Climate Change

Radiohead Releases Leaked OK Computer Sessions to Support Extinction Rebellion

Radiohead has released 18 hours of demo recording, studio sessions, and unreleased songs after a hacker demanded $150,000 as ransom to not leak the stolen recordings. In response, the band released the compilation of the recordings on Bandcamp for £18 (or around $25) as a fundraiser for the global climate activist group, Extinction Rebellion, who have taken up residency in London.

Radiohead.Climate.Change.Extinction.Rebellion.Idioteqe.Iceage.Coming.Environment.jpg

Quoting from band member Jonny Greenwood:

“We got hacked last week - someone stole Thom’s minidisk archive from around the time of OK Computer, and reportedly demanded $150,000 on threat of releasing it. So instead of complaining - much - or ignoring it, we’re releasing all 18 hours on Bandcamp in aid of Extinction Rebellion. Just for the next 18 days. So for £18 you can find out if we should have paid that ransom.

Never intended for public consumption (though some clips did reach the cassette in the OK Computer reissue) it’s only tangentially interesting. And very, very long. Not a phone download. Rainy out, isn’t it though?”

“The climate and ecological emergency demands courage, truth-telling and generosity like never before,” Extinction Rebellion said in a statement, “We are so grateful to Radiohead for showing us how that’s done, both now and in the lead-up to the April rebellion. Words are inadequate but actions do change the world.”

To download the recordings, visit Radiohead’s Bandcamp page.

To learn more about or to support Extinction Rebellion, visit their website, or follow them on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

Uber and Lyft Drivers Set to Strike Before Uber IPO

Uber and Lyft drivers in several major cities across the globe are planning a 2-hour strike set for May 7, 2019- the day before Uber shares begin to trade publicly. Labor groups who are organizing the strike are protesting the companies’ payment and labor practices, and hope that their early morning-rush hour strike will cause enough congestion to not only make Uber and Lyft executives take notice, but also the financial press covering the much awaited Uber IPO.

Source:  Uber

Source: Uber

According to the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, rideshare drivers in New York City, Philadelphia, Boston, and Los Angeles are scheduled to go on strike from 7AM to 9AM on Wednesday, May 8th. According to the Independant, the participating cities in the UK include London, Birmingham, Nottingham, and Glasgow.

The New York Taxi Workers Alliance has released three demands to coincide with the strike:

  1. In solidarity with our driver brothers and sisters fighting to stop poverty and debt and in support of their national demands!

  2. To win Job Security for App Drivers by ending Unfair Deactivations in NYC!

  3. To secure a Livable Income by ending the scam of Upfront Pricing where passengers pay more but drivers earn less. Regulate the fare Uber/Lyft/Juno/Via charge passengers, and cap the Companies' commission, guaranteeing 80-85% of the fare to the driver!

Uber is projected to go public at the largest, or one of the largest valuations for an IPO. According to the New York Times, “Uber expects to be worth as much as $91 billion when it starts selling shares next month, making its initial public offering one of the largest in the history of the technology industry.”

While the rideshare company has become a political behemoth, noted for its bull-headed early strategy of entering markets before laws were created to accommodate it and treating cities like its own private laboratory, this moment before Uber’s IPO is also one of its most vulnerable. According to Business Insider, “Dara Khosrowshahi could get a huge payday — totaling more than $100 million according to a source — if Uber's IPO valuation hits $120 billion and stays at that level for 90 consecutive days.” This means that Uber’s CEO has $100 million on the line to make Uber’s transition to public company as smooth and valuable as possible.

Source:  Uber

Source: Uber

If drivers are able to generate enough strain on the rideshare systems to cause a public outrage, or even just a media one, then the drivers who are often considered to be exploited by rideshare companies can leverage this window of opportunity to either guarantee that Uber’s CEO doesn’t get his $100 million bonus, or demand more livable wages and treatment.

Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders has even responded to the strike in a statement on Twitter, “Uber says it can't pay its drivers more money, but rewarded its CEO with nearly $50 million last year. People who work for multibillion-dollar companies should not have to work 70 or 80 hours a week to get by. I stand with the Uber and Lyft drivers going on strike on May 8.”

Although not specifically tied into the driver IPO strike, the environmental nonprofit and activist group, Sierra Club, has also entered into the fray with a new campaign, that takes advantage of the IPO media, to urge Uber and Lyft to electrify their fleet. In a statement to the Verge, Andrew Linhardt, deputy advocacy director at the Sierra Club said that, “they need to put real funding behind these incentive programs, especially for full-time drivers, and get them more quickly into electric vehicles. They have the market power to help shape the EV market.”

Whether it’s workers rights, fair pay, or vehicle electrification— Uber, and its executive team, have a lot to consider before their upcoming IPO. Uber is set to become one of the largest, if not the largest, IPO in market history at around a valuation of $91 billion. While there has been much mythologizing about Uber’s executive culture of relentlessness, in actuality it’s their drivers whose backs they built their fortunes on. Rideshare companies like to tout their environmental nature and efficiency, but in actuality their fleet still burns gas. With the May 8th strike, hopefully those who will benefit least from the company’s windfall will begin to have their say.

Youth Climate Strike Are Only Gaining Momentum

Few movements have captured the public’s attention like the Youth Climate Strike. In August of 2018, Greta Thunberg, a Swedish teenager, ignited the movement by refusing to attend school and instead sitting on the front steps of the Swedish Parliament. Within months she was an internationally known advocate for climate action. Worldwide, teenagers and children responded in kind by striking for climate action. Their first major action, a worldwide strike on March 15 of 2019, was a resounding success that told the world in no uncertain terms that the next generation would stand up for the environment.

Youth Climate Strike in Chicago

Youth Climate Strike in Chicago

The History of the Youth Climate Strike

This isn’t the first time that students have struck for the climate. In 2015, over 50,000 people participated in a worldwide strike in favor of clean energy, aid for climate refugees, and leaving fossil fuels in the ground. Many of the participants were children who skipped school to be involved. The strike happened in concert with COP21, but did not give rise to a lasting movement. That’s a contrast to the current Youth Climate Strike, which has already developed a great deal of momentum with both its small- and large-scale international actions. 

In Kind had the opportunity to sit down with two leaders of the US-based arm of the Youth Climate Strike— Maddy Fernands, the group’s National Press Director, and Karla Stephan, the movement’s new National Finance Director. 

Striking From School

The idea behind the Youth Climate Strike is simple: student activists skip class on Fridays to stand in front of their local, state, or national government offices. To paraphrase some of the participants in this movement, there is little more about the climate situation that needs to be learned in a classroom. These students feel that they already know the most important factor: adults aren’t doing enough to stop climate change. 

There is an immediacy to this movement that doesn’t necessarily exist in older organizations. If a child born in 2003 lives to be 100 years old, they are almost guaranteed to see some of the worst effects of climate change. The students who are now striking on Fridays are doing so because they can be assured that climate change will affect their lives. Climate change is not an abstraction or distant prophecy for them, but a near-term upset of their adult lives. To a degree, the schoolwork that prepares them for a business-as-usual future may be moot. It is hard to project how climate change will affect civilization. The teens who strike feel that protesting the inaction of adults is a better use of their time than sitting quietly and hoping that everything will be alright. They’ve decided to take matters into their own hands.

A New Organization

The Youth Climate Strike grew out of Fridays For Future, the organization that itself rose out of Greta Thunberg’s Friday strikes before the Swedish Parliament. Thunberg only began striking in August of 2018, meaning that the movement has momentum unusual for a new group. Some of this might be laid at Thunberg’s feet. As an international spokeswoman, the 16-year-old has done an excellent job promoting her cause. Not only has she delivered a TED talk, but she has spoken before the UN and is scheduled to also speak at Davos. She has even been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. She - and the Youth Climate Strike - are now household names.

Youth Climate Strike in Washington DC

Youth Climate Strike in Washington DC

Organization

The movement itself is global, with strikes happening in places as far-flung as Switzerland, Columbia, and Uganda. In the US, leadership is organized at the state and national levels. This hierarchy allows the group to both coordinate widespread actions and stay in contact as they plan increasingly ambitious actions. 

As if the challenge of organizing a national movement isn’t enough, the Youth Climate Strike is also youth-led and youth-managed. Maddy Fernands says that parents and educators are supportive, but have minimal administrative involvement. The leadership and direction are all managed by high schoolers. This seems apt, considering that these are the same people who will need to deal with the brunt of the climate crisis when they become adults. Many members of the group express frustration with current adult attitudes toward climate change, and even parents connected with the movement admit that they don’t feel the same panic about climate change that their kids do. In many ways, this might be a boon for the movement. Parents and educators don’t need to be involved in the protest itself. They can take care of practicalities, like bills and transportation, while their kids lay the groundwork for a movement to save the future.

Leadership

The US movement is led by five students: Representative Ilhan Omar’s daughter, Isra Hirsi, is National Co-director and Co-founder with twelve-year-old Haven Coleman. National Creative Director Feliquan Charlemagne also heads the Florida state Youth Climate Strike chapter. Maddy Fernands, the group’s National Press Director, and Karla Stephan, its National Finance Director. Salomée Levy functions as the State Liaison, coordinating the national Youth Climate Strike leadership with state-based actions and chapters. 

Partnerships

To say that the Youth Climate Strike has made a splash in the world of environmental activism is to make a profound understatement. Karla Stephan reports that the group benefits from a growing list of partnerships, including those with Greenpeace, 350.org, the Future Coalition, and the Sunrise Movement. “It’s really helpful,” she says. What the Youth Climate Strike lacks in years, it makes up for with media savviness, networking, and connected leadership.

Co-director Isra Hirsi and Press Director Maddy Fernands are involved in several other environmental activist organizations, including MN Can’t Wait, a youth coalition that connects groups from 350.org to Sunrise and makes it possible for teens to get involved in climate action. Salomée Levy, the State Liaison, has also worked with GirlUp, a UN initiative to empower women and girls.

Sunrise Movement striking in solidarity with Youth Climate Strike in Chicago, Illinois

Sunrise Movement striking in solidarity with Youth Climate Strike in Chicago, Illinois

Not only are these partnerships important to the current Youth Climate Strike organization, but they represent a bright future for climate politics. Many of them, including 350.org, are relatively young themselves. However, they share the Youth Climate Strike’s political strategy and are already making an impression on US climate leadership. It seems likely that some Youth Climate Strike members will eventually run for office. At that time, the structure, strategies, and priorities of the wider environmentalist movement, including its focus on intersectionality, could become a larger priority in mainstream politics. That moment won’t be long in coming, either. Even though the members of the Youth Climate Strike can’t vote now, some are only a few years away from being legally allowed to run for local office. 

Goals

The demands and mission of the US Youth Climate Strike group are clear and broad in scope, but focused on working within the current political structure. One of their most strident goals is that climate change needs to be a national emergency. This would make funding available for the infrastructure upgrades that need to happen in order to move the nation beyond a fossil fuel-dependent economy. 

However, the group particularly wants to focus on supporting the Green New Deal. This comprehensive plan for climate action has been championed by some national policy makers, but still faces resistance. Nevertheless, it is gaining in popularity across the nation. The Youth Climate Strike’s priority is for the US to use 100% renewable energy by 2030. 

Intersectionality

Particular to the US-based Youth Climate Strike is a concern for marginalized communities and communities of color, which are disproportionately affected by climate change. Several of the members of the group’s leadership express this priority in their online bios and display consciousness of intersectionality in their leadership. With a large percentage of female and non-white leadership, the group displays diversity in its representation as well as its actions. Maddy stresses that Indigenous communities have been on the front lines of the environmental movement from its beginning. In order for the transition to renewable energy to be just, those communities must continue to have a seat at the table.

