The Climate Psychologist explains Mobilisation – US style

2015-05-26 10.21.36 The Climate Psychologist

Meeting Margaret Klein in New York on Memorial Day, 26th May, 2015

Margaret Klein Salamon is an energetic, inspired and inspiring young woman who has come to grips with the climate change reality that faces us all and has made her own full commitment to averting the disaster. She knows full well that, if climate change is not successfully addressed, all other causes, the most worthy to the most obscure, will be moot; irrelevant.


Margaret has founded The Climate Mobilisation and writes an excellent blog at The Climate Psychologist. Margaret, Ezra Silk and the handful of others behind this organisation have raised enough money to build an excellent website filling the need for a tool that can equip and empower others to take the message out. We must effect this change urgently or risk everything.

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Meeting Margaret at The Grey Dog Coffee in Union Square, Manhattan, on a hot and busy ‘Memorial Day’ holiday, I was struck with her single mindedness and clarity of purpose. Margaret knows that this has to be brought to a political point of change and that to achieve this people have to activate more people.

As she ate her lunch I introduced myself and kicked off our conversation explaining what I was looking for. People who do the meta strategy work AND the detailed work thinking need to be talking to each other. Our work is typically under the radar screen, waiting until it is robust before going public and this takes precious time.

I complimented Margaret on their fantastic website. The material on their website is very well written and very important. It contains such useful materials for activists. People need to not feel afraid to launch into conversations and to be well supported with material – verifiable, valuable, referenced – that gives, as she says, “confidence”. She said the site gets between a hundred and two hundred hits a day a day and this number is definitely on the rise.

Then our discussion began with agreement over the need to find the mobilisation efforts that are working and are ‘scale-able’. We talked for about an hour and a half covering many topics and finding much to exchange and much agreement.

Her business cards don’t mince words!
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Some people think sustainability is there as an ‘option’ but what, asks Margaret, is the opposite to ‘sustainable’? Answer: Collapse! We looked at the risk of complacency that can come when governments getting things like energy and public transport and waste management more right, as evidenced by Denmark for instance, where it seems that the term “liveability” is replacing the term “sustainability”. The concept of sustainability is meant to be integrated into the word – Liveability – but if the challenge of sustainability becomes invisible it can be easily dodged. When people are experiencing little or no struggle with transport and energy and waste management they can be led to believe their government has it all in hand. The reality is that they may be doing well in some areas but regarding climate change they are still not doing enough. Complacency is a threat to be looked at when we get our governments to do finally, what we need them to do.

The question, “What is Climate Mobilisation?” is hard to answer because it’s so big but Margaret and the team have developed six themes and icons to spell it out …
1 Fossil Fuels Phase Out

2 Renewable Energy Production Miracle

3 National Conservation Project

4 Mobilise the World

5 Securing the Food and Water Supply

6 All Hands on Deck. (The government coordinates but everyone is doing this.)

Rapid Transformative Change has to happen in the suburbs, home to most of the world’s population and where there is going to be big demographic shifts – Margaret asks, ‘And where are all these people going to live?’ Yet suburbs have such an enormous potential to ‘sustainabalise’ that we’re so far barely tapping. But it IS happening and it IS scale-able.

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That exciting potential to sustainabilise the suburbs combined with an awareness of personal resources and capacity can trigger change activism. It comes from asking yourself questions like ‘Who am I? What are my resources? What do I know? Who’s my network?’ For example, being involved in cooperative, affordable housing + fully understanding the climate change threat + choosing Co-housing for Mainstream applicability helped lead to the formation of a twenty-household, co-housing community in Melbourne, Murundaka, and to this tour of cohousing communities which is also looking at how they (we) are responding to the climate change threat.

Margaret and the TCM crew are thinking about creating for the Climate Mobilisation movement, a voluntary agreement in the event of flooding, sever storms etc that established support on a reciprocal basis. It says “if I’m displaced form my home someone will take me and my family into their home and I equally will take someone into my home who’s been displaced.” It’s a form of group insurance, a bit like ‘Disaster AirBnB’. As well as a safety net, it also provides a sense of belonging. The great thing about community is it brings people together.

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Our conversation strayed to Hurricane Sandy and the devastation it wrought some of which is still being repaired. The Subway system still hasn’t fully come back and boardwalks and sea walls are still being fixed. Years and years of problems come from these disasters. And then there’ll be a next one. Sandy triggered a lot of people to wake up to Climate Change and many have become active but not enough. George Marshall cites research which shows that people who have been through a traumatic disaster can be the very ones who show the greatest propensity for utter denial. They cannot bear to think that such a thing could happen again. It is unimaginable and too heart-breaking to even consider.

Margaret has talked a lot with Philip Sutton who she’s found to be ‘super helpful’. Her belief is strong that The Climate Mobilisation Pledge is a KEY piece, not a secondary but a primary piece, that could work well in Australia. As a psychologist and after Hurricane Sandy, she has been amazed at how many people understand how bad things are and yet how that is not translating into action, or votes or anything. People can say they believe it’s ‘too late’ and ‘we’re finished’, without apparently thinking about how that translates to the suicides and the deaths of many. Margaret points to the huge level of awareness that is inert and sometimes even backfires into denialism or “I better get mine while I have a chance”.

The Pledge to Mobilise is a very easy step between the individual and their most possible, local people – friends, families, neighbours, church group, and national and international massive change that is underway. The Pledge can sometimes have the effect of turning someone into a seriously dedicated activist where there was not one before. “And that is really”, she thinks, “more than anything, what we need. We need lawyers, all sorts of people and skills. We need people to wake up in the morning thinking about this and thinking about engaging with it”.

