Involve yourself in things that matter most to you

Figuring out what to do over the summer can be a stressful decision for college students. As kids, summer was about having fun. As time passes, the weight of adulthood looms over and vacation time is spent working. Finding a balance between relaxing and getting internships and other work done is challenging. It can be frustrating feeling like there is no equal footing. I go through this constantly — either feeling like I’ve overworked myself from May to August and missed a chance for some needed downtime, or wondering if I spent too much time relaxing and lost out on some opportunities. This summer, however, was different. 

I was able to have a lot of fun while also working incredibly hard and feeling very rewarded. Looking back, I know that I owe much of this to the Citizens Climate Lobby International Conference that I attended, on behalf of Rider’s sustainability office, in June.

Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL) is a non-profit organization that lobbies to Congress in support of a carbon fee and dividend bill. In simple terms, CCL volunteers call and meet with their local and Federal representatives asking them to support a bill that would put an extra fee on carbon distributors. 

This means that gasoline, heating and anything producing carbon emissions would cost more to use and the cost will gradually increase as time goes on. 

It sounds like a pricey tax on U.S. citizens, but there is a catch. All of the revenue from this fee would be reimbursed to American households equally in a monthly dividend check and “about two-thirds of households will break even or receive more than they would pay in higher prices,” according to the CCL website. CCL  Studies show this plan would stimulate the economy, create energy jobs for Americans, benefit low income families and reduce carbon emissions by 50 percent within the next 20 years. 

For those unfamiliar with climate science, those numbers are almost too hard to believe. Still, exciting projections and the barrage of statistics I accidentally memorized are not what was life-changing about this experience. 

What really left me feeling changed after working with CCL was the people I met and their positive attitude toward progress that they had — regardless of political climate. 

Daniel Richter, a CCL vice president, said in his speech, “When you do the impossible, you make it possible for everyone else.”  This was the attitude everywhere I turned. Everyone, from volunteers to the president of the organization, has this incredible fervor for the work they do and the success they were sure they would have eventually. 

Optimism and building relationships across party lines is at the core of this non-profit and it creates climate of action that feels like anything is possible when you are willing to listen to those around you. 

I got a chance to meet with my representatives on Lobby Day of the conference, and it only added to the excitement. The willingness that the legislative staff had to listen to and speak on this issue and the engagement in the democratic process gave me an entirely new perspective on U.S. government and the power that voices have.  

So when looking for something to do next summer get involved with things worth being passionate about. I love politics and I care about implementing policy to help the environment. I got to spend three days hanging out in D.C.— one of my favorite cities. It was hard work and long days, but it felt like an exciting vacation because I was doing something I care about deeply and was surrounded by people who motivated me to care even more. The sense of responsibility and capability I left the conference with pushed me to keep working through the summer. 

I accomplished more goals and had more fun than I have ever had during the summer. I know its because of the energetic, positive people at CCL who helped me see that not only can I accomplish anything I want, but I should. So if you’re feeling unmotivated next summer, or don’t know how to balance your time, ask yourself what do you care about? What impossible thing do you want to make possible for everyone else? What work can you do that by the end it won’t feel like work at all?

For more information on CCL, go to: https://citizensclimatelobby.org/

        —Erin Powell 

          Former Rider Eco Rep

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