We are three of the original “spokespeople” at republicEn.org. While we all came to the EcoRight from different paths, we are part of this movement for similar reasons. We are conservatives and we care about climate change. Through our work with republicEn.org, we have read each other’s op-eds and shared each other’s social media posts, but until the annual conference of the Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL) a bipartisan group that supports a price on carbon we had never met in person.
Even though the conference and the group is bipartisan, those of us identifying as conservatives were in the minority. But that made it easier to find each other, especially given our mutual affiliation with the EcoRight. At republicEn.org, we have learned how important it is to be an “up-stander” as opposed to a bystander, and that was evidenced by our participation in the CCL conference. The three of us were vital in conveying the message to Republican lawmakers: their constituents support climate action. We were pleased to learn that the conservatives in attendance had more meetings than everyone else and also led numerous panels and discussions.
Here are our individual perspectives on our experiences in Washington D.C.
Tyler Gillette: I was excited to go to D.C to try and make a difference. I was also excited for the opportunity to see my fellow republicEn members and staff that I had never met before. I had no idea what was in store for me, but I knew I was going to try to put the EcoRight on the Ohio map and network. I think I achieved that goal since the conference was trending on Twitter in Washington D.C and 3-4 of my tweets were on the conference’s moments recap. One of my favorite panels was about Outdoor Conservation Groups which was lead by speakers who represented the Audubon Society, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, and Trout Unlimited. As a fellow scientist, I also loved meeting Dr. Katharine Hayhoe and hearing her keynote talk.
I got the chance to meet with staff from Ohio Senator Rob Portman’s office as well as Representatives Troy Balderson (R-OH) and Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH). They got to hear my passion for climate solutions, But, the best part about the trip was participating in democracy, actively trying to make a change for a cause I care for instead of just sitting on the sidelines.
Jacob Abel: While I’ve been a longtime member of republicEn.org, this June conference was one of my first experiences with CCL. I thought the conference was a great experience overall and everyone was very welcoming of all points of view. I had the opportunity to speak on a panel of fellow young conservatives about how to get more Republicans involved in the climate movement. What struck me most about the panel was how many liberals were in the room and how interested they were in trying to learn more about our perspective. This was very important for me because it shows that CCL is willing to work collaboratively to address climate change. My favorite part of the conference by far was meeting with staff members from the offices of Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), Representatives Richard Hudson (R-NC), Chris Smith (R-NJ), and Patrick McHenery (R-NC). All of the offices were very receptive and willing to hear us out. Now they know the EcoRight is strong in their states and districts and I got to connect with the key conservatives at the frontlines of this important movement.
Chris Casey: It was only through republicEn that I came across CCL. I’ve been involved with both organizations for nearly two years and have contributed in a number of capacities. One thing I’ve seen since advocating for the EcoRight and free market solutions to climate change is the growth in conservatives among both CCL and republicEn ranks. This is a great thing to witness as conservatives from across the nation are coming to the table to have this much needed conversation. I’m a firm believer that all change starts local. Our local leaders have the ears of our representatives and if we can get them on board, then collectively, we’ll move this country forward to a more livable, sustainable world. While I’ve travelled to DC to advocate or a carbon fee before, this was the first time we’ve been able to meet with our Members of Congress. I had the privilege of meeting with Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR), and staff from the offices of Representatives Bruce Westerman (R-AR) and Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO). Perhaps the most refreshing thing to come about is seeing the shift from the debate behind the science of climate change to a debate about the solutions.
The three of us demonstrated the power and effectiveness of showing up with your lawmakers, sharing your perspective on important issues, and raising your hand to say not only is climate change important, but so is action. The more conservatives share their climate views, the faster we will see our elected officials move toward action. Thanks to republicEn.org for growing the EcoRight community that brought us together and to CCL for involving us in conservative outreach.