The Drawdown Experience in Rochester, 2017-2021
by Sue Staropoli, May, 2021
Now and then it is valuable to stop, reflect, and celebrate what we have accomplished in our work. This is such a time, as Pachamama Alliance transitions to new opportunities and efforts related to climate change.
In September 2017, when the Rochester Pachamama Alliance started offering Drawdown programs – first with two-hour intro sessions and then with four-part courses – our intention was to invite people into a positive relationship with global warming: to see that it is reversible and that people have an important role to play in the future. And we wanted to empower people to become engaged at the local level in the many climate solutions being offered through the Project Drawdown research.
What impact have we had on our local community?
As I look back, I see that our goal was very well achieved. I look at the vibrant climate movement in Rochester, with many organizations blossoming in the work of addressing climate change from many perspectives, and I see the faces of the hundreds of people who walked through the doors of our dozens of Intros in the Rochester region, in churches, temples, libraries, schools, universities, retreats, and community centers – and the over 150 people who attended our 11, four-session Getting Into Action courses.
One thing we stressed in our programs was that we were not recruiting people to join us in Drawdown or the Pachamama Alliance, but rather encouraging them to find an issue/solution they were passionate about and find a group or some community to work with in addressing it. And they DID!
An example: one of our members became passionate when he learned about Citizens’ Climate Lobby, so he initiated what has become a vibrant local CCL chapter, with dozens of people working on federal legislation. That group recently celebrated the fruit of their work, when our local Congressman became a key supporter of the Carbon Fee and Dividend legislation. Many people I know left our Drawdown programs and found their way to enthusiastic involvement with CCL.
Another participant in one of the Getting into Action courses became excited about the Community Choice Aggregation (renewable energy) option being offered in towns. So he convened a group of town citizens that not only advocated for a CCA program for their town, but also evolved into Color Penfield Green, a group working on many climate solution actions in the town. This is the power of one person, alive with a vision, empowered by Drawdown, who created a new community of action locally.
Many people have expressed how their Drawdown experience motivated them to become engaged in the climate movement. Some engaged with groups working on particular solutions, and many joined our Drawdown Ambassador team to help present our programs and offer DD’s empowering message in our community and throughout the Finger Lakes region.
Late in 2019, it was time for me to step back from Drawdown programs and turn the leadership over to Pat Wartinger and Tom Moore. Of course, none of us knew what was coming. I am grateful for their (especially Pat’s) exceptional leadership, moving through the COVID time, transferring all the programs to Zoom, adapting materials to reflect the 2020 changes made by Project Drawdown, and inviting groups, like one recently in Honeoye, to engage in creating a “Color Your Community Green” project. Both Pat and Tom are involved in other local climate initiatives, so the collaborative model that inspired us from the beginning is happening.
Here are a few comments from participants about the impact of the DD experience on their lives:
“Drawdown was the link that connected me to all you wonderful people doing such good work for our communities and the world. It was the spark that got me off the proverbial cushion and onto my feet."
“The Drawdown experience has been a deeply rewarding one for me, and a rich part of my Pachamama Alliance immersion. The fruits of all of these continue to unfold in my life. I have such gratitude for each of you.”
“For me, DD drew me deeper into my care and my commitment to the earth and to future generations of human and non-human animals. It restored my hope that enough of us care and we can carry on with or without legislative or governmental support. And best of all, I met some new and wonderful people that have filled me with joy and made me a better person. Thanks to every one of you.”
“For me, the invitation to a Drawdown intro session and then to a 4-part workshop was a true lifeline out of the isolation I felt at that time. It was a different way to look at global warming. It was hopeful. But even more than that it was people coming together. The most important message I got was, "don't try to do this by yourself." People get stopped because they try to do things alone. Collaboration is necessary, just about every step of the way. And it's more joyful. I am grateful for the windows and doors that Drawdown opened here, especially in myself. It opened my mind and opened my heart. Thank you.”
Now, in May 2021, we as Drawdown Ambassadors close this chapter of the Rochester Pachamama Alliance Drawdown effort, celebrating the gift this work has been to each of us and to our community.
I feel personally enriched by the experience, and I carry at least three indelible messages with me:
Will Grant’s four levels of action – knowing that we are called to make a difference at each level as our lives continue to unfold;
Paul Hawken’s reminder to focus on solutions, not problems, and that problems (like global warming) can be seen as happening FOR us, not TO us; and
Katherine Wilkinson’s invitation to link hands and respond to the urgency and needs of our world together, with a broken, open heart every day.
The journey of helping create a better world continues for each person. I think I can safely speak for others when I say that we are grateful for this Pachamama Drawdown experience and the ways it has deepened our own hearts and empowered others to meaningful action. I’ll always recall the joy in seeing people move from despair and helplessness to seeing possibilities for personally becoming part of the solution to global warming – in just 1 ½ hours!
The impact of this work continues in and through the many vibrant climate actions in our local area, especially through the Climate Solutions Accelerator of the Genesee-Finger Lakes Region, Color Your Community Green, and the many groups dedicated to local solutions. All these avenues of engagement embody and manifest the Pachamama vision of an environmentally sustainable, socially just, and spiritually fulfilling human presence on this planet.
We of Rochester's Pachamama Alliance are proud to help the climate movement continue to evolve and grow in exciting and creative ways.