shielarcastillo

An inconvenient path

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In honor of the graduation of 1,000 new climate leaders this week, I again watched the Academy Award winning documentary, An Inconvenient Truth (AIT).

I first watched AIT for free in a mall on the Earthday of 2007, and a few more times after. The very first time I saw the movie, I was truly startled, but my reaction would be best described as a combination of anger and despair. I felt it was so unfair for people to be suffering so much when they contribute so little to the carbon pollution. And I felt so helpless, feeling that there was nothing I could do to help solve such a gargantuan crisis.

Having been in the environmental sector led me to an opportunity to understand climate change a little more and to help others gain the same understanding.

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Fellow climate leaders pose with Al Gore after his day-long slideshow presentation and detailed discussion (Jakarta 2011)

I am now on my second year as a climate presenter for The Climate Reality Project, a climate leadership program of former US Vice President and Nobel Laureate Al Gore. I trained under Al Gore in Jakarta on January 2011, with 300 others coming from all over the Asia Pacific. As climate leaders, we were certified to present the updated version of Al Gore’s AIT presentation, and tasked to engage people about climate change in our respective countries. Since then, I have given more than 30 presentations to more than ten thousand people and have had countless conversations trying to change people’s minds on viewing climate change from a challenge into an opportunity to create a better world.

My reaction to AIT when I watched it tonight is totally different from when I first saw the documentary. Despite what the science is telling us now, I am more hopeful, even inspired. I couldn’t help but realize how empowering knowledge is.  How, because of my TCRP training and the months of climate change self-study and information support that TCRP gives as I continue to give the climate presentations all over the country, I feel more confident that the crisis can be solved and I am actually doing more in trying to address climate change. I am being part of the solution!

For me, being a climate presenter has been so challenging at the same time a blessing and an opportunity.

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My latest presentation at the Luna Goco Colleges in Calapan City, July 14, 2012.

It’s not easy to go around looking for prospects to present about climate change. There were times that what I say was challenged, simply dismissed, or even attacked. Communicating about the reality of the climate crisis is in itself a test of wits and will. Often, I get emotional when I give the presentation, the presentation has not numbed me; instead, it has strengthened my resolve that something has to be done and that the crisis can be solved. Despite the many limitations of being a climate presenter, and the recurring frustrations of wanting to do more than I could, of wanting to get multiple messages across, of suffering from sickness and fatigue from conducting climate caravans and having to spend from my own pocket to get going, I consider myself fortunate being a climate presenter.

Being a climate presenter gives me a front seat access to information, the bad and good news as humanity tries to address climate change. It gives me tremendous opportunities to connect with people and engage them in a deep conversation about the challenges of the climate crisis. I have seen various reactions, some disheartening, but most of them uplifting. Indeed, understanding the crisis and recognizing its solvability feels so empowering. I see it in the people’s eyes, just as I feel more empowered now that I know a little more and am doing a more. I have also been blessed to meet people who are ready to take on the crisis and be part of the solution. I am elated whenever people approach me and say they were inspired by my talk. I am thrilled every time I see ideas emerging and initiatives being born out of the climate talks and witnessing people’s tremendous capacity to effect change and be the change. I am energized by feeling and seeing the shift happening, it’s almost palpable.

To all the new climate leaders of The Climate Reality Leadership Corps, you have chosen an inconvenient path, and there is great work to be done. May you be inspired and feel blessed to be empowering others by what you do. Mabuhay!

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