Archive for the 'Poverty' Category

Will Green Jobs Be YOUTH Jobs?

This post was co-written with Michael Davidson.

Image credit: UOPowerShift09Just in case our 5 years of swarming state capitals decked out in green hard hats, running campaigns calling for more jobs in clean energy, and vowing to only vote for candidates who support renewable energy companies hasn’t made it clear — youth really want more green jobs.

While young people have been some of the biggest advocates for green jobs, no one has really tried to answer the question of whether green jobs will be youth jobs? Will more green jobs mean more jobs for youth, or will young people miss out on the very green jobs we’ve worked so hard to create?

So far, the answer has been “we don’t know.” That’s because, despite all of the green jobs studies that have been done, none of them has really looked at the different kinds of people who actually get green jobs (one exception is for income and education level). This is especially true across different races, ethnicities, genders, and, yeah, ages. So, we set out to change that, writing the first study we know of to look at youth access to green jobs, and also the first written by youth. Continue reading ‘Will Green Jobs Be YOUTH Jobs?’

Youth Forge Solutions Nationwide – All Are Welcome

At a youth climate meeting in Minnesota in January 2008, a neat idea emerged from discussion:

‘We need to start training young people, not just FOR green jobs, but TO CREATE green jobs. We should start in the Twin Cities this summer.’

Fast-forward three years, and over 250 young people have been trained over three years in Summer of Solutions programs around the country to create innovative and self-sustaining solutions around energy efficiency, green industry, renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, and smart transportation and design that advance job creation, social justice, and community empowerment. A network of over 70 youth leaders has coalesced to launch a national organization from nothing and develop 2011 Summer of Solutions programs that will support hundreds of youth in creating the clean energy economy in 15 cities nationwide. These programs have expanded rapidly in number, quality, and sustainability over the years without grant support, and with a major influx of funding and leadership in late 2010, we’re just hitting our stride.

As you read on, I’d encourage you to think of any young people (individuals or groups) who might be interested in a summer program based on community-based innovation in the clean energy economy. If so, please invite them to apply to any of our 15 programs nationwide by April 24th at

Continue reading ‘Youth Forge Solutions Nationwide – All Are Welcome’

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?’

Make Poverty History: Make Clean Energy Cheap

Originally published by The Stanford Review

“If you gave me only one wish for the next 50 years,” declared the world’s wealthiest man during last week’s TED 2010 conference, “I can pick who is president, I can pick a vaccine… or I can pick that [an energy technology] at half the cost with no CO2 emissions gets invented, this is the wish I would pick. This is the one with the greatest impact.”

Bill Gates is right. And he is not just talking about the impact on climate change, which does of course present a major threat. He is also talking about one of the most critical global imperatives to make poverty history: making clean energy cheap.

“If you could pick just one thing to lower the price of to reduce poverty, by far you would pick energy,” said Gates in his introduction. Gates should know as well as any development expert, since the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – the world’s largest transparent private foundation – has invested billions of dollars in extreme poverty alleviation since 1994.

Nearly 1.6 billion of our fellow human beings have no access to electricity, and around 2.4 billion people – over one third of global population – meet their basic cooking and heating needs by burning biomass, such as wood, crop waste, and dung. “Without access to modern, commercial energy, poor countries can be trapped in a vicious circle of poverty, social instability and underdevelopment,” concludes the International Energy Agency.

Continue reading ‘Make Poverty History: Make Clean Energy Cheap’

Stop the Green Tech Coup, Military Industry on the Offensive

art by daniel meltzer


Environmental NGO’s have been uncritically thumping the green tech funding plank and they’re generating funding that could be harder to hold onto than a fistful of sand in the Iraqi oilfields.

There’s a coup underway in the environmental movement. But the golpistas (coup-makers) aren’t exactly the usual suspects. They’re not the consumer product manufacturers who co-opt our messaging and re-package the same old junk with green labels. The culprits are members of the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA). War profiteers are charging, guns-drawn, into the green tech sector and eyebrows should be raised. This is a hold-up!

The new gospel of “greening” the armed forces is drawing public money that makes domestic infrastructure handouts look like pennies in a fountain. “Green Jobs” means something else entirely to these folks.

Continue reading ‘Stop the Green Tech Coup, Military Industry on the Offensive’

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.

Water: When Nightmares Come True

Retreating Lake Naivasha in May

I always thought it was a little overly dramatic when people used to say, with that gleam of fire in their eyes and intense certainty in their voices, “The next world war will be fought over water.” I didn’t notice their resigned sadness after saying that and seeing the response of the audience, of my response.

Water wars, we imagined, were decades away. Climate refugees fleeing drought and devastation would be seen in generations, not in ours. People would recognize when resources were becoming so scarce and develop cooperative strategies for conservation long before it came to the point of fighting over them. Right?

The sad climate “joke” five years ago was that we’d need to bring melting icebergs to sub-Saharan Africa to support life. But in Kenya today, aid workers are already flying water in from other countries. Today, thousands of men and women are already dying from lack of the most basic human need — water.

From NY Times: An elderly woman is given water in the Turkana region of Kenya. Many of the elderly are too weak and sick to feed themselves or drink

Today, when I repeat the phrase – “Wars will be fought over water” – with the same confidence and intensity, the same fire, and the same resigned sadness, I know that fights over water are not generations – or even years – away. We may not have another world war, but I have no question that we will see more devastation and violence, if we need to see any more than the lives being lost every day in Kenya.

