For the average person who feels a certain hopelessness about climate change, the City of Palo Alto Library, environmental nonprofit Acterra and local religious groups are offering an antidote: conversation.
Four discussion events about global warming will be held at the city's libraries in June based on best-selling author Mary Pipher's latest book, "The Green Boat: Reviving Ourselves in Our Capsized Culture." The aim is to turn feelings of helplessness about the problem into empowerment, said Senior Librarian Laurie Hastings, who will facilitate some of the discussions.
"It's overwhelming, dealing with climate change," Hastings said this week. "It's something that's very hard to address."
As a kick-off to the discussions, Pipher herself will be speaking on "The Green Boat" on May 30 at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto.
Acterra, which is funding Pipher's talk, wanted to motivate people to action, not just host an event in which people come, listen and then leave unchanged, Hastings said. So the separate discussion groups were scheduled at the Mitchell Park, Downtown, College Terrace and Rinconada branches for June 4, June 6, June 12 and June 15.
In "The Green Boat," psychologist Pipher turns her attention to the depression many people feel when looking at the issue of climate change. With humor and personal insights, she shares her story about her concern over the planned Keystone XL oil pipeline route through her home state of Nebraska and of collecting friends and neighbors to take action on the issue, according to event organizers.
When reading the book herself, Hastings said she related to Pipher's activism and feeling of empowerment when gathered with others to talk about shared concerns.
Hastings has experienced the same motivation in her area of passion -- educational inequality -- through her volunteer work with a local early-literacy organization.
"I can't change the world, but I can change one child's life," she said. Reading Pipher's book about her environmental activism "was very affirming to me."
The library discussion groups will be kept small -- six to eight people per group -- and participants will be led through a series of questions to address people's reactions on various levels, from emotions to action, Hastings said.
"It creates a safe place for conversation where you're talking about a passage (in the book), yet you're bringing out your personal feelings and values," she said. "It's a safe way to talk about things that are difficult."
Organizers -- which also include a half dozen local congregations from the group Peninsula Interfaith Climate Action, Transition Palo Alto, and California Interfaith Power and Light -- said they are eager to have high school and college students attend both Pipher's talk and the book discussions.
"We think they will find inspiration in Mary Pipher's story of turning depression into action -- and then take steps to get engaged in climate protection initiatives such as the City of Palo Alto's Climate Action Plan, local community organization projects, state and national legislative action, using new technologies, and the many other ways to move forward into a post-fossil fuel world," organizers stated in an announcement of the event.
Pipher's talk will take place from 7:30-9 p.m. on Saturday at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto, 505 E. Charleston Road.
Tickets are $10 (students are $5) and can be purchased in advance at buff.ly/1GyD3bL. No one will be turned away for lack of funds if there is still room on Saturday, organizers said.
People interested in the discussion groups can sign up at cityofpaloalto.org/library by going to the Events Calendar.