Earth Day 2008
The challenges are immense, but the world is gearing up for a transformation towards clean-energy, real security, and relocalization. See this piece last year from Thomas Friedman, on The Power of Green. And to be reminded of the need to engage globally, now, see the latest from Nick Kristof, Our Favorite Planet
Focus the Nation is here: a week to celebrate the clean-energy future that awaits, if we all work hard enough. And it’s an honor to know that 100’s of the Focus the Nation organizers have received copies of Ignition thanks to Island Press. Major kudos to the Focus the Nation team and the 1000’s of Americans who are helping to lead this movement.
The first week of November was certainly memorable for the climate movement:
It’s an exciting time. Now, we need to roll up our sleeves and get to work.
The urgency of the climate crisis is sparking leadership by thousands of Americans and citizens around the world. In the basements of their synagogues, mosques and churches; in their boardrooms and Chamber of Commerce meetings; on their campuses - citizens of all kinds are taking action in their communities and on their campuses.
No group has been more important in sparking this movement then Clean Air-Cool Planet, a non-profit based in New Canaan, CT and Portsmouth, NH. For years, CACP has been working with corporations, campuses, communities and science centers to effect social change towards a sustainable, clean-energy future. As one of the editors of Ignition, I can speak first-hand about their collaborative abilities: our book would not have been possible without early support from CACP.
Next week (October 12 and 13), CACP will be bringing together 500 citizens from all over the country to a major national conference: “Global Warming and Energy Solutions.” This will be a remarkable opportunity to continue to build the climate movement as it continues to take off.
And on October 18th, from 6:00PM - 8:00PM, I will be leading a panel discussion in New Canaan, CT, on behalf of CACP. I am honored to be joined by Adam Markham, CACP’s Executive Director, and Rafe Pomerance, President and CEO of the Climate Policy Center. If you are in the area on that night, I hope that you can join us. It will be an opportunity to learn more about what you can do in the fight against global warming.
Here’s are some new comments by Michael Shellenberger (co-author himself of an Ignition chapter!) on the chapter of Bill Chaloupka. Michael writes:
[Chaloupka] argues that environmentalists must understand the ways in which their moralizing about capital-N Nature contributed to the anti-environmentalist backlash in the west. … Chaloupka is no anti-environmentalist. He has fought for years for wilderness protection, green space, and urban sustainability. … Against the naive view that environmentalists are passive victims of a corporate-funded, right-wing organizing, Bill wants to restore some agency — and responsibility — to environmentalists.
Michael goes on to note:
Lest we think those bad old days of anti-environmentalism are over, consider that every effort to pass global warming legislation in Congress will be attacked for raising energy prices or taxes or both — and those attacks will have a powerful impact and cannot be countered with ever-more reports about how bad global warming is going to be for our children and grandchildren. People have far more immediate today that must be addressed. Creating a new politics means letting go of the jeremiads, which alienate more than they educate, and abandoning enviro-scientism, which is intended as truth-telling but is experienced, more often than not, as a dismissal of the very real concerns people have about their jobs, their bills, and their futures.
Michael and his collaborators at the Breakthrough Institute are doing remarkable work as the fight against global warming begins to mature. I highly recommend their new book, Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility. As I recently wrote:
Attention, tree huggers and progressives! Break Through shows why it’s time to shift from environmentalism to aspirationalism: from a belief system based on ’saving the planet’ to one which builds on the daily hopes and dreams of people around the world. As they build a vision of a clean-energy future, leaders of the citizen-powered climate movement would be well advised to study and apply the lessons of this groundbreaking book.
The great news for the climate movement is that real climate bills are now winding their way through the halls of Congress. In a bipartisan manner, our elected officials are finally taking on the challenge of global warming and paving the way for a clean-energy future.
To succeed, climate legislation should be supported by a broad-based coalition of citizens who will have a long-term incentive to make sure that we really do cut our greenhouse-gas emissions and invest in clean-energy infrastructure. I think that the best idea for this comes from Peter Barnes: the cap-and-recycle approach. Check out what Peter writes here on the Step It Up blog:
In cap-and-recycle, permits are also sold, not given away free. However, the revenue doesn’t go to the government — it goes to all of us, one person, one share. The model here is the Alaska Permanent Fund, which pays equal dividends to all Alaskans from state oil income. This kind of cap is sometimes called a sky trust.
That’s right, each of us would own a small piece of the sky, and receive dividends from it every year! Sound’s a lot better to me than giving permits away to corporate insiders.
If you’re in the Middlebury area, come here Peter speak about cap-and-recycle on Tuesday night, October 2nd. We hope to see many of you there.
