Archive for the 'Political Participation' Category

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’

Enbridge Greeted With Vocal Opposition at BC Hearings

This week, the Joint Review Panel has been holding hearings in Victoria about the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline. Just today, the Dogwood Initiative tweeted:

Final speaker of the day makes it official! 141 OPPOSED – in favour, ZERO at the #yyj #Enbridge #JRP hearings #bcpoli

Earlier in the week, several news outlets (written coverage here and TV coverage here) reported heavy police presence and “armed guards” at the hearings, where the public is supposed to be able to express their opinions on the pipeline which is planned to carry over 500,000 barrels of tar sands per day from Alberta to the Pacific Coast where it will be exported. Organizers with Social Coast organized events outside of the hearings and criticized the undemocratic nature of the hearings. “They are public hearings, are they not?” asked Eric Nordal of Social Coast. The format of the hearings taking place this month and next in Victoria, Vancouver, and Kelowna are having a different format than previous hearings on the same pipeline. People who have registered to speak are asked to speak to the panel one at a time, while others wait in a separate observation room. A few months ago, there were also updates as to what people were allowed to speak about, prohibiting people to address issues such as climate change.

The following is a release sent out by Rising Tide-Vancouver, Coast Salish Territories. A long list of endorsers indicates the broad-based opposition to Enbridge, and other pipelines that would bring fossil fuels to the coast and across unceded Inidgenous territories.

Media Release-January 7th, 2013

Enbridge Panel to be Greeted with Loud Demonstration
Diverse list of grassroots groups demand consent not consultation

When the Enbridge pipeline joint Environmental Assessment and Energy Board hearings open in Vancouver on January 14th they will be greeted by community members determined to make their opposition heard on the streets and inside the hearing room. A large, noise demonstration will march through downtown Vancouver in full support of the self-determination of Indigenous communities, and their rights to say no to oil and gas pipelines across their territories.

The Harper government has gutted Canada’s already weak environmental laws, giving cabinet the final say on pipeline projects and making the Joint Review Panel hearings merely a public relations (consultation) exercise. This undemocratic change attempts to remove the rights of communities to say no to big oil corporations. Continue reading ‘Enbridge Greeted With Vocal Opposition at BC Hearings’

Minneapolis Energy Options: Energy, Markets, and Democracy

Cross-posted from Solutionaries.net referencing a Minneapolis Star Tribune opinion piece published May 23: http://www.startribune.com/opinion/commentaries/153296235.html

Last November, I sat down with a couple of long-time Environmental Justice organizers in Minnesota and had a conversation about Minneapolis’s energy future. I had been notified by an lawyer that the franchise agreements (20 year agreements that allow the major local utilities to use the public right of way to distribute electricity and natural gas to Minneapolis energy users in exchange for paying Minneapolis about $24 million annually) were expiring in 2014. In our conversation, we figured we should do something about it to ensure the next 20 years of energy development was founded on energy efficiency, clean energy, and community ownership of our energy system.

Fast forward six months and we have a coalition of a dozen groups leading the Minneapolis Energy Options campaign, support from many of our local elected officials, and insight into the many ways that state regulation partners with utilities to limit the options cities have taking steps towards more affordable, efficient, clean, and community-based energy development. We’ve learned of the work of dozens of other cities that have moved to take control of their energy purchasing, generation, and/or distribution, whether through innovative franchise agreements with cooperative utilities, community choice aggregation (which allows a local governments to choose what power they buy, distributed by the local utility), and forming new municipal energy utilities. We believe Minneapolis should keep its options open rather than locking in 20 more years of business as usual – we want to enable the city to explore the option of municipalizing while evaluating negotiations of the franchise with an eye towards enabling Minneapolis residents and businesses to take charge.

