social and political action

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a selection of quotations, and this seems like a good time to do so. Many of these quotations offer wisdom on extractive or polluting industries and activities, and on cultivating an environmental ethic:

“There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.”
— Wendell Berry, “How to Be a Poet”

“Someone needs to explain to me why wanting clean drinking water makes you an activist, and why proposing to destroy water with chemical warfare doesn’t make a corporation a terrorist.”
— Winona LaDuke

“We can continue pushing our earth out of balance, with greenhouse gases accelerating each year, or we can regain balance by acknowledging that if we harm one species, one forest, one lake, this ripples through the entire complex web. Mistreatment of one species is mistreatment of all. …Making this transformation requires that humans reconnect with nature…instead of treating everything and everyone as objects for exploitation.”
Suzanne Simard, Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest

“We abuse land because we see it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”
— Aldo Leopold

“Conservation will ultimately boil down to rewarding the private landowner who conserves the public interest…. Incentives are more promising than penalties.”
— Aldo Leopold

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”
— Upton Sinclair

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
– Maya Angelou

“It is possible to both be proud of your life and want better for your children.”
— from the new film, King Coal

“…[Human]kind is challenged, as it has never been challenged before, to prove its maturity and its mastery — not of nature, but of itself.”
— Rachel Carson

“Man is a part of nature, and his war against nature is inevitably a war against himself.”
— Rachel Carson

“An organism that is too greedy and takes too much without giving anything in return destroys what it needs for life.”
— Peter Wohlebben, The Hidden Life of Trees

“The trees act not as individuals, but somehow as a collective. …What we see is the power of unity. What happens to one happens to us all. We can starve together or feast together.”
Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants

 

Note: I also recently added quotations to an earlier post, Re-Tree the World.

You can find our other Quotations posts indexed here, and a long set of Quotations here.

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March 24, 2023
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I know that no one really wants to think about or hear about COVID anymore. People are tired of it, “over it,” and “done with it.” But unfortunately, it’s not done with us; it’s not over, and it may not be for quite some time, as it keeps mutating into new variants. As of the end of February 2023, there are still more than 22,000 people hospitalized with COVID across the U.S.  For the years 2020-2022 (the last three years in a row), COVID-19 has remained the 3rd most common cause of death in the United States (behind only cancer and heart disease), and among adults and children, it’s the top cause of death among all infectious and respiratory diseases (beating out flu and pneumonia). “In January and February of 2022, COVID-19 was the number 1 cause of death for people ages 45-84.” (Source) In total, according to data from the World Health Organization, as of February 19, 2023, “more than 757 million confirmed cases of COVID and over 6.8 million COVID deaths have been reported globally.” And in the United States, COVID has killed more than 1.1 million people (with confirmed cases of COVID) so far (as of February 2023), but that’s most likely a significant undercount, given the much higher number of “excess deaths.”  Meanwhile, recent research has found that at least 10% of serious COVID infections result in Long COVID, which is an often debilitating illness. More than 65 million people worldwide are already suffering from Long COVID. Many people with Long COVID are not able to work or function well in daily life.

Many of us who work on climate issues have noticed (with sadness and dismay) the similarities in the way that many people have been dealing (or not dealing) with the COVID pandemic and with the climate crisis. Too many people are living in denial: choosing to deny, ignore, dismiss or downplay real problems. Denial is a very powerful coping mechanism, often used when we feel overwhelmed or powerless or fearful about something, but denial often goes too far, way beyond where it serves us well, and then it can become dangerous and even deadly. Many people want so badly to not be seen as over-reacting to something that they over-correct and under-react. It seems to be the human condition to often be scared of all the wrong (low-risk) things, while dismissing and ignoring the real risks that we should be concerned about and doing something about.

And then some people are behaving as if they have a death wish or have lost any type of basic survival instinct, or even any desire to protect others (whether they be family, friends, co-workers, the many immunocompromised folks they may come across, let alone their community or humanity at large) from sickness or potential death or disability. It’s been sobering to see how non-chalant, callous, and even sociopathic some people have been about this. This is another way in which some people’s response to COVID has been similar to people’s response to the climate crisis. A disheartening number of people have shown that they are unwilling to accept or tolerate the most minor inconveniences or sacrifices (e.g., wearing a mask in certain situations; or, say, flying less frequently or choosing a more fuel-efficient, less polluting vehicle) for the collective good (even when doing so is also for their own good/safety/health or that of their own family members). This extreme level of individualism is particularly acute in the United States, where too many people seem to be stuck in an adolescent “I can and will do whatever I want” (regardless of the consequences or the harm to others) frame of mind, and some have thrown toddler-grade tantrums in response to things like mask mandates or even to polite requests or suggestions.

