From Climate Change Denier to Climate Reality Leader
Sometimes the path to a life of purpose isn’t straight or narrow.
Like many Climate Reality Leaders out talking to all kinds of audiences about climate change, the Reverend Terry Gallagher is used to hearing people just dismiss the subject as alarmist hype. But when it happens, he can also afford to smile a little more than most leaders would. Why? Because he used to do the exact same thing.
So how does a climate change denier wind up an ordained minister and a Climate Reality Leader? The story starts when he was growing up on the west side of Cleveland and first felt called to a life of purpose. As a young Irish American, Terry heard the call as an invitation to join the Catholic ministry and become a minister. But as powerful as the call the ministry was, he found—like a lot of teenage boys before and after him—there was something even more powerful standing in the way of a life of celibacy. Namely, his attraction to girls.
So instead, Terry went to college and studied mechanical technology. When he graduated, a large chemical company offered him $25 per month more than a large steel company did, and the choice was obvious.
It was a choice that set Terry on the path to a 32-year career in the chemical industry, one that would see him rise from floor worker to workaholic plant manager overseeing two facilities. During that time he began to hear about climate change, but refused to listen. After all, he reasoned, there was no way human behavior could affect the Earth in such a profound way. The notion, he admits, “didn’t fit my worldview at the time,” and so his attitude was simply, “I ain’t gonna engage with you alarmists, so take your green and go away.” And when yet more environmental regulations came down to dictate what kind of emissions the plants could produce or how they could process chemicals, he did what everyone else did: grumble loudly—and comply.
Having to deal with these regulations, however, was the first step down the road to becoming a climate activist. At first, it was just a practical matter: being plant manager meant his neck was on the line when it came to compliance and he wasn’t about to risk it. So, he says, the first rule became that “Gallagher ain’t going to jail, so we’re going to operate these plants within the law or these plants ain’t going to operate.”
Before long, though, he began to see that running his plants this way, controlling their emissions and the kinds of processes they used, wasn’t just better for the environment. It was also leading to better product quality, safety and yields. And it got him thinking.
Meanwhile, just as Terry’s career as a chemical executive was lining up before him, life intervened and he once again heard the calling to a life of purpose and Christian ministry that had sounded decades earlier. Only this time he answered,entering the seminary to study and train as a minister and ultimately leaving his career in industry behind.
But as he found, becoming a minister wasn’t the concluding chapter in his life’s story, but the starting point for a new book entirely. Most important, he still had questions about his purpose. His work as a local church pastor was deeply rewarding, but there was still something missing in his ministry. He needed a direction.
Which is how he began working with oppressed peoples around the world and how, six years after joining the ministry, he found himself in a remote Colombian village up in the Andes.
Terry was there as part of a Christian Peacemaker team standing in solidarity with gold miners protesting the threat of eviction by the Colombian army, an eviction, they suspected, motivated by plans for an international company to seize their mine. When his team arrived, they were taken on a tour to see the mine and the process of refining gold there. The rest of the team saw a community scratching a living out of the hillside and was awestruck. Terry, having run chemical plants for decades, saw the chemicals they were using and saw a community poisoning themselves, their children, and their land for generations to come, all without realizing it. Horrified, he began talking to the villagers about how running this mine was devastating their health and destroying the environment all around them. But as he did, he realized that this kind of practice—and the selective blindness that went with it—was far from limited to a village in the Andes. He knew he had to do something.
When Terry returned from Colombia, his first step was to return to the seminary to study. He knew the direction his ministry would take, focusing on ecological justice and waking faith and secular communities to the environmental crisis unfolding all around the world, and he needed to prepare.
Emerging from the seminary, Terry knew his ministry would mean reaching out to all kinds of audiences to tell the story of climate change and environmental degradation, and he began looking for tools and resources to help. So when he learned about the Climate Reality Leadership Corps and heard about an upcoming training, he jumped at the opportunity.
[ Related Video: Terry discusses his experience as a Climate Reality Leader]
Terry found in the Climate Reality Leadership Corps a “great source of positive energy and hope” and a community that shared his many of his values and concerns for ecological justice. And while much of his outreach since training has focused on engaging the Christian community, he encounters many of the same challenges other Leaders do speaking to secular audiences. As he says, “Christians, like most people, are trying their best to avoid this issue. I believe that this avoidance response is because people suspect that if this is a true crisis, then everything must change.”
