Citizens' Climate Lobby politician cutouts

Madison artist often travels with Wisconsin’s eight members of Congress — that is, his life-sized portable portraits of them.

Of course we all care about what our government does to help or hurt us — but apathy creeps in when we feel powerless. That’s understandable, yet if we’re too apathetic and cynical to speak up, how can we make Congress listen?

In June, I will speak up, along with 57 of my fellow Wisconsinites. More than 1,200 Citizens' Climate Lobby volunteers from almost every congressional district in the country will lobby Congress for bipartisan action on climate change. Why? We believe our leaders will act if enough of us speak up, respectfully and urgently. Our senators and representatives need to hear from ordinary Americans of both political parties, not just deep-pocketed special interests.

Just as he has every year for the past nine years, Madison artist Dan Slick is heading to Capitol Hill to speak up, too. Often he travels with Wisconsin’s eight members of Congress — that is, his life-sized portable portraits of them. His cardboard cutouts frequently show up at local coffee shops or at public events, where they are unfolded and pieced together, including the table. Last year they posed on the National Mall, attracting lots of curiosity and picture-takers.

Dan hopes that through his art, we come to know our representatives. If, like many Americans, you are not able to name your members of Congress, just enter your zip code here to learn their names and how to make contact.

Importantly, Dan wants us to visualize the representatives of the American people working together to pass effective climate legislation. That’s why the Wisconsin cardboard delegation — a good stand-in for the whole of Congress — is seated around a table with the legislation placed before them.

As he explains, “When people see their members of Congress at the table together, I hope they view them not as celebrities but as classmates in a lively discussion about the best way to accomplish a group assignment.”

It raises the age-old question, does art imitate life or does life imitate art?

You may be surprised to learn that members of Congress from both parties sat down at the table together and in January introduced the bipartisan "Energy Innovation and Climate Dividend Act" (H.R. 763). On June 11, citizen lobbyists like Dan will flood the Senate and House offices on Capitol Hill asking for support of the bill, which would create jobs and reduce carbon emissions a remarkable 90 percent by 2050.

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Will you join us? If constituents don’t communicate their concerns, politicians naturally assume they can safely ignore the increasingly dire effects of rising global temperatures. Take 10 minutes to call on your members of Congress so they will hear the message loud and clear: don’t ignore the welfare of current and future citizens.

Dan hopes his art will move many Americans to write or call on Congress regularly and hopefully. To generate political will for climate action, we must convince politicians that they will lose our votes if they refuse to act.

Visualize our leaders at the climate table and demand the best of them.

Carrie Scherpelz is a marketing communications professional and longtime Madison resident. She volunteers with the Madison chapter of CitizensClimateLobby.org

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