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/

Student Organizers Stand in Solidarity with Frontline Communities at Chevron Protest in Richmond

The Summer Heat Campaign has demands; four of them.

NO more toxic hazards.
NO Keystone XL pipeline.
NO refining tar sands or fracked crude.
YES to a just transition from dirty fuels to union jobs in clean energy.

The organizers at 350 Bay Area and dozens of aligned groups, such as the Center for Biological Diversity, Chinese Progressive Association, and Idle No More have been demonstrating to bring their solutionary criteria up-close and personal to both government and the energy industry.

Saturday, August 3rd, Summer Heat held their most recent action at the Chevron refinery in Richmond, CA. The event took place one year and three days after negligence fostered conditions leading to an accident, which sent 15,000 people into hospitals with respiratory problems.

Richmond Police estimate that there were 2,800 people in attendance. A total of 208 participants were arrested. Up to date we know of three California Student Sustainability Coalition members who were among those arrested. Melody Leppard, Tommy Diestel, and Ben Johnson  did not come to the action anticipating arrest, but that is exactly what happened.

A civil disobedience training took place in a parking lot near the Richmond Bart station, directly before the march began. Leppard, Diestel, and Johnson took part in this training. It was there that Leppard,  intern at PowerShift and CSSC Campus Organizing Training Coordinator, states she felt called to join a smaller group planning to break away from the larger rally and face arrest.

During the act of civil disobedience, Leppard sat with others before Chevron’s front gate, refusing to move. Leppard states she had chills going up and down her spine, coupled with a huge sense of solidarity,

“I looked around. These were my brothers and sisters in the fight!”

CSSC Council Representative for Butte College Ben Johnson, an intended Environmental Science Major, said he felt inspired by all the types of peoples and groups represented within the mass wave of the demonstrators.

All participants were following the leadership of Indigenous activists from Idle No More, an Indigenous rights movement which started last year in Canada, and has since proliferated into the global arena in an unprecedented way.

It was unlike any march I have ever been to. Idle No More led the way. Instead of chanting, they were beating their drums and singing songs in their languages. At times, some protesters tried to interrupt by getting to the front of the line and starting chants. They did not understand what was going on, but the organizers at 350 Bay Area stopped them”, reflected Leppard. According to her, Indigenous leaders were also the first to be arrested.

“This is really important work. I encourage other people to get involved. It is more meaningful than signing petitions and going to protests.”  – Melody Leppard

To learn more about and join in on this movement, please take a look at our Fossil Fuel Free California campaign. There are actions happening across the state and plenty of opportunities to contribute!

By: Ambrosia Krinsky

How Edutainment is getting kids passionate about Sustainability

What is Edutainment

Combining fun and useful tasks

Previously we wrote about how Gamification can make the world a more sustainability place, but beyond gamification, there are many more ways to make sustainability more fun and exciting.

Another key example is the term Edutainment.

Humans have an innate desire to learn

I believe that learning should be a pleasurable activity for people. However, the school systems have somehow made it agonizing for many kids to learn.

If you ask them, “What is boring work?” They will say, “School and homework!” This is a huge problem in our society as a whole. What happened to self-motivated learning?

The issue here is, effective learning should be associated with a chemical in our brain called Dopamine, the main mechanism that controls Rewards-Driven Learning. If learning comes with pain or stress, learning is hampered.  But if learning is pushed forward by joy and fun, absorption and retention grows exponentially.

Great examples in Edutainment for Sustainability

There are many great examples in Sustainability within Edutainment. One great example that I have personal interactions with is BALANCE Edutainment, the creators of Pacha’s Pajamas. Pacha’s Pajamas is a children’s story/music brand where animals on a little girl’s magical pajamas will go into her dreams and discuss how humans are destroying the planet. The little girl pretends to be a monkey and participates in their world music festival to inspire and bond all the animals to protect the planet.

Research has shown that children in hospitals who listen to their CDs recovery faster, so BALANCE Edutainment also created a program called Imagination Heals, inspiring and helping children in hospitals.

The project attracted the involvement of many celebrities, including Mos Def, Cheech Marin, Kendall Schmidt from Big Time Rush, Disney, Nickelodeon Stars, football legend Jim Brown, and many more.

During Earth Day 2013, BALANCE Edutainment is also launching the ”Heal the World <–> Heal Ourselves” campaign with an exciting urban dance video. The campaign got 50 organizations onboard – including the CSSC – as well as numerous celebrities and leaders/influencers taking a stand for uplifting children’s entertainment. They are releasing a great dance video this weekend to raise awareness for this campaign.

Another great example is From Wine to Worms. From Wine to Worms is the bubbly tale of one young boy’s observations about his parents energy usage. With little more than a kindergarten education and a bold intuition, he is moved to reconcile the wastefulness of his mother and father — starting with their morning routine and extending all the way to their caloric and alcoholic intake.

Wine to Worms

How can you bring more edutainment into the world?

There are many ways to help this world, but impacting the leaders of tomorrow is arguably one of the most essential things to do. This is the core mission of the CSSC, and we hope to bring things full-cycle: producing new generations that can inspire even more children to become leaders of sustainability.

Interview with Carolyn Finney Ph.D. Professor at UC Berkeley

Investment, Innovation, and Inspiration


With the next CSSC Convergence, at UC Berkeley, only a few short weeks away, we have another exclusive and thought provoking CSSC interview. Dr. Carolyn Finney is a professor at UC Berkeley in Environmental Science, Policy, and Management. Her research focuses on identity representation difference and place, race and natural resource management.

In this 30 minute, 3 part, Dr. Finney shares her story, talks about the transformative power of relationships, and analyzes some of the challenges presented to student organizers within the sustainability movement.

We hope you enjoy, and look forward to seeing you all here in Berkeley on April 26th!

Interview by: Ambrosia Krinsky
Videographer: Dorian Cohen

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? 

Interview with Mike Roselle Co-Founder of Earth First!

Sustainability from a Radical Perspective

Portrait of a Life-Long Activist

Long before the California Student Sustainability Coalition was even a thought in the eyes of young university students, there was an organization which decided to bring non-violent direct action into the forests and wild places of the United States. This organization was and still is called Earth First!. Earth First! was founded in 1980 by a group of individuals inspired by innovative environmental thinkers of their time, such as, novelist Edward Abbey and his work the Monkey Wrench Gang.

These individuals pledged, “No compromise in the defense of mother earth”.

