“I want to be a rock star!” Did you ever feel that way when you were a kid (or now!?) Do your kids ever tell you they want to be rock star?
Our October Climate Mama, Lauren Sullivan, works with real live rock stars everyday, helping them to use their power to educate and empower the people around them to take better care of our natural world. Lauren works with artists, their fans and the whole tour – educating, engaging and informing everyone who will listen. We are thrilled and truly honored to introduce you to Lauren Sullivan. We know Lauren will inspire you and give you hope that TOGETHER, we CAN create a more sustainable future!
Current project/position/adventure: Co-Director of the non-profit Reverb, along with my husband, Adam Gardner (of the band Guster.) Mother to a 2 ½ year old daughter and due with a baby boy in November.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, the steps you took, life events, decisions you made, that helped you arrive at where you are at today? One of the foundational elements that got me started on my path is connected to the fact that I grew up in the woods of Maine. From an early age I had a relationship with the natural world. Later on, I went to school at Tufts University in Boston where I met my husband and led wilderness trips for incoming freshman which again helped maintain that thread of connection to the outdoors.
After Tufts, I embarked on a wild and wonderful graduate school program called the Audubon Expedition Institute (AEI). While with the two-year AEI program I, along with my fellow students and professors, traveled throughout various regions of the country studying environmental issues, cultural issues and where they intersect. I lived and camped outdoors for the duration of the program. During a solo camping night on AEI I pledged then-and-there that I would commit my energy and time to helping the natural world.
Following grad school, I worked as an anti-oil campaigner for the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) and then with Partnerships for Parks as a community organizer around parks, gardens and green spaces in Brooklyn, New York. Throughout my life, the hippie/pop culture and urban/rural push-and-pull always resided (and still does reside) within me.
While working at RAN and seeing the success of various campaigns that were helped by musicians and celebrities, something was sparked. I wanted to help give more non-profit organizations a voice within mainstream culture and I saw a window of opportunity. I learned that Bonnie Raitt was doing some incredible environmental and educational work on her tour in 2002 and shortly thereafter I connected with her manager, Kathy Kane. That was Reverb’s start.
Reverb has, since those days in 2004, blossomed and grown so much. We’ve been fortunate enough to work on over 91 tours, helped reduce 96,675 tons of CO2, given a platform to over 2,080 non-profits so that they can connect with over 13.5 million music fans across the country and in their own communities.
What inspires you to keep going, to keep fighting this challenging battle against climate change? I think continuing the fight for me has to do with a combination of things: hope, great alliances and the natural world. Hope b/c, trite as it may sound, having a child has given me a new lens on the world and I do truly want to work harder on the Earth’s behalf because of her. Alliances, b/c whenever I feel like I’m about to burn out I meet or learn about someone else who is creating change on behalf of the environment and doing it in such and innovative way that it bolsters my own energy, work and commitment to keep going. The Natural World, b/c since moving back to Maine (where I was born and raised) I feel connected anew to the cycles of life, the seasons, the tides, the fresh air. It keeps it all in perspective and allows me to keep chugging along.
What are the three greatest challenges and/or opportunities you feel the world faces with climate change?
• Clean Election Laws – In the U.S. namely, we need to get corporations, Big Oil, Big Ag, etc out of the political power mix. This way the leaders we have elected to represent us can do their jobs properly–for the health of our communities, the environment, and future generations.
• Environmental Regulations – We desperately need laws that are more far-reaching and impactful than anything we’ve seen to date. We are on the precipice of the Great Environmental Depression of our time and we need leaders who will harness this opportunity to legislate and help subsidize green technologies and alternative fuels, support the creation of more green jobs, help local and organic farmers become the norm, get toxic chemicals off of our store shelves and out of our food.
• Creating Community – It is critical for each of us to feel connected and part of something that is much bigger than ourselves. Joining a Community Supported Agriculture farm share with friends, carpooling, hosting a potluck, seeing great music together. Community helps create peak experiences that allow us to open up to various possibilities around how we can do things better, more sanely and more sustainably.
Scientific predictions seem to be pointing to dire scenarios, a shorter time frame for a warmer planet and all of the negative ramifications that this will cause. What will it take for us to avert these consequences? I am by no means a scientist, but as a community organizer in my former work life, I know that it will take individuals internalizing these climate change issues and challenges and realizing that they too are part of the problem and solution. With our work at Reverb we are constantly talking about how we are all learning and figuring this out together and that if each of us do something, environmentally speaking, it will have a greater impact than a limited few doing everything. That being said – corporations and are some of the biggest culprits, so along with grassroots action and pressure, they need to act as responsible “citizens” and do their part to not just look at the economic bottom line, but at the Triple Bottom Line (People, Profits, the Planet). Governments need to mandate it.
Do you see any hopeful signs that people are waking up to the dangers of climate change? Since our first Reverb tour in 2004 we have seen a sea change in the response to our work and an incredible shift in the level of discourse around environmental issues as a whole. The blessing and curse of it is that as climate change escalates (heat waves, fires, tornadoes, desertification, hurricanes, species shifts and and extinctions, etc.) people understand its effects first hand, and they feel that present danger and start demanding change. Once something is personal we can digest it more readily and “get” it. This is a critical piece to the success of any movement and right now offers us an, unfortunate but incredible, jumping off point from which to create change. People are getting it and I think we can collectively turn a corner for the better. I am hopeful.
What advice would you give to other Climate Mama’s and Papa’s, steps they can take both as individuals and collectively to help change the course we currently find ourselves on with climate change. Understand your sphere of influence (your home, your workplace, the music industry, your local government, your backyard garden) and do what you can to effect change in those places. Just start doing something b/c nothing will happen if we’re waiting for the perfect moment to get it all done. Try to become comfortable residing in the gray areas and with the hypocrisy of being a consumer and environmentalist, for example. We all have an impact and yet, thankfully, we can all do something about it.
Other thoughts or ideas that you would like to pass on to our community? Contact information, website, or related story you would like us to link to this article?
Favorite book or movie? I just finished Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout and loved it. I saw “Our Daily Bread” and was nauseated and awestruck by it (and finished it feeling very grateful that I’m a vegetarian). Recently re-watched “The Departed” and loved it. Boston action/crime flicks are terrific – especially when the actors can nail the accent.