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Community Climate Hero- Lianne Sorkin

Lianne Sorkin has over 35 years’ experience as an Executive Producer, Facilitator, and International Project Manager for the United Nations, many of its Agencies as well as with Fortune 100 companies. She was the executive producer for the launch of UN Women and has co-produced many of the official UN commemorations of International Women’s Day  and will again this year on March 8! She has co-produced Climate Week NYC events at the NY Society for Ethical Culture annually the last five years with climate champions like Al Gore, Bill McKibben, former President of Ireland Mary Robinson and leading youth activists such as Xiye Bastida, Alexandria Villasenor and Jerome Foster III. (Check out the most recent one:  Up2Us2022 – Strategies and Solutions to Save the Coolest Planet in the Universe ) 

Locally, Lianne is one of the founders of the Women’s Wolfpack, a group of “environmentally and spiritually minded women […] harnessing our skills, passions, and resources to help one another and work towards positive outcomes for our planet.” 

In the following interview, we discuss the importance of local action for global benefit, the power of women, and the role of each individual in combating the climate crisis. 

Lianne's Recommended Resources

Bill McKibben (founder 350.org, thirdact.org) New Yorker essays and his newsletter on substack: The Crucial Years:
Major journalists climate coverage including the writings of co-founder and Exec Dir Mark Hertsgaard: https://coveringclimatenow.org/
Emily Atkins, a one-of-a-kind investigative climate journalist connecting all the dots: https://heated.world/

Speed and Scale, by John Doerr
All We Can Save, Essays edited by Dr. Katharine Wilkinson and Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson
The Book of Hope, A Survival Guide for Trying Times by Jane Goodall
Living a Committed Life, by Lynne Twist
Regeneration, Ending the Climate Crisis in One Generation, Edited by Paul Hawken
The Good Ancestor: A Radical Prescription for Long Term Thinking by Roman Krznaric
The Climate Book, The Facts and the Solutions by Greta Thunberg, pub date Feb 14

(The world’s leading resource for climate solutions, Project Drawdown. In 2017 Drawdown, The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming was a NY Times bestseller)


Interview Transcript

I’m Allison Hague, Community Engagement Director for Bedford 2030. Today we are speaking with Community Climate Hero Lianne Sorkin.

Lianne has over 35 years’ experience as an Executive Producer, Facilitator, and International Project Manager for the United Nations and many of its Agencies, as well as with Fortune 100 companies. 

Locally, Lianne is one of the founders of the Women’s Wolfpack, a group of “environmentally and spiritually minded women […] harnessing our skills, passions, and resources to help one another and work towards positive outcomes for our planet.” 

In the following interview, we discuss the importance of local action for global benefit, the power of women, and the role of each individual in combating the climate crisis. 

Lovely to be here. My name is Lianne Sorkin. My primary skills sets are in producing live events…hopefully events that move, touch and inspire people. My passion has been to help create large scale engaging gatherings that address strategies and solutions for the most pressing global issues so for decades I’ve worked as a consultant with the United Nations, many of its Agencies and other non-profit organizations to produce events and brainstorming sessions to shine a light on what is the overarching challenge for humanity, the climate crisis. Hand in hand with that in terms of content is my work in the gender equality and gender equity space.

Thank you for taking the time to talk with us. Bedford 2030 is largely women-run and we represent some of the many local women changing the world every day. How do we continue to encourage women to confront this climate crisis and feel empowered that they actually make a difference?

I love that question. I’m going to step back and say first of all let’s think about where we are… Bedford, Pound Ridge, South Salem, North Salem.. this area. What a powerful amazing privileged spot we all are blessed to live in. And with that privilege and opportunity comes great responsibility. In other words, as you well know it’s often the most disenfranchised – the global south, that is at greatest effect of the climate crisis vs the global north causing the greatest damage. So when I think about Bedford 2030, I think about the possibilities to be done, what you’ve already created… the fact that this is here… there is such an opportunity to continue the empowerment of women in this area.

Let’s also think not just about the area we are in Allison, but the moment in history that we are in. And I don’t think there has been a more consequential generation than those of us alive at this moment. It is that we are approaching that tipping point. And I don’t say that not out of causing anxiety, paralysis, fear, upset… those things and emotions are understandable in the face of the challenges we face. However, I much prefer, holding that as an opportunity for the possibilities – yes challenges ahead. But what a moment for transformation… what a moment we are all living in to actually see systems transformation at scale and at speed. 

Without the large scale levers of businesses and governments and policy changes and effective activist movements, we won’t be able to pull back from the brink of systems collapse. So it’s incumbent upon us all to face head on this seemingly impossible task: literally securing a safe future for life on earth for us and future generations. But it is possible, against all odds, if we listen to the science, collaborate on solutions and create strong communities of people together taking action together on issues that they are passionate about. All that brings concrete change down to the local level….exactly where Bedford 2030 is.

How to empower at the local level in the face of what seems to be daunting challenges. And my sense is… and I borrow this from many of our great thinkers, Jane Goodall among them… you know the human spirit is alive and well in all of us, and women and girls really are looked upon and we’re biologically made as caretakers. I don’t think it’s any accident it’s ‘Mother Nature’. So having female attributes, no matter how we self-identify… and I think all of us have male and female attributes and they are both really important… it just happens that right now, those attributes of leadership that are generally thought of as feminine; Collabortion, compassion, co-creation, being in community, those are the attributes needed by men and women and however one identifies gender-wise… it’s those attributes available to all of us that I think are the things we should stress and can empower people.

