What would happen if we helped communities get deeply engaged in the conversation around fossil fuels? Climate Access, a nonprofit organization dedicated to facilitating the dialogue around climate change, seeks to answer this question through the power of collective advocacy.
Founded in 2011 to be driving force behind shifting societal awareness, Climate Access generates political and public support and involvement in the fight against climate change. Where other nonprofits focus on on-the-ground solutions, Climate Access works to guarantee that legislature and logistics are in place for grassroots organizations.
The goal? Shift the narrative and make climate change a household conversation.
“We’re here to co-explore both the risks and the solutions for climate change,” says Founder and Executive Director Cara Pike.
These solutions are designed “from the community level up” so that they place the power of changemaking in the hands of the people who understand a community’s challenges best.
Climate Access offers training programs, communications strategies, and research and analysis resources for grassroots environmentalists. The goal of these programs isn’t simply to “fight climate change,” but rather to arm activists and advocates with the strategies, resources, and frameworks they need to be successful within and outside of their communities.
“We help folks think through how to engage effectively,” says Pike. Climate Access programs examine “how to translate all the complexity of what’s behind climate change into relevant, values-based stories and messages people can connect to – especially those beyond ‘climate alarm.’”
Climate Access and The Benefits of Women-led Climate Work
Unlike similar organizations in an industry typically dominated by older white men, Climate Access is run by a completely female team. While the organization did not set out to break this mold, Pike has already seen the benefits of her women-led structure.
“Women tend to be quite collaborative in the way they work,” she says. “In the work that we’re doing, we need that collaborative effort.”
Climate Access functions through a shared leadership model in which all members of the small team step up to fill important shoes when needed. With half of the Climate Access team made up of young BIPOC women, Pike answers an immediate need for diverse voices in the climate change arena.
“If we want to focus on equity, we need to walk the walk ourselves,” she says.
As the organization grows, Climate Access hopes to foster a common understanding of the impact of fossil fuels and other climate-affecting industries. This will be a global initiative, uniting communities around the world with a “no community left behind” commitment – wealthier countries’ more prevalent access to capital is no excuse for leaving struggling communities out of the conversation.
Acknowledging and Addressing Climate Grief
Additionally, Climate Access programs take a closer look at the growing phenomenon of “climate grief” — one of the emotional impacts of climate change. As forests disappear and ecological miracles vanish, there is a mourning response that resembles other kinds of loss, and contributes to stress and depression in the culture.
The conversation surrounding these feelings – as well as the anger and anguish that go hand in hand with our radically changing landscape – must involve women. As we know well, women and children are often the first to feel the impacts of climate change, particularly as access to clean water and other resources dwindle around the world.
To that end, Climate Access aims to create “a community of practice of folks who would like to continue working together,” says Pike. “We’re here to learn more about how to engage women effectively, share what we’re doing with each other, and take our efforts to scale.”
Climate Access’s next online event (held TOMORROW, June 23rd!) will be an in-depth workshop on how to engage women in climate solutions. The speakers represent both American and Canadian perspectives, opening a key part of the conversation in the wake of major changes like the abandonment of the Keystone Pipeline project.
“In both countries, you see a huge gap between how women feel about these issues versus men,” says Pike. “The climate conversation is still largely dominated by white men – how do we think about overcoming that, empowering women, and amplifying what women are already doing to alleviate these issues?”
“Across the political spectrum women consistently show up as more concerned, more motivated and more ready to act on climate than other audiences, yet we often neglect to design communications and campaigns with women in mind,” writes the Climate Access team. “This workshop dives into the theory and practice of engaging women on climate. We will talk with leading researchers in Canada and the US, and campaigners behind Science Moms, Vote Like a Madre and Talk Climate to Me will share insights, strategies and successful tactics.”
To learn more about the speakers and register for the event, click here.
This amplification cannot happen in a vacuum.
As Pike puts it, “The next two to five years will be so critical to scale public engagement to create the kind of transformational change we need.”
Pike encourages anyone with ecofeminist leanings to sign up to become a Climate Access member. Members receive monthly newsletters, access to a curated collection of environmental resources, and enrollment in online events like its upcoming workshop.
“There are still a lot of communities and small organizations that don’t have the capacity yet to do this on their own,” says Pike. “We’re a small organization but we have really ambitious goals.”
To learn more about Climate Access, register for upcoming workshops, and get involved in upcoming campaigns, visit the Climate Access website at ClimateAccess.org.