Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Part one of the interview can be found here.
Power Shift: What kind of impact do you see the youth climate movement having on electoral politics (especially the 2008 elections)? How can youth maximize their impact?
Michael Shellenberger: For students and young Americans to have a powerful impact they'll need to challenge the assumptions of the older generation of political and environmental leaders who often treat anyone under 30 as water-carriers for outmoded ideas.
What can be done to win action on global warming in Congress?
We need to shift our political and policy framework from a narrow focus on stopping global warming through pollution limits to an expansive vision of making clean energy cheap, creating jobs, and achieving energy independence through investment and innovation. Not only is this framework more in line with core American values of ingenuity, enterprise, and creativity, it is also far more popular.
Do you see the new generation of young climate activists as an opportunity to shift the prevailing mindset of the environmental movement?
Yes. Young Americans aren't yet locked into the older environmental movement's pollution paradigm and politics of limits, and thus tend to be more open to embracing a more expansive framework for dealing with the challenge. One place for that is through Breakthrough Generation, a new student group affiliated with the Breakthrough Institute, which was founded by Teryn [Norris] and Aden [Van Noppen]. They'll be having their first national meeting next January.
But, that being said, there are still plenty of young environmentalists who think like old environmental leaders.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Shellenberger - well-known for kicking up a stir with the controversial essay, "The Death of Environmentalism," co-authored with his "partner-in-crime" Ted Nordhaus in 2004 - is now the President of the Breakthrough Institute, a small think tank which focuses on a new kind of progressive politics.
This weekend, Shellenberger will share his vision of a new, "post-environmentalist," progressive climate movement with attendees at Power Shift 2007, the first national youth climate summit, November 2nd-5th in D.C.
Registration for Power Shift has topped 5,000 people, making the event the largest climate summit in history!
Energy Action Coalition and the Power Shift organizing and outreach team recently chatted with Michael to get a sneak peak of what Power Shift attendees will be in store for this weekend.
In this first part of the interview, Michael discusses his vision of a new investment-centric paradigm for the climate movement. In Part Two (coming tomorrow), we ask Michael about the exciting "break through potential" of young climate activists and their role in the broader movement for climate solutions.
Power Shift: "The Death of Environmentalism," which you wrote before the November 2004 elections, was a seminal piece among young climate activists. It is currently being taught in most college environmental studies classes. What led you to write it?
Michael Shellenberger: [Ted Nordhaus and I] wrote the essay because we were frustrated that the older generation of environmental leaders was stuck in an older pollution paradigm and a politics of limits that simply can't deal with the monumental challenge of global warming.
At the time, you told Grist.org that you released the essay at the annual meeting of environmental grantmakers because there was no other forum to have those kinds of conversations. Has that changed?
It's changing. For example, it's great to see that Power Shift [the first national youth climate summit] is happening. Our hope is that a substantial group of young people will see the challenge we face as fundamentally intellectual and conceptual — not just strategic and tactical.
This isn't simply a matter of mobilizing a few more campus groups or passing another city-wide or state-wide resolution about the need for pollution limits. Global warming is a civilization-wide challenge, one that demands our best thinking and largest selves.
You criticize the pollution paradigm. But isn't global warming a pollution problem?
Sure — but it's not just a pollution problem. It's connected to fundamental questions of economic development for very poor people in places like China and Brazil and India. And it's also a psychological challenge.
But here's the biggest paradox: global warming can't be fixed through pollution limits alone. We might get to 30 percent emissions reductions by 2050 – in the U.S. But we need to reduce our emissions 80 percent by 2050. As importantly, we need a solution that will help countries like China and India – which aren't asking our permission to burn coal and oil – to achieve economic development while also reducing their emissions.
How can that be done?
The most important thing we can do is bring down the price of clean energy as quickly as possible. This requires huge breakthroughs in the price and performance of clean energy technologies like solar and wind. And that requires big public-private investment – on the order of $50 - $250 billion per year.
Why should this message appeal to young climate activists?
The vast majority of young people we meet who are concerned about global warming tell us that they are more inspired by a new vision of accelerating the transition to a global, clean energy economy than they are by the old vision of avoiding global warming apocalypse.
You've been faulted for not being more specific.
We wanted our book to reach a wider audience than environmental policy experts. That said, it's great that there's interest in policy questions. Young people in particular need to pay attention to what specific energy policies will do and what they won't do. For that reason we wrote a white paper called "Fast Clean Cheap" that will be published in the Harvard Law and Policy Review in January. We co-authored it with Teryn Norris, a sophomore at Johns Hopkins and Aden Van Noppen, a junior at Brown University. It can be downloaded from our web site.
Is this what you mean by global warming being a "psychological challenge"?
Yes, in part. We have to recognize that while global warming might be the biggest and most important issue for us personally, it may never be that for most Americans. It's notable that after "An Inconvenient Truth" came out, global warming actually declined in importance for most Americans, hovering around 15th out of 20 or so issues.
