“Navigating COVID-19 Town Hall” to Connect Underserved Leon Residents with Community Leaders

COVID-19 has exposed the challenges underserved communities face in accessing information, financial assistance, and healthcare during emergencies like a pandemic. Luckily, we can get accurate information in Leon County right from the source at the “Navigating COVID-19 Town Hall” on Thursday, April 30 from 6-7:30 pm. The town hall will be held virtually on Zoom so everyone can attend safely from their cell phone or computer.

At this virtual town hall, the community is encouraged to ask local elected officials and experts questions about how to receive help and stay safe during the pandemic. Topics include access to food, utilities, and financial assistance, health care, business resources, virtual school, protecting the homeless, and more.

The CDC reports that there is a disproportionate amount of COVID-19 illness and death among ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic lines caused by a variety of factors including the need to continue working that increases exposure risk, a lack of health insurance, and limited access to information about the resources available.

The “Navigating COVID-19 Town Hall” was organized to provide our community a direct line of communication to leaders who can hear concerns and solve problems in real time.  
Panelists include Jeremy Matlow, City Commissioner; Rick Minor, County Commissioner; Tim Center, CEO of Capital Area Community Action Agency;  Rosanne Wood, School Board Member; Sylvia Smith, Executive Director of Big Bend Homeless Coalition; Dr. P Qasimah Boston, CEO at Golden Rod Consulting; and Dykibra Gaskin, Director of WIC for Leon County.

You can learn more about the “Navigating COVID-19 Town Hall” event, register, and submit questions in advance at https://www.rethinkenergyflorida.org/eventer/covid19qa/ or text questions to (850) 888-2565. The event will be streamed on Facebook Live at www.facebook.com/Tally100Together/. Tallahassee is a strong and resilient community, and we must do everything we can to support our neighbors through this challenging time.

Cara Fleischer, Leon Soil & Water Conservation District Supervisor

Lighting the Way Hike Brings UMC Youth and College Groups Closer to Nature

March 1, 2020

What a great day for a hike! For our second Lighting the Way activity, we gathered the youth groups of Saint Paul’s UMC and New Life UMC along with FAMU Wesley UMC college group making a pack of 35 students and 10 adults at the Lafayette Heritage Trail in Tallahassee.

Our Saint Paul’s UMC Creation Care team has secured a $10,000 grant from UMCOR and United Methodist Earthkeepers to integrate our communities and bring us closer together through God’s creation. The year long project will bring FAMU Wesley and New Life UMC, and SPUMC Youth Group students together for nature outings like hikes, paddling trips, and lake clean ups; provide funds to upgrade the outdoor lighting at both facilities; create “turn off the lights” reminder cards; and more.

The weather was perfect for our hike! We started with a snack of sandwiches, fruit, chips and cookies and gave out some upcycled reusable water bottles for anyone needing one. Then we split up into five groups and each one received a Nature Bingo card and a pair of binoculars and the competition began to find objects in nature to fill the card. The trail led us up to a boardwalk and a covered bridge to a beautiful overlook, and then winded around into the forest and then out around the lake onto fingers jutting into the water.

We saw a red shouldered hawk eating a snake, a large turtle shell, lots of wild flowers, and water birds on the beautiful lake. We also met some friendly horses and their riders! We picked up trash and one of our leaders even pulled out some invasive plants. Our Creation Care leaders helped students learn how to use the binoculars and guided the groups along the trail. It was a two mile, 90 minute hike, and some of the students said they enjoyed it so much that they wished it was longer! Others were tired and ready for more snacks. When we returned to the parking lot three teams tied for first place in the bingo game and they won Saint Paul’s UMC metal water bottles. There were so many smiles and laughs throughout the afternoon and as we said goodbye, we looked forward to the next Lighting the Way activity that will bring us together again through Creation Care.

Lighting the Way Grant for Saint Paul’s UMC, New Life UMC, and FAMU Wesley Students Kicks Off

The Lighting the Way Kick-Off Party last Sunday, February 23, 2020 was a special time of fellowship through Creation Care with Saint Paul’s UMC Youth Group, New Life UMC Youth Group, and FAMU Wesley College Group.

Our Saint Paul’s UMC Creation Care team has secured a $10,000 grant from UMCOR and United Methodist Earthkeepers to integrate our communities and bring us closer together through God’s creation. The year long project will bring FAMU Wesley and New Life UMC, and SPUMC Youth Group students together for nature outings like hikes, paddling trips, and lake clean ups; provide funds to upgrade the outdoor lighting at both facilities; create “turn off the lights” reminder cards; and more.