In this exclusive CSSC interview, Earth First! Co-Founder Mike Roselle, talks about: his experience growing up in Louisville, Kentucky during the Civil Rights movement, his life as a frontline activist, and how his organization used the media to win battles protecting mother earth. For more information on Mike Roselle and Earth First!, you can watch the recently released film Who Bombed Judi Bari or read his book Tree Spiker: From Earth First! to Lowbagging: My Struggles in Radical Environmental Action.

Interview by: Ambrosia Krinsky 

Videography: Dorian Cohen

How Gamification can make the world a more sustainable place

Gamification Sustainability

Gamification for a better world

We are living in a world where what we “should” do is often times different from things we “want to” do. This holds true for Sustainability – often times the things you need to do to be sustainable is not necessarily what is the most convenient or comfortable to do.

This is where gamification comes in. So what is gamification? Gamification is the craft of applying all the fun and exciting activities of games, and applying them to non-game serious activities. People have successfully gamified many industries, including education, legal, product design, human resources, and yes, sustainability.

If you dig deep down into games, you will see that most games are simply about doing the same activities – whether it be killing similar monsters, solving new puzzles, or just clicking a button – over and over again for hours.

In the real world, this is called grunt-work.

However, millions of people are addicted to playing games because of the innate design that makes these repetitive tasks fun and exciting: spontaneous results after the completion of tasks, tracking one’s growth and progress in a visual fashion, applying things to a epic meaning and calling, and playing socially with others.

Because of those game mechanics, a player can spend countless days and nights on a game in order to build a better character, prettier avatar, or bigger city. Gamification is simply deriving those fascinating elements within games and applying them into boring activities that make the world better and more productive.

Some of the most common game elements include: points, badges, leaderboards, quests and challenges. These give the users quick feedback and make their progress more visible and entertaining so they can feel motivated in accomplishing their tasks. There are also a variety of Gamification Frameworks out there that are very useful for designing something more holistic.

Gamification can be a powerful tool for sustainability because it can combine meaning with fun by making the process of protecting our planet more entertaining, social and rewarding.

Real World Examples of Gamification

There are many Gamification Examples in Sustainability. Below are a couple examples of how products utilize gamification to move the sustainability envelope forward.

Trash Tycoon: Upcycle and Build a Dream Town of Yours!

Trash Tycoon is an online social network game developed by Guerillapps. It is the first upcycling game on Facebook and has got over 300,000 players within a month since its release. Players in the game can upcycle trash found in the town to create new items that can be sold for game money, which can be used to purchase new items to decorate their town.

Players can also choose to partner up with their friends to clean up trash and create their own dream town. By having players cooperate collectively accomplish tasks bonds the players more closely together.

But unlike other recycling games that are mostly about preaching the importance of recycling, Trash Tycoon is about having fun playing the game with an implicit focus on the education. That is one of the reasons why it attracts so many players because people want to have fun when they play a game.

In addition, Trash Tycoon partners with Treehugger.com by donating 10% of its revenues earned from players’ purchases of . By knowing that playing the game can help the real world gives player a calling to team up friends to be a true hero to create a better virtual and real world.

RecycleBank Makes Recycling Fun and Rewarding

RecycleBank is another good example of implementing recycling through fun. Each year there are over 195 million tons of trash created in the U.S. Most of the trashes need to go into landfills. But the problem is that many of the trashes take over 100 to 400 years to decompose and the availability of the landfills are limited and running out.

In 2010, there were around 1,900 landfills remained. But between 1998 and 2010, there were around 600 landfills being filled, which means that every year, there are 50 less landfills available. According to this diminishing rate, it is not hard to see that within the next 40 years, we would be in huge trouble.

RecycleBank was founded by Patrick K. FitzGerald and Ron Gonen back in 2004. Its mission is to make our world a better place by recycling more waste. It rewards people with redeemable points for recycling their trash, playing quizzes, and saving energy.

People can use the points earned in exchange with goods at places like WalMart, Macy’s, Amazon, and many other places. Currently it has over 300 communities in the U.S. with over 4 million members participating together to recycle their wastes.

Opower: How much Better Can You be at Conserving the Energy?

Our daily life relies heavily on the energy to power the machines we use. In order to produce enough energy for the machines to run, many resources are consumed. Opower company, a privately held company founded by Dan Yates and Alex Laskey in 2007, partners with more than 75 utilities internationally and creates individualized energy reports for more than 15 millions homes around the world.

In the reports it shows the energy consumption for each household and compares that with the neighbors , as well as offers energy saving tips to help households cut down their consumption. The result of peer comparison helped household save 2% in their energy bill.

According to the Opower web, it has helped save over 2 terawatt hours of energy in the U.S. on January 2013. The amount of energy saved on the energy bill is enough to support 2,000 kids through college or to support 40,000 U.S. families with sizes of four people for a year.

There are many more examples of how gamification can help peoples’ lives, even in fields like acupuncture or regions like North Korea. As long as there is human motivation, there is gamification.

Sustainability of a Gamified Life

This planet is ours to protect, whether we feel like it or not. Gamification is a great tool to make people enjoy doing what they have to do for future generations to come, and seeing short-term benefits and rewards while doing it. It empowers everyone to take part in the movement, live a better life, and have fun in the progress.

How can you gamify your life to make it more sustainable?

The Three E’s of Sustainability

“The California Student Sustainability Coalition is a non-profit organization that supports and connects students from across California to help them transform their educational institutions into models of sustainability” – the CSSC website.

But what does “sustainability” mean? Lately, it’s become a media buzzword, yet another drop in the greenwash bucket. As students, we have the power to redefine how our society thinks about sustainability. The CSSC is committed to recognizing and working toward the “Three E’s” of sustainability: economy, ecology, and equity. Unlike conventional notions of sustainability that are linked to environmentalism and dwell only in the ecology sector, this three-pronged approach takes into account the fact that all three “e’s” are interconnected.

There is no ecological sustainability without equity. There is no economic sustainability without sound ecology. In fact, the words “economy” and “ecology” come from the same root – “oikos” or “ecos,” the Greek word for “household.” We all inhabit the same household that we call earth.