The Scientist article and diagramThere are many important and substantiated facts about COVID that many people seem to be unaware of, in part because many public health leaders and public officials have not been sharing the facts or data or basing policies on them, having seemingly given up on trying to stop or slow the pandemic, possibly because of all the public backlash and hostility they’ve received during past attempts to institute protections (and necessary mitigations/restrictions) to save lives. There are, however, some medical experts and scientists (e.g., epidemiologists, virologists, immunologists, doctors, nurses) who continue to try to get people to understand the reality of the situation and what people (and government and other institutions) should be doing to get it under control. As with the climate crisis, individual and voluntary actions and state-specific protections (though they are helpful and important) are simply not enough to solve or put an end to this collective, global problem.

The following are 10 important facts people should (but often don’t) know about COVID. This isn’t alarmism or fear-mongering. Please see the list of articles further down for more details and research data. If more people were aware of what the current reality is, they might be more likely to take all viable and appropriate precautions:

  1. It appears that many people’s immune systems have been impaired/damaged/dysregulated by having had COVID in the past, and experts are finding that that COVID-caused immunodeficiency (or immunosuppression) is most likely why so many people (including and especially kids and infants) have gotten so ill from the flu, RSV, and any other bug that comes along. (It’s not actually due to so-called “immunity debt,” which is a questionable concept.). It’s also why so many people have been getting bacterial infections that can send them to the hospital (e.g., pneumonia, Strep / scarlet fever, Staph, UTIs, etc.): because their bodies’ immune systems can’t fight them off on their own. Untreated (or untreatable) bacterial infections can lead to sepsis and death.
  2. People can readily get reinfected with COVID (i.e., having had COVID does not mean you are immune from getting it again, especially as the virus keeps mutating), and sometimes people fare worse on later infections than the first.
  3. COVID can cause significant mental, neurological, and blood clotting/circulatory problems (e.g. strokes, embolisms, heart attacks) and long-term/permanent organ damage (e.g., heart, lungs, liver, brain, kidneys, intestines, etc.) and even diabetes—months or years after the initial infection, and even in people who had a relatively mild or even asymptomatic case of COVID in its acute phase. These risks go up with each additional COVID infection.
  4. COVID infections seem to be able to reactivate dormant viruses or infections that someone has had in the past (e.g., mono: EBV; lyme, etc.).
  5. Many hospitals and other workplaces are understaffed because their staff has had so much COVID-related illness, and a lot of people with Long COVID haven’t been able to go back to work due to their ongoing, debilitating symptoms.
  6. Getting the latest COVID booster (vaccine) drastically reduces one’s chances of being hospitalized or dying of COVID. It also seems to reduce the chances of getting Long COVID.
  7. Airplane air filtration is rarely as good as the airlines claim. When people bring air quality monitors on-board, they typically find very poor levels of ventilation, not just when the plane is on the ground but also when it’s in flight. Bear in mind that on almost any flight you’re on, at least one person is likely to have COVID (or some other infectious disease). It is very important to wear a good mask throughout any flight you’re on (and to not remove the mask). I’ve known numerous people who have gotten COVID (and other viruses) after being on flights.
  8. If you’re traveling/flying (or going to be with a group of people indoors), the experts advise that you: isolate for at least a few days before and after the flights/visits/events; take a COVID test (ideally a PCR test) before and a few days after the trip/visit (for several days in a row, as tests—especially at-home rapid tests—sometimes won’t show a Positive result until someone has had the virus for 5 or more days); always wear an N95 (or KN95 or KF94) mask when indoors with a group (or when you’re with a medically vulnerable or immunocompromised person) or on public transportation or when you experience any potential symptoms; and ventilate indoor air as much as possible (opening windows or using HEPA filtration or Corsi-Rosenthal Box filters are the best strategies).
  9. If you have had (or currently have or think you might have) COVID, you may want to ask your doctor about whether it’s safe for you to take some type of anti-coagulant (blood thinner) for a while, to prevent blood clots. One natural blood-thinning supplement (which may be safer and more effective than baby aspirin) is called Nattokinase; it can be found at some natural foods and supplement stores or websites. In addition, to help lower your chances of getting COVID or of preventing a COVID infection from becoming serious, do what you can to keep your immune system functioning properly, e.g., get plenty of sleep; eat nutritious organic (and unprocessed) foods; and make sure you’re getting enough Vitamin D3, other necessary vitamins (like C, the B vitamins, etc.). You could also look into taking supplements like Quercetin (which also has blood-thinning properties) and/or medicinal mushrooms (see Dr. Weil’s info; and Host Defense products). (Note: I am not a medical professional, and you should consult with a medical professional before taking anything.)
  10. If you don’t know whether you’ve had the COVID virus in the past, you can get the “nucleocapsid antibody” test for COVID (offered by various labs, including LabCorp). This is the only type of COVID antibody test that can identify past exposure to the virus itself and not also pick up on antibodies developed from vaccination. This might be helpful information to have in case you end up getting any Long COVID symptoms (or sudden changes in your cardiovascular health or other brain or organ issues) down the road. Research is ongoing to identify the best treatments for various Long COVID symptoms and conditions.

