Climate profile: John Sorensen
Editor’s note: The Climate Profile is a new feature by the North Tahoe chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby that explores the stories of local citizens and how climate change has affected their lives.
In the summer of 2011, after four days of wandering in the Utah wilderness with nothing but water to sustain him, John Sorensen had the vision he’d been seeking.
Sorensen had worked for 45 years in the aerospace and transportation industries, pioneering his own business and working as a systems engineer and project manager. By 2011, however, he had reached a point in his career when he didn’t want to “work for a paycheck” anymore, and wanted to make a difference in a different way.
So he went on a vision quest.
And on the fourth day, the future founder and director of Elders Action Network had the vision he’d been hoping for. He resolved to work with elders to enact change on issues ranging from climate change to social justice.
The decision to focus on elders was because they are “a demographic who cumulatively have a great deal of life experience, resources and time,” Sorensen said. “They are a powerful group of people who can create meaningful change, in a time when there are many problems in the world.”
Elders Action Network (see their website here: Elders Action Network – Elders addressing the crucial issues of our time) was born of that vision in 2011, and its reach and scope is both impressive and inspiring; its membership stands at around 25,000, and the organization continues to expand.
The nonprofit has four arms: Elders for Sound Democracy, Elders Climate Action, Elders for Regenerative Living, and Elders for Social Justice. Sorensen is actively involved with all of them, but at the moment, in light of the crucially important upcoming U.S. midterm elections, he is focusing on work with the Elders for Sound Democracy as they partner with the Environmental Voter Project to empower and engage as many voters as possible.
“This campaign is partially motivated by knowing that getting effective climate legislation requires electing legislators who share the concern and will act accordingly,” Sorensen said.
Elders for Sound Democracy began in 2020 as clear evidence of voter suppression tactics were being seen in the primary elections across the country. One of their countering projects was creating public service announcements on local radio stations (a project centered in Florida), particularly for minority voters who might be more vulnerable to voter suppression tactics. Since then, the group has expanded to hundreds of volunteers working in nearly 30 states across the country.
In addition, the Environmental Voter Project has found through research that 15 million environmentalists don’t vote. “The EVP,” Sorensen says, “has been able to track environmentalists, their voting records and contact information, and has been able to contact these environmentalists to urge them to vote and get good environmental laws in place — without telling them how to vote.
“I’ve been an environmentalist all my life,” Sorensen added. “But learning gradually how serious climate change is, getting involved was just a natural thing – things like Citizens’ Climate Lobby and other groups. All of us are working together and want to collaborate with each other; it’s not a competition.”
Since the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act in August, there has been renewed hope for many who understand the deep and pervasive threat of climate change. Sorensen has found it encouraging as well.
“All of us across America,” he said, “who have been working on variations of climate action for years can now say, ‘We made a positive difference.’ We know we still have much yet to do to get to the targeted 50% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030. But we can also say to the rest of the world that ‘We take this threat seriously and we are responding accordingly. Please join us.’”
Sorensen’s choices as an individual citizen reflect his commitment to climate action. He and his wife Sue are working on fully electrifying their house in Truckee. They have solar panels, a heat pump water heater, and an electric vehicle. “At the end of the day, we want to be all-electric,” he says, including an electric pickup truck.
While many of us are not nearly at the level of engagement and commitment to climate activism and other causes as Sorensen is, we can take inspiration from him, and each do our own part to make sure that climate action is front and center in our decision-making, in our individual lives, at the ballot box, and as citizens of the world.
For those who would like to join Sorensen in his efforts, the Elders Action Network is a great place to start – as is our local chapter of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby (visit Citizens’ Climate Lobby | Solutions to Climate Change (citizensclimatelobby.org).).
Sorensen is a great example of how to see the need for change, and take action to make it happen. We look forward to seeing what he — and all of us — can accomplish next.
Jaena Bloomquist is a volunteer with the North Tahoe chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby, a writer, and a mother of two living in Truckee. Jaena enjoys running, hiking, and enjoying the beautiful Tahoe area with her husband, even more so when sushi is involved.
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