Climate Odyssey Program – Growing Our Community As We Work for Climate Justice

How are we doing?

The news is a barrage of outrageous political acts and disturbing compliance in the face of injustice. Facts are considered elitist and optional. Profiteers are driving the political process globally and locally. The arctic is melting, drought and floods create chaos and famine and migration and wars. Houselessness grows in our city. Racism and xenophobia continues to traumatize our neighbors and friends.

Anyone paying attention is subject to grief, anger, fear, numbness, and numerous other emotions that tempt us to turn away, to take a break, to shut down. All of these feelings are reasonable responses to a dysfunctional world. The good news about this phenomenon? These responses are born of the fact that we have hearts that care, that we feel connected to each other, and the world.

Traditional environmental organizing tends to focus on the “Doing” – holding actions to lift up concerns, to slow destruction, to rally for laws, actions, and solutions to the problems of our day. This is important work, and encompasses the protest and stopping of destructive forces, as well as the offering and advocacy for sustainable, just solutions and the cultural shifts that can sustain them. However, traditional organizing can have a high rate of intensity and burnout, and many caring people may be reluctant to enter into the fray for a variety of reasons, including time capacity, skills, and the overwhelm of the endless and daunting work ahead.

The Climate Odyssey program addresses these issues by offering experiences, events, and perspectives that acknowledge the complicated and emotionally challenging parts of our work of climate justice. In so doing, it offers support for those already engaged in the work, and opens doors of possibility to those who are not yet active in the movement. The program also aims to grow capacity for effectiveness and ongoing community building and solidarity.

Practices for Personal Resilience

Knowing the dire circumstances of the present and potential crises related to Climate Disruption, how do people stay present and involved, and motivated in climate justice work? How do we deal with despair, overwhelm, fear, and anger that can arise in the face of what seems to be a cultural and economic mandate of denial of the issue, and a minimization of the active harm already inflicted on vulnerable people, nations, and ecosystems?

Some practices in this arena will include facilitated group sharing to lessen isolation, personal contemplative practices, and other ways of finding our ground in tumultuous times. Additionally, there will be workshop offerings on Active Hope, Resistance and Resilience, and related work that address the heart/spirit concerns of community members.

Growing and Strengthening our Community

Author and activist Kathleen Dean Moore tells the story of how she is constantly asked the question, “What can one person do to change the world?” She replies, “Stop being one person!” The work of justice, whether around climate or other related issues, needs to happen in community, and in practices that invite and support the experience of community, through growing relationships, sharing concerns and hopes, and celebrating successes; all of these are vital parts of movement building.

Creative Arts Practices

Engagement in arts events -whether hands-on art builds in service to actions, or arts experiences that build a sense of community- can be an effective form of organizing and growing community. The arts engage our hearts and minds in ways that can be joyful, embodied, and inspiring. Western culture has “professionalized” art making, and the reclaiming of creative practices is a reclaiming of one of the deepest connections we can have within our community. When we sing together, tell stories, make poetry, play with improvisational theater, we are claiming our intelligence and imaginal capacities, personally and collectively.

Growing Capacity as Allies in the Work of Justice

350PDX has been working in the Portland Just Energy Coalition on the exciting Portland Clean Energy Fund effort, and we plan to continue this effort of justice-based organizing after the election. We want to increase cultural competency within our membership. Doing coalition work with communities of color, immigrant communities, labor, and other groups will likely bring up issues of privilege, racism, class, and other cultural assumptions. Anti-racism/anti-oppression/cultural competency training for volunteers, leadership, and staff will help us in our collaborative work. This is not only skills work, but also heart work that allows us to bring our full selves to the work at hand, and work effectively and consciously within our larger community.

Upcoming Climate Odyssey Events and Opportunities

Starting in September, the Climate Odyssey program will offer monthly events on the third Wednesday of the month. The September 19th event will be Climate Conversations, a gathering designed to get to know each other and share our responses to what’s going on in the world, and in our hearts. Past participants in this event have expressed enthusiasm for the feelings of connection and hope they experienced in the process.

350PDX teams can request a Resilience and Resistance Mini-workshop, which gives a great framework for self and community resilience. Facilitated by Climate Odyssey coordinator Barbara Ford, they are 1½ hours in length, and can help grow trust and care within your team. Contact Barbara at to schedule a mini-workshop.
More events are being planned! Stay tuned.

Written by: Barbara Ford