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Youth Call Out Fossil Fuel Companies & Obama Leadership Failure at Doha Climate Talks

This post was written by SustainUS delegate Anirudh Sridhar and cross-posted on youthclimate.org

Youth call out fossil fuel industry corruption at Doha climate negotiations. Credit: Kyle Gracey/SustainUS

Youth call out fossil fuel industry corruption at Doha climate negotiations. Credit: Kyle Gracey/SustainUS

When Hitchcock’s first black bird landed on the frame of the playing ground, it seemed individual, particular. There was no need to derive a common theory about the bird in the larger scheme of things as a harbinger of anything significant. By the time the children looked out the window again, 4 more birds had arrived. Soon, the sky had become dark with the descent of an avian blanket of hundreds of birds. As delegates entered the U.N convention center at Doha for the second week of the COP 18 in Doha, they saw the first bird perched atop the escalators.

SustainUS, a youth led organization, along with Taiwan Youth Climate Coalition and Canadian Youth Climate Coalition gathered around the entrance of the convention center and stood disenchanted and disenfranchised from the process, with a somber gloom. They held black cancerous spots that had been clogging the arteries of the negotiations, speaking about the chronic and acute influence of the fossil fuel industry on the levers of global climate change policy.

Mike Sandmel, the media chair of SustainUS and co-organizer of the event stated that “we hear a lot of stories about countries being painted as evil actors as if they were monolithic. Often, even in the choke points of the climate negotiations, there is a huge internal struggle for the environmental soul of the country. The fossil fuel industries control the strings of the country’s fate because of their financial influence and this event is to bring it out in the open.” As the delegates went past the signs that read “Fossil fuel industry groups spent upwards of $376 million on TV ads to influence 2012 elections in the US.” and “Preventing the tragedies of a  2°C temperature rise means staying within a carbon budget of 565 gigatons”, their minds were arrested as their bodies glided limply past. There were a few skeptical voices heard as one delegate from India remarked “Do these people not know that half the world’s population doesn’t have electricity?” Mostly, as the delegations passed, they documented the event in film while the media rushed onto the scene to get the individual perspectives.

Democracy Now interviewed Chi Tung-Hsien, a Taiwanese youth, and he said “Hurricane Sandy has recently shaken Americans awake from a deep sleep about the disastrous effects of climate change. In Taiwan, Sandy is the norm. With mudslides, a food crisis that is likely to lead the country into famine and constant threat of the rising oceans on their island, they live at the constant mercy of climate change.” Continue reading ‘Youth Call Out Fossil Fuel Companies & Obama Leadership Failure at Doha Climate Talks’

Gender Gap in Youth Green Jobs

Right now, a lot of youth are fighting to stop the tar sands. A lot more are just trying to find a job. Last year, Michael Davidson and I wrote about our work to try to understand if green jobs could be youth jobs. The results were pretty good — young people were underrepresented in green job creation in the U.S., but not by much.

This year, we tried to see if the situation had changed. Turns out not much – U.S. youth probably are still getting fewer green jobs compared to other age groups and compared to how many jobs we have in the economy overall. So, pretty good news. And if investing in clean energy and climate change-fighting solutions will create more jobs than business as usual, or  more fossil fuel investments — and the green jobs research says it will — then that will probably mean more jobs for youth. Green jobs will be youth jobs.

Gender Differences in U.S. Youth Green Jobs

Young women have not benefited from green job creation as much as young men.Source: Muro, Mark, Jonathan Rothwell, and Devashree Saha. 2011. Sizing the Clean Economy. Washington: Brookings Institution. Available at http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/Series/resources/0713_clean_economy.pdf. Accessed October 1, 2011.Source: 2012. Table 15. Employed persons by detailed occupation, sex, and age, Annual Average 2011. Washington: Bureau of Labor Statistics. Unpublished work tables from the Current Population Survey. Received March 1, 2012.
Brookings data sums to more than 100% due to rounding.

But then we asked — which youth will have those green jobs? And here things don’t look so great.