What are the implications of that?
We have to stop being so goddamn literal about this. Let's make this about national security. About prosperity. About clean energy jobs. Those are higher priorities for voters than global warming – and they help us to get the political action we need.
Aren't regulations needed, too?
Yes. They are needed to get the low-hanging fruit of emissions reductions through conservation, efficiency, and wind. But the big gains will come from investment. If done right, the global warming regulations being debated in Congress could generate the $50 to $250 billion per year we need.
Stay tuned for Part Two of this interview with Michael Shellenberger (coming tomorrow). For other interviews in this series see:
Michael Shellenberger is an author, political strategist and co-founder and president of the Breakthrough Institute. His most recent book is Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalist to the Politics of Possibility.
More information, agenda and registration for Power Shift are available at www.powershift07.org and information on Energy Action Coalition is available at www.energyaction.net.
Check out It's Getting Hot In Here for frequent dispatches from the youth climate movement.
Monday, October 29, 2007
"1: Organize. 2. Organize. 3. Organize," says the well-beloved author, educator, climate activist and co-founder of Step It Up.
Only then does he add his fourth piece of advice: "After that, if they have some energy left, by all means change the light-bulbs."
And to the young climate activists who are putting together a growing and increasingly sophisticated youth climate movement, McKibben says, "Keep it up!" This weekend, over 5,000 young leaders will converge in Washington D.C. for Power Shift 2007, the first-ever national youth climate summit, organized by the Energy Action Coalition. Back at home, tens of thousands more youth will be joining in hundreds of actions in their home communities as part of the second nationwide Step It Up day of action, November 3rd.
Energy Action Coalition and the Power Shift organizing and outreach team caught up with Bill McKibben for a quick interview today to get his perspective on the upcoming youth climate events in DC and around the nation:
Energy Action/Power Shift Team: With Power Shift on the horizon, what stage of development do you see the youth climate movement at? Where is it going next?
Bill McKibben: This wave has just begun to build, and it's not even close to cresting. This will prove to be the biggest student movement—and the biggest social movement in general—since the end of the war in Vietnam.
What do you consider the youth climate movement's biggest task after Power Shift?
I think that it will increasingly join with the broader activist movement around climate change exemplified by the new 1Sky coalition. Important as it is to change campus policies, etc., the real fight is over federal policy.
What kind of impact do you see the youth climate movement having on electoral politics (especially the 2008 elections)? How can youth maximize their impact?
By making it clear that they are casting their votes on one primary issue—the transition to a new energy system.
If you could give one piece of advice/say just one thing to the members of the youth climate movement, what would it be?
Keep it up!
What, in your estimation, will be the biggest deciding factor/have the biggest impact on making positive legislative as quickly as possible?
How much political pressure we can muster. So far so good—efforts like StepItUp have changed the Capitol Hill debate a lot already, but they are nowhere near where they need to be be.
What are you personally working on after Power Shift?
We're trying out figure out how to help support an international grass roots movement.
When you talk to people about climate change, what do you encourage them to do to make a difference?
1--organize. 2--organize. 3--organize. 4--if they have some energy left, by all means change the light-bulbs.
What is your favorite aspect of the "1 Sky" Principles?
That they've been agreed on by the widest possible range of activists. We have a real chance to have a movement that doesn't factionalize, split apart on the basis of age, etc.
Anything else you'd like to add?
This weekend—the culmination of StepItUp, the glory of Power Shift, the launch of 1Sky—will be the most exciting and important few days in the history of the American fight for action against global warming!
Thanks Bill for the interview and for all you're doing to help spark a movement, get organized, and make a difference!
Bill McKibben is an author, environmentalist, activist and educator. His most recent books are Fight Global Warming Now: The Handbook for Taking Action in Your Community and Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future. He is a scholar in residence at Middlebury College in Vermont and the co-founder of Step It Up successfully led the organization of the largest demonstrations against global warming in American history. McKibben and the Step It Up crew are at it again, organizing another nationwide day of actions for this Saturday, November 3rd, 2007.
More information, agenda and registration for Power Shift are available at www.powershift07.org and information on Energy Action Coalition is available at www.energyaction.net.
Saturday, October 27, 2007
[From Pacific Islands Report:]
The Carteret Islands are almost invisible on a map of the South Pacific, but the horseshoe scattering of atolls in eastern-most Papua New Guinea is on the front line of climate change, as rising sea levels and storm surges eat away at their existence.
For 20 years, the 2,000 islanders living there have fought a losing battle against the ocean, building sea walls and trying to plant mangroves. Each year, the waves surge in higher, destroying vegetable gardens, washing away homes and contaminating fresh water supplies.
[Image: View of Huene Island in the Carteret's. Huene used to be one island but has now been bisected by rising seas. Fallen coconut trees in the foreground (on Iolassa Island) are also caused by the erosion of the coastline. Han Island, the largest in the group is in the distance.]
