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A National Conversation on Democracy and Climate April 17, 2013

Have you ever heard of the Maldive Islands? Well, neither had I, until a few months ago.  The Maldive Islands, also known as the Republic of the Maldives, or just plain Maldives, are a group of atolls in the Indian Ocean to the southwest of India.  Why are they important? Oh, only because they are being slowly swallowed up by the ocean thanks to sea level rise and climate change.  Did I also mention that they are the same sea level height as parts of Manhattan?

Google Maps image of the Maldives

The former President of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, democratically elected in 2008 and overthrown by a coup in 2012, has fought ferociously for global climate change action to save his islands from disappearing.  Now Nasheed fights for democracy in his homeland while simultaneously struggling to stabilize the climate.  Nasheed is doing all that he can in the fight against climate change, even going as far as to hold an underwater cabinet meeting to raise awareness.

Maldives underwater cabinet meeting to raise awareness about climate change issues (2009)

Another way Nasheed raised awareness about the urgency of the issues that climate change presented to the Maldives was through a documentary about the plight of the island called The Island President.  Nasheed has even gone as far as promoting the documentary on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and the Late Show with David Letterman, advocating for action on climate change mitigation.

Interested in seeing the documentary? Well, you’re in luck.  The C2C Fellows Network and the Bard Center for Environmental Policy are teaming up to host a national screening of The Island President on April 17th, 2013 at 7pm EST.  Colleges, Universities, and communities across the nation are signing up to screen the documentary and participate in the webinar discussion following the screening with interesting and invested people such as:

  • Jon Shenk- the Director
  • Thilmeeza Hussain- Former UN Deputy Permanent Representative to the Maldives
  • May Boeve- Executive Director and Co-Founder of
  • Eban Goodstein (moderator)- Director of Bard Center for Environmental Policy and Bard’s MBA in Sustainability

Join us! Participate in this national day of action focused around political corruption and climate stalemate. We guarantee you will leave the theater both newly cognizant of the scale of the challenge we face, and inspired to be part of the fight for real democracy and a stable climate.

Some people say that stopping climate change is impossible, but in the worlds of Mohammed Nasheed, “We refuse to give up hope.”

For more information about the event, visit our website.

Divest M&M’s: How to De-Fund Big Coal on March 28

3rr36oWith campus, congregation, and city divestment campaigns taking off across the country, there’s never been so much momentum to de-fund the fossil fuel companies destroying the planet.  As Bill McKibben has so convincingly argued, we need to cut off fossil fuel giants’ money if we’re going to keep from passing disastrous climate tipping points.  

It’s with this inspiring backdrop that activists in Montana are calling for a day of action targeting the finances of one of Big Coal’s most destructive projects.  If you’re running a campus divestment campaign, and can spare a little of that energy to stop one of the planet’s worst carbon bombs – or if you’re not yet part of the divestment movement, and want a way to get involved – you can help.

Sign up to participate in the March 28th day of action

Here’s the background: In 2011, billionaire Forrest Mars Jr. of Mars Inc. (think M&M’s) bought a stake in the Tongue River Railroad (TRR) project in Montana.  Like the Keystone XL pipeline, the TRR threatens to open up huge reserves of buried carbon to development.  Instead of oil though, it would transport coal from Montana’s Tongue River Valley, a largely undeveloped region in the Powder River Basin.

There’s currently no mining in Montana’s Tongue River Valley.  The TRR would change that, by making huge areas accessible to the coal industry.  Most coal from the area would be exported, fueling a new generation of coal-fired power plants overseas.  Trains passing through towns in Montana, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington would expose communities to toxic coal dust and diesel fumes.

Protect communities from dirty coal by registering a local action

How did Forrest Mars get involved?  He owns a ranch in the Tongue River Valley that originally would have been bisected by the TRR.  For years Mars opposed the railroad, until he bought a share in it and used his influence to re-route it around his land.  Now Forrest Mars is one of three investors in the TRR, along with Arch Coal and Berkshire Hathaway.  He’s using a fortune largely built by selling kids candy to finance a project that will destroy those kids’ future.

