Sunday, 20 September 2015


Nan is a one-to-one math instructor in San Francisco, California. She has a Masters of Arts in Education from Stanford University. In addition to tackling the threat of climate change, Nan has been active in various movements through her life, protesting the nuclear arms race, neighbourhood gun violence, and supporting public schools, energy conservation and solar power.
I learned about activism at a young age. My mother was in the women's liberation movement in the 60s and 70s. I went to a women's conference with her in 6th grade. I think my first public action I participated in was a United Farm Workers picket at an A&P grocery store when I was about 13. 
I also remember the first Earth Day. I lived in a small town in New Jersey. I remember a bunch of people got together and cleaned up trash by the side of the road. 
As a teenager, I went to anti-nuclear and other rallies.
My biggest activism was in college related to the nuclear arms race. 
When I was in Oberlin College in 1980 or 1981, Ronald Reagan was talking about using nuclear weapons in a first strike. The cold war was really strong and it seemed as if the leaders were throwing around the actual use of these weapons in a dangerous way. 
I recall that some religious speakers came to my college and talked about the threat of nuclear war in a way that felt urgent and spiritually imperative. 
I was practicing Quakerism at the time. (I had gone to a Quaker high school). I felt as if my inner light was telling me that I had to work on this issue. 
Several of us organized a "Reverse the Arms Race" Conference at our college, and also did community outreach in Ohio near our college related to the nuclear arms threat. 
I did my own outreach as a Winter Term project in rural North Western Pennsylvania in the area where my mother lived. 
But I did get a bit doubtful about the effectiveness of political action while I was still in college. I got involved in some "human potential movement" work later in my college years. 
This was about the transformation of individuals and groups. I took courses about how to create breakthroughs, how to make a difference, how to empower other people. 
I guess I felt as if a lot of political work seemed to be sort of ritualistic and routine, and not getting to the most essential levels of change. 
Eventually I rebelled against the idea that I was supposed to devote my life to making a difference. I became focused on personal fulfillment and on how to have a successful romantic relationship. I think I "dropped out of society" in frustration with the conservative politics of the 1980s. 
Also, I am bisexual so there was an element of figuring out how to fully express myself with regard to my sexuality. 
Things changed a bit when I had my son. After a few years, we were living a bit more conventionally and I expressed activism by supporting public schools. 
Our schools were not that good and supporting the schools helped my own son but also a diverse group of children from all backgrounds.  
As regards climate change, my direct sense of urgency about the issue happened when I saw Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth". 
I completely got the message. I was emotionally moved and felt the same urgency that I had felt back when the Arms Race was the concern. 
I took people to see the film. I sent people copies of the DVD. 
My husband and I got focused on green building. He is a carpenter and general contractor. 
I took courses about solar. We put solar PV and hot water on our house. I went to lectures about energy conservation and climate change and similar matters. 
I applied for jobs in the solar industry but before I got one, I took a job doing outreach for my son's school, and got focused on the world of education instead. I had also been studying math and science and I decided to pursue becoming a math teacher.
I had graduated from Oberlin College in 1984 with a major in Religion. I went back to school starting in 2001 at our local community college. I studied math, chemistry, and physics. 
I did take a couple of short classes in ecology as well, about native plants for habitat restoration, and the ecology of the San Francisco bay. 
I earned my Masters Degree in Math Education from Stanford University in 2010. I got my math teacher's credential as well. 
I had applied to become a Climate Reality leader early on, maybe 2007 or 2008. But they didn't accept me then. 
Somewhere during the 2000s my activism was focused very locally, on trying to stop gun violence in our city. 
I live in a historically black neighbourhood, which has had a lot of problems with gun violence. We still hear gunshots from time to time but it was a lot worse when I moved here in 2001. A group called ACORN organized people here to work on this issue and I got involved. 
In January of this year one of my son's friends, about 19 years old, was shot and killed.

It was really terrible. He was an African American young man who had been coming over to our house since he was about 12. He was shot with three other young men. He was on a break from his job in a restaurant. 
I was very sad and shaken up, and found it hard to work. So I decided to see my psychologist. I have one I saw before and check in with every once in a while. 
While I was talking with her about the grief related to this young man, I also told her that I was worried about climate change. 
From talking with her, I decided to apply again for the Climate Reality Leaders Training in Toronto [July, 2015]. This time I was accepted. 
In February of 2015, I went to the March for Real Climate Leadership in Oakland, CA. I met these nice, friendly, women and marched with them. They were from Unitarian Universalist Churches. I have been involved with these churches before. 
Talking with one of them was when it occurred to me that I could contribute my curriculum writing abilities to the climate movement; that I could create curriculum on climate change that meets the academic standards teachers need to teach in math and other subjects. 
I am working on this now. I am creating a workshop on teaching climate change and connecting it to the standards, which I will be leading at the Teachers 4 Social Justice Conference in October.  
I am pretty emotionally based with activism. I need to feel connected with others. I also need to believe that my actions are going to lead to something constructive. I need to visualize the outcome. 
Right now, the way I am trying to get myself active is to find people to partner with on the issue of climate change. 
I think that is the power of our involvement, just naturally sharing with people about what we’re doing and what’s going on. Increasing the conversation everywhere about climate change. The authentic connections between people are our strength. And that is the antidote to the big money obfuscation of climate issues.

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