Recently, Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare appropriated PGK4.1 million [US$1.4 million] to resettle PNG villagers affected by global warming.
The funding was part of a PGK1.6 billion [US$569 million] supplementary budget handed down by Treasury and Finance Minister Patrick Pruaitch.
Out of the PGK4.1 million funding, PGK2 million [US$712,000] will go to the Bougainville Autonomous Region’s Carteret Islanders.
The local Bougainville government has an ongoing resettlement program which it hopes to complete by the end of the year.
Rising sea levels will not only displace human populations. Coral reefs are expected to be affected by changes in ocean levels and sea surface temperatures.
As a result, the communities that depend upon these marine resources will be affected as well.
PNG’s Carteret islanders are destined to become some of the world’s first climate change refugees. Their islands are becoming uninhabitable, and may soon disappear below the waves.
A decision has been made to move the islanders to the larger nearby Bougainville Island, a four-hour boat ride to the southwest.
Ten families at a time will be moved once funds are released for the resettlement program.
An IPCC has predicted that average sea levels are likely to rise between 9cm and 88cm (3.5 to 35 inches) by 2100.
Friday, October 26, 2007
The White House is at it again, censoring expert testimony on Global Warming. This time the Bush Administration cut out over half of Center for Disease Control Director Julie Gerberding's Senate testimony on the public health effects of climate change.
The White House PR machine first tried to pass the Administration's edits off as "minor edits." DeSmogBlog blows away that argument with a comparison between the Gerberding's original testimony and the final version after the White House got through with it.
The White House cut the original version down from 3,100 words to only 1,500, completely wiping out whole sections on health related effects due to extreme weather, air pollution-related health effect, allergic diseases, water and food-borne infectious diseases, food and water scarcity and the long term impacts of chronic diseases and other health effects.
Then the White House shifted tune, saying that they had removed the sections because they conflicted with findings from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Several Congressional Democrats, including Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chair, Barbara Boxer (D-CA), promptly called bull$h!t.
Boxer's office published a paragraph-by-paragraph comparison of the deleted sections of Dr. Gerberding's testimony and the IPCC report on how climate change will affect public health.
Needless to say, the comparison reveals striking similarities, not conflicting reports.
According to NewsDay.com:
Both [Dr. Gerberdin and the IPCC] raised virtually identical concerns: heat stress on vulnerable populations; the likelihood of respiratory illnesses from increased air pollution; the spread of waterborne infectious diseases; and more injuries from severe weather events such as wildfires.Nice try President Bush...
[A hat tip to the crew at DeSmogBlog's excellent muckraking.]
Also occurring this week, Finavera hosted a reception on Tuesday night for the British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell and a delegation from Oregon led by Governor Ted Kulongoski. At the reception, both Premier Campbell and Governor Kulongoski committed their support for renewable energy in general and offshore wave energy specifically. Given the State of Oregon’s previous actions in pushing forward a business energy tax credit, it’s clear that offshore wave energy has a bright future in helping Oregon reach its aggressive renewable energy target of 25 percent by 2020.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Watch Out for the Echo-Boom: Why Politicians Had Better Start Paying Attention to the Millennial Generation
By 2010, another 17.3 million young Americans will come of age, swelling the already sizable ranks of voting-age "Millennials" – those teens and twenty-somethings coming to age in the early years of the 21st century. At 80 million strong, the Millennial generation outnumbers even the Baby Boomers by 3 million and represents the single-largest demographic age group in electoral politics, according to a recent Mother Jones article ("The 50-Year Strategy", in the Nov/Dec 2007 issue - not online yet).
Polling data, recent voter turnout, and the swelling ranks and increasing coordination of the youth climate movement all demonstrate that this young generation is remarkably engaged, overwhelmingly progressive and pro-environment, and has largely rejected the "government-is-the-problem" conservative mentality that still dominates the general population (see table below).
|General Population||Voting-age Youth (age 18-25)||Issue|
|agree that the federal government "is usually inefficient and wasteful"|
|say regulating business "does more harm than good"|
|say protecting the environment is at least as important as protecting jobs|
|favor tax-financed, government-administered universal health care|
This young generation is razing the old stereotypes of the apathetic, unengaged youth that may have accurately characterized Generation Xers, as youth turnout in the past two elections hit the highest level in at least 20 years.
And the Millennials aren't simply waiting for politicians to take notice and seemingly won't content themselves with limiting their impact to the ballot box. In fact, they're demanding to be noticed, as thousands get ready to storm our nation's capitol to flex some political muscle in the first-ever national youth climate summit, Power Shift 2007, and rally at nationwide Step it Up actions in November.
According to www.PowerShift07.org, over 5,000 youth and students from across the country will soon explode off of campuses and converge on D.C. for Power Shift 2007, November 2nd-5th. With all 50 states represented, youth attending the conference will engage with solutions to global warming and learn how to effectively put solutions into practice as they cement the core of an increasingly sophisticated and coordinated nationwide youth climate movement.