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There is a couple she talks about living in San Diego, California. They are in their seventies and have have ‘grabbed onto’ The Climate Mobilisation and are running with it. San Diego is by far TCM’s most organised city. In a forthcoming action, former congressman Jim Bates is going to be riding his horse through the streets of San Diego recreating Paul Revere’s ride – “Climate change is coming: Mobilise” and ending at a midnight rally. This all came from them, they made affiliations with every environmental group and political group they could find. These two people ‘did it all; they are incredible’.

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Margaret believes that if TCM had a thousand like them that would be enough; that would be ‘IT’; for the United States anyway that would be enough to flip politics. “Because the truth is on our side. That is our most powerful weapon by far. It is this truth and it is the most important possible truth that we are together committing suicide and murder and we can either stop or we cannot stop. If people really take that in and are really talking about it and there’s really a way, I think we’re going to choose life.”

When people do get it there is nothing is more important. It sorts out what matters most and changes priorities.

This level of mobilisation is critical to the next step and would definitely have traction in Australia. All these things are going to be engaging different people. TCM’s approach is a complementary tool not a unitary strategy. The war analogy is apt and research shows just how many people talk about needing a WW2 scale response to Climate Change. Paul Gilding says ‘it will just happen’ but Margaret disagrees. “We have to make it happen if we want to minimise climate change disruption and costs and get the job done in time.”

Margaret’s research into past revolutions points to the need for paid staff. One account has it that of the number of organisations vying for power in the Russian revolution there was only one that had paid staff; Lenin’s.

The Climate Movement is gradually getting traction. Ralph Nader has recently signed the Pledge.

In discussion re the engagement of conservatives, Margaret thinks the Californian Republicans are the ones to watch. “How can they explain the environmental changes affecting their states to their constituents? Do they think they can buy themselves out of trouble?”

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We discussed in depth that the most diligent activists in this field are much more likely to have been activated by looking the terrible truth in the face and stepping up to avert disaster than by seeing the positive future in detail and being motivated by desire for that scenario. “Have you ever met someone who’s really dedicated to climate change who doesn’t understand the situation?”

Yet we also agreed that the activists need to be able to inspire their colleagues, families, friends and random contacts with a picture of a future that is attractive in itself as well as an antidote to the untenable trend we’re firmly on.

Margaret is keen to see the Climate Mobilisation take off. She believes that if they had a thousand people mobilised via the Pledge in the US that could be enough to get the attention of politics. Australia could equally run with this and successfully engage many people who are ready to go but don’t know how to act to be most effective.

The need for money to fund the work and how to find it was discussed. Margaret is lucky enough to be able to do this work right now, for the time being. If we’re relying on retired people and random people who can figure it out, who can create a life that allows them to do this and people holding down full time jobs doing it after hours, we’re never going to get over this hump. Paid staff is the one obvious next step. She believes $US400,000 would be enough enable the climate movement to go to the next level.

2015-05-26 10.24.05 TCM

The Climate Mobilisation has two Fund Raising proposals underway. One for 501C4 Tax for doing political work in the context of the looming 2016 election and one for 501C3 Charitable which draws the line on endorsing candidates. They are also thinking about just publishing them online and going for crowd funding. We talked about vision and the need for donors, philanthropists and sponsors to recognise there’s a good fit for their values. The TCM organisation is frugal and doesn’t need much money but it needs to pay a number of people a living wage. These paid jobs would not be meant to be career moves or a way to get rich. It would be a way for a person to give years of their life to this cause and to not starve in the process and for the organisation to avoid some of the pitfalls of constant Fund Raising.

We discussed the need to help people, Margaret believes through brainstorming, to self audit and then, working from knowledge of self, aspirations, experience, qualifications, qualities, resources, networks, contacts and contexts, find an effective way forward using what they already have in their kit and a suite of tools such as The Climate Movement has developed.

In Melbourne the sustainable Living Foundation has been working on Mobilising Whole Communities since 2003 starting with the Race to Sustainability in 2004 and have run many events including the Global Climate Emergency Convergence in 2007 (see article) ongoing. Safe Climate Australia ran a breakfast with Al Gore for a thousand people (eight hundred of whom were from the corporate sector). It organised a Run for a Safe Climate through all the iconic places to be affected by sea level rise and climate change from the Daintree, past the Great Barrier Reef, Sydney Opera House to Melbourne’s St Kilda beach. There is a lot of synergism between all this work and more and of course, with The Climate Movement.

With a click of a button this clever website is relevant to Australia (or anywhere). It is a global website for a global problem and global solutions. It shows the universality of The Climate Mobilisation approach.

Sign the Pledge Australia.
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About Giselle Wilkinson - 4allsentientbeings

Environmental conservation, community and cooperatives have been enduring threads in my life. Promoting sustainable lifestyles and more lately, focussing on restoring a Safe Climate, is work expressed predominantly through organisations such as The Sustainable Living Foundation (which I co-founded in 1999 - current President) and the others listed as links below. I am some way into a professional doctorate with MIECAT on "Mobilising Whole Communities to Restore a Sustainable Environment" and have in recent years moved into MURUNDAKA – a (more) sustainable, (more) affordable co-housing community / housing cooperative in Heidelberg, Melbourne (for which I gave up my co-op house of 19 years including veggie garden and small orchard) and it's great. I'm also a mum of two grown up daughters and have five step children.
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