Archive for the 'Americas' Category

Northeast High School Students Slash Carbon, Win $1,000

In partnership with the National Grid Foundation, an amazing organization that creates opportunities for solutions to educational and environmental issues, the Alliance for Climate Education (ACE) hosted the Green Dependence Day Challenge this past fall. Together, we challenged thousands of high school students in select regions across the Northeast to combat climate change.

And at long last, the results are in – and we are thrilled to share them with you today!

First… a little context. To win the Green Dependence Day Challenge in the first place, high school students in New York City, Long Island, Upstate New York, and New England viewed the award-winning ACE Assembly on climate science and solutions. Then, they worked with ACE to take on carbon emissions-reducing projects—anything from implementing recycling programs to conducting energy efficiency retrofits to installing solar panels. Students reported the number and scope of carbon-reducing projects that they completed. The winners in each region would take home $1,000 to implement their next great green ideas.

More than 26 schools across New York and New England competed in the contest and completed projects such as carrying out energy audits, or implementing recycling programs. Out of these entrants, 4 regional winners and 2 runner-ups emerged! Without further delay, here they are:

GRAND PRIZE WINNERS

New England Winner: Somerville High School
Somerville has developed a strong classroom recycling program and through their winning project, they will develop a recycling program in their cafeteria as well as other high-use areas of the school such as the gym and the auditorium. The project will involve placing large recycling bins in new areas and an extensive peer education campaign that involves loudspeaker announcements, posters, and incentives. This project will impact the entire school, which has 1,300 students, and it will reach many students who may not be interested in environmental issues otherwise. They will measure their progress by weighing the trash before the project, and again in May 2012. They aim to reduce their trashload by 15% by June 2012.

Upstate New York Winner: Steinmetz Career & Leadership Academy
The Steinmetz Academy’s Action Team is working tirelessly to eliminate environmental pollutants and waste. Their winning project will help reduce and eventually eliminate their school’s use of styrofoam. They will also begin recycling and collecting all paper and cardboard. Last, through this project, they will recycle all cans and bottles produced. They expect that if they are able to eliminate styrofoam, they will reduce their waste by more than 3,600 “lunch trays” per month – a huge savings! Similarly, they estimate they will save more than four 90 gallon containers of paper waste each week.

New York City Winner: Brooklyn International High School
Brooklyn International’s Green Leaders Club will replace two broken water fountains and encourage fellow students to use reusable water bottles. They will also collect plastic water bottles and recycle them. The school will decrease the number of students buying water by approximately 30%, and recycle 50% more plastic water bottles.

Long Island Winner: Mineola High School
Mineola’s Environmental Club collects any kind of bottle cap – water bottle, shampoo, laundry detergent caps – and recycles them. Through their participation in the bottle cap recycling program, they have raised awareness about the importance of recycling and how waste can be ‘up-cycled’ into other goods. Through their winning project, in spring 2012 the Club will bring the bottle cap recycling program to nearby elementary schools. High school students will educate younger students about the importance of recycling. They ultimately aim to make bottle cap recycling – and eco-friendly behavior – a district-wide activity.

RUNNER UPS

New York: St. Ann’s School
This Brooklyn high school will continue to create a self-sustaining green space at their school. Last year, their Action Team acquired donations to transform their small backyard space into a garden/green hangout space for students. This spring, the team seeks to add a rain collection system and compost unit to the garden so that all water and sod needs for the garden will be provided through existing resources. In addition, the high school students will use the garden as a teaching tool, educating younger middle school students about the process of composting and sustainable gardening.

New England: Abby Kelley Foster Charter Public School
Abby Kelley’s Environmental Action Club is increasing alternative transportation at their school through the recent purchase of a new bicycle rack. With the grant funds, they will host a concert, dubbed “Rock On, Power Off,” in April to launch their campus bicycle program. The concert’s intermission will feature a bike parade and they will ask the students to decorate their bicycles or skateboards and ride them around the parking lot to the new bicycle rack. The concert will also raised funds to purchase solar powered lights for their school flagpoles.