Power Shift's agenda includes issue briefings from leading scientists and policy experts, training sessions, an opportunities fair, and additional networking opportunities, all designed to connect young leaders and use their collective experience to focus action on America's greener, more prosperous future.
That same weekend, tens of thousands more student and youth activists will join in hundreds of actions in their home communities as part of the second Step It Up nationwide day of action, Saturday, November 3rd (see www.StepItUp07.org).
Founded and organized by a group of Middlebury College students, recent grads, and their mentor, Bill McKibbon, Step It Up successfully organized 1,400 actions across the U.S. involving hundreds of thousands of citizens in their first nationwide day of action, April 14th, 2007. Thanks largely to these highly visible and well-attended actions – which demanded Congress “step it up” and cut carbon emissions 80% by 2050 – virtually all of the 2008 Democratic candidates for president are chanting the 80x2050"mantra in their stump speeches these days and striving to out-compete each other for the meanest, greenest energy plan. Sponsorship and support is also building behind bills in Congress that would tackle the climate crisis and put the 80x2050 plan into action.
This November, the young minds behind Step it Up 2 will be at it again, this time joined by the thousands of participants at Power Shift 2007 to demand real action to address the climate crisis and secure the future of today's youth. On Monday, November 5th, the youth at Power Shift will carry reports and pictures of the hundreds of Step It Up actions into the offices of their senators and representatives, as thousands of young people descend on Capitol Hill to make their voices heard.
If the increasing coordination, sophistication and activism of the youth climate movement is any indication, the Millennial generation has arrived on the political scene, and they are sure to make their mark.
According to Mother Jones authors Simon Rosenberg and Peter Leyden:
"[The Millennial] generation is politically engaged, votes in high numbers, and leans overwhelmingly Democratic. ... But the millennials' impact will show up beyond the ballot box. Polling data indicate that they are unusually civic minded (they volunteer at the highest level recorded for youths in 40 years, according to one study) and hold a wide range of progressive values ... [they] even believe in government again (Sixty-three percent think government should do more to solve the nation's problems)."As the authors conclude, "This generation is poised to become the core of a 21st century progressive coalition."
It's clearly time for today's politicians to start paying serious attention to the Millennials – especially candidates in the 2008 elections.
According to Rosenberg and Leyden, if people under age 29 had been the only voters in the 2004 election, John Kerry would have won by a landslide with 372 electoral votes. And in the 2006 midterms, "the same age group went for Democrats over Republicans by 22 percent - an almost unheard-of margin."
When thousands of young people take to the streets in Step it Up actions and head to D.C. for Power Shift in a couple of weeks, politicians would be wise to take note. If they don't, they just might find themselves looking for a new job, as millions of young voters throw their support behind more progressive, pro-environment candidates committed to ending the climate crisis and protecting the future of the Millennial generation.
Monday, October 22, 2007
Thomas Friedman, the popular New York Times columnist, recently labeled teens and twenty-somethings coming to age in the early years of the 21st century the “Quiet Generation.” Accusing today’s young people of being “too quiet, too online for [their] own good, and for the country's own good,” Friedman went on to say that today’s students and youth are “so much less radical and politically engaged than they need to be.” (See “'Generation Q' - the Quiet Americans,” New York Times, Oct. 10th, 2007)
Well, in two weeks, Mr. Friedman – and the rest of the nation – will hear what this young generation really sounds like, and it will be anything but quiet! More than 3,300 young people will explode off of their campuses and away from the internet, descending – in person and in droves – on the nation’s capitol for Power Shift 2007, the first-ever national youth summit on global warming, November 2nd-5th.
Power Shift will bring together thousands of students and youth from all 50 states to wrestle with our generation’s greatest challenge and our greatest opportunity: The climate crisis. At the conference, attendees will learn new skills, share ideas, connect with fellow activists and ultimately use their collective experience, enthusiasm and commitment to forge a powerful movement to end the climate crisis and make their innovative and inspiring new vision of a sustainable, just, and prosperous future a reality.
The conference will be held November 2nd-5th in College Park, Maryland, just outside of Washington D.C. Power Shift’s agenda includes: keynote addresses from seasoned and inspiring activists, politicians, and leaders; up-to-the-minute issue briefings from the nation’s leading scientists and policy experts; expert-led training sessions on crucial movement-building skills including organizing, advocacy, and media relations; an “opportunities fair” featuring some of the country’s leading environmental employers; a lobby day on Capitol Hill; and plenty of opportunities for young activists to network and strengthen the bonds of a nationwide youth movement (see www.PowerShift07.org).
On Saturday, November 3rd, the activities of the thousands of young people attending Power Shift will join with and be amplified by the hundreds of actions taking place in communities across the nation as part of the second nationwide Step It Up day of action (www.StepItUp07.org).
