Boston 500: Challenge to Save Energy

Tomorrow, June 1, is a big day in Boston. In the midst of a heat advisory with temperatures expected in the 90s, a broad coalition of 40 community organizations and businesses are joining Mayor Menino in the Boston 500: Challenge to Save Energy, a citywide day of action to save energy, save money, and save the planet. Volunteers and organizers at more than 25 events in 12 Boston neighborhoods will aim to sign up 500 Boston residents for no-cost Renew Boston home energy assessments and weatherization.

The first Boston 500 event kicked off at 8am this morning at the administrative offices of the Boston Public Schools. The staff charged with supporting our youngest Bostonians were introduced to energy conservation strategies and became the first Renew Boston sign ups of the Challenge.

Sean Attri engages a Boston Public School staff  member about Renew Boston in the first Boston 500 event.

Sean Attri talks to a Boston Public School staffer at the first Boston 500 event.

At 9am tomorrow the Challenge begins with farmers, growers, and neighborhood organizations in Adams Park, who will celebrate the grand opening of the summer’s first Roslindale Farmers Market. GreeningRozzie will be giving out free trees with energy assessment signups and Boston Building Resources will display energy saving and green products for the home.

At 10:30 Boston’s Chief of Energy and Environment, Brian Swett will kick off a press conference outside the Jamaica Plain home of Laura Sylvan. Swett will announce exciting new energy efficiency incentives for Boston duplexes and triple deckers. Sylvan, the owner of a triple-decker, is hosting an “Energy Open House” from 10-12pm to invite neighbors to kick the tires on her new  Total Climate Control heating and cooling system and insulation installed by Renew Boston provider Next Step Living. Her’s is one of four “Energy Open House” events hosted by past Renew Boston customers on the day.

Continue reading ‘Boston 500: Challenge to Save Energy’

Massachusetts Residents Call Out Scott Brown, Rally Strong for Clean Air

Crossposted from

Today I got to stand next to more than 50 Massachusetts mothers, children, workers, community leaders, and people of faith to kick off something truly unique – a “crowd-funded” citizen’s campaign to hold Senator Scott Brown accountable for voting to gut the Clean Air Act. At 12:00pm on the sidewalk in front of the JFK Federal Building in Boston, also known as Scott Brown’s district office, we held banners and puppets of Scott Brown and his fat cat supporters “Coal” and “Oil, signs, and a blow-up of the new ad our friends and neighbors funded.

The text of the ad read: “Senator Brown: On April 6th you voted to gut the Clean Air Act. Was it because dirty energy companies and their corporate front groups poured more than $1.9 million into your campaign last year? Are you working for people or Big Polluters?” Interested in joining us in funding the ad? Check it out here.

Continue reading ‘Massachusetts Residents Call Out Scott Brown, Rally Strong for Clean Air’

America Can Do Better

In the wake of the unraveling BP Oil Disaster, the time has come to set a deadline to phase out oil drilling and fossil fuel extraction.

Countless men and women have for generations dedicated their careers -sometimes risking their lives and their health- to power our hospitals, school buses, homes, and businesses. America owes a debt of gratitude to those in the fuel industry for greatly contributing to the early growth and success of our nation. They deserve our respect.  But their welfare remains in peril along with ours until we convert to a clean energy economy.

Aaron Dale Burkeen was a 37 year-old crewmember on the BP Deepwater Horizon oilrig. He died with 10 of his crewmates on April 20th, 2010 when the rig exploded. At his memorial service on May 25th, his family described Dale as a “caring and honorable son, brother, and father.” America can honor him and our many other energy veterans best by creating safe, dignified, and sustainable careers for their children.

Dale is one of many heartbreaking casualties of the BP Oil Disaster. After the deaths of these 11 workers, Americans learned about the scores of crab, oyster, and shrimp fishermen along the Gulf Coast being put out of business, perhaps forever, as a result of the spill. Dolphins, sea turtles, pelicans, and fish are washing ashore dead and soaked in oil. The National Guard and workers are racing against time to erect sandbag walls in hopes of saving miles of fragile wetlands and salt marshes from the oil. Watching aerial video of miles of red streaks across the sea, and giant plumes of oil swirling under the water, it is clear that this nightmare has only just begun.

It didn’t have to be this way..

Continue reading ‘America Can Do Better’

Massachusetts: Follow Our Lead

Yesterday I had the honor of delivering the Commonwealth Challenge to Massachusetts lawmakers, asking them to pass “An Act to Create a Repower Massachusetts Emergency Task Force”, a bill that would set up a task force to pursue 100% clean electricity by 2020. Marla Marcum and I delivered a letter describing the results of the campaign along with the 350 names (coincidence?) of those who have taken the Commonwealth Challenge Pledge to the 160 Massachusetts State Representatives and 40 State Senators.

