Mount Pleasant climate activists use politeness to push for a carbon fee
Outside the farmers market in Mount Pleasant’s Island Park Marie Koper is trying to talk to visitors about climate change.
“Are you among the 77% of Americans who are concerned about climate change and the impacts it’s having on us right now?” Koper asks a group of people holding tightly to their tote bags.
Some people pointedly ignore Koper’s booth, others mutter something about not having time.
After one failed attempt at engaging a group of younger looking market attendees, Gisela Moffet, another member of the group, bemoans people’s lack of interest.
“How can they say they are not interested in learning something?” Moffet shakes her head and then adds: “Young people.”
Ultimately, Koper says, the goal is just to reach people.
“More conversation and we can see, or hear, where our points of common ground are.”
This local chapter of the Citizens Climate Lobby is largely made up of retirees. Most of the members, when asked about why they’re worried about climate change talk about the world they’ll be leaving behind.
Gisela Moffet worries about her grandchildren. “I have five grandchildren,” she said. “I am very concerned about this and especially how much faster it is changing.”
Carol Rard said she’s been noticing the changing weather patterns. “I have two grandchildren,” Rard said. “I feel like if we dirtied up the land we need to clean up our mess. It’s what I taught my kids and grandkids. If you make a mess clean it up.”
Curtis Jensen, a retired pastor, said humans have a responsibility to care for the earth. “I care a lot about God's creation and our part in it and I say that as a pastor but also as a person who thinks.”
The goal of the National Citizens Climate Lobby is to push for a carbon fee and dividend. A bill currently in congress - and supported by the group - would require companies to pay fifteen dollars for every ton of CO2 pollution. Every year that fee would increase by ten dollars. Supporters say they believe it would drastically drive down emissions. And, as a bonus, the money made from the fee would be sent back to citizens to help offset the increased costs of oil and gas.
At a recent meeting of the Climate Lobby, which often features national speakers streamed via youtube, Andrew Jones, a researcher from MIT told the group that his climate modeling showed the groups carbon fee was one of the most effective methods for keeping the planet from breaching two degrees of warming, which scientists say would be disastrous.
“There’s no silver bullet but the most silver-ish bullet I can find is a carbon fee and dividend,” Jones said.
In advocating for a carbon fee Koper and the Citizens Climate Lobby push for bipartisanship and politeness in engaging with people.
“Arguing with people is not persuasive on any large scale,” said Koper.
So instead of arguing, the group has made sure to set up booths at local farmers markets and community events.
At the Chippewa River Water Festival in early July, Peter Koper, Marie’s husband, gave a short speech about the carbon fee between musical sets. Peter talked about the recent floods in the state that have impacted farmers.
“It’s a big problem,” Peter said. “It needs a big solution. But the dividend is the answer to that. What I like most about it is it’s not a hope, it’s not a wish, it’s not a theory. It’s house resolution 763.”
Mick Smyer is a Professor of Psychology and author of Greening Gray: Climate Action for an Aging World. He says older Americans may be an untapped resource when it comes to climate activism.
“They have time, they have experience, they know how to get things done and they are very much concerned about future generations,” he said.
Smyer said the generalization that older American’s care less about climate change holds true among Republicans but less so for Democrats.
“But there’s a large group in the middle which I call the worried middle. 50-60% of older adults know something is going on with climate but don’t know what to do about it. They are ready to be activated and engaged if they are shown a path forward. That’s why the activists you talked to are so important.”
For the Mount Pleasant chapter of the Citizens Climate Lobby that activation is happening one person at a time… probably at the farmer’s market.