That’s where we come in.  On March 28th, in communities across the country, volunteer activists will visit stores that sell Mars products, to re-label candy packages with removable stickers that let shoppers know what their purchase may be paying for.  Here’s what it looks like:


You can help by holding a stickering action in your community.  By targeting the Mars brand, and convincing Mars Inc that it’s bad business to be associated with coal, we can pressure Forrest Mars to drop his investment in the Tongue River Railroad.  It’s the first step toward getting the money out of coal in the Powder River Basin.

Ready to take action?  Read more about how to hold a successful stickering action, or sign up to hold an action in your community right now!

Over 100 Youth March, 26 Arrested Escalating Fight Against Keystone XL Pipeline

massThings are getting rowdy and the street heat is turning up. This morning, TransCanada got a wake up call from Boston area students and climate activists. Over 100 marched on the company’s Westborough, MA offices with 26 being arrested for sitting in. The same group organized a lock down in TransCanada’s office back in January.

Here’s their press release:

Over 100 Youth Risk Arrest, Escalating Fight Against Keystone XL Pipeline

Students hold “Funeral for Our Future” in act of civil disobedience at TransCanada Corporation’s Westborough, MA Office

Westborough, MA – On Monday morning, over 100 students and community members marched into TransCanada’s Westborough office and held a funeral mourning the loss of their future at the hands of the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would transport the tar sands that climate scientists say will lock us into irreversible global warming. More than 25 protesters were arrested for refusing to leave the office in an act of civil disobedience.

Carrying a coffin emblazoned with the words “Our Future,” the protesters held flowers and sang an elegy as they marched in procession. Massachusetts Methodist clergy members and a group of mothers holding photographs of their children joined the youth in protest.

The action marked a sharp escalation of the protests in New England against the Keystone XL pipeline. In January, eight students locked and glued themselves at the same TransCanada office. Nationwide, the pipeline has already prompted civil disobedience outside the White House, direct blockades of construction, and the largest climate rally in US history. Today’s action kicks off a week of solidarity actions being called for by our allies at the Tar Sands Blockade. During the week of March 16th-24th protestors from across the country will target the offices of TransCanada and its investors. Continue reading ‘Over 100 Youth March, 26 Arrested Escalating Fight Against Keystone XL Pipeline’

Take the Pledge of Resistance to the Keystone XL Pipeline

tar sands blockade

Tar Sands Blockade tree sit

During the 1980’s, religious, peace and human rights activists organized against Ronald Reagan’s not-so-secret wars in Central American countries like El Salvador and Nicaragua.Reagan’s policies killed hundreds of thousands of Central Americans, funded death squads and threatened invasion of Nicaragua to throw out the Sandinista government.

In response, this mass movement, known as the Central America solidarity movement, came up with the “Pledge of Resistance” to Reagan’s cold war adventures down south. The Pledge mobilized thousands to organize take action. Through the 80’s and early 90’s, the Central American solidarity movement non-violently confronted Reagan’s policies from the heartland to the Beltway.

Now we’re faced with another crisis of epic proportions. The Keystone XL Pipeline represents both a political and scientific tipping point for the climate crisis. Climatologist James Hanson has called the building of Keystone XL “game over” for the climate.

Despite lofty rhetoric from Obama on climate during his state of the union, the State Department’s Environmental Impact Statement (released last Friday afternoon) appears to be on track for pipeline approval. Another indicator of coming approval is mainstream media outlets and pundits lining up behind the President and the pipeline. It appears that the environmental movement is now being pitted against the political establishment.

In response today, a number of groups, including CREDO Mobile, Rainforest Action Network, 350.0rg, the Other 98%, BOLD Nebraska and Oil Change International, have put out a call for individuals to take a pledge of resistance to Keystone XL Pipeline’s approval.