April 14th, the first Step It Up day of action, saw over 1,400 events across the country involving hundreds of thousands of community-members, activists, and yes, youth, all calling for steep cuts in carbon emissions: at least 80% by 2050. The weekend of Power Shift, Step It Up activists will be at it again, and this time they’ll be asking who our nation’s real leaders are as they challenge politicians again to Step It Up!
The attendees at Power Shift will join with the Step It Up organizers on Saturday night for the joint keynote events of both Power Shift and Step It Up. Many thousands more young people who aren’t going to make the trip to Power Shift will be back home organizing, recruiting for, and attending Step it Up events in their communities. Wherever there’s a successful Step It Up event, you can bet that there’s the fire, passion, and innovative ideas of a member of “Generation Anything-But-Quiet” somewhere behind it.
And as if there won’t be enough packed into a weekend of organizing, training and action, on Monday, November 5th, more than a thousand youth and students will converge on Capitol Hill to flex their collective political muscle and do exactly what Mr. Friedman seems to think today’s young people are too timid to do – something most citizens are too timid to do – sit face-to-face with their representatives and senators, and speak the truth to power, demanding committed action to end the climate crisis.
Monday’s giant lobby day will begin with a morning rally on Capitol Hill’s West Lawn featuring members of the House and Senate leadership and leaders in the youth climate movement as speakers before teams of young citizens head for scheduled lobbying meetings with House and Senate members from all 50 states. The House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming has also scheduled a hearing Monday afternoon where young people directly affected by climate change will speak out on the issue. Youth witnesses representing the Arctic north, Appalachia, the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, and other locations will testify on the urgency of the crisis and the importance of bold action.
Throughout the Power Shift conference, at lobby day, and at Step It Up events across the nation, young people will join with concerned citizens of all ages to demand Congress takes immediate action to implement the “1Sky” Climate Initiative (www.1skycampaign.org/) including:
- creating 5 million new “green” jobs in the clean energy sector working to help save 20% of our energy by 2015;
- immediately freezing climate pollution levels and cutting them at least 30% by 2020 and 80% by 2050;
- and transforming our energy priorities from dirty, depleting, and often-imported fossil fuels to clean, renewable, and local energy sources, beginning with a moratorium on all new coal plants until they can safely dispose of their pollution.
After the Power Shift conference and lobby day, students and youth will return to their campuses and communities. They’ll probably be temporarily exhausted from all the action, but at the same time, they’ll be energized, empowered, and equipped to strengthen their nationwide movement and push for bold solutions on their campuses, in their communities, and in their state and national capitols.
How’s that for quiet, Mr. Freidman?
Power Shift is organized by the Energy Action Coalition (www.energyaction.org), an alliance of more than 40 organizations from across the United States and Canada, founded and led by youth to help support and strengthen the student and youth clean energy movement in North America.
Energy Action Coalition groups have successfully launched campaigns on over 600 college and high school campuses through the Campus Climate Challenge and successfully won commitments from 400 college and university presidents to work towards complete climate neutrality at their institutions.
The blog “It’s Getting Hot in Here” (www.ItsGettingHotInHere.org) is the Energy Action Coalition’s outlet for the voices of the growing youth movement on climate change, is regularly visited by tens of thousands of readers from across the globe.
For more information on the Energy Action Coalition and its partners in Power Shift 2007:
For information on Step it Up and the 1Sky Campaign:
Friday, October 19, 2007
Prices began to retreat today as investors sold to lock into profits, but prices are expected to continue to push upwards into new territory in the days ahead, inching ever closer to $100 per barrel as speculators continue to drive the market.
The Times reports that crude oil futures briefly passed $90 a barrel - rising as high as $90.07 - twice in electronic trading overnight, despite a growing consensus among analysts that the oil's underlying supply and demand fundamentals do not support such high prices.
"This market has been hijacked by speculators," wrote Stephen Schork, a trader and analyst in Villanova, Pa., in a research note.
According to the Times:
Crude prices have jumped 28 percent since late August. The advance appears to be trickling down to consumers in the form of higher gas prices, and may result in higher heating prices this winter.After last night's run-up in price, light, sweet crude for November delivery fell 87 cents to settle at $88.60 on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the Times reports.
Prices at the pump have risen 5.3 cents over the past four days, averaging $2.81 a gallon on Friday, according to AAA and the Oil Price Information Service. Meanwhile, heating oil costs are expected to jump more than 20 percent this winter.
Overall, oil futures rose $4.91 this week, or 6 percent in a single week. Oil prices have risen from around $25 per barrel since 2002 to well over $80 per barrel in the past five years.
Despite venturing into record territory this year in nominal terms, the price of oil is still below inflation-adjusted highs hit in early 1980. Depending on the adjustment, a $38 barrel of oil in 1980 would be worth $96 to $101 or more today, the Times reports.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Check out this recent op-ed in the L.A. Times by Bill McKibben on the internet, politics, and Step It Up 2007. The weekend of Power Shift 07, we're using the internet to get politicians back into communities around the country and asking for their plan to stop global warming - what other ways can our movement use the internet beyond the spread-the-word / fund-raise / information-sharing that we are doing now?