Please take a look at some of these useful, recent articles and research findings about COVID and Long COVID:

I also recommend reading the articles on COVID and Long COVID that were written by Ed Yong between 2020-2022.

Some of the top doctors, scientists, and other experts I recommend following re. COVID and public health are: Eric Topol, Wes Ely, Claire Taylor, Elizabeth Jacobs, Ziyad Al-Aly, Peter Hotez, Erin C. Sanders, Taison Bell, Celine Gounder, Theresa Chapple, Julia Raifman, Angela Rasmussen, Lucky Tran, Megan Ranney, Shikha Jain, Lisa Iannatone, Dr. Natalia, Nurse Kelsey; Hannah Davis, Morgan Stephens, and others included here.

Some groups and resources you might want to know about and follow online are: Voices of COVID, Faces of COVID, Survivor Corps, COVID Survivors for Change, Patient-Led Research Collaborative for Long COVID, Putrino Lab, Long Covid Research Initiative, The Long COVID Survival Guide, Long COVID Advocacy, Long COVID Justice, Long Covid Kids, Project N95, Mask Together America, Marked By COVID, and others included here.

Other useful resources:

Related post:

COVID Response and Relief: Ways to help or to get help or information

 

See our COVID/Long COVID/Public Health Twitter list for updates and new findings.

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February 28, 2023
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These are a few recently published books that you may want to consider reading and/or giving to others as a gift:

The Climate Book: The Facts and the Solutions, by Greta Thunberg

Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future, by Elizabeth Kolbert (also the author of The Sixth Extinction)

An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us, by Ed Yong (also the author of I Contain Multitudes)

Water Always Wins: Thriving in an Age of Drought and Deluge, by Erica Gies

Call Us What We Carry (poems), by Amanda Gorman

The Flag, The Cross, and the Station Wagon: A Graying American Looks Back at His Suburban Boyhood and Wonders What the Hell Happened, by Bill McKibben

Midnight in Washington: How We Almost Lost Our Democracy and Still Could, by Adam Schiff

The Storm is Upon Us: How QAnon Became a Movement, Cult, and Conspiracy Theory of Everything, by Mike Rothschild

Beyond Belief: How Pentecostal Christianity is Taking Over the World, by Elle Hardy

Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention—And How to Think Deeply Again, by Johann Hari

Another book I would recommend is the following [disclosure: it was written by a family member]. It came out a few years ago, but it imparts important and timely lessons on the folly of violence (and the value of non-violent dissent) that all social movements and activists can benefit from:

Looking for Revolution, Finding Murder: The Crimes and Transformation of Katherine Ann Power, by Janet Landman

 

Also check out the books published by New Society Publishers and Chelsea Green Publishing and Island Press, for a wide selection of titles on green/sustainability topics.

