Photo courtesy of Georgia Pressley/The Chautauquan Daily.

I asked the 2,000 folks in the Chautauqua amphitheater on the Fourth of July to raise their hands if they were right of center.

And then I asked them to keep their hands up if they believed that climate change is real, that it’s human-caused and that we can solve it.

At the end of that series of questions, I asked those who had their hands up still to keep them up so that I could come kiss each one of them. “You are our people at republicEn.org!” I declared.

At dinner that night at Chautauqua’s Athenaeum Hotel, a woman presented herself and said, “I’m here to collect my kiss!” She and her husband are from Alabama. They’re conservatives; they know climate change is real; they know it’s human-caused; and they believe that free enterprise innovation can solve the problem.

I gave her a COVID-safe side hug.

The Alabama couple told me that they were glad that I’d asked them to self-identify as conservatives because, as the husband said, “We need fellow Chautauquans to know that there are conservatives here and that we care.”

The Alabama couple knew that in the grace-filled, faith-welcoming, consensus-building atmosphere of Chautauqua it’s OK to out oneself as conservative. I had closed my presentation that morning with a plea for those who had identified as left of center to continue welcoming people like me—people who have come around on climate. I also asked them to urge their friends on the left not to make the perfect the enemy of the good; not to expect climate legislation to right every wrong of this fallen world; and not to confuse efforts at the federal level to get a worldwide price on carbon dioxide with local efforts to address zoning and siting decisions that drive environmental injustices.

Events like these are important. Important to our work as important as they are to the community of EcoRighters who need to know they aren’t alone.