Archive for the '350' Category

After the State of the Union, What the President (and We) Can Do on Climate Change

Picture 26

This piece was originally published by Good

Yesterday’s State of the Union address could go down as a watershed moment in America’s transition to a clean energy economy. Two years ago, the president wouldn’t mention climate change. Last night, he spoke honestly about the issue to 40 million people and vowed that if “Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will.” The question is: Just what can President Obama do, and what will it mean for our economy and energy system?<--break->

Recent experience provides some clues. Even without a Congressional climate bill, the United States has doubled renewable electricity production over the past four years, and reduced carbon emissions to a 20-year low, even as the economy has rebounded from the worst recession since the Great Depression. We’ve also built substantial new energy industries. Solar power alone now accounts for 119,000 American jobs, spread across 5,600 companies in all 50 states. Economy-wide, there are some 2.7 million green jobs, and green job sectors are growing faster than other parts of the economy.
Some of these accomplishments are directly attributable to Obama Administration policies. The stimulus package, for instance, injected more cash into green investments than any piece of legislation in American history. New fuel efficiency standards will likewise save tens of billions of barrels of oils in the coming years. Other important pieces of the policy puzzle, such as state level Renewable Portfolio Standards, have come from different parts of the government, but still demonstrate the same principle that there are many ways to move forward on climate and energy, even in a tough political moment.
And so we come back to the present moment. Obama has again called on Congress to pass a big cap-and-trade bill, but also knows that he will be more successful in producing change through a variety of smaller initiatives.
In his speech and an accompanying policy document, the president put forward several specific proposals he will pursue in his second term, including calling for the Production Tax Credit for wind energy to be made permanent and refundable (a very big deal) and working directly with states to incentivize energy efficiency. He also issued a broader challenge to legislators, noting that he has directed his cabinet to “identify additional executive actions … which will be assessed if Congress does not take action.”
What would these executive actions look like? Perhaps the administration working through the EPA to tighten regulations on greenhouse gases—a major move that would put a substantial dent in the coal-fired power system. Maybe Obama using his convening powers to bring together a high-level commission on climate change and energy, so that we could shift from a debate about whether climate change is real to a debate about all the ways we can solve the problem. Or the president could slow the pace of fossil fuel development by taking a stand on a big project like the Keystone XL.
This last example highlights an important point about the opportunity of the next four years. The president’s ability to pursue aggressive executive actions depends on the strength of the popular coalition behind him. Obama is going to use the bully pulpit to take his energy agenda to the public. It’s up to us to show Obama that we want him to exercise the full power of his office, as aggressively as Lincoln on slavery or F.D.R. on reviving the American economy after the Great Depression.
So, let’s take Obama up on his promise of action. Let’s use our money and let’s use our feet. We need to weaken fossil fuel interests through divestment campaigns like that being organized by and invest in renewable energy through platforms like Mosaic. We also need to turn out. This Sunday, Washington D.C. will host what will likely be the largest climate rally in U.S. history, with a specific goal of stopping the Keystone XL pipeline. It’s a great moment to let Obama know: If he’s ready to take on Congress, or the fossil fuel industry, or both, we’ve got his back.

In Ohio, the People Push Back on Fracking

Tired of waiting for their leaders to ban the destructive drilling practice, citizens passed their own resolution—and took over the Statehouse to make it heard.

Originally published in Yes! Magazine

Last week an estimated 1,000 people took over the Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio to protest the destructive practice of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” Joined by others from neighboring states facing similar issues, this “People’s Assembly” rallied and marched to the Capitol building—without a permit—to decide how they, the people, could end the practice in their state.

Jamie Frederick was one of them. She had been told by doctors that it was safe to drink her well water, despite the presence of gas wells surrounding her home. She later discovered the water was contaminated with chemicals used in the fracking process. As a result, she says, she has lost her gall bladder and can’t risk having children because of fatal health risks and potential birth defects.

“If there had been solar panels and wind turbines surrounding my home instead of gas wells, I never would have gotten sick, and I would be called ‘Mom’,” she told the crowd. These days, she said, her mouth bleeds and it’s difficult to talk: “I am losing my voice more all the time. But I seem to have found it today.”

As the Assembly convened, the rotunda, filled to capacity, thundered with stomping, clapping, and chanting that was hushed when families shared experiences of being devastated by the side effects of fracking, as Frederick was. Some had been invited to testify at the Statehouse in the past, only to find empty rooms and legislators who, they felt, did not respect their concerns.