When attendees arrived at the Kick Off Party, they received name tags that corresponded with their table theme based on locations around the world including places like the Great Barrier Reef and the Amazon to mix up the groups. Then we played Four Corners with an eco-twist, we prayed together, and then enjoyed a big dinner of BBQ chicken sliders, mac & cheese, chips, fruit, and a big chocolate cake and peanut butter cookies that was all prepared by our wonderful Saint Paul’s Creation Care team.

During the meal, I gave a 15 minute presentation on Creation Care including this Young Voices for the Planet Video to share the issues our planet faces as well as what kids can do to help: https://www.youngvoicesfortheplanet.com/youth-climate-videos/green-ambassadors/. I then explained the Carbon Fast for Lent and invited the group to sign up for the reminders at https://climatecaretakers.org/lenten-carbon-fast.
Then we heard from Dara Miles aka Miss Science about her love of nature and her hiking group, Outdoor Afro. She encouraged everyone to download the iNaturalist app to be able to identify plants and animals around us.

Next, our Creation Care team shared about reducing plastic pollution and taught the group how to make a no-sew reusable, upcycled t-shirt bag to take home. The group cut and tied the t-shirts as the Creation Care team helped out at each table. As a way to remember this special time together, we also gave everyone a gift of an air plant in a seashell that had decorated their tables.

Finally, we came together in a circle and sang the Rooted closing song “Sanctuary,” and said our benediction. Many smiles and words of thanks were shared and we were grateful for the new friends that we made and look forward to coming back together for our group hike next Sunday!


Greta Blazed a Trail in 2019. Will 2020 be the Year of the Adult?


n 2019, Greta Thunberg went from holding small climate strikes in front of the Swedish Parliament building to being named “Time Magazine’s Person of the Year” for mobilizing millions of activists all around the world. With her small stature and signature braids, she embodies the innocence of childhood, but don’t let her looks fool you. When Greta talks, her laser focus on the climate crisis that is threatening her future and her ability to lay blame directly at the feet of the wealthy adults in power is masterful. Her voice has captured the world’s imagination because bravery is universally applauded and the dismissive political labels slapped on adults who speak out don’t apply to her. Greta proves that no one is too small to speak truth to power, and her example is empowering kids and adults all over the globe to stand up for what they care about — a livable, safe future.

Greta was a kid who learned about climate science in school, got so depressed that she stopped eating, and convinced her parents to stop flying and eating meat. Even though they didn’t support her missing school, they allowed her to strike for climate because it was helping her depression to get involved. Her father says that action saved her from despair, and now she laughs and is able to be a normal teen because she is working to solve the problem instead of just feeling helpless on the sidelines.

Greta says, “Our house is on fire. Now is not the time to speak politely.” Social norms hold most of us back from speaking the truth because we don’t want to feel uncomfortable, but Aspergers allows Greta to see the world in black and white. She says that this condition is her super power because it frees her from the social rules the rest of us live by. At this point, the world was hungry for some blunt talk.

Last December I attended the COP25 U.N. Climate Conference in Madrid, and I was excited to hear that Greta arrived after crossing the Atlantic by boat to avoid flying. I was attending the conference as a Christian Observer and heard that she was part of a youth demonstration in the main hall, but just as I arrived, it ended. What happened next made it clear that she was not being managed at these events by adults as has been suggested in the media. Greta and her young climate activist friends were trying to leave the area, but were mobbed by photographers and others who were hoping to get a glimpse of her. She was trapped, and her friends circled her to keep her safe. I remember seeing her small face peering out of a sea of humanity, looking scared. As a mom, I wanted to break it up and get her out of there, but there was no way to penetrate the crowd. The entire group started moving together, making its way across the exhibit hall, moving in tandem, but no one would step aside and let Greta leave. After about ten minutes, the mass of people made its way to the courtyard into the cold morning air, and we all just stood there, silent. I wanted to yell out “Leave her alone!” or “We love you Greta!” but it was all so surreal and I couldn’t find my voice. Finally some police came to break up the hold the paparazzi had over the group, and Greta was able to make her escape. At that moment I realized the sacrifice she makes every time she goes out in public, even at a U.N. conference, and how she has traded in her safety and childhood for the chance to make a difference. That evening I joined in the climate march alongside 500,000 people who were cheering and dancing our way through downtown Madrid, all wanting to see Greta on the main-stage at the end, and I hoped she was safe.

Greta has inspired kids and adults all over the world to get outside our comfort zones and use our voices to demand change. Jane Fonda, who just turned 82, said Greta inspired her to move to Washington D.C. and start #FireDrillFridays where she was arrested multiple times for protesting the government’s lack of climate action. Many of her celebrity friends joined her in this action, and it got me thinking. If we have the young folks and older folks protesting every week on Friday, where are all the people in the middle?

