Monday, October 4, 2010

The Million Letter March, Canadian Edition

I participated in an historic event this past Saturday. I was a part of the first international teleconference held by the U.S.-based Citizens Climate Lobby, when the Sudbury chapter logged onto the call. Thanks go out to Cathy Orlando, our amazing local Al Gore-trained activist, for plugging Sudbury in to this amazing organization.

A couple of things came out of Saturday’s call. Not only did callers get to hear directly from Bill McKibben (who appeared to be calling on his cell phone from the Washington Mall in the midst of a rally), but we got to hear about an exciting new initiative which is being organized in the United States called “The Million Letter March”. Basically, the goal of the Million Letter March will be to have one million hand-written letters sent to members of the U.S. Congress regarding the need for climate change action. The emphasis here will be on original, hand-written letters, rather than form letters or emails, which are accorded less weight when they show up at the office of a decision maker. Further, the Million Letter March aims to keep a repository of all letters, available for viewing on a soon-to-go-live website (look for it this Saturday at, sortable by congressional district. Further, letter writers will be encouraged to provide copies of their letters to local media outlets for publication, thus potentially influencing many more minds.

On the call, pledges were taken from all participant locations (including Sudbury) regarding the number of personal letters each location was going to contribute to the Million Letter March between now and the next call. Sudbury promised to contribute 100 letters. Clearly, we’ve got some work to do. But since we have some interesting opportunities to exploit, I’m very confident that we’ll meet and exceed our pledged target.

After the call, the gang in Sudbury wrestled for a few minutes with regards to how best to plug Sudburians into this process. As the Million Letter March has been conceived as largely a U.S. initiative, in that letters are to be directed to the letter-writer’s member of congress, we were left with an interesting challenge. Would we write directly to members of the U.S. Congress? Or would our efforts be better spent communicating directly with Canadian decision-makers, many of whom seem keen on waiting for the U.S. to get its act together first before taking any autonomous initiative, at least on the climate change file.

Cathy Orlando, a dynamo of knowledge and wisdom, came up with the idea of linking our letter writing campaign to Senate hearings into Bill C-311. Why not target our Senators with personal letters to encourage that they take real action to address climate change? And why not let everyone know about it by also encouraging our letter writers to provide their letters to our Canadian local media as well? And since our current government seems hell-bent on doing nothing until the Americans can up with something, why not copy our letters to the U.S. Ambassador to Canada? That way the Ambassador will know that, despite the government’s position, there are Canadians who are very concerned about the consequences of inaction, and who really have no choice in this political climate but to look south of the border for leadership.

Within 20 minutes of the call wrapping up, a Facebook Event for the Million Letter March - Canada had been set up, and we were all encouraged to invite our Facebook Friends to “attend”. Instructions on which Senators to write to, as well as their Senate address (and that of the U.S. Ambassador to Canada), were identified in the Facebook Event. Facebook friends (and potential letter-writers) were advised that further instructions will follow (once Cathy has a chance to connect with the California-based Million Letter March initiative people, to determine how best to categorize and sort Canadian letters).

Were there concerns expressed regarding how this Event might be managed? Sure, but so what? If the “Event” invitation generates some letters to our Senators, that’s great. If some of those letters get published in local newspapers across Canada, so much the better. If they’re submitted to a central repository sometime down the road, great, we’ll have an electronic record. The feeling was, why wait to sort all of this out…let’s just get going and DO. Frankly, I think that was the right approach, because there’s just no time to wait.

Within minutes of the Event going live, our invited Facebook Friends began to reply. I expect this Event to grow, and to receive national exposure, and to generate a lot more than the 100 letters we in Sudbury promised on the CCL call. Rather than wait for all of the bugs to be ironed out, it’s best just to get things going. Bugs have a habit of working themselves out when there’s momentum.

What all of this demonstrated to me was how easy it is to initiate a meaningful action. If you have a good idea, get it out there, and watch it grow. Or, steal someone else's good idea: they probably won't mind! Social media provides us with some very powerful tools for connecting with others. Even the mainstream media has begun to report on social-media initiated events (remember the daily updates regarding the anti-Prorogation Facebook group?)

So, through the use of my own blog, I’m going to reproduce (at the bottom of this post) the text from the Facebook Event – The Million Letter March - Canada, and encourage you to take a moment to write a letter to key Canadian Senators, copying the Ambassador of the United States, and sending it to your local media. Soon, you will be able to upload that letter to the Million Letter March internet site.