What does that mean on the ground? CSSC chapters across the state work on issues that relate to all three sustainability sectors. CSSC students are working toward a more just society for all – equitably, ecologically, and economically. I asked our Council Reps to write back with examples of how their chapters are addressing the 3 E’s. Here are some responses:

Equity and Ecology: “Last year, my campus (Claremont McKenna College) tried to include equity into its environmental goals. At our parties, there was not only the issue that students weren’t recycling their disposable red cups, but they were also not even picking up after themselves. They would leave all the work to the grounds/maintenance staff, which definitely wasn’t fair to them. It also cost the school extra money to clean up. So, as a work in progress, we have painted trash cans red to look like an actual red party cup, in an attempt to encourage students to pick up after themselves and recycle. We also hooked this into a general recycling initiative on campus. This effort is ongoing, but an important issue on campus that we continue to address.” – Hannah Haskell, Claremont McKenna College Council Rep

Ecology: “The [Glendale Community College] Environmental Club went to Bakersfield, California to help “Wind Wolves Preserve” restore the native salt bush habitat by planting seeds and building a fence to protect them from cattle.” – Monica Tecson, GCC Council Rep

Equity, Ecology, and Economy: A campaign by Cal Poly Fair Trade Club is aimed at contracting CAN Coffee on campus, and CAN Coffee is a fair-trade coffee (economy and equity). The coffee is grown using the concept of agroecology, which is the understanding that the production of coffee has to be developed within an agricultural system, without disturbing the system (ecology). – Eb McKibben, Cal Poly SLO Council Rep

Economy and ecology: “At [UC Santa Barbara], the Environmental Affairs Board tackles a bunch of different projects. One that has proved to be successful is the “Carrot Mob.” It follows the proverb that says it is easier getting a horse to water by leading it with a carrot rather than thumping it with a stick. We went to various businesses to “green” them by getting them to have more efficient lighting or other appliances, etc. We told them that we would hold a “carrot mob” there, which would attract a lot of customers. By going to the business that day, customers knew they were supporting a good cause. So the store was willing to do it because it increased their customer base for the day. This was all with the agreement that they would match dollar for dollar what they earned that day and invest it in more efficient energies. This would definitely be the economy side!” – Emily Wililams, UCSB Council Rep

Fighting for sustainability means addressing income inequality and poverty. It means preserving forests but also preserving the communities that live off the forest. It means ending all types of discrimination. It means ending corporate personhood. It means addressing climate change but not at the expense of people who are already exploited and impoverished. It means clean energy but also equitable energy, real food but also equitable access to food. It means getting young people out to vote. It means empowering students to be agents of justice of all kinds on their campuses and beyond.

Martin Luther King famously stated, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”

Have an idea of how the CSSC can better represent all three “E’s”? Post a comment here, or email me at mjacobson20@gmail.com.

Sustainability, Here at Home with the Winnemem Wintu

By Ambrosia K. Krinsky

Indigenous sustainability Winnemem Wintu

I recently returned from a four day Coming of Age Ceremony with the Winnemem Wintu on the banks of the McCloud River in Shasta County. This experience has had me thinking a lot about the connections between culture, environment and sustainability. What struck me the hardest during the ceremony was the fact that it took over 100 volunteers organizing to protect this sacred space for the safe passage of one girl into womanhood to occur.

Estimates have been made which put the number of Winnemem Wintu people living along the McCloud between 14,000-20,000 prior to first contact. The consequent murder by settlers and disease reduced this number to 395 by 1900. Now tribal members fight with the support of many allies to hold on to the ecological integrity of their land base, their traditional knowledges and their spiritual practices. The land I stood on along the McCloud River is one of many historic Winnemem village sites (now a state owned camp ground open to all members of the public). Unfortunately, many of the other village sites and sacred sites are currently covered by tens of millions of cubic feet of water and materials due to Shasta Dam. In fact, the Puberty Rock where the young girl meets her tribe for the first time as a woman is covered by water for much of the year, leaving a very small window of time in which the ceremony can occur. This Coming of Age Ceremony was very important for the tribe, as it was the last year it could be performed while the young woman (who is next in line to be the spiritual leader of the tribe) is an appropriate age.


Indigenous sustainability Winnemem Wintu

Since the ceremony was revived in 2006 only four women have been able to successfully complete this rite of passage. Prior to this revival the last ceremony took place in 1927 (well before the construction of the dam). From 2006 through to this last ceremony the Forestry Service had not granted the tribe a closure for the necessary portion of the river. As a result there were two years in which harassment by local non-native persons (including yelling racial slurs and flashing of breasts) have made the ceremonies difficult to perform with the level of concentration they require. This year after tremendous tribal and public pressure the Forestry Service did mandate a closure. Unfortunately, the Forestry Service used this closure against the Winnemem, who had brought in a motorized boat (which they had asked for in the usage permit). The day after the ceremony Chief Sisk was given two citations of violation totaling $10,000 or a year in jail.

For the Winnemem Wintu it has been one long battle after another, with many more remaining ahead. They survived the physical genocide with much of their culture intact and now work constantly to prevent its loss via the cultural genocide currently being waged on them by: the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), the Forestry Service and residents of Redding who would prefer to think of them as a page in a history book rather than the vibrant, thriving culture that they are.

In a blog for the CSSC published on June 6, 2012 titled “Spirituality and Sustainability” Meredith Jacobson wrote, “I believe in our ability to study past cultures who have lived far more sustainably then we have, and see that they lived intensely spiritual lives”. While I agree with many of the sentiments Meredith offers in her blog, I wish to point out a few problematic issues which could arise from this sentence. The first is an assumption that these “past cultures” (which I read as indigenous cultures) are no longer in existence. Many of them, such as the Winnemem Wintu and Achuar of Ecuador (which she mentions) are most definitely still alive! If they no longer exist in and interact with their land base as their ancestors did, we need to examine why. We must also keep in mind that indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination; they are free to decide their own level of participation or non-participation in economic development.

Like many other tribes in California, the Winnemem Wintu are not federally recognized, having been removed from the US government’s list of recognized tribes in 1985. Federal recognition provides agovernment-to-government relationship between the US federal government and the sovereign state that is a tribe. According to Chief Sisk in an interview with the Mending News, 90% of Native Americans in the state of California are not federally recognized. This excludes them from funding for services such as housing, healthcare and scholarships. Federal recognition also bestows protections for religious freedom and access to sacred objects (like eagle feathers, which are illegal for non-Indians to collect). The tribe wants to know why they were deleted from the official narrative and when the BIA plans to reinstate them. It took Chief Sisk and her Nephew Arron 24 days of fasting to gain the attention of the BIA and secure a meeting with an official to discuss reinstatement.

