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Natural Awakenings Charlotte

Natural Awakenings Speaks with Inconvenient Truth Presentor Kathy Mattea

"I believe we are all in this together . . . It is a big challenge to hold that vision in the face of doubt, fear, despair and the great unknown. That to me is an act of faith and that is spiritual.”  Kathy Mattea 

She writes music and sings it in way that will capture your heart. But this Grammy winner has more to offer the world: Her fight to save it. 

NA: You are a successful singer/songwriter and Grammy award- winning artist. What was the defining moment when you realized you were ready to contribute your time and effort to be a part of the movement to change global warming? 

KM: “Well, it was a combination of things. I saw Mr. Gore’s Inconvenient Truth slide show presentation last year at Vanderbilt. The lights came up at the end of it and the first thought that came through my mind was ‘put me in your army and let me help.’ A few months later I found out that he had a plan to train people. And once I found that out, I knew the significance of that being my first thought and then having the opportunity to train under him was just something that I had to pay attention to. 

I think it is part of our challenge to see our own gifts. Sometimes things that come easy to us don’t feel valuable because we don’t have to work really hard for them. One of the gifts that I’ve learned that I have is that I can stand in front of people and communicate. So I thought, ‘I’m going to do this. I’m going to try and show up and listen to my gut.’”  

NA: Tell us about the training. Are you allowed to receive any compensation for your presentations?  

KM: “This is entirely a service project and I am not allowed to receive any compensation. I was in the first class of 50. Mr. Gore went through the slideshow 2 or 3 different times in a lot of detail. A professor from the University of Michigan was there who is one of the top global warming scientists and he elaborated on the science in detail. We had input from a public speaking coach on PowerPoint and some of the pitfalls. We also had some orientation into the program site that we have. The training was overwhelming, like a crash course.

I called my manager and said, ‘Help, I’m trapped in the minutia that lives in Al Gore’s brain!’ Mr. Gore has been studying global warming for 30 years so he knows a lot and I thought there was no way I could grasp all of the information, but you live with the material and you support each other.” 

NA: It seems that all the elements are coming together for a nationwide movement – government leaders, the scientists, environmentalists, economists, churches and everyday people. What will it take as a conscious nation to facilitate policy change? 

KM: “One of the things that has struck me about all of this is that we complain about our leaders and we forget that our leaders work for us and not the other way around. I think that as more people wake up to this info they will vote differently. They will speak to their leadership differently. They will coalesce into different groups to take action and the people in government service will have no choice but to listen to the will of the people.  I also think that businesses are starting to wake up not only to their responsibility but the economic feasibility of getting on the front end of this. I think that government leaders are starting to wake up. At a certain point it will swell from the ground up, it will swell from the top down and it will come together. Sometimes change feels like you are trying to push a boulder up a mountain but when you get enough people to wake up it takes on a kind of momentum of its own and things can change pretty rapidly. There’s so much noise in our culture right now that we just have to break through it in order to hear this message.  

So the idea is that somebody who has been curious about global warming but did not get around to renting the movie or who may have a problem with Al Gore, can come to a presentation at a church, a library or a social function and get exposed to this material in a way that they may not otherwise. The idea is to get it spreading through as many channels as possible to get curiosity awakened and help people become more informed.”  

NA: How does the United States compare to other countries in their efforts to reduce global warming?  KM: “Well the US has 5% of the world population and we have so far put 30% of the greenhouse gases into the air that has been caused by our industrial revolution. That’s a really big picture of why we need to take the lead in this. An interesting thing that I did not know going into this is there is a lot of talk about economics.  

China, for instance, is in this rapid development phase and their emissions standards are higher than ours. They cannot sell our cars in China because they do not meet China’s emissions standards. And actually we were told that in fact we make cars to sell in China that fit their emissions standards that are made just for China and not the American auto industry. So we don’t make them here. China is at least aware of it and being able to take some action on the front end to be able to put the technology in place to curb their emissions.” 

NA: You’ve stated that you were once one of those people who wondered what you could do as an individual. Knowing what you do now, what are some of the things people can do to lessen global warming?  

KM: “Well, the easiest thing you can do is to replace as many light bulbs in your house as possible with compact fluorescents. They take one-third as much energy as regular light bulbs and last for 5-7 years. If every household in America replaced one light bulb with a compact fluorescent it would be the equivalent as taking one million cars off the road. It is huge. They do have mercury in them and need to be recycled. 

You could put a thermal blanket around your hot water heater. When you replace your appliances you can look for the energy star label and buy energy efficient appliances. When you buy a car you can get either a high gas mileage car or a hybrid, if you can afford one. You can consolidate trips. If you can think about consolidating your errands you can save a lot of fossil fuel. You can have one ‘no car day’ a week.” 

NA: Al Gore says the climate crisis is indeed a true planetary emergency, but also a great opportunity for all the nations leaders to come together. He states, “When we rise we will experience an  epiphany as we discover that this crisis is not really about politics at all. It is a moral and spiritual challenge.” Is there is a spiritual component to this work for you? And do you feel there is message of hope in all of this?  

KM: “I do. Yes, I do. For me, once I crossed the line I became part of the solution. Sometimes when I get overwhelmed I can get paralyzed, but when I take an action it becomes a spiritual act. As Gandhi said, ‘Be the change you want to see in the world.’ It is about action. It is my belief that we are all in this together.  We’ve got a culture that teaches us so much about empowering the individual and having the freedom to make your own choices but we forget that we are all connected and we are taking this ride together.

The opportunity is to remember that and to move out together to steward not only the world for us, but for future generations and not just to do it because it has to be done but to do it as an act of saying ‘this is what we want to be about.’  In order to get to that place we have to take some of our attention away from what Paris Hilton’s dog is wearing this week or what politician made what gaffe. It’s not good for us. Serving is a way of being in the world for me. And I have to say that when I saw the slide show presentation, I didn’t sleep for a couple of nights but I have slept since I started taking action.” 

NA: What advice do you have for those trying to make an impact on global warming in the midst of controversy and criticism? 

KM: “When I put the first compact fluorescent light bulb in the socket I thought, ‘will enough of my neighbors do that so that it will make a difference?’ The thing that I had to remember was that putting the light bulb in the socket and taking the action myself is an act of faith. It’s saying I’m going to do this and there is nothing I can do about what anyone else chooses to do and I am going to do it because I believe that it will make a difference.

For more information on Kathy Mattea and the climate project, visit

By Lisa Moore

Lisa Moore is a freelance journalist in Charlotte, NC.

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