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How to stop the lemmings

Marshall's Plan

Screenshot of Marshall Saunders
Screenshot of Marshall Saunders

Is an upstairs office in downtown Coronado going to save the world?

Out of his modest headquarters on Orange Avenue, Marshall Saunders founded Citizens’ Climate Lobby back in 2007. His idea was that we had to slow down climate change by reducing our carbon consumption, by taxing it, and so increasing its price. With expensive carbon, people, nations, would seek out cheaper ways to create energy, get to work, cook dinner. They’d find a way to burn less carbon, heat Mother Earth less.

So in his plan, Saunders knew he’d have to persuade the people, then the people would have to persuade Congress. Because Congress, he believes, has always been the problem. “While I suggested ways for people to reduce their use of carbon,” he told his followers back then, “Congress extended a law that gave $18 billion in subsidies to oil and coal companies. […] Ordinary people were not asking their members of Congress for anything regarding climate change, not in an organized and effective way.”

That was then. Things have changed. From their Coronado office over the last decade, Saunders and executive director Mark Reynolds have created 240 Citizen Climate Lobby chapters around the country and in places such as Canada, Australia, Europe, Central America, Asia, Africa. Last year, to persuade Congress, the Lobby’s members set up 1653 lobbying meetings in Congress, wrote 72,721 polite letters, published over 4000 op-ed and other pieces in US and foreign media, and held over 3000 outreach events. The House Republicans have even introduced their own climate resolution (H.Res.195) which includes the statement, “If left unaddressed, the consequences of a changing climate have the potential to adversely impact all Americans.”

You might believe all this has turned Marshall’s little upstairs office on Orange Avenue into a kind of “Save-the-World” Global HQ. Certainly, their mini-tsunami of citizen action is starting to get noticed, around the country, and especially in the halls of power.

But is it all in time?

Marshall doesn’t sound so sure. I run across him at Café Madrid outside Bay Books, maybe 100 yards from his office. I’m expecting him to be a little cock-a-hoop, because I’ve just read that the number of congressmen who’ve joined the “Climate Solutions Caucus,” has climbed to 78, from both sides. Unthinkable a few years ago.

Great news, right?

“Well, yes,” he says.

“So that’s good, isn’t it?”

“Yes, but it’s a race to get things done before we heat up too much,” he says. “You remember when the UN held its first Conference of the Parties on climate — COP-1? We’re now up to COP-21. Twenty-one years! And the US is pulling out of Paris. I hate to say it, but nothing we’ve actually done yet will stop us all having to leap like lemmings over that cliff. We’ve got to face it: that’s where we’re still headed right now.”

As he heads back towards Lobby headquarters, you have to wonder, is there a Marshall’s Plan B?

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Screenshot of Marshall Saunders
Screenshot of Marshall Saunders

Is an upstairs office in downtown Coronado going to save the world?

Out of his modest headquarters on Orange Avenue, Marshall Saunders founded Citizens’ Climate Lobby back in 2007. His idea was that we had to slow down climate change by reducing our carbon consumption, by taxing it, and so increasing its price. With expensive carbon, people, nations, would seek out cheaper ways to create energy, get to work, cook dinner. They’d find a way to burn less carbon, heat Mother Earth less.

So in his plan, Saunders knew he’d have to persuade the people, then the people would have to persuade Congress. Because Congress, he believes, has always been the problem. “While I suggested ways for people to reduce their use of carbon,” he told his followers back then, “Congress extended a law that gave $18 billion in subsidies to oil and coal companies. […] Ordinary people were not asking their members of Congress for anything regarding climate change, not in an organized and effective way.”

That was then. Things have changed. From their Coronado office over the last decade, Saunders and executive director Mark Reynolds have created 240 Citizen Climate Lobby chapters around the country and in places such as Canada, Australia, Europe, Central America, Asia, Africa. Last year, to persuade Congress, the Lobby’s members set up 1653 lobbying meetings in Congress, wrote 72,721 polite letters, published over 4000 op-ed and other pieces in US and foreign media, and held over 3000 outreach events. The House Republicans have even introduced their own climate resolution (H.Res.195) which includes the statement, “If left unaddressed, the consequences of a changing climate have the potential to adversely impact all Americans.”

You might believe all this has turned Marshall’s little upstairs office on Orange Avenue into a kind of “Save-the-World” Global HQ. Certainly, their mini-tsunami of citizen action is starting to get noticed, around the country, and especially in the halls of power.

But is it all in time?

Marshall doesn’t sound so sure. I run across him at Café Madrid outside Bay Books, maybe 100 yards from his office. I’m expecting him to be a little cock-a-hoop, because I’ve just read that the number of congressmen who’ve joined the “Climate Solutions Caucus,” has climbed to 78, from both sides. Unthinkable a few years ago.

Great news, right?

“Well, yes,” he says.

“So that’s good, isn’t it?”

“Yes, but it’s a race to get things done before we heat up too much,” he says. “You remember when the UN held its first Conference of the Parties on climate — COP-1? We’re now up to COP-21. Twenty-one years! And the US is pulling out of Paris. I hate to say it, but nothing we’ve actually done yet will stop us all having to leap like lemmings over that cliff. We’ve got to face it: that’s where we’re still headed right now.”

As he heads back towards Lobby headquarters, you have to wonder, is there a Marshall’s Plan B?

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