What if 2020 is the year the adults show up on Fridays and strike for climate action? We all have a reason to want to preserve the planet. The bigger your carbon footprint, the bigger your moral duty. The bigger your platform, the bigger your responsibility. We already have the solutions to solve the climate crisis, and all we lack is the political will so our leaders will finally act.

Tallahassee Green Faith Alliance will be holding signs that say FAITH FOR FUTURE this Friday from 11-1 in front of the Old Florida Capitol alongside the local Fridays for Future group on their first strike of the season. There are so many other signs that I can imagine: PARENTS FOR FUTURE, FARMERS FOR FUTURE, TEACHERS FOR FUTURE, BEACH-LOVERS FOR FUTURE, FLORIDIANS FOR FUTURE, GRANDPARENTS FOR FUTURE. What will your sign say?

Let’s make 2020 the year that the adults ended our apathy and made our kids proud, and let them go back to being kids. Resolve to take the first step and show up on Fridays. Be on the right side of history and maybe the simple action of striking on Fridays just might change the world.

If You Go:

Fridays for Future youth-led climate strike

Friday, January 17

The Old Florida Capitol (parking in Kleman Plaza)

Any time between 9 am – 1 pm

When North Florida Gives You Meyer Lemons, Make Marmalade

Over the holidays I decided on a whim to make some Meyer lemon marmalade and was surprised to find how easy it was to create. I’m crazy about these softball-sized sweet lemons and my five year old tree went into overdrive this year growing so many that its small branches were pulled to the ground in a cascade of golden fruit. With lots of folks growing Meyer lemons around here the fruit can be hard to give away, so I found a simple recipe to preserve their delicious flavor for the rest of the year.

I learned that we are lucky to be able to grow Meyer lemons in abundance in North Florida when I asked the New York Times Cooking Community Facebook group for recipe ideas and the comment section filled up with jealous foodies wanting to buy them. (I am not in the Meyer lemon shipping business but it sounds like the demand is there if someone wanted to start one.)

Meyer lemons are native to China and according to Wikipedia were introduced to the United States in 1908 by the agricultural explorer and USDA employee Frank Nicholas Meyer. The compact tree is evergreen with dark glossy leaves, and its fragrant white blooms in springtime will scent the whole yard with lovely citrus notes that attract bees and butterflies.

Meyer lemons are ideal for making marmalade because their mild flavor and thin skin allows you to use the entire lemon (except the seeds), providing all the pectin needed to firm up the mixture. The recipe couldn’t be simpler — just pick a few lemons and grab the sugar and a vanilla bean out of the pantry and you are ready to make this golden, fruity spread. The whole vanilla bean could be replaced with a tablespoon of vanilla extract, but the bean adds a rich, creamy flavor and visually pleasing specs of vanilla seeds throughout the marmalade. A nice bonus while making Meyer lemon marmalade is that your whole house will smell amazing.

This marmalade is equally delicious spread on toast or mixed into yogurt as it is along side smoked salmon. The slices of peel throughout the marmalade are especially tasty, giving a burst of that signature flowery lemon flavor and satisfying bite. If you’d like, you can add herbs or red pepper flakes to spice it up for a winning sweet and savory combination. I’ve made two batches using vanilla and with my little tree still weighed down with lemons, I’m ready to try some new combinations. I’d love to hear your favorite ways to use Meyer lemons, so email me at carafleischer4tally@gmail.com to share your ideas.

Vanilla Meyer Lemon Marmalade

6 Meyers Lemons

4 cups water

4 cups sugar

1 vanilla bean or 1 tbsp vanilla extract (optional)

Clean mason jars, lids and rings.

1. Wash the lemons, slice in half and juice them. Remove any seeds and pour the juice into a non-reactive sauce pot.

2. With a sharp knife, slice the lemon peels and any remaining pulp into thin two-inch long strips. Add to the juice in the sauce pot.

3. Add the water and bring to a boil. Reduce to medium heat and simmer for 20 minutes until the liquid has reduced by half.

4. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Split the vanilla bean by cutting down the middle and scrape the seeds into the mixture, then cut the whole bean into small sections and add to the pot (or add the vanilla extract if not using the whole bean.) Bring to a boil until a candy thermometer reaches 223 degrees and the marmalade “wrinkles” when pushed across a cold plate after being cooled in the freezer for a minute. (Mine took about 20 minutes to get to this stage.)

5. Let the mixture cool for about 5 minutes and then add to clean jars with a ladle, taking care to add a vanilla bean section and an equal amount of peel into each jar. (A jarring funnel helps with this step but isn’t necessary.) Wipe the jar rims, add the lids and tighten with the rings. You can either stop here to make refrigerator marmalade, or follow the instructions on Ball Canning to preserve them in a water bath to be shelf stable. http://www.freshpreserving.com.