Thanks to the actions of the Commonwealth Challenge participants and the courageous efforts of the Leadership Campaign, yesterday afternoon Chairman John Binienda indicated that he would have the conversations necessary to move our bill out of the Rules Committee in the House of Representatives. This is a critical step that would allow the bill to get a full hearing.

Earlier in the day, I was privileged to announce (dressed in Colonial brown) the accomplishments of the Commonwealth Challenge at the “Climate Courage Awards” in the Massachusetts State House:

Commonwealth Challenge

Continue reading ‘Massachusetts: Follow Our Lead’


I have to agree with what author Bill McKibben had to say last Thursday about federal climate policy:

“The Obama administration has done more in its year and a half in office on climate change than all the other presidents of the global warming era combined. On the other hand, you know, I’ve drunk more beer than my twelve-year-old niece.”

The same could be said for climate policy in Massachusetts. Compared to a lot of places, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is ahead of the curve on climate change and green job creation. The average Bay State resident burns 13.24 tons of CO2 per year, 9th lowest in the United States. In the last 20 years, Massachusetts has lowered per capita CO2 emissions by about 1.6%. The trouble is, the laws of physics and chemistry don’t give points for effort. Either emissions will be reduced aggressively enough to avoid dangerous tipping points for the earth’s climate, or not.

According to the landmark “Copenhagen Diagnosis” released in December 2009, to “secure a decent chance of avoiding dangerous human interference with the climate system”, the world must reduce emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2020 and 85-90% below 1990 levels by 2050. In Massachusetts, that would mean getting from about 13.5 tons of CO2 per person per year in 1990 to around 8 tons by 2020 and 2 tons by 2050. Getting there is going to take courage.

Massachusetts Legislators don’t have to look far to see what leadership looks like. On March 4th a coalition of 32 organizations and businesses came together to form the Commonwealth Challenge. The campaign is producing results..

Continue reading ‘Courage’

“Hi. I’m Josh. I’m your neighbor. I live down the street on Grampian Way.”

I said those four sentences about 20 times in three hours on Saturday. It was just before I asked one of my neighbors if they had thought about ways to save energy in their home and would they like to sign up for the Commonwealth Challenge? It’s a funny thing, meeting your neighbors. I remember watching movies where people would welcome new people to the neighborhood with a home-baked pie. Have you ever gotten a home-baked pie? Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve never gotten a pie and I don’t usually take time to meet my neighbors. This is nice though. Now as I’m walking from the train to my house, I can say “Hey Neal!” or “What’s up Angela?” instead of nodding my head “Hello”.

A local energy professional checks for insulation in a Boston apartment

The Commonwealth Challenge is building community. Massachusetts neighbors are helping their neighbors save a little money, find a job, and do something about the most daunting crisis the planet has ever seen – climate change. If we are going to weather the storms ahead, we are going to have to learn how to come together. The Challenge is also about bridging the personal and the political. Let’s take the example of Angela, a woman I met on Saturday, to see how it works:

1. She signs up. On Saturday, I asked Angela if she would be willing to get an energy screening in her house to identify options for insulating and retrofitting the place. After I explained that screening was funded through the MassSAVE program she was already paying for through a $.0025/kWh charge each month on her utility bill, she said “sure” and signed up. Continue reading ‘“Hi. I’m Josh. I’m your neighbor. I live down the street on Grampian Way.”’

Commonwealth Challenge: Will Massachusetts Lead the Next American Revolution?

Today Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino announced a $63 million investment to retrofit 4300 public housing units. The plan trumps Chicago’s $43 million project as the nation’s largest energy efficiency investment in public housing.

Mayor Menino’s announcement comes after Massachusetts finalized a three-year plan to triple utility investments in energy efficiency. Boston and the State of Massachusetts are moving toward a clean energy future. But will it be enough?

An emerging coalition of faith, business, environmental, and workforce development groups are joining The Leadership Campaign in challenging the Massachusetts State Legislature to double-down on recent clean energy and energy efficiency investments by creating a task force to achieve 100% clean electricity by 2020. The campaign – The Commonwealth Challenge, launched on March 4th – is not your typical political initiative.

Continue reading ‘Commonwealth Challenge: Will Massachusetts Lead the Next American Revolution?’

Climate Generation: A History of Energy Action (2005)

As a tribute to the inspiring Climate Generation series, I thought I would re-publish this early history of Energy Action, originally written in December 2005.

