non-profit organizations

So many life-and-death issues are on the line in the upcoming election: the speed and scale of climate/planetary breakdown (i.e. the habitability of our planet); protecting women’s lives, personhood, and bodily autonomy; protecting Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and affordable health care plans; reducing massacres from gun violence; protecting marginalized and dehumanized groups of people; protecting and expanding workers’ rights and economic justice; the appointment of future Supreme Court justices and other judges whose decisions will have life-changing impacts on our lives; the handling of future pandemics; and preventing the use of nuclear weapons, to name just a few.

I know it seems like people always say “This is the most important election of our lifetime.” In a sense, it’s almost always true, if you just add “…so far.” We can’t go back and change the outcome of past elections, and we don’t know what future elections will look like. But every election is extremely important and every outcome has serious and lasting consequences for our everyday lives—and many issues are becoming more dire over time—so the next election is always going to be the next best chance we have to influence the conditions we will be living under in the short term and the long term.

This election is different from previous elections in some important and disturbing ways:

1) New voter suppression laws are in effect: Since the last Presidential election, some states have passed laws instituting rules that will make it harder for certain groups of people to vote (especially young people and students, people with disabilities, poor and homeless people, and the elderly), which could disenfranchise many of them;

2) Insurrectionists are in office and running for office: This is the first Presidential election since the January 6th insurrection (attempted coup) happened. A number of current elected officials at state, local, and federal levels (and other people who are now running for office) participated in that insurrection in one way or another, or are still actively denying the results of the 2020 presidential election (propagating the Big Lie); and many of them are already saying that they will not accept (or certify) the outcome of an election that does not go their way. We have a patriotic responsibility to vote against insurrectionists and election deniers in a landslide; and

3) AI deepfakes and “cheap fakes” (video, audio, and images) can now easily be manipulated to impersonate candidates or others, or to show excerpted statements completely out of context, to confuse or misinform voters. It can be difficult to tell what is fake or real, and even if they are debunked, last-minute deepfakes before the election could have an effect on how people vote (or whether they vote at all). Intelligence officials are warning that Russia (as well as China and Iran) have been using fake accounts on social media to spread disinformation and sow division in the U.S.  They can do this through many means, deepfakes being one of them.

If the U.S. allows a corrupt, sociopathic, Putin-backed, adjudicated rapist and defamer, convicted felon (with numerous other charges awaiting trial), compulsive liar, grifting conman, and wanna-be dictator (along with his criminal henchmen, “yes men,” and corrupt family) to take power for a second time, it will likely be the end of our long, admirable experiment with American democracy and it will probably be the last legitimate election we have for a generation or more. Many people don’t realize how quickly a country can lose its freedoms and how far it can fall in the hands of an authoritarian. Our democracy is far from perfect now, but things can get much, much worse. Basic rights that we take for granted could suddenly be stripped away. We should learn from the recent experiences of countries like Hungary, Turkey, and Belarus. I can’t overstate or adequately express how much I don’t want to live out the rest of my life under that type—or any type—of anti-democratic, authoritarian, or theocratic rule (and how much you and almost everyone else would hate it and suffer because of it, as well).

Ways to help voters and Get Out the Vote

Elections are decided by those who show up to vote and who vote for one of the viable candidates (in the U.S. system, third-party candidates are not viable at the national level), and particularly by voters in “swing states,” which will determine the Electoral College outcome of the Presidential election (please click here to tell your state representatives to pass the National Popular Vote Law in your state; it has been passed in 18 states so far and is getting close to the threshold needed to go into effect).

Current “swing states” include: Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Arizona, Nevada, North Carolina, New Hampshire, and Florida. Other “purple” states include: Ohio, Montana, Minnesota, New Mexico, Colorado, Texas, Virginia, Maine, Iowa, Nebraska, and Missouri, among others.

