A Thank You Letter to CSSC

I moved to California in the fall of 2010 to attend UC Berkeley. By spring, I had found CSSC.

It’s actually a funny story.In the spring of 2011, Energy Action Coalition held its third ever Power Shift conference in Washington DC. I had gone to Power Shift in 2009 when I was in high school since I grew up in the area. But out in California, I decided I couldn’t justify the carbon footprint of a cross-country flight to go to an environmental event (since then my views on purposeful airplane travel have fluctuated). I didn’t go, and all through the weekend of the conference, I was so bummed out that I wasn’t there, as I tuned in to the exciting updates on social media. But that very weekend, I received an email from the Berkeley Sustainability Team list serve. It advertised something called a “convergence” hosted by the California Student Sustainability Coalition, happening in about a month at UC Davis. A chance to meet activists, get inspired, see a different part of the state, learn? Knowing close to nothing, I registered that night.

As the event neared, I began to wonder how to get to Davis. I had never been before and I only kind of knew where it was. Not long after I began wondering, I received an email from a woman named Tia. “Do you need a ride to the Convergence?” she asked. Yes! My first CSSC carpool. Convergence weekend came around, and I took the BART to El Cerrito to meet Tia. Another Berkeley student, Chris, met me there. We got in the car with Tia, Kayla, and Dominic to drive to Davis.

That weekend was a whirlwind. I heard amazing keynote speakers (Tim DeChristopher, for one) and attended thoughtful workshops. I had never heard of permaculture or aquaponics before! There was an epic Saturday night bonfire and jam sessions sprouted up through the cracks of the agenda all weekend. I met people from all corners of California, corners that my east-coast self had never heard of. Faraway places like “Butte” and “San Luis Obispo.” The people I met were different, special. They dreamed big, acted real, and were so open to new ideas and people that every conversation opened up a new world. I had participated in sustainability events before, but none that felt like this, none that were so community-oriented. I left feeling dazed, overwhelmed, and determined to find my way to the center of this clearly wondrous organization.

 It took me a little while, but I found my way in. I am proud to say I served as the Online Content Manager on the Operating Team for over two years, but my connection to CSSC runs so much deeper than that. It’s my family.

Managing the website and blog may have kept me behind the scenes, but looking back, my position gave me an unforgettable opportunity to connect people from all over the state of California and beyond. I stepped into the shoes of storyteller, and the stories I witnessed and broadcasted constantly kept me inspired and grounded in what truly is the grassroots movement. From “big” things like Power Shift and UC-wide divestment, to smaller things like grilled-cheese funkraisers and water-saving technologies, I found myself in tune and in touch with a spider web of greatness and power.


Winter Leadership Retreat 2012

When I started, I didn’t know anything about WordPress or websites. As writer Annie Dillard put it, “You’ve got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on the way down.” And that’s something very special about being part of a grassroots and student-run organization: anyone with passion and interest is given great power and stake. The only thing that limits what one student can do in CSSC is their own prerogative. No one tells you no.

By being a part of CSSC, I feel that I feel lucky to have grown into a progressive belief-system and culture. Not all organizations are keen to discuss and incorporate the intersections of social and ecological justice, how institutions like classism, racism, and feminism fold themselves into environmental issues. It is a privilege to spend time with organizers who are deeply committed to justice of all kinds, who earnestly hunger for solutions that are deep, honest, and beneficial to all people. The people I’ve met in CSSC are on the cutting edge of the sustainability movement, and I think they’re on to something.

 Four years later, I feel Californian. Thanks to CSSC I have traveled all across the state: to Davis, Chico, Humboldt, Santa Barbara, Fremont Peak, the San Jacinto Mountains, Sacramento, and more. As Development Director Zen Trenholm likes to put it, “CSSC is the best couch-surfing network in California.” I feel incredibly lucky, because I don’t just know the places I’ve traveled to in California for their landscapes and cities, but for their best and brightest student sustainability activists. I know Los Angeles for its DIY dumpster divers, I know Butte for its epic jam sessions and radical thinkers, I know Humboldt for its farmers and alternative techies, I know Shasta for its urban lettuce growers. The California that I know and love is the best of the best, thanks to CSSC. In creating an intentional community, this network organization is the change it wishes to see in the world.


For giving me power, wings, and so many incredible friends and partners-in-crime, I am forever grateful to the California Student Sustainability Coalition. I’m passing along the website and the blog, now, to some fantastic new folks. But don’t worry: once a sustainabilibuddy, always a sustainabilibuddy!


2 Weeks In! The Fossil Free UC Letter-A-Day Campaign wants your support!

Image borrowed from Occupy Oakland Media <http://hellaoccupyoakland.org/kin/>

Wow! We are already 2 weeks into July and our Fossil Free UC Letter-A-Day Campaign! For all of this month and August, we are asking anyone who is affiliated with the UC, whether they are students, alumni, faculty, or even California taxpayers, to write in to the Regents and President Napolitano with a strong message:


We are asking ALL OF YOU to write a short 3-4-paragraph letter to the Regents urging them to vote YES on DIVESTMENT in anticipation of the September meeting. Every single day in July and August, at least 1 handwritten or typed letter will be mailed to the Regents so that the message does not stop.

If you want to support, please sign up HERE for the date that you will commit to send your letter!

You can also join our Facebook Event here!

This week, we are featuring a letter from Jane Vosburg from Sonoma County who has written to President Napolitano requesting the same leadership from the UC as they showed in the 1980s when they divested from the apartheid government in South Africa. Vosburg’s letter makes a powerful case for the ethical argument for divestment but also gives a strong presentation for why it is economically beneficial. Please check it out below!


Dear President Napolitano,

The images of Nelson Mandela returning to Berkeley to thank the student body for its help in bringing an end to apartheid in South Africa demonstrates the power of a campaign run by students with conviction. The injustices of apartheid were reprehensible and the good fight was fought and won.

Today, students find themselves in an even more reprehensible situation. They are faced with a fossil fuel industry which is determined to burn all the fuel it has in its reserves thereby causing climate catastrophe and heating the planet to a level unconducive to life. To prevent this scenario, the fossil fuel industry must keep 80% of its reserves in the ground. At the current rate of emissions, the carbon budget will be depleted by 2040. Humanity has never faced such a dilemma.

The moral argument alone should convince the UC Regents to divest the UC’s endowment from the fossil fuel industry; but, equally compelling are the financial reasons to divest. Beavis Longstreth, former commissioner of the Securities Exchange Commission cautions in his article “The Financial Case for Divestment of Fossil Fuel Companies by Endowment Fiduciaries,” that “For fiduciaries, the planet’s present condition and trajectory pose major, and growing, portfolio risks.” Republican Henry Paulson, who was secretary of the Treasury when the credit bubble burst warns, “We’re making the same mistake today with climate change. We’re staring down a climate bubble that poses enormous risks to both our environment and economy. The warning signs are clear and growing as the risks go unchecked….This is a crisis we can’t afford to ignore…. We can see the crash coming, and yet we’re sitting on our hands rather than altering course. We need to act now….”  I would argue that inaction by the UC Regents would in fact be a breach of their fiduciary duty.

It is only a matter of time before prestigious colleges begin their commitment to divest their endowments from fossil fuel–Stanford has already committed to divest from coal. Therefore, I urge you to embrace the leadership of the students who are fighting to prevent climate catastrophe.  Make the University of California the beacon of justice once more by divesting its endowment from fossil fuel companies.


 Jane Vosburg


The Fossil Free UC Letter-A-Day Campaign has kicked off!

It has been two days already since the start of the Fossil Free UC Letter-A-Day Campaign! As we come upon the last Regents meeting before the September vote on divestment, it is critical to get hundreds more voices in the conversation and not just at these meetings! We need to begin making a presence on the phone, in their inboxes, and in their mailboxes!

This July and August, we are calling on students, faculty, alumni, and supporters of the UC to tell the Regents nonstop to divest from fossil fuels! We are asking ALL OF YOU to write a short 3-4-paragraph letter to the Regents urging them to vote YES on DIVESTMENT in anticipation of the September meeting. Every single day in July and August, at least 1 handwritten or typed letter will be mailed to the Regents so that the message does not stop.

If you want to support, please sign up HERE for the date that you will commit to send your letter!

You can also join our Facebook Event here!

Furthermore, every week, we will be featuring a letter from that week by a student, alumnus, faculty, or UC supporter! Since our project has just started, this week’s featured letter is from myself!


140702 FFUC Letter to Regents (5)


As a recent graduate from UCLA, it was easy for me to channel my experience as a student and the expectations of integrity and accountability that I felt were made clear to me. However, as an alumnus, I am also deciding how, if any, I want to continue to support the UCs. I do not want my donations and the credibility of my education to be sullied by continued financial investment in companies whose purpose is to make money at the expense of this planet, its people, and our potential. I also spoke about joining the Donors for Divestment campaign. Until the UC agrees to divest from all fossil fuels, any donation of mine is staying put in my bank account! Find out more and watch our video here!

Your letter is your first step in making your voice heard – we are gearing up for a huge win or a huge opportunity to escalate and point our fingers at the Regents. It only took me 15 minutes to handwrite my letter – please sign up for your own letter today!



140702 FFUC Letter to Regents (4) for Facebook (1)

July 2, 2014

Dear UC Regents / President Napolitano,

My name is Alyssa Lee and I am a (very) recent graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles. As a new alumnus, I am deeply troubled by the state of our endowment and its implicit support in funding companies whose for-profit mission is unequivocally driving climate change. With strong urgency, I ask that you consider the well-being of MY future and vote YES on divesting the UC General Endowment Pool from fossil fuel investments this September. Take this step and show that you are fully committed to your demonstrated leadership in a sustainable future.

I graduated from UCLA with a degree in Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics.

As a student of, I know how valuable my education is and how critical it is for me to take away the knowledge, skills, and values taught to me at UCLA by UC professors, staff, and students and to utilize them to improve the world, whether it be through disease prevention, developing feedstock plants for biofuels, discovering new antibiotics, or through community health sciences. I have spent four years investing time and money into this education so that I can proudly say that I am helping to found a better and more livable future. And countless others have invested in me as well – my family, friends, and colleagues. I am appalled by the hypocrisy of an institution that pushes and inspires me to ‘be the future’ and contribute my education back to the world, and yet does not use its social power and wealth to uphold the stewardship of the very Earth I am to supposedly lead.

Divesting the UC from fossil fuels aligns with your – with our – mission. It allows you to have credibility in your commitment to sustainability. You have said, “We will need to change to meet the demands of the century ahead. And that change must be imagined, sketched, questioned and agreed to publicly and accountably.”(1) By divesting, you are affirming that you will put into practice the accountability and integrity that are embedded in and considered core to our education. By divesting, you allow me to feel proud of my education and to know that the benefits I have reaped (and the future gifts I will give) do not come at the expense of this world and its creatures whom I hope to serve. You allow me to honestly defend my education and identity as a UC alumnus.

Because of this, I am joining the Fossil Free UC DONORS FOR DIVESTMENT campaign. I am pledging a gift of $50 to the UC that I plan to give and increase yearly, but if and only if my donation will be fossil free. Please consider the futures of students like myself and the millions more to come. I urge you to vote yes for the UC to divest its endowment from fossil fuels and put funds toward community-based climate solutions.


Alyssa Lee

UCLA, Class of 2014

B.S. in Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics


(1) http://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/uc-system/stewardship

CSU Board of Trustees Approves State-wide Sustainable Food Policy

Michael Clemson, CSU Chancellor’s Office, 562-951-4291
David Schwartz, Real Food for CSUs Campaign, 401-601-5545

 $20+ million to be devoted annually to local, sustainable farms and food businesses

Long Beach, CA – As the state of California struggles with record droughts and wildfires, today the California State University Board of Trustees, including Governor Jerry Brown, approved a long-awaited sustainable food policy will govern the more than $100 million spent on food across the 23-campus system.  Under the new policy, each campus will have until 2020 to ensure that at least 20% of all food spending goes to farms and food businesses that meet Real Food Challenge—a national student group advocating for just food systems—guidelines: local and community-based, fair, ecologically sound, and/or humane.

“The sustainable food service goal in the university policy demonstrates the power of student participation,” said Michael Clemson, Associate Energy Analyst at the California State University Chancellor’s office. “Trustees supported student leadership on this issue and we at the CSU Chancellor’s Office are excited to continue working with the Real Food Challenge.”

The sustainable food policy has been in the works for more than a year, and was adopted as part of a wider sustainability policy, which also includes sections on energy, water, buildings and transportation.

The food section of the policy responds directly to the advocacy of a student campaign, “Real Food for CSUs.” In advance of the May 21 vote, the group gathered petition signatures from more than 1,000 supporters across the state, coordinated actions on 8 CSU campuses and won endorsements from the Cal State Student Association and the California Student Sustainability Coalition. The group has given testimony at all five Board meetings this year.

“This is more than just a passing of a policy. Today the CSU Board is answering a call to change from students, faculty, and community members alike, all across the state of California,” comments Kristin Ouimette, student at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and a leader of the Real Food for CSU Campaign.  “This vote is huge because students have a right to have access to quality food that not only nourishes our bodies, but also our communities.”

Already, many CSU campuses have developed models that will aid state-wide adoption of the policy. CSU Chico, Cal Poly Pomona, Cal Poly SLO and CSU Monterey Bay are now using the Real Food Calculator, a student-designed assessment tool to research what percent of their school’s current purchases meet the ‘real food’ or sustainable food criteria.  Cal Poly Pomona has also developed a for-credit course for students to research and make recommendations about how their campus food service can improve.

# # #

The California State University Systemis a leader in high-quality, accessible, student-focused higher education. With 23 campuses, almost 447,000 students, and 45,000 faculty and staff, CSU is the largest, the most diverse, and one of the most affordable university systems in the country.

The Real Food Challenge(RFC) is the largest national student organization working for a more just and sustainable food system.  RFC’s primary goal is to shift $1 billion of higher education food spending away from industrial agriculture and junk food and toward healthy, local, fair, and sustainable farms and food businesses.  Every year, Real Food Challenge student leaders take action on more than 300 campuses.  To date, 25 colleges and universities plus the University of California system have adopted RFC’s 20% by 2020 ‘real food’ policy.  150 campuses nationally use the Real Food Calculator to track progress towards their goals.

Fossil Free Moves Forward: May Regents Meeting Account

by Alden Phinney, UC Santa Cruz

We piled, enthused but bleary-eyed, into a gas guzzling old Volvo on the morning of May 14th. I contemplated, as I feel obligated to do, the net emissions of traveling from Santa Cruz to attend the UC Regents meeting in Sacramento: 150 miles, each way, 15 mpg… The only way to get more depressing metrics is to calculate your mileage in polar bears. But I came to the same conclusion I always do: this is a necessity.

          We’ve been sold a fallacy, a DIY or the highway option, that living green takes nothing more than constant conscious effort to minimize consumption; bike, don’t drive; turn off the lights; maybe you should drop out and start a kale-farming commune. Save yourself to save the world. I’d argue the merits of all those things. I love my bike and I love kale. It’s an appealing vision when you look at the systematic suppression of sustainability perpetrated by our consumptive economy. But it falls far short of dealing with a climate teetering on the brink of chaos, and we can no longer live in our backyards.

         We arrived at Cesar Chavez Park to organize ourselves. Forty, fifty, sixty, students, faculty, alumni, and other allies kept thronging in; the energy was palpable. A mass of energetic orange bent on liberation from fossil fuels, ourselves fueled by caffeine and tofu scramble, we will change the world. Roles were divvied, speakers prepped, signs scrawled. As we started marching the few blocks to the convention center, the streets stared. We have their attention.

We stationed ourselves outside the Sacramento Convention Center before the meeting, chanting, singing, genuinely hoping to engage with the Regents entering the building; we had a timeline, we had photo ops, yet the UC administration decided to take the back door. But our 5 foot clock was not wasted.


The incessant honking told us power lies with the people. Regents hold the decision to divest, but we have accomplished the most important facet. Our society is aware. We have woken up to the dangers posed by untrammeled emissions, to the toxins pouring up from the depths into company coffers; we have realized that is not a sustainable business model just as it is not a sustainable way of life. Divestment is inevitable as investors realize they cannot afford to hold onto plummeting stock values and bonds rendered junk stranded assets, but we don’t have time.

They didn’t give us time. As we were subjected to two searches, pat downs, and bag checks to speak during public comments, we were informed we’d been allotted 8 out of the 17 minutes we signed up for. We’ve given this university 2, 3, 4 years of our lives, and they refused to give most of us even 1 minute to address them. Further, there was no room in the chamber for those not speaking. We were told that we weren’t allowed in the public comment hall because we presented a fire hazard, and that the empty chairs inside of the room did not exist.

The indignation and shame of not being able to speak during a public meeting of a public university on a public issue is astounding; we are your students, don’t make us say we are your customers. Will you listen either way?


          We spoke after community members, labor leaders, concerned and irate graduate students. I could not believe the solidarity. They were with us, and I wish we had stood more firmly with them. Our comments were hectic and necessarily rushed. We had phenomenal speakers, slow and forceful; they inspired though I quavered. We tried to hit with a double edged sword, shows of strength tempered by respectful willingness to play their game. But we have played their game for too long.

          They tried to close comments after a showstopping account of sexual assault on our campuses presented by a FFUCer. We were not to be silenced. A mic check hullabaloo broke out in the cordoned-off public comments section, demanding divestment (as usual) and an extension of our time to speak. We expected to be cleared from the room when the disruption started, but we actually ran out of things to chant because they were listening. There were over thirty unassociated individuals who were not given time to have their voices heard because we had passed the allocated twenty minutes of condoned free speech. “Extend public comments! Extend public comments!” became the cry everyone could agree upon.

The vox populi got ten more minutes to speak on issues that matter, not just to us but to stakeholder communities across the UC and across the state. It was an unequivocal reminder of people power in a system that encourages you to believe you have none. The telling response will not be an off the cuff buckling, however, but a coordinated and tactical effort to sever our financial ties with an industry that has proven time and time again they value profit at the expense of people and planet. The Regents have the power, some have the willingness, but we need the posthaste formation of a task force, metrics tailored for the UC endowment, and a vote in September to show our leadership in steering the climatic and economic systems to a sustainable future.

          The climate crisis will not be appeased by bureaucracy, meetings, foot dragging and future actions. I looked over the blog post from last year’s Regents’ meeting, and it contained many of the same stale promises of support. “We will look at it.” “We are convening a task force.” I want to believe in the goodwill of the UC Regents, in their desire to foster student engagement and tackle an existential threat to communities around the globe. But theoretical goodwill is nowhere near enough.

          We came back this year to say this lackadaisical stumble towards progress is not fast enough. As students with our future on the line, we will not stand idly by while fossil fuel companies leverage enormous money and influence (Chevron-UCD partnership anyone?) to arrest our efforts in building the clean energy future necessary to sustain human life. In a panel the next day at UCSF, the chairman of the board of Regents Bruce Varner stated “We’ll have some definitive recommendations or comebacks for our meeting in September,” adding, “I want the students to know we’re following up on that.”

So we have been heard. They’ve given us our reasonable demands, but like last time these words rings hollow without action. The UC system prides itself on climate leadership, and we are offering the chance to prove itself a leader to youth across the world. Don’t follow Stanford, exceed their safe bet. Remove this scourge from our investment portfolio, stigmatize the industry, save money, safeguard the planet. Know this: we are unstoppable, another world is possible.

Action Alert: Real Food Policy for Every CSU Campus

Guess what, CSSC students and supporters? We are VERY close to passing A REAL FOOD POLICY for EVERY CSU campus! 
Nationally, the goal of Real Food Challenge is to empower and engage student leaders on their college campuses to collaborate with campus stakeholders, together using the institution’s tremendous purchasing power to support a healthy food system which strengthens local economies, respects human rights, ensures ecological sustainability, and facilitates community involvement and education.

 This past academic year, student leaders within the California State University system have engaged in a statewide campaign effort, Real Food for CSUs, to promote the inclusion of a sustainable food policy within the greater CSU sustainability policy, as it resurfaces for an update. A team of student leaders from 8 CSU campuses have been in collaboration with CSU policy system-wide analysts to discuss the exact language and implementation of this proposed policy section.

 Currently, 7 CSU campuses involved in this campaign are applying the Real Food Calculator purchase tracking software and establishing student leadership to implement our policy asks. Our proposed method for tracking sustainable food purchases and making product shifts on college campuses is currently being implemented on130+ university campuses across the nation, including Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, andCalifornia’s very own CSU Monterey Bay, CSU Chico, Cal Poly Pomona, and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo!

 As the final vote to pass an updated CSU sustainability policy comes up for a vote this May 20th-21st, 2014, we need you to attend in support and see this amazing policy proposal become reality!

Who: YOU!
What: The CSU Board of Trustees Gathering
Where: CSU Office of the Chancellor, 401 Golden Shore, Long beach, CA, 90802
When: May 20th-21st (Meeting times TBA)
Why: To support this campaign, and learn how to reform your campus food system!
How: Contact us at the information below!

If you are interested in participating in this historic event and/or want to learn more, please contact us at:

In Defense of Earth Day

On Earth Day, my friend Jashvina and I sang Sam Cooke’s “Change Gonna Come” on the Mario Savio Steps at UC Berkeley. It was a part of Berkeley’s yearly Earth Week festivities, a week that changes shape each year according to the values of students and how they’d like to celebrate what has become a staple national holiday. We chose “Change Gonna Come” as a song of hope amidst deep-rooted injustice in the 1960s. We wanted to honor the Civil Rights Movement, a movement that paved the way for all justice movements that have followed. Singing felt so good and joyous, both of us dressed colorfully, smiling big.


Is the environmental movement allowed to celebrate? I hear discourse these days of Earth Day being a joke, a scam, a detriment and a disgrace to the real crises at hand and the types of movements and actions we need to address them. I hear these concerns. But I still love Earth Day, and I think I always will. Can’t  we take one day out of the year, to step back from our daily struggles, our serious fights for divestment and environmental justice and new economies and political power, to breathe, celebrate, and feel gratitude? For me it’s a day to remember that amidst the environmental disasters that humans are causing and will cause, environmental miracles are also happening all the time. The poppies are blooming, new seedlings are sprouting, art and music are bursting from the cracks, and people are coming together in all sorts of new ways. And don’t forget – the sun rose this morning!

Amidst an environmental movement that is increasingly focused on addressing the system of environmental and climate injustice (which is definitely a move in the right direction), it’s important to remember and pay homage to the actual earth under our feet. Each of us lives in a specific place, a unique niche, that supports life like you and me. So what’s the harm in taking a day to gather and smile together?

Personally, I don’t want an environmental movement that is solely about tackling systemic issues. I also want an environmental movement that has its roots in the earth, in its living, breathing form. I want and need both types of movements. Maybe we all do. And so I want a day to join my fellow humans in expressing gratitude to the earth and its communities: human and non-human. Connecting intimately and genuinely with the non-human world is part of what it means to fully realize our existence as humans and live resiliently. The soil and trees and wildlife and watersheds deserve podiums on our human stage, and Earth Day provides that podium.

I don’t think that Earth Day needs to represent the entire environmental movement, as it is too often challenged to do by the media and popular culture. In fact, in 2014, there is no single environmental movement, and the mosaic of ideals and strategies that are out there could never be captured in just one day. But there is one earth, and it deserves our intentional gratitude. I know that we all should live like every day is Earth Day, and it is my idealistic, optimistic belief that we are moving in that direction. But until everyone’s hands are in the dirt, everyone knows the names of the plants around them, and we’ve all cleaned up our act, let’s keep using this special day to draw more attention and intention to a world worth fighting for. To a world worth knowing, loving, and celebrating.  Change gonna come, oh yes it will!

Documentary concerning climate change activist ​Tim DeChristopher

Story of student who committed civil disobedience to safeguard pristine Utah land

Interview by Gary Nelson, CSU Chico

On March 27, approximately 60 people came to watch a community screening of the documentary “Bidder 70” presented by its directors, George and Beth Gage, at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship church in Chico.

According to its website and directors, Bidder 70 centers on an extraordinary, ingenious, peaceful and effective act of civil disobedience demanding government and industry accountability. In 2008, University of Utah economics student Tim DeChristopher committed an act which derailed an illegal oil and gas lease auction, and he was jailed through an arguably unfair trial. His act would redefine patriotism in our time, igniting a spirit of civil disobedience in the name of climate justice, and he would come to be recognized as a prominent climate change activist and leader.

Chico State student Patrick Harrington, a senior criminal justice major, attended the screening because of an extra credit opportunity for his criminal justice ethics class, as well as out of personal interest.

This film was a great demonstration of determination, sacrifice, and courage,” said Harrington. “I really enjoyed witnessing someone stand up to the big oil companies and corporations. Tim DeChristopher displayed how important it is to stand up for what you believe in and fight for it.”

After the film the directors stepped aside to answer some questions, mentioning that the response from the Chico audience was worth the five hour drive.


What first drew you in to Tim DeChristophers case?

Beth Gage: I read about it in a local Colorado paper, and thought it was ingenious and an intelligent way to go about things. Without hurting anyone or without destroying any property, he was able to stop this illegal oil and gas lease auction through an act of peaceful civil disobedience.

Why the name Bidder 70?

BG: It was Tim’s number in the auction. By making bogus bids of 1.8 million dollars, Tim was able to win 22,000 acres and managed to stop the auction so it never resumed, and those parcels and many others totaling 150,00 acres were never really auctioned off.