Recipe adapted from The Alchemist: Meyer Lemon Marmalade found at http://alchemybaking.blogspot.com


COP25 Coming to an End, and the Strong Finish Prayer

Hi everyone — sorry to just stop writing about my trip but I got so overwhelmed with the breakneck pace of the conference that I had to take a break from writing if I wanted to get any sleep! I am home in Tallahassee, FL now and will be catching up on the last two days soon. My friends are still in Madrid and shared this message that I wanted to pass on. If you are the praying type, the process could really use some prayers right about now. Thanks so much – Cara


Special Report: Requesting Urgent Prayer for COP25
COP25 is scheduled to adjourn on Friday, but serious concerns exist that even an extension until Sunday will not be enough to finish the work of COP25, putting at jeopardy the work of 2020’s ambitious ramping-up of emission reduction goals.  People are frustrated.  We invite you to please join us in the following prayer.  Please invite others into the  prayer.  To learn the background of the “Strong Finish” prayer, please visit our website here.

Thank you,
Lowell and Brian and the CCOP team

The Strong Finish Prayer
O God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ

This is a prayer of a strong finish that yields a strong beginning.  We appeal to the creator, sustainer, and redeemer of all creation to deliver COP25 from a failure that we and our neighbors in this world can no longer afford. 

May the negotiating nations finish the work of the final days of COP25 in such a just, merciful, and humble way that the year 2020 is rendered free and serious.  

May the run-up to next year’s COP26 be freed up, without distraction, to be focussed on an ambitious ramping up of the emission reductions (NDCs) which will finally MATCH, not simply approximate, what scientists tell us can prevent the warming that will surely cause our worst suffering.  

May a strong finish at COP25 send a signal that the governments of the world are serious about the Paris Agreement, that they have listened to the voices of our youth, our indigenous neighbors, our Pacific Island neighbors, indeed all our neighbors.  Lord God, may they send the signal that next year’s COP26 is not some false hope, not some promise kicked down the road one more year, not some deus ex machina ready to save us in November, 2020—but instead that the next eleven months will be spent with the eye kept firmly on the prize: the promotion of the Common Good through serious and cooperative effort.  

Creator God, at this moment at COP25, we feel like we are asking for a miracle, and so that is why we have come to you.  We believe you are able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to your power that is at work within us.  We say NOW, NOW, NOW to you be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! 

In and with the name of Jesus Christ,

Picasso’s “La Guernica” in Madrid
(COP25 reflections by Lowell Bliss)

Read how a visit to the Reina Sofia art museum figured into the writing of the Strong Finish prayer.  Click here.

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A Full Day at COP25: Mind, Body, & Soul

Day 3 – COP25, Madrid, Spain

We are half way through our week at the U.N. climate conference on the Christian Observer program, and I have settled in. I’m relieved that I’ve learned to navigate the metro, get through the security at the conference, maneuver in the enormous Blue Zone of the convention site, and connect with the leaders and groups I hoped to see.

Our third day started with a devotion from our program leader and spiritual guide Lowell Bliss, who shared from Revelations 12:11 “They did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die.” As climate advocates at COP25, we dive into the suffering of people around the world who have lost their lands to sea level rise; their loved ones to hurricanes, cyclones and diseases; their communities to drought and famine; and their childhoods to activism. We also brace for the devastating losses to come that will hurt people all over the world if we don’t make the changes to reduce green house gas emissions within the next 11 years. As Christians, we are compelled to participate in this testimony, to not look away, and to perhaps even risk our lives, for the people who are suffering. This work hits close to home as a native Floridian because in our own state, people are hurting from climate change impacts like the devastation from Hurricane Michael, the Zika virus, sea level rise, adverse weather that impacts crops, and extreme heat.

As I made my way to the conference site, I passed rows of armored police trucks and saw the Spanish equivalent of SWAT team security guards stationed all around the building. I realized this convention would be an attractive target for terrorists, and that all thirty thousand attendees were exposed to potential violence. Perhaps as climate advocates, we were even risking our lives by attending COP25. I hurried into the building to get out of the cold and what felt like the danger zone.

Inside, I rushed over to meet our group who was having a private session with renowned British author and climate communicator, George Marshall, who founded the nonprofit Climate Outreach, conducts research, and writes books like “Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change.” I found our group sitting in a semi-circle around George off to the side of one of the meeting rooms, so I sat down quickly to join the conversation. He was sharing his latest research and ideas to help us be better communicators, and I scribbled notes as he poured out his ideas. He said his research showed that most people are accepting that the weather is changing and climate change is happening, and the next step is to engage about how to prepare and protect the places and people we love. He also felt that sharing our own perspective with mutual respect about climate change with our friends, families, churches, and business circles is the best way to plant the seed of understanding that will continue to grow. George was generous with his time, he answered our questions with thoughtful responses, and I felt so lucky to meet him.