Here are some ways that each of us can make sure people are able to vote and to protect the election and democracy:

  1. Look up your state’s voter registration deadline and share that information with others you know, including anyone who might not yet be registered (or who has moved recently and might need to re-register). In some states, people must be registered more than a month before the election in order to vote in that election, while a few states allow people to register right up to or on Election Day.
  2. Remember to check your registration status at least once a year (including a month or two before each election, when you should still have time to re-register) and remind others to do so, as well. (Go to your state’s Elections/Secretary of State website, or contact your county’s Elections office to check your registration, or go to  Vote411.org.) Some states are doing overly aggressive “purges” of their voter registration rolls to “clean them up” but they could remove people who should not be removed. You should also make sure your registration has your correct address.
  3. Make sure people in your state (and people you know in battleground/swing states) know what types of ID are required for voting there now. In the last year or two, the requirements in some states have gotten much more stringent (for example, some states will not accept student IDs now). Did you know that 11% of American adults (26 million people, including many young people, elderly or disabled people, and low-income people) don’t have a current photo ID? If someone needs assistance with obtaining the required ID or getting it free of charge, they can call or text the VoteRiders hotline: 866-ID-2-VOTE (866-432-8683), or email info@voteriders.org (or contact Spread the Vote/Project ID).
  4. There is a much greater need for poll workers than ever before. Sign up to be a paid poll worker through Power the Polls. It’s important to sign up well before the election so you will have time to get the required training. Because the GOP is threatening to use voter intimidation tactics at some polling places, and because some new poll workers might not always provide correct information to voters, it’s also necessary to have fair-minded poll monitors, or “poll watchers” or “election observers” on hand. Sign up to be a nonpartisan Election Protection volunteer; there are different roles you can choose from, to help on site or from home. (You might also be able to sign up as a partisan poll watcher through your local or state Democratic Party office.) Those who have a legal background (lawyers, paralegals, and law students) can volunteer through WeTheAction.
  5. Support some voting/election-related organizations (or campaigns) now. Please don’t wait until the fall to start helping them; that could be too late to make a difference. Here are some groups to consider supporting (or volunteering for):
  1. There are many different ways you can volunteer to help Get Out the Vote, in your state or in one or more of the swing states that will determine the Electoral College outcome of the election. You could volunteer for a specific candidate or campaign, or with your state or local Democratic party. Or you can do postcarding (or writing letters), texting, or calling voters through groups like:

You can find other ways to be involved in expanding voting access and supporting democracy in the Americans of Conscience Checklist, or through many of the other organizations listed under item #5, above.

 

Important Information to Share

Please share some of the information and links provided above, as well as some of the following articles, on your social media pages, or by email or text, etc.  Many people seem to have already forgotten about so many of the outrageous things that DT has said and done over the years (and how awful it was to live through his first term), and many people are not really paying attention to what he’s saying and doing now. There are so many daily outrages, it’s hard to keep up with all of them or remember many of them. Most of us could use some periodic reminders:

TrumpFile.org: “Chronologically documenting the life, crimes, and corruption of Donald Trump, his administration, and his allies”

Legal cases (thousands) and guilty verdicts against Trump (and the Trump Organization+), from the 1970s until the present

Donald Trump: Three Decades, 4,095 Lawsuits, USA Today

Sexual assault and misconduct allegations (and cases) against Trump, by >25 women and girls

“Trump’s ‘Team of Felons’ (a list of people in DT’s inner circle who have been convicted of crimes)

Charted: Trump world allies sentenced to prison,” Axios

Selections from The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President

A Trump dictatorship is increasingly inevitable. We should stop pretending.” By Robert Kagan, Washington Post

How Far Trump Would Go,” by Eric Cortellessa, Time magazine

The Bloodbath Candidate,” by Timothy Snyder

The People’s Guide to Project 2025, by Democracy Forward

Decoding Project 2025’s Christian Nationalist Language,” by Andra Watkins, Salon

Project 2025 tells us what a second Trump term could mean for climate policy. It isn’t pretty.” By Frederick Hewett, WBUR

Our Diagnostic Impression of Trump is Probable Dementia,” signed by thousands of licensed mental health professionals, on Change.org

Numerous enlightening articles on DT by Chauncey DeVega, Salon

 

Also see: 30 Major Climate Initiatives Under Biden, Legal Planet

We’ll be adding more information to this post soon and in the months leading up the election, and we’re also going to publish another election-related post before November. Stay tuned!

Related posts:

Twitter lists:

 

#VoteReady #GOTV #VotingMatters #ClimateVoter #YouthVote #VoteLikeYourLifeDependsOnIt #DemocracyMatters

Share

May 9, 2024
[Click here to comment]

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 35 years that the Prize has been awarded, there have been more than 220 recipients of the prize.