And recently, we opened that discussion in an Op Ed in the Star Tribune: http://www.startribune.com/opinion/commentaries/153296235.html

Read more about what we could achieve and what this means for energy action, democracy, and how movements relate to markets:

Continue reading ‘Minneapolis Energy Options: Energy, Markets, and Democracy’

How the People Got Their Groove Back: What a Bunch of Farmers Can Teach a Bunch of Occupiers About How to Keep on Going

[Written by Ash Sanders. Originally published as a zine, which you can download and print (6 double-sided sheets folded into a 24 half-page booklet). Online version cross-posted from peacefuluprising.org]

Not so long ago, Americans witnessed the beginning of a mass democratic uprising. Thousands of average people, disgusted by greedy elites and corporate control of government, launched a movement that spread to almost every state in the nation. They did it to reject debt. They did it to fight foreclosures. They did it to topple a world where the 1 percent determined life for the other 99. And they did all of it against incredible odds, with a self-respect that stymied critics.

The year? 1877. The people? Dirt-poor farmers who would come to be known as Populists.

Now it’s 2011, and the People are stirring again. It’s been over two months since a few hundred dreamers pitched their tents in Zuccotti Park and stayed.

These people weren’t Populists, but they had the same complaints. They couldn’t make rent. They had no future. They lived in a nation with one price for the rich and another for the poor. And they knew that whatever anyone said that they didn’t have real democracy.

Okay, and so what? What do a bunch of century-dead farmers have to do with the Occupy movement? Well, quite a lot, actually.

You see, the Populists came within an inch of changing the entire corporate-capitalist system. They wanted a totally new world, and they had a plan to get it. But as you may have noticed, they didn’t. And now here we are, one hundred years later, occupying parks where fields once stood. We’re at a crucial phase in our movement, standing just now with the great Everything around us—everything to win or everything to lose. It’s our choice. And that’s good, because the choices we make next will echo, not just for scholars and bored kids in history class, but in the lives we do or don’t get to have. The good news is this: the Populists traveled in wagons and left us their wheels. We don’t have to reinvent them. We’re going in a new direction, but I have a feeling they can help us get there.

Occupy has done a lot of things right, and even more things beautifully. But strategy has not been our forte. That was okay at first, even good. We didn’t have one demand, because we wanted it all. So we let our anger grow, and our imagination with it. We were not partisan or monogamous to one creed. That ranging anger got 35,000 people on the Brooklyn Bridge after the Wall Street eviction, and hell if I’m not saying hallelujah. But winter is settling now, and cops are on the march. Each week we face new eviction orders, and wonder how to occupy limbo.

It’s time for a plan, then, some idea for going forward. This plan should in no way replace the rhizomatic-glorious, joyful-rip-roarious verve of the movement so far. It can occur in tandem. But we need a blueprint for the future, because strategy is the road resistance walks to freedom.

In that spirit, I sat down a few years ago and devoted myself to studying social movements of the past. I wanted to see what I could learn from them—where they went wrong, where they went right. I didn’t trust this exercise to random musings. No, like a good Type A kid, I made butcher paper lists of past movement features and mapped them onto current ones. I asked: What is the revolt of the guard for the climate movement? What’s the modern anti-corporate equivalent of the Boston Tea Party?

As I read, I learned a lot about the phases movements go through as they form, what common features they share, and what often breaks them apart.

I could name these phases myself, but it’s already been done. And no one has named them better than historian Lawrence Goodwyn, a thinking human if there ever was one and the author of The Populist Moment.

Goodwyn said that successful movements go through four stages:

Continue reading ‘How the People Got Their Groove Back: What a Bunch of Farmers Can Teach a Bunch of Occupiers About How to Keep on Going’

Montana Youth Call for a Weekend of Action Against Coal Exports

Note: yesterday a group of youth activists at the University of Montana (including myself) drafted a call for a weekend of action to protect communities from the coal exports industry.  Coal export projects may well be the largest single threat to the planet right now; and those of us in the heart of coal country need all the help we can get to win this fight. Please see below for the official call to action.

