Spreading the climate change gospel
Bill Bradbury has been fighting for environmental protections his entire career, starting from his work in the Oregon Legislature in the 1980s and 1990s.
Now, the former Oregon secretary of state is one of the leaders in the global effort to raise the public's consciousness about climate change.
In 2006, Bradbury became one of the first climate activists to be trained through the Climate Reality Leadership Corps, founded by former Vice President Al Gore and his nonprofit, the Washington, D.C.-based Climate Reality Project.
That was the same year Gore released his breakout climate change documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth."
On July 28 the film's sequel debuts: "An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power," which includes clips from some of those Climate Reality Leadership Corps trainings.
(It will show in Portland at Regal Fox Tower and Regal Bridgeport Village theaters.)
Bradbury was a keynote speaker at the Climate Reality training held in late June in Bellevue, Washington, where he spoke to 700 trainees — the newest crop of 11,000 climate leaders trained since 2006.
Bradbury himself has given about 500 presentations of Gore's slide show. We caught up with him recently to ask him four burning questions about climate change.
Sustainable Life: What's Al Gore like?
Bill Bradbury: He has this incredible depth of knowlege and phenomenal commitment to taking it on and doing something about it. His commitment has been redoubled by the election results (Trump's victory in November). He's really an optimist about this crisis. He really believes that Donald Trump is a bump in the road, that there are a whole lot of state and local governments and businesses that are very concerned about climate change and are implementing policies to try to do what they can to ease the situation. He looks at that and just really maintains a very positive and 'We can do this' attitude. He says renewable energy is coming, regardless of what the federal government does, and it's becoming the cost-competitive resource. The economy dictates that it's going to happen.
Sustainable Life: How do you maintain your optimism?
Bradbury: I'm always criticized as being too optimistic. What can young people do? We're handing them a hell of a mess. I'm 68. I won't be around for that much longer. There's a whole series of things young people can and are doing. I do presentations in high schools. Students tell me stories — they go home, convince their parents to change all the light bulbs, get less gas-guzzling cars, be more energy-efficient. They're real aware this is an issue that's larger than just light bulbs. Young folks know it's going to take public action and action by the government to get this dealt with. They're not shy.
Sustainable Life: What can individuals do as climate activists?
Bradbury: The focus of the training has shifted since 2006. Initially it was to train people to give the slide show and deal with this massive amount of information, to enable them to feel comfortable to deliver the slide show. In the last couple of years, the focus has changed. Al Gore will still spend a whole day at training walking through the slide show. But there will also be a lot more time spent on other ways to influence policy, like letters to the editor, petitioning and demonstrations. And social media. But I don't use Twitter.
Sustainable Life: How do we reach the climate change skeptics?
Bradbury: It's pretty striking now when you do a climate presentation — there's still a very small group of people who say there's nothing happening (with climate change). But I think it's a much more broadly based understanding. It becomes really difficult to say nothing's changing. The challenge is to be accepting of their doubts and concerns — and try hard to keep providing more and more information. The bottom line is: We really can deal with this problem. We really can impact this problem. It's a little overwhelming, but there's a whole lot of us.