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  • Matt Tucker

Get Started with Your First Climate Change Action Organization

Updated: Apr 30

Albert Einstein at a chalk board writing "Climate Action 101"

You’ve been thinking about getting involved with a climate change action organization, but you haven’t made the leap yet. Let me address some of the most common stumbling blocks for people getting started:

Maybe it is because you are busy. Most of our lives are over the top busy. Just keeping up with work and family may be all you feel you can manage. So how to fit in working on the climate too? It comes down to taking small steps at first and working your way up to more of a commitment. You may find that once you get started that climate action starts to displace some things in your life that you thought were non-negotiable, like binge watching the latest series on Netflix. 

Maybe it is because you doubt the efficacy of collective action. In the United States, faith in our institutions has been on a downhill slide since the 1970s. There are reasons for skepticism. The Supreme Court Citizens United decision that removed any limits on corporations campaign contributions made it more difficult for the voices of regular citizens to be heard for instance. But consider the fact that the Sunrise Movement youth climate organization put the Green New Deal on the map which served as a blueprint for Biden’s landmark Inflation Reduction Action.  More recently, many climate action organizations organized against the building of a massive liquid natural gas terminal on the Gulf of Mexico which resulted in the Biden Administration putting a pause in the building of the terminal.  This was a major triumph of grassroots activism over corporate greed.

Maybe it is because you think it will be depressing to be involved in climate action. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Speaking from my own experience, being involved has reduced my climate anxiety and gloom significantly because climate action has given me agency rather than the feeling of standing hopelessly by. In addition, by joining an organization devoted to acting on climate you become part of a community of like minded people with values similar to yours. The psychological benefits of being part of a community can not be underestimated. 

Maybe it's because you see images of people gluing themselves to priceless artworks in museums or locking themselves to the doors of banks or camping in front of pipelines and you think “that’s not for me”. Those types of climate actions (civil disobedience) just happen to be the ones that get the most press coverage. The vast majority of climate action organizations don’t get involved in civil disobedience. There are climate action organizations for pretty much any type of individual. So use our guide to find the organization that fits your values.

So now the only question is how to get your feet wet? The following is a list of suggestions. The list isn’t intended to be in chronological order. For instance, education is listed first, but there is no need to educate yourself before reaching out to a climate action organization for volunteer opportunities. Climate action organizations don’t expect new volunteers to have any climate specific knowledge. They will bring you up to speed. That said, once your interest in climate action is peaked, you may find you want to learn as much as you can. 

If you haven’t already read my previous blog post on the three spheres of climate action, that is a good way to get a framework to understanding the myriad climate action options.

Educate yourself:  

This is a broad topic, but thankfully there are a lot of good resources out there. Surprisingly, learning a lot about the science of climate change is not a prerequisite to being an effective advocate for the climate. In fact, it has been shown pretty conclusively that diving deeply into the science of climate change with skeptics will do nothing to change their opinion, but this isn’t really a problem. Only 20% of the U.S. population is actually skeptical or dismissive of climate change. So instead, you will want to focus on learning about what is going on with climate policy, climate technology, climate solutions, and climate justice. The following are some good places to get started:

  • Bookmark the Climate Action Guide news feed. You can use our feed to give you an idea of which newsletters you might want to sign up to have them delivered directly to your inbox.

  • Climate Change Resources has a comprehensive website that covers a broad range of climate action subjects. It might feel a little overwhelming at first, but it's a good place to bookmark and use as a reference. Specifically, their Resources page is pretty comprehensive.

  • You Change Earth covers many options for getting involved in climate action including making personal lifestyle choices, getting involved in climate action organizations, integrating climate action into your current job, or even changing careers to focus more on climate positive work. 

Join Your FIRST Climate Action Organization: 

The key here is not to wait to jump in until you find the “perfect” organization. You probably don’t know enough about climate action at this point to really know where you want to spend your time, but several climate action organizations are particularly good at bringing volunteers up to speed. You can avail yourself of their educational opportunities, complete some meaningful tasks, and then if you are not feeling like the organization is your climate action home, try out another organization. I’m highlighting the following organizations for a couple of reasons: they are national so you can participate regardless of your location, because they have the training resources to do a very good job bringing you up to speed on climate action, and because they are middle of the road on the political spectrum:

  • Climate Change Makers: of the three organizations, this one is the newest and the smallest. They only meet online, but the way they operate is very directed and purposeful. Every meeting is action oriented, so if you spend an hour with them online, you will have completed an hour of meaningful climate action. It's a wonderful, unique model.

  • Climate Reality Project: famously founded by former Vice President Al Gore, this organization is the granddaddy of climate action organizations. They are well funded, nationwide, have local chapters, and are well known for their training program for climate advocates. These trainings are held online and some are held in-person. 

  • Citizens’ Climate Lobby/Education: this organization has been around awhile, and during the majority of its existence focussed solely on the passage of a nationwide fee on carbon (otherwise known as a carbon tax). They haven’t given up on that idea, but they have added building electrification, forest health and permitting reform to their portfolio. These are all ideas that both conservatives and liberals can agree on, and that is part of this organization’s appeal, its non-partisanship. 

If none of these organizations appeal to you as a first step, not to fear, that’s where Climate Action Guide really comes in handy! Our guide can help you find the right organization to start with. Go to our guide page, then use the filters to find organizations that fit you best. You are looking for organizations that give volunteers real opportunities to get involved (beyond adding your name to a petition), so use the “involvement” filter and select “yes” to the question. That will shrink the list of organizations significantly. You’ll see the three organizations mentioned above, plus plenty of others to choose from.

Now go out there, get involved, and have fun doing it!

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