The second point I would like to make is not a response to Meredith but rather a response to new wave culture in general. We need to be very careful to not romanticize Native Americans and indigenous peoples of the world and avoid co-opting their spiritual practices. Their ways of knowing are simply that, “theirs”. We do not know these teachings to be true as they do, they were not passed down to us. Adopting them without recognition of this is dangerous and disrespectful. The reality is that we cannot use indigenous ways of knowing to fill the void colonization has left in our hearts and souls, but we can support indigenous rights as granted under customary law and as can be enacted by the ratification of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). We can support the Winnemem Wintu by respecting their ways of knowing and working to see the UNDRIP implemented within our borders. Plans are being made to raise the level of Shasta dam, which would cover what remains of their accessible sacred sites (in addition to having a massively negative environmental impact); we can work to prevent this from happening.


Indigenous sustainability Winnemem Wintu


For more information on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples


For more information about joining the campaign in support of the Winnemem Wintu’s cultural and
traditional rights:
I would like to thank the Winnemem Wintu for sharing their ancestral homeland and sacred ceremony with me and Michael Preston (Student and Activist at U.C. Berkeley, and Son of Chief Sisk) for inviting me to the ceremony and for his contributions to this blog.

Ambrosia K. Krinsky

Spirituality and Sustainability

This is an opinion post, and does not reflect the views of the CSSC as an organization.

A question that has been lingering on my mind this semester: is spirituality a necessary component of sustainability?

At the CSSC Convergence at Cal Poly SLO, Larry Lansburg spoke to us about the Achuar people of the Amazon – “Dream people.” He spoke of their dedication to the health of their land. He described their remarkable ability to combat oil companies in order to maintain cultural and natural integrity. The Achuar people are deeply spiritual. Shamanism plays a strong role in their lifestyle, as does the belief known as “Amazonian perspectivism,” in which plants and animals are thought to have human souls. The Achuar embark on “soul journeys” to find self awareness, and interpret dreams as integral and foretelling. Through their relationships with each other and the earth, the Achuar have formed a sustainable society that has lasted for centuries.

Here in the United States, however, many environmentalists and scientists steer clear from any association with the spiritual. The Oxford Dictionary defines “spiritual” as “of, relating to, or affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things”. A vague and circular definition, indeed. Perhaps we shy from the term because we don’t know what it means, and assume that it does not apply to us.

At the convergence, I attended the “Awakening the Dreamer” workshop put on by Generation Waking Up. We explored the need to shift the collective dream in the United States away from materialistic consumption and toward a way of life that values relationships, empathy, collective power, diversity, common ground. We have more than just a collection of environmental problems on our hands. The world and humankind are in trouble beyond just poor air quality, greenhouse gas emissions, and oil spills. Those are symptoms, rather than the illness itself. Clearly our economic system needs repair. Social injustice, wealth inequality, and various forms of prejudice plague even the most progressive streets. These problems are all related. Technological and legislative solutions alone cannot dismantle this interconnected network of crises.

It may be beyond the scope of individuals, corporations, even governments to fathom the entirety of the problem. It is system-wide on the universal scale. Our social, economic, and ecological crises are interrelated in such a complex way that it’s impossible to see it all at once. We are too small. And yet if we break the system down into pieces in order to solve bite-sized problems, and ignore the ecosystem of connections between them, we set ourselves up for failure. I see a lot of environmental management around the world working in this piece-meal fashion, and sometimes it seems like the efforts are not even making a dent.

I worry about the sustainability of sustainability. As in, can the ethic of living sustainably last? Those of us who are part of organizations are familiar with the term “activist burn-out.” Problems pile up and we feel as though we have to solve them all in order to get anywhere.

The problem is massive. We as a culture evolved to think and behave the way we do now – overly-consumptive and competitive (at least, here in the western, developed world). So environmental values are working against decades, even centuries, of development.   I worry about how the current, surface-level understanding of “sustainability” is often associated with other now-empty terms like “green” and “eco.” These terms, along with the ethics that go with them, might just blow away in the wind without any roots to hold them down.

Photo by Tia Tyler

Maybe sustainability is not sustainable until a new “spirituality” is found and embraced. Call it an ethic, a dream, a cosmology… it’s a new collective consciousness for our generation. Like the mentioned definition, I would define spirituality as a way of thinking that transcends the physical. That means a focus on the dream that connects our individual souls together into a larger body. I may be wrong. Maybe such a connection does not exist. But at the CSSC convergence, I could see before my eyes a future of joy. Love for one another, passion in our work (play), music in our voices when they came and sung together. As Zen Trenholm of the CSSC often says about the organization, “We’re building a culture.” It’s bigger and deeper than a structure of campaigns, projects, and events. And that depth is what I’m talking about.

Mainstream rhetoric regarding environmentalism steers away from all this. There is the notion that if we make the arguments as secular, purely science-based, and emotionless as possible, we will bring a broader range of supporters to our side. The spiritual side seems to be too polarizing and too emotional. But has the secular rhetoric been able to create unity and clear-headedness? Certainly not. The debate over climate change is deeply ideological regardless of intentions, and full of heated passion. Environmentalists constantly argue that science backs them up 100% – so why are republicans still pitted against democrats? Why are there such deep divisions? The ideological undercurrent flows on, and there’s no use ignoring it – it’s not going away.

So why suppress the spiritual? Besides – the world’s young people  are and will be solving the world’s problems – and we are a generation waking up. I believe in our ability to study past cultures who have lived far more sustainably than we have, and see that they lived intensely spiritual lives. Somehow, we must find a way to integrate a modern manifestation of that spirituality into the generation of the new millenium. Maybe it comes from spending time in nature with friends. Maybe it means starting a communal farm or living cooperatively. Maybe it comes from religion. Maybe it means making music or painting murals or building cob benches. However it happens, it happens through joy. Through tuning in to a common drumbeat, forever in the background of our individual songs.  Until the dream shifts, political, technological, and economic solutions will just float around in space, not connected, not rooted in any way to our consciousness.

To make sustainability sustainable, we’ve got to transform the dream.

Have a response? I’d love to hear it – comment away!


The Lexicon of Sustainability

“Words are the building blocks for new ideas. They have the power to activate change and transform societies.” – The Lexicon of Sustainability

The sustainability world is full of words. Quite a lot of them. Some are words that the general public uses and understands, some are not. Some words have been used and manipulated by politicians and advertisers for their agendas – greenwashing. We all use words when defending our ideas, when speaking for our campaigns, when describing our developing projects.

Douglas Gayeton and Laura Howard-Gayeton know that words have power. They recognize the need for a deeper and more widespread understanding of sustainability rhetoric. They have spent the past three years working on a project they call “The Lexicon of Sustainability” – a collection of informational, photographic art that exposes the stories of individuals working in the sustainable food system, and the concepts that go along with their work.


