Q&A with Climate Reality Bay Area

A conversation with Pam Allio, the Chair of the Climate Reality Bay Area Chapter and Director, Strategic Marketing for Cisco System’s Engineering Sustainability Office.
The Climate Reality Project is an international climate action organization founded by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore in 2006 shortly after the release of his award-winning film, An Inconvenient Truth. The Climate Reality Bay Area chapter (CRBA) is one of over 100 Climate Reality Project chapters across the United States, comprising a dedicated group of climate activists from eight counties across the greater San Francisco Bay Area. CRBA promotes climate education, action and justice with efforts focused on pushing local and state governments to adopt clean transportation, building electrification, and advancing diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice to bring frontline communities to the forefront of climate action.

How did you get involved with Climate Reality and what is your current role?

I’ve been interested in climate action since I was young, but in 2017, my son had the opportunity to interview one of the leading climate scientists, Bill Collins. Bill talked about the urgent need to take local action around climate change. So, when I spotted a virtual training for Climate Reality, I signed up and then joined the Bay Area chapter from there. I first served as Communications Chair, where I helped to grow the communications team from three to a team of over twenty volunteers. I stepped up to become the Chair in January 2023. With over 1,500 members, I am proud to lead the largest chapter in the nation for Climate Reality,

When I’m not volunteering with Climate Reality, I work for Cisco Systems for the Engineering Sustainability Office where I serve as the Director of Strategic Marketing. Our team is helping to drive and accelerate the technology roadmap for making our products more sustainable and energy efficient. This helps our customers with their journeys to net zero and will help Cisco with its goal of net zero emissions by 2040. It’s been powerful to merge my passion for sustainability and volunteerism with Climate Reality together with my current role at Cisco and career going forward.

What have you found to be the most effective way to inspire people to take action for our planet?

It really goes back to Climate Reality’s original emphasis on education. I first trained in July of 2020 and was honored to be a mentor for the first post-pandemic in-person training with Al Gore [the founder] last June in Las Vegas, Nevada. During these trainings, you go through a presentation on all the effects of climate change from A to Z, from health to weather to wildfires to food and agriculture. It’s so shocking to many of the attendees that they actually have quiet rooms available and support staffers to talk to – it can be very emotional. Mr. Gore highlights all of the effects of climate change around the world to let you know that the urgency is real. During the second half of the presentation, Mr. Gore focuses on the solutions we have today like solar and wind power and inspires others with hope and taking action.

What is something that has recently inspired you or given you optimism for our future?

We are now at this tipping point where people everywhere now know we must do something about climate change – it’s happening. Companies like Cisco – really any company that does business globally – have had to change the way they operate their business. And there are existing and new solutions to help us towards a more sustainable future. There’s no more denying that this is happening, there’s only the question of, “what can we control?” The new order is to build it into your way of life, otherwise, we’re not going to have a way of life. That’s definitely inspired me.

There’s no more denying that this is happening, there’s only the question of, “what can we control?”

What are five things that you’d urge readers to do to help the planet starting today.

  1. Don’t be afraid to have a discussion with people about how our world is changing and what we can do about it.

  2. Educate yourself and stay up to date – but don’t get overwhelmed.

  3. Find an impactful organization or group to get involved with. You’ll get so much hope out of working together with like-minded people.

  4. Assess the sustainability of your own home. You can’t do everything all at once, so make a laundry list of how you can make progress and tackle these things one at a time. These things are financial decisions as well, but just educating yourself on the options is valuable.

  5. Support the legislation. One of our Climate Reality leaders created an app called the Climate Action Now app that you can download for free. Based on your location, the app will prompt you with 5 meaningful actions you can take each day, including facilitating direct communication with policymakers.

Any advice for those interested in getting involved with Climate Reality?

Just get involved! Know that volunteering for organizations like ours doesn’t have to be a huge time commitment. For me and the other volunteers, we all have other priorities in our lives, but it feels really good to be making a difference. We’re joining together to build a path towards a more sustainable future.

The unique thing about volunteering with Climate Reality is that if you have an idea, you can put it into practice. For example, one of our volunteers took the initiative to launch a podcast last fall where we highlight everyday climate champions and tell their stories. I’d also encourage you to follow us on Instagram at @crbainaction where our team does beautiful work on education and inspiring others to take action.

What’s your favorite breakfast?

I love breakfast. A cup of Philz Coffee’s Philtered Soul is high on my list. Then a good omelette or egg bites with healthy vegetables included, and an almond croissant.

Answers have been edited for clarity and length.