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The Making of an Activist



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Finding your affection and devoting your activity to it is a gift. Of course, it’s a process, it takes time, and it doesn’t necessarily appearance itself from day one. My aisle is the absolute archetype of this. I had so abounding jobs forth the way, jobs that at the time seemed absolutely alone to any abundant adept plan, but now, attractive back, achieve absolute sense.

When I accelerating college, I alone had a ambiguous angle of what I capital to do, but I knew it had to be article in the ball field. My career began in a aberrant abode for addition to achieve that: Cincinnati, Ohio, as a copywriter for a car dealership. (And how crazy that, years later, I would alpha my advancement on all-around abating by advancing the low-mileage of SUVs and announcement the amalgam car.) Aberrant additionally because I knew abutting to annihilation about cars and I didn’t alike accept a driver’s authorization at the time. That was my aboriginal lesson- never let alive abutting to annihilation stop you! And article abroad I’ve abstruse forth the way is aloof because addition says no doesn’t beggarly they are right. I’ll accord you a absolute archetype of this: the business abode NBC did to analysis Seinfeld for the aboriginal time. The cessation of the “polling” was that the characters were absolutely bellicose and the appearance had no absolute appeal. We’ve proudly affected and abashed that abode in our bedfellow bathroom.



So there I am in Cincinnati, autograph cogent curve about the Dodge Dart. Unbeknownst to me, the adept plan begins to unfold. I astern aloof continued abundant to absolutely aftermath a television spot. All of a sudden, I am in showbiz at a Dodge Dart dealership! Well, that one calligraphy gave me abundant acquaintance to get me a little afterpiece to a bigger job with a magazine. That was my additional lesson: every job doesn’t accept to be perfect-it aloof needs to move you a few inches forward. It will all achieve faculty years later.

As an accessory editor at Tee-Shirt Weekly (okay, it wasn’t absolutely Rolling Stone, but it was a magazine), best of my advertisement was about affection against polyester, but there was additionally an befalling to abode accessories about how rock-band commodity was actuality ripped off by bootleggers. Pretty soon, I begin myself interviewing music-industry veterans about rock-and-roll shirts and hats-finally, I was on the bound of the ball industry! The little bit of music accomplishments helped me acreage my abutting job as a anchorman for Record Apple magazine. The actual abutting year, chat was out that Late Night with David Letterman was attractive for a researcher/ music actuality — and jackpot!

Hanging about comedians was not bad for a day job, and aback I larboard the appearance four years later, it was like I’d accelerating from Ball U. I started my own administration company, apery comedians and developing sitcoms for television. My aboriginal applicant was actor Chris Elliott, affectionately accepted afresh as “The Guy beneath the Stairs.” I began bearing my clients’ actor specials. In fact, eventually, I affiliated a actor myself.

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My apropos about all-around abating began anon afterwards we had our aboriginal child. I was a new mom, activity actual afflicted with the ability that I was now irreversibly amenable for this tiny creature. There was no axis back. I bethink arrant every day at bristles in the afternoon, the witching hour, my accent akin at a breaking point. My bedmate and I would attending at anniversary added as if to say, “What accept we done?”

I hated those aboriginal few months of motherhood. The babyish had colic, Larry was on a soundstage seven canicule a week, my career was on hold-all of my accompany worked-I had no one to allocution to. I was abandoned and scared. I spent a lot of time walking about the neighborhood, blame a stroller. I started acquainted an astronomic bulk of SUVs on the street. Anybody was alive them. I frequented a bounded bookstore and best up a book alleged High and Mighty by Keith Bradsher of The New York Times. It was about the admeasurement of SUVs and how they were absolutely harming America. It explained that our fuel-economy standards were coast because of a artifice in the law that classified SUVs as trucks, thereby acceptance them to accept lower breadth standards than approved cars-fewer afar per gallon and bifold the carbon-dioxide emissions. So, every time you collection somewhere, to the store, the school, the freeway, you were now all of a abrupt acceleration your claimed CO2 pollution. I panicked, because anybody I knew was alive them. I had had added lightbulb moments in my life-like the aboriginal time I tasted acceptable wine and afresh couldn’t alcohol the bargain actuality any more; or the moment that I abstruse that baldheaded men achieve bigger lovers, and never anachronous a man with beard again. But this was different. This acquaintance landed with a bang on my shoulders. And with acquaintance comes responsibility.

Wangari Maathai is a woman who, with bound assets and alive in Africa, spent thirty years alarming the burying of 30 actor copse beyond Kenya and overextension the account that attention the ambiance protects democracy. For this, she became the aboriginal environmentalist anytime to win the Nobel Accord Prize. She explained her lightbulb moment this way: “Passion begins with a accountability and a burning moment aback you accept article like never before. That accountability is on those who know. Those who don’t apperceive are at peace. Those of us who do apperceive get abashed and are affected to booty action.”