The website states the simple premise of the Lexicon of Sustainability: “People can’t be expected to live more sustainable lives if they don’t even know the most basic terms and principles that define sustainability.” And so these two visionaries set out to talk to people, to take photo and video footage of the work that they do, to define the terminology that is wrapped up in their stories and their values. Their media, which can be explored in depth on their website, includes stories and ideas contributed by almost two hundred leaders of the food movement. Themes range from “cage free” to “biodiversity” to “urban farmer.” There are plans to expand the project outside of the food realm. Soon the site will launch a “Social Network of Ideas” that will allow individuals to define terms and engage in virtual conversation regarding meaning and terminology. There is infinite room for growth and expansion.

Check it out for yourself! Spend a good chunk of time perusing the site. The premise of the project and the crafted images are bound to promote thought. Do we need a “lexicon of sustainability”? How do we ensure that this type of media serves a greater purpose than simply giving a privileged audience something cool to look at?

I think there is great potential here. It’s about reclaiming our own words. It’s about wiping away the greenwashing and returning to the root of the rhetoric, which exists to describe ideas and systems that have been around for thousands of years. Reclaiming meaning. Occupying the dictionary, if you will. If what we’re after is transforming our societies, transforming our lexicon might be an essential step. Students can play a pivotal role in the process, because students are educated, active, passionate, and engaged (at least in the CSSC, they are!). I sincerely hope a large body of students mobilizes to join this “social network of ideas,” to contribute their wealth of knowledge and help cultivate this living organism of words and concepts. So stay tuned – the Lexicon of Sustainability is something to follow.



11 important clean energy provisions in Obama’s budget proposal

Photo by the White House

President Obama’s proposed 2013 budget invests in clean energy to help power the engine of economic growth. The budget would direct funds to efficiency and renewable electricity technologies to create jobs and boost domestic manufacturing, and would also make manufacturing more efficient. The cleaner energy that will result from these investments will reduce pollution and protect public health. In addition, the budget would make taxes fairer by eliminating $40 billion in unnecessary breaks for big oil companies, which made record profits in 2011.

This clean energy vision would benefit middle-class Americans and the rest of the 99%. It is a stark contrast to the “drill, baby, drill” policies promoted by the American Petroleum Institute and other Big Oil allies.

Here are 11 important clean energy provisions in the president’s proposed 2013 budget:

1. Extend the production tax credit for wind energy: Wind projects currently receive a tax credit of 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity. Thanks to this production tax credit, enough new wind energy was built in 2011 to power more than 2 million homes. The credit is set to expire, however, at the end of this year. Without an extension, 37,000 jobs could be lost. The budget would extend the production tax credit through 2013.

2. Extend the Treasury Cash Grant Program (Section 1603 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) to assist small renewable companies: This program provided grants in lieu of tax credits to small renewable companies that were unable to utilize the credits, but it expired at the end of 2011. Extending it for one year would create 37,000 jobs in the solar industry alone [PDF]. The budget would extend the credit for one year and then convert the program into a refundable tax credit through 2016.

3. Increase research and development (R&D) funding for advanced energy technologies: The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, or ARPA-E, would receive $350 million for investments in potentially game-changing energy technologies. The Department of Energy (DOE) reports that “11 projects that received $40 million from ARPA-E over the last two years have attracted more than $200 million in private capital following successful research breakthroughs.”

This funding would also boost domestic manufacturing, as investments in innovative R&D would lead to the development of cleantech products that can be made in the United States.

4. Invest in clean domestic manufacturing: The Advanced Manufacturing Partnership helps domestic manufacturers become more competitive and create jobs by reducing energy use and saving money. The budget would provide $290 million for R&D for more efficient industrial processes and materials.

The budget would also provide $5 billion for the “48C” clean energy manufacturing tax credit for companies that manufacture cleantech products, including energy efficiency equipment, renewable energy equipment, and “a wide range of clean energy products.” The original $2.3 billion program that was oversubscribed in 2009 leveraged $2 of private investment for $1 of tax credit, and created 58,000 jobs.

5. Invest in solar and wind energy: The DOE budget [PDF] provides $310 million for the SunShot Initiative, designed to make solar electricity cost-competitive with dirtier fossil fuel energy without subsidies by 2020. It also includes $95 million for wind energy, including offshore wind technologies.

The Department of the Interior budget expands the program to review and issue permits for renewable energy projects on public lands to meet the president’s goal of 11,000 gigawatts by the end of 2013. This is enough to power an estimated 2.5 million homes.

6. Invest in energy efficiency: Using less energy is an effective way to lower electricity bills and cut pollution. In addition to helping manufacturers save, the budget would also target buildings for energy savings. The Washington Post reports that the “proposed budget includes an 80 percent increase in money to promote energy efficiency in commercial buildings and industries.”

As part of this effort, the budget increases the DOE Building Technologies Program by 40 percent to “[s]upport accelerated research and development for innovative building efficiency technologies and the continued introduction of consensus-driven appliance efficiency standards.”

The budget also anticipates congressional enactment of the Home Star program [PDF] to help owners retrofit their houses to become more energy efficient and lower their energy bills.

7. Increase funds for environmental enforcement: Environmental enforcement is a key element to ensure compliance with safeguards to reduce mercury, lead, smog, acid rain, and other toxic pollutants. But the fewer green cops on the beat, the less likely it is that some firms will comply with pollution reduction requirements.

The proposed 2013 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) budget [PDF] includes increased funding for “[c]ore priorities, such as the agency’s operating budget which includes funds for the enforcement of environmental and public health protections.” States would receive 10 percent more funds for implementation and enforcement of federal environmental safeguards.

The Department of the Interior budget [PDF] also includes $222 million for its new Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement. This includes 13 percent more money, and would pay for oil spill response planning and safety inspections, and enforcement and investigations to prevent another oil disaster like the BP Deepwater Horizon blowout.

8. Reduce global warming pollution and impacts: The administration plans to undertake a number of actions to “reduce GHG [greenhouse gases] before it is too late.” This includes implementing its second round of fuel economy and carbon dioxide pollution standards for cars and light trucks, which will reduce fuel use by 12 million barrels of oil and cut carbon dioxide pollution by 6 billion metric tons from cars built through 2025. In addition, the EPA plans to “continue to develop regulatory strategies to control GHG emissions from major stationary sources.”

The budget also includes a 6 percent increase in funds to build on our base of scientific knowledge about global warming and “accurately project climate change and its impacts.”

Finally, there is a modest increase in funds to help public lands managers measure climate change impacts and adopt appropriate management practices.

