Talkin’ global warming with Ashley Judd, regular folks

Star power can certainly help raise awareness of a critical issue. Like it or not, human beings are social animals and few among us are immune to the bit of a thrill that comes with rubbing elbows with celebrities. Even members of Congress get caught up in the excitement.

So you won’t hear me complaining that America’s ultimate girl next door and actress Ashley Judd testified last week about the need to solve global warming. When a House Interior Subcommittee makes news in Idaho, you know something is worthy of water cooler discussion. Did I mention that I got to speak to her for a moment about global warming and Kentucky basketball, and that I got my picture taken with her? That was a good day of saving the planet right there.

Hollywood glamour aside, though, I couldn’t help but be touched by the Mr. Smith-Goes-To-Washington idealism that came when concerned citizens from across the United States got to speak to the Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies about environmental funding issues they care about. Each year at what is called “Public Witness Day”, the House goes out of its way to listen to people who might not otherwise get the chance to make their voices heard. Kind of like what top White House staff did on Big Block of Cheese Day on the great TV series The West Wing.

It was great to see that our community is so unified and excited about protecting our national heritage. I was also touched by the fact that Rep. Norm Dicks of Washington was so welcoming and understanding with our requests. It’s actually a pretty cool thing to see every day citizens and people from across the country who get their day in the sun to advocate for their program – no matter how large or small.

The Wilderness Society, a regular on Capitol Hill, also got to weigh in. Mike Anderson, a senior policy analyst from our Seattle office, spoke eloquently about the damage global warming is doing to our public lands. He called on our elected officials to attack that problem by increasing support for a wide variety of conservation programs that protect public lands … the Land and Water Conservation Fund, Forest Legacy Program, National Wildlife Refuge System and more. (Learn more about what we need to do on these and many other fronts.)

The fact that so many people were speaking so passionately about climate change stood out. One after the other, all the witnesses came forward and talked about how important it is to protect our natural resources in the face of a warming climate. After eight years of waiting, these programs are finally going to start getting the dollars they need.

Maybe Ashley will invite me to a celebration.