Did he actually pay for the lands?

George Gage: He raised the money to pay off the auction by calling activists with connections, and they worked the social network pretty hard. They raised the $80,000 for the down-payment, but the government didn’t accept the money because he wasn’t deemed a legitimate bidder.

Could you define civil disobedience?

BG: You’re doing something that is not allowed by our government, but is not violent. It’s civil, as opposed to criminal.

Do you feel civil disobedience is ever justified?

BG: Yes, especially non-violent civil disobedience. I don’t feel like violent disobedience has very much credibility, because fighting violence with violence furthers the problem. As Gandhi and Thoreau gave us examples, it’s a very good way to counter something you feel is not the way the way it should be and is not changing because of the normal way people go about changing things, through courts, law, and petitions.

So do you feel like he was offered a fair trial?

GG: I don’t think the trial was fair at all. First of all, a few pieces of information were held from the jury about the proximity of the parcels to national parks, the intentions to exploit the land, and that the auction was illegal..

Disrupting this auction, should have been seen as the lesser of two evils, less than having the lands destroyed. Also, he wasn’t able to get a speedy trial, and had nine postponements spanning 2.5 years, which basically put his life on hold, on trial, for that time.

There’s so much that went down during this time that wasn’t fair. I’m from a different generation. Our generation grew up thinking that everything that the America government did was just. Everything in this particular case with Tim said otherwise.

How have you seen Tim grow?

BG: When Tim first took his action, he and the people around him didn’t really see him as a leader, they just saw him as a smart young man who had seized an opportunity to take an action that worked. For years he’d been waiting for a environmental or climate activist, a leader that he could follow. Nobody appeared, so he took action. He’s learned that he really has a sort of gift to speak out, lead and bring people together.

Why is this an important issue for people to be aware of?

BG: It’s so important to make people of all ages understand that they have the power to make changes if they feel passionately about those issues. To see what Tim did didn’t actually ruin his life, like some people thought. It’s important that people take seriously the problems that we have in the world, and that they feel empowered to address them.

GG: His life is so much better today that it would have been had he not taken the action. It’s much better for his soul, having saved the land, and moving on with his education to become a minister.

What have you learned through making this film? What do you hope people take away from it?

GG: I learned that if people get up and take a stand, they can make a difference. If they learn to push themselves a little beyond their comfort zone and do a little more– which doesn’t necessarily mean getting arrested – they will feel better internally and get more accomplished.

There’s an organization that was just formed called Global Climate Convergence. It’s all about what activism we can do that’s a little beyond just writing our congressman and sending emails and so forth.

Anything else you’d like to add?

GG: Earth Day is coming up, and it’ll be the first anniversary of Tim coming out of incarceration. We’re encouraging people to go to the website, buy and share the DVD, talk about activism after seeing the film, plug into what global climate convergence is doing and just make an evening out of it.

Just about every audience we have seen, bit cities, small, east to west, people have been motivated after seeing this film. He’s an encouragement to us all.

CSSC Students Featured on Spring of Sustainability Earth Day Panel

Spring of Sustainability is a free virtual sustainability education and engagement program featuring many “stars” of sustainability and joined by committed environmentalists, activists, students, and change agents across the globe who are making a difference in every way possible!This year, it launches with a full day virtual Earth Day event on April 22 that includes a variety of extraordinary speakers and panels — including a student panel to represent the voice of the next generation.

LISTEN in at 4:25 pm Pacific Time on Tuesday, April 22 for the student panel where CSSC’s Kevin Killion and Meredith Jacobson are featured speakers, among other students from across the country.

The Emerging Storytellers: Voices of the FutureStudents from campuses around the country discuss their concerns about our world, their vision for the future, and what they are doing to bring that vision into reality.
Then join in for the rest of the program as well.
The Earth Day event on Tuesday, April 22, from 11 am – 11 pm Eastern Time and is called “The New Story for a Sacred Living Earth.” Speakers include visionaries and sustainability leaders such as Duane Elgin, David Korten, Frances Moore Lappé, Vicki Robin, John Perkins, Barbara Marx Hubbard as well as indigenous elders and representatives from many of the key environmental organizations. Listen in free live or to the replay available for two days after the event.

Then Spring of Sustainability continues with 9 weeks of programming that brings together diverse trailblazing environmental organizations and leaders into a collaborative, synergistic effort to raise consciousness and catalyze positive action across the planet. Representing nearly 3 million members, these partners include the Sierra Club, Rainforest Action Network, Climate Reality, Endangered Species Coalition, National Wildlife Federation, and Move To Amend.
Through these selected partner organizations – critical issues like Climate Change, Food, Water, and Endangered Species will be featured with a focus on how to take high-leverage actions to make a difference in each of these domains.

For more details about the Spring of Sustainability program and how CSSC students can become more involved, contact  campusadvocates@swcoalition.org.


Links not working? Please visit this URL: http://www.springofsustainability.com

CSSC Alumni: Where Are They Now?

 This is the first installment of the “CSSC Alumni: Where Are They Now?” blog series! Each month, we’ll feature a different CSSC alum to hear about their experiences and advice for current students. This month, we are excited to present Brian Croshal, who you may know as the aquaponics guru from the convergence, the guy with the solar trailer, or a member of the Tree Amigos band.

 Interview by Meredith Jacobson, CSSC Online Content Manager

 M: So Brian, when did you graduate and what did you study in school?

B: I graduated in 2012 from Cal Poly SLO. I studied mechanical engineering with a concentration in HVAC. HVAC stands for Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning, mainly looking at those systems inside buildings to pump water, ventilate, and control temperature.

M: What sustainability projects were you involved in, and how were you involved in CSSC when you were at Cal Poly?

B: At Cal Poly, I was a member of the Renewable Energy Club, and ended up going to Empower Poly Coalition (EPC) meetings. EPC is Cal Poly’s CSSC chapter. They’d send one member from all the different green clubs, which was a treat because that one member was usually an outstanding member from each group. We’d try to plan things and share resources of the clubs, and CSSC convergences were part of that.

M: What did you work on with the Renewable Energy Club?

B: We were promoting renewable energy in all forms. We’d do it by getting out and talking to people, and we’d lure them with our solar cooker. Patrick Bernard, another club member, built a solar sandwich board for club announcements that would charge during the day and light up at night. We also had a solar generator on a trailer that I would tow around with my truck. The spring that I graduated, we had a solar jam at the arboretum for the big hoorah. There were 60 people there, two Porta-Pottys, three solar-powered bands playing, the sun was setting, the batteries kept working. It was quite the shake down…promotion of all things awesome.

M: How many CSSC convergences have you been to?

B: Santa Barbara will be my 7th! I always have to write them down on my drive down to the next one.

M: What keeps you coming back to convergences?

B: Besides the social aspect of hanging out with people that I only know from convergences, there are always relatively renowned speakers who are aware of what they’re talking about. It’s also cool to see what schools are doing in terms of systems and policies they’re pushing on campus. It’s cool to stay aware. I also think going to convergences is a volunteer thing for me…. I know enough about it, so I just walk around the crowd and make sure young people know what’s going on. The goal is make sure people know how cool of a thing this is.

M: I remember you at my first convergence at UC Davis. You were very friendly and I really appreciated your enthusiasm! So what are you up to now?

B: I graduated with mechanical engineering, and I’m still doing it. I got a job within HVAC pretty easily getting out of college. Then after a year and some I decided I wanted to shift gears, because I had gotten into aquaponics. So I started doing plumbing in buildings, which is moving freshwater and waste around buildings – potable uses, rather than heating and cooling.  I figured this was a way I could professionally develop in a direction that would let me eventually take over the world with aquaponics in one form or another. So that’s what I’m doing now… plumbing engineering in commercial buildings. I work for Integral Group; it’s a pretty well known Canadian company with a main office in Oakland, and we’re doing some cool buildings – like the SF Exploratorium. For that project, we came in as engineering consultants to help design some efficiency systems. The Exploratorium collects rainwater and flushes toilets with it, so that’s pretty cool. We look at grey water and black water… especially with the drought, it’s all the rage now, figuring out how we can plan for the future. We’re balancing the cost of water with the cost of collecting reclaimed water, and reusing to displace potable uses. That’s a big push now within design systems.

M: For the people who have not taken your aquaponics workshop at a convergence, could you explain what aquaponics is in a nutshell?

B: I’ll start with hydroponics; people are usually more familiar with that. With hydroponics you’re growing plants outside of the soil, so instead of the soil you have some other porous substrate like rocks or gravel to support the plants. Then you have water flowing through the rocks, with nutrients added to the water. With aquaponics, the source of those nutrients is a fish tank, where you’re housing and feeding fish, and the waste of those fish is powering the cycle. Their waste turns into plant food, which turns into our food!

M: Do you think it’s something anyone could figure out with enough time or resources, to do aquaponics in their own home? What does it take to be an aquaponics master?

It’s a hobby – a technical hobby. To be less than technically stoked, it can be overwhelming. If you take it one piece at a time, it’s like legos. But you have to be in to legos to devote yourself to building the millennium falcon. So for the fish, you have to be aware of the different parts of the system and you can’t just focus on one. It’s a complex clock to get tickin. But otherwise, there are all sorts of scales of it, so anyone who’s stoked enough about it, dedicated to building and maintaining it, can pull it off.

M: Good to know! So how do you think CSSC has helped you get on the path you’re on today?

B: For me, CSSC has been about the convergences; otherwise I haven’t really been too much a part of things. So when I look back, a lot of things happened at convergences…  they are opportunities for me to learn about all themes – energy, the environment, water. I learned things there that I directly bring into my job now, and also used them to get the job. Certain kinds of companies are more into developing better systems that cut down waste, like LEED certified buildings. So to design that kind of a building takes a broader view of the different elements that come into it. I think from going to convergences and workshops, I have a better understanding of what a building means for different people. It helps me keep my designs more well-rounded.

M: That’s great that you’ve been able to incorporate all that. I’ve heard that you have some connection to LEED certification….

B: I recently became a LEED-accredited professional. It means I had to show a basic understanding of the credits and the ways that they’re achieved in the design of a building. LEED certification is becoming more and more common, because it’s more commonplace to demand higher performance standards.

M: Do you have any advice for current CSSC students pursuing sustainability in their lives?

B: Try to really decide on what you want to be doing, and then just do that. They call it the law of attraction. I think about aquaponics and how it got me into plumbing, coupled with California’s recent tendency toward water efficiency, and I feel like it’s all beautiful poetry that I’ve slowly worked into in my life. So the advice would be to aware of how you feel, what you want to do, and then make small deliberate steps to get to that. That’s pretty textbook advice though.

M: It’s very sound advice that people often forget when they try to do a lot of things at once. I’m glad to hear that you’re making it work.  One last question: if you could be a vegetable, what would you be? Your spirit vegetable, per se.

B: Oh golly! I think broccoli. Cause it’s pretty dense, they say it’s really good for you, cleans your colon out, and an often overlooked fact: if you peel the stalk, you can eat that like a carrot. Then you just have a peeled stalk left: that’s the soul of the broccoli right there.

M: Awesome. Thank you so much, Brian! 


If you’d like to contact Brian and ask him any questions, email him at bcroshal [at] gmail [dot] com



Over 100 universities adopt student-designed tool to measure sustainable food



David Schwartz, Real Food Generation: 401-601-5545,

Stephanie Yee, CSU Monterey Bay: 415-306-2163

           Over 100 universities adopt student-designed tool to measure sustainable food

 CSU campuses among those leading rigorous investigations into the origins of campus food

March 19, 2014 – Monterey, California – On March 26th, the California State University Board of Trustees will gather to discuss a proposed CSU-system-wide sustainability policy guaranteeing 20% ‘real food’ purchasing. Students from 10 CSU campuses have endorsed the policy and have already gathered 1,200 petition signatures in support. They plan to travel to Long Beach, CA to give testimony at the upcoming Board of Trustees meetings.

The average student has little idea where the food in their cafeteria comes from – and little ability to find out. School dining managers looking to satisfy a growing student interest in local, sustainable food might not know where to start: it can be overwhelming trying to navigate the sea of confusing labels, claims and certifications, identifying which will resonate with customers, not to mention make a real impact for family farmers or the environment. The Real Food Calculator, a new online tool developed by a national team of student social entrepreneurs and food industry experts, is closing the gap—using the power of big data.

Four years of research and pilot testing have produced the online tool, which allows students to collect and analyze thousands of purchasing records to assess their institution’s ‘real food’ score. The app’s analysis is based on a comprehensive and rigorous set of 3rd party-verified standards for what counts as local, fair, ecologically sound and humane food. The Real Food Calculator offers a clear benchmark of how campuses are performing in supporting the community through food choices—and how to improve.

“Increasingly we’re finding businesses that understand millennials’ desire for transparency, authenticity and honesty in marketing—especially when it comes to food. What’s missing are concrete tools and hard numbers to help institutions keep up with an evolving customer base. The Real Food Calculator fills that gap.”  – Anim Steel, Executive Director of Real Food Generation

Students across the country are realizing the power of the Calculator. In its first year since launching,

  • 128 universities nationwide have begun using the application—including CSU Monterey Bay, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and UC Santa Cruz;
  • Over 600 undergraduate students have participated in campus assessments;
  • Student researchers have researched over 76,000 unique products, and reviewed over $69,000,000 in campus food purchases.

Many institutions have incorporated the Real Food Calculator into university-accredited courses. Others have sponsored paid student internships to complete assessments. The result: an unprecedented depth of actionable data for food service operators, a unique educational experience for student leaders, and new potential markets for sustainable farmers and innovative food businesses. The University of Massachusetts-Amherst, the second-largest dining operation in the country, recently completed their 2013-2014 Assessment:

“This has been an incredible learning experience for students and dining, alike. Using the Calculator, I can now tell you that 81% of my school’s seafood is ecologically sound. And we now know that, compared to other universities, we could source more fairly trade items, such as rice—the item we buy the most of.  Such a switch could have an exciting economic impact and serve as a campus wide educational tool!” – Anna Hankins, Class of 2017, UMASS-Amherst.

The metrics data analysis provided by the Real Food Calculator’s has already led many schools to make purchasing shifts. Carleton College in Northfield, MN has transitioned from conventional bananas to fair trade, organic bananas, an investment in the health and well-being of farming communities abroad. The University of New Hampshire is piloting a purchasing relationship with a consortium of local fisherfolk to increase both local and ecologically sound seafood and boost the University’s real food score.

The Real Food Calculator has been buoyed by the public endorsement of major food service companies Bon Appetit Management Co. and Sodexo USA, which together manage cafeterias at over 700 colleges and universities and hundreds of other sites, nation-wide. In the coming year, student developers of the Real Food Calculator expect to see the program expand beyond the higher education sector, to hospitals, resorts and corporate cafeterias, where demand for these services is high.

The CSU student coalition is excited to see this kind of transparency on a larger, state-wide scale. Many of them already use the Real Food Calculator to understand their campuses’ current food purchasing, and potential to support more real food; The students are eager to see the Board of Trustees vote on a policy to guarantee 20% real food purchasing for the CSU system.

CSSC Students Recap: “Don’t Frack California”

Photo by Mikaela Raphael. 

Here are four CSSC students’ perspectives on the Don’t Frack California Rally and March.

From Annie Montes, Co-President of UC Davis CSSC

On March 15th 2014, thousands gathered for the largest anti-fracking protest in the history of California. The energy and enthusiasm of this group  was both inspiring and exhilarating. Protesters came from all walks of life, providing an accurate representation of our citizens and proving that the movement to ban fracking is not limited to the millennial generation.

Representatives from Students Against Fracking, Green Peace, Fishermen Against Fracking, Californians Against Fracking, Gathering Tribes, and so many more stood side by side proudly and boldly displaying anti-fracking signs. Signs included clever slogans such as “Don’t Frack with our Water,” and “Get the Frack out of California!”.  The rally began with moving speeches from speakers including David Braun, the cofounder of Americans Against Fracking, and Huey Johnson, a former Secretary of Resources in the Brown Administration. The presence of these speakers showed protesters the magnitude and diversity of support in the anti-fracking movement. Participants were then organized to surround the capital in an embrace to show our love for California and our desire to protect our state. In our embrace we cheered for Governor Brown to ban fracking. Regrouping on the lawn we linked arms and sang for not only ourselves, but for the futures of generations to come.

Hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, is the fracturing of rock deep underground with pressurized liquid as means to extract natural gas and oil from our Earth. Not only have the effects of this practice contaminated ground water and surrounding ecosystems, but the use of fracking requires 3 to 7 million gallons of water per well.* Knowing that the average family of four consumes about 109,000 gallons of water per year, simple math shows that a single well could support sixty-four families of four for a year. In our current drought, Californians cannot afford to waste this water. It is for these reasons that so many individuals gathered on the State Capital this weekend. Together we made our voices heard to Governor Brown. We sang from our hearts, cheered from our souls and even left Brown a voicemail: “Clean energy today Jerry Brown.”

* Ramudo, Andrea, and Sean Murphy. “Hydraulic Fracturing-Effects on Water Quality.” Cornell University, 12 Dec. 2010. Print.


Butte/Chico CSSC. Photo by Emily Teague.

From Angie Shen, UC Berkeley Students Against Fracking:

Excerpt from her blog for the Student Environmental Resource Center (SERC)

At the end of the rally, there was a collective feeling of heightened invigoration and determination to stop the dangerous practice of fracking. On the ride back to Berkeley, I spent some time staring out the window at the rolling yellow hills and bright blue sky found only here in California—our state, our home. I imagined the land riddled with thousands of frack wells, like a rotten wound oozing toxic fluid and reeking of nauseating smells. A feeling of disgust and devastation momentarily swept through me, and I thought: Not this state. It became clear to me that any argument about the economical benefits fracking would bring California was grossly outweighed by the tremendous, unequal burden Californians would have to shoulder with regards to their health, environment, and livelihoods.

We must stop fracking in California. We must divest from fossil fuel technology and reinvest in renewable energy. We can, and we will. Join Students Against Fracking in our mission to unite California’s colleges, universities, and local communities to ban fracking in California and promote the shift to renewable energy, for a sustainable future! Students Against Fracking at UC Berkeley has weekly meetings on Mondays at 6pm in Mulford Hall. For more information, please contact Angie Shen at ashen424@berkeley.edu.

See more photos of the event here.


UC Berkeley Students Against Fracking. Photo by Emily Teague.


From Meredith Jacobson, CSSC Online Content Manager

A classmate and activist I met while studying abroad in Santiago, Chile last spring taught me an important lesson about demonstrations. While I was there, I was lucky enough to march with the Chilean student movement,  which at times brought 100,000 people to the streets. One day, I asked my classmate Alberto if he thought the Chilean government was taking notice. He shrugged and said he didn’t think so. He said that wasn’t the point – the point was to be together. To fill space and build power through physical togetherness. It didn’t matter who was watching, as long as people were forming connections and joining together. It was about the people – not the government.

At the Don’t Frack California Rally we chanted to Governor Brown. He wasn’t in the building, but directing our voices at him was symbolically important. In my opinion,  it wasn’t about him, it was about us. It was about the intermingling on the charter buses, the dancing in the sunshine, the hugs and handshakes with new friends, the inspiration and laughs from each other’s sign slogans, the clipboards and fliers being passed around, the honks from cars passing by, the glee of running beneath the parachute and playing drums with children – our future leaders. Society tends to make us feel more isolated than we really are, and tells us feelings aren’t important. We’re pushed to be pragmatic 100% of the time. But we know better, that’s why we gathered. Feeling like we’re not alone, feeling like we’re right, and feeling like we can win… these are feelings as important as skills and actions. We came to feel good, we left feeling good: I know I did. With good feelings in our tanks, our brimming bodies can go further than we ever believed. So get involved at home – with your help, we can win this.


Photo by Mikaela Raphael.

Steve Verhoeven, Shasta College CSSC Council Representative

Even as I drove two hours from the northern valley, realizing the hypocrisy of my actions the whole time, it still made me feel like my time, money, and abilities were long term investments toward a sustainable future for our populations.  I came to represent the students of Redding, we care, and this rally was full of just that, people uniting in solidarity for the sake of ourselves and our children. UBUNTU!


Photo by Emily Teague.


Victory for UC Service Workers and Allies

Photo from the Daily Bruin, Brandon Choe

from UCLA’s SCALE (Student Collective Against Labor Exploitation)

After 20 months of bitter disagreement and 2 strikes, the UC and the AFSCME 3299 union signed a historic 4-year contract and called off a third system wide strike that was scheduled for March 3- March 7.

AFSCME 3299 represents 8,300 UC service workers that include food service workers, gardeners, bus drivers and custodians. Before this contract 99% of UC service workers were eligible for some form of public assistance. In fact, some full time workers still live in their cars. In addition to their economic difficulties, before the contract, workers were also forced to contend with severe job insecurity as the UC increasingly replaced these career employees with inexperienced outside contractors. Despite the difficult months of bargaining, the majority of the workers’ core demands have been met.

The four-year agreement includes a 4.5% signing bonus, a 3% wage increases for all employees, and an additional 2% increase for most employees each year for the next three years. Our UC workers also won more job security, as the new language in the contract prohibits several forms of contracting out. In addition the UC agreed to freeze Kaiser and Healthnet premiums for the life of the contract.

Student-worker solidarity and diligent organizing played a crucial role in obtaining the terms of the new contract. SCALE (Student Collective Against Labor Exploitation) has been working with AFSCME since 2013 by helping organize student demonstrations in order to provide awareness of the issues our workers face. SCALE helped organize marches for the strikes, encouraged student boycotts of dining halls in support for our workers, and informed the student body of the labor issues at the UC. Forging this student-worker relationship not only increases the bargaining power of the workers’ union here on campus but also the power of the student body. It was with workers’ support of prop 30 that Students won a tuition freeze in 2013. In the coming years it will be important to remember our struggles and our student-worker solidarity as the issues of increased tuition and unfair labor practices will undoubtedly continue. But rest assured, when the UC workers and students support each other we can help create a sustainable and equitable UC campus that we can all be proud of.

For more information, see

Daily Bruin | AFSCME union calls for strike vote after tentative agreement discussed with UC http://dailybruin.com/2014/03/04/afscme-union-calls-for-strike-vote-after-uc-talks-backtrack/


SCALE-Student Collective Against Labor Exploitation
Join UCLA students in the fight for a fair, free, and democratic university, for us and workers together!
Meet: Tuesdays, 8 PM, Kerkhoff 414(A), UC Los Angeles
Questions regarding this article Contact: Jonathan.Lake@ucla.edu

It’s Time to Take ACTION for Real Food

Hi Real Food Advocates,

We are at a huge turning point in our campaign for real food in the CSU Sustainability Policy.  We went from not having food even mentioned in the policy to having a section dedicated to food.  We grew from a small group of dedicated CSU students and Real Food Challenge organizers to a huge network of allies and supporters.  Our network now includes the California Student Sustainability Coalition (CSSC), the Real Food Challenge family and the California State Student Association (CSSA).  We have resolutions in support of the campaign passed in CSSA Humboldt State, and many other CSU campuses in the process of passing their own. We have told our stories at the last two Board of Trustee meetings.  Yet, the vote on the policy has been postponed for months.

It is time to intensify our efforts and take action to show the CSU Board of Trustees we want real food in the CSU Sustainability Policy and we want it passed NOW (more specifically, at their March 26th meeting).  We have to let them know that real food is a real priority!

WHAT YOU CAN DO on 3.11.2014 to join the fight to get Real Food for CSUs!

Interested in participating in the Day of Action  and hosting your own event RSVP here.  Need help preparing to host your own event? No worries we have Prep Call on this Saturday afternoon, March 8th, at 1:00 PM.  The phone number for the Prep Call is 267-507-0370, access code 8236631#

Let’s make this happen!

Real Food for CSUs Core Team

How to Raise the Funk

by Kevin Killion, Butte/Chico CSSC and CSSC Op Team Chair

Funky Frackin Fundraiser, and so can you.

A funkraiser is an opportunity to combine celebration, education and amazing people together. There are lots of variables  to consider, yet funkraising is a practical way to outreach to our community, raise funds for your organization, and get your dance on! It takes a team to make this happen: we had 2 cooks, a sound tech, 3 food and drink vendors, 3 bands, 3 amazing house hosts, 4 security guards, 4 weeks to planning, a half dozen fire dancers, set up and clean up crew, 200+ guests attending, 900 invited on facebook, and so much more. After all of our hard work, when we counted the income, we found we were able to bring in an astounding $1,300 in one night.

Following the Winter Leadership Retreat, the Butte/Chico CSSC team  got planning. One of the first steps was to make sustainability education central to the planning. Get creative, and think of how you can tie local environmental issues to concepts that motivate people. For Butte County we choose “Funk to Fight Fracking Butte County”. We look forward to doing more of these events, perhaps a ‘Divestment Dance-Off’, ‘Ozone-Pollution Open-Mic’ ‘Chromium 6 Karaoke’? The next step was to find some really fun local bands that were able to draw in their friends who were not necessarily part of any sustainability groups. A key to getting big crowds to attend is to invite people that invite people that can help to invite people in their networks. FYI, Funk is being used as a Verb rather than an Adjective.  Dont feel limited to any genre, any music that draws a crowd and gets folks dancing is a great band!