Youth Climate Strike in San Francisco via  Flickr

Youth Climate Strike in San Francisco via Flickr

Actions

The March 15th Strike

The Youth Climate Strike is young in every sense of the word: young people lead it, but the movement itself is also less than a year old. However, it’s growing. The worldwide strike on March 15 was a key indicator of just how popular it has become across the globe. The New York Times reports that particularly massive protests took place outside of the US, with Hyderabad, South Africa, and Seoul all seeing sgnificant youth participation. Worldwide, more than a million young people participated. 30,000 marched in Sydney alone.

In Washington DC, the strike nearly coincided with a walk-out for gun control, lowering turnout, and Karla concedes that the DC group is hoping for better result at their next action. However, she tells In Kind that participation across the rest of the US was more than satisfactory. Some places, like New York, held strikes in multiple locations, which made the event more accessible to a broader range of students. New York and Los Angeles saw the highest participation rates, but even Alabama saw teenagers walking out of class for the climate. It was a good start, Karla says, especially when it came to media coverage. 

While Maddy Fernands, the National Media Cordinator, made sure that people got interviews with the Youth Climate Strike’s leaders, local operatives managed social media on a place-by-place basis. “I had access to the DC Instagram and Facebook,” Karla tells me. “There was also US-wide social media.” The social media strategy was particularly important to the movement’s growth and influence. While the Youth Climate Strike leaders don’t disregard the importance of traditional media, including NPR and the New York Times, they’re also well aware that more people check social media than read the news. Both had their places on the big day, but one was disproportionately successful. “Social media definitely helped our platform more,” Karla says.

In fact, social media may have spurred a jump in the Youth Climate Strike’s membership. Participation has grown tremendously since the strike, with a surge in applications to join the national and state teams. Requests for ground-level membership pour in day by day from kids who are inspired by the fact that people are paying attention to the demands of teenagers. As non-voters, teens don’t always have much control over what happens to their world. This is a way to do something about the future of the planet that they’ll inherit. The movement is well situated for its next action on May 3. 

Youth Climate Strike in London via  Flickr

Youth Climate Strike in London via Flickr

What’s Next

The Youth Climate Strike is banking on their winning media strategy coming through again on May 3, when the movement will once again walk out of school. This time, however, their plan is more focused on policymakers. Now that the Youth Climate Strike has the world’s attention, they’ll use their newfound influence to lobby local and state officials to support environmental legislation. Karla says the intention is to switch up the way that strikes are normally done, a way to get real action out of an otherwise symbolic protest. “It’s combining civil disobedience with civil action.”

Strategic plans for this collective political action are still in progress, but in DC, at least, the process will begin with a moment of silence. Since Congress isn’t in session at that time, most of the lobbying work will happen at the state level. However, the impact of teens rallying at the Capitol will be important for the message that the group wants to send. Teens prioritize climate change even when adults are off doing other things. 

In keeping with their organizational demands, the Youth Climate Strike will attempt to persuade politicians to support the Green New Deal. Though that’s their focus, the movement is open to any environmental policy that could slow or halt global climate change. Their goal is to inspire action on the parts of political leaders, and at this point, any action would be welcome. 

In that spirit, the Youth Climate Strike also launched a petition in partnership with MoveOn.org to get the 2020 US Presidential candidates to hold an environmentally themed debate. In an election where the environment is an increasingly popular theme, this gives the Youth Climate Strike a chance to move public dialogue closer to the urgent climate issues that they feel should be the center of political discussion already. 

Greta Thunberg aptly noted that there’s no second chance for climate action. For the teens of the Youth Climate Strike, the time is now. This is their chance to save the world, and they’re taking it.

Donate to or learn more about the Youth Climate Strike on their website, or follow them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

Sign Youth Climate Strike’s #ClimateDebate petition to make climate change a central topic in the 2020 presidential election

How Colleges Fund Fossil Fuels: Oil and Gas Divestment Explained

All around the world, environmental activist organizations have jumped on the strategy of divestment. From 350.org to Extinction Rebellion to groups of student activists and citizens, thousands of people have realized that halting the institutional funding of fossil fuel giants may be the best way to bring about a reduction in emissions on an individual scale.

But what is divestment? And how does it work?

What is Divestment?

Divestment is the process of selling shares of a publicly traded company. In the case of fossil fuels, it means dumping investment in Shell and other oil companies. When protest doesn’t get a company’s attention, taking profit away from them is a way to demand it. Large organizations, like municipal governments and schools, often invest part of their employee pension plans in oil company stocks. This is done to build an endowment of funding for the school/institution to use for operational expenses. Getting just one college to divest can remove hundreds of millions from the fossil fuel industry very quickly. “In the most recent year with available data, 832 endowed U.S. public and private not-forprofit colleges and universities held assets totaling $516 billion, which averages to $620 million per-institution,” as reported by the Marcellus Coalition.

The History Of A Campus-Based Movement

This strategy traces its roots back to the 1970s, when much of the world divested from South African business interests to protest apartheid, with 350.org starting the utilization of the use of this strategy against fossil fuel companies in 2012. As a campus-based movement, divestment has become an issue at colleges and universities worldwide. According to EcoWatch, “about 150 campuses worldwide have committed to fossil fuel divestment.”

At the University of Chicago alone, over 250 professors support divestment. Unfortunately, the school’s administration, including president Robert Zimmer, have resisted this change- even allowing fossil fuel companies to hold conferences using school resources. Extinction Rebellion Chicago recently held a nonviolent act of civil disobedience at University of Chicago’s “Booth Energy Forward 2019” conference, which (amongst others) was sponsored by Chevron and Exelon.

In a statement, XR Chicago member Victoria said that, “This conference’s goal is to discuss how to maximize returns on fossil fuel investments, and to act as a networking event for graduate students at University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. We are here to not only confront the members of the conference, but to also reach out to these students to question why they seek jobs within an industry that is destroying the planet they, presumably, also wish to inhabit.”

She continued, “Chicago just became the largest city in the USA to commit to 100% renewable energy by 2050– so why is one of its most prestigious Universities acting as the networking arm for an industry that has been proven to be the single greatest cause of global warming?”

Member Joe agreed by stating that, “we simply can't allow multi-trillion dollar fossil fuel companies to meet, network, and continue profit strategies under the guise of Education, or at all for that matter,” and that “it's time for these institutions to act like the cultural leaders that they claim to be.”

Victoria concluded that, “In 2016 250 professors at the University of Chicago in solidarity with student activists, urged the elite private university to purge its $7.6 billion endowment in coal, oil and gas companies. The university did not act then, we are hoping they will act today.”

Despite the stalemate at the University of Chicago, divestment efforts are becoming so strong on college campuses that they’ve given rise to other activist groups. The Sunrise Movement began as a group of students who had connected over their desire to get their school to divest.

Why Divestment Is A Good Strategy

After just half a decade, divestment campaigns are starting to get results. In 2017, New York State divested $390 billion in oil, gas, and coal interests from its pension plan. Over 40 academic institutions have responded to student and faculty demands and dropped fossil fuels, including Stanford University. The Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the nation of Ireland have divested, too. In a watershed moment, Norway is beginning a massive divestment campaign that will eventually remove $8 billion from the oil and gas sector. Altogether, over $6 trillion had been divested from fossil fuel as of September 2018. 

Most significantly, oil companies are beginning to feel the pinch. In 2017, Royal Dutch Shell quietly reported that divestment was a significant threat to its bottom line. If the size of divestments continues to grow, then the oil giants will finally have to make changes. Investor money is talking. Soon, Shell and its cohorts might have to listen.

You can find out more about Extinction Rebellion International on their website, or follow them on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

You can find out more about Extinction Rebellion Chicago on their website, or follow them on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

We're Worried About Climate Change, So We're Throwing a Party!

This Earth Day Weekend, we will be hosting a party for those who are worried about climate change and would like to learn more about what they can do to get involved with the cause!

A live performance from comedian Daniella Mazzio, in addition to an open bar, light refreshments, sustainable product samplings from Salvage Food Products, and environmentally conscious household essentials curated by Trestle will be free to those who attend.

Representatives and members of area activist groups will be in attendance, and will be available to answer any questions you may have about getting involved!

  • 1562 N Milwaukee, Bru Chicago / 7-9:30pm

  • Tickets are free at the door, or $5 to reserve a space.

  • 21+ for open bar

"As a stand-up and musical comedian, Daniella Mazzio has performed at Sketch on the Rocks, The Clever Comedy Show, Make Me Laugh and Win My Money, The Junk Drawer, Szpitalna 1 (Kraków, Poland), You Joke Like a Girl, The Strange Hour, Live From Mom's Basement, and Arts & Culture Club. She has be opened for Improvised Board Games, Breakfast of Champions, Silly Point, and Spliff, and recently headlined Mary’s Comedy Club at Hamburger Mary’s Chicago." -Daniella Mazzio

"Two chef buddies who realized that with enough alcohol and science, anything is possible. Through trial, error and chance encounters, they have created a system to convert alcohol manufacturing wastage into creative food products. With their chef coats behind them, Nicholas Beaulieu and Jason Garland look forward to expanding their vision to a brewery near you." -Salvage Food Products

"Our team is made up of people who, like many, would rather support companies who operate by the values we believe in, but often find our dollars going to convenience and competitive prices. We think it’s too hard and time consuming to discover companies who do more than simply earn a profit. It doesn’t have to be this way." -Trestle

You can find out more about Daniella Mazzio on her website, or follow her on Twitter or Instagram.

You can learn more about Salvage Food Products on their website, or follow them on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

You can learn more about Trestle on their website, or follow them on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

Extinction Rebellion Finds Roots in Chicago's Climate Activist Community

Extinction Rebellion has taken the media landscape by storm. From an activist spark in London, it has turned into a global wildfire, catching the attention of news outlets with eye-catching acts of protest. Under the motto Fight For Life, Rebel For Life, this movement pursues dramatic climate action through non-violent protests that are meant to keep climate change constant in the public’s attention.

But beyond the headlines, XR is a fascinating collage of activists from around the world whose frustration with political inertia has culminated in a last-ditch push for political action. In Kind sat down with Joe Phillips of Extinction Rebellion Chicago to learn more about the movement and its goals.

History

On October 26, 2018, the Guardian published an open letter from over 100 members of the British scientific establishment. It demanded government action to curb climate change and declared that the British government, by ignoring the danger, had become complicit in disaster. It called for a citizens’ assembly, though it didn’t define what that might look like. In December, the Guardian published another letter along the same lines. 

Meanwhile, Roger Hallam, a student at King’s College, had been trying to get his school to divest from fossil fuels for two years. In late 2018, frustrated by slow action and endless delays, he changed tactics. Six weeks of direct action got what two years of hard work had not. Hallam and his fellow activists knew they had hit on a model that worked. Extinction Rebellion was born. 

Soon, the rebellion had spread worldwide. Joe can’t guess at an exact number, but reports that the movement’s head count must be in the tens of thousands already. While Europe and the US currently have the highest concentration of chapters, XR movements are popping up in India, Brazil, Burkina Faso. The map of XR chapters grows more crowded every month.

Goals

While Extinction Rebellion is not against the existence of government, it does believe that “business as usual” has caused great harm to the environment. “It must be held accountable for the devastation around us and transform into a government that will ensure the safety of all people,” Joe says. This is especially true in the environmental justice sense. XR US is particularly concerned about communities of color, indigenous people, and the global South, all of which are vulnerable to neglect and environmental exploitation. However, the international movement’s focus is often more generally focused on climate change.