Please buy books from independent bookstores to keep them in business (you can find the ones closest to you on IndieBound.org)—or from Powell’s Books, Barnes & Noble, or Better World Books—rather than from Amazon. There are numerous good reasons not to buy anything (but especially books) from Amazon. (And remember, when you pay the lowest possible price for books, the authors, publishers, and warehouse workers are all likely to receive a lot less for their work.) Also, when buying online, avoid choosing one- or two-day shipping unless it’s actually necessary; overnight/airplane-based rush shipping has an enormous environmental footprint as well as a serious cost to worker safety and sanity.

Consider buying gift certificates from local, independent bookstores for your family or friends.

For online audio books, check out Libro.fm, which also helps support your local independent bookstore.

Do you have some favorite books or authors to recommend? Please mention them in the Comments.

Related posts:

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November 20, 2022
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So much is at stake in the next election (climate, democracy, Rule of Law, voting rights, women’s personhood, health and reproductive rights, etc.). Please double-check to make sure you’re registered to vote (and your registration information is accurate and up to date), then vote (early—in person or by mail, if those are options where you are), and encourage and help others you know to vote—and to make sure they have the required type of ID—especially young or first-time voters or people who have moved. (If you vote by mail, read all instructions very carefully, sign where indicated, and make sure your signature is representative of your official signature so it should closely match the signature they have on file and is not likely to be rejected. Drop it off at an official drop-off location, or mail it in well before the deadline so it will arrive in time. Make sure you use adequate postage, if postage is required. Then check for verification that it was received and counted.)

Here is a listing of our most recent posts related to voting, elections, and democracy (in the United States):

Key voting resources/websites:

On Twitter, please follow these lists of key groups and experts:

and our lists that are specific to:

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October 17, 2022
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Studies have shown that exposure to various environmental toxins—which people can be exposed to via the air, water, soil, or the use of certain products—seem very likely to contribute to the development of a number of neurological and neurodegenerative disorders and diseases (including Alzheimer’s, other types of dementia, Parkinson’s disease, ALS, MS) and can also harm neurological development (e.g., intelligence) in children and babies’ developing brains.

My father died of complications related to Parkinson’s disease, after enduring the myriad physical and cognitive indignities of that disease for many years. So this issue is very personal for me. But everyone should take it very personally that any one of us and many of our loved ones could end up suffering or dying from neurological or other diseases (such as cancers) that are often caused—at least in part—by our typically involuntary exposures to toxic chemicals that should not be manufactured or used or emitted into the environment. My dad was definitely exposed to some of the chemicals and air pollutants that have recently been associated with neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s. That makes me angry. It should make everyone angry and motivated to push for changes that protect everyone’s bodies and brains.

Some alarming facts and statistics to consider:

  • At least one in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. (It kills more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.) Deaths from Alzheimer’s more than doubled between 2000 and 2019. (Source: Alzheimer’s Association)
  • COVID-19 is causing a significant increase in Alzheimer’s and dementia. In 2020, COVID contributed to a 17% increase in Alzheimer’s and dementia deaths! (Source: Alzheimer’s Association)
  • Parkinson’s is the second most common neurodegenerative disease, after Alzheimer’s disease. (Source: Parkinson’s Foundation)
  • Globally, disability and death due to Parkinson’s disease are increasing faster than for any other neurological disorder. The prevalence of PD has doubled in the past 25 years. PD is the most common movement disorder. (Source: World Health Organization)
  • Air pollution is associated with approximately 7 million premature deaths every year, worldwide. (Source: World Health Organization)
  • Almost the entire global population (99%) breathes air that exceeds WHO guideline limits and contains high levels of pollutants. (Source: World Health Organization)

While many neurological and other diseases can have genetic risk factors, and some can also be triggered or worsened by certain viruses, or by lifestyle (e.g. diet, exercise) choices, many diseases are more likely to occur when certain environmental exposures are also factors. Public health (and individual health) depend on environmental health. Prevention of these diseases should not just be focused on lifestyle choices, but should focus on protecting all of us by banning the environmental toxins that anyone can be exposed to.

Neurotoxins (toxins that studies have linked to neurological disorders/damage) include, but are not limited to:

  • certain types of pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides (e.g. paraquat, glyphosate/Roundup, maneb, etc.);
  • chemical solvents (e.g., trichloroethylene: TCE);
  • mercury (exposure primarily comes from coal power plant pollution, but it can also come from silver/amalgam dental fillings and from the cremation of those fillings, and from the ingestion of some types of seafood, as well as other sources) as well as lead and other heavy metals;
  • particulate air pollutants from the burning of fossil fuels, via power plants and via vehicles and other forms of transport (as well as particulates from wildfire smoke, which is increasing each year due to climate-driven heat and drought).

