From Paris to Madrid: My Journey as a Climate Communicator

11/15/19

Soon I will be traveling to Madrid, Spain to meet with twenty-two other Creation Care leaders from around the world who were selected as Christian Observers at the United Nations annual climate conference called COP25. (In case you are new to this like I was, it stands for Council of Parties and it is the 25th year they have met.) This important meeting held December 2-14, 2019 will finalize the world’s climate action plan–The Paris Agreement–that will go into effect in 2020.

Do you know how it feels to wait for an experience that is probably going to change your life, counting down the days until it gets so close that it looms large over everything you do? Circular thoughts of hope, excitement, worry, and insecurity loop around in my head as I write plans, read books, and work to prepare my mind, spirit, and suitcase for this journey. I want to make the most out of every minute while at the climate conference to make the plane ride and time away from my family worth it. (*I will be buying carbon offsets for the flight, so more on that later.) Everyone tells me that this trip to Madrid will take my knowledge of climate justice to a whole new level, and I hope they are right.

Attending COP25 is especially meaningful to me because five years ago I was a stay at home mom who was anxious about the climate crisis and the future my kids would be facing. Their struggle with asthma opened my eyes to the damage air pollution was causing them and people around the globe, and the dangerous cumulative effect carbon emissions were having on the climate. The more I learned, the more hopeless I felt. That all changed in 2015 when I read about the Paris Agreement at COP21 where world leaders came together to draft a plan to save the planet. This exciting news inspired me to step out of my comfort zone and get involved, putting my life on a whole new trajectory.

I immediately joined the nonprofit advocacy groups Mom’s Clean Air Force and Citizens’ Climate Lobby and learned more about air pollution, climate science, lobbying, and sustainability while being empowered to use my voice to tell my story. At first, I worried I wasn’t up to the task, wondering what I could possibly contribute to the climate conversation. I wasn’t a scientist, I was just a mom. It turned out that my former career in public relations combined with my unique perspective as a mother was all I needed to be an effective climate communicator. I lobbied senators and representatives in Washington D.C. and the Florida Capitol, wrote environmental stories for newspapers, and created a following on social media. I became a full-time climate volunteer. It felt good to take action, but many days it left me exhausted and wrung out by the sheer number of minds that needed to be changed in order to achieve the political will for our leaders to act on climate.

Where my values and faith intersected, I found Creation Care. Feeling the closest to God in nature and being active at Saint Paul’s United Methodist Church, I learned that there was a ministry called Creation Care that focused on living into our biblical call of being good stewards of creation. With the support of my pastor and a core group of volunteers, we started a Creation Care ministry at our church, and after four years it is still a labor of love that brings so much joy to our congregation. Through prayer and guidance by the Holy Spirit, I feel revived and strengthened each day, and this connection makes it possible for me to continue doing climate work.

We have seen people grow personally through working together in our organic garden or t-shirt bag making ministry, and many have come back to the church. We focus on celebrating creation through lake clean ups, educational events for kids, sustainability, and advocating for environmental justice in our community. Expanding Creation Care to other churches is also important to us, so we have worked to seed new Creation Care groups through the Florida UMC Creation Care Task Force, and started the Tallahassee Green Faith Alliance to bring people of all faiths together. At COP25 I will be especially interested in the Loss & Damage committee work that will focus on environmental justice.

When a local environmental position in 2018 opened up, I ran a waste-free, zero donation campaign and was elected as a Leon Soil & Water Conservation District Supervisor. I’ll be reporting back what I learn about adaptation methods for farming and protecting Florida’s coastline to the other supervisors and citizens of Leon County, Florida.

As I reflect on the last four years, I feel honored to share my voice as a climate communicator and I hope you will follow my journey to Madrid. Our group of Christian Observers will be immersing ourselves in prayer for world leaders to make decisions that will solve the climate crisis and help millions of people impacted by sea level rise, extreme weather events, and pollution. We would covet your prayers.

I will be blogging every day to share my experience during the conference, and I’d love to have you along so be sure to follow me at http://www.carafleischer.com. You can sign up for the daily newsletter and learn more about the Christian Observers program at www.ccopclimate.org.

Thank you and please stay tuned. I’m sure I’ll have more to say before I leave on November 30.

All my best,

Cara

*I mentioned that I would be buying carbon offsets for the flight to Madrid, and to be honest, the flight almost stopped me from going because I have reduced my air travel to lower my carbon footprint. After praying and thinking about it a lot, I decided it was worth going because COP25 is happening with or without me, and it is important for me to report back what happens there, to grow spiritually through Creation Care training, and to expand my climate communications skills. I will be buying Carbon Offset credits through the Sustainable Tallahassee Community Carbon Fund, and you can learn more and calculate your own footprint here: https://sustainabletallahassee.org/calcCOT.

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