In a time of dread, XR embraces a kind of informed optimism. The IPCC estimates that there’s a 5% change that the world can keep the temperature of the planet from rising more than 2 degrees celsius above pre-industrial temperatures. This would take monumental effort and cooperation unprecedented in world history, but the alternative is literally beyond imagination. Extinction Rebellion - and every other climate activist on Earth - knows the stakes. But XR believes that a 5% chance of success is more than enough when the fate of humanity is in question. “All we are lacking is the political will,” states Joe, “XR’s mission is to see that 5% chance and push 95% harder to get us there.” If it can mobilize 3.5% of the world’s population, XR believes that it can make real change happen. That would mean an activist army of about 263.5 million people. 

As climate anxiety rises and moderates become increasingly disturbed by government inaction, it seems possible that many more will turn activist. If XR itself can’t raise itself to millions strong, then it could at least swell the ranks of general climate change protest and political action, inspiring previously unmotivated people to look up a movement that suits their personality. If Extinction Rebellion, Greenpeace, 350.org, the Sunshine Movement, and all the rest were to collectively grow powerful in numbers, then global change could become a real possibility. It’s the dream, and XR is determined to help bring it to life. As humanity perches on the brink of true catastrophe, a dream might be what tips us back from the precipice.

Meanwhile, chapters like XR Chicago focus on divestment and non-violent civil disobedience. They focus on the local and the immediate. Change will come, the activists believe. Direct action works.

Demands

The international XR movement has three demands, according to its website:

  • The Government must tell the truth about the climate and wider ecological emergency, reverse inconsistent policies and work alongside the media to communicate with citizens.

  • The Government must enact legally binding policy measures to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025 and to reduce consumption levels.

  • A national Citizen’s Assembly to oversee the changes, as part of creating a democracy fit for purpose.

The demands of XR US are slightly different, adding a fourth point:

  • We demand a just transition that prioritizes the most vulnerable people and indigenous sovereignty; establishes reparations and remediation led by and for Black people, Indigenous people, people of color and poor communities for years of environmental injustice, establishes legal rights for ecosystems to thrive and regenerate in perpetuity, and repairs the effects of ongoing ecocide to prevent extinction of human and all species, in order to maintain a livable, just planet for all.

Joe cites the US’s poor record on ecological justice as the reason that XR US amended the international movement’s language. While the UK has its own troubling history with racism, he tells us, those issues are more immediate in the US. There has also been criticism of the UK group’s focus on climate. Detractors claim that despite its emphasis on climate change, it isn’t focused enough on racism and environmental justice. As the entire XR movement is less than a year old, it remains to be seen if XR International will join XR US in adopting intersectionality as a core tenet.

Regenerative Culture

The concept of regenerative culture is nebulous, even by the standards of Extinction Rebellion members themselves, but it is crucial to what XR stands for. Its policies promote it as a necessary piece of the global healing that must happen, suggesting that part of what environmental activism must fix is the human soul itself. It’s a novel concept: better people make better users of the environment.

But what is regenerative culture? Different people interpret it in different ways. Joe takes a personal approach. “To me, on a very personal level, regenerative culture means taking care of ourselves and our loved ones through this difficult and painful process of reckoning with climate breakdown.” 

The psychological effect of climate activism is undeniable, even for people not directly involved in activism. The APA has associated rising levels of PTSD and substance abuse with fear of climate change, also known as ecoanxiety. Activists who think about, talk about, and act out about climate change constantly may be at risk of experiencing this condition. Burnout, Joe tells me, is something to dread and avoid. To prevent it, he takes care of himself by meditating and making sure he stays off of social media for a few hours every day.

Other philosophies on regenerative culture focus on humankind’s relationship with the natural world. A culture that prioritizes the Earth is one that won’t cause an ecological collapse; it might not value the latest iPhone and instead focus on designing for systemic health. A shift this size would be tectonic in nature, but XR doesn’t strive to keep its goals small. In fact, its outspoken desire to change the world quickly is a refreshing change from the moderation of traditional environmentalist groups. 

Strategy

In the past, major activist movements that have set out to address climate change have tried to set reasonable goals and metersticks for success. In some ways, these have been successful; 350.org is one organization whose quiet policy work has made a large cumulative difference. However, like a healthy ecosystem, activism needs members of many different niches to succeed in its goals. The niche that Extinction Rebellion occupies is far different from a policy-oriented group like 350.org, the Sunrise Movement, or the Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Unlike these organizations, XR does not try to work with politicians. Individual XR members often support specific policies, but the group itself isn’t interested in convincing leadership to make changes. Instead, it bases its operational theory on the concept of the Overton window. 

The Overton window, also known as the window of discourse, represents the range of topics that the public will tolerate in conversation and debate. For example, giving animals full American citizenship currently does not fall into the Overton window because the public would generally consider it a preposterous idea. However, vegetarianism, and even veganism, in the name of animal rights is now a common topic of conversation, and there is even legislation that protects animal welfare. Once, those laws might have seemed radical or impractical. Now, it’s a reality thanks partially to activists who shifted the Overton window.

That’s what XR is trying to do with climate change. Using non-violent civil disobedience, it aims to become a topic of conversation. People who laugh about climate activists stripping in the British parliament may view the Green New Deal as a more moderate, reasonable effort in comparison. 

XR’s actions range across the creative spectrum, with the point being to get people talking. The more outlandish the protest, the better the chance that it’ll make the news. Joe relates that he contacted an XR protester from the UK to find out how to mix up large batches of super glue. Why? Because XR UK activists have had great success supergluing themselves to buildings! 

Organization

Because of Extinction Rebellion’s decentralized structure, the recipe for the aforementioned superglue appears to differ not only between different countries, but between different states. This is an apt illustration of XR’s self-governance. 

Decentralization allows XR to run as affiliated small groups instead of one giant hierarchy. That means that geographic areas, like the Chicago Extinction Rebellion wing, can react to local priorities and events rapidly. There’s no overarching approval process and no central authority controlling all of XR’s actions. Some members take on leadership roles, but otherwise, this is a movement of like-minded individuals working together toward a common goal and a common good.

The only requirement for a local Extinction Rebellion chapter to remain a branch of the international Extinction Rebellion movement is that it supports the group’s established guidelines. That’s how XR US can add a demand, but not subtract one. In the absence of tentpole leadership, Extinction Rebellion must maintain its core principles as a guiding light. 

Because XR is decentralized, it can draw from the social structure that exists in localities like Chicago and London. By tapping into this, XR can make a new network of people with preexisting relationships, who already share a passion for environmental activism and a desire to do something about the state of the world. While large-scale events like the London bridge closures draw new members, Joe feels that the movement is only healthy if it thrives at a smaller level.

Funding

Due to XR’s decentralization, its exact financial footprint is difficult to determine. A March 2019 article in Forbes reported that XR had raised over £200,000 in less than a year, but the writer wasn’t clear whether the piece was referencing the entire movement or just its British origins. Most of XR’s money comes from the micro-donations of friends, family, and well-wishers. These flow to the movement through GoFundMe campaigns and events. A DONATE button appears prominently on the web pages of both XR US and XR International. Philanthropists, companies, and partner organizations also support the cause. 

However, most of the expensive hard work of being an activist organization seems to be happening on the parts of the activists themselves. As usual in movements like this one, XR protesters are volunteers. They show up. That donation of time is a large part of what’s caused XR to sweep the globe.

Past Events

Because it is decentralized, XR does not keep a running tally of individual actions. Since there over 300 chapters already, each organizing its own demonstrations, the only way to track actions is through news coverage and individual chapter reports. Actions can range from disruptions at city council meetings to roadblocks to buckets of “blood” poured on the ground at Downing Street. 

In less than a year of operation, Extinction Rebellion have carried out hundreds of small and large actions, making itself known in a way that larger, more moderate organizations have taken decades to do— echoing the emergency of climate change. To an XR activist, there is no more time to waste. If a few gallons of water and food coloring poured down a major street will raise awareness about climate change, then that is worth getting arrested for. After all, what wouldn’t you do to avert the end of the world?

Going Forward

Many new XR chapters are just spreading their wings. Although they have already held smaller actions, Extinction Rebellion Chicago is about to hold its first major public event on April 15th. This action, which will be located outside of the Thompson Center in downtown Chicago, will be part of the first XR International Week. XR chapters worldwide will hold demonstrations until April 22nd, amplifying their demands through cooperation and sheer numbers. 

Joe also reports that XR Chicago is growing, as is the XR movement worldwide. “It’s an exciting time to be part of the movement”, he says. It’s vibrant and building momentum. As it moves forward into 2019, its voice will become louder and its actions become bolder. There may never be a better time for such an outspoken activist movement. Extinction Rebellion is here, and they’re ready to make the world change.

You can find out more about Extinction Rebellion International on their website, or follow them on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

You can find out more about Extinction Rebellion Chicago on their website, or follow them on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

Questlove and Grimes Are Worried About Climate Change

Recently the joint frontman, drummer, and multi-Grammy winner with the critically acclaimed band, The Roots, announced a partnership with the startup meat replacement company, Impossible Foods. The two announced that they are partnering to bring Philadelphia Phillies Fans vegetarian Philly Cheesesteaks branded as, “Questlove’s Cheesesteak.”

Source:  NBC

Source: NBC

Earlier this week, Grimes, who depending on the angularity of your haircut, may either know as Elon Musk’s former romance who almost helped tweet Tesla out of existence— or as the Juno award winning musician who’s last full length was released in 2015, announced that her next full length, Miss_Anthropocene, is going to be inspired by climate change.

While both of these artists enjoy a smaller spotlight than an International pop-star, with freedom to explore their own creative pursuits, they are still artists who are recognized and active in the mainstream. Questlove’s band, The Roots, gets airtime every night that the mainstream pinnacle, The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, is on. Grimes, despite curated ‘indie’ roots, has gone on to collaborate with Janelle Monáe, tour with Lana del Rey, go to the Met Gala with Elon Musk, etc. These are artists that definitely have mainstream pull.

What’s inspiring and hopeful about these projects (even if you don’t live in Philly or won’t likely stream Miss_Anthropocene) is that mainstream, or mainstream adjacent artists are now head on tackling ideas of climate change. The environment has always been a topic amongst creatives, but amongst mainstream culture, there hasn’t been a distinct reckoning the climate crisis that face us.

“Each song will be a different embodiment of human extinction as depicted through a Pop star Demonology,” Grimes told us in her album announcement, then continued, “Climate change is something I’m only ever confronted with in a sad/ guilty way…. Reading news and what not… so my goal is to make climate change fun (lol..??)…. “ This could inspire her contemporaries to follow suit, and start to consider their place in a society that is in the middle of a climate crisis.

If we are going to reduce carbon emissions, a part of what we are going to have to do is reduce (or eliminate) our consumption of meat, especially red meat. According to the Guardian, “beef cattle raised on deforested land result in 12 times more greenhouse gases and use 50 times more land than those grazing rich natural pasture.” Questlove’s Philly Cheesesteak could serve as a testing ground to see how new consumers will react to vegetarian options. The average demographic of a professional sporting game is generally not going to be the same demographic of vegans who are worried about climate, so offering a meat substitute (branded by a hometown hero) is a perfect way to potentially save some future carbon emissions.

While these are two extremely, very, small examples of climate action in the grand aggregate, these are still two very influential people lending their names and reputations to climate action. Impossible Foods isn’t likely paying Questlove a fortune, especially not the amount of money he could probably get from a less admirable brand. Grimes’ new album could totally flop. The great thing is, it doesn’t matter too much, because these will likely serve as catalysts to get more creatives thinking about what they can do to advert climate change.