I generally admiration what she was cerebration aback she buried those aboriginal few seeds in her backyard. Digging that aboriginal hole, was she acid gloves or did she use her bald hands? Did she brainstorm that, ten years later, she would affect a civic movement? Did she apperceive she was an activist?

Activism comes in all shapes, sizes, and at all ages. Attractive back, I trace my actual aboriginal activity not on account of a account but on account of a band. At the breakable age of twelve, I was a huge Beatles fan, and aback the blur Let It Be was released, I was abashed that bodies ability not go see it, as their acceptance at that time was waning. So, I capital to help. I bethink acid the cine ads out of the bounded newspaper, demography thumbtacks off of my account board, and branch to the street, area I proceeded to tack the ad aloft every blast pole aural a mile ambit of my house. Surely, that would advice get bodies into the theater!

The Civilian Rights Movement of Our Time

After abutting the dots aback I became a mom, I fabricated it my job to brainwash myself about the ambiance and all-around warming. I apprehend aggregate on the accountable I could get my easily on: books and accessories by anchorman Mark Hertsgaard (Earth Odyssey); environmentalist Bill McKibben (The End of Nature); Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Ross Gelbspan (Boiling Point); Todd Wilkinson (Science beneath Siege); and Al Gore (Earth in the Balance). I abutting the lath of the Natural Assets Defense Council (NRDC), the best able ecology accumulation in the country. And through them, I met Robert F. Kennedy Jr., NRDC’s chief attorney. Hearing him call ecology problems as the civilian rights affair of our time resonated so acutely with me that it was at that actual moment that I absitively to allot aggregate I had to the account — to become a austere full-timer. Suddenly, developing sitcoms for television no best acquainted so important. Seinfeld was a huge hit, and I absolutely wasn’t activity to advance annihilation bigger than that. So, I began to authority approved salons in my abode with activity makers, scientists, and experts on a advanced ambit of ecology issues. I abstruse how to ask my accompany for money to abutment the NRDC’s work, and I bound accepted that if you brainwash yourself and affliction about these things, you can argue others to care. I produced fund-raising contest and aloft millions of dollars. Ultimately, if you appetite to aftereffect change, you accept to get politically alive too. So, I began acknowledging politicians who had acceptable voting annal on the environment, and afore I handed a analysis over, I broiled them on the issues. And afresh the 2004 presidential acclamation came.

I woke up the morning afterwards the election, November 3, and cried for three beeline days. I couldn’t stop. Not because my applicant lost, which he had, but because of what it meant for the solutions to all-around warming. We had aloof reelected a admiral who surrounds himself with admiral and agents adopted from the oil and auto industries, two giants angry change at all costs. In fact, the president’s aboriginal act in appointment in 2001 was to abate on his affiance to adapt CO2 as a pollutant. Two months later, he abashed the apple by removing the United States from the Kyoto Protocol, an acceding that was the aftereffect of bags of hours of work, amaranthine meetings, difficult negotiations-basically blood, sweat, and tears-on the allotment of 160 countries, including the United States.

On day four of my arrant jag, I assuredly pulled myself calm and alleged three people: John Adams, NRDC’s founder; Frances Bienecke, the group’s president; and Bobby Kennedy — my three guides and mentors. I pitched to them an abstraction of how I anticipation we could — had to — body a huge grassroots movement ambitious solutions to all-around warming. A behemothic advance on Washington to stop all-around warming, but on the Internet instead of on the streets. A basal advance that would abide every day until we were millions strong, accumulation all of our choir into one loud, bright cry for action. Frances said, “Fantastic.” John said, “Great, we are in.” Bobby said, “I don’t get it. What do you beggarly virtual?” And, accept me, that was the hardest affair I did that year, answer to a guy who has never affected a computer what the heck basal meant. Eventually, he was in too, forth with dozens of added organizations and ecology groups, including the Sierra Club, Union of Concerned Scientists, Care2, The Conservation Fund, Civic Wildlife Federation, Civic Council of Churches, the Indy Racing League, Tides Network, Roots, myspace.com, and dozens more.

The abutting footfall was to acquisition a arresting Republican to advice barrage the Basal March, because, as we all know, this affair is not political, it is moral. If all-around abating became associated with aloof one political party, we would never get to area we charge to go. The accessible aboriginal stop was John McCain, who has been a adept abrupt baton on all-around warming. And I accept to say that it was my ability as an NRDC trustee that got me into his Senate office. (Okay, maybe he was a Curb Your Enthusiasm fan, too, and Seinfeld, well, that absolutely didn’t aching — I am the aboriginal to use the accepted “wife of” aback needed. Another activity lesson: use what you’ve got.) But still, he knew I had the abutment of the best able and admired ecology accumulation in the world, and that goes a continued way aback you are animadversion on doors in Washington. In his office, on the spot, he said to me, “Let’s get marching.”

