Climate Stick History

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Short History of the First Three Phases

Phase One: How an Idea Gets Created

In 2011, proposed increases in coal plant construction sparked concerns at both the local and national levels. Consumers Energy’s plan to build a third coal plant at the mouth the Saginaw River raised worries about further damage to air and water quality in the Saginaw Valley. While local organizations including the Lone Tree council worked to prevent construction, Bill McKibben’s book, Eaarth, provided a global context to address Bush/Cheney plans to build an additional 150 coal plants to meet growing US energy needs.

An effective response to the burning of fossil fuels required tools to explain complex issues to the general public. My early presentations discussed fossil-fuel alternatives, but that changed after reading McKibben’s carefully-researched Rolling Stone Article “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math” (Rolling Stone: July 19th, 2012.) That publication argued continuing as the fossil-fuel industry planned would destroy agriculture within 60 years and raise sea-levels sufficiently to cover many low-lying areas including Florida and Bangladesh. Even though this article provided a much-needed start, the included graphics were too complex for my climate-change talks.

Speaking publically about climate change led to a revision of my presentation materials. Minister Eric Stone invited me to speak at the Essexville St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in April of 2014. It became clear then that the seventy-slide presentation wouldn’t be the most effective way to convey the most important information. Reviewing McKibben’s article led to the idea of a five-foot stick with green tape and black marks to illustrate key data. The presentation went well and it seemed that even the kids attending understood the issues. For a presentation two weeks later at the Bay County Commission, I added color to the stick to make it more effective: Green for helpful CO2; Black for the increased pollution over the past 200 years; Yellow for the 40-60 year period left to address carbon burning; and Red for the endangerment of life forms (ourselves included) by a temperature increase of 3.6 degrees F. Creating an smaller climate stick of about 18” allowed me to wear it and to keep my hands free while presenting. Several people requested something smaller for their own discussions leading to the birth of the Climate Stick Pendant.

Phase Two: First Mass Distribution of the Climate Stick

News of a Peoples Climate March planned for September 21, 2014 in New York City arrived as the newly painted Red, Yellow, Black and Green Climate Stick debuted at the Bay County Commission meeting. It took May through December to produce 20,000 Climate Sticks for New York, to generate crowd funding to help with expenses, and to recruit a team of six people that ultimately distributed 16,000 Climate Sticks.

Phase Three: Long Slow Grind with The US Patent Office.

Two and a half years of personal effort failed to earn a patent for the Climate Stick. In March 2017, I hired a patent lawyer for help. He advised creating a trademark for the term “Climate Stick” and the four-color image. The Patent Office finally granted the trademarks in January, 2018.

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