A History of Energy Action

We each arrived on the scene from different beginnings. Billy Parish, Adi Nochur, and Meg Boyle were taking time in and out of school to pull together a powerful new climate coalition in the Northeast U.S.. Maureen Cane, Arthur Coulston, and Marcia Winslade were establishing their own sustainability network in California after a major clean energy victory at one of the nations’ largest university systems. Lindsay Telfer and Jeca Glor-Bell were spearheading an innovative sustainable campuses initiative in Canada as part of the Sierra Youth Coalition. Nick Algee and Liz Veazey were storming through the American Southeast shouting “Green Power” in the heart of coal country. Tricia Feeney and I were building a national student clean energy campaign with the Student Environmental Action Coalition. We were joined by networks, campaigns, and individuals from all corners of the US and Canada, all committed to bringing about a clean energy revolution. With relatively little national organizing experience and few of us over the age of 25, we set out to tackle the beasts of global warming and dirty energy by creating a North American youth and student clean energy and climate coalition rooted in unified action.

Thanks to the efforts of more than 20 environmental networks and organizations and more than 300 student campaigns for clean energy across the United States and Canada, the student and youth clean energy movement has become a powerful force for change locally, regionally, nationally, and globally. As is so often the case with important movements, our network grew out of several small, but forceful local examples initiated by students and young people. In the mid to late 1990s, Middlebury College, Tufts University, Northland College, and University of Vermont all made significant clean energy achievements. Students played an important role at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 where the seeds were planted for a concerted international response to the problem of global warming. Between 1997 and 2001, University of Vermont, Tufts University, Cornell University, and Lewis and Clark College in Oregon had all committed to or achieved the greenhouse gas emission reduction levels called for in the Kyoto Protocol. By 2001, 55 colleges in New Jersey had committed to reducing greenhouse gas levels to 3.5% below 1990 levels. The student campaign, “Kyoto Now!” at Cornell was particularly important for the growth of the national movement.

Continue reading ‘Climate Generation: A History of Energy Action (2005)’

Will the Real Massachusetts Please Stand Up?

Today is important. The eyes of America are on Massachusetts as voters head to the polls from 7:00am to 8:00pm to decide who will replace the late Senator Ted Kennedy. I’m anxious. Martha Coakley, the candidate who supports putting a price on carbon, regulating Wall Street’s many abuses and finally expanding health care in this country is in serious danger of losing.
Bay State residents are pissed off right now. And for good reason. The U.S. Congress is messed up. To stay elected, representatives have to spend countless hours schmoozing with interest groups at fundraising dinners all year long. Since President Obama was elected with 68% of the electoral votes last fall, things have gotten even worse in Washington. Senate Republicans have turned the filibuster from a last resort into a baby rattle used at every opportunity. The result has been a toxic environment where decent ideas get watered down and delayed for months.
Toward the end of the Clinton administration, my mom and I had a conversation about change. I was home for the holidays after my third semester in college. I’d learned about issues like the abuses of the WTO, the next generation of nuclear weapons being built in Tennessee, and the oncoming climate crisis. I was really confused how a country with such a long history of people fighting for justice and freedom could be so resistant to progress on important moral challenges. My mom told me that in the United States change does happen, but it often takes longer than you hope. She warned that as I hold strong to my convictions, it’s important to stay grounded in the big picture.

What the Haiti Quake Means for the Climate Movement

As the planet heats up, disasters are becoming more frequent and severe. When they hit, the most vulnerable among us often bear the brunt of the impact. Haiti is a country with a long history of slavery and struggle. In recent years their people have been ravaged by hurricanes, corruption, and severe poverty. Add Tuesday’s magnitude 7.0 earthquake with aftershocks in a city of 2 million to that picture and imagine what people are going through.
As I write this, people are still trapped underneath broken buildings waiting to be rescued. For hours, days, and weeks ahead people will need medical care, food, water, and support. For years to come, Port-au-Prince will need people who are invested in their recovery emotionally, physically, and economically.
Planet Green has a list of 10 ways you can help to get blankets, medical supplies, water, and relief to the people of Haiti right now. At the least, please take 10 seconds to text “Yele” to 501501. This will automatically donate $5 to the relief efforts of the Yele Haiti Foundation through your cell phone bill. If you have other good actions people can take, please share them in the comments of this post.
In this time of distress, climate change is probably the last thing on many peoples’ minds. However, as someone whose life is centered on the issue, every time a natural disaster hits, I think about fossil fuels. Most people associate climate change with sea level rise, droughts, floods, and storms. In recent years researchers have uncovered evidence that as sea levels rise and water or ice is displaced, pressure on the underlying rock can trigger seismic or volcanic activity.

Josh Lynch

Josh Lynch works to bring people together for clean energy and green jobs. As Co-Founder of Energy Action Coalition, he was instrumental in building a diverse youth-led alliance that has become a force in U.S. politics. Serving as Campaign Manager for Green For All in 2008, he coordinated Green Jobs Now, the first national day of action for green collar jobs. In 2009 he led the Green Recovery For All Initiative, empowering low-income people and people of color to leverage stimulus dollars for green collar jobs and training. Josh graduated from the College of Wooster with a major in Philosophy. He now lives and works in Boston.

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