Whether you choose to super-glue your hands to the sidewalk in front of Parliament, or camp out high in a tulip poplar to block a pipeline, or call your child’s third-grade teacher to improve his experience at school, or write a letter to the President or your Council member, YOU ARE AN ADVOCATE. When you march for climate action or social justice or counting all votes, YOU ARE AN ADVOCATE. When your T-shirt says “May the forest be with you” or “Sea level is rising and so are we,” YOU ARE AN ADVOCATE.
Advocacy is not usually scary (as some feel), but it does take some preparation. Emailing twenty friends to ask them to join you with signs in front of City Hall is fairly easy, but it may not seem so easy for you to testify in front of the County Council or the Appropriations Committee at the House of Delegates. Whatever your comfort level, you can be an advocate.
If your child comes home crying from school and says “Ms. Conklin yelled at me all day,” you would probably contact Ms. Conklin. If your doctor recommends a potentially dangerous procedure, you would probably research that procedure on line or get a second opinion. So, you will readily advocate for your child or your own health. Will you do the same for your child’s future, for our climate future?
One definition of advocacy is “the act of speaking on the behalf of, or in support of, another person, place, or thing.” To do this well, several steps are recommended:
- Clearly define the problem. Example: Earth’s ecosystems are dying and it will make my grandson suffer. (Keep it personal if possible.)
- Identify the appropriate advocacy type. Example: Contact local representatives to change laws, or march with signs at a festival.
- Build expertise. Example: Read what the global experts, scientists, government officials, or religious leaders say
about the climate crisis and quote them.
- Keep records. Example: Maybe you spoke with the Mayor in March and August. Time for another talk?
- Follow up. Example: Send the Mayor the latest IPCC report on climate or name the Mayor in your letter to the editor.
All of these steps will help you become a great advocate. Your voice will be heard whether you play dead in front of Nancy Pelosi’s office or write postcards with the Sierra Club (see the Catoctin Group here to get involved) or stand out in front of Winchester Hall with a “Climate Action Now” sign. Speak up! Advocate for the things that matter to you!
Kathleen Rall, who has become expert as political chair of the Catoctin Group, Sierra Club, is a grandmother, mother, wife, retired nurse, counselor, tree farmer and horse rancher. Her last business was called Trees Please!