What If We All Just Went on Strike

On March 15, 2019 over 1.5 million people across Earth went on strike to demand climate action. Inspired by Greta Thunberg and her Fridays for Future campaign, people in 125 countries and all seven continents united to call for politicians and those in power to make real steps towards combating climate change. According to 350.org, the global action is the largest climate demonstration in history, and the organizers of the strike say this is just the beginning.

On March 15, 2019 over 1.5 million people across Earth went on strike to demand climate action. Inspired by Greta Thunberg and her Fridays for Future campaign, people in 125 countries and all seven continents united to call for politicians and those in power to make real steps towards combating climate change. According to 350.org, the global action is the largest climate demonstration in history, and the organizers of the strike say this is just the beginning.

“The March 15 strike is not the end of us — it’s just the beginning. There are some past climate movements that lost momentum after their initial big events, and we want to make sure that that is not something that can be said about us. We want to make sure that once we have this event, the movement doesn’t stop and in fact gets even stronger with our momentum. We have some long-term plans too. We’ve been contacted by the U.N to potentially speak at the climate summit in September of 2019. We will also continue to grow our movement, from the national and local scale to the international scale, and collaborate with other movements. We want to make sure that we are heard and seen by the media, by the regular bystander, by everybody.”
-
Maddy Fernands, National Press Director of Youth Climate Strike

Chicago, Il strike held in Federal Plaza

Chicago, Il strike held in Federal Plaza

Rideshare Companies Should Offer an 'Electric Car Only' Option

In 2017 there were 159 million rideshare trips in New York City- with 66 million coming solely from Manhattan. In the same time period, globally, Uber facilitated four billion rides and created a $6 billion business with Uber Eats. This new influx of transport options has not gone without controversy, with rideshare companies being blamed for increased levels of traffic congestion in major cities, which leads to increases in pollution and carbon emissions and a decrease in public health.

Source:  Uber

Source: Uber

These companies aren’t going anywhere any time soon and have cemented themselves within the global infrastructure. Efforts to curtail the amounts of drivers able to work for rideshare companies, limitations on hours, and even so far as Lyft’s self imposed offer to purchase carbon offset credits, are all examples of efforts to reign in the new technology of on demand ride hailing. It is clear that technology has gotten ahead of regulation when it comes to ridesharing, and as these companies near their anniversary for a decade of existence, it is also clear that they are in deep need of an update to our current climate reality.

When Uber and Lyft were founded, they were considered upstarts challenging the status quo of the much entrenched taxi industry. There is absolutely no feasible way to consider these companies as upstarts anymore. They are both filed to go public, have more money available to them than potentially ever in the history of corporations, and have blown their local competition of taxi medallions out of the water. At some estimates, when both of these companies go public, there will be 10,000+ more millionaires in San Francisco— alone. These companies are the new status quo.

So how does all of this relate back to climate change?

Source:  Uber

Source: Uber

If these companies are the new status quo, then they should act like it. It is an unavoidable fact that extreme climate change is happening, and that global corporations are a monumental perpetuator of the existential crisis that is currently facing the entirety of Earth.

At least with Uber, this is a company that has had to spend untold amounts of money, undergo numerous executive departures, and even changed their logo to seem more friendly. While historically less cutthroat, Lyft is also a company that really, really, wants you to think that they’re just your friendly neighborhood cab— despite the fact that they’re suing New York City over the city’s decision to make rideshare companies pay a minimum wage.

This is all to say that these companies clearly care about their public image, and have (since their inception) garnered enough economic standing to make global economic decisions. Elon Musk recently mused that Tesla’s mere existence speeds up the transition to the ideal of sustainable transport by at least 10 years. This makes total sense, given that when Tesla started out, oil and gas companies were actively lobbying electric cars out of existence. If Uber and Lyft gave their riders an option to filter their trips in a way that they only took their rideshare trips in electric vehicles, this could incentivize a similar electric acceleration in the rideshare market.

Source:  Uber

Source: Uber

66% of global consumers, and an astonishing 73% of millenials have reported that they would spend more money on sustainable products in comparison to less eco-friendly products of the same type. While an ‘Electric Only’ option might not be necessarily more expensive, there’s a chance for it to be slower. This could be a stretch of the imagination, but since time is money (or as the idiom goes), rideshare passengers might not mind the extra few minutes at pick-up, it they know that their trips are lessening the burden on the environment.

Neigh-sayers will say that electric cars still need electricity from somewhere, and that the majority of that electricity comes from non-renewable resources. This is true in one sense, that both ends need to be renewable for an electric car to be fully sustainable, but it is also usually a disingenuous attack. As more and more renewable energy capacity comes online, that electricity needs to go somewhere, and if a global rideshare corporation was to set a goal of having more riders go electric, then it very much stands to reason that is we can incentivize a transition— we should.

In conclusion, the argument boils down to this: are global corporations going to step up and take the climate crisis head on? In the case of rideshare companies, they have a potential to expedite the shift to electric transport. They currently aren’t doing much about this gleaming opportunity, despite setting mountains of cash on fire subsidizing the actual trips that they sell. If these companies really want to consider themselves the companies of the future, then they should better realize the reality of climate change.

Cutting Class for Climate; Maddy Fernands Isn't Wasting Any Time

In Kind: Thanks for talking to me today! So you’re already on strike?

Maddy Fernands: Yes. I’m on strike right now at Minnesota Capital and it’s my second consecutive Friday striking. It’s really exciting. We’re leading up to the 15th of March and it will be big.

I: So March 15 is really a culmination of activity. What’s that been like?

M: The movement was started by Greta Thunberg in Sweden. She struck at the Swedish Parliament every Friday starting in August. That’s how she started the organization Fridays for Future. She recognized the fact that the Paris climate agreement and COP24 weren’t successful in accurately addressing the magnitude of climate change, or really addressing it at all. They were just more fluff added to the catastrophic policy failure of inaction. Since she started to strike she has grown into an international superstar for her denouncement of the U.N., so now people all over the world, in almost every country, are striking with her. The weekly strikes happen on Fridays and our big strike will take place on the 15th of March in solidarity with Greta and all the other strikers for climate action.

I: What kind of participation have you been seeing? Thousands of people? Millions?

M: Striking every Friday is hard for a lot of people because they have to miss school. I think some people make that sacrifice because they know that climate action is the necessity. What purpose will education serve if we don’t have a future to use it in? So in terms of the turnout regularly, I’d say that there’s still a lot of people who come out every week. On March 15th, turnout is likely to be into the millions. We are preparing for that event with mass participation in mind because we want it to be one big show, a big demonstration that people want climate action to happen now. I think that the strike on the 15th will be a really great time to show that.

I: Have you been seeing a lot of support from the adults in your life?

M: Yeah. But I think that adults, because they created this climate crisis, have a lack of urgency about climate change. It just hasn’t been the biggest issue of their life. On the other hand, when it comes to us young people, climate change has been here for our whole lives. I don’t remember a time when climate change wasn’t on my mind. From my perspective, it has always been one of the biggest problems facing humanity. I feel like climate change is this whole looming cloud, but that urgency is something that adults do not experience. I think that is why there’s not a lot of action occurring against climate change. That is why we need as many young people as possible to inform that urgency and make sure that is felt. Dianne Feinstein dismissed so many young people by saying that she knew better, that everything she’s already doing is sufficient when it truly is not. It’s hard for a lot of adults who engage the fact that what they’re currently doing is not sufficient.

I: Are you thinking about policy changes right now, leveraging this movement to get adults to change the law?

M: I think one of the main goals of our movement is to change the conversation around climate change. The Green New Deal has done a really good job of moving the conversation from what is supposedly politically possible to what is necessary, because what is necessary should always be at the top of the policy list. A more just, safe, happy, and thriving world should be our priority. I think with this strike we’re demonstrating that climate action is not just politically possible, but that if you don’t support us in this fight against climate change we will vote you out. We as young people can put pressure on politicians. One of our biggest asks right now is the Green New Deal. Our movement supports that resolutions because of what it stands for, not necessarily as it’s currently written. Right now it’s not specific enough to address all the inequities that come with climate change. However, we have a lot of outlines as to what a better policy solution might be. Together, we’re working toward the goal of having an equitable transition to a renewable economy under the IPCC guidelines.

I: Have you had any problems organizing at scale and across international boundaries?

M: This movement has changed my perspective about what organizing means. Before I was involved in the climate strike I was involved in other climate action, and I’m currently a part of Minnesota Can’t Wait, a statewide group that is currently drafting up legislation - not a resolution -  containing actual legal language for a Minnesota Green New Deal. But when it comes to national and international organizing, I honestly have never experienced the amount of interest that the youth climate strike has gotten. People care about the strikes and we’ve gotten picked up by a lot of really major news organizations. A lot of people have taken notice. It’s really powerful on both the national and international scale. This movement has defied the odds and expectations for what is possible for young activists.

I: Do you feel like you owe anything to previous climate movements? 

M: I think that we need to recognize and acknowledge the fact that indigenous folks started and have always been the leaders and proponents of the climate movement. We can’t just whitewash this moment. It’s important to recognize the initial indigenous leadership and respect their leadership in the new movement, our movement. We should also acknowledge that there have been many successful movements, specifically those surrounding pipelines, that have we’re kind of going off of. For example, the fight against the Keystone XL Pipeline and DAPL inspires us to bring that sort of people power to climate advocacy. Additionally, there’s a lot of youth movements that we think of as blueprints. March for our Lives was a very big influence because of how they were able to organize after a travesty and mobilize youth across the country. We want to do a similar thing when it comes to climate action and advocacy. It’s important that the youth is at the forefront of our movement because we feel the urgency of climate action. 

I: Are you doing any partnering, especially to make sure that the movement remains intersectional?

M: We’re partnering with a lot of organizations, including the Sunrise Movement, Greenpeace, and Earth Guardians. There are a bunch of different movements that have different viewpoints on climate change and do different things. We want to work together to make our movement more intersectional, more inclusive, and accessible to a bigger audience. 

I: How are you keeping the movement together financially?

M: We take two different forms of donations currently. There’s an online shop where you can purchase sustainable clothing that has US Youth Climate Strikes branding on it. Part of the proceeds go to our movement. We’re also fundraising currently through GoFundMe and have raised $6,000 so far [note: $10,406 as of publishing]. We’re going for $15,000 because striking is expensive. We’re also trying to get a stage at some of our bigger locations, like DC, NYC, and Miami, for the March 15 strike.

I: Are your parents involved at all?

M: It’s more of a youth movement. Our parents are supporting us in various other ways. For example, the mother of one of the other leaders of the youth climate strikes, Alexandria Villaseñor, is a graduate student at Columbia University. She studies climate, so she helps us a lot by talking about the basic climate science and connecting us to climate change experts. We have a lot of other adults who are on the sidelines, but it’s truly a youth-led movement.

I: How do you deal with climate anxiety? Do you do support people emotionally or count on them to show up prepared for the fight?

M: Climate anxiety is becoming pertinent to our movement. I have personally had very emotional experiences thinking about the problem because there is the potential for a very catastrophic future. It’s very scary in that aspect, but I think we need to remember the fact that we can still fight climate change. Our movement is trying to provide that support within our group by having conversations about our anger, frustration, and sadness when it comes to climate change. As we grow as a movement and develop more organizational structure, that will be a bigger part of what we do. Support is one of the most essential parts of what we want to do. To take action, you first need to not feel hopeless.

