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Youth Activists Prepare for Community-Building Journey

It’s called the Self Express: and the catchy name isn’t the only unusual thing about the 38-foot bus which a group of Northwest students and recent graduates are converting into a living space that will transport them across the country this summer.  By the time it’s finished, the former 1989 school bus will be ready to run entirely on used vegetable oil, and will be outfitted with a solar panel installation on the roof.  For the bulk of the summer it will serve as a temporary home for six youth activists determined to show that sustainable living in the twenty-first century is both possible and practical.

The Self Express project is a grassroots effort launched by youth organizers based at Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon who have a vision for a better future.  Traveling across the US in an essentially carbon-neutral vehicle, they plan to create a real-life example of community-oriented living.  The group intends to connect with local nonprofits and charities in locations they visit across the United States, performing service and volunteer work that gives back to the community.  They will also travel to and participate in key events in the US climate movement happening over the next few months. 

“I’m really interested to see what’s going on in our country,” says Katie Kann, a recent graduate of Linfield College who will be setting out on the Self Express later this month.  “I’m tired of only hearing about the negative stuff in the news, stuff that makes me sad. I want to see the good things that fellow citizens are doing to help people and improve quality of life across our country.”

In this way the Self Express project connects the hands-on solutions work needed to jumpstart a transition to a clean economy with the political organizing and activism that’s essential to building the sustained movement that will get us off fossil fuels for good.  Considering the scale of the challenge we’re facing, it’s neither logical nor useful to argue about whether climate activists should be addressing problems or building solutions.  We urgently need to do both these, things, which is why youth organizers aboard the Self Express will be connecting with community solutions projects while also facilitating communication between grassroots groups fighting fossil fuel infrastructure. Continue reading ‘Youth Activists Prepare for Community-Building Journey’

We have the Awesome

Hey climate movement, you know what I missed about us that Power Shift pumped right back into me last week?

The awesome.

Yeah, flashmobs, pranks, swiftly organized warroom tweetups, late-night dance parties of 15,000. Remember that rebellious side of us, that “we won’t take the past for an answer” side of us? Remember that “join us because this is awesome and you’re invited” side of us?

Politics is personal identity built into popular movements. The Tea Party is powerful because it ready-makes an identity for those who feel left behind by the 21st Century. It’s a safe space in a post-9/11, post financial collapse, peak-global-hegemony America. And the Tea Party’s done well wiping up a messy identity crisis by defining what they’re afraid of.

We’re also proud to define ourselves as what we’re not: we are cooler than the fossil forces of the past. They rail on chalkboards; we rally with giant puppets in the streets. They are talking heads for septuagenarians; we are sneaking into shareholder meetings and embarrassing giant fossil fuel companies. They are snarking about crosshairs on Facebook from defensive compounds in Wasilla. We are 10,000 lithe young people fighting for our future while a crotchety old pitbull like Tom Donohue screams to get off of his front yard at the US Chamber of Commerce. We are in the West Wing interrupting the President of the United States of America to remind him that energy shouldn’t kill.

But the past is where we leave the comparison. Those fearful forces haven’t got much vision for the future, and we sure do: we are identity awesome. We are the people not afraid to build something better than the assumptions handed to us.

Other American generations have staked their identities on propositions equally grand – rebelling from tyranny, beating back fascism, defending the world from communism. Our generation is staking its identity as the people responsible enough to face climate science for what it means, and political corruption for what it is. To build a cleaner, leaner, more durable and more prosperous way of life on our full tide of vibrant energy. The people smart enough to put our moral muscle to work.

But we need to remember how to have a blast doing it. Where’s the rebelliousness, the youthful energy pulling more pranks to call out our opposition? Remember when the Yes Men and the Avaaz Action Factory staged a mock press conference on the US Chamber’s “sudden” climate action? Remember when Tim DeChristopher tied on his bandanna and marched into the fray of a corrupt shareholder process? Remember when young people lay down on the train tracks against tremendous new coal facilities? (That hasn’t happened yet, but it should.)

We mustn’t abandon tried-and-true organizing tactics, nor our hard-earned insider game. And if we do rebel our way into a better world, we do so on the shoulders of giants: after all, we’re now defending the Clean Air Act that our foremothers first passed, celebrating Earth Day last week because our forefathers founded the first four decades ago. And we need the scientific white papers still, because after all, we’re fighting for a political reality that keeps pace with the chemical reality of the atmosphere. This is a movement of the young and young at heart – if you are awesome, you are in.