After we said our goodbyes to George, I headed back to the side session area in Hall 4 to attend a talk that I thought might be helpful for my Leon Soil & Water Conservation District work called “Raising Ambition for Climate Action: Transformation Action for a Food Secure Future.” We heard from a farmer named Ishmal from South Africa about the enormous problems farmers were facing from the extreme weather caused by climate change. They were experiencing more droughts and floods that were degrading their soils and making it very difficult to grow food for their families and communities. Dhanush Dinesh, a Global Policy Engineer, said that he was developing a tool box of solutions including educating farmers about climate change; providing them with the basic essentials of food and water when these extreme weather events strike; issuing climate insurance for lost crops to stabilize farmer’s incomes; looking at the larger picture of reducing emissions through diets of less beef and dairy and curbing deforestation for agriculture; focusing on rebuilding the soil health to capture carbon and avoid erosion; and increasing nature-based solutions like forestry farming. Dhanush’s group will be coming out with an important report providing more details about these issues in February so I made a note to check their website at http://www.transformingfoodsystems.com.

Another speaker shared that a recent “EAT” Lancet report implores us to reduce our meat and dairy consumption and to increase our plant-based food choices by fifty percent. “Global food production threatens climate stability and ecosystem resilience and constitutes the single largest driver of environmental degradation… Without action, the world risks failing to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement, and today’s children will inherit a planet that has been severely degraded and where much of the population will increasingly suffer from malnutrition and preventable disease.” As challenging as this news was, it seemed fixable by reducing our meat and dairy intakes. I have been pescatarian (seafood + vegetarian) for ten years but realized that I should rethink my dairy choices as well.

I finished up at COP25 and I jumped on the metro headed to the shared flat that 15 of us were staying at in the center of Madrid. I was excited about my dinner plans with my friend Christine Dallet who lived in Madrid that I hadn’t seen since 10th grade at Florida High School. I sent her a Facebook message about a month ago that I was coming and it turned out that she worked close to where I was staying, so we made plans for dinner at 9 pm. It’s true that in Madrid, everyone eats dinner late, and I was already used to it after just a few days. I waited outside my old stone building for her and before I knew it she was there giving me a big hug and looking just like I remembered her: blonde, blue eyed, and such a great smile! We used to play sports together and she always had a sharp wit and was kind to me even though I was two years younger than her. We made our way to a seafood restaurant she picked called Il Barril, and as soon as we walked in the door the staff expressed their affection for her with hugs and kisses on the cheeks, and she spoke beautiful Spanish as I watched in awe of her and the lively interaction.

The next three hours included some of the most delicious food I’ve ever tasted, and the chance to catch up with my friend who has lived a beautiful life in Madrid since she fell in love with the city on a study abroad program in college. We feasted on adobe seasoned fried fish bites, small zesty green peppers sprinkled with sea salt, tender octopus and potatoes with smoked paprika, divine poached artichokes in olive oil, and a rich chocolate lava cake that I was almost too full to enjoy. Almost. As a sangria lover, I also had to try a glass and this one was traditional and delicious. It was midnight by the time we took our last bite, and as we walked together through the cobblestone streets of Madrid, I was filled from the amazing meal, our special time together, from all that I learned at COP25 that day, and a sense that I was gaining just as much from my advocacy work as I was giving.

If God Read the Paris Agreement, Seeking the U.S Delegation, and Seminole Climate Activists at Day 2 of COP 25

Day two of the U.N. COP25 climate conference in Madrid was off to a good start when I sat around the breakfast table with the other members of the Christian Observers program for our morning devotion and our leader Lowell Bliss asked us “Do you think God has read the Paris Agreement?”

He spread out a copy on the table before us as an example of how we can pray for God to be with us in the trenches as we face the enormous and complex issue of climate change. We reflected on being a faithful presence of God and that sometimes the best we can do is to position ourselves where there is work to be done and to be a Christian Observer, just as our program is named.  Perhaps today at COP25 our largest contribution could be to bring that faithful presence of God into the halls and meeting rooms and be a witness to the pain and suffering the climate crisis is is causing people all over the world in the forms of droughts, floods, super storms, and sea level rise. As we packed up to leave, the idea that we could bring God’s love with us wherever we went made me feel hopeful for the day to come.  

After the thirty minute metro ride we arrived at the convention center site called IFEMA, and I headed to the press room to catch the morning briefing from Climate Action Network (CAN). A panel was reviewing what happened the day before at the conference, and I learned that the topic of Loss and Damage seemed to be hitting a sticking point because there was a critical lack of actual financial resources moving from wealthy, developed countries to those poor countries experiencing irreparable climate harms. I listened to a few more updates and then headed out to find the faith leaders meeting with the U.S. delegation that Rep. Kathy Castor had invited me to the day before.