There is no water to drink, let alone have water to wash hands to prevent the spread of diarrheal diseases. There is no water to drink, let alone have water to farm. Lakes have been retreating for years as water is used for farming, for geothermal energy, and for survival, and the lakes’ disappearances are threatening not only water animals like flamingos and hippos, but all of the biodiversity for which Kenya is famous.

NYT: "'We eat once a day, said Mrs. Bai, 65, explaining how she and her family had survived the lack of rain."

At the same time, in India, thousands of farmers commit suicide annually due to desperation caused by cycles of debt, but also cycles of increasing drought and irregular rain. Farmers who would rather die than face the shame and sadness of watching their families die of starvation, have killed not only themselves but their families as well. This year has been one of India’s worst monsoons in recent history, with too little rains coming too late, and often all at once.

On the brink of death, is there a question of anything but desperation?

Read more on what we can expect – and what we can do. Continue reading ‘Water: When Nightmares Come True’

Why I got “Climate Justice” tattooed on my neck.

Tattoo art by Sara Svensson (Swedish Climate Activist) and Studio Remi, Utrecht

Three reasons:

1. The principle
2. The permanence
3. I like tattoos.

From the least important to the most important, these three reasons explained…

Reason 3 – “I like tattoos”

Continue reading ‘Why I got “Climate Justice” tattooed on my neck.’

G20: A Future We Deserve

The following was part of a press briefing at the US Climate Action Network Organized press conference in Pittsburgh, USA coinciding with the G-20 Summit.  International youth gathered together to voice concerns over the need to “green” the economic recovery of the planet–high on the agenda of the world leaders gathered there. Youth Press Advisory

Two years ago at the UN Climate negotiations in Bali, Indonesia, I happened to have the opportunity to attend as a member of the US youth delegation (because I was studying in the US). Upon arriving at the negotiations and after countless hours spent submitting our policy proposals to the UN Convention I realized that there is a growing and vibrant youth movement dedicated to the cause. These youth are actively trying to influence the negotiations. I became conscious of the fact that there were not any Indian youth in this growing international youth caucus present on the sidelines of the conference. I decided to introduce myself to the Indian Government negotiators as a “youth representative.” I was met with a cold and blank stare and then asked, “youth? Shouldn’t they have the same view as their elders?” I knew then that my life would never be the same again.

To be fair, I respect my elders and I know that there are many out there who are on the “far side of fifty” (age 50 that is) who have worked hard to make the world a better place. Generations have come and gone and nearly all of them have had a defining issue to tackle. My generation, labeled the “silent generation” by Thomas Friedman, is caught behind our computers and on facebook, having struggled to come to terms with the seemingly perfect world with an uncertain future of which we are not in control.Many in the climate movement are aware of the political deadlock between developed and developing nations over the issue of climate equity and historical emissions and responsibilities. Though we claim to be talking climate for the sake of future generations, nothing that we are doing is actually putting future generations in a better environment than that enjoyed by generations passed. So let’s get serious about generational equity because those in control sure aren’t.

While the climate crisis looms, we are currently consumed by a financial crisis that has gripped the planet.Just as financial institutions played with the public’s money, we are playing with the global commons that is our climate. We already know the impacts of unabated borrowing of money that does not exist. Can we play the same game with the lives of future generations as we borrow for our unsustainable growth today?

Global leaders are meeting at the summit in Pittsburgh and on the agenda is rebuilding the planet’s economy and hopefully, cooling down the planet. Let us turn this economic crisis into an opportunity of global proportions and usher a new era of genuine, sustainable development. I come from a young country—75% youth–that is facing many challenges. My own ancestral home in the desert sands of western Rajasthan only received electricity a year ago—electricity promised to my grandfather 25 years ago. Yet it is a land bursting with opportunity. Sure enough there is an army of youth in India that are ready to take that stand and that are dreaming of a clean, green country – one which will take this opportunity to build a green economy and support the growth of a green jobs movement. With 500 million people still in the dark, there are millions to be trained in sustainable energy enterprises alone. Let us not forget that this is a country that has half a million engineers graduating annually—a potentially potent force to engineer the country into the paragon of sustainable development.

While youth are 48% of the global population they are not an official part of the negotiation process at the international level. Though many of us are silent, many more are launching revolutions to transform our local communities. I was transformed by my experience in Bali and knew that in the labyrinth process of the negotiations all sense of urgency—of our future—is lost. This hopelessness was transcended through the creation of the Indian Youth Climate Network (IYCN) which has grown in waves and caught the attention of young people, civil society, companies and the same government that questioned the role of youth on the topic two years ago. Similarly youth movements for the cause are rising across the planet—daring governments to break the deadlock. We envision a future which ensures the survival of all peoples and all nations. The debate is old and it is time for some fresh air. A bail-out for the planet is a bailout we will not regret.

Most Threatened, Least Represented

cross-posted on SustainUS’s Agents of Change blog

As reported by the BBC last week, the President of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, will have to skip the United Nations climate negotiations in Copenhagen because, well, they just can’t afford it.

The low-lying island nation is at serious risk of disappearing under rising oceans caused by global warming, but can’t afford to fight for its own survival at the negotiations, citing the financial crisis. The Maldivian economy ranked 186th in 2008, and more than 20% of Maldivians are below the poverty line, with average income per person at $4,400.800px-Male-total

It’s an extreme example of a common problem – those with the most to lose from global warming often have the least representation in the UN climate debate. All of those flights and hotels add up, and poorer countries can’t bear the costs. Many developing nations only have one or two government delegates, and the UN has a fund that only covers at most one delegate per country.

Continue reading ‘Most Threatened, Least Represented’