Even still, he remains hopeful that things will change. In part, because when he talks to Christians about what climate change means for their children and for millions suffering around the world, the message begins to sink in. And once people understand the urgency of the situation, they want to know what they can do.
As for what Terry will do, he’s nothing if not ambitious, especially for a self-confessed introvert. After doing 40 presentations and other acts of outreach in 2014, he’s working to double that number this year. And with the UN climate talks beginning in November, he’s not thinking small either.
“My ministry of ecological justice is a ministry of education, advocacy and action,” he says, “So with that in mind, I already have purchased tickets and hotel to be there for the Paris [climate] talks. Now I just need to find a way to get invited to the discussion table.”
To learn more about how you can train with former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and leading scientists and communicators to become a Climate Reality Leader, visit the Climate Reality Leadership Corps site. Applications for our next training in Miami from Sept. 28 - 30 are now open.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
Fifteen states are in for an unusually noisy spring.
- Millions of Cicadas Set to Emerge After 17 Years Underground ... ›
- Cicadas Show Up 4 Years Early - EcoWatch ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Deep in the woods, a hairy, ape-like man is said to be living a quiet and secluded life. While some deny the creature's existence, others spend their lives trying to prove it.
- Why Hunting Isn't Conservation, and Why It Matters - Rewilding ›
- Decline In Hunters Threatens How U.S. Pays For Conservation : NPR ›
- Is Hunting Conservation? Let's examine it closely ›
- Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation | Oklahoma ... ›
- Oklahoma Bill Calls for Bigfoot Hunting Season | Is Bigfoot Real? ›
By Jon Queally
Noted author and 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben was among the first to celebrate word that the president of the European Investment Bank on Wednesday openly declared, "To put it mildly, gas is over" — an admission that squares with what climate experts and economists have been saying for years if not decades.
- Fossil Fuel Industry Is Now 'in the Death Knell Phase': CNBC's Jim ... ›
- Mayors of 12 Major Global Cities Pledge Fossil Fuel Divestment ... ›
- World's Largest Public Bank Ditches Oil and Coal in Victory for the ... ›
Nine feet tall is gigantic by human standards, but when researcher and conservationist Michael Brown spotted a giraffe in Uganda's Murchison Falls National Park that measured nine feet, four inches, he was shocked.
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="54af350ee3a2950e0e5e69d926a55d83"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/yf4NRKzzTFk?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
- Giraffe Parts Sold Across U.S. Despite Plummeting Wild Populations ... ›
- Green Groups Sue to Get Giraffes on Endangered Species List ... ›
- Conservationists Sound Alarm on Plummeting Giraffe Numbers ... ›
By Daisy Simmons
1. Stay Informed<p>A first order of business in pet evacuation planning is to understand and be ready for the possible threats in your area. Visit <a href="https://www.ready.gov/be-informed" target="_blank">Ready.gov</a> to learn more about preparing for potential disasters such as floods, hurricanes, and wildfires. Then pay attention to related updates by tuning <a href="http://www.weather.gov/nwr/" target="_blank">NOAA Weather Radio</a> to your local emergency station or using the <a href="https://www.fema.gov/mobile-app" target="_blank">FEMA app</a> to get National Weather Service alerts.</p>
2. Ensure Your Pet is Easily Identifiable<p><span>Household pets, including indoor cats, should wear collars with ID tags that have your mobile phone number. </span><a href="https://www.avma.org/microchipping-animals-faq" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Microchipping</a><span> your pets will also improve your chances of reunion should you become separated. Be sure to add an emergency contact for friends or relatives outside your immediate area.</span></p><p>Additionally, use <a href="https://secure.aspca.org/take-action/order-your-pet-safety-pack" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">'animals inside' door/window stickers</a> to show rescue workers how many pets live there. (If you evacuate with your pets, quickly write "Evacuated" on the sticker so first responders don't waste time searching for them.)</p>
