What Can the US do in 10 Years?

I was one of 7 Astronauts who stood up in today’s EPW senate hearing to deliver an unmistakable message to our senators, both allies and obstructionists: be as bold as the Apollo mission. Fully clad in space suits complete with the NASA logo, the Avaaz Action Factory stood up in the middle of the hearing and unfurled our banners.

Photo credit: Christine Irvine

“What can the US do in 10 years?”  The first banner asked.  “Put a man on the moon (check); cut co2 40% (dotted-line-check).” said the 2nd.

Responses in the room ranged from excited smiles and laughs to uncomfortable grimaces.  Senators Boxer and Sanders didn’t reach for the gavel to call for order.  A confused capitol police officer kindly asked us to sit, but didn’t kick us out.  After 15 minutes, another officer asked us into the hallway but let us back in after a warning.  Walking in and out of the hearing twice only added to our visibility because of the bright and shiny NASA suits we all had on.

Once we were let in a second time, we stood up on the benches in the back and raised the banners even higher.  While that resulted us being escorted out of the building (it was time for a nap anyway!) it also resulted in more comments by the senators and staff.

Senator Klobuchar (D-MN) thanked us and repeated the message almost word-for-word.  Bob Kiss, mayor of Burlington, thanked us for our antics, before laying out Burlington’s success at reducing emissions and creating jobs.  And to me it seemed we put smiles on many other young people wearing suits and working more ‘serious’ jobs who wished they could have joined us.

Young people were inspired by the Apollo mission, and it changed a generation.  I want something that ambitious to strive for, to work for and to build my life around.  I’m 25, and I’ve been working on climate change solutions/policy for 3 1/2 years since I realized this wasn’t a time to count on ‘somebody else’.  I’m young, but I’m not getting younger, and 2020 is looking closer and closer.  I’m getting worried about what’s going to happen if we don’t have serious cuts in emissions by then.

Cutting carbon 40% by 2020, and all the other equally bold provisions needed for a truly solutionary climate policy, would be massively transformative, and that’s just the point.  I’m not working for small solutions and a don’t-rock-the-boat economic poicy, as some law-makers to call for .  We didn’t get to the moon by upgrading toasters and squabbling about the best kind of space helmets.  We got there by embracing new industries and technology, as well as a national commitment to a goal.  I want to watch out country catch a fever of innovation.  I want to bring out the best in this country, because nothing less will do.

The Apollo program is a natural parallel for the current climate crisis, and any number of pundits have called for a comparable effort this week:

Read Henry Waxman: “As with the space program, this new mission will revitalize our economy, create jobs, and spur research, development, and innovation.”

Or check out Adam Siegel of Get Energy Smart Now: When it comes to the challenges before us (the US and the globe), the Apollo analogy is a powerful one — the idea of a President setting an objective and a massive endeavor being put together to achieve something many thought impossible on an, well, impossible timeline. To take the United States from what seemed to be a position of disadvantage to one of advantage, to ‘win’ the space race. Many concerned about America’s economic challenges, our energy problems, and the looming catastrophes of global warming look to the Apollo Program for inspiration. From the eloquent power of Apollo’s Fire to the strong organizational power of The Apollo Alliance, there is an intense power to the appeal to the greatness of The Apollo Program’s quite tangible achievements as a model for tackling the very serious challenges before us (both the U.S. and all of us).

I’m proud of the work of the Climate Action Factory and our efforts to increase the pressure.  Today was a great day for young people trying to figure out how to make an impact inside the beltway.  We don’t have millions to spend on lobbyists, nor do we have the insider connections or vested interests to get us into certain meetings.  Our vested interest is our future, and our resource to spend is our time.

What we can do, are doing, and need to do a lot more, is clearly remind our legislators that we are going to continue to increase the pressure on them through the media, through lobbying visits, through local organizing until they get us the policy we want.  We don’t want compromises; we want climate solutions.  And we’re going to vote them out of office or run ourselves if our current lawmakers aren’t up to the job.

The fight for a strong enough climate policy is heating up faster than ever.  We’re stepping up the action and the stakes here in DC.  Can you step it up where you are?  What’s the next step?  making that phone call you’ve been meaning to make?  Asking 10 friends to make the call?  Planning an August recess in-district meeting?  Donating to the cause?  Wherever you fall in terms of experience and engagement, I’m asking you to take the next step.

13 Responses to “What Can the US do in 10 Years?”

  1. 1 Craig Altemose Jul 21st, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    Great action, and perfect analogy! Our country needs something to rally behind – what better than saving ourselves from civilizational collapse and repowering our nation with clean electricity?