9. Invest in energy and money savings by the military: The Department of Defense “consumes almost three-fourths of all federal energy resources.” The proposed budget would double spending on clean energy compared to 2012 by investing $1 billion in clean energy, including efficiency retrofits for buildings and meeting efficiency standards for new facilities.

The National Journal reports other investments include:

[Replacement of] traditional jet fuel with biofuels, supply troops on the front lines with solar-powered electronic equipment, build hybrid engine tanks and aircraft carriers, and increase renewable energy use on military bases.

Although some conservatives have attacked clean energy investments in the private sector, some leaders support these military clean energy investments. Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), a member of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, noted “that it [clean energy investments] has grown as a culture and a practice and it’s a good thing.”

10. Maintain funding for international climate finance: The budget includes at least $833 million for international climate investments to support sustainable landscapes, clean energy, and adaptation to climate change in developing countries. The funds, consistent with last year’s spending, invest in programs at the State Department, the Treasury Department, and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

These investments demonstrate ongoing U.S. commitment to international climate involvement beyond the U.S. pledge for fast-start financing for adaptation and mitigation in developing countries. The administration understands these additional investments are critical to curb dangerous climate pollution, enhance national security, create American jobs, and secure leadership abroad.

11. Cut oil and gas tax breaks by $40 billion over a decade: The 2013 budget would make taxes fairer by eliminating $40 billion in tax breaks over 10 years for oil and gas companies. And about one-fourth of the savings would be invested in domestic manufacturing, which would create jobs. The five largest oil companies made a record $137 billion in profits in 2011, so they don’t need $4 billion in annual tax breaks.

Some of these proposals are familiar because the president proposed them in previous budgets. Although House Republican leaders have previously rejected them to benefit their Big Oil and Big Coal allies, these proposals remain good ideas that would benefit the middle class and the entire 99%.

Unfortunately, public support for these proposals has not been enough to overcome special interest opposition, aiding the 1% who profit from the energy status quo — high oil and gasoline prices, toxic air pollution, and record profits for oil companies. Obama’s budget, instead, would propel us along a clean energy path with more jobs, less pollution, and fairer taxes.

[Daniel J. Weiss is a Senior Fellow and the Director of Climate Strategy at American Progress, where he leads the Center’s clean energy and climate advocacy campaign. Before coming to American Progress, he spent 25 years working with environmental advocacy organizations and political campaigns.]


Originally posted on Climate Progress

The New Student Activism

Monica Almeida/The New York Times

Ashley Ward, an aspiring idealist with waning faith in the world, was standing in the newsroom of her college paper at Humboldt State University in Northern California when a fellow student rushed in with startling news.

Three thousand miles due east, on a tiny patch of Lower Manhattan, people were camping out to protest Wall Street, decrying its stranglehold on politics and continuing enrichment as the economy flatlined. It was the first that Ms. Ward, then a senior, had heard of Occupy Wall Street, and as she learned more about it, her heart glowed. “I’ve been waiting for something to happen for years,” she said. “I was personally starting to get afraid that something like this wouldn’t happen in my lifetime.”

She and a friend resolved to bring Occupy to their campus. They printed fliers, set up a Web site and blasted out e-mails. They told as many people as they could about their action plan. On Oct. 1, they held a sprawling, consensus-style meeting on campus, a version of the general assemblies being held in Zuccotti Park in New York, and set up tents. And thus was born one of the first Occupy Wall Street college protests.

Occupy protests rapidly sprouted at other campuses: hundreds nationwide currently have or had some sort of Occupy-related activity going on. Mirroring the broader movement, students have taken aim at widening income disparities and the cozy symbiosis between Washington and Wall Street. But the college occupiers have also embraced a panoply of causes, localizing and personalizing their protests in a way that has lent an immediacy and urgency to their outcries.

At Tufts, students have used the attention garnered by Occupy to advance a decades-long push for an Africana studies department. At Occupy Pocatello, Idaho State University students are condemning Idaho’s high foreclosure rate from a handful of pup tents as well as more wind-resistant cardboard boxes. At Yale, a traditional feeder school for investment banks and hedge funds, students noisily protested a Morgan Stanley information session in the fall. Recruiting visits to Harvard, Princeton and Cornell have been similarly disrupted.

“I’m not sure it would’ve happened if Occupy Wall Street wouldn’t have started,” said Marina Keegan, of the Morgan Stanley protest at Yale, where she is a senior. “Definitely people are starting to think more critically about their choices after graduation and how they affect not just themselves, but the world.”

All of which sets Occupy-related student protests apart from much of the campus activism that has come before. A good chunk of student protest has focused on single issues: nukes in the ’70s, apartheid and Contras in the ’80s, sweatshops in the ’90s.

Many of today’s new graduates find themselves heavily indebted, and to the same institutions that received multibillion-dollar bailouts in the financial crash. Median income is stagnant. Their public universities are underfinanced, and class sizes growing. College activists have linked these issues to broad critiques of the financial-political complex.

“What you have with the Occupy movement is a criticism of global capitalism and the American financial system, but also a critique of policing on campus, tuition policy, the way universities are run,” said Angus Johnston, a historian who teaches at the City University of New York. “That is certainly resonant with the movements of the ’60s, because student activism of the 1960s connected up major national and global issues and campus policy.”

While students as recently as 2009 were taking over campus buildings — across California and in New York, at the New School — Occupy has drawn a wider swath. Previously apolitical students have been drawn by personal woes — their parents’ vanishing 401(k)’s, their fears of the job market. “This has been a catalyst for getting more students involved,” said Anne Wolfe, 20, a junior at Tufts who is working with protesters at Boston University and camped out at Occupy Boston.

“We’re able to get out of our own college bubble,” she said.

At Humboldt, students set their tents back up after winter break. The campus has embraced the protests: the Associated Students, a council representing students, gave their full endorsement of the occupiers. Ms. Ward said communitywide Occupy meetings were being held indoors, and expects the core people to remain involved for the long haul. But she also expects attendance to wane. “We have a generation that believes instant gratification is the only form of gratification,” Ms. Ward said. “This is something that’s going to take a long time.”

As with Occupy Wall Street itself, it remains to be seen whether protests will last. Some stalwarts kept an occupation going during winter break — at Illinois State University, Normal, seven large tents. But most college camps — potent icons of the protest — were dismantled near semester’s end. One venture, the Occupy Student Debt Campaign, is foundering: signees vowed not to repay loans after one million people had signed, but two months in, just 3,000 debtors had taken the pledge.

