Learning from Al Gore at the Climate Reality Project

Day Two: 11hrs of training with Al Gore

Last week, I was fortunate enough to attend the Climate Leadership training with the Climate Reality Project. There were two training sessions run worldwide this year, so I packed my bags, got on a flight to Chicago and tried not to think about the carbon I was burning to get to a climate training session.

I didn’t quite know what to expect from the training – I had originally imagined a few hundred people and that we’d work in small groups on learning how to present the message of the Climate Reality Project. When I saw that the Facebook group set up for the training had over 700 members, I realised my visions of breakout groups practicing public speaking were clearly off the mark.

When I turned up at the conference centre to register on the first day, I found myself sandwiched in line between a grey haired baby-boomer and an aging hippie wearing a weird hat in front of me.

At this early stage, I started to wonder what I had gotten myself in to. Where were all the other young, urban twenty and thirty-somethings concerned about climate change? The ones who the movement needs to break the stereotype of the tree-hugging hippie? Surely, I’m not the only suit-wearing environmentalist coming to Chicago?

Luckily I wasn’t, and soon saw more fellow Gen Y's checking in. However, I was still mildly sceptical of the whole thing when Mario Molina, the director of the Climate Leadership Corps, took the stage and wanted to measure how excited we were by getting cheers from the audience. Maybe it was because we were in the home city of Oprah, but I wasn't expecting this level of "woo!"  for a climate reality conference. Americans seem to love this, but I’m way too cynical for it.

Once we got the formalities out of the way and I’d joined the Team Canada table in the immense ballroom that was set up to house all 1,250 of us undertaking the training we got going.

And the frantic pace didn’t stop until the very end.

We spent the entire second day working on the famous Climate Reality Power Point presentation with Al Gore himself. He took us through the entire thing, and then went back through it again with his tips on how to present climate change; which parts were pivots or segues into the next segment, which parts were important to highlight, what the graphs meant and how to explain it all.

It was riveting. Al Gore is a phenomenal public speaker and an amazing story teller – he had the room of over 1,000 people paying close attention, even for all the bits I had already seen from watching 24 Hours of Reality last year (was he trying to make us cry showing the Hurricane Sandy video again?). More on working with Gore in the next post. 

Al Gore at the Climate Reality training (photo: Amy Huva)

Gore is such an engaging speaker that when we ran 45 mins into our dinner break -- which took place at the 11th hour of our eventual 13-hour day -- none of us minded or wanted him to stop.

Over the three days, we covered the nitty-gritty of how to be a climate leader. Lessons learned included details such as what to do with your hands when you’re speaking on stage, how to have the carbon conversation with your ‘Republican Uncle Charlie’ (most of the training was very U.S.-centric), where you can reach common ground, and how to discuss shared values when you may not agree with each other.

We looked at social media, heard from a seriously kickass grassroots organiser from Chicago. One of them was Kim Wasserman, who worked for 15 years to shut down a coal power station in her community that was killing 40 people each year from the pollution, and I did the breakout session on winter, where I was excited to learn about the campaign and ready to get on board with being Pro Snow (I’ve even got the toque to prove it!) 

I met some amazing people at the conference – a ski race Olympian, an Arctic explorer, a renewable energy entrepreneur from India, a green building interior designer from Brasil, people from government departments seriously concerned about climate change, solar power business people, a guy who’s putting solar panels on his local school and an Eco rap star who brings environmentalism to school kids in California.

It was three days, 1,250 people and very little sleep, but an amazing experience in Chicago. I am now very proud to say that I’m a climate leader working with the Climate Reality Project. More to come in the next post. 

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