3. Make a Pet Evacuation Plan<p> "No family disaster plan is complete without including your pets and all of your animals," says veterinarian Heather Case in <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9NRJkFKAm4" target="_blank">a video</a> produced by the American Veterinary Medical Association.</p><p>It's important to determine where to take your pet in the event of an emergency.</p><p>Red Cross shelters and many other emergency shelters allow only service animals. Ask your vet, local animal shelters, and emergency management officials for information on local and regional animal sheltering options.</p><p>For those with access to the rare shelter that allows pets, CDC offers <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/emergencies/pets-in-evacuation-centers.html" target="_blank">tips on what to expect</a> there, including potential health risks and hygiene best practices.</p><p>Beyond that, talk with family or friends outside the evacuation area about potentially hosting you and/or your pet if you're comfortable doing so. Search for pet-friendly hotel or boarding options along key evacuation routes.</p><p>If you have exotic pets or a mix of large and small animals, you may need to identify multiple locations to shelter them.</p><p>For other household pets like hamsters, snakes, and fish, the SPCA recommends that if they normally live in a cage, they should be transported in that cage. If the enclosure is too big to transport, however, transfer them to a smaller container temporarily. (More on that <a href="https://www.spcai.org/take-action/emergency-preparedness/evacuation-how-to-be-pet-prepared" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>.)</p><p>For any pet, a key step is to establish who in your household will be the point person for gathering up pets and bringing their supplies. Keep in mind that you may not be home when disaster strikes, so come up with a Plan B. For example, you might form a buddy system with neighbors with pets, or coordinate with a trusted pet sitter.</p>
4. Prepare a Pet Evacuation Kit<p>Like the emergency preparedness kit you'd prepare for humans, assemble basic survival items for your pets in a sturdy, easy-to-grab container. Items should include:</p><ul><li>Water, food, and medicine to last a week or two;</li><li>Water, food bowls, and a can opener if packing wet food;</li><li>Litter supplies for cats (a shoebox lined with a plastic bag and litter may work);</li><li>Leashes, harnesses, or vehicle restraints if applicable;</li><li>A <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/pet-first-aid-supplies-checklist" target="_blank">pet first aid kit</a>;</li><li>A sturdy carrier or crate for each cat or dog. In addition to easing transport, these may serve as your pet's most familiar or safe space in an unfamiliar environment;</li><li>A favorite toy and/or blanket;</li><li>If your pet is prone to anxiety or stress, the American Kennel Club suggests adding <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">stress-relieving items</a> like an anxiety vest or calming sprays.</li></ul><p>In the not-unlikely event that you and your pet have to shelter in different places, your kit should also include:</p><ul><li>Detailed information including contact information for you, your vet, and other emergency contacts;</li><li>A list with phone numbers and addresses of potential destinations, including pet-friendly hotels and emergency boarding facilities near your planned evacuation routes, plus friends or relatives in other areas who might be willing to host you or your pet;</li><li>Medical information including vaccine records and a current rabies vaccination tag;</li><li>Feeding notes including portions and sizes in case you need to leave your pet in someone else's care;</li><li>A photo of you and your pet for identification purposes.</li></ul>
5. Be Ready to Evacuate at Any Time<p>It's always wise to be prepared, but stay especially vigilant in high-risk periods during fire or hurricane season. Practice evacuating at different times of day. Make sure your grab-and-go kit is up to date and in a convenient location, and keep leashes and carriers by the exit door. You might even stow a thick pillowcase under your bed for middle-of-the-night, dash-out emergencies when you don't have time to coax an anxious pet into a carrier. If forecasters warn of potential wildfire, a hurricane, or other dangerous conditions, bring outdoor pets inside so you can keep a close eye on them.</p><p>As with any emergency, the key is to be prepared. As the American Kennel Club points out, "If you panic, it will agitate your dog. Therefore, <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pet disaster preparedness</a> will not only reduce your anxiety but will help reduce your pet's anxiety too."</p>
Evacuating Horses and Other Farm Animals<p>The same basic principles apply for evacuating horses and most other livestock. Provide each with some form of identification. Ensure that adequate food, water, and medicine are available. And develop a clear plan on where to go and how to get there.</p><p>Sheltering and transporting farm animals requires careful coordination, from identifying potential shelter space at fairgrounds, racetracks, or pastures, to ensuring enough space is available in vehicles and trailers – not to mention handlers and drivers on hand to support the effort.</p><p>For most farm animals, the Red Cross advises that you consider precautionary evacuation when a threat seems imminent but evacuation orders haven't yet been announced. The American Veterinary Medical Association has <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/large-animals-and-livestock-disasters" target="_blank">more information</a>.</p>
Bottom Line: If You Need to Evacuate, So Do Your Pets<p>As the Humane Society warns, pets left behind in a disaster can easily be injured, lost, or killed. Plan ahead to make sure you can safely evacuate your entire household – furry members included.</p>
- 5 Ways to Be an Eco-Friendly Pet Owner - EcoWatch ›
- Can Your Pets Get and Transmit Coronavirus? - EcoWatch ›