Though in the future we may be in need of renting out establish facilities, the Chico Funkraiser was held as a house party. At the entrance to the event we had a table filled with fracking information and sign ups to get involved. Folks that did not have admission were encouraged to read the information and let the door keeper know what they were most excited to learn about. It is essential to have your team and any other funkraiser supporters encourage open and down to earth conversations about your theme. That means that even though you are partying, you are able to communicate the importance of your chosen sustainability issue. We had Local Fractivist and recent Environmentalist of the Year Dave Garcia speak in between bands about fracking. He stayed in the crowd and hung out with party guests explaining fracking any chance he got.

While half of our income at the door the remainder came from donations and food and drink. We made sure to provide a modest admission fee, and asked $3-10. We let anyone in the door that expressed an interest in the event, after we had them read the fracking education board. A huge success was our selling of grilled cheese sandwiches. At $1 each they sold quick! Think about foods you can get donated, cook and clean up easy, can be made in mass, and are handheld and don’t need plates or dishes. We also served two kegs of Sierra Nevada Pale Ales at $2 a cup. When planning, always be on the look for donations, whether that is cheese, homebrew, or musical talent, as any money not spent is money that goes towards your fundraiser. Be sure to get creative and have everything reflect the spirit you wish to cultivate.

This event could not have happened if it was not for the support of all the planners and attendees, who each helped in their own way. But the good news is that with a strong team and a few weeks to plan the event any team can put on a successful event. It took a tremendous amount of outreach, in person, on facebook, and to groups to get over 200 people to come. The end result was very fulfilling. Not only did we have an amazing time, but folks walked away saying that it was awesome to ‘party with a purpose’. Though we are exhausted, we look forward to putting on another one very soon.

Youth have an obligation to reject the Keystone XL pipeline

by Ophir Bruck, UC Berkeley Fossil Free

Cross-posted from The Daily Californian.

The U.S. State Department recently released its Final Environmental Impact Statement, or FEIS, for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, a project by Canadian energy company TransCanada, that would carry close to 1 million barrels per day of the world’s dirtiest oil from the Canadian tar sands in Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico for foreign export. Feb. 5 marked the beginning of a 30-day public comment period followed by a 60-day review period, after which President Barack Obama will make what could be the most important environmental decision of his presidency: whether or not to approve the Keystone pipeline.

On March 3, I will be risking arrest at the State Department building in San Francisco alongside over a thousand other young people across the nation. We are participating in XL Dissent — the largest act of youth civil disobedience regarding the environment in decades — to deliver the following public comment to Obama: Reject Keystone XL!

The science is clear: Sixty percent to 80 percent of current fossil fuel reserves must remain underground and unburned to avert runaway climate change. Canadian tar sands — the world’s third-largest crude oil reserves — are among the dirtiest energy sources on Earth, with a well-to-wheel carbon footprint at least 14 percent to 40 percent higher than conventional crude. Leading scientists have sounded the alarm on developing the mega-polluting tar sands, including top climate expert James Hansen, who warns that it could spell “game over for the climate.” Keystone XL would be a fuse to one of the world’s largest carbon bombs. At a time when we must radically shift toward clean and just energy solutions, this pipeline represents the antithesis of sustainable development.

The State Department’s flawed and highly problematic FEIS doesn’t deny Keystone’s climate impact; it downplays it. Written by Environmental Resources Management Inc. — a dues-paying member of the American Petroleum Institute with ties to TransCanada — the report concludes that Keystone XL could add the annual carbon equivalent of nearly 6 million new cars on the road — hardly negligible. Other studies, however, reveal a much greater impact, closer to the annual tailpipe emissions of 37 million new cars or 51 coal-fired power plants.

In a speech last June, Obama promised he would reject the Keystone pipeline should it “significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.” While Keystone clearly fails the president’s climate test, its proponents continue pushing with asinine arguments. They contend that if the pipeline isn’t built, Canadian tar sands oil will find its way to market at the same capacity some other way — a fallacious and logically absurd claim. This twisted logic suggests we ought to give alcoholics the keys to a brewery because they’ll probably drink anyway. Moreover, we know that Keystone is key to accelerating Canadian tar sands production — even industry officials admit as much. If Obama is to stick to his climate action plan, a critical piece to maintaining a livable planet, he has got to keep tar sands in the ground by giving Keystone the boot.

Proponents also told us this pipeline will create 20,000 new jobs and increase American energy security. Wrong again. The State Department confirmed in its FEIS that constructing Keystone XL would create 3,900 temporary jobs and a whopping 35 permanent jobs — not a whole lot when compared to the nearly 24,000 new permanent solar jobs created in the United States in 2013. As for enhancing American energy security, this pipeline would do no such thing. Canadian tar sands pumped through Keystone would be destined for more lucrative foreign markets such as China, hence its terminus at the Gulf of Mexico. TransCanada refuses to promise that the oil would be used in the United States.

As the mainstream debate rages during this final review period, all too absent from it are the impacts of our decisions on communities living on the frontlines of tar sands extraction, refining and transportation — disproportionately low-income communities of color. Rejecting Keystone XL is about standing in solidarity with the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation living at ground zero of tar sands development, whose land and water have been poisoned by tar sands mining and whose treaty rights have been trampled on in the name of resource extraction — all to meet the bottom line of the world’s richest industry. It’s about standing with farmers and ranchers along Keystone’s proposed route who have been bullied by TransCanada into one-sided contracts and whose water and farmland would be at grave risk from inevitable spills. And it’s about standing with the Bay Area residents of Richmond, Benicia, Martinez and Rodeo, who live in the shadow of pollutive refineries processing tar sands — among other dirty fuels — and who already bear disproportionately high rates of asthma and cancer. These communities are boldly defending their health and children’s futures daily, utilizing everything from lawsuits to direct action. Because the stakes are so high, it’s imperative that we, as people with privilege — people who still have clean water and breathable air — engage alongside them.

As the base that elected Obama, it’s on us to hold him to his promise of being an environmental and climate leader, not a pipeline champion. This is our call to action. Let’s make some noise.

Submit your public comment to the State Department by March 7, and join UC Berkeley students alongside over a thousand youth around the nation from March 1 to 3 for XL Dissent to say no to Keystone XL!

Ophir Bruck is a fourth-year at UC Berkeley studying society and environment as well as an organizer with the California Student Sustainability Coalition.

Don’t Frack LA!

UCLA CALPIRG Students Against Fracking Campaign


Jacqueline Mak – Campaign Director

Angela Kim – Intern

Angela Yip – Intern

Natalie Un  – Intern


Do you know what that means? Hydraulic fracturing, fracking for short, is a dangerous method of drilling for oil, and it’s right here in LA. For each well, oil companies pump 4.6 million gallons of precious water, sand, and toxic chemicals deep into the ground to break open the shale and release the trapped oil and methane. Culver City, UCLA’s backyard, is one major site for this dirty practice. Fracking intensifies the drought, contaminates our air and drinking water, causes neurological and respiratory problems, and threatens our natural habitats.

In the LA city council, there is currently a proposed moratorium that will stop all fracking activities and future development in LA until the practice is deemed safe for public health and the environment. This Tuesday, the PLUM committee approved the bill to move forward for a full vote at the council meeting on Friday. This vote is just the next step for halting fracking activities in Los Angeles!

CSSC supports UCLA’s CALPIRG in urging the city council members to vote yes on the moratorium. We should move away from fossil fuel dependence and invest in clean energy. We concerned students will not stand to have our land, water, air and health compromised by fracking.

Contact City Councilmember Tom Labonge to ask him to pass the moratorium: Phone: (213) 485-3337

Email: councilmember.Labonge@lacity.org

Conserving Our Most Vital Resource: Confronting the California Water Crisis

by Annie Montes, Co-President of UC Davis CSSC


I sit through my classes everyday waiting for time to creep by before I can get back to what I personally like to call “the stuff that really matters.” And my friends, I am sure we all value our grand education system… but how can I concentrate on my homework when every fiber of my body craves to be devoted to the nurturing of our Earth? In asking this question I feel anxiety flood my stomach as I once again become all too aware of the ebbing resources available to humanity.

I remember in high school listening to adults talking about running out of oil, natural gas, and coal in my lifetime. Never did I hear anyone mention the depletion of water resources even though existence would not be possible without them. Water, our most valuable and essential resource, has been exploited, polluted, relocated, and wasted with no visible repercussions. Only now, in the midst of crisis, do I hear the words “water” and “conservation” in the same sentence, and rightly so.

As I am sure most are aware, California is indeed experiencing a water crisis. Conditions are so severe that this is the driest drought in 500 years.  Radio and news stations have all reached the same disturbing conclusion: California will have no water in approximately three months*.  We will be completely dry before the first day of summer. This is why it is of utmost importance that immediate action is taken.

Action, of course, begins at the individual level. Citizens can eliminate unnecessary toilet flushes, decrease shower time, turn the sink off when brushing teeth, and neglect to water lawns. These activities can extend the availability of precious water and are among the easiest to implement. They only require public awareness. The UCD chapter has designed and printed over 200 copies of a flier to spread awareness throughout our campus and community. An official flier is awaiting approval by the UCD Environmental Policy and Planning Commission (EPPC). This should happen in the next week.

We have also began to focus on the bigger issue at hand, Agriculture. Agriculture uses the majority of California’s water resources, and being a part of an Ag University, the UCD CSSC has taken the reins on leading our campus and community to conserve water. Working closely in hand with EPPC and David Phillips, Director of Utilities on campus, we are aiming to reduce water use by 20%. A resolution for full campus support is pending with our academic senate. Most importantly we are making efforts to reach out to our state government, asking officials to confront the water crisis more vigorously. Members of our chapter are writing letters directly to Governor Brown.

Even with all of these efforts I find myself asking: Will they be enough? And sadly I must face the brutal truth; this crisis is here to stay. Fortunately from every great calamity wisdom can be amassed. Efforts made now will extend the accessibility of water and will hopefully create habits of conservation that will benefit us in the future. Let this crisis be a lesson that opens the eyes of Americans to the fragile system we so heavily rely on.

*Nagourney, Adam, and Ian Lovett. “Severe Drought Has U.S. West Fearing Worst.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 01 Feb. 2014. Web. 18 Feb. 2014.

UC Berkeley Graduate Assembly votes YES on Divestment!

by Ophir Bruck

On Thursday, February 6th, saturated in coffee and cardboard pizza, the Graduate Assembly of the University of California Berkeley (GA, basically the graduate students’ Senate) voted two-thirds majority in favor of UC Berkeley and UC system-wide fossil fuel divestment. The adopted resolution, 1311B, also calls on the GA to divest its own funds, around $475,000, a fraction of the $3.3 Billion UC Berkeley fund, from fossil fuels. The GA will begin immediately working with the Berkeley Endowment Management Company (BEMCO) to complete the process within 5-years, more than enough time.

Passing the resolution through the GA, my first experience navigating student government, proved nothing short of an entertaining ride and a rich learning experience. What I, and the GA Environmental Sustainability Committee who sponsored the bill, thought would be a smooth and painless show of support, turned out to be lengthy process that revealed the more conservative nature of some of Berkeley’s graduate student community. The resolution went up for a vote back in December, and was tabled after a number of students passionately asserted their concerns around potential impacts to the university’s endowment returns, and, more close to home for some in the room, to research funding from fossil fuel companies.

Over the next two months, to my surprise, I was fielding emails and phone calls and meeting for coffee with concerned graduate student delegates who wanted to voice their thoughts and feelings and discuss what this resolution could mean for their department’s fossil fuel industry-funded research. One Chemical Engineering PhD student said she supports divestment and the need to take a political and symbolic stand against the fossil fuel industry, but as long as it doesn’t affect her or the department’s research funding. Another Chem E student, who is employed by BP to research biofuels, was adamantly opposed; he felt as though this resolution equated him and his colleagues with the South African apartheid government, and that in addition to putting his research funding at risk, fossil fuel divestment would be ineffective in pushing for a carbon tax.

Instead of getting up and leaving these conversations frustrated and jaded with Berkeley’s grad students, I stayed and dug deeper to hear where they are coming from, which turned out to be a really valuable learning opportunity. After some digging, I learned that the first student felt stuck between a rock and a hard place given her department’s close ties and reliance on the industry, and wanted to know that we are carrying out divestment responsibly. The other student acknowledged that, while some fossil fuel companies might be slightly better than others, as a whole, the industry is blocking the necessary transition to a low-carbon economy. Turns out, as an international students, he’s also just really cynical of the U.S. government and feels that a carbon tax will not happen in time, or at all, and therefore divestment to him is a waste of time: “When I see a carbon tax,” he said, “then I’ll know that divestment was a good idea.”

With eyes glazed over after hours of debating how much funding to allocate to lunch-time meals for events, among other exciting topics, the roughly 80 delegates in the room perked up for what turned out to be a lively debate about the utility of fossil fuel divestment. It was democracy at its finest and it all ended with an electronic straw poll.

And so, the UC Berkeley graduate students have spoken: DIVEST!

Congrats to the GA for becoming the first graduate senate of the 10-campus UC system to step up and stand on the right side of history, joining 8 undergraduate student senates and the UC Santa Barbara faculty senate.

With the recent formation of a Regents’ Task Force on Socially Responsible Investing, tasked with immediately looking into the feasibility of divesting the UC system’s $11 billion endowment from fossil fuels, we will continue building power on and off campus so that Berkeley and the UC also come around to stand with students, faculty, and alumni on the right side of history.

The Fossil Free UC Retreat at SLO Ranch

by Emili Abdel-Ghany, Fossil Free Intern at UC Davis

Inspired. Connected. Informed. Supported. Reinvigorated. I can feel the revolution in the room. This weekend is a landmark for the fossil fuel divestment campaign in the UC.

Representatives from Davis, Berkeley, Riverside, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, and Los Angeles including representatives from student governments and UCSA, gathered in San Luis Obispo for the first ever Fossil Free UC Organizer Retreat in solidarity with one another for a weekend of peer education, visioning, and strategy. What made this weekend different from any other aspect of the campaign was the shared energy and cohesion of so many campuses in one focused space for so long. Having worked on this campaign in so many venues for over a year and a half, I have never spent this much time with so many people working on the same cause. There was strength in our dedication to the space, the campaign, and to each other.


Facilitators used a diverse set of styles to discuss and explain a range of topics for the campaign, including the history of the Fossil Free UC campaign, the structure of the UC administration, intersectionality and coalition-building with frontline solidarity, endowment and investment basics, the ask/reinvestment and the political imperative for divestment. This allowed people at any stage of the campaign to plug in and gain something from the space. Madi Oliver is a first year at UC Davis and part of the on-campus CSSC chapter. When asked how she felt about this weekend, she explained:

“As a freshman and someone who is new to this kind of professional activism, I feel like I have been empowered with more than just the excitement of change but the knowledge of what my campaign is working against.”

Excitement of change and knowledge are exactly what each member of this campaign will bring back to their campus and to the UC work as a whole. After learning the basic and more advanced tools for understanding this campaign, campuses were able to envision ways in which they could strengthen their campaigns and, thereby, invigorate the climate justice movement. Campuses strategized tangible applications of knowledge and excitement to bring back, and bonds were strengthened between organizers.

This retreat was a dream and a necessity for a very long time. Being one of the only schools in the world to have multiple campuses spread across hundreds of miles, working together has been inherently difficult. When each person first voiced his or her reasons for being there and part of this campaign, the commonalities were overwhelming.  People were snapping and smiling in agreement, resonating with new and old friends alike. We are constantly moving forward with every question, goal, share, laugh, diagram, and post-it map.

This campaign is creating avenues for students to have more power in administrative decisions of our UC. The recent agreement to create a task force on fossil fuel divestment within the UC Office of the President comes as exciting news at a crucial time.  We need to act now if we are to stop any more egregious human rights offenses by the fossil fuel industry. The UC can win this campaign – many more know and believe this after this weekend. However, our campaign is just one part of a larger climate justice movement, a movement towards fossil freedom.


Check out CSSC’s Fossil Free page to get more info on this incredible campaign. 

Perspectives on the 2014 Winter Leadership Retreat

*All photos included in this post were taken by and are property of Emily Teague. 

This year, CSSC held its Winter Leadership Retreat at UC Santa Cruz, January 16th-20th. CSSC hosts leadership retreats twice a year, in winter and in summer, to train new leadership, develop plans and strategies, get to know one another, and build the inner core of the organization. New and old members of the Council, Operating Team, Board of Directors, and Staff gather in one physical space, a rare occurrence for CSSC, which proudly spans the 800+ miles from San Diego to Humboldt.

Board Member David Shaw graciously made it possible for the retreat to take place at Kresge College, home of UC Santa Cruz’s Common Ground Center and a beautiful permaculture garden. While the retreat held to a tight schedule of trainings, discussions, meetings, and one-on-ones, participants took advantage of the beautiful setting by wandering through the redwoods, chatting in the garden, taking group trips to the beach, and stargazing in the meadow.

Retreats are essential for CSSC, a non-hierarquical organization that depends on co-collaboration to envision and enact change. Here are some of the sessions that went on at the WLR 2014:

  • Group get-to-know-each-other and icebreaker
  • CSSC 101 Presentation and Taboo Game
  • Collective liberation training
  • Convergence Planning with Santa Barbara Convergence Team
  • One-on-one check-ins with new Operating Team and Council members
  • Campaigns and Programs Discussion
  • Budget and Finance Discussion
  • Council Training
  • Media Standard Operating Procedure Presentation
  • Talent Show
  • Organizational development and strategic planning
  • Fundraising Campaign Presentation
  • CSSC Contra Dance-Off
  • Web of Appreciation in the garden

How did we get all of this done? By fueling ourselves with amazing food, of course! Here’s a shout-out to Matt Deuser, who planned the menu and ingredients for the entire retreat, and spent hours at work in the kitchen. Thanks Matt, and all the amazing CSSC cooks who prepared our meals – from curries and chilis to tofu scrambles and beet salads!

Q&A with retreat participants

Emili Abdel-Ghany, UC Davis, Fossil Free Intern and Former Operating Team Co-Chair (she was one of the main organizers of this retreat!)










In your own words, what was the purpose of the Winter Leadership Retreat? 

The purpose of this Winter Leadership Retreat was primarily to provide a physical space and time for the current, former, and future leaders of our organization to gather for collective and specific training. Through the structured and unstructured times together bonds are formed between leaders from across our vast state, becoming more of a family than a traditional non profit or organization. There is something unique about being able to spend time together sharing skills, knowledge, and awareness in a condensed setting.

What was your favorite serious moment of the retreat? 

When we were each sharing in our big circle all the silly moments, all the little quirks and synchronizations that we have all experienced together, when I hear how much CSSC means to each and every person that was in that room or in our hearts that day. I did know that I was connected, that these people have changed my life, shown me ways of living I could have never dreamed of, made me believe in myself when I felt I had no reason to, gave me a reason to believe in myself, trusted me with something and someone(s) whom many have had a part or all of their lives for so long.

When they speak of life-long friendships and relationships, they mean it. They mean their entire lives together, getting things done and really getting to know each other and what each person is about.

What was your favorite silly moment of the retreat? 

I realized after I was able to look at the sign-up list for our talent show that Kevin Killion signed me up for “Sound Advice”. At the summer retreat in 2013 I did a Bill Cosby impression and gave advice to the crowd. I didn’t know i’d be performing but it turned out to be really fun. We had many duplicate names over the weekend (Kevin and Kevin, David and David, Emily Emili and Emily, Patrick and Partick, Kyle and Kyle, Beth and Bethany, Maddy and Madeleine, I think that’s it!) so I decided to recruit the two Emily’s to come to the stage and provide improvised advice in character. It was a combination of my improv talents and my ability to give advice. Very fun.


Julia Clark, Humboldt State University, Former Council Co-Chair (Aug 2012-Jan 2014)
In your own words, what was the purpose of the Winter Leadership Retreat?

The purpose was for California Student Sustainability leaders to come together, build community, plan actionable items, familiarize ourselves with CSSC and its’ operations, learn, share, make connections, and organize action.

Why did you choose to attend this year’s Winter Leadership Retreat?

I am transitioning out of CSSC leadership, but I wanted to be available to train the new leaders coming into the organization as well as offer any advice I could.

What was your favorite serious moment of the retreat? 

Sitting down at lunch with a new friend and finding that we both shared a deep connection on life perspectives as we enjoyed delicious burritos cooked up by our amazing chefs.

What was your favorite silly moment of the retreat?
The talent show had many silly moments. One of the best was the act titled “Patrick and the random jam band,” where Patrick Hassett from Humboldt State University went up and said “Anyone want to play some music?” And a bunch of folks, all previously unplanned, picked up instruments and played some killer music with him.


Pretty awesome, right?! If being part of this dynamic and collaborative process sounds exciting to you, we’d love to have you join our leadership and attend our next retreat. Sign up for our newsletter, like our Facebook, and stay tuned on our website throughout the semester to learn how you can get more involved with CSSC.


Photo credit: Emily Teague


Photo credit: Emily Teague


Photo credit: Emily Teague


Photo credit: Emily Teague

Decarbonization as Decolonization: The Case of the Northern Bay Area

by Arjun Pandava, UC Berkeley student

The following piece reflects the view of the author only, and not CSSC as an organization.

 The environmental justice movement has brought important dimensions of race and class to mainstream environmentalism.  But what is often overlooked is how closely related the environmental justice movement is to struggles of decolonization–especially in the context of decarbonization and the global movement toward a zero-carbon economy. The dynamics of the carbon economy have strong similarities and parallels with the dynamics of colonialism; thus, it is crucial to analyze the ways in which the innovations and theories of anti-colonial revolutionaries can be applied to modern decarbonization and environmental justice struggles.

A meeting took place a few months ago at a prominent university in the Bay Area, California, between activists from Richmond and Pittsburg, and local students. The community activists explained the serious problems associated with the imminent expansion of infrastructure supporting the carbon economy–specifically, the rapidly growing oil industry of North America.  As I’ve written in this recent piece, this infrastructure already has a history of severely degrading the health of locals; thus, its expansion can only mean the simultaneous expansion of externalities that local communities must bear.

At the meeting, remarks were made as to how it felt like they are “being invaded by these oil companies”–companies that include multinationals like Chevron and Royal Dutch Shell.  Another key observation was the domination of these companies in local politics; for example, Chevron spent around $1.2M on the Richmond City Council election in 2012.  An activist from Pittsburg commented on how these companies always find the most corrupt and malleable cities in which to build their dirty businesses, which makes perfect sense–these are the areas where bearing the costs of environmental externalities can be most easily avoided, due to more lax regulations and a decreased likelihood of litigation.

These characteristics that define the struggle of Northern Bay Area communities–invasion and domination by foreign actors, the extraction of value, and the localization of externalities–are strongly reminiscent of colonialism, and the historical practices that Europe (and in general, the abstract entity of global capitalism) took toward controlling the resources and populations of the Third World.  Time and time again, especially in the 20th century, powerful capitalists and the militarized states that backed them took control of resource-rich regions across Latin America, Africa, and Asia, exploited and repressed local populations, and extracted huge amounts of value, all while leaving locals to deal with the externalities of the value-production and resource-extraction processes.


The Persistence of Colonial Domination 

Colonization is strongly tied with the repression and exploitation of people of color.  This should be obvious to even the most historically illiterate person, given that colonialism as a historic tendency was almost always seen as the domination of the Americas, Africa, and Asia by European powers.  Or put in terms of race: colonialism was the domination of Black and Brown peoples by White elites.

(It should be noted that I use the terms “Black” and “Brown” to be inclusive of East and South-East Asian peoples.  Historically, the term “Yellow” has been used to specify these geographies; however, I believe that this term is far too intertwined with its historically racist uses to be used in a progressive manner today.  In addition, Asian radicals have also argued for “Brown” to be encompassing of traditionally “yellow” populations given the historic “negroization” of Asians in the West, as well as the undeniable “brownness” of South and South-East Asians).

Thus far, we have framed colonialism as if it was an historic relic of a bygone era.  However, this is an incorrect way to frame things; analyzing the situation of Black and Brown peoples today, we can see that the same patterns of domination persist–albeit in more hidden, more systemic, and less overt ways.  More often than not, the decolonization efforts of the mid-20th century has simply evolved colonialism into “neocolonialism”.  The term was first coined by the anti-colonial revolutionary Kwame Nkrumah, in his 1965 book Neo-Colonialism, the Last Stage of Imperialism.  From the introduction:

The essence of neo-colonialism is that the State which is subject to it is, in theory, independent and has all the outward trappings of international sovereignty. In reality its economic system and thus its political policy is directed from outside.

An exemplar of neocolonial control is the case of Nigeria.  The Nigerian government receives around 80% of its revenue from oil rents–essentially kickbacks from multinationals like Chevron and Royal Dutch Shell, in exchange for lax environmental regulations and providing security when locals start to get upset that their land, water, and air are being utterly destroyed by irresponsible extraction practices.

Untitled “Show me what development looks like!”