We got pretty good data for male/female breakdown within youth jobs (at least for ages 16-24, and without data on transgender youth). When we matched this gender data up with the green jobs and youth data, we got this table. The categories are from a cool Brookings Institute clean energy jobs report, but don’t worry too much about them. Instead, check out the gold boxes at the bottom right.

In the overall economy, young men and women are almost even in how many of us have jobs — we’re 6.4% of all jobs in the economy for dudes, and 6.0% for girls (putting it together, youth have 12.4% of all jobs in the economy, compared to 10.9% of the clean energy economy).

But in the clean energy economy (at least as of 2011), male youth have about 7.5% of all the jobs, while female youth only have 3.5%. This is basically the same trend I found for all age groups in past research – men outnumber women for direct green jobs. I also found disparities across races and ethnicities, but there isn’t good data on this for just youth, so more work is need to understand where else youth green job creation might be unequal.

The good news is what we’ve said before – if investing in green jobs creates more jobs overall, this will probably mean more jobs in total for both genders. But, for now at least, men will benefit comparatively more.

Can we change this? Probably. But so far, we haven’t even been talking about the issue. Now that we know the situation, we can start figuring out solutions to help make sure green jobs are green jobs for all.

Want much more detail? Dive into the full report (don’t worry, it’s only 17 pages, and most of those are tables).

Coal Export Action Ignites Movement in Montana

The last few days in Montana must have made Big Coal very, very nervous.

First, around 100 people gathered outside the Montana Capitol on August 13th to protest state decision makers’ support for coal export projects, which would see Montana become an international coal colony so Big Coal can profit while coal trains and mines expose our communities to poisons.  We then stormed into the Capitol building itself, dropping off letters for State Land Board members Governor Brian Schweitzer and Secretary of State Linda McCulloch.

Then, over the course of a week, 23 activists (myself included) were arrested at the State Capitol protesting coal exports, in one of the largest acts of nonviolent civil disobedience Montana has seen in recent years.  As far as anyone I’ve talked to has been able to tell, it’s the biggest climate-related civil disobedience the state has seen, period.

Partly because of increased attention generated by last week’s protests, journalists uncovered the news that Arch Coal last month submitted its application to build the Otter Creek Coal Mine – one of the largest mines in North America.  Apparently hoping to avoid public scrutiny, Arch submitted its application in July without even a press release.  Last week the application, along with our protest, made front page news in the Great Falls Tribune, not what Arch wanted.

These are just the highlights from an amazing week.  During the Coal Export Action in Helena, people concerned about coal exports marched to the office of the state Department of Environmental Quality, staged a die-in outside US Bank (one of Arch Coal’s funders), picketed outside the Montana Coal Council office, and held a series of teach-ins on coal-related issues in the middle of the Capitol rotunda.

Governor Schweitzer was apparently so scared of us that he posted highway patrol officers outside his office doors, to block the entrance.  But he needn’t have worried; the Coal Export Action was entirely peaceful, with both police and protesters behaving peacefully and respectfully toward those around them.

If media attention is at least part of the measure of a successful action, the Coal Export Action was very successful.  The protests received coverage in every major Montana newspaper, as well as local TV and radio outlets.  We even scored national coverage in USA Today.  But while media coverage of the coal exports issue is important, the real measure of our success will be the degree to which it helps build a winning movement against coal exports. Continue reading ‘Coal Export Action Ignites Movement in Montana’

Climate SOS: It’s Our Time to Act!

This is a guest post by Monica Christoffels, cross-posted from Coalexportaction.org

Our Climate Summer of Solidarity (ClimateSOS) is off to a great start!

Yesterday the Coal Export Action team watched as our friends from Frack ActionStop the Frack Attack andRAMPS (Radical Action for Mountain People’s Survival) took action against fracking and mountaintop removal, respectively. We were inspired to see that about 50 people were able to shut down one of the largest mining sites on the East Coast (as covered here in the Huffington Post!); and that as many as 5,000 stormed the streets of NYC and DC, the latter rally stopping at the offices of America’s Natural Gas Alliance and the American Petroleum Institute, to send a strong message of opposition to the industry.

