect, a young and impressively impactful Bay Area based non-profit that scours the globe for the best carbon reduction projects. The organization currently features 11 projects and they make it incredibly easy for both individuals and organizations to offset emissions on a tonne-by-tonne basis or a monthly pledge.

We decided to offset the greenhouse gas impact of HAPPENING with one Cool Effect initiative in particular: the Alto Mayo project, which is protecting a vast stretch of tropical forest in Peru. Within minutes, we offset our greenhouse gas burden by protecting a stretch of this carbon-consuming, oxygen-creating ecosystem. We also appreciated the simplicity and transparency of Cool Effect’s approach and knew others would as well. As a result, we are honored to have Cool Effect as an official action partner for HAPPENING.

At the outset of making HAPPENING, I wondered if we make could truly make enough clean energy to replace fossil fuels and ward off the worst projections about climate change. Years and miles later, I know the answer is a conditional ”yes”. The question is not “if” but “when”.

Market forces will get us there eventually, but if we leave it to that, we may miss our best shot at thwarting the worst of climate change. However, in our homes, cities and states, Americans are increasingly taking steps to accelerate toward a clean energy future, and offsetting our carbon footprint with an outlet like Cool Effect is a powerful step that many of us can take – and should.

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