Because it has been proven that when women and girls have a seat at the table, when they are involved at the community level in sustainable practices, things change… for the better! In fact one of the top solutions to the climate crisis include family planning and education of women and girls.

Would you like to tell us about the Women’s Wolfpack? 

Yes certainly! Well, the Women’s Wolfpack was an idea just 13 months ago with a handful of women from this area that thought ‘Hey!’ we’re a little bit eco-warriors, a little bit spiritual, a little bit interested in you know in uh, connecting with folks and supporting folks… why don’t we get a small group together and just brainstorm. And so that’s how it began. About 22 of us gathered at the home of Martha Handler who just happens to be the Chair of the Wolf Conservations Center. 

So although the Women’s Wolfpack on the one hand had nothing to do with wolves, it had everything to do with the spirit of the wolf. We know the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack, so wolfpacks teach us about leadership and teamwork. Wolves know they are stronger and smarter and well, more resilient when they work in harmony with one another… in community… all while using their individual talents to the fullest. Like how we humans could be the most effective too. Doesn’t this resonate? Especially when facing the need to bring our ecosystem into balance. 

So that’s what we envisioned for the women’s wolfpack – anyone can join! In the last year we’ve grown from those original 22 to about 150 women, gotten together for routine hikes, have ‘pack chats,’ created events to raise funds and awareness for important causes like International Women’s Day, Animal Nation, the Wolf Conservation Center. We created a website, an Instagram… all in an effort to create and nurture a community of local women to bond, share and support one another as we embrace our role as stewards of our planet and not get so overwhelmed we just want to go to bed and pull the sheets over our head or stick our heads in the sand.

Climate anxiety and climate paralysis are common feelings when thinking about such a daunting challenge. What are some recommended ways that people could pull up their bootstraps tomorrow and really take that first step?

Another great question… thinking about – what can we do when you say ‘pull up our bootstraps’… what any ONE action leads to another and it empowers one.

That wonderful Venn diagram of Ayana Elizabeth Johnson’s of identifying what brings you joy, what you are good at and what work needs doing – where that overlaps – perhaps think about that as your climate action to take! It doesn’t mean you have to quit your job or do something totally different… what is your lane? What are your skill sets? That’s something to take a look at. And then what close by needs work that fits into what you are interested in and what you are good at. Finding that is a, is a good first step.

Locally take the opportunity to participate in Bedford 2030 events, join the Women’s Wolfpack, consider reading some of the fantastic books, listening to amazing podcasts and TED talks, absorb the wisdom from our indigenous brothers and sisters, an then watch videos so many organizations have created to educate oneself on the climate crisis… I’ve shared some specifics of my most favorite resources on this website so take a look at those.  Realize there are solutions already available to transform the world for the sake of the future generations of all living, sentient beings. Find a way to get educated and get into action to avoid slipping into climate grief. And wow, take a look at what youth activists around the world are doing. That’s a dose of inspiration, like your youth programs!

That’s exactly why our Greenlight Award is a priority for Bedford 2030. The Greenlight high school students implement their own Big Green Idea in their own communities, and they continue to inspire us with their creativity and passion. It’s our responsibility to equip them with tools to guarantee a healthy future. 

Yes, and if we want to be good ancestors, and practice some long terms thinking for our kids and grandkids and their kids… let’s follow Greta Thunberg’s advice. Let’s treat this crisis as the emergency it is. Youth are leading the way because it’s their future we are stealing if we don’t act as if these aren’t the most consequential years to take positive actions. We’ve got some incredible leaders of youth activists right here in the US, like Xiye Bastida, Alexandria Villasenor, Jerome Foster III – check out their IGs, Twitter feeds, organizations…. And your high school Greenlight Awards participants. There’s so much power and activism right here through Bedford 2030… such an opportunity to make a difference, don’t you think so Allison?

I hope so and I think so…. We work hard every single day and if we didn’t think there was hope in it we wouldn’t do it… but so many people wonder…  Am I enough? That’s the question, but you know, everyone’s enough, everybody has something or a skill you can contribute, or an idea like you just mentioned and you throw it out and it manifests.

That is it exactly. Everyone counts. Every moment is golden. Every person counts. Everybody can do something.

And it doesn’t… Big or small parts, doesn’t really matter. Just doing whatever is yours to do in the world.

My friend Lynne Twist from Pachamama Alliance puts it this way: Maybe what’s happening on the planet now, it’s not happening “to” us, but if we hold it as if it’s happening “for” us, to get us into action, that’s often a better way to stay away from climate anxiety and climate grief and into action. 

There’s a great quote from Richard Bach from one of his books a while back, and it goes like this:

“Here’s a test to see whether your mission on earth is completed. If you’re alive, it isn’t!”

So, if all of us, in any demographic, any generation are here during these consequential years then there’s something for us to do. Bedford 2030 has been demonstrating how to do things already at the community level collectively. It’s growing. It’s replicable. It’s scalable. So since this is the time in human history that is the most decisive, why don’t we all believe that we can make a difference. Because I truly believe we can. And, I’m just sayin’…. It has to be us. And it has to be now.