Making Democracy Work

Our Climate Matters

It is time. It is time to tackle the increasingly urgent problem of global warming. Such was the thinking and motivation that led to a commitment by the League of Women Voters of Wilmette (IL) to inform citizens about this issue.

The issue of global warming and climate change has been gaining attention for a good while. Media coverage has dramatically increased public awareness. As with many `hot topics', while there is a growing interest in this critical problem among the citizenry, uncertainty and confusion remain. What is it? How serious of a problem is it? How is it being addressed at different levels of government? What are the consequences of delay? Can we combat global warming without damaging our economy? What can concerned citizens do in their own neighborhoods and homes?

Our Climate Matters - a four day symposium on global warming--was the culmination of the Wilmette League's commitment not only to inform the community but to stimulate, educate and foster serious discussion on this critical issue.

Sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Wilmette, with the Glenview Park District and nine additional local leagues, Our Climate Matters was held at the Glenview Park District facilities in the northern suburbs of Chicago from Thursday, October 18 through Sunday evening, October 21, 2007.

What began as an idea evolved into a wide array of programs + each focusing on a different aspect of this complex problem. Offerings featured prominent national speakers, including two members of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which won the Nobel Peace Prize this year. Programming also included panels, forums and workshops at which scientists, business people, economists, legislators and other policymakers, architects, and citizens discussed and shared information and considered possible solutions. Topics of interest encompassed the economic ramifications of action and no-action, environmental law and policy, green architecture, the health of Lake Michigan, Ways to Make Your Town Green, what is happening in governmental policy at the national, state and local level. A "Green" film festival, a presentation of the Chicago Cool Globes exhibit as well as an evening of `Cool Jazz' added a change of pace.

Our Climate Matters also developed and produced community-based events that took place throughout the northern suburbs in the week following the formal symposium. Libraries hosted discussion of the `One-Book-Everybody-Reads,' Field Notes from a Catastrophe by Elizabeth Kolbert. Other activities included neighborhood based `Green Teas', and local Town Hall Meetings were held to bring citizens and the leaders of their municipalities together to discuss current practices and future `green' plans for conserving energy and reducing carbon emissions.

For a complete schedule and listing of the 35+ hours of programming, visit the website, http://www.OurClimateMatters.org. This website also lists the names of the corporate benefactors and individual donors who provided financial backing for this endeavor.

All programs were open to the public and free of charge. Local media (printed press, cable television, NPR) publicized and covered Our Climate Matters. Thousands of professionally designed art posters publicizing the four day symposium were displayed throughout the north and northwest suburbs. Several thousand citizens attended at least one of the programs offered during the four day symposium. More were reached through the community-based events.

At the conclusion of Our Climate Matters, much positive feedback was received by the League for providing this educational forum on such a critical topic. Concomitantly, this large scale public offering provided a prominent demonstration of the mission of the League of Women Voters + to work to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and to influence public policy through education and advocacy.