The call to action says:

“It is time for us to pledge to resist. That is, we are asking you to commit – should it be necessary to stop Keystone XL — to engage in serious, dignified, peaceful civil disobedience that could get you arrested.” Continue reading ‘Take the Pledge of Resistance to the Keystone XL Pipeline’

Texas Oil Spill Hits Home for Tar Sands Activists

East Texas Oil spillCross-posted from the Understory

Does the Tar Sands Blockade (TSB) have a crystal ball we didn’t know about?

Yesterday in Tyler County, TX, a pipeline operated by Sunoco Logistics sprung a leak and spilled 20,000 gallons (or 550 barrels) of oil into local East Texas waterways. Deep East Texas is known for its creeks and lakes, freshwater eco-systems and aquifers that provide water to the eastern part of the state, including mega-cities Dallas and Houston. But oil companies treat these forests and waterways as collateral damage.

Quality control requires that oil companies use “leak detection systems.” Those systems reported nothing until local residents began to report that oil was in the water. (Ummm… so, how do you not detect a 20,000 gallons oil leak?)

Sunoco’s spill is merely a prologue for leaks and spills that might come once the southern leg of the Keystone XL Pipeline is completed.

The site of the spill is not far from a Tar Sands Blockade (TSB) action in Diboll, TX in January.  It’s only a few hour away from TSB’s tree blockade that prevented construction of TransCanada’s Keystone XL Pipeline for 85 days.

The Keystone XL itself will cross major waterways such as the Neches, Red, Angelina and Sabine rivers as well as the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer, which provides drinking water for more than ten million Texans. The pipeline route will run near the Big Thicket National Wildlife Preserve in southeast Texas. Big Thicket is one of the most biologically diverse areas in the country and is full of bogs, lagoons, plants, trees and a variety of wildlife including the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. Continue reading ‘Texas Oil Spill Hits Home for Tar Sands Activists’

VIDEO: Voices of the Tar Sands Blockade

Filmmaker Garrett Graham has made a new video about the Tar Sands Blockade. It details the campaign that brought together an unusual coalition of Texas landowners and radical environmentalists from around the country.

Obama Didn’t Get the Memo: The Market Doesn’t Care About Climate Change

ImageObama just delivered his “state of the union” address and, at the very least, he has recognized that climate change is becoming more like a climate catastrophe with the 12 hottest years on record having come in the past 15, and with “heat waves, drought, wildfires, and floods… now more frequent and intense.” Recognizing there is a problem is the first step.

The problem has been his next step: to pursue solutions through the market. In his address, he stated, “I urge this Congress to pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change.” This indicates that Obama is willing to do what it takes to solve the climate crisis…as long as it doesn’t impact markets and profits.

Take another scenario. Let’s pretend that Obama’s speech read something like this:

I urge this Congress to pursue a strategy to solve the climate crisis that involves communities to control the resources–including land, water, and air–that impact them most. This means that we need to stop blasting off the top of mountains to dig up coal. It means that we need to stop hydraulic fracturing which pollutes groundwater supplies. And it means we need to stop enabling the expansion of the tar sands. I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy. This means that I am not going to approve the Keystone XL project which has faced clear opposition by those who are willing to get arrested at mass actions in the White House, office occupations, and at the point of destruction by running in front of, and chaining themselves to, machinery.

This would indicate that the president has been listening to those involved in the Tar Sands Blockade, those who have signed petitions and written letters, those who got arrested, and those who are mobilizing for the February 17th Forward on Climate action in DC. It would mean that he is putting the needs and demands of communities and people first. It would mean that he is prioritizing safety of the environment, and consequently the safety of water, land, and air.

Unfortunately, more attention is being given to those who can fully engage in the market. You know, those who can buy, sell, and trade. And those who have the greatest ability to buy, sell, and trade are big business and governments. Climate change has simply become one more venue for capital accumulation at the expense of people.

The Indigenous Environmental Network has rejected carbon markets, saying that “the potential threat of climate change into an opportunity for profit…is a new form of colonialism. It creates CO2lonialism.”

