Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Al-Gore-Rhythm Day 1

My dreams came true two weeks ago as I jetted off to the golden city of San Francisco to train with the guru of green, Al Gore.

The first thing that struck me was that instead of landing on Cloud 9, I actually landed in a bunch of fog.  I had no idea it would take me three days to actually see the Golden Gate Bridge!  However, once it unveiled itself, it was well worth the wait…as was the wait to get to the conference.

The airport shuttle pulled into the driveway of the Hyatt Regency and we were greeted by a group of protesters.  OK…three protesters.  But protesters with picket signs, nonetheless.

I guess I should’ve expected some sort of protest from the climate change deniers telling us that proven science isn’t accurate. However, these protesters were not deniers…they were upset that we weren’t covering “animal ag.”

This threw me…and brought two questions to mind.  The first – what is animal ag?  The second…how did they get their hands on our agenda?  I hadn’t even seen our agenda at this point!

Assuming that animal ag had something to do with the food industry and that is definitely something that affects climate change, I realized that no crusade is easy and that my job wasn’t only to fight the deniers, but to also convince the believers!

I decided to focus my energy on the task at hand – getting registered.

With cardboard notebook and badge in hand, I set out to meet up with my fellow New Yorkers.

The conference was divided into about 100 groups, each with approximately 8 individuals from a region, paired with a mentor. My mentor was the very amazing Gordian.  We all headed out to lunch to discuss how we were going to save the planet.

The bonding was instant and easy – until the conversation really got started and I soon realized that this was not to be one of sharing crazy stories of store owners keeping their doors open with the air-conditioning on (as I was used to telling), but rather with names of climate experts and activists that I did not recognize.

I found myself smiling and nodding my head…a lot…pretending to know what they were talking about.

And then I relaxed, listened and learned.

When it was time for the training to begin, I entered the room and a strange, foreign sensation came over me…I was about to sit down with 1,000 people who recycle and carry reusable bags.  What on earth was I supposed to blog about now?  I had never been in a room with that many people who thought the same way I did.

The energy coming off my fellow trainees and the speakers, including Maggie Fox, the CEO of the Climate Reality Project, was like nothing I’d ever experienced before.  The closest I’ve ever come to electricity like this was when I was a kid and my dad took me to have breakfast with Santa.  A room full of kids waiting for the man in the red suit to appear so we could sit on his lap, tell him what we wanted and get a coloring book.

In this case, the man in the red suit was actually one who wouldn’t appear until the next day, but the anticipation was the same.

The one thing I noticed was that when you have speakers who are passionate about what they’re speaking about with an audience just as passionate about devouring every word, time can get away from you.  So while we all would have loved to hear more about social media and presentation skills, the day had to be keep moving.

Our special treat (the equivalent of Mrs. Claus showing up at the breakfast) was Grammy-Award winning singer, Kathy Mattea.

She is also a trained Climate Reality Presenter and told stories of her eagerness to fight the fight not only against climate change, but the coal industry as well.  Later we would learn how to tell stories to get our points across and finding unique ways to do so. She told her story through her Grammy-nominated album simply titled “Coal.”

One important thing about training in 2012 was the added benefit of media like Facebook.  Prior to training, we were all exchanging ideas and articles on our private page and it was so fun to be able to connect with those people at the conference. 

Excited, exhilarated and exhausted, I headed off to bed with anticipation for the next day where I would be seeing Al Gore!  And excited because I knew the presents he would be delivering were going to be a lot cooler (no pun intended) than the pencil case I got from my breakfast with Santa.

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