The Power of the Click
by Bill McKibben, LA Times, Oct. 16, 2007
The Internet is a maturing technology now. It's reached the point where we're figuring out how to do things that don't involve gambling, shopping or looking at the scantily clad. Politics, for instance. Politics in whole new ways that might change the balance of power between politician and citizen.
The 2004 election cycle saw one breakthrough. Especially on the left, candidates figured out how to raise money over the Web. Howard Dean was the pioneer. This time around, it's Barack Obama, who says he has amassed 300,000 contributors -- one American in 1,000 has given cash to his campaign, which is pretty remarkable.
For 2008, though, activists are trying to turn the Internet into something more than an ATM. We're trying to take the candidates out of their game plans and make them answer to our concerns, right now, before the votes are cast and while there's still some leverage. We're trying to use electrons to pin them down.
Those of us working on global warming, for instance, are focusing efforts this fall on Stepitup07.org. Last spring, we used this website to coordinate 1,400 simultaneous rallies in all 50 states calling for deep cuts in U.S. carbon emissions. On Nov. 3, we're staging another series of gatherings across the country, this time aimed squarely at politicians, trying to see if there are some Al-Gores-in-waiting out there, ready to actually lead on this issue.
Using a new "widget" -- a small, easy-to-share Web tool -- we're able to let people issue invitations to their politicians of choice to speak at these rallies. Since this project debuted early this month, more than 3,000 people have taken us up on it, inviting almost every member of Congress and all the presidential candidates. And some of those politicians are promising that they'll show up.
This is new. In days of yore, if you were concerned about, say, global warming, you might write a letter to your congressman. You might research the presidential candidates to figure out which one was most aggressive about climate change, and then you might mail him a check. But the chance to work together with people around the country on a common cause was mostly reserved for "organizations" -- for environmental groups, say, with big buildings in Washington, calendars and boards of directors.
In the Internet Age, though, new models emerge. When we ran those rallies last spring, we had help from the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council and many others -- but we also had hundreds upon hundreds of organizers who had never done anything like it before.
In the course of six to eight weeks, they were able to parlay their e-mail lists of friends, family and contacts into geometrically expanding circles of potential protesters. For $100,000, we ran one of the largest days of environmental protest since the first Earth Day in 1970 -- and did it in the districts of members of Congress, not on the Mall in Washington.
Now, with our new "invite tool," you can sit at your computer and in 10 minutes ask every one of your political leaders for an RSVP. It feels as though we're starting to make them respond to our agenda, not the other way around.
We're finding, in other words, that a certain kind of organizing no longer requires years of groundwork. It requires a good idea and a well-written e-mail. MoveOn.org has been working this terrain for years; now groups like ours are trying to figure out how to mix real-world and virtual politics, how to work the system as nimbly and with as much savvy as the K Street lobbyists. We can't come up with $1,000 for a plate of dinner, but we can muster 1,000 people in 1,000 different places to demand action.
In certain ways, it's a lousy time to be coming of age -- those satellite photos last month of the rapidly melting Arctic ice cap foreshadowed a century that will be spent trying to deal with the greatest threat to stability that human civilization has ever encountered.
But the moment has also given us a new set of tools for connection. The fight against global warming requires all kinds of technology -- solar panels and windmills, but also servers and routers.
Bill McKibben, a scholar in residence at Middlebury College, is co-founder of Stepitup07.org and coauthor of the just-published "Fight Global Warming Now."
Click here to see the article at latimes.com
Electricity producers in New Zealand are now barred from constructing any new fossil fuel power plants for the next ten years, according to Bloomberg.com.
New Zealand already produces about 70 percent of its power from non-polluting and renewable energy sources, including wind, hydro-electric and geothermal generators. New Zealand's Prime Minister, Helen Clarke, recently announced intention to commit to 90% renewable electricity by 2025 and the government is blocking construction of new gas-fired power plants to speed investment in wind and geothermal energy.
Eventually, the Prime Minister (pictured below) would like to see the country carbon-neutral. “I have set out the challenge to our nation to become the first truly sustainable nation on earth … to dare to aspire to be carbon neutral," Prime Minister Clarke said.
The Prime Minister also gave a brief outline of further goals, which included a 2040 target of reducing by half per capita emissions from transport and widely introducing electric vehicles. She also stated the goal of achieving a net increase in forest area of 250,000 hectares (617,000 acres) by 2020.
“The long-term benefits of becoming a sustainable nation will spread beyond our national reputation and success in business to benefit all New Zealanders,” Prime Minister Clarke added.
Both announcements come as the government releases the New Zealand Energy Strategy, the New Zealand Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy and the Transport Strategy Implementation Plan.