I popped over to the U.S. delegation office and a friendly embassy worker walked me over to where the meeting was about to take place. I recognized some of my faith leader friends who were talking together in a waiting room where they gathered for the meeting. One of the organizers came to welcome me, checked my credentials and said that although I wasn’t on the list, they had an extra seat that I was welcome use to observe the meeting. I was happy just to be a part of it so I thanked him as we entered a bright room with a large oval table set with food and drinks for the meeting. Shortly after, the rest of the faith group came in, and were followed by the Representatives and Senators that made up the U.S. delegation. Then Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined the group and gave a warm welcome, expressed her appreciation and gave her thanks for all the work that the faith leaders were doing, and a positive conversation about creation care ensued. Time went by very quickly and soon the meeting wrapped up and everyone joined in for a group photo. It was empowering to feel the mutual appreciation in the room and I was glad I was able to witness it.

As I made my way back to the convention hall, I saw a mother-daughter duo that I met the day before and we greeted each other warmly. Valholly Frank, a teenager of the Seminole Tribe of Florida who lives in the Big Cypress Reservation in the Everglades explained to me when we talked the day before that she joined Our Children’s Trust lawsuit when she was 15 years old to hold the state of Florida accountable for causing climate change by not having a plan to reduce green house gas emissions. The suit says that the state has violated the youngest generation’s constitutional rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. Valholly was excited about the court date set for January 2020 after waiting for two years to be heard, and was hopeful the suit will force Florida to implement a sustainable climate plan that will protect her home in the Everglades and the culture of her tribe. I thanked her for her bravery and told her I will be at the hearing in Tallahassee to cheer her on.

I walked around the convention center, stopping at booths to learn more about topics that caught my eye, and felt a growing sense of hope from being surrounded by 20,000  professionals dedicated to solving the climate crisis. The halls were filled with bright colors from the outfits of people dressed in traditional garb of their native countries, and as they walked past me speaking languages I didn’t recognize, the magnitude of this event overwhelmed me and I was so grateful to the United Nations for bringing us all together.

Later, I joined some of my Christian Observer friends at a side event called “Inspiring Courage to Act and Adapt in a Climate Emergency.” There was an impressive panel of speakers from all over the world, but the one who really impacted me was Rev. Chebon Kernell, a Native American climate activist of the Seminole tribe and the Executive Director of the Native American Comprehensive Plan of the United Methodist Church. He gave a moving speech where he reminded us that indigenous people lived on the land now called the United States for over 16,000 years without doing it any harm. The Seminole people’s respect for their place in the whole cycle of creation brought them to understand that we are not stewards of the Earth Mother, but the Earth Mother is the steward of us. He said that if we redefine what development and progress looks like to the indigenous idea of well-being, we can return to ways that protect the land and provide us a healthy Earth Mother. I learned that the rights of indigenous people must be respected as countries look for ways to solve the climate crisis, and their wisdom is valuable as they teach us to make decisions based on the world we are giving the generations not yet born.

As a Floridian, I feel a deep connection to the Seminole tribe because I grew up learning about their culture and history as the indigenous people inhabiting the state since the 1700’s. It was a great honor to meet two Seminole climate activists at COP25 who have dedicated their lives in different ways to share the values of the Seminole people as it relates to solving the climate crisis. After the event was over, I was happy to get the chance to meet Rev. Kernell and he shared that he would rather be home with his family but needed to be able to tell his grandchildren that he did everything he could to try to solve the problem of climate change that threatens their future. His words rang true for me because I felt the same, and although I was starting to really miss my family, I knew that I owed it to them to learn everything I could here at COP25 and use it to further my climate advocacy so they can have a chance of a safe future.

CCOP Group newsletter – Day 1

Hi everyone – here is the newsletter that my group puts out to give you other perspectives on the activities at COP25. I didn’t write it but think it is worthwhile, especially the prayer requests. Thanks, Cara


Day 1 Updates
Today was the opening plenary session of COP25. There were speeches by Hoesung Lee, the Chair of the IPCC; Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary General; as well as the President of Chile (via a recorded video) and the Prime Minister of Spain. We were able to watch all these opening speeches on big screens in a neighboring room (this one was a ticketed event, with advanced booking only).

Then there was a closed session with many heads of states, where Presidents and Prime Ministers from Bangladesh to Honduras to Malawi to Slovakia each gave 4-5 minute speeches to their fellow world leaders, which could also be watched on the big screens. There was complete agreement that all countries need to increase their ambition (National Determined Commitments – NDCs), urgency, and implementation to address climate change with a transformational, rather than incremental, approach.

