Guest Opinion: Green Light


My Dream Job Just Cost Me Big Bucks

By Tom Osborne

By Tom Osborne 

I figure my dream job cost me about $3,000 this past week. That’s what the tab for airfare, hotel, and meals totaled. To a retired college history professor living on a pension, that’s a chunk of change. Now you must wonder what kind of a dream job I have. The answer is I lobbied Congress on Capitol Hill with nearly a thousand other members of Citizens’ Climate Lobby for the passage of a measure putting a price on carbon (the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, or EICDA) and enacting legislation to enable the building of a clean, green energy grid.

Not only did my dream job cost me money, but it also cost me sleep as I got about five hours per night, just like my wife, Ginger, who led a lobby team like me. Of course, any sane person must wonder how deranged I must be to see this as my dream job, which I happily pay to do.

The answer is joy, inspiration, intellectual challenge, purpose, golden friendships and most importantly, the sense that I’m doing what I can to provide a livable environment for our three young grandchildren who depend on today’s voters to address the climate crisis. This is enough. In fact, it’s more than enough for me. In fact, I’ll sign up for more of the same.

I may be nuts, but I cannot imagine what compares to the excitement and empowerment that comes with working this past week in our nation’s capital with fellow climate advocates and members of the House of Representatives and their staffers. Our lobby team of five met with Congressman John Garamendi, who knew as much about EICDA as I did and gave us sage advice on carbon pricing measures. His staffer on environmental affairs has a Ph.D. in marine science and is an expert on sea-level rise. Similarly, another team I was on met with Representative Michelle Steel’s office, and her staffer for environmental affairs demonstrated a sound grasp of the intricacies of EICDA and the very timely issue of permitting reform.

Particularly noteworthy were the young members of our group. One was a twelve-year-old girl. Many were teenagers. A Yale-bound sixteen-year-old led the national youth outreach of our climate movement. Another sixteen-year-old, Shiv (first name) from Fresno was part of the lobby team I led. As it turned out, he could have led our team, which met with Congressman Robert Garcia. Shiv handled the technology of linking a computer and phone to a remote group of Zoom participants in Southern California. Additionally, he explained the need for streamlining permitting reform to get renewable energy projects online of sufficient scale to avoid the worst consequences of a warming planet. Such reform, he added, must be done in consultation with often marginalized groups, like Native Americans and inner-city populations, and must protect the environment. Shiv afterward said he wants to do this lobbying for the rest of his life. I can easily picture him as a future legislator, environmental attorney, or scientist. His brother, a pre-med student at USC, accompanied Shiv to Washington, D.C., as his guardian. Evoking sibling rivalry, Shiv quipped that even some great trips have their downside.

At the other end of the age spectrum was a retired physician from the San Juan Capistrano chapter of CCL named Bill, who is in his nineties. I learned that he pioneered renal transplant surgery. Here he was a decade older than I and lobbying Representative Mike Levin on the need for climate action. Bill helped me see how I was likely to spend my golden years, not in the rocking chair but instead doing what I could for the environment.

Yes, Ginger and I are exhausted yet exhilarated beyond words because we have found our dream jobs that pay us far more than they cost us.

Tom is an environmental historian and co-leads, with his wife, the Laguna chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby. His email is [email protected].

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