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

  • Andrea Vidaurre—USA: “Andrea Vidaurre’s grassroots leadership persuaded the California Air Resources Board to adopt, in the spring of 2023, two historic transportation regulations that significantly limit trucking and rail emissions. The new regulations—the In-Use Locomotive Rule and the California Advanced Clean Fleets Rule—include the nation’s first emission rule for trains and a path to 100% zero emissions for freight truck sales by 2036. The groundbreaking regulations—a product of Andrea’s policy work and community organizing—will substantially improve air quality for millions of Californians while accelerating the country’s transition to zero-emission vehicles.” (Support/follow: The People’s Collective for Environmental Justice, and Moving Forward Network)
  • Marcel Gomes—Brazil: “Marcel Gomes coordinated a complex, international campaign that directly linked beef from JBS, the world’s largest meatpacking company, to illegal deforestation in Brazil’s most threatened ecosystems. Armed with detailed evidence from his breakthrough investigative report, Marcel and Repórter Brasil worked with partners to pressure global retailers to stop selling the illegally sourced meat, leading six major European supermarket chains in Belgium, France, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom to indefinitely halt the sale of JBS products in December 2021.” (Support/follow: Mighty Earth, AidEnvironment, Environmental Investigation Agency, and Repórter Brazil; and please sign this petition.)
  • Teresa Vicente—Spain: “Teresa Vicente led a historic, grassroots campaign to save the Mar Menor ecosystem—Europe’s largest saltwater lagoon—from collapse, resulting in the passage of a new law in September 2022 granting the lagoon unique legal rights. Considered to be the most important saltwater coastal lagoon in the western Mediterranean, the once pristine waters of the Mar Menor had become polluted due to mining, rampant development of urban and tourist infrastructure, and, in recent years, intensive agriculture and livestock farming.”
  • Alok Shukla—India: “Alok Shukla led a successful community campaign that saved 445,000 acres of biodiversity-rich forests from 21 planned coal mines in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh. In July 2022, the government canceled the 21 proposed coal mines in Hasdeo Aranya, whose pristine forests—popularly known as the lungs of Chhattisgarh—are one of the largest intact forest areas in India.” (On Twitter, follow @SHasdeo and @CBARaipur)
  • Murrawah Maroochy Johnson—Australia: “Murrawah Maroochy Johnson blocked development of the Waratah coal mine, which would have accelerated climate change in Queensland, destroyed the nearly 20,000-acre Bimblebox Nature Refuge, added 1.58 billion tons of CO2 to the atmosphere over its lifetime, and threatened Indigenous rights and culture. Murrawah’s case, which overcame a 2023 appeal, set a precedent that enables other First Nations people to challenge coal projects by linking climate change to human and Indigenous rights.” (Support/follow: Youth Verdict)

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

Posts on Goldman Prize winners from previous years:

Share

April 29, 2024
[Click here to comment]

The climate movement has been growing much larger and building power in recent years. The vast majority of people in the U.S. and in the world are concerned about the climate and want to see more climate action. And there’s no shortage of climate-focused organizations. But we do need more people who’ve been sitting on the sidelines to join the existing efforts and turn their climate concern into action, so we can reach a critical mass. There is strength in numbers and in collective action.

strength in numbers

You don’t have to identify as an “activist” to amplify, support, or participate in the work of climate organizations, and you don’t need to wait for an invitation to join or to get involved—but if you’d like one, consider this your cordial, official invitation! All of us in the climate movement welcome you!

If you aren’t already familiar with a bunch of climate organizations, check out the list below. I recommend following at least a few of these (or other) climate organizations online (e.g., on social media) to get to know what they’re about and to get a sense of which ones have an approach or a tone that resonates with you the most. Then sign up to join—or get on the mailing list of—one or more of them. And start sharing their posts and actions with others in your social network.

This list of climate organizations is fairly comprehensive but it is not exhaustive. Most of the following groups are based in the U.S. and have a national or international scope, and most are non-profits. Many of these groups have regional or local chapters. (As I learn about other national/international groups over time, I will be adding more to this list.) Many other climate organizations exist, including local, grassroots groups and projects, all over the world. If you can’t find a local group, chapter, or committee in your town, you could start an informal climate group or project in your community, neighborhood, workplace, school, or religious congregation.

Note: In this first list, below, the organizations that are in bold type are the groups that I am most familiar with and feel most comfortable recommending, but all of these organizations have an important role to play. Are you familiar with some of these?

These are organizations for people in particular professions or demographics:

There are also a number of faith-based (religious) climate groups.

Also, many broad-based environmental organizations include climate issues among the spectrum of environmental issues they work on. After all, climate change affects and is affected by every other environmental (and social) issue.

