LONG BEACH — She retired after four decades in elementary-school classrooms, but Martha Williams isn’t done teaching. The 67-year-old brought an Al Gore-approved lesson on climate change back from the former vice president’s environmental education and activism program in March.
“I have access to exactly what he provided,” Williams, of Long Beach, said. “It gives me chills because it’s just so powerful.”
She was among almost 20 people from Washington selected to take part in Gore’s three-day Climate Reality training. They joined a group of about 1,000 from 32 countries in Denver to learn how to deliver the facts on global warming from experts.
“There is no planet B,” Williams said, pulling out a button she wore during the seminar with the same message on it.
The veteran teacher and co-director the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge’s fourth-grade environmental education program said she’s nervous about bringing information to city council, public utility district and other meetings. But the message matters too much to let the jitters stop her.
“Climate affects all of us,” she said.
Despite her pitch coming from a project run by the famous former politician, Williams wants to keep politics out of the conversation if she can. Her plan is to help find common ground by getting people to talk about how they’ve been affected by climate change.
Williams has noticed warmer summers and more mosquitoes around her ocean-view home. She’s quick to point out other parts of the world have seen more severe consequences of climate change, such as deaths from food and water scarcity and air so polluted it makes people sick.
“Is it going to get better on its own? We think not,” Williams said.
Fixes for the future
Solar and wind energy and lithium batteries are now cheaper and more reliable so she’d like to see more renewables being used. The shift would help the economy by putting people back to work while improving the environment, Williams said.
“It’s not a storm of doom and gloom,” she said. “There is hope.”
50 years of activism
Williams has long put her effervescent enthusiasm into caring for the environment. As a University of Southern California sophomore, she took part in the first Earth Day celebration on the Los Angeles campus in 1970.
This year, she plans to spend April 22 in Portland at the March for Science. She’ll miss the People’s Climate Movement march to pick up trash at home during the beach cleanup on April 29.
Williams is working to pass a healthier planet down to the next generation by helping people make changes before it’s too late.
“We must. We can. And we will,” she said. “You don’t have to go green to make a difference, just be a little greener.”