We are proud that Ignition features an introduction from Bill McKibben, documenting the magical five-day walk last summer that really put, as Bill writes, ‘movement into the movement.’ (You can sample that introduction here.) I am pleased to now spread the word about a film of that walk, “Marching for Action on Climate Change: Five Days Across Vermont with Bill McKibben and Friends.” It’s a really fine documentation of this remarkable event - and at 30 minutes, it’s a really good way to spread the word about the climate movement, say, in your living room or at a small gathering of friends. If you want to play a role in building this movement, I hope that you will consider purchasing a copy of this outstanding film.
We are pleased that the word is beginning to spread about Ignition. The book just received a very strong review from the LA Times. Here’s an excerpt:
Although there are many authors, there is a stylistic coherence [in Ignition] one usually doesn’t see in books on climate change. More important, “Ignition” vastly enlarges the ark. The authors contend that climate change, what [Bill] McKibben once called “the mother of all environmental challenges,” is not just an environmental issue. It is all about community. Although scientists and economists provided the initial spark, only a widespread social movement, like the civil rights movement, will ensure the kinds of changes needed to reverse current trends.
Also, Seventh Generation has just posted a video that features Jon Isham and Eban Goodstein, an Ignition chapter author and the inspiring force behind Focus the Nation. (Seventh Generation’s video series, The Inspired Protagonist, also features two other Ignition authors: Bill McKibben and John Passacantando.) And see this recent Op-Ed piece from Jon in the Burlington Free Press, on how to jump-start your own involvement in the climate movement.
Ignition has a wonderful array of chapter authors, none more grounded in the climate movement than John Passacantando, executive director of Greenpeace USA. In a recent blog post of his own, John reports:
I’ve been working on global warming now for fifteen years and have worked with all kinds of folks; business leaders, anarchists (the peaceful kind), church leaders, mayors, students, you name it. But as an organizer/activist by profession and maybe DNA - I thought I had seen it all - until I went to a global warming conference that my friend Bill McKibben invited me to at Middlebury College a couple of years ago. It was a wild mishmash of diverse thinkers on how to jump start activism on global warming. All sorts of activism grew out of this conference, presentations I hated, ones I loved, nothing was predictable.
Check out the rest of John’s post, in which he describes his chapter in Ignition. And check out what Greenpeace USA is up to as they continue to push us towards a clean-energy future.
A grassroots revolution just swept the U.S. – and unsurprisingly, the mainstream media completely ignored it. From June 27 to July 1, over 10,000 activists from all over the country descended upon Atlanta for the first-ever U.S. Social Forum to create a vision of a more just and sustainable United States of America. (How I wish I could’ve been there!) Since 2000, peoples’ movements all over the globe have been building alternatives to corporate globalization and unchecked free trade at World Social Forums, united under the slogan “Another world is possible.” Working within the WSF process, the organizers of the USSF have now expanded the slogan: “Another U.S. is necessary!”
Indeed, another U.S. will be necessary if we are serious about stopping climate change. The U.S. comprises only 4 percent of the world’s population, yet emits an incredible 25 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases. How can the vision of the USSF inform our movements to stop global warming?
Highlighting Atlanta’s history as a civil rights battleground and the experiences of communities of color with systematic oppression, USSF organizers made a conscious decision that the USSF would be led by people of color. The climate movement would do well to incorporate this lesson. In my contribution to Ignition, I argue along with my co-authors Julian Agyeman and Harriet Bulkeley that the climate movement must take care to reflect and affirm diverse leadership. Communities of color and low-income communities are not only disproportionately vulnerable to climate change, they also have the most to lose if climate policy does not take their interests into account. We must create space in our movements for leaders from these communities to be heard if we want truly just, sustainable and effective solutions to climate change. It is not enough to have a movement to stop climate change – we must build a movement to achieve climate justice.
What does climate justice look like? Right now no one can answer that question with full certainty, as the project to achieve climate justice will likely extend beyond our lifetimes. However, I do have some ideas about what climate justice would entail:
- A world where energy is shared equitably within and across borders, where no nation consumes more than its fair share of resources or emits more than its fair share of carbon dioxide;
- An end to fossil fuel extraction, which has devastated communities and ecosystems from the Niger Delta to Ecuador to Appalachia;
- A “just transition” for fossil fuel industry workers into a new clean economy based upon renewable energy;
- A paradigm of decentralized renewable energy generation that reduces pollution, creates jobs, and empowers marginalized communities to take charge of their destinies.
The list could go on and on. We know we have the technological solutions to stop global warming. However, in the eloquent words of civil rights leader Van Jones, we must take care to ensure that the ensuing green wave lifts all boats – not just those who are already privileged. We must seek holistic and transformative solutions that affirm social, economic and environmental justice. Dozens of workshops at the USSF were dedicated to these very topics, bringing together representatives of grassroots organizations to share information and develop climate justice strategies. The knowledge base is there – the question is, will we listen? The media may ignore the grassroots initiatives at the USSF, but we cannot afford to do so. Let us therefore work in coalition to build a climate movement based upon core principles of justice and sustainability, for the benefit of present and future generations alike.