I: Does your movement try to talk to politicians who are resistant to climate action? Are you hoping that you’ll be able to vote them out once you reach voting age?

M: The reason that politicians are in opposition to climate action is not because of the will of the people. The majority of Americans believe in taking action on the climate. Politicians’ reasons have to do with the money of fossil fuel organizations and companies. Politicians are so deep in the pockets of fossil fuel corporations that they fail to see the will of the people. I think that is one of the main issues when it comes to legislative action on climate change. To solve that, I think we have to make it politically impossible not to act. If we make the will of the people strong enough, then we can fight the money from fossil fuel donors and we can make sure that politicians will feel the burn if they don't support climate action. I think we’ve seen that already in how all the the major Democratic Senate candidates have supported the Green New Deal. It has become politically bad for them to not do so. I think that is what our goal is: to make it so that climate action is bipartisan, necessary, and understood at the magnitude and scale that scientists describe to us. I think politicians will follow suit if the general public changes its mind and is very much in opposition to not acting. I think that’s already happening. We’re trying to change the mind of the general public by having strikes, by showing that young people are angry about how there’s no progress on climate change currently.

I: What role has social media played in your movement?

M: Social media has actually played one of the major roles in our movement. With young people, it’s really hard to do outreach any other way. Social media is a really great resource and we have some amazing people on our team. For example, on our branding team, we have Feli Charlemagne from Florida. He is amazing at graphic design. People outside the movement are interested in how we are able to be so professional and how we’ve organized so quickly. That’s one reason that it’s almost hard to stay away from our movement. People are looking into it because we’re making it a success. It’s likely that every state will have a strike of some kind on March 15. We’re trying to make sure that all young people have some kind of access to it, whether on social media or because we’ll have it in every single state. I think that young people really appreciate that. They appreciate being heard and I think that a lot of young people are particularly worried about the climate. Climate change belief and desire for action is a much higher priority when young people are polled. They feel that this is a time when they can express their feelings. I personally feel that this movement has given me and many of my peers a platform to show our anger and frustration and try to get something done.

I: Do you feel like you will continue mobilizing, especially as members of your movement become voters?

M: The March 15 strike is not the end of us - it’s just the beginning. There are some past climate movements that lost momentum after their initial big events, and we want to make sure that that is not something that can be said about us. We want to make sure that once we have this event, the movement doesn’t stop and in fact gets even stronger with our momentum. We have some long-term plans too. We’ve been contacted by the U.N to potentially speak at the climate summit in September of 2019. We will also continue to grow our movement, from the national and local scale to the international scale, and collaborate with other movements. We want to make sure that we are heard and seen by the media, by the regular bystander, by everybody.

I: Do you have any specific events coming up after March 15?

M: Yes! In early May there will be another international climate strike, so we’re going to try to get people out for that one as well. There’s a chance that this will be a recreation of the March 15 strike, but we want to give it a twist. When continuing momentum, it’s important to change the strategy to keep the attention of  the public's and the media. This first strike will just be a grassroots-organized strike. For the next one, we might do some sort of demonstration. I know that in New York City, they’ll be doing a die-in. After that, I think we’ll want to do something similar. We want the next strike to culminate our intersectionality and to use symbolism. It’s going to be bigger than ever, more important than ever, more urgent than ever. That’s our goal.

I: What do you see happening that gives you hope?

M: The Green New Deal and the fact that all of these grassroots climate groups are being heard is really powerful to me. The fact that the Green New Deal has become the center of the political landscape is something that’s amazing to me. I was there on Day 1 last November when the Sunrise Movement sat in Nancy Pelosi’s office. I was participating in Minnesota, but I was there at the beginning. They didn’t have momentum at all back then, and now they’ve grown it to an internationally known movement. I think that sort of power is brought to these movements and is given to them by the press. It’s powerful and hopeful because people are paying attention and they want to do something.

Donate to or learn more about the Youth Climate Strike on their website, or follow them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

Putting Away Plastic: The Rise of Zero Waste Grocery Stores

Around the globe, there is a drive to reduce plastic waste. The movement has picked up in many cities with hotels, restaurants and shops cutting down on the use of single-use items like plastic straws and bags. 

Most of this waste are used in packaging and many, frankly are unnecessary. From packing avocados and oranges in individual plastic wraps in places like Hong Kong, to boxes or cellophane wraps in the states. Some even package apples in hard plastic clamshells, bananas in foam trays, and in places like Japan, strawberries are packaged in a foam net before been put in a plastic straw and sold in a plastic wrap. 

different-kinds-of-cookies-in-shop-PTULNRF.jpg

In years past, China had been recycling more than half of the world’s waste but since they stopped accepting wastes, the millions of tons of such waste have been left unattended many times. In many countries, plastic fibers contaminate tap water.

Key Drivers 

Last year saw the anti-plastic drinking straw campaign create the “year of the straw”. Big companies like Starbucks and McDonalds pledged to reduce or phase out plastic straw use. Loop, a new zero waste shopping platform has partnered with global companies like Coca-Cola, Nestle, Proctor & Gamble to brand-name goods in reusable containers. This means that instead of using plastic containers to package goods and having to trash them, Loop collects the reusable packaging and prepares it for fresh use.

It also would not be possible without the help of the government. The European parliament has approved a ban on single-use plastics (cutlery, straws and sticks) in the EU. British Prime Minister Theresa May has endorsed a plan to remove avoidable plastic waste in British supermarkets, with taxes on single-use containers. In the US, the state of California bans single-use plastic bags at large retail stores and Hong Kong is planning to implement a building management enforcement for plastic waste. 

Trailblazers

With such key drivers in the push for zero waste, it is easier to see why there is a rise in zero waste grocery stores. In the states, Precycle in Brooklyn is one of those stores that sell organic local produce and bulk food without packaging. The founder, Katerina Bogatireva said she was inspired by the Berlin based Original Unverpackt

Over in Canada, Nada are doing great and have reportedly diverted more than 30,500 containers from landfills. They also launched a zero-waste café where visitors are encouraged to bring their own cups from home. Out in Denver, Zero Market are also one of the leading lights in the drive for zero plastic waste in the environment. 

In Hong Kong, Live Zero and Edgar are two popular zero waste stores. Live Zero, which is more of a wholesale store keeps its items in clear self-service bins or dispensers which are then poured into containers that you come with from home, no plastic packaging. Edgar is more of a grocery shop and they even offer reusable containers for packaging rather than using plastic. 

Gradually, the change is getting to everyone. There are now plastic free supermarket aisle’s in Amsterdam (the first of its kind in the EU) while Waitrose now sells Pasta in boxes made from food waste

With legislature and global firms steering the wheel, zero-waste grocery stores will continue to rise as they offer a solution to sustainability in the environment.

Ecosia: The Search Engine That Turns Profits Into Trees

The World Wildlife Fund estimates that about 18.7 million acres of forests are cut down each year, roughly equivalent to 27 full-sized football fields every minute. These forests are crucial for absorbing excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, maintaining biodiversity, balancing the water cycle, preventing soil erosion, and providing food, water, and shelter for approximately 1.6 billion people around the world. How can you do your part to slow deforestation and restore our planet’s supply of trees? It may not be realistic for you to go out into the wild and plant a tree yourself, but there are still important ways you can contribute! For example, Ecosia, a free search engine founded in 2009 by entrepreneur and activist Christian Kroll, is doing amazing work to help mitigate the effects of deforestation. Restoring the world’s forests is just a few clicks away!

Ecosia is a search engine that uses its ad revenue to fund reforestation projects all over the world, from Tanzania to Indonesia to Brazil. In order to best direct their income, Ecosia partners with nonprofit organizations like TreeAid in Ghana, which restores important watersheds in rural communities, and FairVentures in Indonesia, which helps restore the natural habitat of wild orangutans. Right now, Ecosia and its 7 million active users have gained enough traction to be able to plant one tree every second, amounting to over 50 million trees planted in total. Their goal is to plant one billion trees worldwide. If you’re interested in tracking their progress, you can follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and sign up for their email newsletter! Every time you use Ecosia to look something up, any ad revenue gained from your search goes towards these reforestation projects. According to Ecosia’s FAQ page, it takes about 45 searches’ worth of ad revenue to plant one tree. You can track your progress using Ecosia’s personal counter, which appears next to the search bar and lets you know how many trees’ worth of searches you’ve made!

Ecosia isn’t just taking a stand against deforestation — they’ve also committed themselves to transparency and privacy as a search engine, making them a great alternative to Google, Bing, and Yahoo for people who are concerned about their digital footprint. Unlike other search engines, Ecosia refuses to sell your search data to third party advertising companies or use external tracking tools. They also don’t create persona profiles for their users, and they anonymize all search data within 7 days of each search. All of Ecosia’ searches are encrypted using a self-hosted, in-house analytics system, and finally, you can opt out of all tracking services by activating the “Do Not Track” setting on your browser. In order to maintain the utmost level of transparency, Ecosia publishes monthly financial reports, which detail exactly how much ad revenue they made, exactly how much money went into tree planting, and exactly which nonprofit organizations received reforestation money.

If you’re looking for a super easy way to do your part in the fight against deforestation, consider making Ecosia your default search engine on your laptop or desktop computer. Without even thinking of it, you’ll be contributing to crucial reforestation efforts all over the world. Plus, you can rest assured that your private information stays private, which means that both you and the environment benefit from Ecosia!

Explaining the Green New Deal and Its Critical Urgency

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s October 2018 report warned that averting or mitigating food shortages, wildfires, extreme weather events, coral reef die-offs and other disasters will require global human-caused carbon dioxide emissions to  reach net zero—so that all remaining emissions were matched by carbon capture mechanisms-- by 2050. They acknowledged that reaching this target would require a rapid economic transformation that has “no documented historic precedent.”

Green.New.Deal.Wind.Energy

Some US lawmakers are proposing a radical transformation to deal with the crisis, and they are citing a historical precedent. The  “Green New Deal” invokes the legacy of Franklin Roosevelt’s sweeping programs to promote employment and social safety nets when the nation was crippled by the Great Depression. Those programs were denounced as radical government overreach in their day, but they helped many struggling families to survive, and a few New Deal initiatives-- including Social Security and the FDIC –remained law and are now accepted across the political spectrum. 

Just what is the Green New Deal? The term was coined in 2007 by Thomas Friedman, who was suggesting steps to curb US reliance on foreign oil. In 2008-9 the UN called for a ‘Global Green New Deal’ in which developed countries would invest at least 1% of GDP in reducing carbon dependency, while developing economies should spend 1% of GDP on improving access to clean water and sanitation for the poor as well as strengthening social safety nets. 

Green Party candidate Jill Stein ran on a “Green New Deal” in 2012 and 2016. In 2018, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez adopted the term during her successful campaign for the House of Representatives. In recent days lawmakers including Senators Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand and Ed Markey have voiced support for some form of Green New Deal, and New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, has sketched out a Green New Deal for his state as part of his budget proposal. A Green New Deal is called for in an open letter to all lawmakers signed by more than 350 elected officials across America, and also in a letter to the US House of Representatives signed by more than 600 environmental groups. There are some differences between these New Deal proposals, but they share many important features. 

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Each Green New Deal proposal sets an ambitious target for emissions reduction. An earlier proposal from Ocasio-Cortez’s website and the Green Party plan both call for the US to move to 100% clean energy, with zero net emissions, by 2030. Cuomo’s plan calls for 100% of NY power generation to be carbon-free by 2040, and also calls for plans for overall carbon neutrality at an unspecified date. (In 2016, according to the EPA, electricity generation was the source of 28% of US carbon emissions.) The environmentalists’ letter calls for 100% renewable energy production throughout the nation by 2035.  

