Climate and YOU
Reflections on Living in a Climate and Ecological Crisis
Start a Climate Action Now Affinity Group
Here is the best way to start taking action on our climate and ecological emergency:
Get together with friends!
Meeting regularly about climate action with like-minded people has many benefits:
1. It motivates you to finally do something. Arrange one initial get-together and see where it goes from there.
2. It’s fun! This may be an emergency, but make time to enjoy one another’s company. Share food and drink, or – if online – have people check in or offer a show-and-tell.
3. You don’t have to know what to do – you figure it out together.
4. It nourishes and/or builds relationships with people you already care about. Friends, neighbors, co-workers, people at your church or school, or people with whom you share common interests, whether that’s birding, brewing beer, playing soccer, fishing, or whatever else floats your boat.
5. It can be deeply supportive emotionally to be with other people who acknowledge climate reality but refuse to give up hope.
6. When it comes time to take action, you have company. Whether it’s letter writing, canvassing, protesting, or attending town halls, you have moral support and it’s much more enjoyable to do this stuff with others.
Take the first step now, before you forget about ever having read this. See below for how to get started!
Steps for Setting Up Your First Meeting
1. Do it now. Arrange one initial get-together and see where it goes from there. If you can’t do it now, set a deadline for yourself or it will probably never happen.
2. Decide who to invite. Who do you want to spend time with? What kind of people do you respect? Who do you want at your side when you step outside your comfort zone and take a new kind of action? It’s nice if everyone has something in common, but it’s also okay if they’re simply all good people.
3. Aim for anywhere between 3 and 12 people. You can always invite more people later. An ideal affinity group is 8-12 people – it’s intimate, it’s easier to make decisions, but there’s enough people to keep up the momentum.
4. Set a date and time that works for you, and that you hope will work for most of the others. Asking people right off the bat to suggest or vote on dates or times is usually too much to ask. If people are interested and can’t make it, they’ll let you know and maybe you can adjust.
5. Send an invite to your people. Include something like this in your message: “I’d love for you to be at this meeting to explore whether we might want to form a Climate Action Now Affinity Group. Click here to learn what this means. [include the link, https://climateandyou.com/start-a-climate-action-now-affinity-group/] Whatever we decide, it will be interesting [or refreshing, or supportive] to engage in an open and honest conversation about our climate and ecological crisis and what we can do about it.”
6. If you can meet in-person, tempt people with food and/or drink! If you are meeting online, see if you can attract people by sharing an inspiring or intriguing article, video, or action that will be discussed.
7. Have a very loose agenda for the first meeting, but have an agenda. You want to make room for everyone to contribute and take ownership, but if there’s no focus the meeting may seem like a waste of time. A good basic agenda: 1) Briefly state why you coordinated the meeting; 2) Introductions, along with each person stating why they decided to attend; 3) Each person has 3-5 minutes to share one of the deepest concerns about the climate and ecological crisis, and one thing that gives them hope; 4) Review the Guidelines for Climate Action Now Affinity Groups (see below) and talk about whether people want to form a group; 5) If yes/maybe, set the next meeting.
8. Limit the structured part of the meeting – not including social time before and/or after – to 60 minutes. Keep an eye on the clock and cut down sharing time per person to avoid going too long. Leave 15 minutes for parts 4) and 5).
If your meeting fizzles (few people attend, or people aren’t interested in meeting again), try not to be discouraged! You may need to extend your invitation to a different group of people. Feel free to contact me (Domyo) if you need some ideas or encouragement.
Guidelines for Climate Action Now Groups
1. Meet regularly – weekly is great, but at least once or twice a month. Keep up the momentum! The biggest barrier to taking climate action is getting busy with our lives and forgetting to take part; commitment to the group is what keeps us aware and engaged.
2. FOCUS ON ACTION. It may not always be easy to decide what to do, but keep doing something. Few people have the time for a group that’s just going to talk or read about the climate crisis (although there is value in these activities). Aim for at least one monthly action of some kind, whether it’s participating in a rally, showing up to court case, lobbying a member of congress, writing postcards, standing on street corner holding a banner, anything. Action is empowering, builds relationships, stimulates creativity, and keeps things moving.