Call for a Weekend of Action to Stop Coal Exports

We, youth climate activists at the University of Montana, are calling for a regional weekend of action to protect the greater Northwest from coal exports.  The action will coincide with the weekend of Rocky Mountain Power Shift, February 17th-19th.  That weekend, hundreds of youth climate activists will converge on the University of Montana campus to exchange success stories, hear from movement leaders, learn from each other, and take action to promote solutions to climate change.

On Sunday, Feb 19th, we will march through downtown Missoula to protest an increase in coal exports (this action is not officially endorsed by Power Shift in any way).  We will draw attention to key politicians and industries who are financing and pushing coal export proposals.

If we can show that people across the greater Northwest region are concerned about this issue, we will dramatically increase our chances of success.  We are asking you to organize an action in your community on the weekend of Feb 18th, in solidarity with this region-wide effort.

If coal exports increase, it will further jeopardize the health of communities along the rail line, from eastern Montana to the West Coast.  Coal trains are a source of toxic coal dust and diesel fumes, noise pollution, and traffic congestion.  Energy companies plant to ship Montana coal to China and nearby countries, where it will be burned and contribute to climate change and global mercury pollution.

We appreciate any support you can give us in the fight against increased coal exports.  You can take action in your hometown by leading a march, rallying on a street corner, holding a teach-in, lobbying elected officials, or coming up with some other type of action….get creative!

Here in Montana, we are organizing in the heart of coal country.  However, this issue affects all of us.  To make progress toward the goal of stopping exports and protecting our communities, we need your help.  Let us know if you can hold an action the weekend of February 18th, by filling out the form at this link.  Thanks for anything you can do, and let’s work together to bring about a cleaner, brighter future!

Blue Skies & Coal Don’t Mix Campaign at the University of Montana

Bellingham Students Speak Out for a Clean Energy Future

This guest post was contributed by Eric Jensen, a student activist at Western Washington University

Wednesday night, outside of a heated local candidates debate about a proposed massive coal export terminal just ten miles from Western Washington University, a group of students with the Western Action Coalition decided to have a little fun while calling attention to the issue.

The coal terminal, proposed by SSA Marine and it’s minority owner Goldman Sachs, would ship coal from open pit mines in Wyoming through Bellingham, Washington and out of a port at Cherry Point, eventually reaching East Asian markets. The terminal poses a significant threat to communities near WWU: coal dust and coal runoff from open freight cars are a concern to anyone near the tracks; thriving forest would be stripped from the land at Cherry Point; and 80 acres of uncovered coal could degrade the spawning grounds of an endemic herring population, which forms the bottom of the marine food chain. The impacts are as diverse as the communities that would be affected by them.

An action organized by the Western Action Coalition with Earth First! Whatcom focused attention on some of the impacts, while calling the WWU student community to take action with their ballots this week.  Olivia Edwards, a junior studying environmental science dressed as a Salmon. Unconvinced by SSA’s arguments, she said “there are still a multitude of questions that need to be answered and that deserve to be addressed.”

Demonstrators distributed literature endorsing county council and mayoral candidates that will stick up for a sustainable economy for Bellingham and beyond. They called for electing Pete Kremen, Christina Maginnis, and Alan Black for Whatcom County Council and Dan Pike for Bellingham Mayor – all of whom have been endorsed by Washington Conservation Voters.

Continue reading ‘Bellingham Students Speak Out for a Clean Energy Future’

Thoughts following Midwest Powershift

Cross-posted from http://www.solutionaries.net by Ruby Levine

I spent the weekend at Midwest Powershift in Cleveland. Among the rallies, trainings, and speeches, I was able to catch some downtime with fellow Summer of Solutions program leaders and participants from around the Midwest. Especially valuable was a conversation I had with members of other Midwestern programs on Saturday night.