Well there's an example of how you set your priorities if you are truly committed to the sustainable, just, and prosperous energy future we should all be striving for. Complete carbon neutrality is the ultimate objective for developed nations, and New Zealand seems committed to showing us the way. Bravo!
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Some of you may have missed the buzz kicked up recently by a nationwide campaign to put the heat on Toyota for lobbying against tougher fuel economy standards. The campaign, coordinated by NRDC , the National Environmental Trust, the Union of Concerned Scientists and others is focused on calling out the fact that Toyota, maker of the 46-mpg hybrid Prius, is joining with the Big Three Detroit automakers to lobby hard against a proposed increase in fuel economy standards to 35 miles per gallon (MPG) by 2020.
The Senate passed an energy bill including a 35 mpg by 2020 standard and the House is currently considering similar legislation (in the form of the Markey-Platts bill). Toyota, who often touts their fuel-efficient hybrid Pruis, Camry and Highlander models and markets itself as a "green" car company, is lobbying hard against the 35 mpg by 2020 standard and supporting the significantly more industry-friendly Hill-Terry bill (HR 2927) as part of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (which also includes General Motors, Ford and Chrysler).
New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman helped spread the word about Toyota and Detroit's shenanigans in a column last week and media and grassroots events across the country continue to put pressure on Toyota for fighting increased fuel economy standards.
In response to the pressure, Toyota issued this statement:
There are various bills before Congress that would mandate a new target of 35 mpg by 2020 and require both cars and trucks to meet that standard. Our engineers tell us the requirements specified by these proposed measures are beyond what is possible. Toyota spends $23 million every day on research and development but, at this point, the technology to meet such stringent standards by 2020 does not exist.
Toyota has long supported an increase in the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards. Moreover, Toyota has always exceeded federal fuel economy requirements. We are continuously striving to improve our fuel economy, regardless of federal mandates. [emphasis added]
Representative Edward Markey, chair of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming and sponsor of the House 35x2020 proposal has personally challenged Toyota's claims that meeting the 35 mpg by 2020 fuel economy standards in the Senate Energy Bill would be "impossible."
In a press release last week, Rep. Markey said:
Toyota, intent on keeping its image as a “green” company, has responded to calls of fuel economy obstructionism by telling their customers that higher fuel economy standards being considered in an energy bill before Congress are “impossible.” Yet a thorough analysis of international fuel economy standards clearly shows that Toyota is already meeting—and exceeding—the 35 mile per gallon standard in the energy bill. In Japan.The graphic also reveals the lie in GM, Ford and Chrysler's assertions that building vehicle efficient enough to meet the 35 mpg standard is impossible. All three companies already sell thousands of vehicles every year in Canada, Australia and China where fuel economy standards far exceed those in the U.S. and all three operate in Europe where standards are already higher than the 35 mpg standard the automakers are fighting so hard.
“Apparently the only thing that separates Toyota from the ‘impossible dream’ of 35 miles per gallon here in the U.S., is a flight across the Pacific Ocean,” said Chairman Edward J. Markey of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. “The International Date Line is an invisible barrier for fuel efficiency that Toyota is unwilling to cross.”
Toyota claims that Japan does not have mandatory fleet standards comparable to the United States. This is not true. In Japan, the government first imposed weight-based fuel economy standards in 1999 and revised them in 2006 “because the majority of vehicles sold in Japan in 2002 already met or exceeded the 2010 standards,” according to a July 2007 report by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT). The same report says Japan’s fuel economy is currently at 41 mpg, and will have a fleetwide fuel economy of about 47 mpg in 2015 – 5 years before the 35 mile per gallon energy bill requirement is due to be met in the United States. A chart from the report on fuel economy levels around the world is included below (click to enlarge).
So why are Toyota and Detroit fighting so hard against standards that will require them to achieve average fuel economy levels 13 years from now that they are already achieving today in Europe and Japan and will and will need to meet in just a few years in China, Australia and Canada?
Why do these automakers insist on blocking the biggest step towards energy independence and increased energy security Congress has taken in decades?
If you want to tell Toyota it's time to do as their slogan says, and truly get "moving forward," head over to the NRDC's site here.
And click here to tell your representatives that you want to see the strongest elements of both the House and Senate energy packages make it into the final energy bill and onto the President's desk!
[A hat tip to Hill Heat's the Cunctator]
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
Earthjustice, a non-profit public interest law firm, is launching “Adopt the Sky,” using the latest in Flash technology to entertain, engage and promote clean air and better health. Air pollution is choking communities from Los Angeles to Philadelphia, and this website gives people a chance to tell those in charge why clean air is important to them.
“EPA has heard from environmental and public health groups, and now it’s time they start hearing from everyone forced to breath dirty air,” said Alexandra Allred, a Texas activist and mom whose son, Tommy, has severe asthma. “We deserve clean air. Adopt the Sky is a way that we can tell EPA to clean up their act.”