3. Don’t get bogged down in debates about personal lifestyle and consumer choices. Such choices are important, but they can be a major distraction from the need to insist on systemic change. Arguments about things like diet and travel are also likely to be divisive and make some people feel like they have to pass a purity test to belong. Instead, focus on holding our governments accountable, pressuring giant corporations to change their ways, promoting positive legislation for green alternatives, and/or calling out the wealthy and powerful for not doing more.
4. Keep meetings short and efficient. Aim for 60-90 minutes, and try to start and (especially) end on time. Have an agenda for each meeting, balancing the time between sharing and connecting, and planning for actions. Maybe have people arrive early or stay later for optional socializing.
5. Have one or two coordinators who schedule meetings and craft agendas. Ideally, your affinity group is “leaderful,” with many/most of the participants sharing responsibilities, contributing ideas, and helping to make decisions. Coordinating and hosting can rotate. However, every group needs at least one person willing to gently and diplomatically keep the ball rolling. Don’t be shy about stepping up, or the group will likely fizzle.
6. Connect with other groups, organizations, and movements while maintaining your affinity group. Unless some group really lights your fire and you want to focus on that (great!), it’s your affinity group which will keep you connected and motivated. Participate in actions organized by others as an affinity group, and sustain your group through various phases of affiliation and collaboration with other organizations or movements.
7. Use the “Alliance of the Willing” approach. It’s great if the whole group agrees a particular action is a super idea and should be priority, but don’t get stuck if you don’t get consensus, and don’t let a couple stubborn people block every idea. Instead, imagine you have idea for going on a hike along a particular river, and invite your friends. Those who are interested and available will come. Similarly, people should bring proposals to the affinity group and make a good case for them. People can discuss and question, but at some point just figure out who (if anyone) is interested in pursuing an idea, and then meet at a separate time to make plans. Try not to take it personally and don’t insist if not everyone wants to come on your hike.
8. Let your group evolve and even split if that’s what will end up being most supportive of continued action. What’s important is everyone stays engaged in some kind of climate action, and this is most likely to happen when people follow their hearts, inclinations, and natural interests. Commitment to a group can be a great source of strength and motivation, but it’s good not to be too attached when things change and it’s time to move on.
9. Balance realism with Active Hope. Try to make space for honest confessions of grief, fear, despair, disillusionment, discouragement, and skepticism, but support one another in standing up for everything we love no matter what.
10. Have fun. Name your group whatever you like. Check back with Climate and YOU for suggestions on actions, resources, and how to Face the Truth, Stay Strong, and Take Action.
Ideas for Group Activities
Remember! You don’t have to do all of these things. What matters is you pick something and do it.
1. Read and discuss Margaret Klein Salamon’s Facing the Climate Emergency: How to Transform Yourself with Climate Truth. This short and pithy book is a super intro to the why and how of climate action, and includes lots of practical suggestions for how to get started.
2. Assign people to connect with other climate action groups in your area to see what actions you might want to participate in. Have those people bring proposals back to your group. Check out local chapters of The Climate Mobilization, 350.org, the Sunrise Movement, Extinction Rebellion, the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, The Climate Reality Project, Rising Tide, or local environmental groups.
3. Assign people to learn the three most critical issues or opportunities in your area regarding the climate and ecological crisis. Connecting with the groups above might be a good place to start. Have those people give a short presentation to the group at a meeting.
4. Get involved in your local political processes: Identify and campaign for candidates who pledge to address the climate and ecological emergency; hold elected officials accountable with phone calls to their offices and by attending their town halls; campaign for legislation that addresses the climate and ecological emergency.
5. Create signs or banners that express your concern about the climate emergency and schedule an hour to stand on a busy street corner together. No one believes this is an emergency as long as no one around them says it is. The more often we show up and speak the truth, the faster society will shift its response.
6. Get Nonviolent Civil Disobedience (NVCD) training. Even if your group is not planning to organize or regularly participate in disruptive civil resistance or protests, you learn what to expect at protests, and about your rights as a citizen. And then you’re ready in case your affinity wants to join a big action at some point. Check your closest Extinction Rebellion group for opportunities (or contact me, Domyo, for suggestions).
7. Discuss your group’s willingness/readiness to participate in mass, nonviolent civil resistance if/when there is an action relatively near you. Study what it means to function as an affinity group at a large action, including preparation and roles.
The list can go on and on, and I’ll add to it regularly. Feel free to contact me (Domyo) if you need some ideas or encouragement.