Many Green New Deal proposals plan to meet these goals through massive investments in renewable energy production and energy efficiency, including upgrades to buildings and to the transportation grid. The Ocasio-Cortez and Green Party proposals also call for changes in the US agricultural system, which is a significant generator of greenhouse gas emissions: Ocasio-Cortez writes about localizing food production systems, and the Green Party also calls for the elimination of fossil-fuel-based fertilizers and pesticides. Both groups also speak of the importance of investing in small-scale local businesses and co-ops in other industries.

The Green Party plan and the environmentalists’ letter explicitly exclude nuclear power from their definition of acceptable energy sources, but nuclear power remains a contested issue among some advocates of a Green New Deal. Some advocates say that nuclear power is a necessary stopgap because renewable energy production cannot be scaled up fast enough to allow fossil fuel generation to scale down in time to prevent climate catastrophe; others point to the hazardous waste generated by nuclear production and the risk of lethal accidents.

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Like the UN Global Green New Deal, the US Green New Deal is concerned with alleviating poverty and working toward economic justice as well as slowing climate change. Impoverished communities tend to suffer most from pollution and the health problems it brings; some of them have also depended on highly polluting extractive industries for their employment base. Many different Green New Deal plans mandate input from and funding to these vulnerable communities. New York’s plan sets aside money to help communities who have depended on conventional power generation transition to clean energy jobs.  Green New Deal proposals also require input from tribal authorities, recognizing the needs of their communities and the insights they offer. 

Some versions of the Green New Deal—including Ocasio-Cortez’s draft plan and the Green Party platform—call for full employment and a government guarantee of living-wage jobs for any worker who wants employment. The Green Party specifies that such jobs must be offered in human services fields like child care and elder care as well as in construction and energy production, so that people with varying levels of physical strength can find work. Governor Cuomo’s Green New Deal plan does not guarantee employment but does set aside funds for workforce development to help people qualify for the jobs required by the new energy economy; it also includes wage guarantees for those workers. 

Whether or not there is a legal mandate for full employment, the green energy transition is likely to create jobs. In the short term, upgrading existing buildings and transportation infrastructures for greater efficiency will be a massive and labor-intensive project. In the long term, a 2014 UK study concluded, “there is a reasonable degree of evidence that in general, renewable energy and energy efficiency are more labor-intensive in terms of electricity produced than either coal- or gas-fired power plants.” A transition to more small-scale local agriculture would also require more human labor and less fossil fuel.  

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Ocasio-Cortez’s version of the Green New Deal also calls for social supports detached from employment, including basic income programs and universal health care. Many of her fellow Democrats at the national level who support some type of Green New Deal are also supportive of Medicare-for-all or some other expansion of publicly funded health care. In New York, Cuomo has dismissed single-payer health care as impossibly expensive, though NY offers generous Medicaid benefits.

Many critics of the Green New Deal in its several incarnations are focused on questions of how much it will cost and where the money is to come from. The Green Party points out that continued reliance on fossil fuels will lead to increased spending on disaster relief (as climate change intensifies hurricanes, wildfires and winter storms) and health care (as people require treatment for illnesses caused by pollution and extreme temperatures as well as for natural-disaster-induced injuries.) They also propose halving the military budget (pointing out that US military spending far exceeds that of any other nation, and suggesting that, without the demand for access to foreign sources of fossil fuels, we’d have much less incentive to fight wars) and sharply increasing taxation on the wealthiest Americans. Ocasio-Cortez and some of the Democrats who hold with her also back tax increases for the wealthiest. 

For now there is no single clear and authoritative version of the Green New Deal: the Green Party is not in power anywhere, Governor Cuomo’s New Deal plan will have to be approved by the state legislature (which is already considering a somewhat different climate-mitigation bill with some New Deal overlaps), and Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey are now working out a Green New Deal bill to present to Congress.  But the national dialogue has broadened to take in the possibility of transformative change in the face of crisis. The answers may not be clear yet, but at least the vital questions are being considered.  

The Polar Vortex Doesn't Disprove Climate Change and Here's Why

Over the past couple days, many of us in the Midwest have been hunkering down and bundling up as we’ve been walloped by a  “polar vortex”, a mass of arctic air which dipped unusually far southward and brought with it temperatures  in the -20s (and wind-chills in the -60s!). Young people from Minnesota to Illinois to Michigan experienced a level of cold they had never felt before; in locations throughout the upper Midwest, the thermometers have not dropped so low in over a generation

Along with the actual vortex, however, came a front of tweets and social media posts claiming that the deep freeze was proof (proof!) that climate change was a fraud. Of course, posts like these reveal much more about their authors than they do about climate change. If such declarations are proof of anything, it is that their posters either lack a basic understanding of what climate change means or else are being deliberately misleading. Nothing about the theory of climate change suggests that the Midwest (or anywhere else) can’t receive a spell of cold, even record-breaking, weather. 

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Often ignored or misunderstood by those calling foul on climate change is the key distinction between climate and weather. NOAA’s website does an excellent job outlining this distinction, “Whereas weather refers to short-term changes in the atmosphere, climate describes what the weather is like over a long period of time in a specific area.” Whether includes your day-to-day phenomenon – your daily, hourly or even minutely changes in temperature, precipitation, wind speed, wind direction, barometric pressure and more. Climate refers to the general, long-term characteristics of a region. 

For example, you might describe California’s Death Valley’s climate as very dry and extremely hot; that doesn’t mean that it never rains in Death Valley, it just means that, on average over time, Death Valley has experiences high temperatures and low rates of precipitation. Accordingly, a rainy day in Death Valley wouldn’t prompt us to reclassify the area’s climate, it would, rather, be considered unusual or rare weather event. If, on the other hand, Death Valley started experiencing much more rain for months or years, then we’d have to think about reclassifying its climate. 

When we zooming out to a global scale, we find that a cold couple of days in the Midwest tells us bupkis about the general trends of the Earth’s climate. The polar vortex is a weather event (and it is one that, due to climate change’s disruptive impact on the polar jet stream, might actually become more likely as the planet heats up). When we look at long-term, global data, we see a much clearer picture of where the climate is heading. Global average temperatures have been steadily rising for over a century, and the five hottest years on record have all occurred since 2010, and climate scientists predict continued and accelerating warming to the tune of at least several degrees Fahrenheit over the next century.

This bigger picture might be tough to focus on for those of us currently freezing our tuchuses off, but we should try to not let the weather – and erroneous tweets about the weather – distract us.

Only 9% of Americans Actively Deny Climate Change

According to recent findings from Yale’s Program on Climate Change Communication, only 9% of Americans are actively dismissive of climate change. This is a part of a study that broke American sentiment on climate change into six Americas: Alarmed, Concerned, Cautious, Disengaged, Doubtful, Dismissive. Breaking down the findings of this study, the researchers found that while 9% of Americans deny climate change- 91% of Americans fall into the spectrum of either being gravely worried about climate change to aware of climate change (but not thinking it is a big problem).

Source:  Yale

Source: Yale

This is a massive revelation, because that means that 91% of the United States is either aware of the problem or at the very least able to be convinced of the problem at hand. Even more encouraging is that 72% of United States citizens fall into categories that believe climate change science, and are motivated to do something.

This is a departure from the popularized notion that climate change is strictly a party line political issue. While opinions on climate change are a strong predictor or a single person’s political beliefs, no single party in the United States has 72% of the population to count as party members. This means that there is an inherent blending of political ideology within those who are aware that climate change is happening, and are motivated to do something about it.

While the current president of the United States, Donald Trump, the Republican candidate, has been a deep enemy of environmental causes as evidenced by his willingness to gut the sizes of national parks, refusal to switch from coal to renewable energy, reintroduction of asbestos, etc., it is worth noting that his actions on the environment don’t necessarily align with the sentiments held by the rest of his party.

Source:  Yale

Source: Yale

This shows up in further graphs where researchers asked participants how they would vote if a candidate actively opposed environmental regulation. The majority of respondents in the “worried about climate change” groups indicated that they would vote against a candidate who was anti-environment. Predictably, the group that actively denies climate science indicated that they would vote in favor of a candidate who was anti-environment. Interestingly enough though, in the groups that are either “disengaged” or “doubtful,” respondents indicated that they didn’t care whether the candidate was pro or against climate action.

This means that not only do the majority of Americans believe in climate science, but even those who might not yet tapped into climate findings are still able to be convinced. Only the 9% of Americans that are actively denying climate change and would support a candidate that was anti climate action, are the ones who are holding back climate progress.

This should inform how those who are pro climate action interact with those who they perceive to be anti climate action. In our current political climate where issues are becoming polarized to the ends of a bifurcated political system, it is rare to find an issue- and one that has already been deeply polarized, that can actually serve as a neutral ground in which to have constructive conversation. According to Yale’s findings, the environment is something that is important to most people, regardless of political affiliation, and if we engage with one another from that standpoint, we might be able to make sure that the 9% of deniers don’t halt 100% of climate progress.

California Cities Now Require 100% Electric Busses by 2029

California has yet again cemented themselves as a leader in the fight against climate change. Over the past few years they have enacted several forward thinking laws that have pushed their state to become a cleaner, more energy efficient location. California's Clean Air Agency has taken this even farther recently, by asking city transit agencies to make the change from fossil fuel driven buses to electric ones.

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Starting as early as 2023, transit must replace as much as 25% of their buses with electric. The amount will raise to 50% by 2026, and by the end of the decade, no transit company will be able to buy a bus that runs on fossil fuels such as diesel and gas.

Many cities have already begun to make these changes voluntarily. There are currently over 100 emission free buses on roads around California as we speak. These buses were purchased voluntarily, with no government mandates pushing the change.

The new rule won't include all buses in California. The mandate is for public transit only. School buses and privately owned buses will not be part of the change—for now anyway.

These changes to California's law did not come quickly or easily. Public transit is an important part of the natural gas industry, and losing the 5th largest economy in the world's transit will hurt their bottom line. These companies aren't the only ones that pushed back—some transit companies were against the changes too.

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Despite some who question the decision, the vote for accepting this mandate was unanimous. This may be in the hopes of stemming California's serious air quality issues. Several of California's cities have some of the worst air quality in the world, despite the many changes California has made to improve it.

The average transit bus can travel as much as 40,000 miles in a year, which is 4 times as much as the average car. It also consumes about 4 times as much gas per mile as the average car or truck. Combined, public transit is responsible for as much as 20% of the state’s transit related emissions, and this switch will remove as much as one million metric tons of carbon emissions from the air.

That's a huge amount for a relatively small change, and it could turn the tide for many smog choked cities around the state. Unfortunately, it doesn't come without a price. Emission free buses are significantly more expensive than traditional types. A normal, diesel powered bus costs about $500,000, a significant investment as it is. Cleaner burning natural gas buses costs $550,000 and electric buses can cost as much as $800,000.

While these initial costs are steep, they do cost less to run, and may pay for themselves over time. Until more of these buses are brought into daily use, it will be impossible to know for sure whether the buses are a good financial investment, even if there is no doubt they are a good investment for the future of our children, and for the environment.

Here’s a List of What Got Us Through 2018

While 2018 can generally be considered to be a Bad Year, there were still some things that brought some happiness to us. We asked our writers to consider their year and pick something that helped them get through the bad news of 2018, and hopefully they can help you do the same.