And many other types of environmental organizations with a specific focus (e.g., environmental justice, youth/young people, health, land/forest conservation, animal/species protection, etc.) often also recognize and address climate impacts in their work.

If you would like assistance with identifying a few organizations that are the best fit for your particular interests or your preferred organizational strategies/approaches (e.g., legal, legislative/lobbying, direct action, education/awareness building, etc.), I’m a climate advisor and I can assist you with that.

If you would like to recommend a climate organization that isn’t on this list, please mention it in the Comments!

 

Climate Resources

The following are information sources—including some media/news sites—that provide science-based, fact-based information on the climate crisis and climate solutions. Most of these are based in the U.S.  These sites can help you get more informed or help you educate others about climate issues:

For other environmental and general news sources, see our post on Reputable and Fact-Based News and Information Sources.

For other types of climate resources, also see our post on Books, Films and TV, and TED Talks.

Other relevant posts:

Share

February 27, 2024
[Click here to comment]

The mission of Project Drawdown is “to help the world stop climate change—as quickly, safely, and equitably as possible. We do this by advancing effective, science-based climate solutions and strategies; fostering bold, new climate leadership; and promoting new climate narratives and new voices.”

Project Drawdown’s researchers have identified more than 90 climate solutions (specific strategies), and they have estimated how much each one of those strategies could reduce heat-trapping (greenhouse gas) emissions globally, to determine which ones can make the biggest impact in mitigating climate change. They note that their listing is “extensive but not exhaustive” and their research is ongoing and will continue to be updated.

On their Table of Solutions, you can sort the solutions’ climate impacts based on two different scenarios—or timelines—of emissions reduction efforts: Scenario 1 is in line with a 2˚C temperature rise by 2100, while Scenario 2 is in line with a 1.5˚C temperature rise at century’s end (a better scenario, to be sure, but one that is becoming less attainable every day that our societies fail to act with the needed urgency).

I looked at the solutions for both scenarios, and I found that both scenarios include the same group of solutions within their Top 15—just in a different order. (Beyond the first 15, the solutions start to differ somewhat across the two scenarios.) Here I’ve listed the 15 highest-impact solutions that Project Drawdown identified for Scenario 1, as of June 2023. Click on the links to learn about each one:

Top 15 Climate Solutions

  1. Reduced Food Waste
  2. Plant-Rich Diets
  3. Family Planning and Education
  4. Refrigerant Management
  5. Tropical Forest Restoration
  6. Onshore Wind Turbines
  7. Alternative Refrigerants
  8. Utility-Scale Solar Photovoltaics
  9. Clean Cooking
  10. Distributed Solar Photovoltaics
  11. Silvopasture
  12. Methane Leak Management
  13. Peatland Protection and Rewetting
  14. Tree Plantations on Degraded Land
  15. Temperate Forest Restoration

Start by selecting 2-4 of the solutions above, and think about (or research/Google) at least one way that you can participate in or contribute to each of those solutions. Then write down and commit to those actions and do your best to make them happen in the near term. (Then maybe you can add some more goals and solutions to your list, and/or help others achieve them.) While many/most of these climate solutions require action by government and industry in order to be fully and readily implemented, there are almost always some things that we can do as individuals and as communities to push them forward and to push government and industry in the right direction. Government and corporate policies, funding and investments, and climate programs and efforts should aim to prioritize the most effective climate solutions and strategies, as well as all strategies that can be implemented immediately or quickly (and/or easily or most affordably), as time is of the essence.

[UPDATE: After this post was published, I published a post on How to Reduce Food Waste. And here’s my April 2024 post on Climate Actions for All of Us, which also addresses plant-based diets and other actions.]

To see the other 75+ solutions identified by Project Drawdown, visit and peruse their Solutions Library.

Project Drawdown organizes their solutions by sectors, as follows:

Sources: Food, Agriculture, and Land Use; Electricity; Other Energy; Buildings; Industry; Transportation

Sinks: Land Sinks; Coastal and Ocean Sinks; Engineered Sinks

Society: Health and Education

Interestingly, of the Top 15 solutions listed above, almost half of them (7) count as Land Sinks, while 3 of them fall within the area of Food, Agriculture, and Land Use; 3 are within the Buildings sector; 3 are within the Electricity sector; 2 are within Industry; 1 is related to Health and Education; and 1 is related to Other Energy (methane gas).