Crossposted from The Wonk, Climate Progress and Climate Solutions.

American Teens’ Knowledge on Climate Change

Today the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication released a new report entitled “American Teens’ Knowledge of Climate Change” based on a national study of what teens aged 13-17 understand about how the climate system works, and the causes, impacts, and potential solutions to global warming. This research provides an assessment of how much American teens have learned about climate change in and out of school. For comparison, they also report how teens’ knowledge compares with that of American adults. The report is available online here.

Overall, they found that 54 percent of American teens believe that global warming is happening, but many do not understand why. In this assessment, only 6 percent of teens have knowledge equivalent to an A or B, 41 percent would receive a C or D, and 54 percent would get an F. Overall, teens know about the same or less about climate change than adults. The study also found important gaps in knowledge and common misconceptions about climate change and the earth system. These misconceptions lead some teens to doubt that global warming is happening or that human activities are a major contributor, to misunderstand the causes and therefore the solutions, and to be unaware of the risks. Thus many teens lack some of the knowledge they need to make informed decisions about climate change both now and in the future as students, workers, consumers, homeowners, and citizens. For example, only:

  •  54% of teens say that global warming is happening, compared to 63% of adults;
  • 35% of teens understand that most scientists think global warming is happening, compared to 39% of adults;
  • 46% of teens understand that emissions from cars and trucks substantially contribute to global warming, compared to 49% of adults;
  • 17-18% have heard of coral bleaching or ocean acidification, compared to 25% of adults. Continue reading ‘American Teens’ Knowledge on Climate Change’

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?’

Create Our Climate: A Tale of Two Slam Poems (with video)

Guest post by Adi Nochur

Ever since I was a kid music and activism have both been driving forces in my life.  The sounds of the Beatles and Nirvana in my elementary school classrooms inspired me to start playing guitar, and my uncle’s tireless campaigning around environmental justice issues in India, such as dams in the Narmada River valley and the Bhopal gas disaster, ultimately moved me to become part of the youth climate movement here in the U.S. For a long time I dreamt of merging these two passions to create a driving force for change.  I thought about starting a singer/songwriter type project, singing ballads about struggles for justice and freedom.  I even had a name for the project: “Narmada Bhopal,” in tribute to the battles my uncle fought in India, and that many continue to fight to this day.  But even though I had the concept figured out, I wasn’t sure how to get it off the ground.

Then during the summer of 2004, I figured it out.  While on a retreat with a group of youth climate activists in New York City, I caught an evening of slam poetry and spoken word at the Nuyorican Poets Café on the Lower East Side.  I had never heard anything like it before, and I was amazed.  Here were people on stage without any instruments, speaking directly from the heart, twisting the English language inside out on itself (with some forays into Spanish for good measure) to tell their stories!  I thought to myself, “Hey, maybe I can do that!”

And so I did, and Narmada Bhopal was born, and the poems below became part of that project.

Continue reading ‘Create Our Climate: A Tale of Two Slam Poems (with video)’

Calling All Artists, Poets, Performers: Create Our Climate

One of the spoken word artists was performing at Power Shift 2007 and I stood captivated.  “There is something in the water.  But my melanin will not protect me from my fears.  There is something in the water…”*  It was one of the first times I truly understood the connection between art and activism.  A year and a half later I wrote and performed my first piece of spoken word at the Energy Action Coalition Power Vote training.

Art (spoken, visual, musical) communicates the emotion and passion and values behind the work that we do in a way that sticks in our memory.  On a daily basis organizers in our movement face the weight of global problems, widespread injustice and a system tilted against us, yet we persevere in large part through support and encouragement of this community. Sometimes that is best communicated through art.

Recognizing the importance of creative expression in our movement, It’s Getting Hot In Here is hosting a month-long series called “Create Our Climate,” which will feature video, poetry, prose, visual art and music from this community.  If you have already created such a piece and want to share it, sign up!  If you want to specifically create a piece for this series, sign up!

Even if you’ve never posted anything before, we want your contribution.  We are all artists and have something to share.

*To this day I still can’t find the video of that performance.  If anyone knows where I can find it, please share!

James Cameron, the Oscar’s, and the Real-Life ‘Avatar’.

It’s Oscar time and people are all counting the days until we can sit down, play the Oscar polls, critique the Oscar De La Renta dresses, and cringe at the hot mess that is Mariah Carey. Oddly enough I’m now eagerly waiting with them this year; not to compare my impeccable eye for style, or guess the winner of the Best Song (Weary Heart, from Crazyheart duh), but to see if James Cameron, director of that little movie that could, will put some action where his mouth is.

