Climate change the hot topic in Olympia on Saturday

David Roberts, a climate and energy writer for Vox.com, delivered the keynote address Saturday morning for the South Sound Climate Action Convention.
David Roberts, a climate and energy writer for Vox.com, delivered the keynote address Saturday morning for the South Sound Climate Action Convention. adickson@theolympian.com

Downtown Olympia became a hub for climate change conversation Saturday, with more than 100 people from throughout Washington gathering for the South Sound Climate Action Convention.

“I think that you’re all here for the same reason I’m here,” said Paul Elwood, event organizer. “And that’s that we need help.”

Climate change is too big for an individual to solve, he said, so it’s important for people to collaborate.

The convention at The Olympia Center on Columbia Street included seminars on renewable energy, carbon pricing, social media marketing, and state and local elections.

Keynote speaker David Roberts, a climate and energy writer for Vox.com, continued Elwood’s sentiment in his speech. He told the audience that he’d skip over his thoughts about President Donald Trump — he said most people in the room probably agreed with him.

He said he’s heartened that so many resisters have stepped up since the election. But, it’s time modern environmentalism expanded beyond resistance. He asked whether it’s possible for people to mobilize around wanting something, instead of mobilizing around stopping something.

The big question, he said is how society and technology can progress without destroying the environment.

“Humanity is not going to stop and reverse,” Roberts said. “We’re probably not going to return to an agrarian society.”

During the speech, Lilliwaup resident Cynthia Mariah Rose asked Roberts what she can do, as a retiree, to help the cause. She said she’s recently become involved in activism — she participated in a Women’s March in January.

Roberts said that as baby boomers retire, there are more young, energetic retirees who want to mobilize to help the environment. He said that marches and online petitions are well and good, but phone calls to lawmakers are much more valuable.

“Every phone call is worth a million petitions,” Roberts said.

The solution lies in electricity, he said. Recently, there has been a lot of innovation in generating electricity without carbon emissions. He said the key will be to drive carbon out of the electrical grid and electrify things that typically run on fossil fuels — such as heating and transportation.

He emphasized that changes to energy and policy policy will start at the city and state levels. A new system will have to be tested in bits and pieces. Change will also require inventions, innovation and entrepreneurship.

‘There’s going to be a lot of churn and a lot of failing in the business world as we fumble our way toward this,” Roberts said.

Congressman Denny Heck was scheduled to speak about climate change solutions on the national level at a post-convention reception.

"With federal environmental programs and even basic scientific facts under assault by the Trump administration, it's more important than ever for our communities to come together and take collective action,” Heck said. “I'm looking forward to discussing how Washington state can continue to lead the way in protecting our environment, including how we can save Puget Sound and confront the threats posed by climate change.”