Guest blogger: Janet Swim
After a rejuvenating night’s rest, most of us assembled for breakfast in Carolyn Serfass’s dining room to strategize our upcoming meetings with 14 Pennsylvania representatives. We reviewed the impressive intelligence Cricket provided, including the environmental voting record for each representative we would be meeting. Our planning was buttressed by news in the Washington Post of the National Climate Assessment, a report that documented current effects of climate change and concrete actions needed to address climate change.
With this fortification we strode to the legislative buildings, joined Rabbi Daniel Swartz, Jason, Cricket and Molly, and filed through security. We divided into our three battalions: 1) Jon, Bob, and me; 2) Rabbi Daniel Swartz, Dorothy, Ed; and 3) Cricket, Molly, and Jason. Following our marching orders, given by Cricket, we departed to our individual meetings, scheduled throughout the day, with four to six offices per group. We had to navigate the passages connecting congressional buildings and steer our way through the masses of others who were also voicing concerns about the issues that captured their passions.
Our approach for these meetings was that a leader (Jon, Rabbi Swartz, or Cricket) described PA IPL, highlighted the weatherization work and our bike ride to DC, thanked them for their past efforts of environmental work and weaved in our “ask” about two climate change policies through the remaining parts of the conversation. These conversations were personalized by our stories, interests, and expertise. Ed shared his direct observations as a hunter and fisherperson, watching the pending extinction of our state fish, trees, and birds due to the effects of a warming planet on their habits. Dorothy talked about her experiences as a farmer and expertise in nutrition and food security.
Molly told of her grandparents experiences in New Orleans and how this made her realize how important it was to support people after disasters exacerbated by climate change. Reinforced by his experience as a highly successful fundraiser, Bob spoke of the importance the growing strength of IPL throughout central PA. I made connections to different aspects of my work documenting the public support for renewables, the need to protect the health of the oceans, and the importance of climate change to local congregations.
After our meetings we reconvened over dinner at a local restaurant to tell our war stories. While we each had one difficult meeting, these were lightened by rays of hope from other meetings with both Democratic and Republican staff members. This was my first time walking the halls of Congress, and I realize that continued relationships with our government representatives are needed to strengthen the resolve of our government to mitigate and prepare for climate change.
Over and again, we heard that letters, emails and phone calls from constituents and congregations matter, so keep up these efforts! It will take me many days to process all the memories and experiences of this trip, and we are all very grateful for your support, especially those who hosted us along the way and made our ride possible.
Janet (and Jon, Jason, Molly, Bob, Dorothy and Ed)