Let your kids know that there’s still time, and there’s hope. It would be terrifying and demotivating for the next generation to think the climate is beyond repair — and the science simply doesn’t support that conclusion. So, educate them about the reality and the urgency of the problem, but educate them about the abundance of possible solutions, too. We had several hundred high school and college aged students attend our annual conference this past June, who were inspired and engaged at the prospect of an aggressive nationwide carbon price.
Mark Reynolds is the Executive Director of Citizens’ Climate Lobby and is a globally recognized expert on helping disparate interests find common ground on energy, public policy, and the environment. Mark oversees a training curriculum that reaches tens of thousands of supporters every year, has been a frequent guest on TV and radio shows, and has written op-eds on climate solutions for more than 85 print journals.
Thank you so much for joining us Mark! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?
I grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah. From about the time I turned 12 years old, I started spending every penny I had on camping equipment, so I could go camping in the mountains. I loved waking up before everyone, getting the campfire going, making some coffee, and watching the day start. I’ve always been a morning person. These days I still wake up very early, but it’s to lead our incredible staff and volunteers at Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL).
Was there an “aha moment” or a specific trigger that made you decide you wanted to become a scientist or environmental leader? Can you share that story with us?
Yes. I went to Capitol Hill when there was only one person on the CCL staff. We spent the day on the Hill having really unproductive meetings with congressional offices. I thought about the training I was using to make companies more efficient, and decided to apply it to our work on the Hill.
The next day, we started our meetings looking for anything we had in common with the people we were meeting with, whether they were Republicans or Democrats. All of those meetings were electric and gave me the sense that we could succeed. Today, CCL volunteers still bring that spirit of “common ground” to our work. We’re asking members of Congress from both parties to come together on the climate issue because we need everyone on board to solve it.
Is there a lesson you can take out of your own story that can exemplify what can inspire a young person to become an environmental leader?
Yes. I didn’t know anything about advocacy, nonprofits, or solutions to climate change when I jumped in. I think the lesson is that you don’t have to be an expert to make a difference.
In fact, many of our volunteers are not experts in science or politics, especially our young volunteers who are just learning about climate change and starting to get involved. But as I learned, you don’t have to be an expert to make a difference. Your genuine, human concern for your family, your future, your country — that’s powerful, and that’s enough.
Can you tell our readers about the initiatives that you or your company are taking to address climate change or sustainability? Can you give an example for each?
Right now, Citizens’ Climate Lobby is focused on supporting a bipartisan carbon pricing bill in Congress called the Energy Innovation Act (H.R. 763). Our advocacy made it possible for this bill to be introduced — the first bipartisan carbon pricing bill in nearly a decade. And our volunteers’ lobbying has helped it grow to 65 cosponsors this year. This came about because we have stayed disciplined and focused on building common ground between the parties on climate change.
Can you share 3 lifestyle tweaks things that the general public can do to be more sustainable or help address the climate change challenge?
I have two main ones that I’d recommend, and that will have far-reaching impacts:
Build in five minutes each week to call or write to your members of Congress, asking them to take action on climate change. They are there to represent you, and to do so, they need to know what you want. Tell them!
Make it a habit to discuss climate change with friends, family, classmates, and coworkers. Public polling tells us that many Americans don’t hear about climate change very often, so you can help change that by bringing it up. As awareness increases, demand for climate solutions increases too.
Thank you for all that. Here is the main question of our interview: The youth led climate strikes of September 2019 showed an impressive degree of activism and initiative by young people on behalf of climate change. This was great, and there is still plenty that needs to be done. In your opinion what are 5 things parents should do to inspire the next generation to become engaged in sustainability and the environmental movement? Please give a story or an example for each.
Three things come to mind:
1. I think, to the degree to which it’s possible, exposing children to nature. I live in Southern California. When I took my children to a wedding in Utah, we hiked in rivers, swam in lakes, and drank from waterfalls. Since then, all three of them have tried to spend more time in the mountains. I think you lead by example. Nobody ever got inspired to do something from someone else telling them they had to do it. I think you should try to provide the best possible example, and hopefully that moves your children, etc. to take up the cause.
2. Let your kids know that there’s still time, and there’s hope. It would be terrifying and demotivating for the next generation to think the climate is beyond repair — and the science simply doesn’t support that conclusion. So, educate them about the reality and the urgency of the problem, but educate them about the abundance of possible solutions, too. We had several hundred high school and college aged students attend our annual conference this past June, who were inspired and engaged at the prospect of an aggressive nationwide carbon price.
3. Take steps to reduce your family’s carbon footprint, so your kids see those climate solutions in action. We have two 10-year-old volunteers who are very concerned about climate change. Their dads are friends, and one owns a Tesla Model 3. The four of them decided to take a road trip in their electric car to come to Washington, D.C., and talk to Congress about climate change. Their story was even covered on their local Fox News station. By reducing their own carbon footprint, these dad and daughter pairs see the clean energy transition come alive, which is very inspiring!
How would you articulate how a business can become more profitable by being more sustainable and more environmentally conscious? Can you share a story or example?
This is a major reason Citizens’ Climate Lobby supports a carbon price: when fossil fuel companies pay a fee for the greenhouse gases they emit, every business will have to consider what fossil fuels and climate change does to their bottom line. Instead of continuing to burn fossil fuels in their manufacturing, delivery, and other business processes, companies will immediately seek out cleaner, cheaper ways of doing business. With a carbon price in place, choosing to be more climate-conscious and looking after your bottom line are the same things. Here’s a video of a brewer who advocates for carbon pricing because climate change is already affecting his business.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I’m grateful to CCL’s founder, Marshall Saunders. He hired me as CCL’s Executive Director back in 2009, and without his trust and confidence, I wouldn’t be on this amazing journey.
You are a person of great influence and doing some great things for the world! If you could inspire a movement that would bring the greatest amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be?
I think it’s fair to call Citizens’ Climate Lobby a movement! With 550+ chapters across the world, and more than 150,000 supporters in the U.S. alone, we’re working to preserve a livable world for everyone.
Do you have a favorite life lesson quote? Can you tell us how that was relevant to you in your own life?
This E.B. White quote sums it up for me: “Every morning I awake torn between a desire to save the world and an inclination to savor it. This makes it hard to plan the day. But if we forget to savor the world, what possible reason do we have for saving it? In a way, the savoring must come first.” Even in the midst of this urgent, crucial work on climate solutions, I try to stay balanced by savoring what we’re trying to save.