BREAKING: U.S. Youth Ejected from Climate Talks While Calling Out Congress’s Failure

Abigail Borah calls out Congress and the Obama Administration's inaction at the UN climate talks in South Africa before being removed by security

Abigail Borah calls out Congress and the Obama Administration's inaction at the UN climate talks in South Africa before being removed by security. credit: Katherine Rainone, SustainUS

Durban, South Africa – After nearly two weeks of stalled progress by the United States at the international climate talks, U.S. youth spoke out for a real, science-based climate treaty.  Abigail Borah, a New Jersey resident, interrupted the start of lead U.S. negotiator Todd Stern’s speech to call out members of Congress for impeding global climate progress, delivering a passionate call for an urgent path towards a fair and binding climate treaty. Stern was about to speak to international ministers and high-level negotiators at the closing plenary of the Durban climate change negotiations. Borah was ejected from the talks shortly following her speech.

Borah, a student at Middlebury College, spoke for U.S. negotiators because “they cannot speak on behalf of the United States of America”, highlighting that “the obstructionist Congress has shackled a just agreement and delayed ambition for far too long.” Her delivery was followed by applause from the entire plenary of leaders from around the world.

Since before the climate talks, the United States, blocked by a Congress hostile to climate action, has held the position of holding off on urgent pollution reductions targets until the year 2020. Studies from the International Energy Agency, numerous American scientists, and countless other peer-reviewed scientific papers show that waiting until 2020 to begin aggressive emissions reduction would cause irreversible climate change, including more severe tropical storms, worsening droughts, and devastation affecting communities and businesses across America.  Nevertheless, the United States has held strong to its woefully inadequate and voluntary commitments made in the Copenhagen Accord in 2009 and the Cancun Agreement in 2010.

“2020 is too late to wait,” urged Borah. “We need an urgent path towards a fair, ambitious, and legally binding treaty.”

The U.S. continues to negotiate on time borrowed from future generations, and with every step of inaction forces young people to suffer the quickly worsening climate challenges that previous generations have been unable and unwilling to address.

Photos are available here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/sustainus

Video here:

http://youtu.be/XDQxg7F2j1s

And check out – U.S. Youth Say “2020: It’s too late to wait”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQVpZQ1UlKw

Full text of Abigail’s speech:

I am speaking on behalf of the United States of America because my negotiators cannot.  The obstructionist Congress has shackled justice and delayed ambition for far too long.  I am scared for my future.  2020 is too late to wait.  We need an urgent path to a fair ambitious and legally binding treaty.

you must take responsibility to act now, or you will threaten the lives of youth and the world’s most vulnerable.

You must set aside partisan politics and let science dictate decisions.  You must pledge ambitious targets to lower emissions not expectations.  Citizens across the world are being held hostage by stillborn negotiations.

We need leaders who will commit to real change, not empty rhetoric.  Keep your promises. Keep our hope alive. 2020 is too late to wait.

Breaking: Tim DeChristopher sentenced to 2 years in prison, taken immediately into custody

(Cross-posted from peacefuluprising.org)

Tim DeChristopher was sentenced to 2 years in prison today at the Salt Lake City federal courthouse. He was taken immediately into custody, being denied the typical 3 weeks afforded to put his affairs in order and say goodbye to his friends and family.

Federal prosecutors asked for Tim to receive an extra harsh prison sentence in an effort to intimidate the movement that stands with him. They hoped that by condemning him to years behind bars, they would “make an example out of him” and deter all of us from taking meaningful action. But Tim is already an example. He’s an example of the courageous acts that people across our movements are taking to fight for justice and a liveable future. We support Tim by continuing to organize. Our response to this sentence is an affirmation: we will not be intimidated.  What’s your response?

The government’s statement is clear. Tim has been sentenced to 2 years as punishment for his politics; for the uncompromising content of his speeches and organizing in the two years since his act of civil disobedience protected 150,000 acres of land. Ironically, his principled views and motivations behind his actions he took were never allowed to enter a courtroom, due to their “irrelevance.” In a highly political trial, the jury was unjustly stripped of its right to be their community’s conscience and manipulated into making a political prisoner of a peaceful and concerned young man.

Tim DeChristopher

Author and activist Terry Tempest Williams said, “To think that a young man in an act of conscience might [do any amount of time] in a federal prison for raising a paddle in an already illegal sale of oil and gas leases, compared to the CEO of BP or the financial wizards on Wall Street who have pocketed millions of dollars at our expense  – and who will never step into a court of law to even get their hands slapped, let alone go to jail, is an assault on democracy.”

She’s right. But we have the power to turn this assault on democracy into a battle for democracy. Today the Salt Lake City community is expressing both their love and their outrage.

Fossil fuel lobbyists knew that Tim would be indicted the evening before it was officially filed, Jury members explained that they were intimidated throughout the process. The fossil fuel industry should not control our justice system.

