Changes to the Lives of Climate Organizers during the Pandemic
Coronavirus has disrupted all our lives. The public health and economic consequences are incredible. For months now, daily life has been far from normal for most Americans.
Like so many people, I’ve been worried about my health and the health of family and friends around the country. I don’t know that I’ll ever get used to seeing daily public health updates on TV. Whether folks are working on the front lines, newly out of work, or working from home, everyone is managing each day to work through unprecedented challenges – homeschooling kids, getting food for the week and making sure our parents and elderly neighbors have groceries, and thinking about how to safely engage in necessary tasks away from home.
At the beginning of March, just as most people were getting serious about social distancing and state and local governments were issuing stay-at-home orders, we were wrapping up a week of training with a new team of organizers to launch the EDF Action Climate Team in Arizona, Iowa, Florida and South Carolina.
That week of training included everything you might expect for an organizer charged with building power for climate action in their community – how to collect petition signatures at local gathering spots, how to get people excited about volunteering in a one-on-one meeting, and how to hold compelling action-oriented community events. Coming out of that week of training, though, none of these activities were possible.
Because many of the ways we traditionally connect with EDF members and local climate activists were not possible, EDF Action’s Climate Team organizers have had to adapt quickly. They’ve learned to utilize new tools, texting and calling members to check in, moving to online one-on-one meetings, hosting zoom happy hours and online Earth Day events, and spreading the word via social media and videos.
Sydney, the EDF Action Climate Team organizer working in the Charleston area of South Carolina, said this work is teaching her patience as she is learning to get to know the community during this difficult time and figuring out through trial and error how to build a genuine human connection in a virtual way. One thing Sydney is trying is using her Facebook group to gather together a community of local folks concerned about climate change. She’s also been using Facebook Live to introduce herself and talk about the program in more detail.
Mary, who’s building support for climate action in the Orlando area, is also using video to build her community. She’s been holding a virtual coffee chat each week featuring special guests from the local government and environmental community. Dozens of folks show up for these coffee chats each week, and the conversations are recorded and later shared with Mary’s Facebook group.
Shifting the way we work has been difficult, but there’s been a lot of camaraderie with others working on climate and environmental issues as we were all working to bring our movement online and find our footing together. That’s been the case in Iowa, where our EDF Action Climate Team organizer Jeremy co-hosted virtual events with local organizations like the Sierra Club Iowa Chapter’s Cedar Prairie Group. Jeremy is optimistic that these new tools, the skills he’s learning, and the connections he’s making through online organizing will enhance the Climate Team program in the state once it’s safe for people to start interacting again in person.
Even during these trying times, our new EDF Action Climate Team organizers have done incredible work these past two months – finding ways in this pandemic to connect with their communities and offer space for our members to get together and advocate for a cleaner, healthier planet.