We were also overjoyed to see our allies at the Tar Sands Blockade in Texas begin training for their massive nonviolent direct action against the Keystone XL Pipeline, which will take place later this summer. The Blockadelive-tweeted its training, and even sent out a message of support to West Virginia, DC and NYC.

(Photo credit: Tar Sands Blockade on Facebook)

The movement literally grew before our eyes; we couldn’t be more proud to be a part of it. Now it’s our turn to take action.

This Tuesday, July 31, Coal Export Action will kick off a social media blast day to amp up the volume on our actions to stop coal mining in Otter Creek next month.

We hope a surge in tweets and Facebook posts will alert people to the action, increase support (both in donations and new participants) and, most importantly, send a strong message to Arch Coal and the Montana State Lands Board that we’re ready to act on behalf of Otter Creek, the state of Montana and our global community.

Make sure you follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook – we’ll be blasting our tweets and posts from those accounts on Tuesday. We’ll hope you join us online as we continue on the road to Coal Export Action this August!

Finding King Coal’s Weak Spot

This piece is cross-posted from Coalexportaction.org

 If there’s one thing the climate movement learned from the fight against the tar sands, it’s that the fossil fuel industrial complex has weak spots that can be turned into pressure points for effective campaigns.  From direct actions to stop the “heavy hauls,” to mass action against Keystone XL, the freedom-from-tar sands movement has applied pressure in places where Big Oil is constrained by geography or the political process.

Though they haven’t won every time, activists fighting the tar sands (including good friends of mine) have cost Big Oil millions, derailed or delayed key parts of the tar sands project, and given us a real chance at defeating one of the worst planetary disasters in history.  It’s time for the Freedom From Coal movement to do the same thing.

When it comes to coal, our most effective pressure points aren’t trucks or pipelines, but they are no less real.  Coal barons dream of turning North America’s biggest coal deposit, the Powder River Basin of Montana and Wyoming, into an industrial mining zone.  Just as Big Oil needs the Keystone XL pipeline to transport tar sands crude to the US, coal industry leaders are counting on a key project to realize their plans.  That project is the Otter Creek mine.

Help stop King Coal’s anchor project: join the Coal Export Action this summer! 

For those who don’t know, Otter Creek is located just east of the Tongue River, south of Miles City, Montana.  Arch Coal executives want to turn Otter Creek into one of the continent’s biggest coal mines, but that’s just the beginning.  Otter Creek is considered an “anchor project,” which would facilitate the transformation of vast additional areas into a mining zone.

Why is Otter Creek so special?  It provides official justification for building the Tongue River Railroad, which is fiercely opposed by ranchers whose land would be transected.  Without this railroad, coal barons have no way to transport the huge quantities of coal they want to move from the Powder River Basin, to the international export market via the West Coast. Continue reading ‘Finding King Coal’s Weak Spot’

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.

Be the Power. Join the Coal Export Action this Summer

With recent news that utilities will transition off ten more coal plants, US activists can claim to have put 100 aging, dirty coal plants on the path to retirement.  This is a milestone in what is becoming one of the most successful environmental campaigns in history: the push to clean our air and slash carbon emissions by phasing out the US coal fleet.

We’ve won victories of mammoth proportions.  Now it’s time to make sure these wins are not undermined, and that coal kings don’t simply export their dirty product abroad.  This won’t be easy, because they are even now pushing plans to ship coal from the Powder River Basin and other areas overseas.  As a movement committed to the dream of clean power for all, we cannot let them succeed.

That’s why I hope you’ll join what could be the most exciting initiative yet to stop coal, the Coal Export Action.  Register to join this summer’s Coal Export Action here!

Inspired by last year’s Tar Sands Action and the Occupy movement, hundreds of people affected by coal exports will converge this August in the Montana state capitol.  Using disciplined, non-violent, and creative direct action, we will do our best to bring an end to business as usual in the building where members of Montana’s State Land Board work.  Continue reading ‘Be the Power. Join the Coal Export Action this Summer’

NW Communities Act to Halt Coal Exports, Call for More Action

Across the Northwest people are taking action to prevent coal export projects from derailing our clean energy future.  This is a movement that began in port towns.  Now it is spreading as, inspired by communities like Longview and Bellingham, towns and cities across the region take action to halt coal exports.

