About Emily Piontek
1) How would you as a director navigate the current international political environment to further Care about Climate’s mission?
As a director, I would navigate the international political climate by focusing on a pragmatic, collaborative approach to climate solutions. The current international climate is politically polarized, and governments have proven themselves ineffective in acting substantially on climate change in any kind of united manner. Therefore, as a director I would advocate for two approaches.
One, when Care About Climate members are acting in communities where dissent and disagreement on climate change is particularly limiting, I would advocate that this organization coach our members about the framing of the climate change issue they are focused on; by identifying and understanding the reasoning behind a resistant community, Care About Climate members would know how to approach that particular audience. I truly believe that in many situations, the things that individuals want are not so very different at their core (financial security, job stability, safe communities, opportunities for their children). By finding a way to agree on certain points (such as a desire for lowered electricity bills, which can be achieved through renewable energy sources), seemingly opposed groups of individuals can act in a more unified, powerful manner.
Second, I would promote local, inclusive place-based actions to address climate change. Cities across the United States have shown themselves to be tremendously effective in adopting climate goals following the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris Accords. In the rhetoric of climate change, impacts to personally known, experienced, and loved places can be lost amongst consideration of global impacts. Therefore, focusing on local issues and pressuring local governments to resolve issues or take climate actions could skirt political divides and impasses at higher, more politicized levels of government.
How would you contribute to and improve current Care About Climate programs?
I would contribute to current Care About Climate programs in the following ways. (1) I would seek to pair Climate Ambassadors with mentors who are member of Care About Climate, have similar experiences in terms of climate actions and issues, or who would be a knowledgeable and nurturing resource to the ambassadors. This could be done through monthly conference calls. Climate Ambassadors, particularly younger members, would greatly benefit from the guidance of other climate advocates, and would hopefully be encouraged to continue their advocacy work into the future. In advocacy, and whenever we are engaging with disturbing, frightening, or complex global issues, it’s easy to become burned out or disengaged due to the sheer scale of the problem. Thus, I believe supporting and encouraging the efforts of our members in a personal, consistent way is of vital importance to the mission of Care About Climate.
(2) I would like to develop a series of themed monthly webinars that Care About Climate could invite ambassadors and other members to watch or listen to. Each webinar would cover a specific topic that activists can use to better engage community members on issues of climate. Webinars would include presentations, time for questions from the audience, and a list of resources that participants could return to, as well as offer more opportunities for members and ambassadors to make personal connections with other climate advocates. Specific goals that I have in mind for this series would be to educate our members on (a) the nexus of science, policy, and politics, and how climate goals fit into this framework, and (b) science communication, as so many climate change solutions are technical and/or misunderstood by the broader public. Making this information accessible to all is a valuable skill that Care About Climate ambassadors could be perfectly poised to undertake.
What do you see as the most important aspect surrounding climate change that we need to face as a society?
The most important aspect surrounding climate change in our society is the culture of consumption that pervades the United States. Efforts to promote sustainability, recycling, and “green living” do not go far enough to tackle the root cause of anthropogenic climate change and environmental disruption. Consumption of goods drives the economy of the United States; everywhere we look, we are being counseled, urged, to buy, buy, buy. What is not so apparent at first glance, at automatic “click”, at the swipe of our debit cards, is the environmental cost of the goods we are purchasing. And the less apparent that connection - between the good itself (be it a quick soda, dinner, clothing, a new iPad, or a new car) and the production of it (from the beginning of its life cycle to its final destination) - the more goods continue to be consumed, and the more of Earth that is mined, forested, and manipulated into becoming our newest possession. In a capitalist society, consumption - or the need for its reduction - is an uncomfortable topic. However, if we do not modify our way of life, and raise the next generation to appreciate the goods they have, to reduce and reuse before they recycle, then we are continually going to be chasing after industries in an attempt to regulate the how , where , and what of production. Thus, the conversation of living with fewer cheaply produced, environmentally costly goods must enter into the language of climate change, and how we as humans can live more equitably on Earth.
As the twentieth and twenty-first centuries have contributed to the mechanization and globalization of production, goods have been more easily produced at economies of scale which allow for their cheaper production, in terms of both cost and quality. We can now buy things that are meant to be thrown away after one use, or that can be cheaply and easily replaced if broken. We have to begin emphasizing quality over quantity, holding producers accountable for their business practices, but more importantly, working to cultivate an ethic of mindful consumption in our society. I believe that Care About Climate’s work with youth, in particular, powerfully positions the organization to begin building a more mindfully consumptive society as we work with the generation that is going to have to solve our society’s issues.