“I’m hopeful but I have no illusions,” said Stephen A. Marglin, an economics professor at Harvard who spoke at an Occupy Harvard teach-in last month. “It’s not like I haven’t seen these things blaze out before.”

At Harvard, resentment had been building against the campus occupiers, who had erected about 30 tents in the fall. Citing safety concerns, the administration had taken the rare step of blocking access to Harvard Yard to anyone without Harvard identification, and the inconvenience of the checkpoint and restrictions on guests had curdled feelings. In mid-December, Occupy Harvard removed its tents to move into “a new phase of activism.” As classes resume on Jan. 23, students are planning teach-ins and outreach to keep alive what they now call “Occupy Harvard 2.0.”

“With OH 2.0, we can focus on specific actions and protests instead of using energy toward sustaining an unpopular occupation,” said Gabriel Bayard, a freshman who helped spearhead a walkout in November on an economics class taught by Greg Mankiw, who had been an economic adviser to George W. Bush.

Campus protests benefit from their setting — students can zip into their dorms for food, showers and restrooms. But some administrators have had to grapple with the safety and cleanliness issue while allowing for the cherished academic tenet of freedom of expression.

Seattle Central Community Colleges found itself hosting not just protesting students but also Occupy Seattle campers who had been rousted from a downtown park. The protesters soon settled on a campus plaza in some 70 tents. At first, administrators adopted a wait-and-see attitude. “Economic equity is sort of our mission,” said Jill Wakefield, the chancellor. “I’ve been at community colleges for 35 years. Nowhere did it prepare me to deal with 100 campers at one of our colleges.”

The problems that had riddled urban encampments found their way to the college site. Garbage accumulated. Discarded syringes were spotted and marijuana smoke wafted, causing a day care center that abutted the plaza to stop allowing children to play outside. There were reports of a possible sexual assault. Administrators wrestled with how to proceed. “You pray for snow, you pray for rain, but these are hardy campers,” Dr. Wakefield said. Last month, four weeks after Seattle Central’s board banned camping on campus, protesters moved peacefully off the site. In a blog post, Dr. Wakefield wrote proudly that the encampment “was one of the very few protest camps in the world to resolve peacefully.”

For their part, faculty members have largely supported the movement, participating in teach-ins and staging walkouts. After campus police at the University of California, Davis, doused students at a sit-in with pepper spray, it was the faculty association that called on the chancellor to resign.

Lisa Duggan, a professor in social and cultural analysis at New York University, is teaching a graduate course this semester that puts Occupy Wall Street in the broader context of other uprisings, including the Wobblies and the Arab Spring. She plans to host Occupy Wall Street activists as speakers and explore the history of debt and the rise of Wall Street. “I do think it has staying power,” Ms. Duggan said. “The issues themselves were so deeply felt across universities, across various communities in the U.S., and across the world.”

The movement has had the subtler effect of turning on its head the widespread characterization of today’s young people as entitled and apathetic. Among them was Ericka Hoffman, 26, a junior at California State University, Bakersfield, and one of the organizers of Occupy Colleges, a nonprofit group that facilitates Occupy movements at colleges. Before Occupy, activism did not interest her, but that changed with President Obama’s election. Ms. Hoffman saw him enacting policies as usual and, in her view, coming down on the side of Wall Street.

“This person touched the hearts of people who needed change and hope,” she said. “I think he let everybody down.” Meanwhile, her financial situation was worsening. She has $20,000 in student loans but has been unable to find even a menial job. “I can’t get a job at Target,” she said. “Even smaller jobs at Circle K won’t hire because they say you’re overqualified.”

Occupy protests at colleges provided a giddying sense of possibility. Bakersfield is a conservative town yet hundreds of students got involved. One professor brought her class out to talk to students doing a sit-in, and nearly half of them stayed.

“There are quite a few people who are apathetic,” Ms. Hoffman said. “Some of them don’t know what to do. They can’t see that it’s possible.”

But the hardest battle, she believes, will be getting the political and financial masters of the universe to listen.

“People in positions of power, I think they believe nothing is going to happen,” she said. “We’re just going to yell and scream and hold up signs and nothing’s going to change. But you’ve got an entire generation of people that realize something is wrong and something has to change because the system is wrong. There’s more of us than there are of them.”

Author: Cara Buckley, a metropolitan reporter for The Times.
Full url: Originally posted at The New York Times

No, that’s not snow: Pesticides coat California’s Central Valley

Photo by Verena Radulovic“See that, see that?! … Oooh, something is going on. They are spraying tonight.” A large cylindrical truck whooshed past us.

I am driving along a state road with Becky, a local activist, who is narrating from behind the wheel. “I once stuck around to see them spray and I had to turn the car around and get out of there, the smell was so overpowering.”

We pull over and I hop out to get a close-up look at the orange groves. I am in California’s Central Valley, America’s fruit basket, where agriculture is king.

Becky Quintana is waiting patiently in the car for me as I crouch down to inspect an orange tree. The leathery green leaves were splashed with white pesticide residue, like a Jackson Pollack canvas would be. It is early December, close to the holidays, one would be forgiven for mistaking the white splotches that covered the trees for Christmas flocking. But it turns out it’s like this year round — the chemical flecks a reminder of the high economic stakes involved in delivering an end product that is shiny, bright, and perfectly spherical.

‘There’s a lot riding on it.” Becky explains. “The fruit pickers bring them to the warehouses where the oranges are washed and waxed to look the way you see them in the supermarket. But most of the time,” she nods towards the fields, “they don’t come off the tree looking like that.”

Decades of applied pesticides and fertilizers have delivered high yield, immaculate-looking fruit to many of the supermarkets in the U.S. and to the far corners of the globe, but not without a local cost. Heavy pesticide and fertilizer use in Central Valley orchards that produce household staples such as oranges, peaches, nectarines, grapes, olives, and walnuts has contaminated local community drinking water.

But pesticides and fertilizers are only part of the problem. The primary groundwater contaminant in the region is nitrate, which can also be traced back to Central Valley’s other reigning ruler: Dairy. Interspersed between the acres of golden fruit, behemoth factories house hundreds, sometimes thousands, of cows. This combination of fertilizers, animal factory waste and old, leaky septic systems cause high levels of nitrate that exceed state and federal health standards and can cause death in infants and cancer in adults. The groundwater is also infused with arsenic, DBCP, dangerous levels of chlorine, and bacteria — all of which cause short and long-term illnesses.

Photo by Verena Radulovic

Valeriana, a local resident from Tooleville, in her kitchen.

