Students: It’s time to Spring into action!

[Posted on behalf of Lauren Ressler]

We, the millennial generation, have a reason to be angry. We are less likely to find employment than our parents and more likely to end up with staggering amounts of student loan debt. My graduating class, the class of 2011 left school with an average of $22,500 in student loan debt*. As a recent grad saddled with a total slightly greater than this, I feel the sum lurking nearby as I buy groceries, mail my rent check, or silently debate whether I am really sick enough to miss a day of work. Yes, anger is justified, but unless we do something constructive with these feelings, our financial burdens will not get lighter. We must learn to organize.

The 99% Spring trainings happening across the country this March and April will give us a chance to do just that. I attended a Training for Trainers event this weekend because I am tired of feeling like there is no way out of the vicious cycle of indebtedness I entered into when I decided to get a college degree. At the event I met a 25 year old man who had been hit by a car on his way to work three years ago and completed his shift that day because he didn’t have insurance to pay for a hospital visit. He now suffers from chronic pain that he isn’t sure will ever leave him. Continue reading ‘Students: It’s time to Spring into action!’

Power Shift West: Registration Open!

Across the country a bold movement is emerging to demand a clean and sustainable future. People of all ages and backgrounds are coming together to show industry and politicians that we will not let our country continue its dangerous addiction to fossil fuels and youth are at the forefront. Whether it is in DC resisting the disastrous Keystone XL pipeline, in Appalachia resisting the destructive process of mountaintop removal or in cities resisting the placement of toxic industries near low-income communities our generation is taking a crucial role in this process.

In the Pacific Northwest, we face numerous and complex problems. There is the export of coal to Asian markets, the expansion of clear cutting in ancient forests, the importation of tar sands equipment, unsustainable food systems, close ties between industry and politicians, and the ongoing inequity in the distribution of environmental harm in our own communities. Yet we also know how powerful we are when we come together as a movement. Youth environmental activists have been victorious in gradually phasing out coal plants, defeating LNG export terminals, and passing some of the boldest climate legislation in the country.

That is why on November 4th-6th, members of the youth environmental movement from up and down the west coast are going to Eugene for Power Shift West. The weekend long conference will have speakers, panels, skill building workshops and opportunities to network with other leaders of the youth climate movement. We gather to deepen our understanding of the systems that are destroying the environment and to develop tools to dismantle those systems and construct equitable and sustainable alternatives.

We demand a viable future where the health of our communities and our land is put above the profit of corporations. Come join us and be part of this growing movement.

Get involved today by registering to join us at Power Shift West.

Attend on Facebook & follow us on Twitter.

When energy is the problem, oil can no longer be the solution

Cross posted from on behalf of Lauren Ressler

Our last day in New Orleans was a productive one, and the people that we were able to meet with today clarified many of the issues that we have discussed thus far. Throughout this weeklong expedition we have heard a variety of different perspectives on the oil spill, and today’s experiences helped tie everything together for us.

In the morning we met with Professor Mitch Crusto, who teaches environmental law courses and specializes in environmental management at Loyola School of Law. Having been exposed to some fairly extreme views on both sides of the oil spill debate, Professor Crusto’s objectivity on the topic was a welcome change.  In describing the history of the oil industry in Louisiana and the corporate culture that opens the door for disasters like the BP spill, Crusto reiterated many of the concerns that had been voiced by the groups we met with earlier in the trip.   What made Crusto’s remarks compelling, however, was his analysis of the problem and the possible solutions moving forward.

At the root of the BP spill is Louisiana’s reliance on – and America’s addiction to – oil as the primary source of energy.  In Louisiana, the oil industry is a primary economic driver, employing a substantial portion of the state’s population and contributing heavily to state tax revenues.  A desire to reign in oil companies by enacting tougher environmental and safety regulations is always met with hostility by those who value the economic benefits that the industry provides.  Indeed, oil is a practically indispensable component of Louisiana’s economy.   If the state will not regulate the oil industry for fear of economic repercussions, how do we avoid environmental disasters in the future? Continue reading ‘When energy is the problem, oil can no longer be the solution’

Booms, Boats, and Insider Trading

Cross-posted from on behalf of Lauren Ressler

A bleary eyed crew of Seattle University students began the day in much the same way they would at home: with a fresh cup of coffee. We had arranged an early meeting with an official from the Department of Homeland Security who had been stationed at the Unified Command Center on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain since late April, soon after the rig sank. He spent two hours briefing us on everything from the early response, to the BP Deepwater Horizon’s distress signals, to the current status of the remediation process.

Here are just a few of the key points we gleaned from this informative conversation:

  • We began by first discussing the containment efforts by BP and the government. This complex topic included a breakdown of the timeline from the initial responses to the distress calls and the difficulties faced assessing the situation in the first days when sediment stirred up by the rig was impeding visibility of the remote operated vehicles (ROVs). The DHS official admitted that the boom, which was a focal point of the media throughout the 24/7 coverage, was primarily a cosmetic solution that did not have much success sequestering oil.
  • Our conversation then turned to details of the “vessels of opportunity” hired by BP that employed local fishermen, shrimpers, and what would become anyone with a boat to collect oil with booms and skimmers. Any boat over thirty-five feet in length was compensated $2,500.00 a day plus fuel costs. A more modest compensation of $1,700.00 was given to boats under 35 feet in length plus fuel costs. This ad hoc contracting was important as it allowed fishermen to earn a wage while their primary means of income were inaccessible due to fishery closures and oil encroachment on habitat. However, as the fisheries reopened and these people began to return to work, they found that it was more and more difficult to turn a profit due in part to concerns of hydrocarbon contamination in the seafood. We will be speaking to members of the fishing and shrimping community later on in the week to examine what this process was like from their perspective.
  • After this assessment of the ecological and social effects of the oil disaster, we began a deeper discussion of the national implications of both the spill and containment attempts on financial markets. As mentioned before, many national and local entities were involved and working at the Unified Command Center. However, a somewhat unexpected agency turned up proving to hold high stakes in the issue surrounding the eventual containment of the oil. Anticipating the potential for improper gains in stock trading, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) set up shop at the UCC to monitor all correspondence and communication within the command center to ensure there was no insider trading being leaked from within the central hub of command.

Obviously much more was covered in this lengthy conversation, but so as not to overwhelm audience, we will be discussing many other issues that arose during the conversation in posts to follow. This account was delivered candidly, and with first hand experiences of many aspects of the clean up efforts. While many have criticized the efforts of the Unified Command throughout its tenure, it is important to remember it was staffed by dedicated individuals working 16-20 hour days for over three months as these tragic events unfolded.

Open letter to John Carson about the White House Youth Forum

(Jon Carson was the field director for the Obama campaign and is now the chief of staff at the Council on Environmental Quality. He moderated the White House’s Youth Clean Energy Economy Forum that took place on December 2nd)

Dear Jon Carson,

I would like to say thank you for helping to create the Youth Clean Energy Economy Forum, and I was honored to attend. The number of cabinet members that attended is a testament to how much this administration cares about the voice of my generation, and the fact that this was a discussion and not a photo op shows that the Obama Administration really cares about engaging with the clean energy movement. This was a great first step toward closer collaboration between the White House and the youth movement. However, I did have a few concerns that I would like to address.

First, at the end of the evening, you told us to look at the big picture and not focus on what hasn’t been done, but look at how far we have come. I think that, generally, this is a good idea, and for any other movement I would agree with you. But we are not like past movements. Continue reading ‘Open letter to John Carson about the White House Youth Forum’