Many of us also went to a Capacity Building workshop meant for first-time observers to the COP put on by the Climate Action Network, one of the largest civil society observer groups at COP25. The three major issues to be addressed during this COP were addressed and explained: Loss and Damage, Ambition / push for higher (NDCs), and climate finance. Here are the key takeaways:

  • Loss and Damage: While the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) process is the primary means of driving this work forward, there are still major gaps to be addressed. Most notably, there remains a critical lack of actual financial resources moving from wealthy, developed countries to those experiencing irreparable climate harms. Meanwhile, it was the less developed nations pushing the process, while major emitters like the U.S., Canada, and the EU are still unwilling to commit concrete actions.
  • Ambition / NDCs: it’s not on the official “agenda” as a particular item to discuss, but the Chilean presidency championed this by asking the parties to contribute new/higher Nationally Determined Commitments next year (these are the plans for the emissions reductions that each country pledges to achieve). As of now, only a few smaller nations, particularly the low-layering island states, have more ambitious NDCs submitted, while all major emitting nations continue to lead from behind with insufficient reduction pledges.
  • Climate finance: while the commitment and resources to make this possible are essential, transparency is another key for this topic. Beside the 100 billion USD per year that is needed from world governments to fully finance the several funds under the UNFCCC framework, the private sector must play an increasingly important part. They are not yet being recognized by major players in the negotiations.
The tension of global climate action

(-Lindsay Mouw)

Today was my first day ever at a COP. The whole experience is a bit overwhelming to take in at first—the venue is massive, bustling with activity everywhere you look. I spent much of my day observing the flow of the conference, checking out informational kiosks and touring the pavilions of various countries represented at the COP. There are a plethora of discussions, negotiations, trainings, and workshops to attend at any given time, which can make the reality of being only in one place at one time challenging. However, today I was led in the right direction and sat in on a very compelling roundtable of the Heads of State and Government Summit, where each country shared their respective national climate work and plans to increase ambition by 2020. I heard from the leaders of Norway, Uganda, Andorra, Nauru, Slovakia, Montenegro, Belgium, and the Czech Republic, among many others, on their goals towards carbon neutrality and ecological conservation. However, the Prime Minister of Greece, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, shared a statistic that especially struck me: “75% of global emissions are shared by twelve countries, none of which are represented at this roundtable today.” I cannot help but feel incredibly guilty coming from one of those twelve countries after witnessing the testimony of numerous countries’ tremendous efforts to combat the climate crisis. The reality is that all of the countries present at the roundtable today could become 100% carbon neutral, but it will not be enough unless the biggest players in the carbon economy step up. As a person of faith, I feel deeply compelled to respond, to seek justice and show love to our Creator and brothers and sisters in these countries that are depending on the U.S. to take action.

(-Cara Fleischer): Praise God! After a press conference hosting by a U.S. Congressional delegation, the delegation came out the door I was standing at and I met Nancy Pelosi! She introduced me to FL. Rep Kathy Castor and we spoke for 30 minutes! She is the chair of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis and invited me to meet with her and other faith leaders on December 3. What a mustard seed.
Thank you for praying 

This section will include specific opportunities for you to join our CCOP team in prayer:

  • Pray for everyone in the CCOP team in Madrid now, for their energy and wellness. The first full day with so many things to catch up and pay attention to was overwhelming even for veterans, not to mention many of us have been deprived of sleep, fighting jet lag.
  • Pray for the change of hearts of the major emitting nations as we heard from the pleas of those from the less developed nations severely impacted by the climate crisis.
  • Pray for the church back home, that we hear these pleads loud and clear.
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Seeking Hidden Treasure at COP25

Monday, December 2, 2019 Madrid, Spain

On Monday morning the music on my phone alarm pulled me out of a deep sleep in my cozy bedroom in Madrid so I checked the window to see that the rain was gone. The first day of the U.N. COP25 climate conference had finally arrived! With ten people staying together in this Air B&B flat on the Christian Observers program (7 women and 3 men), bathroom time would certainly be limited, so hustled in and out and put on my business suit in a hurry. Lowell Bliss, our leader and spiritual guide on this trip asked us to join him at 7:30 am for breakfast and a devotional, and I didn’t want to miss it.

Most of our group was already gathered with Lowell around the large dining room table under a bright florescent light as I settled into a chair with my boiled egg and coffee. With a welcoming smile Lowell thoughtfully began speaking about our first day at COP25. He shared stories from the Bible that said the kingdom of God is a treasure, it is like yeast, a pearl, a mustard seed, organic and hidden. He encouraged us to see our experience at this conference the same way. We cannot know what kind of information we will encounter within those walls that will increase our understanding, and who we meet that will enrich our experience. We might see this opportunity as a treasure hunt just waiting to be discovered, and our interactions as mustard seeds that will grow into something substantial. I found Lowell’s theology so helpful that I jotted some of his words on a napkin and made a mental note to bring my notebook the next morning.