The parallels between Nkrumah’s description of economic and political policy being “directed from outside”, the neocolonial economy of Nigeria, and the reproduction of colonial control in Western communities of color is startlingly evident in the case of Richmond.  As pointed out by the leftist magazine In These Times:

The city of 100,000 has grown up around the Chevron refinery, which is older than Richmond itself. Until 2005, the corporation was allowed to appoint its own inspectors, and last year’s fire was the third major accident to occur at the refinery since 1999. Seventy percent of Richmond’s residents are black, Latino or Asian American, and residents of North Richmond, where several public housing projects are located, bear the brunt of the health burden resulting from ongoing toxic exposure. Though it’s difficult to prove that high rates of asthma, cancer and heart disease among Richmond residents are linked to industrial pollutants—something community groups have long argued—people of color in Richmond have a life expectancy 10 years shorter than whites in other parts of the country, according to the city’s Health Equity Partnership.

Both Richmond and Pittsburg are populated by low-income people of color; postcolonial subjects battling continually expanding systems of colonialism (making the “post” of postcolonialism a highly questionable prefix).  And this modern exploitation is on top of the bloody history of the East Bay, given the genocidal policies of Spain against the Ohlone during the 18th and 19th centuries.

But the truly important thing to note here is not that both Richmond and Nigeria are colonized spaces, but that they are both colonized by the same entity.  Both the Niger Delta and Richmond, California are subordinate to the interests of Chevron Corporation and the global oil markets.  And these aren’t the only locations where Chevron has flexed its political and economic muscle.  The oil giant is currently locked in a battle with the government of Ecuador over alleged environmental pollution.  Chevron has also recently made moves in Romania, where paramilitary forces occupied a rebellious village so that the company could carry on shale gas exploration activity.


“Whose streets?” “Chevron’s streets!”

And even aside from Chevron, the infrastructure that the people of the Northern Bay Area are confronting is part of a single supply chain.  There is a good chance that the oil that will be funneled into proposed expansion projects will be coming from the oil fields of Canada, where First Nations are already dealing with pollution from oil extraction.

These observations should reveal the insidious and interconnected nature of the global oil economy: it is one that sets up tendrils of colonial domination along its entire supply chain.  The oil economy is one of repression, pollution, corruption, and poverty–a system that forms a unique nexus of environmental, political, and economic violence, and a key foundation of modern global capitalism.


Collaborators and Compradors 

We have argued that colonialism remains a prominent force in modern society, but it is also important to explore the factors that sustain it–especially the factors that can be directly challenged by those who wish to end their domination.

The process of colonization is typically depicted as a purely military affair, but it is crucial to acknowledge the massive role that local collaboration plays.  Historically, colonialism was possible largely due to local political and economic elites, who used their positions of power, privilege, and authority to sell out the autonomy of their constituents in exchange for material wealth and military support against threats to their power–whether this threat was from rival elites, or from the masses.  In other words, local elites were often bribed to undermine local autonomy so that they could consolidate their own wealth and power.  An excellent example of this is the process by which the East India Company steadily took over South Asia in the 18th and 19th centuries, pitting local rulers against one another and buying up more and more economic assets–and resorting to military force when locals decided not to play along with the company tune.  Today, however, colonial collaborators (or compradors, as this class of people have often been called) seem less concerned about taking down rivals, so much as increasing their own wealth–as seen in the aforementioned cases of Nigeria and Romania.

This tendency can be seen today in the Bay Area, as well.  One example is Nathaniel Bates, a career politician in Richmond,  who has been more than content to play fiddle for Chevron in exchange for massive amounts of campaign financing (as mentioned above).  Another good example is the Seeno family, a political and economic dynasty that runs a corrupt, mafia-esque real estate empire from their base of operations in the East Bay.  This multi-billion dollar family has unsurprisingly backed political campaigns across California and Nevada, including Pittsburg, and will likely play an important role in the struggle between Pittsburg residents and Wes Pac Energy Group over the proposed expansion of oil infrastructure.


Current Strategies of Resistance

The fact that there are specific actors who mediate the colonial-corporate domination of the Bay Area presents one obvious route of struggle–removing these compradors from office, and replacing them with people who are part of the community, and who have the community’s interests in mind rather than the interests of international capital.  This strategy of electoralism was also favored by many anti-colonial activists back in the early days of the decolonization struggle; one notable example is the movement by South Asian bourgeoisie to create the Indian National Congress, to serve as a democratic organ of self-determination.


 From this perspective, the situation of the Bay does not seem so drastic–systems of democratic governance have existed for a long time, and the abstract idea of democracy has overwhelming support among the masses.  And indeed, the fact that local organs of political power–namely, the City Councils–can play a key role in resisting encroachment by carbon corporations has long been recognized by community activists, especially in Richmond.  In 2003, locals who had had enough of Chevron and the generally reactionary nature of the city (one of these locals’ family had recently been assaulted by the police) formed the Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA), which rapidly escalated into a serious challenge to politicians backed by Chevron’s deep pockets.  Residents of Pittsburg, inspired by this apparent success, are also beginning to organize an electoral campaign against the current incumbent city councilors (all of whom ran unopposed during the last election cycle).  And what is especially invigorating about these recent electoral mobilizations is that they are specifically oriented against the Democratic Party–a political machine that has long since siphoned away radical currents into supporting the very capitalist institutions that generated the need for such currents in the first place.  A recent protest march in Pittsburg saw speeches condemning the Democrats as corrupt and expressing the need for a party that espouses actual democratic values, rather than the values of the elite capitalist class.

The electoral strategy has proven to be somewhat fruitful; the RPA currently has control of the mayor’s seat, as well as one city council seat (something that would have been impossible just a decade ago).  Due to this increasing organization by the people of Richmond, Chevron has been forced to deal with increased litigation for  the rampant pollution, and make unprecedented amounts of concessions in terms of local development–both signs of the company’s eroded grip on the once “loyal” company town.


Future Horizons of Rebellion–Beyond Electoral Politics

But despite the apparent success of the electoral path, its important to exercise caution against becoming uncritical or complacent.  While Richmond is definitely in a better position than it was a decade ago, there are indications that without expanding and deepening the struggle, the electoral strategy has already peaked.  The 2010 and 2012 election cycles saw Chevron truly begin to flex its economic prowess, pouring $1M and $1.2M into each respective race, as well as announcing a $15.5M community development scheme.  The 2012 elections saw two anti-Chevron candidates losing their positions, eroding the gains made in the 2010 cycle.

The lesson to be had, then, is that we must return to the analysis made by Nkrumah: that even if our political institutions have the “outward trappings” of self-determination and democracy, it is very often the case that they are still controlled by powerful external actors.  The initial success of the RPA might very well have simply been a “surprise factor”; clearly, given the recent electoral bounce-back, Chevron is able and willing to leverage its economic assets in order to protect and consolidate its political power.

The electoral strategy might still be viable, given that adjacent communities like Pittsburg are beginning to organize along similar anti-carbon lines, and will thus provide a grassroots network that can increase the visibility and popularity of groups like the RPA.  Genuine grassroots organizing could still prove to be a match against raw monetary power.  However, we must also recognize that the system is fundamentally tilted in favor of powerful colonizing and capitalist entities like Chevron: as long as certain actors have enormous amounts of capital at their disposal, these actors will inevitable colonize democracy itself, and bend public institutions to their will.  Their “will” being, of course, to accumulate more capital–and thus, gain even more power over democratic structures.

This materialist understanding of politics–that economic power is the fundamental driving force of political power, and the feedback cycles associated with this dynamic–is critical if the decarbonization/decolonization struggle is to achieve its desired goals.  While the jury may still be out on whether the electoral strategy will continue to yield progressive results, discussions must be had with respect to what strategies would actually deal with the economic basis of political power.


If economic power can indeed typically overwhelm grassroots organizing and “people-power”, then the clear alternative to targeting political structures would be to target the very economic base on which the corporate domination of politics lies–that is, to engage in actions and strategies that undermine the concentration of capital and, and redistribute economic power.

This type of analysis was precisely the sort advanced by numerous anti-colonial revolutionaries in the mid-20th century.  Consider the following quotation from the Algerian revolutionary Frantz Fanon, in his ground-breaking 1961 book The Wretched of the Earth:

The basic confrontation which seemed to be colonialism versus anti-colonialism, indeed capitalism versus socialism, is already losing its importance. What matters today, the issue which blocks the horizon, is the need for a redistribution of wealth. Humanity will have to address this question, no matter how devastating the consequences may be.

Fanon wrote this book in the context of French colonization of Algeria and the fact that most economic assets in the country–namely agricultural land–were controlled by French settlers.  Even if democratic structures were set up that allowed indigenous Algerians to participate, the nature of the economy would mean that White settlers would inevitable dominate the political arena–rendering political decolonization more or less useless with regards to genuine self-empowerment and bringing material gains and prosperity to the natives.  Genuine decolonization would mean the redistribution of land back into the hands of the natives, so that the political playing field is not skewed toward a wealthy economic elite.

In the context of the Bay, genuine decolonization would mean the redistribution of not land, but the means of production, distribution, and other forms of value generation.  If communities were able to generate just as much wealth as the Chevron’s refinery, then the problem of the company’s dominance in politics would essentially solve itself.  This implies a need for both the development of community economies, as well as direct actions to interfere with Chevron’s ability to accumulate capital.  The former has already been taking root in the East Bay, in the forms of solidarity economies, urban farms, and other community-based cooperative ventures.  The latter has also taken concrete forms, such during an organized blockade of Chevron’s refinery last August by thousands of local people.

This dual movement–empowering the community while undermining the corporation–presents the best way to directly engage the economic base of politics.  This does not mean that electoral politics is irrelevant; on the contrary, deepening the political struggle on the level of economics is arguably the only way by which to see gains made in parliamentary spaces be anything other than a transient phenomena.


Remarks on Internationalism

A final point I wish to emphasize is that it is essential that we frame the decarbonization struggle from an international perspective.  As argued above, the colonial tendencies of the oil industry is one that is reproduced along its entire supply chain.  This fact renders clear the ability for different parts of the supply chain to be undermined at once. Imagine the impacts if blockades, strikes, and expropriation happened in Alberta, Richmond, Nigeria, and Romania all at the same time, in a coordinated fashion.  Imagine the effects on local morale if there were clear signs of international solidarity–a solidarity not defined by Facebook “likes” or empty declarations, but one defined by concrete actions against a common enemy, perpetrated by fellow colonial subjects.

In addition, we must also recognize the disparate levels of colonial violence that different global communities have to deal with.  While we have seen that colonial systems exist across the globe, we must also recognize that certain communities (like the Ogoni people of the Niger Delta) have to face far more violent systems of repression than do communities in North America and Europe.  Therefore, it would be morally unacceptable for Western communities to throw off their own shackles, but do nothing to assist those dealing with far greater levels of violence, poverty, and domination–especially given that much of the perpetrating structures are based in the West.



The actuality of such a radical decolonial struggle in the Bay and its “devastating consequences” is probably quite far away, and perhaps might not even be necessary.  Nonetheless, the parallels between decolonization and decarbonization are clear; thus, let this be a call for those concerned about the health and livelihood of the Bay Area to engage in the study of the anti-colonial revolutionaries of ages past, and their strategies and tactics, so that we may engage in a proper decarbonization struggle: one that emancipates both nature and people.

Changing Myself, the World, or Preferably Both: New Year’s Thoughts on Transformation

by Meredith Jacobson, UC Berkeley student and CSSC Online Content Manager

Check out Meredith’s personal blog, “Meredith Saunters Home,” for more of her writing. 

If you would like to publish content on the CSSC website, please contact mjacobson20 [at] gmail.com

I’m entering my last semester in college, beginning to think about “what I want to do with my life.” As an activist and a generally idealistic person, looking forward into this transition is exciting and confusing, as it is for most other graduating seniors I know.  My goal is to do whatever I can that will make the most positive impact on the world, and be happy doing it.  Oh, and survive. As my values change, the manifestations of that goal will change.

But as I think about what my options are, I feel as though I am facing a difficult, almost impossible choice: To try to live sustainably myself, or to advocate for a sustainable society. I’m not using the word “sustainable” lightly, at least in this particular train of thought. I’m talking about living in such a way that is 100% possible to sustain into the future. This means no reliance on the conventional energy grid nor the food system. This means growing my own food, no ifs buts or ands. This means not connecting my laptop to an outlet that sucks energy that was made at a coal-fired power plant. And yes, this means no car road trips to visit friends or airplane travel home. I’m talking about the real deal.

Unfortunately, to live both 100% sustainably while organizing for broader change in society at the same time seams nearly impossible. The organizing world means a whole lot of laptop action, and maybe even flying by airplane to a conference, training, or educational event. It often means living in a city. While sustainable urban agriculture is on the rise, most modern activists rely on the industrial food system in some way, shape, or form. There’s just not enough time to live the life we’d like to live, while organizing for large-scale change. That’s why I’m pulled in two directions: to the farm, and to the city (to put it in simplest terms).

Of course, there’s a privilege dynamic to this discussion as there always is. I have the capacity to go “off the grid,” work on a permaculture farm, live the life I feel is right, and feel good about myself. Not everyone has that capacity nor that desire, and that’s why it seems so much of the real work is in cities or at least in touch with civilization. Communities everywhere will still be screwed over by polluting industries while I go off and “live sustainably.”  I can go off the grid, but what does that really do for others?

A lot of modern environmentalists, sustainability organizers, and climate justice activists are moving away from the narrative that places the burden on our own backs, demanding that we live our lives differently, and toward the narrative that blames the system and demands system change. This new narrative is keenly focused on environmental justice – race, class, gender, historical oppression. It’s moving away from the idea that we each must take our own individual steps, like changing light bulbs and buying organic, and that will change the world. It’s no surprise to anyone that only a small percentage of the population is going to do that. Hence the need for widespread system change, hence the campaigns, local to global.

I think that both the narratives I mentioned are true, and necessary. We are both caught and actively participating in an ecosystem of oppression. True change requires that we work on ourselves and the system. Which is probably as difficult as it sounds to pull off.

Every activist faces that mental roadblock that tells you it’s impossible, it’s too late, there’s no point, or the solution doesn’t exist. We may put on a front of unequivocal hope, but from talking to my activist friends, I know that roadblock is real. Because the scary truth is that we don’t know if we’ll win, or even if this is a game that has winners or losers. We don’t know what it means to “win,” what that  looks like. Especially with a challenge like climate change, which is threatening all life on earth and is accelerating at a dizzying pace, with its whirlwind of feedback loops, the future can look grim. I’m of the opinion that tackling climate change means changing the world’s entire economic system and societal values. I don’t believe that sustainable development and business solutions will get us all the way where we need to go. I’m not sure how we’re going to get there, but they say all revolutions start within…

I’m a human, and some days that makes me feel all-powerful and other days miniscule. I feel miniscule when I think about how my actions don’t seem to mean anything against the huge, problematic world out there. I feel all-powerful when I think about the connectivity in that world, the networks and systems that I am a part of, the web that I tug on with my little thread. Maybe it’s time we break down the walls between individual change and collective action. I want to make choices and seek actions that do both. I want to transform my lifestyle and the system that affects the choices I am able to make. I want to find personal actions that are political, and political actions that are personal. I’m looking for ideas; throw them at me folks!

As a college student and organizer, I often find myself behind the perma-glow of my Macbook, on google docs, facebook, listserves, blogs, justifying the energy consumption with the hope that my activism might be changing some piece of the world for the better. Someday the good will outweigh the bad, I tell myself. But let me get up onto my soapbox for a minute, and give my fellow activists some advice:

Keep harnessing the power of technology for good. But please promise me that you will learn the land, inhabit real places, make a home, learn its geology and history and ecology and social landscapes, participate in its present, map its future. Engage. Put your hands in the dirt and grow real plants. Because the land surrounding you is the stage on which all this is being played. And most importantly, you are a real player with real consequences, making choices every second that affect everything.

I’m not the first to tell you that there is a hell of a lot of uncertainty when it comes to the future and our fight for global environmental justice. We could triumph, or we could not. We face the possibility of a full-on revolution, the kind that we sing in our hearts, or the climate apocalypse that we fear is quickly approaching. But something recently occurred to me that is strangely hopeful: the same skills that will serve us in starting a revolution will also serve us in the apocalypse. I think in both cases we will need to know how to grow our own food, get around without cars, make our own energy, sew our own clothes, build our own houses, make our own stuff. Learning a new skill will help you in the long run, no matter what. Bring on the DIY parties!

I still do believe in campaigns like fossil fuel divestment that are harnessing economic power to make system-wide change, to start shifting wealth into positive solutions. Divestment campaigns are making ripples wider than any one individual could ever reach. Other large-scale efforts like global climate treaties, LEED certification of buildings, anti-fracking organizing, and food cooperatives are equally awesome and empowering. But I often come back to myself, and realize that my lifestyle will have to change to fit the new societal model I’m campaigning for. It just has to. Less energy, less meat, less waste, less plastic. Learn to grow food, bicycle, build things, compost, collect rainwater, make energy. Get off my “devices” and take walks.  Learn all the skills I can that take me off of fossil fuels. It’s not a burden, but an empowering possibility to live more fully, freely, and in love with the earth.

So what am I going to do? Everything I can, I suppose. For starters, this semester I plan to learn how to grow food at the Student Organic Garden and learn how to chop my own wood with the Cal Logging Sports Team. I won’t give up my laptop; I’ll still be writing, emailing, google doc-ing, traveling, and organizing with the California Student Sustainability Coalition. But I would like to spend more time in my Berkeley hills, out and about, phone turned off, feeling the landscape. And what am I going to do with my life? Maybe I’ll strive for 50-50. Spend half my time working on myself and my lifestyle, learning skills and becoming more ecologically able.  I’d like to go work on a farm and learn all I can, learn what it feels like to live fully in harmony. But I’ll make sure to bring whatever new skills I gain back with me and teach as many people as I can.  And I’d like to live in the city, work with people, organize my community, tackle the systemic oppression that controls the way life is lived on earth.  That I am even presented with choices like these is an incredible privilege in itself, and I have the responsibility to use that privilege to help others. I hope someday this pull between two opposing choices will start to be less of a pull and more of a collective push. Let’s be as bold and demanding with ourselves as we are with politicians and CEOs, and we’ll never stop growing. 


A Strong 2014 With Your Support

Happy New Year from CSSC!


2013 was quite an exciting year.

In the last 12 months, our students mobilized to divest their campus institution’s endowments from the fossil fuel industry; organized and defended their communities from fracking; and joined thousands of students in Pittsburgh, PA in pushing to stop the disproportionate impact of climate change on marginalized communities.

Being a student run organization, we need your support to continue our work in the new year.

Please consider making a tax deductible gift to CSSC today. 

Your gift will enable students from across California to continue working on solutions to some of the most important challenges we face today.

As a student, alumnus, friend, family member, and/or community ally, your on-going support means everything to us. By supporting CSSC, you directly invest in the education and training of our students.

Our New Years Resolutions

Stop the poisoning of our communities and planet by divesting from fossil fuels, reinvesting in communities and clean tech alternatives, and blocking disastrous hydraulic fracturing.

  • Fossil Free | Divest our universities’ endowments from fossil fuel holdings and re-invest in our communities and in socially responsible portfolios.
  • Students Against Fracking | Stop the fracking industry from destroying our communities by expanding our student mobilization efforts across the state.

Train and empower students to become sustainability-focused organizers, researchers, entrepreneurs, and community members.

  • Courses and Co-Curricular Activities for Equity, Economy, and the Environment | Launch courses that link students, faculty, alumni, and civil society for public talks and dialogue around collective action while expanding leadership and activist training for students.
  • Convergences and Leadership Retreats | Provide student-led education and training focused on sharing best practices and setting the vision for sustainability activism across the state.

A Quick Recap of 2013

• 11 student governments and 1 faculty senate have voted in favor of divesting their institutions’ endowments from fossil fuels and 2 community college districts and 1 CSU have voted to divest!

• Over 225 students attended Power Shift in October.

• Over 500 students attended the Spring Convergence at UC Berkeley and Fall Convergence at Humboldt State University.

• Students have joined Californians Against Fracking by forming Students Against Fracking chapters.

  • You can always check out our blog to read about what CSSC students have been up to across the state.

On behalf of the CSSC we thank you for your support and Happy New Year!

The California Student Sustainability Coalition is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and so your donation is tax deductible!
Please make a gift today and support students in making their campuses and communities sustainable.

Our Greatest Crisis

by Mauricio David Castillo, UC Berkeley graduate

After decades of disregard, climate change is finally gaining momentum in the public sphere. Unfortunately, it is not due to a sudden moral awakening—but rather the escalating severity and frequency of large-scale climate disasters happening on people’s doorsteps. Climate change is no longer just your hypothetical grandchildren’s problem; it has evolved to an ever-present threat—one that will drastically affect your life, and the lives of everyone you know, love or care about (if it hasn’t already). The good news is that people have accepted this reality, thus we can now foster the consensus and synergy to do something about it. However, there needs to be substantial emphasis on the very limited window of opportunity to act.

We are on the brink of causing irreversible changes to the biogeochemical systems that make life viable on this planet. This year the International Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) stated in their most recent report that, to have a 50 percent chance of staying below 2 degrees Celsius (C), we can emit no more than 1,000 gigatons (gt) of carbon. There is about 2,797 gt in the world’s known reserves, and 531 gt have already been emitted (as of 2011)—which means that at least 80% of those reserves must be kept in the ground. In recent years, the planet has experienced an influx of some of the largest and most catastrophic climate disasters in in recorded history, due to only .8 degrees of warming (since 1750).

 A few months after the IPCC report, one of the foremost authorities on climate change, James Hansen, published a study which concluded that when feedbacks loops are considered—the 1,000 gt and 2 degree caps, need to be cut in half to actually stabilize global temperatures. He argues that because of feedback loops, 1,000 gt could take us to a cataclysmic 4 degrees of warming. Feedback loops are climate processes, which accelerate the rate of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and thus escalate the rate of warming.  The longer we delay reducing emissions the stronger these feedbacks become.

While working on my senior thesis at UC Berkeley I came across some alarming revelations about forest feedbacks loops. A 2012 publication in the science journal Nature, concluded that 70 percent of trees in bioregions all over the world—have a very narrow margin of adaptability to the heat and water stress conditions exacerbated by climate change. The tendency of a tree’s hydraulic system (xylem) to fail in water stress scenarios can lead to large scale forest collapse—forest mortality releases excess carbon into the atmosphere, hinders sequestration and affects regional rainfall patterns which will in turn—lead to more mortality and warming. Forests absorb about 1/3 of global carbon emissions; decreased sequestration coupled with rapid forest collapse may convert the world’s forest from carbon sinks to net emitters of CO2. The crossing of this threshold (tipping point) is likely to significantly amplify the pace of climate change and environmental deterioration.

 Warmer oceans, melting glaciers and permafrost are other examples of feedback processes that have the potential to dramatically increase the rate of warming. These scenarios intensify the urgency of the situation and actions needed to even have a chance of mitigating climate change. There is hope though; Hansen’s study concludes that we can bring carbon levels down to the safe limit of 350 parts per million by 2100—if we begin to cut emissions by 6% a year and accelerate large-scale afforestation efforts. This is possible but will require immediate action from a local to global scale.

 The U.S. contributes nearly a fifth of global emissions, it is up to us to lead by example—we already have the talent, drive and innovation to steer the world in the right direction, what’s lacking is political will. A recent analysis led by Stanford, polled American opinions of climate change from 2006-2012. It found that 75% of residents were aware of climate change and see it as a potential danger, and at least two-thirds of residents want the government to take action in limiting greenhouse gas emissions. The report stated, “When given actual prices, majorities would support raising their household bills by $75 and $150 to enact policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”.

In recent years climate change has served as catalyst for environmental and social movements across the globe. It has led to innovative, technological and economic solutions that have the potential to save the planet. Most importantly it has led to solidarity with forward thinking, scientists, economists, organizations and citizens who have put forth viable strategies to save the earth’s systems and species from potential collapse. Amongst these is 350.org’s rapidly growing fossil fuel divestment movement, which has led institutions around the world to divest from fossil fuels and re-invest in solutions. It has also led to breakthrough innovations in techonlogy that can set the world on a trajectory towards a low-carbon, renewable energy economy.

This year largest ever climate action was held in Washington DC. An estimated 50,000 people attended the Forward on Climate Rally to take a stand for climate justice. Image Credit: Jenna Pope ©

This year largest ever climate action was held in Washington DC. An estimated 50,000 people attended the Forward on Climate Rally to take a stand for climate justice. Image Credit: Jenna Pope ©

 Collective efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. This year, a review from the Carbon Disclosure Project revealed that the five biggest fossil fuel companies are using carbon-pricing estimates in order to budget for the imminent regulation of carbon.  As author Bill Mckibben has said, “If it is wrong to wreck the climate, than it is wrong to profit from the wreckage”. Just because the fossil fuel industry’s business model is dying, it does not have the right to take the planet with it.

 Despite our most ambitious efforts there is no way to avoid all the negative ramifications of climate change. Although, how exponentially worse it will get will be determined by the actions or inactions of the coming years. Author Naomi Watts has said it best “We have the ability to stop and we’re choosing not to. The profound immorality and violence of that decision is not reflected in the language we have.” The planet is on a catastrophic trajectory—so far, world governments have failed to implement strategies that can save it. It is our duty as global citizens to build momentum and create solutions to drive the kind of policies needed.

The next two years may be amongst the most important in human history. In 2015 at COP 21—a legally binding, universal climate agreement will be set, thus 2014 will be of paramount importance in generating political pressure to ensure world leaders take ambitious actions towards solving the climate crisis. To quote Naomi Watts again, “Climate change. It’s not as “issue” for you to add to the list of things to worry about. It is a civilizational wake up call. A powerful message – spoken in the language of fires, floods, storms, and droughts – telling us that we need an entirely new economic model, one based on justice and sustainability.”