In recent weeks James Cameron himself has been calling Avatar a catalyst for environmental action saying he now wants to “use the spotlight that’s been put on him by Avatar’s success to bring attention to environmental causes“. This caught the eye of Rainforest Action Network’s Becky Tarbotton. On yesterday’s San Francisco Chronicle website Tarbotton started a call to Mr. Cameron to help expose the “real-life Avatar” that Chevron continues to enable in Ecuador.

In the article Tarbotton asks:

“What if in his acceptance speech James Cameron mentioned the real-life Indigenous Ecuadorean heroes who are battling the real-life evil oil corporation Chevron?

She then continues:

If Director James Cameron accepts an Academy Award next month, he should let his faithful fans know that while Pandora is fictional, what is happening to communities in Ecuador because of Chevron’s actions is as real as it gets.”

Continue reading ‘James Cameron, the Oscar’s, and the Real-Life ‘Avatar’.’

Hip Hop Caucus Clean Energy Now! Bus Tour Gets Rolling

Kicking off today in New Orleans, Consequence youth partners are teaming up with the Hip Hop Caucus, Repower America and a diverse coalition of organizations to launch the Hip Hop Clean Energy Now! Bus Tour, an exciting initiative to amplify the voices of the young people and communities of color calling for a clean energy future.

Over the next week, the tour will swing through 5 states, bringing together leaders from the faith, business, and climate communities alongside entertainers and prominent figures, including DJ Biz Markie, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, actress Gloria Reuben, performer D. Woods and many others.

Hip Hop Clean Energy Bus rolling in style Continue reading ‘Hip Hop Caucus Clean Energy Now! Bus Tour Gets Rolling’

Call to action by Naomi Klein, Terry Tempest Williams, Bill McKibben, Dr. James Hansen and Peaceful Uprising

[The following was co-written by Naomi Klein, author of #1 international bestseller The Shock Doctrine, Terry Tempest Williams, world renowned wildlife author, Bill Mckibben, founder of and author of The End Of Nature, and Dr. James Hansen, author of Storms of my Grandchildren, and who is regarded as the world's leading climatologist. All recognize the trial of Tim DeChristopher to be a turning point in the climate movement. Please visit our resource page for more information]

Dear Friends,

The epic fight to ward off global warming and transform the energy system that is at the core of our planet’s economy takes many forms: huge global days of action, giant international conferences like the one that just failed in Copenhagen, small gestures in the homes of countless people.

But there are a few signal moments, and one comes next month, when the federal government puts Tim DeChristopher on trial in Salt Lake City. Tim—“Bidder 70”– pulled off one of the most creative protests against our runaway energy policy in years: he bid for the oil and gas leases on several parcels of federal land even though he had no money to pay for them, thus upending the auction. The government calls that “violating the Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing Reform Act” and thinks he should spend ten years in jail for the crime; we call it a noble act, a profound gesture made on behalf of all of us and of the future. Continue reading ‘Call to action by Naomi Klein, Terry Tempest Williams, Bill McKibben, Dr. James Hansen and Peaceful Uprising’

Climate Generation: Reshaping the Flow of Power

My journey in the movement has been one of critical engagement with the status quo, my peers, and my assumptions. Strategy sessions, marches, actions,  speeches, lobby meetings, countless emails and googledocs, rallies, conversations, books, and periods of reflection have constructed the vantage point from which I write today. This is a lengthy post. In it, I will recount personal experience and observations, present the bones of a theoretical framework for redirecting our movement, offer a critique of current strategies, and begin a conversation on what would constitute an effective strategy. It’s probably a bit much for one blog post, but I hope that you will take the time to read it and offer your perspective on the topics at hand. I write out of love and respect for the many amazing people who have shaped me and my work to this point.

In August 2007, I participated in the Sierra Student Coalition’s annual leadership gathering, Shindig. At Shindig, I connected with dozens of inspiring youth leaders from around the nation. Leaving that week I saw myself as one person in a network of groups and individuals leading the way to a carbon-free future. I knew that by organizing our fellow students and communities to demand clean energy from the powers-that-be we could secure a sustainable and prosperous future. It was with this conviction that I returned to Michigan and threw myself into my new role as student coordinator of the Michigan Student Sustainability Coalition on the eve of Power Shift 2007. Continue reading ‘Climate Generation: Reshaping the Flow of Power’

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