Also check out the new Drawdown Roadmap, which is a series of videos (and graphics) that demystify climate change’s specific causes and solutions, and show “how to strategically mobilize solutions across sectors, time, and place, engage the power of co-benefits, and recognize and remove obstacles.” These videos provide useful, one-of-a-kind summaries that can serve as a great resource for businesses, investors, philanthropists, government agencies, and non-profit organizations. I think they could also serve as a good learning tool for high school or college students. For other short, educational videos from Project Drawdown, see their Climate Solutions 101 series, which includes interviews with a variety of climate experts.

NOTE: We featured an earlier iteration of Project Drawdown’s research findings in our 2020 blog post “Sweat the Big Stuff: The Most Effective Climate Strategies,” which also featured other scientific findings on the highest-impact climate solutions, including high-impact individual choices.

Related posts:

Share

June 27, 2023
2 comments

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 34 years that the Prize has been awarded, there have been more than 215 recipients of the prize.

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

  • Diane Wilson—Texas, USA: “In December 2019, Diane Wilson won a landmark case against Formosa Plastics, one of the world’s largest petrochemical companies, for the illegal dumping of toxic plastic waste on Texas’ Gulf Coast. The $50 million settlement is the largest award in a citizen suit against an industrial polluter in the history of the US Clean Water Act. As a part of the settlement, Formosa Plastics agreed to reach ‘zero-discharge’ of plastic waste from its Point Comfort factory, pay penalties until discharges cease, and fund remediation of affected local wetlands, beaches, and waterways.” (Support/follow: San Antonio Bay Waterkeeper)
  • Alessandra Korap Munduruku—Brazil: “Alessandra Korap Munduruku organized community efforts to stop mining development by British mining company Anglo American in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest. In May 2021, the company formally committed to withdraw 27 approved research applications to mine inside Indigenous territories, including the Sawré Muybu Indigenous Territory, which contains more than 400,000 acres of rainforest. The decision protects a critically threatened area of the Amazon—the world’s largest rainforest and a globally significant carbon sink—from further mining and deforestation.” (Support/follow: Associação Indígena PARIRIAPIB, Amazon WatchCOIAB, and sign this letter.)
  • Tero Mustonen—Finland: “Since April 2018, Tero Mustonen led the restoration of 62 severely degraded former industrial peat mining and forestry sites throughout Finland—totaling 86,000 acres—and transformed them into productive, biodiverse wetlands and habitats. Rich in organic matter, peatlands are highly effective carbon sinks; according to the IUCN, peatlands are the largest natural carbon stores on Earth. Roughly one-third of Finland’s surface area is made up of peatlands.” (Support/follow: Snowchange Cooperative and Global Peatlands Initiative)
  • Delima Silalahi—Indonesia: “Delima Silalahi led a campaign to secure legal stewardship of 17,824 acres of tropical forest land for six Indigenous communities in North Sumatra. Her community’s activism reclaimed this territory from a pulp and paper company that had partially converted it into a monoculture, non-native, industrial eucalyptus plantation. The six communities have begun restoring the forests, creating valuable carbon sinks of biodiverse Indonesian tropical forest.” (More here; and support/follow the Rainforest Action Network (RAN).)
  • Chilekwa Mumba—Zambia: “Alarmed by the pollution produced by the Konkola Copper Mines operation in the Copperbelt Province of Zambia, Chilekwa Mumba organized a lawsuit to hold the mine’s parent company, Vedanta Resources, responsible. Chilekwa’s victory in the UK Supreme Court set a legal precedent—it was the first time an English court ruled that a British company could be held liable for the environmental damage caused by subsidiary-run operations in another country. This precedent has since been applied to hold Shell Global—one of the world’s 10 largest corporations by revenue—liable for its pollution in Nigeria.” (See Conservation Lower Zambezi and sign their petition.)
  • Zafer Kizilkaya—Turkey: “In collaboration with local fishing cooperatives and Turkish authorities, Zafer Kizilkaya expanded Turkey’s network of marine protected areas (MPAs) along 310 miles of the Mediterranean coast. The newly designated areas were approved by the Turkish government in August 2020 and include an expansion of the MPA network by 135 square miles (350 sq. km) of no trawling/no purse seine, and an additional 27 square miles (70 sq. km) of no fishing zones. Turkey’s marine ecosystem has been severely degraded by overfishing, illegal fishing, tourism development, and the effects of climate change—and these protected areas help mitigate these challenges.” (Support/follow: Mediterranean Conservation Society)

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 Diane Wilson:

 

Posts on Goldman Prize winners from previous years:

Share

April 24, 2023
[Click here to comment]

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

Share

August 2, 2022
[Click here to comment]

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:

Share

May 25, 2022
[Click here to comment]

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.

