Stop Global Warming: An Interview with Dawn Woollen

PROJECT DETAILS:

The Stop Global Warming Virtual March, initiated in 2005, is a non-partisan effort to bring citizens together to declare that global warming is here now and that it is time to demand solutions. We are all contributors to global warming and must all be part of the solution.

Speaking with Dawn Woollen, Director of the Stop Global Warming Project

Why did you choose to work on global warming?

For me, global warming is the mother of all issues. It affects everyone equally, but it impacts low-income communities around the world disproportionately. All of our actions have ramifications, although we may not see them right away.  Something as small as unplugging your hair drier or the toilet paper you use makes a different - everything we do makes a difference. How one’s actions affect others and the world is something I’ve always been conscientious. My actions, my family’s actions, my community’s actions and my country’s actions—these all come into play. We don’t have a lot of leeway to get this wrong. Our margin of error is pretty small.

How did you get involved with the Stop Global Warming Virtual March?

I grew up right outside of Washington DC, in Silver Spring, Maryland, so I became interested and involved in politics from a very young age.  Ultimately, I was very fortunate to work in the Clinton administration.   However, after my position ended with President Bush’s inauguration, I wanted to move away from politics and find a way to contribute from another angle. Laurie David’s work gave me that opportunity.

I started working with Laurie on environmental and global warming issues. Al Gore called her a “Force of Nature,” which may be seen as cliché, but her case it’s so true. It’s inspiring to be a part of this work, and it underscored to me that don’t have to work within in a certain structure, like politics, to do good. When we first met, Laurie was working on two projects about global warming: a HBO documentary Too Hot Not TO Handle and a TBS comedy special, Earth to America. She executive produced these pieces because she wanted to present global warming to the public in a relatable way and to reach out to non-traditional audiences.

Founded on Earth Day, 2005 the Stop Global Warming Virtual March came from the idea that we needed to move global warming, which was so polarizing at the time, out of politics.. Instead of splitting us apart, global warming could be something that brings us all together and the March would be a place for Americans of all backgrounds to come  together to make a statement: Global warming is real, it’s manmade and all of us – individuals, businesses and our government - needs to take action. At the time a “virtual” March was basically unheard of since social media was in it’s infancy and building something online was a new idea.  I’m very happy to say that as of today, we’ve had over 1,430,000 people sign up and participate.

Has your mission changed over time?

We work very hard to stay relevant. Right now, we are highlighting and reporting on the extreme weather around the country. We also are prioritizing our ability to teach people and empowering them with information. It’s a more holistic approach.

When did you start thinking about global warming?

My dad works on weather data systems, formerly at NASA and now at NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). He was a member of the team pioneering climate change research in the 1980’s and 90’s.   I remember him talking about it when I was growing up so I was always aware of global warming. My dad talks about this like a scientist so as I learned to interpret “science speak” I had access what was going on. It’s always been a part my family dialogue, which has always provided context for my current work.

What can you recommend to people reading this?

Your diet, the foods you choose to eat every day, has a huge impact on global warming.  Eat local, eat organic and cook! 

Making small changes in your daily life, you can –and will- make a difference.  One major thing you can do is eat less meat. The NRDC estimates that if all Americans ate just one-quarter pound serving of beef per week, it would be the equivalent of taking four to six million cars off the road.  Just one-quarter pound less a week!

Special note for meat lovers:  Eating meat can be done in a sustainable way. Opt for grass-fed, antibiotic-free and cage-free choices. Sometimes these can be harder to find, or slightly more expensive, so an alternative is to eat less meat. However, there are farmers who are growing things in a really respectful way that is sustainable. If you look for these types of meat, you’re supporting their efforts and choosing healthier food for you and the planet.

Why is what we eat important to global warming and health?

When you take into consideration all the factors that go into our current food system, you find a clear link to how and what we eat and global warming.  These include the chemicals, pesticides, antibiotics and fertilizers used – and the fuel that goes into making them, their impact on the land and soil, deforestation, water use, transporting food – fruits, vegetables, and meat – thousands of miles to their destination and so on and so on.

All of this makes deciding what you eat a crucial way to help stop global warming.  The exciting news is that it’s a choice you make everyday, and if you’re lucky, three times a day.  While everyone has to make decisions that are best for them, eating local, organically grown food tastes better, is healthier for you and is healthier for the environment. I’ve been doing this for a while now, and I have a lot more energy, I’ve lost weight, and my body just works better. It mostly comes down to feeling better in every way and knowing that I’m making responsible choices that have an impact on global warming. It’s worthy paying a couple extra dollars to know what you’re putting in your body.

How has Tides helped you in your work?

The people at Tides are fantastic, in fact, I can’t say enough good things about them!  They are smart, talented and dedicated. It’s not just their job to support you, they care about their work, they care about the projects they work with and they want your project to be successful. They’ve always gone above and beyond the call of duty to help me make StopGlobalWarming.org  the most effective it can be, and they have put incredible resources at my disposal. I am lucky enough to work with Francisco, whom I consider my partner, helping me at every step to accomplish Stop Global Warming’s mission. We couldn’t do it without Tides!