These are some recent Parkinson’s-specific articles and resources:

And these are a few articles on environmental risk factors associated with Alzheimer’s, other forms of dementia, and various other types of neurological disorders/brain damage:

Beyond Pesticides has compiled summaries of many recent studies and findings on the various neurological (and other health) effects associated with exposure to various chemical pesticides (and herbicides, fungicides, and related toxins):


ACTIONS

Please sign this petition:
Tell the EPA: Ban Paraquat, an herbicide linked to Parkinson’s disease

And you can sign these other petitions from the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research and from Beyond Pesticides.

You could also join the Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative (PPMI) study (whether you have Parkinson’s or not) to help further the research.

At the very least, please share the information provided in this post. And buy only organically grown food (and plants/seeds); avoid the use (and unsafe disposal) of toxic chemicals and hazardous products whenever possible; do what you can to reduce air pollution (e.g. minimize how much you fly or drive; and reduce material consumption/purchases); and support policies, public officials, candidates, and companies that promote non-toxic alternatives to the many chemical-intensive and polluting products and industries that are killing so many people and damaging our brains.

______

For additional information on the connection between environmental toxins and public health (and organizations that are focused on these issues and trying to prevent or reduce these problems), please see our past posts on:

Environmental Health / Public Health

Health Impacts of Toxic Chemicals and Pollutants

Here’s a small selection of the organizations focused on these issues:

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September 29, 2022
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This is a listing of some legal organizations that I recommend following, learning more about, and potentially supporting. They all use the law to try to serve and support the common good in various ways: to protect humans and human rights, civil rights, and civil liberties; to protect animals and the rights of non-human species; and/or to protect nature, our shared environment, and the livability of our planet.

Many human/societal/commercial/industrial activities and practices that are considered “business as usual” are not only unjust, but are truly ecocidal, genocidal, and collectively suicidal, and really ought to be legally deemed (and prosecuted as) Crimes Against Humanity and the planet. Currently, only some of these existential wrongs can be addressed and enforced through legal avenues. While the law has typically focused on the rights of humans (and human entities, such as companies or organizations), efforts have been ramping up to also establish/enact and secure the Rights of Nature (including rivers, etc.) as well as Non-Human Rights for other species.

In recent years, some countries have amended their constitutions, enacted laws, or issued court decisions recognizing the legal rights of nature. Those countries include: Ecuador, New Zealand, Bolivia, Panama, Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, and Bangladesh. And recently, the UN formally declared that access to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment is a universal human right. However, this is a non-binding resolution; the hope is that it will help spur countries to improve their environmental laws and the implementation and enforcement of those laws.

Environmental law/rights

Animal rights

Also see: our Twitter list on Animal rights and protection; and our related post: Animal Protection, Rescue, and Advocacy Organizations

Human/civil/constitutional rights
(including voting rights, bodily autonomy, reproductive rights, etc.)

For additional organizations and legal experts, see our Twitter lists on:

 

Related posts: Posts related to Democracy, Elections, Voting, and Social Change

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August 2, 2022
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photo by M. LandmanFor the love of all that is good; for the sake of a habitable planet with a survivable climate, for the sake of democracy and voting rights, for the sake of our personhood, bodily autonomy, self-determination, and fundamental rights and civil liberties, for the sake of reducing the threat of gun violence, for the sake of children and the future of humanity; to protect Social Security and Medicare for elders and people with disabilities; to protect LGBTQ people and immigrants/refugees and every marginalized and dehumanized group; and for so SO many other reasons I shouldn’t have to list here: PLEASE (yes, I’m begging), please vote, and also do something to help Get Out the Vote and get people you know to vote (Blue) in the upcoming elections and in all elections—especially young people or others who may not have voted before (or who have moved and need to re-register) and people who live in swing/”purple” or “red” states or districts. Help them get registered; they might just need a little nudge or a link or a form. Then take them with you to vote or to drop off your signed mail-in ballots.