______________________

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.

Share

April 27, 2022
1 comment

I’ve been wanting to share some links and info. on a few very promising and impactful (but under-utilized) developments, trends, efforts, and solutions that I think more people should know about, spread the word about, and get involved in—namely: 1) land restoration, regeneration, and rewilding; 2) Community Solar; and 3) alternatives to plastics (and to animal leather and meat, etc.)  I may develop more in-depth posts on a couple of these topics in the future.

 

I. Land restoration: remediation, regeneration, rewilding

Check out these sites for some great information on land (and habitat) restoration projects and programs:

Loess Plateau, ChinaEcosystem Restoration Camps: “A global movement of people that is creating an abundant earth. We repair broken ecosystems together and, in doing so, provide humanity with hope and a better future. Our big goal is to have one million people come together by 2030 and restore degraded ecosystems in 100 camps around the world.” Find out where their current camps are here (see map).

Regeneration International: Their mission is “to promote, facilitate and accelerate the global transition to regenerative food, farming and land management for the purpose of restoring climate stability, ending world hunger and rebuilding deteriorated social, ecological and economic systems.”

The Rewilding Institute (AKA Rewilding Earth): Their mission is “to develop and promote the ideas and strategies to advance continental-scale conservation in North America and beyond, particularly the need for large carnivores and a permeable landscape for their movement, and to offer a bold, scientifically-credible, practically achievable, and hopeful vision for the future of wild Nature and human civilization.”

Half-Earth Project: “With science at its core and our transcendent moral obligation to the rest of life at its heart, the Half-Earth Project is working to conserve half the land and sea to safeguard the bulk of biodiversity, including ourselves.”

And for a great story on a Brazilian couple who replanted and restored a 1,500-acre forest, see this article. They have been written up on many other sites, as well, including Smithsonian Magazine. Their organization is called Instituto Terra.

Also related to regenerative land use: I’ll be creating a post about permaculture at some point.

Related posts: Sustainable Land Use and Land Stewardship Posts; and Re-Tree the Worldand Sustainable Agriculture, Farming, Gardening, and Food;and Animal Protection / Biodiversity Organizations and Resources

 

II. Community Solar  

Community Solar is also sometimes known as Shared Solar or Solar Gardens.

“Community Solar refers to local solar facilities that are shared by multiple community subscribers who receive credit on their electricity bills for their share of the power produced. Community solar provides homeowners, renters, and businesses equal access to the economic and environmental benefits of solar energy generation regardless of the physical attributes or ownership of their home or business.” (Source: Solar Energy Industries Association: Community Solar—go to this link for more information on where it’s being implemented)

For more information on how community solar works and its benefits, see:

Solstice: Solar for Every American

Groundswell: Building community power

Grid Alternatives‘ Energy for All program

Department of Energy: Community Solar Basics

I also plan to write a post about renewable energy micro-grids, as well as solar-wind hybrid systems.

Related post: Municipalities, States, and Countries that are Achieving, Approaching, or Committed to 100% Renewable Energy (in particular, see the paragraph about Community Choice Energy, or Community Choice Aggregation local power programs)

 

III. Alternatives to petroleum-based plastics and other problematic materials

Ecovative Design: This company is making mushroom (mycelium)- and hemp-based (“MycoComposite”) biodegradable/compostable foam-like packaging, mycelium-based leather-like textiles, skin care products, and now also meatless meat.

Other entrepreneurs have made other types of bioplastics (including pleathers) from: banana peels or banana leaves; avocado pits/seeds and peels; agave fibers; hemp; and vegan “leather” from nopales cactus.

Hemp alone is extremely versatile. Its fiber, seeds, and oil can be used to make: fabric/textiles (e.g., clothing, rope); Hempcrete and other building materials; bioplastics; biofuel; foods and drinks (and animal feed); CBD products; paper products; and other products and materials. Hemp has many environmental benefits and advantages over other materials that it can replace. For more information, check out Vote Hemp, the Hemp Industries Association, or other groups.

Related posts: How to Identify Greener Products; and Health Impacts of Toxic Chemicals and Pollutants

 

I hope you’ll check out the links in this post, share them with others, and add any relevant recommendations or information in the Comments. Thanks!

Share

October 30, 2021
[Click here to comment]