Archive for the 'Visioning' Category

At Greenpeace Action Camp, a vision of the movement we want

Hi All,

Here’s a crosspost of a blog by Dave Pomerantz at Greenpeace on last week’s Action Camp. I hope to see increasing discussion of a more collective movement!


Title: At Greenpeace Action Camp, a vision of the movement we want

Activists and trainers from Greenpeace's Coastal Canyons Action Camp

For a long time, corporations and governments have used the tried and true tactic of divide and conquer: they’ve tried to convince us that the immigrant rights struggle is different from the worker rights struggle, which is different from the climate justice struggle, to name just a few of the efforts to make the world a more sustainable place.

Of course, those divisions are false and self-serving: all of those struggles are linked by both cause and effect. The corporations, institutions and systems that caused environmental destruction by prioritizing the wealth of the few over the health of the many are the exact same ones that have trampled the rights of workers, immigrants, and the poor. And environmental crises like climate change promise to hit immigrant and poor communities the hardest.

Last week, Greenpeace hosted an Action Camp in Southern California for 160 activists where we focused intently on pushing back against those false divisions.

Continue reading ‘At Greenpeace Action Camp, a vision of the movement we want’

Minneapolis Energy Options: Energy, Markets, and Democracy

Cross-posted from referencing a Minneapolis Star Tribune opinion piece published May 23:

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:

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’

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’

Thoughts following Midwest Powershift

Cross-posted from 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’

The View from Four Years Out

Cross-posted from, 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’

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’

Storytellers Needed: Fire this world up

Photo by Shadia Fayne Wood

Did you just go to Power Shift 2011? If so, you probably participated in the largest grassroots organizing training in our movement’s history. Hopefully, you learned how to tell your story of what motivates you to do this work and rise to the climate challenge. Perhaps you learned how to tell the story of your community, the struggles, hopes, and challenges of your friends, neighbors, dorm-mates, or co-workers.

I think you might have learned how to the story of now, why now is the time to get involved, to make the change needed to head off the climate crisis and build a clean energy economy strong enough to pull us out of the financial wreckage our out-of-control Wall street banks left us.

Guess what? Those stories can move people, motivate your friends and family to join the fight, and fire up a nationwide movement. However, you don’t have to always tell those stories one at a time. You can tell them to thousands of our friends, to our movement. I want to read these stories and learn about you, why you get up to take on climate change, your struggles, your victories.

So, consider It’s Getting Hot in Here an extension of your voice. The megaphone you need to tell the world, your movement, and your new friends all about you. We just broke two million views, so somebody out here is paying attention. Once you tell your story, stick around. You are going to learn from people, from all over the country, who just like you, care a whole hell of lot.

They may be nearby or clear across the country, organizing at an Ivy League or in the hollers of Appalachia, but if you read their stories, hear their heartbreak, their tears of joy, and their brilliant, beautiful ideas, you will slowly change.

They will become your new friends, your allies, those whose work keeps you going during the tough times and those who celebrate with you in the best of times. We need you and you will grow to find you need them too.

So, if you are that storyteller, email me: richard[at] and let’s get you started telling your stories right here on It’s Getting Hot in Here. All my love and in solidarity for a future worth fighting for.

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’

2011 Resolution – Call It “Pollution”

If you’re like me and are already:

  • tired of reading articles like this about what’s going to be hot in 2011 (here’s hoping “the planet” doesn’t make the list)
  • busy breaking those New Year’s resolutions you made

I hope we can all resolve (and actually do it) to make one thing hot in 2011 – calling that icky stuff pouring out of our economy “pollution” instead of “emissions”.

Like “greenhouse gas pollution” instead of “greenhouse gas emissions”, “carbon pollution” instead of “carbon emissions”, etc.

Without making this a big post about messaging and why it matters, I think it’s pretty easy to get that “emissions” sounds neutral or at worst just a little bad, like politely talking about someone’s fart, and “pollution”, well, tells it like it is.

Unfortunately, as the charts below show (make them yourself at Google Fight. Other variations, such as “GHG pollution”, look similarly lopsided.), most people haven’t gotten the message. IGHIH isn’t even doing as well as it could (see for yourself).

Climate terms that use "emissions" are way more common than terms using "pollution", and that's a problem for communicating how serious climate change is. Images courtesty

Climate terms that use "emissions" are way more common than terms using "pollution", and that's a problem for communicating how serious climate change is. Images courtesy

Continue reading ’2011 Resolution – Call It “Pollution”’

No More Nonsense: New England Students Demand Clean Energy Future

Drafting the Decleration at Wesleyan

It is Sunday at approximately 4:15 pm, I waddle back to the bus, my eyes filled with sleep but my brain pounding with excitement. I just emerged from a basement classroom at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, where, squished among a hundred and seventy other student activists, I had been helping to draft a declaration calling on  international leadership to stop powering our world with dirty energy.

In the lead up to this year’s Conference of the Parties which is taking place in Cancun, Mexico over the coming weeks, members of Students for a Just and Stable Future (SJSF) came together from schools all across New England for the express purpose of building the climate movement and preparing a declaration which will be delivered to policymakers across New England and the US, particularly those representing the US climate team in Cancun.

The Student Conference of the Parties was organized by SJSF, and held in partnership with the Wesleyan Pricing Carbon Conference, a national assembly of politicians, industry insiders, scientists, and organizers, to discuss the potential of carbon pricing as a bold and effective policy measure to address global climate change. We had the privilege of hearing from some of the most influential decision-makers and activists in the field, including founder Bill McKibben and NASA climatologist James Hansen. Continue reading ‘No More Nonsense: New England Students Demand Clean Energy Future’