Too often, many Democrats and young people sit out elections as if they don’t matter (especially when the presidency isn’t on the ballot), and as a result, progress gets significantly rolled back or obstructed (which has very real effects on people’s everyday lives, livelihoods, and their future), locally and nationally. If we don’t expand the Dem’s razor-thin Senate majority, secure the House majority, add more Dems to many state legislatures, and get more Dem Secretaries of State, Attorneys General, and Governors elected or re-elected in swing states (where Republicans are actively working to elect SOS’s and AG’s who will refuse to certify any voting result that doesn’t go their way), it is not an exaggeration to say that we are likely to lose our democracy and so many things we hold dear (or take for granted), including many of our basic rights and liberties.

Here are some groups I recommend joining or supporting (and amplifying); click on a few, and pick one or two!

 

Focused on state and local campaigns/races:
Environmental/climate voter groups:

On Twitter, please follow these lists:

Voting / Elections

State and Local Dem Groups

and our lists that are specific to:

We might add other state lists later this year, and we add more accounts (“members”) to our existing lists as we discover them.

 

Related blog posts with more information:

 

Please share a few of the links above with your friends and/or on social media, now and before October/November. Thank you!

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July 8, 2022
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The Goldman Environmental Prize is the world’s largest and most prestigious annual award for grassroots environmentalists. Many people refer to it as the “green Nobel.” Goldman Prize winners are models of courage, and their stories are powerful and truly inspiring. “The Prize recognizes individuals for sustained and significant efforts to protect and enhance the natural environment, often at great personal risk. Each winner receives a financial award. The Goldman Prize views ‘grassroots’ leaders as those involved in local efforts, where positive change is created through community or citizen participation in the issues that affect them. Through recognizing these individual leaders, the Prize seeks to inspire other ordinary people to take extraordinary actions to protect the natural world.” Over the 33 years that the Prize has been awarded, there have been more than 200 recipients of the prize.

This year’s prize recipients (representing each of the six inhabited continental regions of the world) are:

  • Nalleli Cobo—Los Angeles, CA, USA: “Nalleli Cobo led a coalition to permanently shut down a toxic oil-drilling site in her community in March 2020, at the age of 19—an oil site that caused serious health issues for her and others. Her continued organizing against urban oil extraction has now yielded major policy movement within both the Los Angeles City Council and Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, which voted unanimously to ban new oil exploration and to phase out existing sites.” (Support/follow: STAND – L.A.)
  • Alexandra Narvaez and Alex Lucitante—Ecuador: “Alex Lucitante and Alexandra Narvaez spearheaded an Indigenous movement to protect their people’s ancestral territory from gold mining. Their leadership resulted in a historic legal victory in October 2018, when Ecuador’s courts canceled 52 gold mining concessions, which were illegally granted without the consent of their Cofán community. The community’s legal success protects 79,000 acres of pristine, biodiverse rainforest in the headwaters of Ecuador’s Aguarico River, which is sacred to the Cofán.” (Support/follow: Alianza Ceibo and Amazon Frontlines)
  • Chima Williams—Nigeria: “In the aftermath of disastrous oil spills in Nigeria, environmental lawyer Chima Williams worked with two communities to hold Royal Dutch Shell accountable for the resultant widespread environmental damage. On January 29, 2021, the Court of Appeal of the Hague ruled that not only was Royal Dutch Shell’s Nigerian subsidiary responsible for the oil spills, but, as parent company, Royal Dutch Shell also had an obligation to prevent the spills. This is the first time a Dutch transnational corporation has been held accountable for the violations of its subsidiary in another country, opening Shell to legal action from communities across Nigeria devastated by the company’s disregard for environmental safety.” (Support/follow: Environmental Rights Action / Friends of the Earth Nigeria)
  • Marjan Minnesma—The Netherlands: “In a groundbreaking victory, Marjan Minnesma leveraged public input and a unique legal strategy to secure a successful ruling against the Dutch government, requiring it to enact specific preventive measures against climate change. In December 2019, the Dutch Supreme Court ruled that the government had a legal obligation to protect its citizens from climate change and ordered it, by the end of 2020, to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 25% below 1990 levels. The Netherlands’ Supreme Court decision marks the first time that citizens succeeded in holding their government accountable for its failure to protect them from climate change.” (Support/follow: Dutch Urgenda Foundation)
  • Niwat Roykaew—Thailand: “In February 2020, Niwat Roykaew and the Mekong community’s advocacy resulted in the termination of the China-led Upper Mekong River rapids blasting project, which would have destroyed 248 miles of the Mekong to deepen navigation channels for Chinese cargo ships traveling downstream. Flowing 3,000 miles from the mountains of Tibet before draining to the South China Sea, the biodiversity-rich Mekong River’s fisheries, tributaries, wetlands, and floodplains are a vital lifeline for more than 65 million people. This is the first time the Thai government has canceled a transboundary project because of the environmental destruction it would cause.” (Support/follow: Mekong School)
  • Julien Vincent—Australia: “Julien Vincent led a successful grassroots campaign to defund coal in Australia, a major coal exporter, culminating in commitments from the nation’s four largest banks to end funding for coal projects by 2030. Because of Julien’s activism, Australia’s major insurance companies have also agreed to cease underwriting new coal projects. His organizing has produced a challenging financial landscape for the Australian coal industry, a significant step toward reducing fossil fuels that hasten climate change.” (Support/follow: Market Forces)