“Michelle Obama is a remarkable woman. I had the opportunity to see her
Wednesday night in Brooklyn, New York, as part of her book tour for Becoming.
Within 15 minutes of her coming out on stage, tears had welled up in my eyes.
Thinking back, I honestly can’t remember what she said that had made me so
emotional but now I realize it wasn’t what she had said – it was simply who she was
or rather, what she represents to every woman, young girl and person of color.
To me, she represents what hard work and motivation can get you. Michelle wasn’t
raised with a silver spoon but that never stopped her from accomplishing her goals
and setting new ones during the course of her life. To me, she represents a voice –
my voice – that deserves to be heard and whose story deserves to be told. To me,
she represents a future where society doesn’t ignore women but instead cherishes
them for all they have to offer.
This year has been filled with many memorable moments and experiences but
seeing Michelle speak has been one of the best moments of my life. And I’d like to
think that it wasn’t solely because I got to see her (and those boots!) but also
because I got to share it with a diverse room of people with a common appreciation
for who she is and what she represents – the promise of what could be.” -Chloe Castleberry

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“In Western Germany, less than an hours train ride from the bustling metropolitans of
Dusseldorf and Cologne, lies the biodynamic farm Hof zur Hellen. An idyllic and
enchanting place, I volunteered there for several weeks where I was welcomed into a
whole new world of weeding fields of cabbage, digging for potatoes, piling manure,
herding cows, and feeding pigs. I was astonished by how much I enjoyed the experience: the satisfaction at the end of a hard day’s work, the gratification of holding the literal fruits of your labor in the palm of your hand, the encounters with fellow volunteers from around the world, the knowledge and dedication of the workers. Through a core group of hard-working, open-minded, and devoted individuals, Hof zur Hellen is dedicated to the raising of animals and the growing of crops in an ecologically-sound and environmentally-friendly manner. It stands as a staple within its community, providing a high quality organic food source within the region. During my time there, I was impressed and inspired not only by its sustainable farming practices and its impact on the local level, but also by the hospitality, warmth, and trust of the people who live and work there. As 2018 draws to a close, my singular experience at Hof zur Hellen stands out as a reminder of the painstaking labor carried out by those who care about making a difference in the community and I’m grateful to have been a part of those who are committed to working for positive change.” -Emily Cai

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"2018 has been a dire year for the climate. Emissions have risen. Extreme weather hammered home the fact that climate change is a grim reality. As for halting it, there is a window of opportunity still just open. As it closes, the inaction of our most powerful governments inspires despair among scientists and citizens alike. 
But hope is not gone. Not yet.
2018 has seen an idea dawn in American government: a Green New Deal. The New Deal of our grandparents restored the Dust Bowl, the most severe environmental disaster the U.S. had ever encountered, during the worst financial collapse in history. The Green New Deal, backed by over 30 members of the House of Representatives, could see our nation boom with solar energy jobs as it takes the lead against climate change. 
Americans beat the last great crisis with tomato gardens, tin cans, and grit. Now, the nation clamors for action. Whether through civil disobedience or bicycle rebellion, citizens demand to live green. Nobody pretends that the change will be easy. Nothing meaningful ever is. In the words of a famous riveter, we can do it. With our leaders on our side, nothing is impossible.
The Green New Deal is still just a proposal, the seed of the mighty change that must occur if we are to save our world. 2018 will be remembered as the year that seed began to sprout. A movement has begun to grow. Let’s make it strong this upcoming year." - Anna Gooding-Call

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“While 2018 was officially deemed by most as the the worst possible timeline, the pop culture arena was the reprieve we all needed: enter Ariana Grande. The light, indeed, is coming to bring back everything the darkness stole, and no other light shone brighter than Grande as she came to collect her things. From securing a number one album, three top 10 hits, her first number one single, and two Grammy nominations, Grande remerged on the scene with “No Tears Left to Cry” a soulful, yet upbeat single eulogizing her Manchester Arena concert where, just a year prior, a suicide bombing killed 23 concertgoers while wounding 139 others. From terrorist attacks to enduring the beginning and ending of her engagement with SNL comedian Pete Davidson and the untimely death of her ex-boyfriend, rapper Mac Miller, after the dissolution of their relationship six months prior, this past year has been increasingly challenging for the 25-year-old songstress. Despite the hardships however, through her music she was able to excel through the pain and revel in this moment as Billboard’s official Woman of The Year where she ends 2018 still atop the charts with her record-breaking smash hit, “Thank U, Next.” With over 130 million followers, I think it’s fair to say we all can’t wait to see what’s next for Grande.” -Brandon Sams

"In 2018, I put the brakes on my all-consuming career and focused on what we oddly refer to as "the little things". In short, I started spending time enjoying life. This, in turn, has made me a more pleasant person to be around (or so I’m told). Following are some of the choices I made which have greatly improved my existence, in no particular order:
I studied the philosophers - from Socrates to Simone de Beauvoir.
I began going on long walks - and really taking in the beauty our planet provides us. 
I researched vegan nutrition, became a soup-making expert, and committed to (mostly) eating well.
I joined a weekly movie outing with friends.
I unwisely made a declaration to said friends that I would start remembering the names of actors and actresses’. (I failed miserably). I found a houseplant that is efficient at recycling indoor air, can survive on minimal sunlight, and is not toxic to cats or dogs (I’m looking at you, Boston Fern).
I nearly killed that plant and then brought it back to life, with a grow-light...and appropriate watering. 
I attended parties, dinners, and concerts – alone(!).
I spent time with the elderly – specifically my 87-year-old Grandmother and my 14-year-old Labrador Retriever.
I started a weekly board-game night with my family.
And I became inspired by my two-year-old nephew to improve my Spanish.
In 2018, I chose to engage with the world around me. And that just may be the best decision I've ever made.” -Jessica Jentz

“This year, more than ever, it seemed that everywhere I looked, I saw nothing but bad news. The biggest respite from this never-ending tidal wave of misery and misfortune came in an unexpected form: Paddington 2. For one hour and forty-five minutes, the adventures of this adorable little Peruvian bear and his quintessentially British family whisked me away from all my troubles and firmly transplanted me in a world where, as Paddington says, “If we’re kind and polite, the world will be right.” This is no ordinary children’s movie. It’s thoroughly delightful without ever veering into saccharine territory, and Paddington’s wacky misadventures were compelling enough to keep me intrigued. (Spoiler alert: Paddington gets framed for a crime he didn’t commit, gets sentenced to prison, transforms the prison into a Wes Anderson-esque marmalade paradise, and then breaks out of said prison.) Plus, the sight of Paddington’s fuzzy little face was so ridiculously cute that it literally made my eyes well up with tears on multiple occasions. Although it may seem silly, I am completely and utterly enamored with the world of Paddington 2. It was an enduring bright spot in an otherwise chaotic and difficult year, and its inexhaustible optimism and determination is something that we can all hope to emulate in the years to come.” -Caroline Hsu

"Let’s start with Super Bowl 52 between the Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots. Looking at this game on paper and based on historical performances between both teams involved many would say the Patriots would win this match up. After 4 quarters of exciting football, the Eagles walked away victorious 41-33. Next, to the ice where the Washington Capitals made their second Stanley Cup appearance in 20 years. They went to battle against the first-year expansion team; Las Vegas Knights. Furthermore, after five matches on the ice the Washington Capitals brought the Stanley Cup back to the nation’s capital. 
From the ice to the hardwood, in one of the most dominating performances the Golden State Warriors swept the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Golden State Warriors won their third title in four years, allowing them to make their case as a modern-day dynasty. 
Fast forward to October where another sweep almost occurred between the Boston Red Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers. After a long-drawn game three of 18 innings and seven hours and twenty minutes of play. The Boston Red Sox, claimed the World Series in five games. 
To round out the year the MLS Cup, Atlanta United beat the Portland Timbers in strategic but dominating fashion 2 -0, after only being in the MLS for only two seasons I hope this 2018 major league sports breakdown gives your insight and an idea of what’s to come soon of the sports world.” -Corey James

Inside 350.org and Why They Rise for Climate

Most people know 350 as the worldwide climate action network that has sparked a generation of environmental activism. It’s the organization behind the People’s Climate March, Exxon Knew, and Rise for Climate, Jobs, and Justice. Every year, its influence grows as hundreds of thousands of people across the globe join in on its actions and show up for its chapter meetings. 350 not only networks people together at the grassroots level, but connects fellow climate change activist groups and unites them for major conglomerate projects and demonstrations. It helps smaller organizations make big changes together. There may not be a more significant presence in climate change activism than 350.

What many people don’t realize is that 350 is relatively young. Ten years ago, it was the infant brainchild of a famous author and a handful of young recent college graduates. It was dedication, hard work, and a commitment to social organizing that brought 350 to where it is today.

Starting a Movement

Bill McKibben was an active environmentalist long before he founded 350. In 1989, he’d become famous for his first book, The End Of Nature, which introduced millions of readers to the concept of climate change. In 2006, he led the “Step It Up” campaign, which included nationwide protests and his own personal walk across the state of Vermont. The enthusiasm that grew out of this action was momentous. Step It Up expanded, and in 2008, changed its name to 350.

Bill was the face and focal point for the young organization, but without a small group of dedicated Middlebury College alumni, 350 would never have become a reality. According to McKibben, who was a scholar-in-residence at Middlebury College at the time, the recent grads took his ideas and turned them into a revolution. Step It Up had surprised everyone with the range of its success; now it transformed into a policy and grassroots organizing engine prepared to withstand the challenges ahead. The group’s new name referenced 350’s mission to reduce atmospheric carbon levels to 350 parts per million, the maximum safe level according to NASA scientist James Hansen. 

The founding group included May Boeve, who is still the executive director of 350, and Jamie Henn, who remains strategic communications director. The nonprofit’s success drew help like a magnet as people who had sought a focal point for climate action joined in spades. Bill McKibben’s appearance on The Colbert Report in 2009 caused the group’s popularity to rocket, and with awareness came support. Today, 350’s board of directors includes Naomi Klein, bestselling author of This Changes Everything. Hundreds of thousands of people participate in 350 climate actions in the over 188 countries where 350 is active.

350 is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. CharityNavigator.org, which tracks the honesty of nonprofit groups and rates them according to transparency, gives 350 its highest score for accountability and conscientious use of funds. In fact, 84.9% of 350’s funding goes to “program expenses,” meaning the services, activities, and actions that 350 uses to make a difference in the world. It’s entirely supported by donations and gifts, and its revenue in 2016 was around $13.7 million. As director, May Boeve gets a little less than $100,000 per year in compensation. That’s a little low for someone running a global nonprofit - the president of Earthjustice nets more than three times that per year - and 350’s financial footprint is fairly light for a group that makes such a large splash. This efficiency is a credit to 350’s adherence to its ideals and the enthusiasm of the volunteer community that has rallied around it.

Part of the reason that 350 has become such a success is that it leverages technology very well. Online marketing is one of its principle strategies, and that strategy has paid off in a huge way. The people who started 350 were young and tech-savvy, willing to leverage social media and aware of the power of digital connection. That awareness has translated into a global network of partners and volunteers that has given 350 an amount of influence disproportionate for a company with less than 200 official employees. 

A distributed organization

350 has one clear, overarching mission: reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million. This is the maximum safe limit for atmospheric carbon, as stated by NASA’s James Hansen in 2008. It’s a big goal, especially considering the fact that our air currently contains over 400 parts per million of carbon. That’s why 350 has broken this huge task down into smaller ones and distributed its mission across a network of chapters, also called “nodes.”

While 350’s headquarters is located in Brooklyn, New York, globally distributed regional action networks tie these nodes together and coordinate them. For example, you could become a member of a 350 node near your home in Lowell, Massachusetts, and that node will specifically work on issues pertaining to your city. However, it’ll answer to the statewide network, 350 Mass, in order to coordinate widespread actions and get guidance. 350 Mass will, in turn answer to the parent 350 organization.