John F. Kennedy once said, “When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity.” The nature and scale of global rising temperatures is the most profound danger humanity has ever faced, however it also provides us our greatest opportunity to collectively create a better world for present and future generations. We have the capability; it is now our obligation—to take advantage of it.


Fighting Fracking Indoors and Out

A student’s experience at a public comment hearing

by Meredith Jacobson

Two weeks ago,  I attended Oakland’s public hearing on the scope of the Department of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR)’s environmental impact report regarding fracking in the state of California. That’s a mouthful, but an important one, so read it over again. On December 10th, I joined several peers from CSSC and Students Against Fracking at UC Berkeley to raise our voices in a “controlled” setting.

The purpose of the hearing was to allow members of the public to voice what they believe needs to be addressed in a Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR), which is scheduled to be finalized and certified in July 2015. California Senate Bill 4 (SB4) requires DOGGR to research and create an EIR on the impacts of  “well stimulation,” another term that basically means fracking, in order to regulate the process in a more scientifically informed way. The regulations put into place, informed by the final EIR, will affect the entire state of California. As fracking is already taking place in certain locations in the state, thanks to SB4, DOGGR will be putting “emergency regulations” into place in January 2014, to hold over until the EIR is completed and able to inform the regulations. You can find out more about the process, and the other hearings  happening around the state, here.

The hearing had been widely advertised by various local environmental organizations, especially Californians Against Fracking, who organized a rally outside the Oakland City Center where the comments were heard. Californians Against Fracking is an umbrella organization for organizations and activists across the state mobilizing against this dangerous and polluting extraction method. Other organizations in attendance included 350 Bay Area, the Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club California, and CREDO.

Not a positive word about fracking was spoken at the hearing. Of course, that’s the nature of the game – if you are pro-fracking you’re not going to take the time to go to a public hearing on an environmental impact report. Even so, the breadth of the types of comments presented made a powerful statement about the potential for coalition-building and mobilization on this issue. In attendance was a refreshing mix of young and old citizens who care about our collective future.

After a presentation about DOGGR’s timeline, the regulatory environment, and the mechanics of “well stimulation,” each interested member of the public was given five minutes to bring up issues or concerns that he or she thought needed to be addressed in the EIR. Almost everyone voiced concern about the process itself. I heard important questions raised:

  • Why are we delving into this process, which is scheduled to take more than a year, without first placing a moratorium on fracking?

  • What is the “no project alternative”? (this is a  phrase commonly used when conducting EIRs, referring to an alternative solution if the EIR provides strong evidence against the project taking place at all)

  • Can we trust an EIR researched and written by the department that is economically invested in fracking?

  • Can something as dangerous and polluting as fracking really be regulated to the point where we can call it “safe”?

  • Why are we wasting time and resources on an EIR that will be released in July 2015 when regulations are scheduled to be implemented in January 2015?

All important questions, and ones that the DOGGR officials weren’t really able to answer. Nonetheless, more than fifty people took advantage of the opportunity to make public statements that an official recorded word by word on her computer. DOGGR has to address each and every “relevant” issue brought to the table: so even if it’s a rocky, tilted table,  we can still stir things up a little.

People brought up a range of issues. Impacts on waterways. Localized air pollution from the extractive processes. Impacts on human health, especially disproportionate impacts on low-income and minority communities. Impacts associated with offshore fracking (I didn’t even know this was a thing!) Climate change, and all the associated risks and health effects. The strain on an already stressed water supply in California. Personally, as a forestry student, I brought up potential effects on the forests of California: from the fragmentation that road systems create, to water and air pollution’s impact on trees and wildlife, to positive feedback loops in climate.

[Roberta Giordano, of CSSC and Students Against Fracking at UC Berkeley, delivers her public comment.]


These are just some of the issues brought up, and each five minute speech was passionately voiced. Many people made it clear that above all, they believed in a ban on fracking, or at least a moratorium until the statistics and science are out. Some people called out the inherent bias in this process. While these sort of comments were technically not relevant to the scope of this public hearing, they were still  important to voice, to get out on the table. The hearing gave every local citizen a soapbox and a little wiggle room into the bureaucracy, into that mysterious government-land. I’m not going to lie, it was frustrating to hear DOGGR admit that they weren’t quite sure of the purpose of this EIR, and clearly a ban on fracking was not being seriously considered. Even so, I’m happy I went. It felt good to speak and be heard, to be standing and addressing the Department of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources. I was proud of all the engaged and passionate citizens around me. Clearly we will take every chance we get to make our voices, the ones that should truly matter, are heard. Hopefully, the EIR will be conducted thoroughly and honestly. Then, even if DOGGR fails to act according to the science, our anti-fracking campaigns can cite facts and figures from the report – so it’s still a step forward.

After my friends and I finished our comments inside, we went outside to join the rally. What a different world. Beautiful people were holding brightly colored signs, singing “carols” of resistance and of hope, joining hands, meeting one another, becoming stronger. That contrast, between inside and outside, epitomizes so much about this movement. We can put on our business casual and our professional voices, and bust out some show-stopping facts inside the city center. And then we can walk outside and the river of creativity flows with so much hope and no abandon. Just months into the game, the fight against fracking in California is building strong connections and momentum. It’s bringing people together. That’s the greatest strength the fossil fuel resistance has going for it.

[Activists of all ages and affiliations rally outside Oakland’s City Center.]


Do you have a comment for DOGGR about what should be included in their Environmental Impact Report? You can submit it electronically by emailing it to DOGGRRegulations@conservation.ca.gov. Find out more information about the whole process here: http://www.conservation.ca.gov/dog/Pages/WellStimulation.aspx

Interested in getting involved in anti-fracking work?

If you’re a Berkeley student, contact Ella Teevan of the Center for Biological Diversity and Students Against Fracking at UC Berkeley,  at teevan.ella@berkeley.edu

If you’re a CSSC student at a different campus, looking to start a campaign or get involved, contact Katie Hoffman at katie@sustainabilitycoalition.org

Check out Californians Against Fracking to get the full picture of what’s going on in California.

Press Release: Right Livelihood College Establishes Campus in California




Common Ground partners with “Alternative Nobel Prize” to become North America’s first Right Livelihood College.

Common Ground Center

Education for a Just and Sustainable World

Founded in 1980, the Right Livelihood Award, widely known as “the Alternative Nobel Prize,” honors and supports those offering practical and exemplary answers to the most urgent challenges facing us today.

NOVEMBER 25, 2013 

Right Livelihood College Establishes Campus in California – RLC now in 5 continents


Today, the Right Livelihood Award Foundation announced that the University of California Santa Cruz, will host the seventh Right Livelihood College (RLC) campus, and the first in the North American continent.

The RLC will be based at the Common Ground Center at UC Santa Cruz’s Kresge College. The mission of the Center is to create cultural change for social justice, environmental regeneration, and economic viability.

Twenty-one Right Livelihood Laureates hail from the United States and Canada. These include journalist Amy Goodman of Democracy Now, Maude Barlow, the world’s leading advocate for the right to water, and Paul Walker, the chemical weapon non-proliferation expert from Green Cross International who is one of the 2013 Laureates.

With the new campus, the RLC expands its reach for the 3rd time within two months. Shortly before its 5th anniversary in January next year, the College is now present in five continents.

It is expected that the RLC campus at Santa Cruz will enable students of the Common Ground Center to learn from Laureates through lectures and seminars, as well as conduct action research on the Laureates’ issues. Focusing on undergraduate education, the Center complements the traditional classroom approach by engaging students in advancing participatory action research and civic engagement projects, by which students develop their leadership capacities in service of the world they want to shape and inherit.

Quotes About the New RLC Campus

Paul Walker, 2013 Right Livelihood Laureate who will come to Stockholm next week for the Award Ceremony in the Swedish Parliament, said:

“We not only decide about the planet we leave our children, we also decide now if we want to educate them to be stewards of this world or merely consumers. Education is the key, and proper research into the challenges we are now facing – environmental security, sustainability, peace and social justice – is the need of the hour. The Right Livelihood College builds on this concept, and, with the University of California in Santa Cruz, I am happy to see a US campus become a partner in this network for social change.”




Maude Barlow, Canada, Right Livelihood Award 2005, said:

“This is wonderful news. The Common Ground Center at UC Santa Cruz and the Right Livelihood Award share the same values of working for cultural and transformative change. I am sure that this partnership will contribute significantly to nurturing the next generation of environmentalists and advocates for sustainability on the North American continent.”

Ole von Uexkull, Executive Director,
Right Livelihood Award Foundation, said:

“We congratulate the Common Ground Center at UC Santa Cruz for partnering with us to establish the first Right Livelihood College campus in North America, giving the College a presence in five continents. We are sure that students at the Center will benefit from interacting with the Laureates as they use their research to shape social and environmental change. We wish the Center every success as our newest RLC campus.” 


Melissa Ott, UCSC Common Ground Center,
Executive Committee Student, said:

“Students at UC Santa Cruz are deeply engaged in developing ideas and actions to solve the greatest challenges facing our local and global communities. I have seen and felt a yearning to connect our collective student work with others in the world who are leading transformative change. We are calling for socially-engaged education. This partnership will provide that link so that students can take the ideas they learn and generate at our University to the rest of the world. It will connect students with leaders from global civil society and the world-changing best practices they employ, and support us in transforming our shared future. There’s no better time than now for this win-win partnership.” 

David Shaw, UCSC Common Ground Center, Executive Committee Faculty, said:

“It is a great honor to announce the partnership between the Right Livelihood Award Foundation and the University of California Santa Cruz Common Ground Center at Kresge College. This is a historic moment for UCSC and RLA Foundation as we bring our resources together in service of the socially just, economically viable, and environmentally sustainable future we believe in. Our Center will host seminars and lectures with RLA Laureates, and provide pathways for deep and long-term student engagement with Laureates for academic research, internships, and field studies. These are the manner of transformative student experiences being called for today. A better world is possible, and I believe we will get there through collective and wise actions such as this partnership.” 

Christine King, UCSC Common Ground Center, Executive Committee Faculty, said:

“Partnering with the Right Livelihood Award Foundation will offer our youth the kind of out-of-the-box thinking, vision, and action so vital to the future of our planet and civilization. May they be inspired by the RLA Laureates to take the creative and courageous steps necessary to help change the course of humanity.” 


The Right Livelihood College was founded in January 2009. It is a capacity building initiative of the Right Livelihood Award Foundation in Stockholm, Sweden, which awards annually the so-called “Alternative Nobel Prize.” The RLC aims to make the knowledge and experience of the Right Livelihood Laureates accessible to all. By linking young scholars with the Laureates, it hopes to make the “winning ideas” of the Laureates inspire, succeed and multiply.

The existing campuses are as follows: Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang, Malaysia; Lund University Center for Sustainability Studies (LUCSUS), Lund University, Sweden, Center for Development Research (ZEF), University of Bonn, Germany, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia. Recently, in October and November 2013, the University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria, and the Universidad Austral, Chile, became campuses as well.

The RLC’s Director is Professor Anwar Fazal, who won the Right Livelihood Award in 1982 for his work to successfully promote and expand consumer rights in Malaysia and internationally.

For more information on the
Right Livelihood Award, please contact:

Sharan Srinivas, Programme and Research Manager at +46735506533

Email: sharan [at] rightlivelihood [dot] org

Website: http://www.rightlivelihood.org/college.html

Twitter: https://twitter.com/rlafoundation

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rightlivelihood

For more information on the UCSC Common Ground Center Right Livelihood College please contact:

David Shaw, Common Ground Center Excutive Committee Faculty

Email: commonground [at] ucsc [dot] edu

Homepage: http://kresge.ucsc.edu/commonground/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/commongroundcenter



Apply to Join CSSC’s Operating Team

Greetings CSSC Leaders,

We are proud and excited to announce that the Operating Team is accepting Applications for Operating Team Members for the Spring 2014 cycle. This is an incredible opportunity to get involved, or dig deeper into your CSSC  involvement and leadership.

Application for Operating Team Spring 2014

Due by Wednesday December 23rd at 11:59pm

Applications are open now until December 23rd, 2013 . This means you have one week to apply for this incredible opportunity to serve and lead the California sustainability student movement.

There are a number of available positions including:

Operating Team Co-Chairs (2) Council Co-Chairs (2) External Convergence Coordinator (1) Newsletter Editor(2) Blog editor (1) Website editor (1) Social Media Managers (1-2) Note Translator (1) Safe Space Manager(1)  Outreach Coordinator (1) Graphic Designer (1-2) Regional Events Coordinator (many!)

→ see the Roles and Responsibilities document for a description of the positions ←

Benefits of being on the Operating Team include but aren’t limited to:

  • Becoming a student leader for change in a statewide student run Non-Profit

  • Connecting with other leaders and activists from across CA

  • Building relationships with our Coalition Partners (CA and National)

  • Applying your talents, passion, skills to a volunteer leadership position

  • Empowering others to lead and learn more about sustainability

  • Advancing and supporting our Campaigns and Programs

  • Having a voice in the direction of CSSC

All newly elected members of the Operating Team are expected to (and get the opportunity to) attend the upcoming Winter Leadership Retreat, January 16th-20th, at UC Santa Cruz’s Kresgie College. At this weekend long retreat participants will receive in depth leadership training, develop lifelong friendships and connections with student and alumni activists working towards sustainability, gain familiarity with the CSSC leadership bodies like the Council of Representatives and the Board of Directors, as well as other Operating Team members.

Protests, Food Justice, and Cooperative Organizing – Stories from Power Shift

This blog post was written by Eric Recchia, a member of our Board of Directors. He also works as an organizer with the Cooperative Food Empowerment Directive (CoFED), a non-profit working to network and support student food cooperatives. He recently attended Power Shift with over a hundred other CSSCers, and presented a workshop about student food cooperatives. Check out the CoFED blog and the CoFED website for more info!

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to join more than seven thousand youth activists from around the country in Pittsburgh for an inspiring and empowering three days, filled with peer-led workshops, panels, breakouts, and keynotes, culminating in a protest march through the streets and an occupation of the office of a local official that had approved fracking in county parks.

[Activists marching across the Roberto Clemente Bridge in Pittsburgh. Photo Credit: Julian Ehrlich]

We came together to learn more about the different problems caused by the fossil fuel economy in communities all around our country, hearing stories firsthand from those being directly impacted. We came together to share the work that we, the people in those communities and their allies, are doing to fight back. We came together to envision what an equitable, just, and thriving future could look like and plan how we are going to make it happen. We came together to organize, strategize, commiserate, and celebrate. We came together for Power Shift 2013.

You may be asking why someone doing work supporting student food cooperatives would be attending a conference about organizing for climate justice. Good question. There are a few ways that the work I do fits within the work of climate justice organizing. First, I’m big on intersectionality. If you’re new to the word, here’s a quick synopsis: intersectionality is the way in which multiple forms of oppression interact to contribute to systemic injustice and inequality. No oppressive system or ideology is isolated in its impacts or influences from other systems of oppression and oppressive ideologies. This means that when we fight oppression and injustice, we need to ally with and understand the work of others that are fighting different but connected fights. The same systems of oppression and injustice that underlie the extractive fossil fuel economy and the root causes of climate injustice underlie the roots of food injustice and the inequities and inequalities of our economic system.

Second, industrial agriculture is one of the largest anthropogenic sources of greenhouse gases, approximately one-fourth to one-third of all greenhouse gases released by humans comes from agricultural related sources. Also, the fracking boom has led to a drop in natural gas prices, which has also led to a drop in the price of petroleum based fertilizer that’s made with anhydrous ammonia, which comes from natural gas, as well as an increase in domestic production. Thus the title of my workshop that I facilitated during Power Shift: Using Student Food Cooperatives to Fight Fracking, Climate Change, and Food Injustice.

 [Myself facilitating a workshop on student food cooperatives. Photo credit: Emily Teague.]


Energy Action Coalition (EAC), the host organization for Power Shift (PS13), is made up of dozens of grassroots and large environmental and environmental justice groups. EAC has different working groups that each of these organizations come together to collaborate through and help decide the direction of the Coalition. EAC also has several members that, like CoFED, are working to realize a more just, sustainable, and equitable economy for all. These groups are organized into the Green Economy Working Group, which includes some of our friends like Green For All, Grand Aspirations, the New Economics Institute, and Groundswell. I joined with members of these organizations at Power Shift and helped facilitate a 400+ person breakout on food justice, and I helped out at the Green Economy Hub, a spot where PS13 attendees could learn more about green economy work (because “green” is such a vague and often appropriated word, I prefer the term solidarity economy, so I’ll use that from now on) and share the work they are doing.

[A nationwide map of green economy projects at the Green Economy Hub. If you could zoom in, you’d see two papers on the left, one for the Humboldt Student Food Collective, and the other for CoFED! Photo credit: Eli Sheperd.]

Cooperatives played a small but diverse role throughout Power Shift. In addition to my own workshop, there was a workshop on worker cooperatives organized by Grand Aspirations, as well as more than a dozen workshops related to the solidarity economy. Cooperatives were discussed as a breakout group within the food justice breakout I helped to facilitate, and also as part of the social entrepreneurship breakout. Within the California statewide breakout, we had a food justice sub-breakout, where we also discussed food cooperatives, along with student run farmers’ markets, campus and community gardens, and the Real Food Challenge. I’m sure there were many other spaces that I am unaware of where cooperatives were introduced as a solution to many of the challenges being confronted at Power Shift; such as consumer owned utility cooperatives supplying affordable, community controlled, renewable energy.

[Myself, Peter Hoy, and Jennifer Roach (both with Grand Aspirations) facilitating the Food Justice breakout. Photo credit: Eli Sheperd.]

One really neat workshop I was able to attend was put on by a group of Rebel Economists that are working to reform economics programs in universities, moving away from teaching only about neoclassical models, and towards a greater diversity of economic thought. I studied economics as an undergraduate (and was very frustrated by the lack of diversity of thought that I found in most of the classes I took!), so this holds a special interest for me. Economic thought underpins much of how our society functions, and we must reform economic thought as part of the work of reforming our society. I have a lot of ideas about this I’d really like to share, so I may do so here at some point.

The highlight of the weekend (besides the great Thai restaurant we found down the street from the convention center) was definitely the day of action on Monday. My friends and I woke early to head to to a park on the waterfront of the Allegheny River, just across the waterway from downtown Pittsburgh, where the march would head later. We were meeting in-between a trio of bridges named after famous Pittsburgh natives: Roberto Clemente, Andy Warhol, and famed writer and environmentalist Rachel Carson, whose bridge ironically enough ended right next to a huge glass building, the operational headquarters of ALCOA, the Aluminium Company of America. ALCOA is the third largest aluminium mining and smelting company in the world. They are also the 15th worst emitter of airborne pollutants in the US, illegally operated the dirtiest non-utility coal power plant in the country for 20 years, built 5 dams in the (formerly) largest wilderness area in Iceland (one 633 ft tall, the largest for it’s use in Europe), poisoned Kangaroos in Australia, and contaminated wetlands and groundwater in New York with PCBs. Unfortunately, our target for the action that day wasn’t ALOCA, but there were equally large evil-doers to take on within walking distance.

When we arrived at the waterfront park, there was already a large crowd there gathered. There were signs and creative protest art everywhere; a large coal barge escorted by police boats was in the river, just behind the main stage. A huge, 200+ foot banner spanned the length of the barge; on one side it read “Welcome to Coal Country,” on the other “Support American energy, support American jobs.”

[Activists gather for a rally at the waterfront before Monday’s big action. Photo credit: Robert van Waarden.]

While the barge spun lazy circles in the distance, speakers took the stage who had travelled from the heart of coal country, the Appalachians, to tell of their struggles protecting their family homes and communities. We were there to support America, American energy, and American jobs. But we understand that in supporting clean energy, this is what we are doing. The current fossil fuel economy doesn’t support any of these three, and the stories we brought with us reinforced that. Ironically enough, Consol Energy, whose name was draped across the tug driving the barge, that same week sold their main coal subsidiary, including it’s river transportation operations (possibly including the tug and barge that sported the banner). Consol’s only remaining coal mines will be mining coal for overseas markets. It’s easy to see why some of my friends were initially confused into thinking that the barge was out there supporting us. Don’t worry though, we had a banner of our own prepared to answer their charge.

[Activists drop a banner from the Roberto Clemente Bridge during Monday’s action. Photo credit: Heather Craig.]


After getting powered up by a series of awesome, real, and motivating speakers (and youth rappers), and with a rousing urge from our MC (and friend from Green For All) Julian Mocine-Mcqueen, the march got started and we headed for the bridge. Our targets were PNC Bank, a leading financier of mountaintop removal, and UPMC, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, which has been criticized by local activists for not paying taxes, tax revenue which they hope could be used to support local transit services.

[Local union members stage a counter protest. Photo credit: Robert van Waarden.]

Our spirits were high as we crossed the bridge and moved into downtown. On the far side of the bridge, just as we finished crossing, we encountered members of a local union, holding signs with peace symbols, asking us to stop the war on coal. There were a dozen or so union members there, staging a counter protest, thought once again, it was easy to get their message confused with our own (especially with the peace signs). In the end, hopefully we’ll end up being on the same side. We may be fighting a war against coal companies, but we are fighting for the future of coal country, something these companies may not really care all that much about. There were a fair share of aggressive shouts at the workers; unfortunately understandable because of the anger that many activists hold over the work we do. However, there was at least an equal number of signs of encouragement and support given to the workers as we passed. I heard a story later that an activist that was part of the march stopped to talk with the some of the workers, and their conversation ended with a hug and some tears.

[Students at a local 6-12th grade magnet school cheer on protesters as they march by. Photo credit: Julian Ehrlich.]

A brass band played lively music as the march of thousands wound around the streets of downtown Pittsburgh. We received waves of support from students and teachers as we passed a building that was a local 6-12th grade magnet school. This was the largest action in Pittsburgh since the G-20 summit had been held there in 2009. About halfway through the march, a large number of activists turned off from the main group, led by Rising Tide, to continue on an unpermitted march to support those that we involved that day in some of the direct actions. Members of the Earth Quaker Action Team managed to shut down 15 branches of PNC Bank before 7 of the Team were arrested at the only remaining open branch in downtown. We marched through the streets and around cars, passing one of these branches and members of EQAT on the way, cheering them on. Chants rang through the streets. “What do we want?!,” “JUSTICE!;” “When do we want it?!,” “NOW!.” Or a new (and pretty catchy) one I learned, “Ah!” “An-ti!” “Anti-cap-it-al-ist-a!.”

[Members of Rising Tide lead protesters through the streets of Pittsburgh as part of an unpermitted march during Monday’s action. Photo credit: Robert van Waarden.]

Escorted by an activist with large papier-mâché hands and face, we eventually ended up at the county courthouse. We rallied in the main courtyard, before heading inside to support 11 activists that were occupying the county executive’s office. Rich Fitzgerald, the county executive and the man whose likeness the papier-mâché face was modeled after, is working to allow fracking under county park land in Allegheny County. For more than two hours, about 40 of us surrounded the office where the 11 activists had occupied all day, despite Fitzgerald’s convenient absence, singing songs and sharing our stories, while police dogs barked ominously in the background. I managed to sneak behind some of the cops to place a “Don’t Frack With Our Water” sign in one of the courthouse windows, to the cheers of those gathered in the courtyard below. Eventually Fitzgerald returned to his office, only to tell those gathered inside and out that he would be glad to meet us if we wanted to schedule a meeting, but that he was too busy to talk with us; he refused our requests to take even a minute to say anything more to us. Seeing that the police weren’t interested in arresting any of us, and after having occupied the office for the whole day, the 11 occupiers declared victory and vowed to return.

[Activists occupy Allegheny County executive Rich Fitzgerald’s office to protest his support of fracking in County Parks. Photo credit: Robert van Waarden.]



[Activists gather in the courtyard of the Allegheny County courthouse to protest fracking in county parks. Photo credit: Robert van Waarden.]

All together, Power Shift 2013 was an amazing and inspiring experience. More than 220 people made the weekend journey all the way from California (some of us spending more than 24 hours in airports, on planes, and on buses to do so). A group of us during the statewide breakout committed to continuing the work moving forward by starting a statewide Food System Working Group to network and support students working on various aspects of changing the industrial food system, from community gardens to food cooperatives. If you’d like to get involved with this effort, please email eric@cofed.org for more information. If you’re not a student in California, but you’re interested in finding out how you can work to change the food system on your campus and in your community, please email for more info, and I’ll connect you to an organizer in your area. If you’re interested in working to Shift the Power in some way other than through the food system, that’s great too! Feel free to also email me for more information about connecting with organizations, including the California Student Sustainability Coalition and others across the country, that are working to stop fracking, mountaintop removal, tar sands, and other forms of fossil fuel extraction, and are working to implement the clean energy and solidarity economy solutions that will bring about the thriving, just, and sustainable future we all know is possible.

[California Power Shift attendees gather for a photo after the statewide breakout. Photo credit: Jesse Lyon.]