Click on each recipient’s name to read a longer profile—or watch a brief video—about their remarkable efforts and achievements, and to find links to their social media pages.

Here’s the video about Nalleli Cobo:

 

Posts on Goldman Prize winners from previous years:

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May 25, 2022
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Just left our house at 4:30 AM under a mandatory evacuation order, in the pitch dark, with howling winds, apocalyptic smoke, and ash swirling all around us. I’m quite shaken. We’ll figure out a plan when the sun comes up.”

That was the note that I posted on my Facebook page on the morning of October 27, 2019, once my husband and I were able to pull over in a town further from the fire, where other evacuees were parked. Overnight, gale-force winds from the northeast had started pushing the Kincade Fire rapidly and directly towards our area. (Officials feared it might jump over Highway 101, as the highly destructive and uncontrollable Tubbs Fire had done two years before, when it rampaged across the city of Santa Rosa to the horror and amazement of firefighters and everyone else.) Less than half an hour before I posted that note, we had been awakened by an evacuation notification alert blaring on our mobile phones. I could barely keep my panic at bay as we rushed to load our van up with our blind cat, along with other irreplaceable items and essential supplies that we had been gathering up in bags near our front door over the past few days of evacuation warnings. Our faces were pelted by brittle, wind-driven needles from our parched but magnificent redwood trees, and we had only our headlights and phone flashlights for lighting as we carried our things out to the van. I had to make a conscious effort to keep myself from hyperventilating or bursting into tears as we got into the vehicle and drove away from our home. I was reluctant to look back at it, knowing that when we returned, it might be burned to the ground.

This was one of the most intense days of my life. We were able to stay with friends in another part of the county for four days, until the order was lifted, and we were fortunate to be able to come back to an intact home and neighborhood (because the winds had died down before the fire got to the highway or beyond), though our power remained out for our first day and night back and the house felt like a walk-in freezer. We didn’t know it at the time, but we were part of the largest evacuation ever in Sonoma County history.

Many of us who are residents of the western United States have been personally affected by worsening (more frequent and much bigger and hotter) wildfires and the ever-longer fire seasons that we’ve been experiencing these past 5-10 years. The regular Red Flag “fire weather” warnings, the explosive fires every year, nerve-wracking evacuations and evacuation warnings, hazardous and acrid-smelling smoke in the air (tiny particulates that get deep into your lungs and make it feel like you’re sucking on a filthy truck exhaust pipe any time you’re outside) sometimes lingering for weeks at a time and making the air quality worse than anywhere else on Earth, being surrounded by other-worldly burnt-orange skies that block out the sun, sooty ash (including tiny fragments of people’s books/homes/lives) covering every outdoor surface (requiring the use of windshield wipers to clear car windshields), extended power outages as well as Internet and cell tower outages, and other substantial disruptions to work and to life in general—these things have taken a real toll on millions of us, and will take a toll on millions more.