500 young people applaud Joshua Kahn Russell's keynote poem at Midwest Powershift in Cleveland. Photo credit Ben Hejkal.

This conversation helped me articulate two things: one, the “good environmentalists vs. the evil polluters” framing I saw a lot of other places during the conference makes me deeply uncomfortable, and two, if the green economy is going to work it needs to be the whole economy, not a side industry.

Continue reading ‘Thoughts following Midwest Powershift’

An Open Letter to My Fellow Youth Climateers

Friends,

Let’s speak frankly. In the years after the failure of a climate bill to pass the US Senate and the climate treaty implosion at Copenhagen in 2009, we’ve been wandering in the wilderness figuring out what went wrong. Sure, in 2010 California’s landmark global warming law was saved from big oil’s nefariousness, but that same election put dozens and dozens of climate deniers into office.

We’ve got this pipeline issue going on; something I’ve been arrested over and slept on the ground for. I hope we win, and I will continue doing what I can to see that we do, but the pipeline is just a symptom of larger issues central to the current system (obviously).

We are now presented with a real chance to change that system: the Occupy Movement. Given how fast our civilization is hurdling toward/past climate tipping points, we have got to change the system of government to deal with the serious problems in this country. Right now profits are more important than people and the planet, grand larceny goes un-prosecuted on Wall Street, K Street lobbyists get away with legalized bribery and money-laundering, and mega-corporations plunder anything and everything they can.

In response, something is happening in the United States that has never happened before: deliberately defying unjust laws, Americans are occupying public spaces as an ongoing protest against the excesses of the 1% that own 40% of the wealth. Many of these places are important and symbolic of the power of the 1%.

Everyone I’ve spoken to at the Occupation of DC in McPherson Square (occupydc.org) understands the necessity of dealing with climate change – climate change being a symptom of deeper problems. Last night we approved the funds to buy solar panels for our encampment so we won’t have to use a gas generator.

But if the earnestness of protestors not wanting to use fossil fuels to power their movement doesn’t convince you, how’s this: I’ve watched young friends age very quickly in this struggle to stop climate change, usually by working within the accepted channels of political action. It hasn’t worked so well. So just as Bill McKibben said, we as folks worried about climate change need to participate in this movement. Hell, even Al Gore has unabashedly endorsed the Occupy Movement.

I’ll see you at the General Assembly!

Drew

PS – Environmentalists love camping. Think of it as camping where the 1% don’t want you to!

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.

The View from Four Years Out

Cross-posted from www.solutionaries.net, where you can find more stories of young people building the green economy.

When I helped close the 2011 Twin Cities Summer of Solutions three weeks ago, I knew something amazing was happening, but in the flurry of it all I wasn’t really able to identify it. I started to get a sense of it when I first sat down at the Grand Aspirations August Gathering two weeks ago, when forty people from all over the country streamed in with wondrous stories of their work creating the green economy. By the end of the Gathering, last week, the full depth of the change was starting to dawn on me and was brought to the front of my attention when Ethan Buckner, a friend and Oakland Summer of Solutions Program Leader, said smiling at the end of a big group hug, ‘you know, we’ve created something really remarkable in the past few years’. Now, after a week of catching up and taking the next steps forward back in Minnesota, I’m finally seeing the view from four years out.

Four years ago was about 6 months after the events that got Cooperative Energy Futures and the Alliance to Reindustrialize for a Sustainable Economy off the ground – the seeds of my green economy work in the Twin Cities. It was about 6 months before the vision for the Summer of Solutions and Grand Aspirations emerged. Four years ago, there had been no national gatherings of thousands of youth activists, candidate Barack Obama was barely a competitor, and the economy had not yet tanked. The dream of a green economy was barely starting to be voiced, and the idea that we could sustain ourselves, our communities, and the future of our world by creating new ways to feed, house, power, and transport our society was an exciting but utopian ideal.

So what has changed?
Continue reading ‘The View from Four Years Out’


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