I’ll be working on my own letter over the course of this coming week. On Sunday, Cathy will be hosting a letter writing workshop in downtown Sudbury, as part of the 10/10/10 International Day of Doing. Right now, there are 7 or 8 events registered for Greater Sudbury, including an event being co-hosted by the Sudbury and Nickel Belt chapters of the Green Party of Canada, the “Sudbury Recycling Walk” (co-hosted with “Take It With You, Sudbury” a local group which encourages residents to take their recycling with them when visiting commercial establishments, such as restaurants, in order to ensure that those materials actually end up getting recycled).

The idea behind the Sudbury Recycling Walk is pretty basic, and requires little in the way of planning. We’re encouraging Sudburians to walk downtown, get some fresh air, and attend 10/10/10 events planned on Sunday in the downtown core. On the way downtown, walkers are asked to pick up all of the recyclable materials which they see on the side of the road, thus helping beautify our City. Recyclables will be collected at a downtown location, and brought to the municipal recycling centre. The walk will terminate just as other events are beginning (the letter-writing workshop is scheduled immediately afterwards). Pretty straight-forward and easily manageable, even for a group which experiences significant volunteer fatigue.

So, look for the Million Letter March – Canada, and feel free to steal our 10/10/10 idea and make it yours. As for Cathy Orlando, don’t you dare think of stealing her, because we desperately need her here in Sudbury!


From: Million Letter March - Canada (Facebook Event)

Hello Canada and our Friends

We want to tell you about this exciting initiatve we are doing with Citizens Climate Lobby in the United States. It’s called the Million Letter March.

It’s a campaign to generate a million personal letters to politicians asking them to enact effective climate legislation. In Canada we are mailing our letters to to the Canadian Senate carbon copied to the Ambassador of the United States.We are inviting you to join the March. It’s simple to join.

After October 9, 2010, go to, where you will find ideas for your own letter and instructions on what to do next. We will post letter ideas in this event page too.First you will mail your letter to the Senate and the US Ambassador to Canada. Then you’ll post your letter to the website so that they can keep track.

If you like you can send a copy to your local newspaper, too.

Here is who to send letter to in Canada:

- Senator Grant Mitchell - Liberal Senator Championing Bill C311: The Climate Change Accountability Act

- Senator Richard Neufeld - Conservative Senator Bill C311 Critic

- Senator Marjorie Lebreton - Conservative Senator and Leader of Government in the Senate

FYI Senator Neufeld should be speaking on Bill C311 on October 5, 2010.

No Stamp Required to send the letters to the Senate:

Parliament of Canada,Ottawa, Ontario,K1A 0A9.

Postage Required

American Ambassador to CanadaPO Box 866, Station B Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5T1

For more information about Bill C311: The Climate Change Accountability Act go here:

Our campaign is different than a push button petition. The letters are personal, signed and sent in a stamped envelope. We’ve heard over and over from politicians that a personal letter – sent by regular mail – carries the most weight. And if one letter can have an impact, imagine how much impact we could generate with an avalanche of personal letters.What do you think? If politicians do not hear from us, they’ll continue to do nothing. Will you help? Please sign up, write a letter, send it, register it at Million Letter March and send a copy to the editor of your local newspaper.


Anonymous said...

I am a volunteer with Citizens Climate Lobby working on the Million Letter March. Please note that the Million Letter March will request that international supporters (we are so excited your are supporting us!!!) send a letter to the U.S. President.
Please contact me with any questions at
Thank you! Laurie Williams

Sudbury Steve said...

Duly noted, Laurie. I'll make sure to advise our local organizers, and have our event notice updated accordingly.

Anonymous said...

Hi Steve

Great article, and I am grateful that you documented what I too believe was a historical moment.

History starts now!

I am really looking forward to our official launch of this Million Letter March at the Laughing Buddha on 10/10/10 from 12 -1 and then Sudbury's First Solar Powered Concert.

Carbon Fees Advocate said...

Steve, Just wanted to let you know that the video and website are launched. Wishing you a terrific day tomorrow at the Sudbury 10-10-10 event. Thank you for your enthusiasm! Laurie
Introductory video for MillionLetterMarch:
MillionLetterMarch website: