Sharing Our Stories to Solve Climate Change

Throughout human history storytelling has been a powerful way to connect, comfort each other, explore our dreams, and share the human experience. Our stories personalize us and bring heart and meaning to issues that often seem impersonal and distant from our lives and build unity among people from different backgrounds. The astonishing success of the marriage equality movement is a prime example of that. When we speak genuinely, our voices can change the world, and our stories make the difference.

Climate change has often seemed one of those issues best left to the scientists. For many of us, solving this issue is beyond our knowledge base and comfort zone. We feel unqualified to be part of the conversation and impotent in solving it.

The truth is that tackling and solving the challenges of climate change requires all of our voices and stories as much as those of people with specialized training and advanced degrees. We don't all need to be experts to tell our stories, our reasons for wanting to tackle this problem. What we need is a commitment to be present and speak up, because every voice matters and this problem affects us all.

Over the past year, more than 8 million people across the country have added their voices to the call for climate action and our stories, our voices, have made a difference.

This week President Obama delivered presenting the Clean Power Plan (CPP), the first-ever rule to limit carbon pollution; and I was honored to be in the audience for this historic announcement.

How important is this? This is the single biggest and most ambitious action the U.S. has ever taken to tackle climate change, setting the first-ever limits on dangerous carbon pollution from the nation's existing power plants. Considering the level to which climate change has been politicized in our country and the grasp of the fossil fuel industry on our government, this plan is something to celebrate.

The CPP will keep "870 million tons of carbon dioxide pollution out of our atmosphere... the equivalent of taking 166 million cars off the road." But carbon isn't the only thing we'll see less of. Many other pollutants that threaten our health will also be cut. This will deliver incredible public health benefits. Less asthma attacks, less heart disease and will reduce premature deaths from power plant emissions by nearly 90 percent in 2030 compared to 2005 and decrease the pollutants that contribute to the soot and smog and can lead to more asthma attacks in kids by more than 70 percent. As a parent, these numbers mean everything.

While pollution affects us all, some of our communities are sadly paying the price at higher levels than others. Many low-income and heavily African American communities are often in close proximity to dirty power plants that pump out toxic air daily compromising human health and well-being. Millions of Latinos who live in areas that already suffer some of the worse air quality in the country breathing in air pollution that threatens health and results in pricey medical bills and missed work and school days, not to mention unrealized human potential.

This lone piece and my opinion alone is clearly not going to quiet the highly politicized rhetoric surrounding this new plan, but our voices together can begin to weaken the resolve of the self-interested deniers out there.

As we celebrate, polluters and their friends in Congress are preparing their army to fight these rules. After all, they care more about protecting their bottom lines than protecting our health, our children, our communities, our (including their) futures. This shortsighted, destructive approach helps nobody.

Polluters can keep spending billions to try and scare us and protect their money but our voices, our stories, and our energy will go into making sure that people know the facts. Our stories will contain the truth, from our hearts, not the distorted propaganda of those keeping us from the benefits of a clean renewable energy future.

We need to keep telling the stories of our children struggling with asthma and young people reminding us of their desire to enjoy playing safely outside with clean air and clean water; the stories of farmers who are struggling with unpredictable weather patterns and drought to continue to feed our world; the stories of our grandparents to remind us of what we've already lost; of businesses who see the opportunity to grow and gain so much through clean energy. We need the hear the stories and heed the warnings of medical professionals who are already seeing patients struggle with more allergens, diseases vectors and extreme weather impacts associated with climate change, and the stories of mayors who are building stronger cities that are able to deal with the impacts now and in the future.

Our work is far from done and this fight needs our voices, out there, sharing your stories through YouTube, Vine, Instagram and other social media platforms so that we can keep the human spirit at the forefront of this critical issue.

As Pope Francis laid it out in his Encyclical on climate change last month, "[t]he coming 10 months are crucial, then, for decisions about international development, human flourishing and care for the common home we call planet Earth."

Climate change is a human issue: a cultural, moral, and spiritual one with solutions that draw upon all of these. Conversations about climate change can and must be as diverse and deep as we are. They must include not only the science and policy details, but the voice of those who live the experience of climate change most closely and who often don't always get their voices heard. This is our defining moment. We can celebrate winning this battle on CPP knowing we must keep fighting, sharing our stories in order to protect our children, our communities, and the future of our common home.


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