Five Questions for Mike Tidwell, Founder & Director, Chesapeake Climate Action Network
Mike Tidwell has lived in Takoma Park since January 1989. He, his wife Beth, their “come-and-go son” Sasha, who is a student at University of Maryland, and cat Macy Gray reside on upper Willow Avenue in the PEN neighborhood. “It’s basically downtown Takoma Park,” Tidwell notes. “Twenty years ago, Roscoe the rooster used to spend a lot of time in my backyard.”
What was his main motivation for becoming an advocate for climate change issues? “A relentless, unshakable concern for justice.” Tidwell lives in constant fear that his teenage son will have a fraction of the opportunities in his lifetime that he’s had in his – due to climate change. “I was also a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Congo in my 20s. I lived with barefoot, car-free people who contribute almost nothing to climate change but who are already being made hungry by drought, strange floods, and ecological upheaval,” he explains. “All this when the promise of a carbon-free world is totally within our grasp through affordable wind power and solar and electric cars.”
Through his work with Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Tidwell has learned “that people will take action – bold action – if you simply ask them and you have good plan.” He recalls several instances where his powers of persuasion were in full effect: “I’ve persuaded dozens of people to go peacefully to jail with me over the Keystone XL pipeline. I’ve gotten countless people to play hooky from work to lobby for solar and wind power legislation in Annapolis.”
“And I’ve gotten thousands of people over the years to jump into the Potomac River in January to raise money and awareness about the need to, “Keep winter cold!” More people than you think will take action if you have a concrete goal and you simply pick up the phone or shoot them an email and ask.”
Last year a series of “quick interviews” was introduced in this newsletter to help residents learn a little more about some of their neighbors. Here’s Tidwell’s take on our five questions.
Favorite Place/Activity in Takoma Park: Hanging out at the Thomas-Siegler Carriage House garden on Tulip Avenue. I love sitting on the little wooden bench there and taking in the Azaleas in spring and the autumn colors in October. I take my Sunday school class there some mornings because the garden itself is a beautiful little prayer.
Best Thing about Living in Takoma Park: It’s a neighborhood that values its “characters.” Everyone can pretty much just be themselves. I like never having to explain myself when I march in the July 4th parade with my old-fashioned push lawn mower to make a statement about global warming. We all pretty much get each other here.
What’s on Your Desk Right Now: Trying to get my fellow Marylanders to see that Governor Larry Hogan is a total environmental phony. Plus just finishing this interview by 6 p.m. on a Friday night, so I can meet my wife at Republic before happy hour ends.
What You Do in Your “Spare Time”: Watch Flamenco dance performances throughout the region with my Flamenco-crazed wife. When I’m not doing that I watch baseball. Read about baseball. Dream about baseball.
Best Advice You Ever Got (and from who): “Mike, after college, you should join the Peace Corps.” From a friend of a friend of a friend. The two years I spent in a Congo village changed my life forever.
BONUS: If I had a magic wand for a day, I would take a wrecking ball to the ugly 10-story high-rise office building on Carroll Avenue (I work on the 7th floor!). Then I would turn the lot into a Little League baseball park with a veggie hot dog stand.
For more information about the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, visit chesapeakeclimate.org
This article appeared in the March 2017 edition of the Takoma Park Newsletter. The Takoma Park Newsletter is available for download here.