These stories had been shared throughout the lead-up to the action, with three full days committed to workshops, trainings, and cross-movement strategy sessions. Teri Blanton, of Appalachia, connected fracking to another highly destructive extraction process she has been fighting in her own neighborhood: mountaintop coal removal. “They’re trying to do to you what they’ve done to us,” she said. “‘Regulation’ just gives them permission to do it. If you think regulation works, take a look at the West Virginia strip mining.”

The Ohio Assembly ended with the passage of a “people’s legislation” to ban fracking. Though no actual law backs this resolution, it signifies a commitment by many in the state to oppose further development of fracking wells.

This July will see thousands more mobilize in Washington, D.C. for the Don’t Stop the Frack Attack rally. Grassroots communities across New York State are already speaking out against Governor Andrew Cuomo’s attempt to turn the Southern Tier of New York into a sacrifice zone for fracking. This creative, nonviolent action bubbling across the United States may turn out to be the most powerful way of halting extreme energy development at the expense of both people and the planet.

BREAKING: Activists Scale Coal Plant in Asheville, NC

UPDATE:  The 16 activists who pulled off 4 actions at the same plant have now left the site and been taken into custody. What an amazing job they did,  let’s all hope they are safe and well and get out of jail soon.

Early this morning Greenpeace activists entered the coal-burning Asheville Power Station owned by Progress Energy (soon to be owned by Duke Energy). Activists have locked down to the coal loader and have scaled the 400 foot tall smoke stack. Banners read: Duke and Progress Energy:  Stop Destroying Mountains.


Follow the Action:

Continue reading ‘BREAKING: Activists Scale Coal Plant in Asheville, NC’

70 People Arrested in Opening Day of Tar Sands Action

Our Editor, Christine Irvine at Tar Sands Action. Source: Shadia Wood

70 people from across the US and Canada were arrested at the White House this morning for the first day of a two week sit-in aimed at pressuring President Obama to deny the permit for a massive new oil pipeline. Over 2,000 more people are expected to join the daily civil disobedience over the coming days.

At stake is what has quickly become the largest environmental test for President Obama before the 2012 election. The President must choose whether or not to grant a Canadian company a permit to build a 1,700 mile pipeline from the Alberta tar sands to refineries on the gulf of mexico.

Environmentalists warn that the pipeline could cause a BP disaster right in America’s heartland, over the largest source of fresh drinking water in the country. The world’s top climatologist, Dr. James Hansen, has warned that if the Canadian tar sands are fully developed it could be “game over” for the climate.

“It’s not the easiest thing on earth for law-abiding folk to come risk arrest. But this pipeline has emerged as the single clear test of the president’s willingness to fight for the environment,” said environmentalist and author Bill McKibben, who is spearheading the protests and was arrested this morning. “So I wore my Obama ’08 button, and I carry a great deal of hope in my heart that we will see that old Obama emerge. It’s hot out here today, especially when you’re wearing a suit and tie. But it’s nowhere near as hot as it’s going to get if we lose this fight.”

McKibben was amongst those arrested today, along with the co-founder of NRDC and former White House official Gus Speth, gay rights activist Lt. Dan Choi, author and activist Mike Tidwell, Firedoglake founder Jane Hamsher, and many others. Continue reading ’70 People Arrested in Opening Day of Tar Sands Action’

Electing Our Movement

About a year before the 2008 elections, I had a conversation with a fellow organizer to the effect of “wouldn’t it be amazing if we had smart young people all over the country running for office on climate and energy?”  That idea gradually morphed into the Power Vote campaign, which sought to mobilize young voters in support of strong climate and energy candidates.

But that original vision still remains unfulfilled.

In the last four years, our movement is has grown bigger, more diverse and more experienced.  So why aren’t we running for office?

It won’t be easy (neither is stopping a coal plant).  We may be new at this (same with creating sustainable communities).  But unless we take a risk and try something a little crazy, our communities will be stuck with the same candidates as usual. Continue reading ‘Electing Our Movement’

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’

Bill McKibben: “You are the movement we need to win in the few years we have left”

Bill McKibben gave one of the most inspiring speeches on climate change I have ever heard at Power Shift.
You have to watch the video below:

Full transcript is Below the Fold.

Continue reading ‘Bill McKibben: “You are the movement we need to win in the few years we have left”’

Bringing the Power to Power Shift: From Michigan to DC

Student and youth leaders are coming to Power Shift 2011 from across the country, and they represent a vast array of environmental issues. This blog comes student activist Talya Tavor, a student leader from Michigan State University.