We bundled up in our coats and stepped into the cold morning air as a group and headed up a long hill to the metro station. It was crowded with morning travelers and we had to work hard not to lose each other as we negotiated the three trains that took us to the convention site. When we arrived at the final stop, two women with a wind energy group were handing out bags of swag to everyone who walked by, and the walls were covered with slogans about climate change. We had arrived! 

Once in the hall we quickly made our way through security and took the obligatory photo in front of the COP 25 sign, and then headed to the first plenary session and opening ceremony. The word spread within our group that our passes wouldn’t allow us entry into the main hall where the world leaders were already negotiating inside, so some headed to other venues, but we were feeling brave and walked on through security. They looked at our badges and nodded us in. Excellent! The enormous convention room was filled with chairs for observers in the back that were all taken, and then lines of desks with microphones and paper signs with the names of all the countries in the world filled the rest of the hall. At the front of the room there was a tall, well-lit stage with dignitaries seated at a long table. They were so far away that I could only see their shapes, but the large tv’s around the hall projected video of a man with a heavy accent expressing his unhappiness about an agreement that he claimed was decided on yesterday but was being changed today. There weren’t any seats, so we found a spot against the wall and sat down to try to make sense of it all. After about 15 minutes the session ended, and we now understood that this hall was for the delegations to interact to set the rules through parliamentary procedure. We checked our long list of information sessions going on and headed off to the Climate Action Network (CAN) Capacity Building for Newcomers to COP seminar that sounded helpful.

I did my homework before coming to COP25 so the information we received was familiar. Speakers shared on Loss & Damage (referring to the severe impacts of climate change that hurt poor countries and who need to be compensated financially by rich polluting countries that have caused the climate crisis); Ambition (the amount of green house gases countries pledge to reduce to meet the Paris Agreement’s obligation to keep our planet’s warming below 1.5 degrees C); and Climate Finance (money that developing countries receive from wealthy ones for mitigation and adaptation projects). A major focus of this COP was to get more money for Loss & Damage because poor countries were already suffering the worst impacts of climate change and could not afford to recover from extreme droughts, floods, cyclones, and sea level rise. They need the rich countries to help them financially to avoid terrible human rights issues like starvation, mass migration, and even death of their people. It was heavy stuff and I was glad the U.N. was addressing the moral and human rights aspects of climate change.

After the seminar was over, I got a message from my Facebook friend and fellow Earthkeeper Mel Caraway of Texas that the U.S. Congressional Delegation was about to give a press conference, so I packed up and hurried over. We finally met in person and shared a big hug, and talked about what we were doing back home. He learned that only the press were allowed in the meeting so we stood outside, getting a little peek of what was happening in the room through the glass windows. A few minutes later Mel realized that we could walk around the right side of the walled off room close to the side doors to get a better view of the delegation on the stage and to hear what they were saying. I saw Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a coral suit right in the front, and she was very animated as she declared “We Are Still In!” This gave me a lot of pride because our group felt the loss of not having a positive U.S. presence here now that Trump was pulling out of the Paris Agreement and was a climate denier. I heard Speaker Pelosi say that the USA was pledging to be 100% carbon neutral by 2050, and then she said “We will be addressing this crisis with three words: science, science, and science. Well maybe four, science!” to laughter in the room. Then Florida Representative and Select Committee on the Climate Crisis Chairwoman Kathy Castor spoke and said that her committee is hoping to turn policy proposals into legislation but needed bipartisan support. “There is urgency and the time for action is now,” she told the writers in the room.

I stood outside the door and listened to the entire presser, and to my surprise the delegation exited the room through that door and then Speaker Pelosi was standing right in front of me! I thanked her and introduced myself as a Creation Care leader from Florida, and she shook my hand, smiled, and said “You need to meet Kathy!” Rep. Castor was right behind her and she was welcoming as we shook hands and I explained that I lived in Tallahassee and was grateful for her work on climate change. She put her bag down and we talked for about five minutes about how she would like to do more with the faith community and perhaps we could work together on an advocacy day at the capitol next year. She said that there was a faith-leaders meeting tomorrow and that I should attend. Her assistant gave me her card and said she would let me know the details. We took a photo together and I thanked her again. I couldn’t believe my luck!

Then I remembered Lowell’s devotion that morning, how at this conference we are searching for treasure that will enhance our ability to work on the climate crisis, just like we are search for the kingdom of God. I had this feeling move through me to my toes that perhaps me meeting the most powerful women in the U.S. government wasn’t just by chance. I said a prayer of thanks as I walked away with a big smile on my face.