UC Berkeley Student Government Passes Resolution Calling on Governor to Ban Fracking

by Ella Teevan

and Contributing Writer Roberta Giordano

Berkeley, CA, December 4, 2013 – The students of UC Berkeley have spoken their minds about the controversial practice of fracking, and their message is loud and clear: “Frack is wack!” On Wednesday night, the Associated Students of the University of California at Berkeley (ASUC) Senate voted in support of a fracking ban in California, with unanimous support from members present.

“The ASUC stands united in opposing the harmful and regressive practice of fracking,” said Nolan Pack, Executive Vice President of the ASUC. “Extraction of fossil fuels, including, fracking continues to do irreparable harm to the environment. The extraction and use of fossil fuels disproportionately harms low-income communities, often of color, in the Unites States, and developing nations all over the world – both through direct pollution and climate injustice. Continuing the use of fracking in California is unconscionable in a day and age when a renewable energy infrastructure should be our highest priority.”

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a dirty and extremely dangerous method of oil and natural gas extraction. It’s been garnering ever-increasing debate and media attention in recent months, especially in California, where the Monterey Shale is estimated to contain up to 15 billion barrels of oil recoverable by fracking and other new technologies. Fracking involves injecting a toxic brew of chemicals into the earth to fracture the shale and release the fossil fuels inside. This process threatens our air and water quality, wildlife and ecosystems, climate, and human health.

“We are inspired by the actions of the students at Berkeley and the ASUC in standing up for a ban on fracking in California,” said Rose Braz of the Center for Biological Diversity, a member organization of Californians Against Fracking. “Together, we are part of a growing grassroots movement across the state that will ban fracking.”

About ten students and activists gathered at Wednesday’s ASUC Senate meeting, holding signs that read, “Students Against Fracking” and “Climate Leaders Don’t Frack.” Among the groups represented were Californians Against Fracking, the statewide coalition of more than 150 organizations united to ban fracking, and the Student Environmental Resource Center (SERC). These groups, along with members of several other campus groups like CALPIRG, Cal Dems, the Center for Biological Diversity, and California Student Sustainability Coalition (CSSC), met Monday to begin forming a coalition, Students Against Fracking at UC Berkeley, which they hope to spread to the state and national level.

The Students Against Fracking at UC Berkeley coalition plans to meet again before the semester ends to strategize about how it can provide support and strengthen the already existing statewide anti-fracking movement. “Cal students are 30 minutes away from communities that have been heavily impacted by fossil fuel industries,” said Roberta Giordano of SERC. “The time for students to stand up in solidarity and take action alongside community members has come.”

The recent attention to fracking on campus and in the media follows in the wake of several other widely publicized student environmental protests. On Halloween, several groups, including Fossil Free Cal, held a rally on Sproul Plaza calling for the University of California to divest its funding from the fossil fuel industry. Last month, student and activist groups staged another rally on Sproul to protest the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

The ASUC is the first student government in California to pass a bill calling for a ban on fracking. The vote is in keeping with the ASUC’s history of passing environmentally progressive legislation, including bills opposing the Keystone XL pipeline, calling on the University of California to divest its endowment funds from the fossil fuel industry, and divesting the ASUC’s own funding from fossil fuels.

“The ASUC’s resolution to divest from fossil fuels has been a huge strategic asset as Fossil Free Cal continues its campaign, lending the voice and strength of the student body to our cause,” said Lilly Adams of Fossil Free Cal. “I am confident that the anti-fracking resolution will give the same influence and credibility to Students Against Fracking as they seek a statewide ban.”

For questions: Ella Teevan teevan.ella@berkeley.edu or  Roberta Giordano giordanorobie@berkeley.edu

Linking Students and Communities: A Case Study of the Bay Area’s Battle Against Fossil Fuel Infrastructure

by Arjun Pandava, UC Berkeley student

Contributing Writers Meredith Jacobson and Katie Hoffman

Student movements often fall into the trap of restricting their strategies and alliances to within the walls of their academic spaces.  But this restriction makes little sense, especially given that on many issues, the desires of the local community and the school are one and the same.

This is especially true when examining the struggle against fossil fuels that is currently building momentum in California.  At universities and other educational institutions all across the state, the main form of this struggle is currently the divestment movement (which recently saw the first community college district in the nation commit to divesting its assets from the top 200 carbon companies).  And while this tactic has huge promise and potential, it is one that is largely restricted to organizing among students (even though there is an increasing trend of non-academic institutions, like city councils and banks, talking about divestment).

On the other hand, there exists huge scope to connect students with ongoing struggles in local communities around the issue of fossil fuels.  From Richmond to Bakersfield to Los Angeles, thousands of thousands of people–typically low-income people of color–have to deal with carbon energy not as an abstract investment or a far-off consequence of climate change, but as a facet of day-to-day existence.  To these frontline communities, divestment isn’t about re-investing prudently for the future–it’s about struggling to survive today.

In this context, then, it could be argued that students, a relatively privileged strata of American society, have an obligation to use and exploit this privilege to transfer resources to the struggles of local communities.  After all, isn’t  the very purpose of academia to develop theories and practices to better the collective good, and especially the good of populations who have historically been marginalized from political and economic power?  The resources available to students–trained and motivated researchers, prestigious science journals, and the time and space to use it all–could prove to be critical weapons in the battles that take place at the frontlines of the war between people and Big Carbon.

Building alliances between students and local frontline communities is a critical effort that will yield huge benefits–as well as build the skills and mindsets necessary to build and progress a mass movement for sustainability.  We need to constantly be evaluating in ourselves, our organizations, and our work: what does it mean to be an ally? Working more deeply in the communities around our colleges and universities will allow us to explore this question and make truly meaningful and lasting coalitions.

Students in the Bay Area have some very unique opportunities to build networks with existing communities and their struggles against fossil fuels.  The Bay has long been a leading front in the general struggle for a sustainable and equitable society, but the rapid expansion of unconventional oil production means that the organization of resistance, and the advocacy for alternatives, must undergo a proportional acceleration.

[A longer version of this section of the essay, with a few more paragraphs and citations/links, can be found here.]

Existing Infrastructure, Existing Pollution

There are currently five oil refineries in the Bay Area, run by five different companies:

All of these refineries are located in the north-east of the Bay Area.  Four out of five of the refineries are in Contra Costa County; the exception (the Benicia Refinery, in Solano County) is located right across the waterway from the two refineries in Martinez.  These areas are populated mostly by working-class people of color; both Richmond and Pittsburg, for example, are around 80% non-White.

The environmental track record of these refineries has been less than stellar.  Many who reside in the Bay Area will remember the explosion and resulting fire at the Richmond site that occurred during the summer of 2012.  There was also a similar incident that occurred at the Tesoro’s Martinez site in late 2011, when a power outage caused most of the refinery’s systems to fail.

Accident at the Golden Eagle Refinery, Martinez–2011

Accident at the Chevron Richmond Refinery–2012

Another view of the 2012 Chevron Richmond Refinery accident

And these are not just one-time incidents; even when not exploding or catching on fire, oil refineries present constant and ongoing sources of pollution for local communities; indeed, air pollution violations are basically the industry norm:

Chevron had 95 violations, while the low was 87 violations for the Shell oil refinery in Martinez, according to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.  Valero in Benicia (Solano County) had 224 violations, Tesoro had 164 and ConocoPhillips had 130 violations, the air district reported.  The violations include technical errors — such as a monitor not working correctly — as well as excessive emissions from the plant.

The high rates of pollution from Bay Area refineries results in dangerously high levels of toxin exposure to local residents.  A study published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2009 found that “Indoor air in nearly half of Richmond homes exceeded California’s annual ambient air quality standard for PM-2.5, often considered an aggregate measure of air pollution.”  Indoor concentrations of pollutants and toxins were also extremely high when compared to a control case, and concentrations of nickel and vanadium were “among the highest in the state.”  (Brody 2009: 600-609)

And going outside to escape poor indoor conditions accomplishes little; the air quality in Contra Costa County is absurdly low, at 25.3 on a scale of 100 (the average score for the US is 82.8).

Impacts on Local Public Health

The proximity of Bay Area refineries to residential areas means that for thousands of people, environmental externalities are a fact of daily life–rather than an abstraction that such issues are often reduced to in green activist spaces.  Sandy Saetuern, a South-East Asian refugee and resident of Richmond, describes the experience of going to school within a mile of the Chevron refinery:

“At school, along with earthquake drills, we were practicing chemical explosion drills.  I remember once coming out and the playground was enveloped in smoke. The smell was really awful, a strong, sort of gassy smell, and you couldn’t see a couple of feet in front of you. We were all coughing.”

As one might expect, incidents like this–as well as the more constant and structural release of toxins and pollutants–results in disproportionate health outcomes for locals.  For instance, there is a persistently high rate of asthma for residents of the East Bay:

Exposure to pollution has long been a concern for families across the Bay Area, from the waterfront industries in Oakland and Pittsburg to the oil refineries in Benicia and Martinez to the clogged freeways that traverse the South Bay and Peninsula. In Alameda County, the asthma hospitalization rate — 20.3 stays for every 10,000 children — is nearly twice the state average and the third-highest in California, next to rates in Imperial and Fresno counties. Some Oakland neighborhoods sent children to the hospital two or three times as often as that.

Asthma isn’t the only health effect that locals have to worry about;  the chemicals that are routinely released, and end up in people’s homes (as found by research like the 2009 article in the American Journal of Public Health), are consistently linked to health problems ranging from chronic bronchitis to cancer.  The fact that there aren’t consistent efforts to study and document these effects, especially in the context of future plans to expand existing petrochemical facilities, constitutes structural neglect for the communities who bear the brunt of industrial externalities.

Expansion Plans

It is bad enough that the communities in the northern Bay Area have to deal with the presently existing fossil-fuel infrastructure.  However, the recent boom in the North American oil industry–brought on by technological innovations in oil extraction such as hydraulic fracking–is putting even more pressure on these already marginalized communities as fossil-fuel corporations are now attempting to expand their operations and invest in even more capacity to process new and dirtier forms of oil.  Some of the impending expansion plans are listed below:

  • Chevron Richmond Refinery, Richmond: Chevron has plans to invest $1B into its Richmond refinery, in an effort to upgrade the site to be able to process high-sulfur crude oil.  Chevron officials claim that emissions from the site will not be increased; almost everybody else has serious doubts about this claim.

  • Benicia Refinery, Benicia: Valero is attempting to build up capacity to import oil by rail, which will likely be dominated by tar sand imports.

  • WesPac Energy, Pittsburg: Wespac, an energy infrastructure company, wants to expand its existing oil terminal and storage site to deal with the expected increase in the transportation and refinement capacity of Bay Area oil infrastructure.

And in general, as Contra Costa Times reports, the expansion plans are heavily cruxed on increased development of the aforementioned tar sands being exploited in Canada:

Phillips 66 in Rodeo already brings in trains filled with tar sands crude, and Chevron Richmond refines it. Shell in Martinez receives processed tar sands oil in the form of synthetic crude. Tesoro Golden Eagle in Avon, near Martinez, wants to bring in the heavy crude — which is refined from an unconventional petroleum deposit that has the texture and smell of tar mixed with sand — by rail. And Benicia’s Valero refinery hopes to bring in 70,000 barrels a day of North American crude by rail and spend $30 million to increase its infrastructure to handle it, according to investment reports, environmental studies and company profiles.

Community Resistance and Imminent Struggles

While community activism has garnered some concessions from companies like Chevron in the form of donations to local schools and health centers, the general future outlook for the population of the Bay Area in general appears grim.  As stated before, the rise of unconventional oil production has companies gearing up to expand their infrastructure.  This translates into new pipelines crossing through East Bay communities and ecologies, increased movement of oil and oil products via rail and ship, and increased capacity for refining and storing petroleum products.

The most imminent struggle between communities and carbon is in Pittsburg, a town on the north-eastern side of the Bay.  This town has long hosted oil storage facilities, and “boasts” even higher asthma rates than Richmond; now (as stated above) WesPac Energy is seeking to expand these storage sites even further:

WesPac Energy–Pittsburg LLC (WesPac) will modernize and reactivate the existing marine terminal, oil storage and transfer facilities at the GenOn Pittsburg Generating Station located at 696 West 10th Street.  It will be used to transport and store virgin and partially refined crude oil.  All products will be transferred by pipeline, rail, ship or barge and will be stored in the storage tanks on site.  The crude oil will be shipped to local refineries through existing pipelines. One pipeline is already connected to the facility and the other will require a new pipeline to connect to it, approximately 2,400 feet long.

This increase in carbon infrastructure will put even more pressure on an already burdened community.  From East Bay Express:

“Pittsburg always gets dumped on,” added longtime community activist Jim MacDonald in an interview. He noted that the city already hosts two fossil fuel power plants and a facility to store petroleum coke, a toxic refinery byproduct. In a city with high numbers of low-income residents, many of whom are people of color, MacDonald said his “issue is environmental justice.”

In response to this imminent deepening of carbon infrastructure, residents of Pittsburg have formed the Pittsburg Defense Council (PDC), and have been pouring countless hours into knocking on doors and letting people know about the impending increase in the threat to their public health.  A protest march is set to happen on January 11th, and general strategies are being developed with regards to how to best confront a business-interest-dominated city council which, as of right now, will be more than happy to give WesPac the leeway to build up fossil-fuel infrastructure.  Final decisions for whether the project will be approved will be made early 2014, and so this is a critical time period in which pressure has to be applied to prevent the project from coming through.

At first glance, this may seem like an isolated struggle against the degradation of public health and local ecology by a small local community.  But in reality, the Pittsburg front is a struggle that parallels the struggles that emerging all along the West coast of Anglo-America. From British Columbia to Seattle to the Bay Area to Los Angles, fossil fuel companies are cheerfully planning the roll-out of more carbon infrastructure–never mind the impact on local communities, or the global implications of the continued production and consumption of fossil-fuels.

These interconnections have been recognized by communities, and has translated into the formation of coalitions like The Sunflower Alliance, whose goals is to coordinate and build solidarity between the various anti-carbon community groups in Northern California.  This logic of solidarity and grassroots networking is also espoused by Communities for a Better Environment, an environmental justice-oriented group that works with residents across California who are fighting to protect the public health.

If Pittsburg wins its struggle, then Richmond is in an even better position to prevent the expansion of Chevron’s refinery.  And if both Pittsburg and Richmond triumph, then the proposed import/export terminals for other sites will also be on weaker footing.  And in general, the more success the Bay Area has in preventing the consolidation of the fossil-fuel industry, then the more success that other regions up and down the West Coast will have–and vice versa.  And on the broader field, these strategies to undermine the fossil fuel industry and prevent its further deployment are essential if we are to move toward a sustainable, zero-carbon future, and reverse the ongoing global ecological crisis.

This is why it is crucial that people across the Bay Area–and indeed, California–rally in support of the people of Pittsburg, and against Wespac.  A victory for Pittsburg is a victory for the Bay Area, and a victory for the Bay Area is a victory for California–and so on!

Spotlight on Butte’s Anti-Fracking Beer Campaign

by Katie Wilken, Butte College student

Interviewed by Meredith Jacobson, CSSC Online Content Manager



What is the general summary of this campaign?

Sparked by issues of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in our local community, we have started this campaign as a way to bring awareness about fracking for liquid natural gas and shale oil in California to a broader audience – especially to those who may not be focused on the issue already. Chico is a beer drinking town and many college students gladly support the local products of the Sierra Nevada brewery. During a break out session at Powershift 2013, we considered Sierra Nevada’s efforts to operate sustainably and the respect their products receive with their name. We suggested joining with a local brewery, like their Chico factory, and persuading the production team to develop an activist beer as a means of advertisement for the anti-fracking movement. We are currently working on our pitch to the Sierra Nevada production team and are hoping it will be a successful project.

Who is running this campaign? What organization, how many students?

This campaign is made up of nine students taking a capstone class as part of the Butte College Sustainability Studies Certificate program. We are all at different points of completion of the certificate, but all provide something unique to incorporate with the project.

What successes have you had?

So far we have had a successful brainstorming and divided up tasks. We will be holding meetings and working on our pitch for the next few weeks.

What are the next steps?

We are planning to visit the Sierra Nevada taproom to sample their beer varieties so we can properly research possible ingredients for our anti-fracking ale. This project provides an opportunity to learn about beer brewing, and if we are going to present on a beer brew idea, we’d feel better knowing a bit about it first. We also figured we would take a free tour and research the process of beer brewing at the factory, which will help us figure out how much water is involved in making beer – and the actual impacts Sierra Nevada would face if fracking chemicals contaminated their ground water source. Since finals are around the corner and within our group we have students traveling for the winter break, we are getting as much as possible done now and meeting up to present our idea to the Sierra Nevada brewery production team around the first of February of 2014. We would like to bust through the doors with our idea, but we want to be well prepared and stress free about the process.

Why this campaign? Why are you excited about it?

Campaigning against hydraulic fracturing is important all Californians because our water systems are so precious. We can’t replace our aquifers with bottles of Dasani, so we need to fight back to maintain the fresh water that we have. I hope that through this project, we as a class are capable of persuading Sierra Nevada brewery into creating an anti-fracking ale to educate people of the issues surrounding hydraulic fracturing.


You can read about Sierra Nevada Brewing Company’s Sustainability Mission here.

Divestment / Reinvestment with Bill McKibben and Billy Parish

“Invest. Divest. Remind folks there’s no contradiction between a sound environment and strong economic growth.” — President Obama


Billy Parish of Mosaic. http://unreasonableinstitute.org/profile/bparish/




Bill McKibben of 350.org           http://www.variety-playhouse.com/event/350-org-presents-do-the-math-featuring-bill-mckibben/

On Tuesday, November 26, at 11 am PT / 2 pm ET, two giants of the environmental movement will host a discussion on the major issue of the day: divestment and reinvestment. Bill McKibben of 350.org and Billy Parish of Mosaic, will lead a Google Hangout moderated by Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins of Green For All.

Join the conversation and stream the action here.  If you have trouble viewing the page, the hangout can be found here:   http://joinmosaic.com/blog/moneyshift-divestment-reinvestment

Learn more about the CSSC’s statewide divestment campaign, Fossil Free

A First Time Experience at the CSSC Convergence

Photo Credit: http://now.humboldt.edu/news/hsu-hosts-statewide-sustainability-conference/

by Kristy Drutman, UC Berkeley


Last weekend, I was able to have the honor of attending my first ever life-changing convergence at Humboldt State! Only a few weeks before I had attended Powershift 2013, a nationwide environmental conference, but for some reason this convergence left a much larger impact upon me. Simply driving up to Humboldt was an incredible journey, and I was able to interact with environmental leaders in the Bay who are working endlessly to promote sustainability.

Coming to the convergence I was not sure what to expect, and was a little intimidated by the work of students who are incredibly devoted to divestment campaigns. I was even more frazzled when it came to choosing just one workshop out of so many great options. I finally decided to attend the workshop that discussed how to communicate climate education to lower socio-economic groups and minorities. This particular workshop intrigued me because I love public speaking and I am currently enrolled in a class at Cal called “Communicating Sustainability.” From Powershift, I learned about how challenging it is to speak to a family about global warming when they are worried about feeding their children at night. This workshop allowed us to connect a program protecting the health of Latinos to an environmental organization wanting to protect endangered species. Intersectionality blew my mind, and it became transparent that building sustainable communities requires us as environmental leaders to step back and allow these communities to create their own paths to environmental justice. We can provide the tools and the programs to guide these communities in the right direction, but ultimately these areas will thrive if they are lead by someone they identify with.

The other workshop I truly enjoyed was focused on environmental economics. The conversation was focused on our current capitalist system and if or how we could begin to change something that seems so immovable. We delved into the complicated network of the job market and what’s even more abstract- the power of money. It made me realize how destructive consumerism has been on America, and that people need to remember that money really does not buy happiness.

Along with this I picked up new interests in horticulture and urban planning, and how vital it is to focus on improving my personal habits and my local community. After spending a night under the stars in Trinidad, visiting the famous Arcata marsh, and ending the conference with a sustainabilibuddy spiral hug, I felt at home. California is such a progressive state with blossoming innovations and brilliant environmental leaders. Being in a place with so much love and passion made me remember why sustainability is a lifelong challenge that is worth fighting for. From dancing with all of you at night to enjoying delicious vegan bites near breathtaking redwoods, my first convergence was worthwhile. I cannot wait to be more involved in environmental justice and to network with even more of you at the Spring Convergence in Santa Barbara! Go CSSC!

Fossil Fuel Haunting UC-Wide Action

UC students across California did not stay behind closed doors on Halloween! Dressed as ghosts of a Fossil Future, we haunted our campuses and warned of the dark reality laying ahead if we sit quietly and remain tied to the fossil fuel industry! We urged our peers and our administrators to help us avoid a Fossil Future and to move toward climate justice! #FossilFreeUC #ActOnClimate #DivestNow
Share these memes with your friends and “like” the Fossil Free UC Facebook page for fossil fuel “facts of the day” and more entertaining memes to come! Every day until the UC Regent’s Meeting on Monday, November 12th, Fossil Free UC will post a different fact that you can share to your so
cial networks. Join the movement and spread the word: the momentum just keeps building!
For more updates and info on how you can get involved, check out:




The Power is Already Shifting

Photo Credit: Ophir Bruck

The Power is Already Shifting

by Meredith Jacobson

        There’s a special type of energy that forms when passionate people fighting for change fill a space. It resonates. It bounces off the walls. It enters our lungs as we breath, laugh, and listen. It escapes through the doors and windows and fills empty spaces. It spreads out into the pores of the city. As I sit on the bus rolling away from Power Shift and Pittsburgh, that energy is inside me, tickling all of my senses.

        Power Shift is a conference for the young at heart who are dedicated to overcoming the climate crisis and the fossil fuel industry, and creating a world that is socially, economically, and ecologically just. Every other year since 2007, thousands of young people from around the country have converged in one place to build a movement strong and diverse enough to create the world that all of us want to live in. For the first time ever, Power Shift 2013 took place in Pittsburgh, instead of D.C., to gather in a city that is revitalizing but also grappling with the reality of fracking nearby and across Pennsylvania.

        For me, it all began when I arrived to the Pittsburgh Airport. My boyfriend Steve and I were just two of over 200 Californians who made the pilgrimage to the east coast. We hurried to baggage claim after landing, converging with old friends who had traveled east on different flights. We were giddy.  As we got on a shuttle, a young woman asked, “Are you all going to Power Shift?” Our faces beamed when we answered yes. Maybe it was the fact that we were all young and wearing backpacks, or maybe it was the excitement streaming out of our faces and into each other, but that Friday night, it felt as though Power Shift was taking over the city. Somehow, we could recognize each other in pizza shops and on the streets of Pittsburgh – it was like a gigantic family reunion, except I hadn’t met most of the family yet.

        When I was in high school in D.C., I attended Power Shift 2009, the second and largest of the four that have taken place. It was the start of what I knew then would be a lifetime of activism and organizing for me. I was in a different point in my life then, awake to the problems in the world but still dazed and daunted. So was the climate justice movement. In 2009, speakers like Bill McKibben and Van Jones called us to action with new narratives and stories about the “movement” and “environmental justice.” In green hardhats, we lobbied and rallied against coal-fired power plants and environmental injustice in the February snow. We came together to discuss what sort of “green” economy we envisioned, what sort of strategies we might use, and how to expand the movement to include as many different types of people as possible. In short, it was the beginning.

        Four years later, it’s not the beginning anymore. As I wandered the convention center, attended workshops, listened to speakers, reconnected with old friends, and met new people, something was clear – the power is already shifting. I feel it, I really do. Four years ago, no one had begun to use the tactic of fossil fuel divestment to advance the vision of climate justice. Four years ago, we were mostly a group of environmentalists hoping to expand our network to other circles. Four years ago, we were very sure of what we were against, but rather unsure of what we were for. This time around, I interacted with more types of people interested in more types of issues working on more types of campaigns and projects: from Appalachia Rising, to eco-feminism, to Grid Alternatives, to the Soul of the Cities project. In fact, Power Shift has diversified so much, that there was a session on “Biocentrism” and how to incorporate its more ecological philosophy in a movement that is increasingly human-centric.


The California crew at Power Shift ’13. Photo Credit: Jesse Lyon

     What does it mean to be a “climate justice” movement? At Power Shift, I realized it’s not actually about ending climate change. Tackling climate change is the vessel we are using to make our communities livable for all inhabitants, human and non-human, into the future. Of course, we won’t have livable communities if we don’t address climate change, and that’s what we’re doing. But at its core, this movement is about creating communities that we all want to live in, and that means a lot of things – not just lowering our parts per million. It means we have the capacity and the obligation to change all the status quos that we want and need to change.

     On Saturday morning I attended a panel called “A Cage or a Classroom?: The School to Prison Pipeline Affecting EJ Communities.” I listened to a dialogue that I personally had never heard before, but one that’s so important here in California. The panelists discussed how our society discounts young people and how our culture imprisons rather than rehabilitates. What does that mean for the future of the planet? How can our youth start making positive change in their communities if so many end up in a cycle of imprisonment? Ending the schools to prisons pipeline is one key step to a better future for people and planet. Organizations like Dream Defenders and the Hear Me Project are working on just that. Over the course of the weekend, I heard from amazing young people revolutionizing transportation systems in their cities, connecting people to local clean energy solutions, organizing on the frontlines against injustices like fracking and mining, rehabilitating and restoring “at-risk” communities, addressing environmental racism head-on, forming unstoppable coalitions, and honestly, just not taking shit from anyone anymore.