When I was two years old, I was diagnosed with asthma. I’ve always had anywhere from one to seven different inhalers on me at any given time. I grew up thinking that everyone had asthma, and was shocked the moment I learned otherwise. It was that moment, the moment I realized that asthma was preventable, that without my neighborhood coal plant myself and others would breathe freely, that I became an activist.

Now I study at Michigan State University where we have the largest on-campus coal plant in the country. We are huge contributors to public health, environmental, social and economic problems (to name a few)—a fact that inevitably fueled my frustration and exacerbated my asthma.

When the Beyond Coal Campaign started up on our campus a year ago, I got involved immediately. At first, the majority of students on campus didn’t even know we had a coal plant. Many students’ understanding of energy ended with putting a plug-in an outlet, never knowing what they were breathing in each day.

A year into our campaign, and after countless hours and days of work, we’ve seen an amazing change in the campus mindset. We’ve had over 5,000 students sign petitions demanding a coal free MSU, and over 170 people from all across Michigan attend a Clean Energy Forum we co-hosted on campus. We’ve also established a strong relationship with the administration in our talks about transition to clean energy.

But with all of these successes, and more, we’ve still been unable to get the administration to make a commitment of moving our campus off of coal to 100% renewable energy. And that’s why I’m here at Power Shift this year.

I’m here because I know that as the future leaders of our nation, it is up to us to empower ourselves in order to create a future we’re proud of. I’m here because I know if anyone were ever able to make a difference, it would be a group of 10,000 passionate, dedicated youths at the largest grassroots organizing training in American history.

I believe we have the power to move forward. Power Shift is just the beginning for us, a launching point to make our movement stronger both at MSU and across the country.

Talya Tavor was born and raised in Illinois, and is now a Junior at Michigan State University. She serves as President of the MSU Sierra Student Coalition with the MSU Beyond Coal Campaign and is a leader in the 286 person Michigan delegation at Power Shift.

From Bangkok to Power Shift

Cross-posted from

It’s the final day of the UN Climate Talks in Bangkok and the buzz here isn’t about the progress being made on a global treaty (not much), but about Power Shift.

Well, ok, to be honest, most delegates probably don’t know about the conference coming up in DC next weekend, but if all goes well, they will soon. After all, when it comes to saving the planet, the discussions and work that goes on in DC at Power Shift will be just as essential as the debates raging here at the UN.

Amongst civil society representatives, however, there is a building level of excitement about Power Shift and the growing climate movement.

Over the past three years, we have seen the explosion of the global climate movement. At Power Shift 2009, the organization I work with,, was little more than a small group of former students from Middlebury College and writer Bill McKibben. We spent the conference signing up students to take part in a global day of action on October 24 and Bill took the stage with a dancing 3, 5, and 0 to spread the most important number on earth: 350, as in 350 ppm, the safe level of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere that we’re already past.

Fast forward to October 24, when there were over 5,200 events in 182 countries calling for action to get to 350 ppm. CNN called it, “the most widespread day of political action in the planet’s history.” Since then, our movement has only grown. Last October, the Global Work Party brought together over 7,000 community events. now counts more than 500,000 supporters in 188 countries as part of our movement and its growing by the day. (Just yesterday, we merged with 1Sky in the US to build our movement even larger).

Power Shift will mark another turning point. Continue reading ‘From Bangkok to Power Shift’

350 EARTH: Art and Climate Change?

Art has always played a key role in social change. I remember singing “This Little Light of Mine” before I knew anything about the Civil Rights Movement. I still feel a tightening in my stomach every time I see “Guernica” and can’t avoid feeling a bit more hopeful when I see Shepard Fairey’s iconic Obama.

This November, is hosting the first planetary scale art show to try and get a new perspective on one of our first truly planetary challenges: global warming. Check out the new website here:

I’ve pasted a piece by Bill McKibben that introduces the project below, but I’m curious to hear from all of you. What role does art play in social change? What good “climate art” do you see out there? What’s the best chant or song you’ve heard, the best poster you’ve ever seen, the short film that got you moving?

The Globe as a Canvas
by Bill McKibben

The idea behind EARTH is simple—we wanted to remind everyone that we are dealing with the first truly global problem we’ve ever faced. What better way than to use that globe as a canvas, for the first truly planet-scale piece of art?

Continue reading ’350 EARTH: Art and Climate Change?’