Unless we decide to respond accordingly, as Tim serves his time, the real criminals — the fossil fuel industry wrecking our planet and our communities — will continue to run free, unaccountable for the countless oil spills, asthma attacks, contaminated waterways, cancer clusters, and carbon seeping into the air we breathe every day. If the justice system is intent on prosecuting the people protecting rather than pillaging the planet, we must confront the real criminals ourselves. With our heads held high, we continue to stand on the moral high-ground – and will do what’s right, despite the consequences. We know that mother nature’s consequences of inaction are far harsher than any imposed by a court system.

But we are not isolated individuals. We come together with our communities as groups of empowered agents of change who know our system is broken and does not represent us. Our communities represent us, and our vision of a resilient, just, and sustainable world that we are fighting for.

Tim’s sentence is a call to action.

For those of us who’ve been following his story fervently, our hearts were broken today. It is a sad moment. But we now have an opportunity and a responsibility to act on those feelings of hurt and outrage. For Tim’s sacrifice to truly mean something, for the spark it ignites in each of us to burn, we all must take action.

2011 has already become a year of peaceful uprisings around the country. As Tim once said, we were never promised that it would be easy. We know it will take courage, sacrifice and a willingness to sustain our resistance in our fight for real Justice. Tim has taken a step and we will take the next thousand.

Here are a few upcoming action opportunities to join:

We’ll see you on the streets,

Peaceful Uprising and Tim’s community of courage.

One Year to Earth Summit 2012: A New Generation Goes to Rio

This post was written by Michael Davidson.


12-year old Severn Suzuki Delivers Youth Plea at 1992 Rio Earth SummitOne year from this week, government leaders, civil society members and representatives of the business community will meet in Rio de Janeiro to discuss the future of the planet. The Earth Summit (also called Rio+20 after the first such global event in 1992) can help lead to a more prosperous world that utilizes natural resources more efficiently and responds to the needs of the most impacted communities of environmental degradation. But only if youth help write the story, and here’s why.

Rio 1992 was a watershed moment for the global environmental conscience. Treaties were signed, commissions created, and action plans drafted. Yet one of the most memorable speeches from the two-week conference was by a 12-year old girl (here’s what she’s doing now).

Now, a generation later, my generation is faced with two seemingly insurmountable challenges: the world is changing at a rate never before seen, and the current governance structures are insufficient to meet even the environmental problems of the 1970s.

Continue reading ‘One Year to Earth Summit 2012: A New Generation Goes to Rio’

Stand Up To Chevron, Demand Justice In Ecuador And Countless Other Communities Around the World

When BP, a UK-based company, came to the US and devastated the Gulf Coast, the company was forced to pay $20 billion to clean up and compensate the victims of its pollution. When Chevron or any other American company goes to a foreign country and does the same thing, we should hold it to the same standard.

Chevron was found guilty of deliberately dumping over 18 billion gallons of toxic oil waste in the Ecuadorean Amazon and ordered to pay $9 billion to clean up its mess. But the company has vowed never to pay.

That’s why I’m standing up to Chevron to demand justice in Ecuador. I’ll be attending the protest outside Chevron’s annual shareholder meeting next week, demanding accountability from the company not just in Ecuador, but also in Richmond, California; in Nigeria; in Australia; in Kazakhstan; and in countless other communities around the world that have been impacted by Chevron’s reckless pursuit of profits.

A delegation of Ecuadoreans will be coming up for the shareholder meeting so that they can take their calls for justice directly to Chevron’s shareholders, management, and board members. They’ve just issued a passionate appeal to Americans to stand in solidarity with them. Together with the folks at Amazon Watch, the Change Chevron team at Rainforest Action Network is trying to get 30,000 Americans to sign this petition, one for each of the Ecuadoreans affected by Chevron’s business operations — and we only have a week to do it! Chevron’s shareholder meeting is happening on May 25th.

Check out the “Open letter to America” video below, and sign the petition. The Ecuadorean delegation will be delivering this petition with all its signatures to Chevron’s management at the shareholder meeting.

Tell Chevron to Clean Up Ecuador Now!

We can only hold Chevron accountable if we all stand up together. Please sign the petition so the Ecuadorean delegation can deliver your call for justice directly to Chevron on May 25th. And if you’re in the Bay Area, come to the protest outside Chevron’s annual shareholder meeting.

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.

