The Loma Prietan - July/August 2010

Chapter Joins with Partners In Reading

by S. Michele Powers

The Chapter's Climate Action Training (CAT) program is working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by promoting positive actions in the workplace, social venues, and community institutions. Partners in Reading (PAR), through the San Jose Public Library, enables English-speaking adults and their families to improve their basic literacy skills, reach their goals, and function more effectively at home, at work, and in the community. These two groups have recently partnered to promote global warming emission reduction ideas in the communities of PAR clients.

Our Chapter recently offered a Climate Action Training workshop to PAR participants. Julio Magalhaes, the Chapter's Global Warming Coordinator, presented the six-session workshop, in which participants learned the definitions of global warming and climate change, their causes, and what daily behaviors can be changed to curb them ... and save money and contribute to national security. Workshop participants could then go out into our community to conduct their own workshops, and tailor the presentation to the participating audience.

Partners in Reading (PAR) is located in the Literacy Center at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Library in San Jose. It is a free service offered through the State of California and the City of San Jose to adult learners with English as a second language and to literacy-challenged adults and children. Tutoring is provided by trained volunteers, including business leaders, retired teachers, San Jose State University faculty, and interested residents who want to help improve the literacy rate in Santa Clara County. The tutors and learners are paired by the Center's staff and then commit to meet for three hours per week over a six-month period.

CAT and PAR were brought together after negotiations between Chapter staff and volunteers and PAR representatives Judy Klikun and Catherine McBain. The idea of volunteer tutors and adult learners working with basic ideas and terminology of global warming and environmental language seemed possible. They could also explore foundational philosophy starting from 19th century writers Emerson, Thoreau, and Whitman; continuing on to photographer and conservationist Ansel Adams; and to contemporary environmentalists Michael Pollan and Bill McKibben. In fact, the Library's management leaped ahead with ideas for conducting workshops at branch libraries and using their own staff and tutors for future workshops for PAR, even before the initial CAT sessions began.

Julio began the sessions with six learner/tutor pairs, starting with the introduction of new words and phrases, and using the beginning of a resource book for the Literacy Center that included collections of environmental articles from the Internet, vegetarian recipes, and book lists. Each week featured lively discussions, as tutors and learners used math and science to figure out how much CO2 emissions they were avoiding or how much money they were saving by altering their daily behaviors. Learners' family members also attended and found out why they had a meatless dinner on Tuesday night or why mom took the bus to the store instead of driving. As participants learned about the need to change behaviors, enthusiasm grew. The basic principle Thoreau wrote about was unfolding in front of us: individual decisions for the good of humankind have their own intrinsic rewards.

This is one partnership towards a better future for our planet!

S. Michele Powers is a Chapter member, a former Climate Action Training team member, and a volunteer tutor at Partners for Reading.