Many of us also know people who have lost their homes and their sense of security—and who became climate refugees, facing displacement, years of insurance headaches, PTSD, and nightmares—because of these fires. I have some good friends who went through this trauma in 2017; they had to flee a giant wildfire in the middle of night and barely got out alive. I helped sift through the rubble and toxic ashes of their destroyed home and work studio. It looked like a large bomb had been dropped on their property, which had formerly been a hillside oak woodland paradise that felt like a sanctuary. That was an emotionally jarring experience, and it left an indelible mark on me, as did our own evacuation experience after that. And in the years before and after our evacuation, during other catastrophic fires in the region (including the one that destroyed our friends’ home), we were under evacuation warnings and had to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.

In 2021, after many years of living in that beautiful but increasingly fire-imperiled and drought-stricken region, my husband and I moved to live near friends in a wetter region, which has less fire risk—less risk for now anyway, though I know conditions will continue to change and no place is safe from climate-related calamities. While not exactly wildfire refugees, we were essentially proactive climate migrants.

Ever-worsening climate destabilization is causing more extreme and prolonged heat and droughts, and thus creating vast areas of extremely dry vegetation: e.g., trees, shrubs, and grasses. And that is adversely changing the world’s fire ecology. In recent years, there have been widespread fires in most western and many southern states in the U.S. and across almost every region of the world, including the Arctic (e.g., Siberia and Alaska), Canada, Australia, the Amazon/South America/Brazil (where fires are sometimes intentionally started to illegally clear rainforest land for cattle grazing), and in Africa and Europe. Wildfires have always happened to some degree, but the size and intensity, the times of year, and the locations of many of today’s wildfires are unprecedented.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and helpless in the face of the increasing number of wildfires fueled by dangerous climate conditions. But we are not helpless. When doing research on wildfire risk reduction (see the resource links below), I was heartened to discover that there are many experts (e.g., fire ecologists, pyrogeographers, and all types of fire science aficionados and fire safety officials) doing good work, and some smart and positive efforts are underway to lessen the wildfire risks going forward. For example, there is a growing understanding among land managers, fire agencies, policymakers, and state and county staff of the need for some prescribed fires (AKA controlled or managed burns, or “good fire”): a traditional, indigenous practice to reduce dry and dead vegetation and to safely mimic and manage what would occur naturally (if most wildfires hadn’t been suppressed over the last century).

I’ve been pleased to observe that, in some areas at least, prescribed fires have been happening more frequently, despite permitting hurdles. I’ve also read about prescribed burns (as well as greenbelt buffers) that did, in fact, help protect some neighborhoods from recent fires. (Of course, controlled burns must be done very carefully and in the correct season and weather conditions, to make sure they don’t burn out of control, beyond the intended boundaries.)

There are numerous actions we can take as a society, as communities, and as individuals and households to prevent or minimize further destruction:

  • Community-scale wildfire mitigation efforts include policies and practices for state, regional, local, and neighborhood-level land use and management of public and privately owned lands: e.g., prescribed fires/controlled burns, greenbelt buffers and Urban Growth Boundaries for the wildland-urban interface, forest management, zoning that restricts building or re-building in fire-prone (or flood-prone or other disaster-prone) areas, and the development of fire-resilient infrastructure.
  • Property/Building-scale policies and practices (for land owners, building/home owners, and residents) focus on sites and structures: e.g., defensible space around residential and commercial structures, landscaping choices, vegetation management; home/building hardening and protection (design, building, remodeling, retrofitting); and indoor air ventilation and filtering strategies, for smoke protection and remediation.

The following websites and organizations can help you identify and implement a number of concrete actions that could protect your community or your own family and residence from wildfires:

I. General / Community-Scale Resources

Articles:

II. Property & Building-Scale (Site & Structures) Resources

Click here to see brief descriptions of these resources, or to see some more California-specific resources (in an annotated listing that I developed for the U.S. Green Building Council’s Redwood Empire Chapter in 2021). Also visit our Wildfire and Fire Ecology list on Twitter, which includes many of the above resources and others.

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Doing everything we can to prevent or manage the spread of wildfires and to protect people, animals, forests, and structures from wildfires and their smoke pollution (for the long term) also requires that we do everything we can NOW to help mitigate and slow climate change, as our fast-changing, destabilized climate is the primary driver—the accelerant—of today’s catastrophic wildfires.

Related posts (which include some specific recommendations):

 

Note: This article is now also published on Resilience.org.

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April 27, 2022
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