At the rally on October 21st. Photo Credit: Jesse Lyon

        Even with all this momentum, sometimes I get jaded. Let’s be honest, don’t we all? There are those moments when it just seems like it can’t be done. Like everything is corrupt and everything has been tried already and we are falling in quicksand and there’s no rope to pull me out. Like the time has run out. Trust me, I know how easy it is to get caught spinning in confusion, fear, distrust, and resignation. And I think this falling is extremely important. We need to constantly give ourselves reality checks, question our motives, look critically at the movement. As others have done, we need to question the effectiveness of Power Shift and continuously work to make it stronger and more aligned with our vision of justice. We need to stare hypocrisy and injustice in the face, and address problems within our organizations as we continue moving forward with campaigns and projects.

      But now that I’ve gotten used to this type of falling, I’m starting to learn how to recognize the ropes that I can climb up to get back into the game. They come in the form of genuine smiles, new friendships, stories of hope, hands in the dirt, seeds sprouting, chanting together in the streets, boundary-shattering conversations, big and small victories (De Anza Community College voted to divest last week!). I’ve learned to recognize these ropes, because my life depends on it. Like all of you who I met at Power Shift, I think I am what Tom Steyer called in his speech an “identity warrior” – this fight for justice defines who I am and what my life means. It’s what I live for.

        It may be cliché, but that golden feeling of strength in numbers just never gets old. Kandi Mosset reminded us all on Saturday night that “as individual fingers, we are easily broken, but together we are a mighty fist.” During the march against fracking on Monday, a small group of people started singing “this little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,” and oh, were they shining. To all those who attended Power Shift, and those who are shifting the power all around this magnificent world, thank you. Thank you so very much. We are greater than fossil fuels. We are greater than big banks. We are greater than injustice. Do you believe this in your heart? I do.


Marching in solidarity with Pennsylvanians against fracking. Photo credit: Meredith Jacobson

UCSC Common Ground Center Hosts Music, Media, Activism, and Aloha!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – October 24, 2013

PRESS CONTACT – David Shaw, (831) 207-4206, daveshawlistens@gmail.com

Slack key guitar player Makana and TEDxMaui founder Katie McMillan to speak at UCSC’s Common Ground Center about the power of art and digital media to impact social change

SANTA CRUZ, October 24, 2013 – The UCSC Common Ground Center is hosting an evening presentation featuring Hawaii-based slack key guitar player Makana and TEDxMaui founder Katie McMillan, who will share their experiences on the power of art and digital media to impact social change. From the tactical to the visionary, this is an opportunity to learn from two individuals who have merged their desire to create a better world into their life’s work. What have they learned? What are the challenges and risks? Where are the opportunities and gifts? How can you build a successful career with a social mission?

Described as “dazzling” by the New York Times, Makana is an internationally acclaimed guitarist, singer, and composer who is widely known for lending his musical talent for social change. When he was asked to play for President Obama and other world leaders at an APEC World Leaders’ Dinner, he saw it not only as an opportunity to showcase his musical talent but also as an opportunity to get a powerful message to world leaders. His plan resulted in major media coverage from outlets such as CNN and Yahoo and became the #1 news story on Yahoo worldwide for two days. Through his music, he galvanized a community hungry for social change. In 2011, at the apex of the “Occupy” movement, Makana’s song We Are the Many went viral on YouTube, garnering more than half a million views and was coined the “Occupy Anthem” by Rolling Stone magazine. His sound, while rooted in the tradition of Hawaiian slack key guitar, encompasses multiple genres to include folk, pop, world, and his own unique style coined “slack rock.” With music ranging from Hawaiian classics to sexy love ballads to songs of resistance, Makana is not only keeping Hawaii’s musical traditions alive–he’s evolving them.

Katie McMillan founded TEDxMaui, and along with a small team has produced two very successful events that have been seen by over a million viewers. Not only have two TEDxMaui talks been selected for TED.com, the event has also inspired local residents to launch numerous innovative businesses. Perhaps, the most exciting result is that it has inspired local youth to dream big and share their ideas. The first TEDxMauiYouth event will take place in April 2014.

Following the conversation with Makana and Katie McMillan, Makana will perform a few songs from his new album Ripe.

The event is sponsored by UCSC’s Common Ground Center at Kresge College. The mission of the Common Ground Center is to “create cultural change for social justice, environmental regeneration and economic viability”. The Center hosts a series of public lectures and workshops based on this mission, as well as undergraduate courses, two themed residence halls, and a range of student-led activities. A list of subsequent talks, and more information, can be found at kresge.ucsc.edu/commonground.

“Music, Media, Activism, and Aloha! with Hawaiian Musician Makana and TEDxMaui Founder Katie McMillan” is Monday, November 4, 2013, 5 – 7 PM, at the UCSC Kresge Seminar Room #159. It is free and open to the public. Parking is $3 in the Core West Parking Garage. More parking information is online at http://kresge.ucsc.edu/commonground/about/parking.html

Common Ground Center, Email: commonground@ucsc.edu

Web: http://kresge.ucsc.edu/commonground

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/commongroundcenter

Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/532812396787407/

2013 Building Resilient Communities Convergence

The Northern California Permaculture & Transition Network invite the California Student Sustainability Coalition to join us for the:

     2013 Building Resilient Communities Convergence      

        October 11-13 at the Solar Living Institute in Hopland, CA

**CSSC members use discount code THRIVE2013 for a special discounted $50 weekend pass!

        Visit www.transitiontopermaculture.org to learn more and purchase tickets.

Read on for our amazing line-up of speakers, workshops, live music, & more.

Tickets Available Here:


  • Workshops: from some of Northern California’s most rocking community organizations and educators like Daily Acts, Bay Localize, Living Mandala, Urban Tilth, Movement Generation, Permaculture Artisans, Regenerative Design Institute, Generation Waking-Up and many more

  • Skill Shares: DIY skills in permaculture, natural building, new economy, clean energy, food production, herbal medicine, environmental justice, community organizing, systems-thinking, holistic healing, and more.
  • Open Space & Bio-regional Networking: Plenty of opportunities to brainstorm, cross-pollinate, make new connections, meet your new partner,connect with old friends, and build a movement!

  • Music & Festivities: Featuring a Community Barn Dance and Dance Party with live music from The Julian Trio, The Dogon Lights, DJ Dragonfly, Zion Lion + the Ultimate Permaculture Transition Passion Show!
  • Keynote Speakers: Rob Hopkins – Transition Network Movement Founder, John Trudell – Native American Activist, Poet, Speaker, Konda Mason – HUB Oakland – Co-Founder and CEO, Richard Heinberg – author, Post Carbon Institute Senior Fellow, Andy Lipkis – TreePeople founder and president, Doria Robinson – Urban Tilth Executive Director, Julia Butterfly Hill, Penny Livingston-Stark & more.

And just when you thought it couldn’t get any better…

A Stunning Location

We’re excited to host the Convergence at the beautiful and whimsically sustainable Solar Living Institute.

We’re offering free camping for those who can’t get enough time in nature. We encourage participants to organize rideshares and caravans – SLI is only a 2 hour drive from San Francsico and we promise your trip will be worth it!

A Special Invitation to Next-Generation Leaders

We believe it is imperative to empower and equip young people with the awareness and skills they need to step up to the challenge of inheriting a planet in upheaval.

We are excited to offer a special youth track which includes youth leadership workshops from Generation Waking Up in addition to our regular speakers and workshops.

Help Us Build a Model Resilient Community

By hosting a booth modeling one aspect of a resilient community (ex: free library, community radio, clothing swap, etc.). Those selected will receive one free weekend convergence pass. Visit our website to learn more and apply!

 Diversity Scholarship Fund.
Please consider supporting… 
Your contribution – of any size – will directly provide for scholarships and transportation to make this gathering accessible for youth, participants and leaders from under-served and diverse communities.

Celebrate the Harvest!

Wait until you hear what’s in store for your taste buds…a community kitchen, affordable local cuisine, and a Saturday evening Harvest Banquet Feast.

In the spirit of abundance, we’ll also be trading food vouchers for fresh organic produce or work shifts in the kitchen.


Work-trade application now available!

Work-trade recipients will receive a deeply discounted weekend convergence pass and meal vouchers in exchange for helping to keep things running smoothly.

Work-trade spots are limited so pleasevisit our website to apply now!

Want to become involved?
If your project or organization is aligned with our vision of building resilient communities, we invite you to host a booth at the Convergence. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO

Would you like to become sponsor/affiliate?
If you are involved with an organization or a business, we are still seeking affiliates or sponsors for this event. You will be recognized for helping get the word out or for helping underwrite a major community gathering.

Help us build a village?
If you are individual who has the means to support our scholarship fund to help make the Convergence accessible to all, please consider making a tax-deductible charitable contribution. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFO

Diversity is a core principle in creating living systems. That’s why I’m glad the Permaculture community is working hard to include more people of color and youth at the upcoming Building Resilient Communities Convergence. Cultural diversity will lead to a better conference which will produce a more resilient movement. -Van Jones, Principal and Founder, Rebuild the Dream

Towards Resilient Communities,

– The 2013 Building Resilient Communities Organizing Team



Copyright © 2013 2013 Building Resilient Communities, All rights reserved.
Our mailing address is:

2013 Building Resilient Communities

30 Castro Avenue, San Rafael, CA 94901

Add us to your address book

Apply to Solar Spring Break!

GRID Alternatives is looking for CSSC students to apply to their national Alternative Break Program happening in March 2014.

Solar Spring Break gives college students the opportunity to spend their spring vacation week installing solar in underserved communities with GRID Alternatives. GRID Alternatives is a California-based non-profit that brings the benefits of solar to families that need them most. You’ll get hands-on experience with renewable energy while making a difference for people and the planet!

Check out the SolarSpringBreakFlyer for more information, including program dates and locations.

Sound like something your interested in? Apply today at the GRID Alternatives website, where you can also find more information about this awesome organization.

Have questions? Contact Lilly Zoller, lzoller@gridalternatives.org


Why YOU Should Register for the Fall Convergence

Have you heard? Registration is now open for the Fall 2013 Convergence at Humboldt State University! Our team is hard at work to ensure that November 9th-10th will be the most inspiring, educational, and energizing weekend it can be.

Not sure that the convergence is for you? Check out Past Convergence Experiences or watch this video with footage taken at our Spring 2012 Convergence. Still not convinced? Here are some of our favorite reasons why you should attend this fall’s convergence.

  1. Because sustainability is important for anyone planning on inhabiting the planet at any point in the future… that’s YOU!
  2. To make friends with passionate students from across the state of California, and lasting network contacts in many different fields.
  3. Because this is FOR the students, BY the students!
  4. To learn how the fight for social, economic, and environmental justice is one.
  5. To spend time in the beautiful northern corner of our state.
  6. Because Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
  7. To enjoy amazing student-led workshops: create, learn, and be amazed by the things your peers are doing with and for the Earth.
  8. Because this convergence focuses on the ever important and timely topic of food sustainability, and we all eat food, right?
  9. FOOOOOD… yumm… With your convergence registration, you get to enjoy FOUR delicious, sustainable, and homemade meals!
  10. To realize how much you can make a profound impact in our world – get empowered!
  11. Because the system has got to change  and we ARE that change.
  12. To be a part of something larger than the individual. It’s crazy how empowering convergences are!
  13. To break down stereotypes about what is “sustainability” and who is an “environmentalist.”
  14. Because you have a perspective that no one else has, and we want you to share it with us!
  15. To learn the true meaning of “think locally, act globally.”
  16. To acquire tangible skills that you can take with you back to your campus.
  17. Because I am because you are… Ubuntu!
  18. To take a quick, refreshing break before midterms and finals, and escape the academic “bubble.”
  19. To be the change you wish to see in the world, and meet others who are doing the same.
  20. To take a step back and appreciate the world we live in.
  21. To Build Sustainable Communities (this fall’s convergence theme!)
  22. To learn things you can’t learn in an institutional setting.
  23. To become part of the student sustainability movement in the greatest state in the nation!
  24. To host a workshop on something you are passionate about, and share your knowledge with the world.
  25. To learn why the CSSC is an amazing student-run organization and how to become involved!

Have we convinced you yet? Of course we have! You can register here NOW. Don’t forget to spread the word to all your friends. And if you’re interested in leading a workshop at the convergence, proposals will be accepted until Monday, October 7th – follow this link. Don’t miss out!

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We’re Counting On It: Time to #ActOnClimate

Crossposted from NRDC’s Switchboard and We Are Power Shift

by Rob Friedman, Youth Engagement Coordinator, Natural Resources Defense Council

Over the course of my years in the youth climate movement, I’ve been reminded many times that this work is filled with trials and tribulations.  From the Bella Centre during COP15, when we didn’t get a fair, ambitious and binding international agreement on global emissions, to Power Shift, where we lobbied our members of Congress to pass domestic climate legislation.  We’ve shouted, rallied and some of us have even gotten arrested to demonstrate we are heading in the wrong direction.

Rarely do we receive any validation that we are actually breaking through the smog and getting on the right path towards climate stability.  In June, we had one of those moments when President Obama laid out a bold plan for addressing the climate crisis by reining in dangerous carbon pollution that spews unregulated into our atmosphere from power plants. And while I certainly did not agree with everything the President put forward, it is beyond clear that carbon pollution must be mitigated.

 Just last week, the EPA presented an updated version of regulations that will limit carbon pollution from all new power plants.  Once these standards are in place, no future power plant will ever be able to recklessly emit climate change-inducing pollution into our air.  Standards for existing power plants are in development.  These standards give states the flexibility to determine how to meet limits on carbon emissions through a variety of methods, including programs like RGGI.  The President’s plan also outlined efficiency measures that will ensure that consumers are using less electricity and decreasing overall demand.  We’re counting on these standards to set us on the right track, and while these are huge steps, our work is far from over.

I come at most of my work from an intergenerational lens – that despite the fact that my generation hasn’t caused climate change, we are inheriting this crisis in a very real way, whether we like it or not.  Although this work sometimes feel like a bummer, it is also completely invigorating.  We must keep the pressure up, wherever we can.  In our classrooms, at the dinner table and in the halls of Congress.

In the coming months and years, we will be working at the local level to ensure that states are working alongside the EPA to create strong carbon mitigation strategies for new and existing power plants. College and universities have an enormous role to play in making sure this happens.

Climate change will not be solved by one policy measure or one speech, but if we continue to elevate voices from the frontlines, escalate pressure on our elected officials and maintain focus that we are fighting for not only our own collective futures, but also those of many generations to come, we are going to win.

Eyes on the prize, see you out there.

Workshop Proposals Now Accepted for the Fall 2013 Convergence

The Fall 2013 Convergence at Humboldt State University is taking place November 9th-10th. 

CSSC Convergences are 100% student- and community-powered, and that means we are looking for YOU (yes, you) to run a workshop on a topic or skill that you are passionate about. At this convergence, you’ll have the option of conducting a one-hour long workshop or a two-hour long workshop, at the discretion of the convergence coordinators.

Some workshops that have been held at past convergences:

  • Aquaponics
  • So What is a Cooperative, Anyway?
  • DIY Soap
  • Environmental Justice
  • Empowering Women through Fair Trade
  • Grow your own lettuce bowls
  • Ending Corporate Personhood

And so much more!

Head on over to this link to submit your workshop proposal today. We look forward to learning from you!  

Any questions? Contact Julia: juliaclark.net@gmail.com, Eric: eric@sustainabilitycoalition.org, or Emily: emm76@humboldt.edu



Photo Credit: Phoebe Song










Photo Credit: Kayla Allison Maloney

Upcoming Regional Powershift Convergences

Hello Friends!

For years, students across California have been at the frontlines of the movement for building a clean and just future. Just within the past year, our campus communities have led efforts to divest our institution’s endowments from the fossil fuel industry; to defend our communities from fracking; and to reduce the disproportionate impact of climate change on marginalized communities.

Now with the movement for climate justice rapidly growing across the nation, we are excited to announce that thousands of students and community members will converge on October 18th for Power Shift in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Are you ready to experience the power of youth organizing for climate justice? Come join us on Saturday, September 7th, at 10am for our regional convergences to build momentum for local organizing and campaigns before we all come together in October at Power Shift 2013.

RSVP for a Regional Convergence to get plugged into local organizing in the lead-up to Power Shift 2013!

NorCal address: UC Berkeley, 112 Hillgard Hall (northwest end)

SoCal address: UCLA, 2412 Ackerman Union

Then, in less than 43 days, 10,000 of us will converge in Pittsburgh to develop and launch regional and national campaigns that will advance our vision of a clean, just and sustainable future. We will learn from each other and ultimately build lasting networks that will continue to shape our careers as activists, community leaders, and entrepreneurs.

The momentum is building! Can you feel it?

With passion,

Your CSSC and 350.org Powershift 2013 team

For questions about NorCal convergence contact Roberta Giordano at giordanorobie@berkeley.edu

For questions about SoCal convergence contact Emily Williams at emily@sustainabilitycoalition.org

This Fall with CSSC

Have you read the news lately? It’s an exciting time to be an activist. It’s an exciting time to be working toward positive change in our communities: in California, across the nation, and around the world. CSSC has quite an action-packed semester in the works, and it’s not too late to jump on the bandwagon.



October 18-21st, student organizers and activists will converge in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to create a unified vision for justice, and to build the power to make change possible. 10,000 young people will gather from all corners of the nation, and CSSC hopes to help get 300 Californians to Pittsburgh. At Powershift, we will gain grassroots organizing skills, contribute perspectives, and build connections – don’t miss out on this life-changing opportunity.

Why now? Why us?

It’s increasingly important to recognize our local change-making in the broader context – from the region, to the nation, and ultimately, the globe. Powershift 2013 will be pivotal in training and mobilizing those interested in the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy – a transition that is urgently important in California as fracking becomes a reality on our land. Powershift focuses on constructive solutions that are environmentally and economically just, empowering students to take control in their local communities.

And me? Can I go to Powershift?

Yes! Get in touch with a regional organizer for details about registration and getting yourself to Pittsburgh. Don’t let the cost keep you from attending: CSSC will be launching a fundraising campaign and your school may have scholarships available. Also, if you’re especially stoked, we’re still looking for people to recruit on your campuses! Contact:

Northern California Regional Organizer: Roberta Giordano, giordanorobie@berkeley.edu

Southern California Regional Organizer: Emily Williams, emily@sustainabilitycoalition.org

For more information about Powershift, visit http://www.wearepowershift.org/conference/powershift2013



Where is the Fossil Free Movement, and where is it headed?

 Have you heard the amazing news? Seven out of nine UC student governments have passed resolutions in support of divestment from fossil fuels! The HSU and SFSU student governments have also passed resolutions in favor of divestment, the SFSU administration voted in favor of divesting its foundation from filthy 15 and tar sands companies; and the Claremont Colleges and Stanford University are also actively working on campaigns. The Fossil Free Movement is gaining momentum nationwide, especially as one of 350.org’s premier campaigns. Things are heating up, and even the national news is starting to pay attention.

 It is important to recognize that encouraging our institutions to remove assets from fossil fuels is just the beginning—the larger goal is investing in fossil free alternatives that generate the much needed sustainable, just and locally accountable development projects our state and nation need. CSSC is uniquely positioned to build networks between students, community activists, sustainable developers and other visionaries that can do the necessary work needed to transform our higher education institutions and the communities into models of global sustainability. To do this we plan to foster collaboration among student leaders across the state by providing regional trainings and opportunities to research and publish related work; creating a fossil free CSSC internship program; hosting bi-weekly and monthly coordination calls for various campaigns; and developing a host of online resources with partner organizations including: how-to guides, expert advice from financial experts, templates, and a fossil free student field guide specific to CA. Finally, four student regional coordinators have begun working  with the campaign directors and regional fossil free interns to mobilize for PowerShift 2013 in Pittsburg.

 Stay up to date and “like” the Fossil Free UC Facebook Page

More information Fossil Free California


Emily Williams, Southern California: emily@sustainabilitycoalition.org

Katie Hoffman, Northern California: katie@sustainabilitycoalition.org




This fall’s convergence will be taking place November 9th-10th at Humboldt State University. This convergence focuses on Building Sustainable Communities. By demonstrating successful sustainable communities and providing necessary skills and resources, we will strive to empower students to create their own sustainable communities. We will include aspects of socially just communities, action oriented communities, powering these communities, and the ever important topic of food in communities.

 Are you a Humboldt State student interested in joining the convergence planning team? It’s a big effort and extra brains and hands are always appreciated. Contact Julia Clark: juliaclark.net@gmail.com, Eric Recchia: eric@sustainabilitycoalition.org, or Emily Maloney: emm76@humboldt.edu

 And keep your eye out for more convergence announcements: particularly when the team begins to accept workshop proposals (scheduled for September 9th), and later on when registration opens up (scheduled for September 23rd). We can’t wait to see you there!



CSSC is looking for dedicated student leaders to join the Operating Team this Fall 2012 Cycle (now until the January Leadership Retreat).

 Positions Include:

Online Content Co-Manager (to assist current manager)

Newsletter Editor (to assist current editor)

Regional Events Coordinators (1-2 per region)

 *Refer HERE for descriptions of all CSSC Operating Team positions

 How to Apply:

Please use Application Form to apply today.

Please send your resume to the Operating Team Co Chairs (info below)

Applications are open until September 15th

Your application will be reviewed and voted on by the Op Team and Council


If you have any questions or comments please send them to the Operating Team Co-Chairs: Emili (emabdel@ucdavis.edu) or Kevin (greenchico91@gmail.com)


Anything else?

 CSSC is still in the beginning stages of launching Campus Organizer Trainings (COTs) and an Anti-Fracking Campaign. Stay tuned to hear more about the development of these exciting projects, as we will be looking for passionate interns and organizers to join the team.


Know of an issue, project, event, or campaign you’d like to see publicized on the CSSC website? Contact Online Content Manager Meredith Jacobson, mjacobson20@gmail.com.

Simplicity is Overrated (A Human Being’s Open Declaration of Hope)

Guest post by Hanna Morris, UC Berkeley student. Hanna is teaching a student run course (“DeCal”) at UC Berkeley this fall, called Communicating Sustainability.

Originally posted at Caliber Magazine


“Why do you care so much about the environment?”

I’ve been asked this question countless times throughout my twenty years of existence. Although often asked with the intent of expressing disapproval through a tone of mock curiosity and premise of genuine bemusement, it’s really a perfectly reasonable question. I should have a perfectly reasonable response.

The problem is, my answer is not so simple. And I’m sure my response will not satisfy the question. But, the “issue” of “environmentalism” has become so politicized and so messy and so lost in the void of ideological warfare, that I hope to offer a tiny personal perspective on “why I care so much.”

It started with sea turtles (I wanted to save them) and grew into an identity (one more assigned to me than chosen). I was (and still am) the “environment girl.”

A baby sea turtle “hatchling” I rescued and released as a part of the Caretta Research Project…one of the most beautiful moments of my life.

A baby sea turtle “hatchling” I rescued and released as a part of the Caretta Research Project…one of the most beautiful moments of my life.

Because I grew up in a very politically conservative part of New Jersey and was, to speak frankly, rejected as “weird” because of my passion for trees and turtles as opposed to Vineyard Vines and George W. Bush, I developed an all-too-common politicized view of the environment I loved. I associated selfish Republican businessmen and preppy high school bullies as the antithesis to conscientious and caring, liberal environmentalists. I chose to view Republicans as destructive and Democrats as constructive, looking to build a more “sustainable” future for both people and the environment.

I fled to Berkeley after high school, telling people I went for the amazing academic program but truthfully, left in search for some sanity and sense of belonging outside of the Wall Street suburbs. But, Berkeley is anything but “sane.”

Living up to its nickname of “Berzerkeley,” my new home was everything I wanted– different and stimulating and interesting and inspiring and the opposite of Somerset Hills, New Jersey. I thought I finally found Utopia.


Berzerkeley is a “one of a kind” sorta place.

But after basking in the sun of radical politics and culture for the past two years, I’m beginning to take notice of my sunburn.

It’s a philosophical cop-out to organize my thoughts in a strictly heads or tales, Right versus Left,political outlook. My hometown calls liberals “ignorant” and my new home calls conservatives “selfish.” Wall Street thinks happiness will come from an open market that exchanges work and time for money and goods whereas Berkeley thinks happiness will come from building a more inclusive and equitable economic and social landscape. But the truth is, adopting either one political perspective or the other is nothing more than a flip of a coin. No one knows what political system will truly make a person happier or our global society healthier. And isn’t that what we are all looking for– happiness?

All I know is, the celebrated trajectory for happiness “society” (including both Republicans and Democrats) has mapped out: elite college education then ethically-questionable but high paying jobthen promotion and lots of money, houses, cars, and pampered babies then pastel-colored retirement condominium in Florida, will not make me happy and may very well compromise the social and environmental health of our global commons. Even without the financial crisis crushing this trajectory as plausible for my generation, I am just not convinced of the Eden it promises.

I certainly can’t speak for everyone, but I feel the most alive and experience the most meaning and emotion and life not when I purchase a new product, but when I watch the sun set and bay water glisten, feel the cool morning breeze and hot desert sun, smell the salty ocean air and wild mountain flowers, hear the river gurgle and thunder crackle, taste the crisp autumn air and cold icy snow.


Beautiful sunset over Wassaw Island coastline.

