Jacob Udell's action

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A Green Finger Video of Congress-people

For National Teach-In, I thought you could build off the momentum of the Green Finger Project and advocate for another action. What I propose is a push for a Green Finger video that features Congress-people only. Each of the Representatives could pick an aspect of their lives that they want to protect from climate change. The unifying message of the video could be that the people in Washington care about climate change, but need support from their constituencies to do something about it. The video could start off with the green fingers, then have one of the reps say: "Let us know how much you care so we can do something about it". It could potentially be followed by a ten or twenty second montage of famous activist actions of the past (Think Ghandi, MLK etc.).

A Green Finger Project this audacious certainly has obstacles, but if spun in the right way, they can be overcome. The main obstacle is that Representatives hesitate to put their picture onto anything that they can’t control. A video like this would surely need to go viral in order to be successful, and Congress-people would know that. But this video would be asking for a statement that is both safe and image enhancing – it shows that they care about climate change on a deep and personal level. Politicians might also be excited because the video would build perfectly on the grassroots excitement that was so apparent during the Obama campaign. After establishing a common ground about the dangers climate change on a personal level, the message of the video encourages the need for local action from citizens. After the initial inspiration that the video would provide, it would be up to citizens to show leaders in Government that they care about climate change as well. It would fit in seamlessly as an impetus for many of the other actions that National Teach-In proposes.

On January 21st of the 100 days of action, there is an adopt-a-Congressperson initiative. It would be easy to build this into those 100 days after groups have adopted a Congressperson. Just insert Green Finger as the substantive ask that participating schools and groups focus on. Groups can begin a conversation about eh video on January 30th, for example, when a specific action has yet to be determined. It would be an appropriate amount of time after the initial contact with Congress people to request something of them. Further, having the Green Finger proposed to a lot of different representatives on the same day adds pressure to each individual representative to sign on.

An additional push could happen at Powershift 2009. There, National Teach In could help to organize students to go to the Representatives of their states or districts and ask again for participation in the video. There would be time to learn from the obstacles encountered on January 30th and intensify the effort needed to get a number of important representatives together on a video showing that they do care. Also, participants of Powershift 2009 can go to the offices of representatives who might have wanted to participate but didn’t have a camera.

The organizers at National Teach In could have a lot of influence in the effectiveness of this initiative while still empowering the groups and schools contacting their representatives. I’m sure National Teach In has or can obtain expertise on how to frame these types of things to politicians in D.C. Before groups contact representatives, use those skills to write up a proposal, letting Congress people know the message and larger framework of the Green Finger video within National Teach In day. You could also find representatives who would be excited about a video like this (Bernie Sanders would be a good example) and get their offices to pressure their colleagues into adding to the video. These are things that cannot necessarily happen without prior influence and knowledge of the political sphere, which is something that has to come from the larger organization such as National Teach In (or maybe a group of knowledgeable Middlebury students).

What is the point of a string of actions such as National Teach In? From my understanding, it’s to mobilize citizens into showing the nation and specifically the government that we care about climate change enough to want serious policy changes. National Teach In does not have a specific ask in terms of policy, like cutting carbon emissions 80% by 2050. The ask is simply for citizens to be engaged at a grassroots level. The reason the green finger video works so well, then, is because it shows citizens that if they get involved on a grassroots level, the policy makers are ready to affect change – it can’t get much more inspirational than that.