The success of Pennsylvania’s virtual Lobby Day
 

PennEnvironment's 2020 Climate Action Lobby Day’s main event began just as the 2019 and 2018 editions did: with all eyes on Flora Cardoni, lead organizer for the Climate Defenders campaign. The only difference, of course, was this year Flora was sitting at her laptop, not standing at a podium.

The results, however, were just as powerful — if not more so — than those of previous years. More than 1,000 people tuned in to a virtual rally. Nearly 500 participated in nearly 100 meetings with their respective state senator and representative. Four new legislators signed on to the PennEnvironment-backed 100% Renewable Energy bill, and dozens agreed to support Pennsylvania’s move to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. The day’s action earned coverage on CBS Philly, in PennLive and in the Bucks County Herald.

Each year for the past decade, PennEnvironment’s Lobby Day has drawn residents, local and state legislators, clean energy business owners, religious leaders, and health professionals to Harrisburg to call on state leaders to support clean energy and action on climate.

PennEnvironment’s Flora Cardoni at 2018’s Climate Action Lobby Day.

PennEnvironment’s Flora Cardoni at 2018’s Climate Action Lobby Day.

In the past few years, before the pandemic, the day would kick off with a rally — everyone with matching shirts and signs standing behind Flora, who would speak at center stage. Later, attendees would meet face to face with their representatives and senators. This year, of course, was different.

Lobby Day 2020 was all virtual, but full of action. The day featured:

  • a youth climate action panel,
  • a climate action advocacy workshop,
  • educational sessions, including Electric Vehicles 101, an Energy Efficient Home Tour, and Ask a Solar Provider, and
  • the virtual rally for climate action, featuring state Reps. Chris Rabb, Malcolm Kenyatta, Jennifer O’Mara, and Wendy Ullman; state Sen. Katie Muth; Dr. Gabriel Ciseros; Dr. Maya Ragavan; Kevin Warren of Warren Energy Engineering; Pastor John Creasy; and — last but not least — Caia and Zeta, two climate activist sisters, ages 11 and 8.

All of this happened while hundreds of individual attendees met with their local legislators via video calls to show their support for legislation requiring Pennsylvania to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and reach 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.

Pennsylvania state Sen. Katie Muth at PennEnvironment’s virtual rally.

Pennsylvania state Sen. Katie Muth at PennEnvironment’s virtual rally.

Of course, the experience of attending a virtual rally via Zoom can’t match the excitement of hundreds of people chanting so loudly in the Capitol rotunda that the state Senate has to close its chamber doors (as was the case last year).

But PennEnvironment staff and supporters adjusted, sharing stories in the Zoom comment box about why they want clean energy in Pennsylvania and holding signs up to their cameras. After the event, participants said they loved the speakers and they did indeed feel energized. Several attendees said this was the first Lobby Day they could attend since they didn’t have to take the full day off work or travel to Harrisburg. The attendees also represented a greater range in age.

Flora and the PennEnvironment team hope that next year, they can go back to making a big noise in the Capitol rotunda. Nothing beats the power of our voices rising up together. But if we can’t be together in person, we know what to do. A virtual lobby day is the next best thing to being there — and still powerfully effective.

PennEnvironment’s virtual lobby day