That’s not to say I only feel a sense of genuine emotion and “happiness” when I’m in nature. I’m profoundly moved when I see and experience how other people interpret, cope with and find meaning from life. I’m inspired by art and literature and music and film that attempt to make sense of our shared struggle and hopeless confusion with what “happiness” is and how we can find it. I feel most connected with other humans, and my own self, when I create and share rather than destroy and take.

But these moments are rare. I mostly experience a feeling of discontent and uneasiness. And although I do speak from a position of great material advantage that cannot be underscored enough, there’s something essential and vital missing from my life that cannot be filled with a “successful” job and car and big house and diamonds and fancy clothes. But if this is what society says will make me happy, and if invoking political change is hopelessly agonizing, then where is my alternative? Where is my future?

Not a very appealing or kindly looking bull…

Not a very appealing or kindly looking bull…

I’ve always been the “environment girl.” It’s my assigned identity in this place called “society.” But, despite the unwanted political and ideological meaning this prescribed label may hold, in answering the big question, “why do you care so much about the environment,” I can say the following: it gives me a sincerely profound sense of hope.

I kind of hate bugs and humidity and absolutely love air conditioning and indoor plumbing. It’s not about going back to “rugged nature” (whatever that may mean), it’s about realizing that our current perception of how to achieve happiness could be enirely wrong. It’s about accepting that we will never know the unknown if we ardently think we do in fact know. And if materialism, consumerism, conformity, social inequity, and the pursuit of a monetary-produced mirage of happiness are what’s replacing nature, then destroying the environment feels very wrong. We could be blindly annihilating the emotional substance of life that creates a real sense of meaning, connection and existence in this vast and cold universe.


A tiny ball of hope in an expansive void of darkness.

I don’t know enough about other life (let alone my own), none of us do. But it gives me hope that if I keep my heart and mind open, I will gain some wisdom and meaning from other people’s brave interpretations and from my own personal experiences. My direction in life isn’t aimless, it’s just unknown. And I hope it will always remain that way.

But if we accept “Western” society’s singular perception of how to achieve “happiness” and, in turn, blindly destroy nature (the undoubted substance of physical life and potential substance of a deeper, more profound emotional life), human creativity and other cultures in pursuit of this fallacy, then my hope will most certainly be destroyed along with it.

This is why I care so much about the environment. And this is why I sincerely hope you do too.

Confessions of a 21st century environmentalist studying abroad in Chile

When I look at myself in the mirror, I see a hypocrite. Depending on the day, this can make me uneasy. But generally, I carry on lightheartedly and without too much preoccupation. I would say that most of the time, I carry a pretty positive self-image. I’ve heard that some other modern activists speak openly about hypocrisy, so the person in the mirror can’t be doing too bad. 

Why a hypocrite? Because I live a 21st century American lifestyle, and I also care about the planet. I was born and raised into a generation of friction, a generation of young people with the world at their fingertips but also on their shoulders. I spent my childhood as an animal-crazy nature-lover, matured into a teenage environmentalist, who morphed into an I-don’t-know-what-to-call-myself-but-I-just-care. My current rejection of a label stems from the fact that I don’t yet have a firm grasp on my worldview. I still can’t figure out for myself how to responsibly live on this planet that I love so dearly. I’m working on it.

I am part of a generation that is aware of the ways the planet is suffering, and of the injustices that people suffer in consequence. We are taught environmental values in school, and we can’t help but stare the evidence of our overly consumptive lifestyle in the face. Climate change is becoming impossible to ignore:  in the news, in our backyards, and in our favorite places to travel. Groundwater contamination spurts out of the tap. Trash floats and piles up before our eyes. The spaces between our communities and parks are filled with never-ending monoculture crops, strip malls, prisons, dumps, power-plants, factories.

But I am also part of a generation of adventurous young people who yearn to experience the diversity and beauty this world has to offer. We love this earth. We love walking on it, eating from it, skiing down it, diving into it, marveling at it, climbing on it, photographing it, writing about it. More and more, people of my generation have the opportunity to travel, to gain worldly consciousness, to become inspired by all that the earth has to offer. Most would agree that this characteristic of the 21st century lifestyle is an overwhelmingly positive one. We have opportunities that no one has had before.

And here appears my story. This January, I boarded a plane to Santiago, Chile, where I am spending six months on international exchange at La Universidad Católica. I am here to immerse myself in a culture completely new to me, to become bilingual, to explore beautiful country and landscapes, and to discover more about myself and how I fit into this overwhelmingly large planet. I feel so fortunate to have this opportunity and am determined to make the best of it.



But with the words of Wendell Berry’s local agronomist gospel ringing in my ears, I know that this experience reflects the hypocrisy and friction I embody as a 21st century environmentalist, as a modern day lover of the earth. I know in my mind and heart that true “sustainability” requires an intensely local lifestyle. As of yet, modern travel is not sustainable (although I have infinite respect for the long-distance bicyclists out there). This is the tragedy of our generation: we are born with such a desire to explore, so much curiosity, such a love of our planet, that we can’t help but damage it.

My philosophical conundrum became visceral when I traveled to Patagonia for a two-week vacation. Three friends and I flew to the far south of Chile to complete a 75-mile backpacking trek in Torres del Paine National Park. During the nine days we spent physically getting to know a living, breathing, often un-relenting corner of earth, we were consistently stricken with awe. We witnessed a one hundred square mile glacier, magnificent winds and waterfalls, forests pulsing with moisture and life, firm and steady rivers, and gorgeous geologic formations. The rhythm of walking my human feet and pushing my muscles through these landscapes inspired me constantly. I felt very close to large-scale cycles of water, energy, and life, the cycles that sustain and destroy on a daily basis and on a geologic timescale. The sky and the earth seemed to be in constant conversation, which I witnessed firsthand through powerful wind and rain. In essence, I felt very close to it all. I felt like a participant of the planet’s processes. After all, I am a participant.


On the most physically draining day of the journey, I pushed my body and backpack up a mountain of stones and shrubs for hours, to ultimately reach a peak overlooking a glacier. The view stopped me in my tracks. Bigger than most lakes I’ve swum in, Glacier Grey reflected blue-white toward my windswept face, and my vision got lost in the swirling curves of its textures and crevasses. Not only was beauty hitting me directly in the face, I was also physically standing before a climatic wonder, a regulator of processes, a testament of cyclic power and millions of years of ancient change. I felt small and fragile, weak and insignificant, the cliché backcountry experience, the reason many of us pitch tents and climb mountains.

Yet as I spent the next day walking kilometers beside Glacier Grey, observing and letting myself be affected by its presence, I became alarmingly aware of my power. My power against the fragility of the planet. I thought deeply about my carbon footprint, which includes the energy it took to fly so far south. I was forced to take ownership of my consumption, which could take a glacier down in time. I fully and deeply realized that I am helping love this earth to death.


My emotions during my journey were complex. Yes, I went through these sorts of tragic realizations. But I also spent everyday bewildered by beauty, as I became aware of natural cycles and encountered a sense of spirituality in rhythms that simply felt good to my body and soul. I remembered how liberating it feels to have nothing to do except walk, and sustain myself (which involves peanut butter and sleep). I remembered how good and natural it feels to wake and sleep according to the sun and the weather, to let myself be affected by my surroundings, to sense fully and freely. I love the culture of the trail: meeting fellow trekkers, sharing time with my friends cooking noodles and oatmeal, motivating and laughing with each other, playing cards and music on the dirt. After the journey, my blisters, scars, sore muscles, and dirty skin were remnants of a conversation, a dance, a romance with a piece of living earth. The euphoric experience I had in Patagonia is something I yearn for, even live for. It reminds me why ecological and social justice is worth fighting for so hard, and it reminds me of what it means to be human. What it means to inhabit my body on this earth.


We are living in an era of friction. This friction forms as sustainability values come into contact with values of worldly consciousness and adventurous spirit. We are living in a unique moment of time. Centuries of technological advances have opened the world up to us, and who can argue against seizing this opportunity to do all that we can do, and see all that we can see?

During my first class at La Católica, “Climatología” (climatology), my professor put up a slide about sustainable development. He chose the generic sustainability definition: meeting today’s needs without sacrificing the needs of the future. But then, he asked the class: is this a good definition? Is there anything missing?  The class sat in silence. He answered his own question with another one: what do we define as “needs”? The bare minimum of sustenance and water to survive? Or enough to sustain a first world lifestyle, including the ability to explore the beauty of the earth? The definition, and therefore, our entire philosophy of sustainability, hinges on what we think is worth sustaining. What does it mean to sustain? What do we believe we owe our grandchildren? Nothing is black and white. Nothing is strictly scientific. We can and should play the numbers game, but that doesn’t mean we can ignore the ideological game within ourselves.

I have to say, I was hoping for clear answers to come to me in Patagonia. I was hoping that this constant friction within me would somehow become smooth like the ice that forms the glaciers. I was hoping for answers in the form of a clear path to take, I was hoping I would somehow realize how to care for the planet in the 21st century. But no such path appeared, except for the physical “sendero” ahead that led to the next campsite. Nevertheless, I ended the journey feeling overwhelmingly refreshed, content, and clear-headed, more so than I had felt in a long time. Rather than a sudden realization, a feeling slowly seeped into me over the course of the nine days. The feeling was humbleness and acceptance. I don’t have to claim a worldview. I don’t have to know what’s best for the planet. In fact, I’m not sure that’s even possible. But I can invest myself in things that feel right, and work to make sure that those things continue into the future as long as they can. Local organic gardens, walking in beautiful places with friends, community organizing (and potlucks), making music, cooking good food, planting trees, sharing art and poetry, cleaning and restoring watersheds, living cooperatively, surveying and taking care of forests. These are some things that feel good to me, some things that give my life good rhythm, purpose, and love. That’s all I need.

And of the hypocrisy inherent to airplane travel and the like? It’s still there. The friction remains. It’s going to stay there until we have airplanes that run on solar energy from panels made with completely renewable materials. But my hypocrisy has become easier to bear, as I am less preoccupied over absolute and essential sustainability, and more over how I can enjoy this planet in the most responsible and loving way I know how.  And so, I can start to come to terms with traveling – as an activity that enhances my understanding of the world and who I am within it. Needless to say, I will always strive to travel more responsibly and compassionately however I can. I can take buses and trains, engage with the local community, volunteer, support small-scale economies – to name a few.

We are a generation of friction. Beyond environmental dilemmas, it’s equally hard to come up with opinions and solutions to crises, as issues of politics, economics, justice, and equality are tangled up, chaotic, distorted, and entrenched. Like I said, our generation has the world at our fingertips and on our shoulders. An overwhelming amount of information about the problems of the world is available to us every minute of the day – and this availability gives us responsibility. The information is available and so we must be informed. And if we are informed, we must be able to determine the most responsible way forward. The world is on our shoulders, and it feels heavy sometimes! But traveling helps remind me that I am human. And what does that mean? As humans, we are powerful when we are together and we are powerful when we are doing what we love. We are animals of this earth; we hold instincts, perceptions, and connections with one another, and can only act from there. Here in Santiago, I am ready to explore my new surroundings and myself amidst it all. It feels good to be a human; it feels good to be living now.

Author’s note:  I use the phrase “my generation” to refer to a specific subset of young people today, a group that I identify with. Generally, I mean young, relatively privileged, educated Americans. I acknowledge that not everyone has the same opportunities. I can only speak for myself but have noticed that other people around me appear to operate in a similar situation, thus the generalizing of “my generation.”
I’d like to start a discussion. What are your thoughts on modern travel? Do you feel like a hypocrite? What does our generation owe to the future, and what do we owe ourselves? 

Happy New Year from the CSSC!

2012 was a year full of challenges, triumphs, changes, and new ideas for all of us in the California Student Sustainability Coalition. As we move into 2013, it’s important to reflect on how we can truly be the change we wish to see in the world. All activism and organizing starts within. Here are some New Year’s resolutions from members of the CSSC:

Meredith Jacobson, UC Berkeley: This new year I resolve to be a bridge. I resolve to be a better connector between people of different backgrounds, between different organizations, between different factions and divisions and motives that exist within the same movement toward a better world. The sustainability movement needs more bridges and fewer divides. I resolve to do what I can to be a bridge whenever I can, to connect people and help us all see eye to eye.

Julia Clark, Humboldt State University: I resolve to make a connection with someone in my neighborhood who owns chickens that I could purchase eggs from. Local food is the best!

Kevin Killion, Chico State University: This year will be a year of putting theory into practice. Each day I wish to live intentionally and make the decisions which mindfully bring me closer to genuine fulfillment. I am going to work on limiting my consumption, so that I am more in control of my life and can be more response-able. This year will be about bringing together diverse organizations in common causes, and helping to build the Chico/Butte alliance, with both the youth and our elders. Plan for the worst, Hope for the best, Embrace change and the unexpected, and Accept whatever comes your way. Above all Love Love Love!

Steve Verhoeven, Shasta College: I pledge for the new year of twenty thirteen to take part in the planning and organization of establishing a cooperative/CSA at my school as well as getting my school associated with the Cssc further! Love, peace and trees!

Austin VanDerWouden, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo: My resolution for the year is to continue the progress on my projects at Cal Poly. I want to help our permaculture plot fulfill its potential and maintain the positive atmosphere which it holds. I also plan to do my part it turning the garden at the on-campus apartments into a success by renting a plot and growing some nice plants. I plan on continuing the mentoring program we have where we take children on hikes. I want to be a better mentor by holding more knowledge of nature to pass on to the kids, engaging in less self-destructive habits to be a better example for them, and show them more love. I also hope to get my senior project approved so I can make an examination of the health of Cal Poly’s forest. And hopefully this examination will lead to a healthier forest in the future. I plan to do all this by increasing my mental health, staying positive, not getting distracted by silly things, and by always being grateful for my time on Earth.

Zen Trenholm, UC Berkeley: Work towards a healthy mind, body, and soul. Never stop loving. Live boldly. Live outside of my comfort zones. Make everyone’s lives more enjoyable. Host the most bad-ass convergence, ever. Leave CSSC stronger, more vibrant, and more inclusive than I found it.

What’s your resolution for this fresh new year? 


Should Chiapas Farmers Suffer for California’s Carbon?

A California proposal would offset the state’s climate-altering emissions by paying for forest conservation in Chiapas. Could there be unintended consequences in a region with a history of human rights abuse and land grabs?

re-posted from Yes! Magazine

“We are not responsible for climate change—it’s the big industries that are,” said Abelardo, a young man from the Tseltal Mayan village of Amador Hernández in the Lacandon jungle of Chiapas. “So why should we be held responsible, and even punished for it?”

Image of San Cristóbal, where the GCF meeting took place, by barenuckleyellow, licensed under Creative Commons.

Abelardo was one of dozens of villagers who had traveled to the city of San Cristóbal de las Casas to protest an international policy meeting on climate change and forest conservation. At a high-end conference center, representatives from the state of California and from states and provinces around the world were working out mechanisms intended to mitigate climate change by protecting tropical forests. The group was called the Governor’s Climate and Forests Task Force (GCF), and California’s interest was in using forest preservation in Chiapas as a carbon offset—a means for meeting climate change goals under the state’s 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act.

Such an agreement among subnational governments is unprecedented, and California officials view it as an important way for the world’s eighth largest economy to help the developing world. But judging from the reaction on the streets of San Cristóbal, Mexican peasants see it differently. The lush, mountainous state of Chiapas has a long history of human rights abuses, and the Mexican government has forcibly evicted indigenous families from their lands in the name of environmental protection. To indigenous peasants in the Lacandon jungle, the pending agreement has all the hallmarks of a land grab.

And such culture clashes over land and forests may become more common: As scientists, economists, and governments worldwide struggle to find solutions to runaway climate change, they are investing in one-size-fits-all financial strategies for emissions reductions in developing countries. These policies tend to ignore local needs, land tenure issues, small-scale economies, cultural practices, and histories. Communities in developing countries are raising concerns that, in some instances, these alleged cures may be worse than the disease.

The GCF was founded in 2009 when 16 states and provinces, from California to Central Kalimantan, Indonesia, and from Cross-River State, Nigeria, to Acre, Brazil, decided to explore ways to implement a program called Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD). REDD is a program intended to fight climate change by stopping deforestation. Under REDD, the industrialized North hopes to offset carbon emissions by paying the global South to preserve forests (which store carbon). Since its acceptance into U.N. climate negotiations in 2005, the program has grown popular among international agencies and governments interested in funding rural development—and has generated fierce resistance among sectors of the rural poor and indigenous peoples.

When indigenous peasant farmers in Chiapas hear that they’ll be paid to stop growing traditional crops and reforest with African palm trees, they see signs of a familiar pattern. And when they’re told that they may have to leave their jungle villages to allow the forest to recover, they’re acutely aware of the ongoing theft of their lands. In Chiapas, both projects—the planting of biofuel crops and the forced resettlement of forest communities—are linked to the local implementation of REDD.

To indigenous peasants in the Lacandon jungle, the pending agreement has all the hallmarks of a land grab.

Agencies and policy leaders acknowledge the tension, but are sometimes dismissive of the depth of the problem. William Boyd, senior advisor to the GCF and a professor of law at the University of Colorado, said, “Any broad public policy is going to generate opposition. We understand that, and we see the need to do a better job at communicating our objectives.” But the problem is not merely communication. It is an issue of fundamentally different ways of viewing the world. León Enrique Ávila, an agronomist and professor of sustainable development at the Intercultural University of Chiapas, sees REDD as “a continuation of the colonial project to do away with the indigenous worldview.”

Ávila’s work is strongly rooted in the indigenous concept of lekil kuxlejal, or el buen vivir—a complex worldview involving harmony among people, the environment, and the ancestors. According to this way of thinking, people are a part of—not apart from—nature. From this perspective, even apparently benign Western notions of wealth, development, conservation, and sustainability are as alien and as hostile as the more recognized ills of consumerism, individualism, and war.

“REDD and projects of this type,” Ávila said, ignore “that nature [has its own] rights, and treat it as a provider of goods and services, a purely economic entity. This perspective is fundamentally hostile to lekil kuxlejal.”

A closely watched partnership

Of numerous REDD projects worldwide, the agreement between California and Chiapas, expected to come online by 2015, is the most advanced, and was the subject of great interest at the Chiapas GCF meeting. “We are all watching the California-Chiapas project closely,” said Iwan Wibisono of the Indonesian National REDD+ Task Force.

In 2006, California passed the Global Warming Solutions Act, which mandates that the state reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020. Under the act’s implementation plan, approved by the California Air Resources Board in 2011, 15 to 20 percent of the state’s mandated emission reductions will come from a cap-and-trade program that regulates the state’s major industrial polluters. The program allows polluters to meet part of their emissions-reduction targets by purchasing carbon credits. Also known as offsets, these let a company pay someone else to reduce CO2 emissions instead of reducing pollution at the source. Currently, the state only allows offsets in the United States. But if the REDD plan goes through, California companies could pay states in some of the world’s most forested regions not to cut down their trees.

As one of his last acts in office, former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a memorandum of understanding with Chiapas, opening the door for California industries to buy offsets generated there. (Other states working on similar agreements with California include Acre, Brazil, Aceh, Indonesia, and Cross-River State, Nigeria).

Two years later, the protocols for this agreement are still in development by a non-governmental body called the REDD Offsets Working Group, which is expected to release its recommendations before the end of 2012.

Echoes of history

In preparing for the GCF meeting in San Cristóbal, a number of Chiapas-based civil society groups formed a coalition called REDDeldía (the English translation would be “REDD-ellion,” as in “rebellion”), which held a parallel forum denouncing the GCF and REDD. The group’s statement, issued in advance of the GCF meeting, called REDD “the new face, painted green by the climate crisis, of an old and familiar form of colonialism that advances the appropriation of lands and territories through dispossession and forced displacement.” That sentiment was echoed by a similar forum convened in San Cristóbal the same week by La Vía Campesina, the world’s largest federation of peasant farmers.

For groups in Chiapas, these concerns are rooted in recent local history. In 1971, the Mexican government issued a decree that gave about 1.5 million acres of the Lacandon jungle to the Lacandon Maya—one of several ethnic groups that call the region their home—while retaining the rights to exploit timber, minerals, and other resources. A second decree in 1976 made the greater part of the jungle—the area with the richest biodiversity in Mexico—into a UNESCO World Heritage site called the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve.

Along with a few settlements from the Tseltal and Ch’ol ethnic groups, who negotiated their way into the agreement, the nominal owners of this territory were designated “the Lacandon Community.” But the creation of the Lacandon Community came with a political cost: in order to give the Lacandon Maya 1.5 million acres of forest, 26 villages of Tseltal and Ch’ol people—over 2,000 families who had lived there for decades, if not centuries—had to be moved.

After their expulsion, several peasant farmer organizations demanded redress, and the resulting tension between the Lacandon Community and its neighbors made it impossible, for decades, for the Mexican government to successfully demarcate the territory. The demarcation line became known as la brecha Lacandona—“brecha” meaning split, schism, or gap. Some of the expelled communities later coalesced to form the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, the indigenous rebel group that brought Chiapas to the world’s attention with their 1994 uprising. Among the proto-Zapatistas and the other peasant farmer groups in the region in the 1970s, one of the primary political slogans was “No to la brecha Lacandona!”

With REDD, work is underway again to draw la brecha Lacandona. In February, 2011, Chiapas Governor Juan Sabines began distributing payments of 2,000 pesos a month to members of the Lacandon Community as part of the state’s Climate Change Action Program, and the state began expelling “illegal settlers” from the Montes Azules Reserve.

“The jungle was previously occupied by over 900 communities,” Sabines told the GCF at the opening plenary. “Now we have cleared them from the jungle. Today the Reserves are being conserved and protected by their legitimate owners, who will soon have access to the carbon markets.”

Among the communities slated for removal from the jungle is the village of Amador Hernández—1,500 Tseltal Mayan subsistence farmers who escaped plantation servitude in the 1950s to make their homes in bare wooden huts and cultivated scattered cornfields in the area that is now the Montes Azules Reserve. On the first day of the three-day GCF meeting, several campesinos from Amador Hernández and neighboring communities entered the auditorium and requested a few minutes at the microphone. ChiapasState Minister of the Environment and Natural History Fernando Rosas denied their request, telling the community members that they should listen first to the meeting’s proceedings. If they wanted to consider joining the REDD program, the minister told them, he would meet with them at a later date.

Unsatisfied, the campesinos mounted a protest. They handed out flyers declaring, “The government is lying to you—they have neither informed us nor consulted us!” Eufemia Landa Sanchez, a woman from a deforested region on the edge of the Montes Azules Reserve, then took the microphone and read a message to the plenary.

“Transnational businesses have had plans for the rural areas of Chiapas for some time now,” Sanchez said. “The natural wealth of biodiversity and water, of mines, of biofuels, and of course of petroleum, have led to the displacement of people, the poisoning of the earth, and have made the peasant farmer into a serf on his own land. And in every case they blame us and criminalize us. Our supposed crime today is that we are responsible for global warming.

“Why do the wealthy want to impose their will by force?” she continued. “The jungles are sacred, and they exist to serve the people, as God gave them to us. We do not go to your countries and tell you what to do with your lives and your lands. We ask that you respect our lives and our lands, and go back where you came from!”

Hanging in the balance

Insiders in the GCF projected that, given the complexities of linking an emerging market in California to forested lands abroad, and the level of controversy in Chiapas, the Chiapas-California plan has no better than a 50/50 chance of coming to fruition. Aside from the 2010 agreement, no formal protocols have been approved by the two states. And, aside from a $1.5 million grant to the GCF from the U.S. State Department and hope that a so-far hypothetical carbon market will provide some stable cash flow, little funding is on the horizon.

“If we can’t build a $6 million fund to make this happen, then we’ve got to think about other options,” said Boyd. “Among these options, we’re looking at innovative models for leveraging private sector investment.”

After enduring years of toxic dumping and rising cancer rates, indigenous Ecuadorians took oil giant Chevron to court to fight for the life of the rainforest—and its people.

Three weeks after the Chiapas GCF meeting, the California Air Resources Board (ARB) received a visit at its Sacramento office from a group of environmental justice advocates with ties to the Global South—including an anthropologist who works closely with Amador Hernández, an indigenous leader from Brazil, and representatives of Friends of the Earth U.S. They drew a picture of land grabs, government repression, and related abuses, and urged state officials to drop all consideration of international forest offsets in California climate policy.
Edie Chang, assistant division chief for the ARB, thanked the visitors for raising the issues, and assured them, “We’ve told these governments that we’re far from making a decision.”

Jason Gray, the ARB’s staff counsel, acknowledged the concerns as well: “We really only want to work with jurisdictions that engage in consultation and participatory processes. … We understand the political risks. … We would only want to be involved if California can take a leadership role.”

What that leadership looks like remains to be seen. But if land and culture are threatened by any policy advanced by the GCF, indigenous peasant farmers in Chiapas will not back down without a fight. “These campesinos don’t want a revolution to change they way they live,” explained León Ávila, echoing the words of Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata. “They want a revolution because they want to continue living as they always have.”

Jeff Conant Head ShotJeff Conant wrote this article for What Would Nature Do?, the Spring 2013 issue of YES! Magazine. Jeff is author of A Community Guide to Environmental Health and A Poetics of Resistance: The Revolutionary Public Relations of the Zapatista Insurgency. He writes for Alternet, Earth Island Journal, Upside Down World, and  Z Magazine.


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