Advocacy in Action: Behind the Scenes of Legislative Meetings
August 31, 2021
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What does it take to effect meaningful climate legislation? Constituents who will share their support with their elected representatives. Making this type of effective advocacy happen is one of the goals of the Climate Witness Project. We’re committed to helping people of faith raise their voice on behalf of God’s creation and stand alongside neighbors around the world who are poor and vulnerable.
This summer, our regional organizers around the United States put together advocacy teams to conduct legislative meetings with their senators. From California to Pennsylvania, groups throughout the United States researched legislation and developed talking points in preparation for these meetings.
“We’re in desperate need of climate legislation at a federal level,” explained Allen Drew, our Eastern US based organizer. “Every vote in the US Senate really matters, so we need to do whatever we can to tip that needle towards healing for our planet.”
Drew’s sense of urgency was underscored in the past month by the IPCC’s report on climate change. Even as North America has been hit by a series of extreme weather events, the report’s authors warn that these aren’t one-off disasters. “There will be an increasing occurrence of some extreme events unprecedented in the observational record with additional global warming, even at 1.5 °C of global warming.”
Phone calls, letters, and meetings are the best way to influence our lawmakers. They need to know what issues are important to their constituents. Our Chicago-area organizer, Jay De Man, was encouraged by the response from the congressional staff they met with. “They were very receptive to both our message and the specific asks that we made and were thrilled to be collaborating. We’ll be following up in the future to work with them on specific projects.”
In California, regional organizer Donna Lee set up meetings with both Senators Padilla and Feinstein so that local advocates could communicate how climate change is affecting them personally. Lee commented, "It's supremely important for senators and their staffers to hear our voices as we speak to them about climate action and making their votes count for our shared goals. The folks on our calls spoke to the impact of these issues, and how they affect them personally. All of us have family members or friends who have been affected by this season's fires, which in turn affect every aspect of life here."
But not only are these types of legislative meetings important for keeping our lawmakers accountable. They also help us as constituents become more involved and aware of our own responsibilities.
In Michigan, a group of college students with Climate Witness Project met staff from Senator Gary Peters’ West Michigan office. These young activists first attended a Faith in Action seminar which offered coaching on how to conduct a legislative visit, craft advocacy talking points, and more.
Afterwards, one participant decided she was going to keep on speaking up for just climate change policy. “I am excited to continue reaching out to members of Congress in Michigan.” Clayton’s newfound determination was one of the goals of the Faith in Action advocacy training.
Grand Rapids-based organizer Steve Mulder was heartened by the results of the meeting. “I was so impressed by the young women’s research and presentations. And really, this is all about building relationships and having an ongoing conversation, so I was thrilled that these young activists want to continue the conversation [with their elected representatives].”
Advocacy is hard work. And while some lawmakers respond positively, others may not be receptive or encouraging. Yet as Drew reminded the Pennsylvania team, “We don’t do this work advocating on behalf of Jesus, on behalf of the poor and vulnerable because we expect to have success. We do it because it’s right and because it’s in line with the footsteps of Jesus. And if we do that, we trust that in some small way...we’ll be participating in the work of God.”
Climate Witness Project looks forward to offering more opportunities in the days and weeks ahead to facilitate advocacy efforts on behalf of environmental justice legislation.
Do you want to get involved? Get connected with your regional organizer to learn about ways you can make a difference.
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Thanks to the advocates and all who are involved! This is hard work (and at times quite discouraging). So glad for people working together, we cannot do this alone.
Glad we can be in it together Staci!
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