The reality is that CO2lonialism and CO2rporate exploitation has already been happening. Industries have already been profiting off of polluting. Fossil fuel industries continue to destroy the land, water, and air and they continue to ravage the land and resources of Indigenous communities, communities of colour, rural communities, and poor communities.

Some resources on carbon markets include the new documentary, the Carbon Rush which exposes some of the problems with purchasing “carbon credits,” which allow polluters to continue polluting. Their pollution is thus “offset” by companies that may plant trees, build dams, or creating waste-to-energy schemes. The reality is that this money goes to another company which finds loopholes and continues to pollute and exploit communities. In some cases, trees planted are harvested in large plantations, only to be burned again for energy; large mega-dams privatize water and displace entire communities and destroy food systems; and the “waste” that is being burned for energy is actually being done in energy-intensive incinerator plants that are also impoverishing millions of waste workers whose livelihood depend on sorting and recycling. Rising Tide North America’s publication Hoodwinked in the Hothouse: False Solutions to Climate Change goes into further detail about the fallacy of carbon markets and carbon trading, while also debunking the propaganda around Mega Dams, Incinerators, and Geoengineering.

Carbon markets have caused forced displacement, water privatization, job loss, and continued carbon emissions in the Global South. You can also check out the Story of Cap and Trade which is “a story of a system in crisis.” The ever-so-engaging narrator tells us how “we are trashing the planet” and “we’re trashing ourselves.” More importantly, she tells us why you just can’t solve a problem with the thinking that created it–the market!

But take away all the background reading, if you really want pure confusion, ask yourself this: If there is someone profiting off of polluters, then who is going to demand that carbon pollution stop?

Continue reading ‘Obama Didn’t Get the Memo: The Market Doesn’t Care About Climate Change’

After the State of the Union, What the President (and We) Can Do on Climate Change

Picture 26

This piece was originally published by Good

Yesterday’s State of the Union address could go down as a watershed moment in America’s transition to a clean energy economy. Two years ago, the president wouldn’t mention climate change. Last night, he spoke honestly about the issue to 40 million people and vowed that if “Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will.” The question is: Just what can President Obama do, and what will it mean for our economy and energy system?<--break->

Recent experience provides some clues. Even without a Congressional climate bill, the United States has doubled renewable electricity production over the past four years, and reduced carbon emissions to a 20-year low, even as the economy has rebounded from the worst recession since the Great Depression. We’ve also built substantial new energy industries. Solar power alone now accounts for 119,000 American jobs, spread across 5,600 companies in all 50 states. Economy-wide, there are some 2.7 million green jobs, and green job sectors are growing faster than other parts of the economy.
Some of these accomplishments are directly attributable to Obama Administration policies. The stimulus package, for instance, injected more cash into green investments than any piece of legislation in American history. New fuel efficiency standards will likewise save tens of billions of barrels of oils in the coming years. Other important pieces of the policy puzzle, such as state level Renewable Portfolio Standards, have come from different parts of the government, but still demonstrate the same principle that there are many ways to move forward on climate and energy, even in a tough political moment.
And so we come back to the present moment. Obama has again called on Congress to pass a big cap-and-trade bill, but also knows that he will be more successful in producing change through a variety of smaller initiatives.
In his speech and an accompanying policy document, the president put forward several specific proposals he will pursue in his second term, including calling for the Production Tax Credit for wind energy to be made permanent and refundable (a very big deal) and working directly with states to incentivize energy efficiency. He also issued a broader challenge to legislators, noting that he has directed his cabinet to “identify additional executive actions … which will be assessed if Congress does not take action.”
What would these executive actions look like? Perhaps the administration working through the EPA to tighten regulations on greenhouse gases—a major move that would put a substantial dent in the coal-fired power system. Maybe Obama using his convening powers to bring together a high-level commission on climate change and energy, so that we could shift from a debate about whether climate change is real to a debate about all the ways we can solve the problem. Or the president could slow the pace of fossil fuel development by taking a stand on a big project like the Keystone XL.
This last example highlights an important point about the opportunity of the next four years. The president’s ability to pursue aggressive executive actions depends on the strength of the popular coalition behind him. Obama is going to use the bully pulpit to take his energy agenda to the public. It’s up to us to show Obama that we want him to exercise the full power of his office, as aggressively as Lincoln on slavery or F.D.R. on reviving the American economy after the Great Depression.
So, let’s take Obama up on his promise of action. Let’s use our money and let’s use our feet. We need to weaken fossil fuel interests through divestment campaigns like that being organized by and invest in renewable energy through platforms like Mosaic. We also need to turn out. This Sunday, Washington D.C. will host what will likely be the largest climate rally in U.S. history, with a specific goal of stopping the Keystone XL pipeline. It’s a great moment to let Obama know: If he’s ready to take on Congress, or the fossil fuel industry, or both, we’ve got his back.

