It’s Tuesday morning. Day 25 of my east coast interview trip. It’s raining–again. I’m on the train from Philly to Penn Station and on to the middle of Long Island for my ninth interview. The train is where I do my best writing. Surrounded by people in their own worlds–lost in conversation with their seat mates, playing solitaire on their computers, sleeping with their heads flopped to one side or passed out on their tray tables.
People in between. Here and there. I’ve done eight interviews so far. There’s nothing better than listening to someone tell their story–listening as they tell me about making that first phone call to their representative’s office–their voice shaking. As I write, the rhythm of the train bouncing my pen across the page, I see more clearly why I’m doing this climate interview project. I’m doing it for me–to keep me inspired and buoyed up. To buffer myself against the tidal wave of cynicism–my own and everyone else’s.
On Sunday I was at a farmer’s market in Lancaster, PA , talking with Elke Arnesen, a 17 year old high school senior, who started going to CCL meetings last fall. Whose open face is full of promise. “Why do you do this work?” I wanted to know. We were sitting in the shade at the edge of the park, surrounded by local food stands, a yoga class and a ‘petting zoo’ with baby goats. “At my first CCL meeting, I felt like a small high school student who didn’t know anything, didn’t know how the world worked or how to make things happen. It took several months of meetings before I trusted myself to say anything.
Last month I went to the Citizens’ Climate Lobby conference in Washington DC. It was when our group met with the aide to my member of congress that something shifted. He talked to me like I was an adult, asked me why I cared about climate change. And he listened to my answer. In that moment, the world became accessible to me.” Okay, that stopped me.
The world became accessible to her. That’s big. That’s what keeps me doing this. Every story, every time I talk to someone–every time I hear them wake up to their own power–it deepens my voice, and reminds me who I am.