This weekend saw one of the most far-reaching bursts of coal-related activism the region has witnessed, as residents of three states participated in a weekend of action to stop coal exports, and called for further action.  In places like Olympia, Washington; Missoula, Montana; and Eugene and Portland, Oregon, Northwest residents visited elected officials, staged banner-drops from local landmarks, and rallied their communities to reclaim our future from fossil fuel giants.

In Portland on Sunday, members of the Cascade Climate Network and Portland Rising Tide scaled a billboard for a banner drop, while forty people gathered below spelled out “No Coal Exports” and “Export CEOs.”

“Big coal knowingly poisons our land, water and communities for the sake of their bottom line,” said Chelsea Thaw of the
Cascade Climate Network.  “Coal is the biggest contributor to global climate change, and as we teeter on the threshold of climate chaos we must reject all coal infrastructure.”

Two days earlier, Eugene and Olympia took action.  In Olympia, Washington students met with elected officials and urged them to deny coal export terminal permits.  In Oregon, the group No Coal Eugene dropped a banner reading “Stop the Coal Train” from a multi-story parking lot.  Eugene is one of many cities that could soon see dirty, polluting coal trains running through town on their way to new export sites, if coal companies get their way.

On Sunday in Missoula, the student-run Blue Skies Campaign and Occupy Missoula held a March Against Coal Exports after Rocky Mountain Power Shift.  The group stopped by the offices of members of Congress who have sided with the coal industry.  They also visited Wells Fargo, one of the top 20 funders of coal, to hold a die-in and turn ATMs into truth machines.  The march ended with a banner drop above Orange Street, which dips below tracks owned by Montana Rail Link used to transport coal, and with a call for an even larger mass mobilization this summer.

Continue reading ‘NW Communities Act to Halt Coal Exports, Call for More Action’

From Pillars to Platform: Demystifying the Durban Outcome

“If we accept this text, we are killing ourselves.” These were the words of an ambassador from a small island nation in the final hours of the longest UN climate negotiations in history. “We may be small, but we are not dead,” he continued. With these strong statements, the ambassador sought to rally other countries like his to push back against the weak agreement the conference had produced.

Continue reading more on the Fletcher Forum.

A New Year’s Resolution: Mobilize in Mass to Halt Coal Exports

If there’s one takeaway lesson we activists can learn from 2011, it’s that mass mobilization works.  From the Tar Sands Action in DC to Occupy Wall Street (and hundreds of other Occupy movements across the country), 2011 will be remembered as the year US residents took to the streets to reclaim control over our future.  The result?  The Keystone XL pipeline is likely dead, Tea Party conservatives are on the defensive, and President Obama has suddenly started talking about economic fairness.

Mass mobilization works.  And in 2012, it’s time to apply this lesson to what may be the biggest carbon bomb of them all: a proposal to export US coal from the Powder River Basin to the international market.

If you’re not familiar with coal export proposals, you can get the miserable truth about the issue here.  For now, suffice to say large-scale coal export projects seem to be an even bigger threat to the climate than the Keystone XL pipeline.  In states like Montana, both Republicans and Democrats in statewide office seem bent on blowing up this carbon bomb, and have ignored the protests of environmental groups.

Lobbying, petitioning, and talking about “green jobs” have all failed to stop mine-for-export proposals moving forward (though all these tactics have helped build the movement we’ll need to win).  I believe the only thing that can keep Montana and Wyoming coal in the ground is a mobilization that includes large-scale direct action.  It’s time to do here what Occupy Wall Street did in Zuccotti Park, and what the Tar Sands Action did on President Obama’s doorstep.  We must reclaim power over our communities, and chart the course ourselves to a cleaner, more just future.

Continue reading ‘A New Year’s Resolution: Mobilize in Mass to Halt Coal Exports’


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