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10.24.07

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No More Coal, Pt. II

Step It Up citizens movement takes the good fight a step further

By Gianna de Persiis Vona


The Step It Up 2007 website guides me through the process of sending an invitation to a politician of my choice. I choose Sen. Hilary Clinton, because she is the person I would most like to take out to lunch. I can either call her on the phone, post a letter or send an e-mail. I decide to try calling first. I have left a message for the president before, and it's just an answering machine; as long as you know what you want to say, it's not too stressful.

At Hillary's office, however, things are obviously more bustling than at the White House, and I am given many different extensions to choose from, none of which are specifically for "invitations." Petrified that a real person might pick up if I press the wrong extension, I hang up and decide to e-mail her instead.

"Dear Ms. Clinton: I would like to invite you to Step It Up 2007 in Santa Rosa, Calif. Step It Up calls for a moratorium on coal and an 80 percent lowering of CO2 levels by 2050.

"As a high school teacher, I can assure you that the next generation is concerned about our imminent doom, very concerned. The time to take action is now. Please come. I will take you out to lunch, on me. Best Wishes, Gianna De Persiis Vona."

After sending my e-mail to the senator, I return to the Step It Up website, where I am instructed to add my invitation to the overall count. So far, 3,800 invitations have been sent out to our elected officials, inviting them to attend a Step It Up action, including 528 members of congress and 12 presidential candidates. Of those invited, 11 have accepted, including Dennis Kucinich and John Edwards. So far, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are conspicuously missing from the list. These gatherings are happening all across the country. In California alone, there are 27 different actions taking place.

Step It Up is a "citizens movement" that was launched April 14, 2007. This is a national day of climate action, and a chance for our politicians to prove whether or not they are climate leaders.

A few days before my adventures on the Step It Up website, I talk to Nabeel al-Shamma, a local activist and chairperson on the Climate and Energy Committee of the local Sierra Club. The Sierra Club, along with the Climate Protection Campaign, the city of Santa Rosa and others are sponsoring Santa Rosa's Step It Up 2007 event Nov. 3 in Juilliard Park (there are events in Petaluma and Greenbrae, too; see below). Al-Shamma tells me that this is a largely unfunded event, and volunteers are welcomed and needed. This is a community gathering, and our chance to show up, en masse, to send a direct message to our leaders in Washington that the Step It Up demands must be met: 80 percent CO2 reduction by 2050, no more coal and the creation of green jobs for millions.

Al-Shamma, who says that he "pushes the boundaries of software" when he's not pushing for species survival, considers climate change the biggest crisis we are currently facing, which is pretty scary if you think about the competition. According to al-Shamma, we have the technology, and now is the time to use it.

I never seem to have enough time, so attending events isn't usually very high on my list of things to do unless there's free food, and I can already feel my resolve fading as I search for an excuse to stay home. I have to keep reminding myself that if I care about the future of our planet, I'm going to have to go to Juilliard Park on Nov. 3, even if there's nothing to eat there at all. I have to be strict. Not going is not an option. If all goes well, there will be media coverage and thousands of people, plus me, waving signs. We will send a message that can not be ignored. If all goes really well, Hillary will scroll through her mailbox see my invitation, and e-mail me back.

When she does, I think her message will say something like this: "Dear Gianna: It just so happens that I will be in your area around the first of November. I have decided to extend my stay for a few days, so that I can make it the Step It Up 2007 event. What fun! Why don't we meet first for lunch? You pick the spot. Ciao, Hillary."

Step It Up actions occur around the North Bay on Saturday, Nov. 3. In Juilliard Park, 227 Santa Rosa Ave., Santa Rosa from noon to 4pm. In Petaluma, it's a locavore potluck from noon to 3pm at Helen Putnam Park; carpool from Walnut Park (D Street at Petaluma Boulevard South) at 11:30am. In Greenbrae, Step It Up hosts a slide presentation and action discussion at 9 Altamira Ave., Greenbrae. To RSVP, get more information on Step It Up 2007 or to send an invitation to an elected official, go to www.stepitup2007.org.


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