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Repurposing My Surfboard

By Tom Osborne

What’s a white-haired guy in his 70s do when he can no longer get up on his classic Phil Edwards longboard and ride, ride, ride the waves at Old Man’s beach, San Onofre with Laguna friends? Stored in our family’s surf cabinet along with our son’s short boards are glorious memories of bygone beach times. This 9-foot 6-inch magic carpet with a single fin and beautiful wooden stringer and only one (repaired) ding was serving no other useful purpose than massaging my nostalgia. Surely the board could serve some higher purpose.

A few months ago, that higher purpose dawned on me. As a volunteer in the Citizens’ Climate Lobby’s effort to secure congressional passage of the bipartisan Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act (HR 763), I could sell my board and use the proceeds to fund a scholarship for a young person from California’s Central Valley to lobby in Washington, D.C. this June on behalf of passage of this measure that prices carbon and returns the paid fees to taxpayers. The IRS would handle the finances, so no new bureaucracies are created. A pause on carbon regulations would be more than compensated for by a projected reduction of carbon emissions by 40 percent in 12 years, say economists.

Congress needs to hear the voices of young people on behalf of this bill. Selling my surfboard could help make that happen, I reasoned. Moreover, it would help pay for the student’s attendance at CCL’s international conference to be held a cab ride from the nation’s capital; there, the young person would receive lobbying training and learn more about HR 763 and the movement to gain its passage before hitting congressional offices.

Why do I think sponsoring a student’s attendance at this conference and lobbying Congress on the climate crisis is a good idea? The answer lies in what I experienced last year. In June 2018, my wife and I and Laguna friend Breene Murphy joined with some 1,300 other CCLers in the nation’s capital, speaking with staffers and representatives at more than 500 congressional offices about the need to price carbon in order to combat the climate emergency. I was particularly moved by two happenings at the CCL international conference that immediately preceded our lobbying Congress. First, I remember the silence that settled over attendees when a young journalist from Kirabati related how saltwater intrusion from a rising Pacific was polluting drinking water and destroying his island’s crops. Some island elders, he solemnly reported, were committing suicide, convinced their way of life was doomed by a climate crisis not of their making. Second, I was impressed by the number of young people working with us in Washington, D.C. They were articulate and full of energy and hope—and, yes, fear that our current administration would fight all of our best efforts. These students knew and said that their future was on the line. When they spoke in congressional offices, as volunteers rather than the usual paid lobbyists shilling for fossil fuel interests, officials and staffers seemed to sit up and take notice.

With that experience in mind, I sold my board—and for the price I paid for it new 20 years ago—to a Laguna neighbor who reports he is enjoying it immensely at San Onofre. That makes me happy because it brings back, if only fleetingly, the joy I once felt riding it. What makes me even happier is the fact that a young person who would not have been able to afford the empowering experience I had in Washington, D.C. last year will likely have something like it next month. In the process, a young citizen-lobbyist might be minted. Repurposing my stored surfboard was a needed small step toward building a growing movement that just might give the next generations a future.

Tom Osborne received Laguna’s 2009 Environmental Award for chairing the work group that wrote the city’s Climate Protection Action Plan.

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