No More Fukushimas

The situation at the damaged nuclear reactors in Fukushima is dire. Two days ago, three workers were exposed to water containing radioactive materials 10,000 times the normal level in the basement of Reactor No. 3.  This reactor is especially dangerous because it contains MOX fuel, a mixture of uranium and plutonium.  And, things got worse yesterday.  The Japanese authorities have now said that the reactor vessel in unit 3 may have breached, which means that much greater amounts of radiation from the MOX fuel could be released.

Here in the United States, the nuclear industry’s lobbyists and propagandists work to downplay concerns.  “Earthquakes of that magnitude would never happen here.”  “We’ll do a thorough safety review.” “Nuclear power needs to be part of our energy future.”  And so on. What they aren’t saying is that that massive public subsidies to bring this old reactors online would go 7-10 times further if spent on renewable energy and energy efficiency. Nuclear energy development is one of the biggest blockages to and energy revolution that can slow climate change. 

The federal government has failed for years to provide appropriate oversight of nuclear reactors, but fortunately, two states are leading the fight to shut down their dangerous old nuclear reactors.  In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo has been a longtime critic of Indian Point, and has called for a safety review of the reactors.  In Vermont, where the state legislature voted overwhelmingly last year to close Vermont Yankee as scheduled in 2012, over 600 people gathered outside the reactor on Sunday to show solidarity with the people of Japan and call for the plant to be shut down.

This Monday, March 28, people across the country will be showing their support for the people of Japan and calling for a world free of nuclear disasters.  Please sign up to host or join a vigil near you, and let’s fight for an energy future with no more Fukushimas.  To find a Stand with Japan vigil near you, go to: www.greenpeace.org/usa/vigilsforjapan.

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 www.grandaspirations.org/apply2sos

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

Chevron Was Found Guilty Because Chevron Is Guilty

Chevron is Guilty: Delivery event at Chevron headquarters

Chevron is guilty of dumping a massive amount of oil pollution in the Ecuadorean Amazon and a judge has ordered the company to pay $8 billion to clean it up.

Chevron has vowed to appeal the decision, however, clearly intending to pull an Exxon Valdez and stall indefinitely, hoping never to pay its due.

So the Change Chevron team got together with our friends and allies at Amazon Watch, Greenpeace, Global Exchange, and Communities for a Better Environment, headed down to Chevron’s HQ in San Ramon, CA, and delivered a message to the company: Chevron was found guilty because Chevron is guilty. Time to accept responsibility and clean up your oily mess in Ecuador!

Check out pics from the event below. If you want to send your own message to Chevron, go to ChevronIsGuilty.org.

Rally at Chevron headquarters Continue reading ‘Chevron Was Found Guilty Because Chevron Is Guilty’

Popo & Izta – Tough Names, Simple Facts – Climate Reality Tour

The following is a recent dispatch from the Climate Reality Tour, a movement-building cycling tour from the coalfields of West Virginia to the UN Climate Talks in Cancún.

15 yrs ago I was COVERED with snow

11/24/2010 - Popocatéptl and Iztaccíhuatl. We never knew how much we could learn about climate change from a pair of words that after many, many attempts we still can’t say 3 times fast. But these twin volcanic peaks speak straightforward volumes.

Everyone we ask recounts that these mighty mountains whose glaciers provide the water to the capital and various surrounding states, were once a like white knights of moisture, fighting off drought and thirst between the rainy seasons. The immaculate summits dominate more than the landscape, occupying central space in the cultural sphere as well. Today the volcanoes are still breathtaking, though the glaciers are all but gone. And if you live here, you can’t help but notice. It’s not lost on anyone, and perhaps that’s explains the unanimity of support for our mission since we arrived here. In we visited one of the volcanically filtered pools that bubble up from underneath Popocatéptl and run downhill to feed the valley with fresh water for irrigation and drinking. A taco vendor there recounted how when she was a little girl the water that now rose just enough above my ankles to require some extra pants rolling, once flowed up to her neck in the same riverbed. Incredible. In addition to seeing its source in the skyline, the water runs underfoot and in municipal canals that look like gutters, right there in the open. And it’s the most delicious drinking water you’ve EVER had. It’s got a hint of anise! Forget that adage about not drinking the water in Mexico. If you get to drink from Popocatéptl, do it! With water and its source so visible and central in the landscape and life of the surrounding populations, folks know something’s up when the glaciers melt away in only 15 years. That’s when NAFTA was enacted. Only partially a coincidence… Continue reading ‘Popo & Izta – Tough Names, Simple Facts – Climate Reality Tour’


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