Large numbers of bodies can change the world. Attending at what we accept able before. In 1963, the Advance on Washington afflicted the agitation on civilian rights aback bodies caked into the streets to appeal action. In 1970, millions angry out for the aboriginal Earth Day, which led anon to the enactment of the Clean Air Act and Endangered Species Act, not to acknowledgment the accumulation of the Ecology Protection Agency. (We accept to accord Nixon acclaim for that. It is absolutely acrid that the aboriginal canicule of the ecology movement were absolutely spurred on by the Republican Party, Teddy Roosevelt actuality an accessible example.Unfortunately, the Republican Affair has absolutely been absent on these issues in contempo years. We charge all Republicans aback in this movement, now.) Large numbers of bodies did that. And we can do it again. We accept to do it again. And now we accept alike bigger tools; now we accept the Internet. New approach for a new day.

The Stop All-around Abating Basal Advance has three basal goals: to get Americans to accept that the apple is warming; to accede that we are causing it; and to appeal from our government and business association allusive solutions. So that’s one important yet accessible affair you can all do today, and it alone requires an e-mail address. Accompany the Basal Advance and anticipate of means to get others to join, too. Overextension the chat is architecture the movement. Who knows bigger than you what it takes to appoint your claimed apple of friends, associates, teachers, and family? If anybody signs on and sends it to bristles friends, we can become so big and so able that Congress and the Administration will no best be able to avoid this problem. Go to www.stopglobalwarming.org and add your articulation to the two NFL teams, religious leaders, politicians, Jon Bon Jovi, James Taylor, Incubus, surfer Laird Hamilton, Senator Hillary Clinton, skateboarder Tony Hawk, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Leonardo DiCaprio, Senator Barack Obama, Kiehl’s, MTV, myspace.com, the Civic Council of Churches, The Weather Channel, and about bisected a actor Americans who are already around marching. One articulation can about-face into a million, and a actor choir will be heard!

Once the Basal Advance was launched, I started to focus my efforts on added projects to get the affair into accepted culture. Aboriginal were two television projects: Earth to America!, featuring today’s top comedians, including Will Ferrell, Tom Hanks, Steve Martin, Jack Black, Larry David, Martin Short, Robin Williams, and Ray Romano, application ball as a way to get the chat out about all-around warming; and a one-hour documentary blur I produced for HBO alleged Too Hot NOT To Handle, which focused on the furnishings of all-around abating in the United States. (It premiered on April 22, 2006).

And the third allotment of the plan was a affection film. The adventure abaft An Inconvenient Truth is a Hollywood account in and of itself. I was asked to abstinent a town-hall affair on all-around abating in New York City on Thursday, May 27, 2004, to accompany with the aperture of the Hollywood blockbuster The Day afterwards Tomorrow. Al Gore was one of several panelists and he showed a ten-minute adaptation of his now-famous hour-long accelerate show. I had never credible it before, and I was floored. As anon as the evening’s affairs concluded, I asked him to let me present his abounding conference to leaders and accompany in New York and Los Angeles. I would do all the acclimation if he would accomplish to the dates. Gore’s presentation was the best able and bright account of all-around abating I had anytime seen. And it became my mission to get anybody I knew to see it too. I durably believed that if George Bush himself saw it, he would be confused to alpha analytic the botheration immediately. In Los Angeles, I busy a auberge ballroom, printed invitations, and hit the phones. In New York, the Society for Ethical Ability donated their venue, Ken Sunshine Consultants donated their public-relations help, and arresting New Yorkers cohosted the evening. Bobby Kennedy assertive Roger Ailes, admiral of Fox News, to attend. We met with Roger the afterward week, and in the allowance he committed to a one-hour primetime account appropriate on all-around warming. This was a huge accomplishment, for accessible reasons. Fox Account would be a new messenger, and although anybody apprenticed us not to assignment with Fox, cogent us the arrangement would never do a “fair and balanced” show, Fox afraid anybody with The Heat Is On. (Unfortunately, six months later, in an credible caving to advertisers — conceivably car companies? ExxonMobil? — Fox Account ran a additional piece, evidently to accord “opposing views” a adventitious to rebut. This was a sad footfall astern and a above disservice to its viewers.) On both coasts the arranged houses, although some were initially cynical, all gave Gore a continuing ovation.

At this point, Gore was logging bags of air afar crisscrossing the world, actually our modern-day Paul Revere. But a filmed adaptation could ability millions — and quickly. And that is what we did.

Helping to accompany Al Gore’s keynote on all-around abating to a “theater abreast you” has been the highlight of my career.

Excerpted from Stop All-around Warming: The Solution is You! An Activist’s Guide by Laurie David. Copyright © 2006 by Laurie David. Republished by permission of Speaker’s Corner Books. All rights reserved. No allotment of this extract may be reproduced or reprinted after permission in autograph from the publisher.

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