Having a chapter setup gives 350 the flexibility to organize at the grassroots, local level even as it pressures governments worldwide to take action against carbon pollution. It can coordinate actions across the world by empowering local chapters, and it regularly partners with local organizations to build solidarity and make local actions more effective. For example, the mass action known as Rise for Climate, Jobs, and Justice took place in early September of 2018. 350 and several partner organizations like Sierra Club and the Climate Reality Project united to make this massive action possible. Though there were over 900 separate actions worldwide, they took place in a coordinated way. That meant that a rally in Joliet, Illinois, which was attended by about 500 people, supported an action far bigger than the Chicago area alone could have generated. It wasn’t just a 350 movement, either, but a joint effort with the People’s Climate Movement, the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, and even the local United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers union. Participants had a chance not just to support a global cause, but to build a stronger network on the ground. 

The chapter setup also allows 350 to put a known face on climate politics. Residents of Chicago might have been a little ruffled if a large lobbying agency rolled into town and engineered a demonstration, but when the demonstration is organized and attended by earnest Chicago-based volunteers, the message becomes more powerful. The people protesting at Joliet weren’t outsiders. They were neighbors, friends, and constituents, and they cared about Chicago’s future in a world that faces climate change. 

How 350 makes a difference

The scale of climate change is too big and varied to attack without a plan. There are too many different sectors of society tied up in fossil fuel. 350 deals with this problem by separating its mission into bite-sized chunks, and then into individual projects.

For example, one of 350’s goals is to fight the creation of new fossil fuel infrastructure. This includes shipping, processing, and distribution networks for crude oil. The Keystone Pipeline System, completed in 2010, is exactly the kind of infrastructure that 350 tries to impede. In 2012, 350 made the final construction phase of the Keystone Pipeline System a focal point of its protests. To this day, 350 and its partners have managed to delay construction of the Keystone XL pipeline using legal red tape and mass protest. The mission is to reduce greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere, the strategy is to fight fossil fuel infrastructure, and the immediate project is stopping the Keystone XL pipeline. So far, this atomized method of addressing a big, complicated problem is proving very effective.

Stronger together

350 has used the divide-and-conquer strategy to cover a lot of ground so far. That said, one of its big advantages is that it actively connects dozens of other activist organizations and helps them to organize amongst one another. For example, 350’s Go Fossil Free divestment campaign, which began in 2012, actively partners with People & Planet, which is a student-based social and environmental justice group based in the U.K. 

Whether 350 starts a project, such as Go Fossil Free, or gets involved with an existing project, like the People’s Climate March, it puts a lot of energy toward networking activist groups together. Not only does this strategy get more people involved in protests and demonstrations, but it pulls in experts who might have relevant experience. 350 doesn’t have to be the most experienced organization, and it doesn’t have to be the best organization for a specific job. All it has to be is the best organization for building partnerships. Lending assistance to other groups can be much more powerful than running a campaign solo from start to finish. 

350 even partners outside of environmental circles, forging alliances with the famous U.K. newspaper The Guardian and The United Church of Christ. In many cases, it opts to stand up for other social justice issues, like police brutality, in order to build cohesion with other progressive groups. Not only is this simply the right thing to do, but it generates a very positive image for environmental activism. People who care about other progressive issues are more likely to see 350 and its volunteers as helpful allies whose actions are worth attending.

Educating new activists

Some of 350’s best organizational partners are made up of familiar faces. For example, the Divestment Student Network is made up of activists whom 350 trained at a Fossil Free Fellowship workshop in 2013. Since then, 350 has logged over $5 trillion divested from educational and municipal pension funds, much of it with DSN’s help, and victories continue to accumulate. In 2017, New York City and State committed to divest. One of the big reasons that this happened was because 350 has been so generous with information. The more activists it can train, the more likely it is that it will accomplish its goals.

That’s why 350 offers free online trainings. Right now, there are eight of these videos, which the 350 website refers to as “skill-ups,” that cover having productive climate conversations and grassroots campaigning for beginners. The average length of each video is thirty minutes. 

The 350 trainings website includes a ton of other resources, including exercises for in-person group training facilitators and free handouts for meetings. At in-person events, such as the Global Climate Action Summit, 350 nodes might also hold in-person workshops, such as the free personal divestment class that 350 Silicon Valley presented with Santa Clara University in September 2018.

Marches, protests, and demonstrations

Of all its activities, 350 is probably most famous for its demonstrations. These are often partnership events along the lines of the Rise for Climate march in Joliet. (If 350 is good at one thing, it’s sharing credit!) Their protests are always peaceful and organized. The Rise for Climate movement even saw participation in Antarctica

350 encourages other mass action, too. For example, divestment efforts have translated into small-scale bank account closures and protests. By educating people about environmental topics, 350 empowers them to make changes in their own lives too. 

Whether actions are large or small in scale, one of their chief functions is PR. 350 makes sure that during and after every event, the world knows what happened. Showing that people are willing to upset their routine to march or protest is one of the most powerful ways to communicate how serious an issue climate change is. By publicizing marches and activities, 350 also turns itself into a news source for climate action, not only for itself, but for its partners too. Twitter is one of the most important venues for this activity.

Political action

As an organization, 350 takes a multifaceted approach to change. On one hand, protest and public demonstration is an important part of its toolkit. Getting people into the streets with signs and chants - or getting them to stake out politicians’ offices - shows policymakers and non-activists that the climate is a serious, present issue that people care about. Grassroots campaigns are 350’s bread and butter.

However, 350 also follows up the public side of these campaigns with political action that’s not as flashy, but also gets results. In fact, 350 currently employs a policy director, Jason Kowalski, whose job is to discuss 350’s goals with lawmakers and political influencers. Jason also attended Middlebury College, and he was involved in the original Step It Up campaign in 2007, so he’s been in the 350 family for over a decade. 

According to OpenSecrets.org, 350 also spends some money on political campaigns, helping to finance the election of Democratic Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts and spending nearly $100,000 to campaign against Donald Trump’s election in 2016. However, compared to other influential political organizations, their involvement in the political process is small. In 2018, Exxon alone spent over $1 million on its preferred political candidates.

Opposition

It’s no secret that change is hard. Sometimes, it sends you to jail. 350 founder Bill McKibben has been arrested several times, once outside of a gas station where he stood to protest during the #ExxonKnew campaign.  At Keystone XL protests outside of the White House, which 350 helped to organize, dozens of protesters left in handcuffs

These are high-profile situations that make splashy news headlines. However, the greatest opposition that 350 faces exists in political and social structures that resist a shift away from fossil fuel. That’s why every battle that 350 fights is an uphill one, from getting anti-fracking measures on the ballot in California to stopping the Dakota Access Pipeline from being built across Native lands. 

Successes

All of this effort has paid off in a big way. Not only has 350’s work helped municipalities and colleges divest over $6 trillion in fossil fuel assets, but that divestment has, according to Shell’s 2018 annual report, seriously threatened the oil giant’s bottom line. It’s quite a coincidence that on December 3, 2018, Shell bowed to investor pressure and tied executive salary to short-term greenhouse gas reductions!

350’s efforts to stop fracking have also borne fruit. The state of Paraná in Brazil finally banned the practice in 2016, and 350’s efforts in Uruguay have stalled fracking activities near the Guaraní Aquifer. Efforts to halt fracking in California continue.

One of 350’s biggest triumphs happened in 2015, when the Obama administration cited climate change as a reason to stop construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline. For a moment, everyone who had worked for years to prevent this environmental disaster from going forward celebrated. Then, a year later, the Presidential administration changed. The Trump administration restarted its efforts to build the Keystone XL, leading to the ongoing legal battle in which 350 is still engaged today.

However, even when it has to endure setbacks, 350 sees its popular support rising. The annual People’s Climate March, for which 350 partners with a large number of other environmental organizations, saw over 200,000 participants in Washington, D.C. alone in 2017. In 2015, parts of the Philippines started to ban the construction of new power plants thanks to 350’s efforts, and that trend continues today. Rise for Climate, Jobs, and Justice saw tens of thousands of people worldwide march in the name of a green future. Although there are still huge challenges ahead, it’s clear that 350 has hit a cultural and political nerve. 

Where it’s going

The fight against climate change has only just begun. Even now, when the effects of fossil fuels on the natural world are easily visible, the political resistance to action against climate change is both well-funded and entrenched. 350 has a lot more work to do if it’s going to get our atmospheric carbon levels down to a safe level again.

Every year, this organization pushes its mission a little further. Every year sees a few more pension plans divested and a few more fracking operations made illegal. As the battle over the Keystone XL Pipeline rages on, 350 and its partners Bold Nebraska and the Indigenous Environmental Network cooperate to build solar arrays directly in the path of the proposed oil transit corridor. 

Just ten years into its existence, 350 is showing the world that you don’t need to be rich or powerful to make a difference in something that matters. Progress can happen anywhere, especially if done together with others.

Rise for Climate was a worldwide climate movement that took place over 7 continents, in 95 countries, with 900+ actions that took place on September 8, 2018. It was co-organized by several organizations including 350, Climate Reality Project, In Kind, People’s Action, Rainforest Action Network, Sierra Club, Sunrise Movement, and World Wildlife Fund.

You can learn more about 350 or donate to them here. You can also find them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

California Town Hosts Victims of Camp Fire for Thanksgiving

For the victims of this years deadly California wildfires, it may not feel like there is much to be thankful for. More than 11,000 homes were destroyed in fires this year, and over 79 people killed in the deadliest fire ever recorded in California. Even with predicted rainstorms bringing much needed rain to the dry brush, these storms also promise deadly and destructive mudslides yet to come.

Yet a Sacramento suburb, Lincoln, is making an effort to bring a little light and hope to these victims. Local residents have gathered together to give up their holidays, and spend their time helping these victims still have theirs. 

Jeannette Bermudez, one of the initial organizers of the holiday feast for fire victims, watched the devastation caused by the Camp Fire with her 9 year old son who was home due to school closures from the smoke. While they watched, he asked her what they were going to do about it. In a spur of the moment decision, she decided to host Thanksgiving Dinner for those left with nothing, and made a Facebook post about it.

The small town of just 47,000 people answered her call, and big time. The fire department got involved and held a drive that garnered over 100 turkeys for the event. Businesses and restaurants donated everything from food to toys and games for the event. The city of Lincoln itself even donated the event location completely free for the day.

Even a local dog groomer is getting involved, inviting fire victims to drop their dog off for free puppy-sitting during the feast, and a free bath and groom so their dogs will come back fresh and clean. After enduring the soot and smoke of sometimes very close escapes, it is a welcome relief for fire victims of the four footed kind as well.

Many more volunteers will be giving up Thanksgiving day itself, foregoing their own dinners so they can serve the people who need a little holiday cheer the most. For those who have lost everything, sometimes even loved ones as well as houses and everything that makes them a home, this Thanksgiving feast couldn't come at a better time. 

Paradise was a retirement community for the most part, and consisted mostly of people over the age of 65. Paradise had no official business, and was simply a refuge for people who couldn't afford California's sky high housing market. At this point in time, no one even know if Paradise will be able to rebuild, or if mudslides will claim even more lives and properties as rain begins to cool the flames.

At least one day however, they can sit down with family and friends, and eat a turkey feast knowing that the town of Lincoln will be there to help them through these difficult times, now, and in the future too. It is a truly beautiful expression of what family and community is all about, and hopefully will result in lifelong friendships forged this holiday season.