    The only difference between this adn the moonshot was that getting to the moon was a national goal of convenience. Cutting emissions by 40% is one of necessity.

    Our choice right not is to sink or swim. I for one, would like to choose to swim. But congress, through its inaction, is tieing cinderblocks of concrete to our legs. And it’s pissing me off.

  2. 2 Joe Jul 21st, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    The image is great, and it’s certainly a good sign when Senators like Amy Klobuchar recognize and congratulate what you’re doing. As long as the climate debate is framed by insider politicians and lobbysists, the legislative process will remain focused on what they see as “politically feasible,” and not the demands of the climate science. I view this action as a timely, clever, and clear direct communication to decision makers, which can be an important part of breaking through their sometimes insular process – congratulations!

    An aside: you mentioned that “our resource to spend is our time” – thanks for your time commitment, but don’t forget about the other resources we bring to our generation’s challenge – passion, creativity, courage…

  3. 3 Craig Altemose Jul 21st, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    Great action, and great analogy! Our people need something to rally behind, and saving our collective @sses seems like the best thing from where I’m sitting.

    Let’s Do This!

  4. 4 tamino Jul 21st, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    I blog about climate science regularly, and it’s quite a struggle to overcome all the obfuscation and downright lies spread by those who deny that global warming is real, man-made, and dangerous. Sometimes I wonder whether there’s really hope that we’ll overcome, not only the global warming problem, but the worst instincts and devious tactics of the selfish.

    Then I see a post like yours — and it renews my hope. Keep up the good work.

  5. 5 John Doyle Jul 21st, 2009 at 5:56 pm


  6. 6 Legionnaire Jul 21st, 2009 at 6:03 pm

    Very clever action, I’m glad that you folks are there as a way to help frame the debate. When you were let back in you shouldn’t have raised the banner again to get kicked out. What you should have done is wait there until the committee took a break or adjourned. Once the gavel slams start a chant like “40 by 20!” or what have you. The Republicans did this last year in the House with “Drill, Baby, Drill!” That way you would drown out the conversations of lobbyists trying to talk to the Senators and could have gotten friendly members of the audience to join the chant. It also would have brought more media coverage. You would have made a better scene and still have been escorted out of the building – if being kicked out was one of the goals. All of that would have taken a few more hours a patience. Doing it that way would make you look less like Code Pink, which has been ineffective and nobody really likes anyway.

  7. 7 Sam Jul 21st, 2009 at 7:00 pm

    Great work!

  8. 8 Jay O'Hara Jul 21st, 2009 at 7:04 pm

    Rock on Morgan & Co.!

  9. 9 Morgan Jul 21st, 2009 at 7:22 pm

    We’ve gotten great feedback on this one, so thanks all!

    I like the suggestion of waiting and not getting kicked out and starting a chant to drown out the lobbyists and get the good guys to join in.

    Also: follow @actionfactorydc and myself @mogmaar for more updates continually on what we’re up on twitter.

    Out blog, with more frequent updates: http://actionfactorydc.blogspot.com

  10. 10 Anna Haynes Jul 22nd, 2009 at 6:19 pm

    If you’re up for some reading, here’s a classic –
    Sara Robinson’s Why Protests Don’t Work…And Why They Do


  11. 11 Anna Haynes Jul 22nd, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    (Legionnaire’s Code Pink comment brought it to mind)

  12. 12 David Pinsky Jul 24th, 2009 at 4:50 pm

    OUTSTANDING work! The world is watching and the US must deliver. Keep up the great work!

  1. 1 10 Reasons the Apollo 11 Moon…. Armstrong on Apollo: ‘It was a…. | Australia News Trackback on Jul 21st, 2009 at 8:23 pm
Comments are currently closed.

About Morgan

Morgan is a wandering climate activist, a job well suited to the editorial board of this site. He organized at Williams College until his aprubt and unfortunate graduation in 2008. There, he was a Chinese major, student body co-president and one of the leaders of Thursday Night Group, the campus climate action group. Since graduating, in no particular order, Morgan has worked on a community energy efficiency campaign in western Mass, co-directed NH SPROG for the SSC and worked on Power Vote in Cleveland. He spent traveled in China, networking with youth climate activists and learning about the solar hot water business. He worked on Long Island for a solar and wind company doing home evaluations and sales. And he spent the better part of a year in DC at the Avaaz Action Factory causing trouble for a good cause.

Community Picks