Double Appalachian Spring Break! March 2-10 & March 10-17


It’s Appalachia Spring (Break)! Anti-extraction actions camps and actions are happening everywhere.

Here’s two more in March.

From Mountain Justice Spring Break:

Since 2007, Mountain Justice Spring Break has been offering students and young people an exciting, fun, low-cost alternative spring break in Appalachia. Join the front lines of resistance in Appalachia to get a deeper understanding of the importance of divestment!

Mountain Justice Spring Break is a chance to learn more about how extractive industries like coal, hydro-fracking for natural gas and nuclear energy have sucked billions of dollars in resources from the land, while leaving behind environmental and social problems and a ravaged land.

At Mountain Justice Spring Break you will:

  • Learn about the dirty, destructive, dangerous life-cycles of coal, natural gas, and nuclear energy.
  • Stand in solidarity with the communities in Virginia, West Virginia, SW Pennsylvania, and beyond facing the ongoing destruction of coal mining, hydraulic fracturing, and nuclear energy!
  • See mountaintop removal coal mining and natural gas extraction via hydraulic fracturing up close!
  • Take direct action to end the reign of King Coal, Count Frack, and Viceroy Uranium!
  • Mountain Justice Spring Break (MJSB) will bring together coalfield residents, college students, environmentalists and concerned citizens.  You dont have to be an expert about coal mining or fracking or Appalachia – our program will teach you the intricacies of resource extraction and you will leave with a better understanding of why Appalachia is a rich land with poor people.

From March 2-10, MJSB will be in the historic old mining town of Appalachia, Virginia, in the far western corner of the state of Virginia, in an area that is being heavily impacted by mountaintop removal mining.

We will spend a week cultivating the skills and visions needed to build a sustainable energy future in Appalachia. Through education, community service, speakers, hiking, music, poetry, direct action and more, you will learn from and stand with Appalachian communities in the struggle to maintain our land and culture. Mountain Justice Spring Break will also offer a variety of community service projects, Appalachian music and dancing. Continue reading ‘Double Appalachian Spring Break! March 2-10 & March 10-17′

UC Students Give Bank of America Recruiters a Reality Check

BOA_recruitment_calCross-posted from RAN’s Understory

This morning, Bank of America campus recruiters at the University of California (UC) at Berkeley who were working to recruit students into the bank’s internship program got a reality check about the Bank of America’s involvement in the financing of the coal industry.

Early in the morning, about half a dozen UC students staged interventions into Bank of America’s recruitment interviews at the UC Career Center — and raised concerns about the bank’s involvement with the coal sector. The student interventions stopped the recruitment interviews as Bank of America staff heard about the impacts of the bank’s investment portfolio.

A few moments later, about 20 more students and activists joined them at the UC Career Center. The second wave further confronted the Career Center and Bank of America’s recruitment staff with questions about the bank’s policies on coal, climate change, and greenwashing. Outside the Career Center, students and activists rallied to call out the bank’s destructive investment practices as potential recruits entered the building.

Bank of America is one of the top funders of the coal industry, both in the mining and coal-burning utility sectors.  Between 2010 and 2011, it pumped $6.8 billion into the U.S. coal industry, the single largest source of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Continue reading ‘UC Students Give Bank of America Recruiters a Reality Check’

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