People visiting http://www.adoptthesky.org/ are greeted with images of smoggy, dirty sky coupled with startling facts about asthma: 4.5 million children in the U.S. have it. Visitors can then navigate around a big blue sky, viewing personalized messages from people all over the country who have signed the petition demanding cleaner air. Georgia M. from New Hampshire writes, “EPA, the science is in. Don't fall short. Adopt the most protective standards.” Michael W. from San Francisco says, “I have asthma and it’s getting harder to breathe.” Other petition signers simply list the names of their children and grandchildren.
Visitors are then prompted to “Adopt the Sky,” signing their names to an assigned virtual square-mile of sky over some of the dirtiest regions of the country. The user will see floating air molecules that represent those who have already signed the clean air petition. When people roll over the molecules, a name, home state location, adopted state location and user-generated comment or message related to preserving clean air are revealed.
Clean air advocates can navigate from state to state, revealing the numbers of adults and children with asthma. “The goal here is to help visitors really visualize the impact that dirty air has on our health and our environment, and to give them a sense that there is something we can all do together to let EPA know that weak protections against dirty air are not acceptable,” said Georgia McIntosh, Director of Marketing at Earthjustice. “Smog pollution doesn’t know state or county boundaries. We’re all affected by it and need to tell EPA and government regulators that it’s time they moved toward stronger protections.”
Kyoto Planet Financial formally launched. The firm is comprised of two key business groups: Kyoto Planet Asset Management, which works with individual investors, and Kyoto Planet Capital Partners, which invests in renewable energy and clean technology companies. Kyoto Planet Financial has a strong social and environmental mandate and provides one-third of net profits to fund non-profit initiatives around the world.
“Kyoto Plant Asset Management gives individual investors the opportunity to make their money grow while helping support important renewable energy and green companies,” said Damien Reynolds, Chairman and Founder of parent Kyoto Planet Group, who has been a leading investor in natural resources and renewable energy for more than 20 years, having raised more than $250 million in capital for growing junior companies. “Kyoto Planet Capital Partners is committed to providing entrepreneurs and green companies unparalleled access to knowledge, capital and services, by activating a range of financial tools and services under one roof.”
Kyoto Planet Asset Management
Kyoto Planet Asset Management provides investors with professionally managed investments in global renewable energy and environmental technology industries with large market potential through the Kyoto Planet Fund. The firm will invest in public and private renewable energy and clean technology companies in areas that have breakthrough intellectual property and other competitive advantages. Approximately 25% of Kyoto Planet Fund is targeted to invest in private equity, either directly or indirectly through Kyoto Planet Capital Partners
Kyoto Planet Capital Partners
With five initial eco-friendly investments totaling approximately CDN$15 million, Kyoto Planet Capital Partners is a unique eco-investor that brings together key financial management services for private companies in the areas of renewable energy, clean technology, alternative fuels, and other eco-focused sectors. The principals of Kyoto Planet Capital Partners have a proven record of creating value and have started with the company's initial investments:
- Renewable Energy
Finavera Renewables (TSX.V: FVR) is a publically listed company that focuses on electricity production from wind farms and wave parks. It is also developing the AquaBuOY technology.
- Clean Technology
Atlantic Hydrogen Inc is developing a technology called CarbonSaver that will provide an incredible future for the hydrogen market. Their innovative process produces Hydrogen Enriched Natural Gas on site via a cutting edge plasma burst process.
- Alternative Fuels
Pan Asia Biofuels is a biodiesel company focused on producing and selling biodiesel made from the Jatropha plant. While its initial focus is within the South East Asian market, its long term strategy is to be a major producer for the global market.
- Other Eco Sectors
Ecomaniacal Productions, a television production company based in Los Angeles which focuses on influencing behavior through eco‐conscious programming for the mass media.
cleanairpass is a company that provides a platform for both individuals and businesses to offset their carbon footprint.
Kyoto Planet Capital Partners brings added value to innovative companies in the renewable energy, clean technology, and eco-focused sectors. In addition to energy and cleantech sector expertise, the company offers entrepreneurs access to financial management services, including investor relations and grant relations. For example, Kyoto Planet’s grant relations team specializes in helping renewable and eco-friendly companies win grant and contribution funding from government and private sources with standard technology grant solicitations, to periodic and location specific opportunities.
“Kyoto Planet has been a great fit for cleanairpass,” said Bryce Conacher, founder and CEO of cleanairpass. “Access to their extensive resources and expertise has been a key enabler to allowing us to rapidly scale our business model. Kyoto Planet Capital Partners isn’t just about money, it’s about people, planet and profit.”
Investors with a Conscience
As part of its mission, Kyoto Planet Financial has also committed to giving one-third of its net profits to the Kyoto Planet Foundation. The Foundation, which is in the process of creating its charter, will work to support non-profit initiatives in communities around the world. "Although we were founded on the belief that individuals and the private sector must take the lead to address our planetary challenges, we also know that additional help is needed in economically and ecologically challenged communities," said Reynolds.