Years ago, my good friend Laurel Firestone co-founded an organization called the Community Water Center (CWC) to bring attention to the water contamination in the region and to advocate for change. I finally visited her and learned more about the impacts of CWC’s work.

She picked me up from the Fresno airport late in the afternoon. By the time we headed south to her home, the sun had already departed the sky. As we drove along the inky highway, a sudden stench, the kind that exercises your gag reflexes, filled the car.

“Dairies,” she said, smiling as we drove alongside one. “Sometimes you can see the manure practically spilling out of the pens onto the road, there is so much of it.”

“I think we should have a scratch and sniff sticker to hand out so others can really experience what it is like to live near one,” said Susana De Anda, CWC’s other co-founder.

So, what does contaminated drinking water look like? Frighteningly, in most cases, no different from safe drinking water. The tap water in Laurel’s kitchen in Visalia, Calif., looked clear and inviting but was laced with 123 Tricholoropropane, a carcinogen. Bottled water is a fixture in almost every home, regardless of income level, yet those who are impacted the hardest are usually low-income Latinos, mostly farmworker immigrants who are the backbone of the area’s agricultural labor force. Almost 20 percent of the population lives in poverty and many residents spend up to a fifth of their income on bottled water, which is in addition to the $60 a month they must spend to have contaminated “drinking water” delivered to their home in the first place. In some cases, residents pay an additional $70 monthly water fee for sewage.

Photo by Verena Radulovic

Veronica in her home, preparing dinner.

“My kids used to get rashes after taking a shower,” relayed Veronica Mendoza, a local resident and activist from Cutler. And even if you don’t break out in welts after bathing, “you are still inhaling the toxins through the steam of the shower,” said Rose Francis, an attorney at CWC. To make matters worse, as Becky noted, many people think that boiling the water will rid it of nitrates when in fact doing so triples the concentration.

The difference between water delivery systems intended for crops and those intended for people is stark. Take the town of Seville as an example. Within the same two square miles, one reservoir for crop irrigation is a wide human-made river filled with clear water ready to be dispersed by an automated dam. The water delivery systems for homes in this particular community, while recently retrofitted, is still surrounded by thigh-high weeds leading to a dirty stream, where makeshift PVC piping inches along the muddy, shallow bottom.

Photo by Verena Radulovic

Reservoir intended for crops, not residents.

Photo by Verena Radulovic

View of local drinking water delivery system in Seville.

Photo by Verena Radulovic

Drinking water pipe and unfunded infrastructure applications.

The drinking water infrastructure in such communities is often expensive to retrofit. Many towns have decentralized septic systems, which are cumbersome and costly to link to a more centralized water delivery system — or simply costly to replace. Since water infrastructure projects are so politically charged, marginalized communities often find their drinking water improvement projects tangled in the bureaucratic fray. It can take years to get a project approved.

CWC has stepped in at all stages of effort to improve drinking water quality in the Central Valley, from testifying to policymakers to community organizing to working to get local projects funded. CWC’s work is especially challenging because of the delicate social and economic relationship between the agricultural industry and local communities whose jobs depend on it.

Photo by Verena Radulovic

Messaging as part of the Community Water Center’s recent campaign.

In the five years since CWC opened its doors, small wins have started to emerge that are significant for creating lasting solutions to some of these entrenched problems. CWC staff told me they are beginning to see changes in the way Big Ag approaches the issue of contaminated drinking water and the way residents come together to advocate for changes to improve their livelihoods.

While I was flying home and had time to digest what I saw, two things stood out to me. First, I was struck by how residents who lived in towns with contaminated drinking water were not afraid to work with CWC and advocate for change, despite the fact that they, or their families and neighbors were often undocumented workers. Second, I wondered whether or not we consumers, who are far removed from seeing the firsthand impacts of how our food is grown, would change our purchasing habits if we really knew the full story. As soon as it was time for me to go to the grocery store; this time I veered straight for the organic section.

Verena Radulovic is a photographer based in Washington D.C. with a focus on documentary and travel photography. For more of her work, visit her website.

Original post: Verena Radulovic’s blog

LEED Certifies 10,000th Project

In the midst of ongoing discussions on the program’s merit, the Green Building Certification Institute announced that the 10,000th commercial project has been LEED-certified, according to the U.S. Green Building Council.

The Live Oak Family Resource Center in Santa Cruz, Calif. was awarded LEED Platinum by the institute, — a community center providing families with guidance, information and referrals on childbirth and parenting, health education and services, youth and senior programs, food distribution and other community needs.

“It seems an appropriate reflection of USGBC’s mission of ‘green buildings for everyone within a generation’ that a LEED Platinum community center providing support services to local families would earn this special distinction,” said Peter Templeton, president of the institute. “LEED registered and certified projects now number more than 100,000 globally. This number underscores the confidence people have in LEED for saving water, energy, resources and money, and for delivering healthier and more comfortable buildings for the people who occupy them.”

The program, created in 2000, certifies more than 1.4 million square feet of new and existing buildings per day, according to the institute.

“Business leaders around the globe are using LEED to design, build, maintain and operate their buildings,” said Rick Fedrizzi, president, CEO and founding chair of the council. “Ten thousand commercial certified buildings stand as a powerful example that a strong triple bottom line translates to real, tangible success.”

The council also offers the LEED Volume program for new and existing building owners seeking to certify multiple projects like retail and hotel chains, bank branches and other similar project groupings.

Fedrizzi said the council has only ‘scratched the surface’ of what is possible in the green building field.

“In 10 short years, we’ve fundamentally changed how we construct and operate buildings and communities, and during that time LEED has continued to evolve, pushing sustainable building practice forward with each evolution,” he said. “But there’s much more to do. The market continues to embrace LEED as the leadership standard it was meant to be and our kids deserve the outcomes that green buildings contribute to their future.” (8-31-2011) Washington

Why I Lived With My Garbage For a Year

From Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2010, I saved every piece of my garbage.

No, I’m not homeless, and I didn’t lose my mind. I decided to save my trash—in my bedroom—because I started to realize how living in a consumer culture like ours means using a lot of “disposable” products.

We buy things, use them, then throw away the packaging, largely unaware that most of our trash ends up in landfills where it can sit for decades, contaminating the soil and ecosystems around it. Even recycling uses more energy than most people realize. Reducing the amount of garbage we produce in the first place is one of the best ways to save the planet. Keeping all my trash meant literally living with the impact of my daily decisions, which led me to make dramatic changes in my lifestyle.

I should clarify that I saved all my nonbiodegradable trash—things like glass, foam, and plastics, which don’t rot naturally. I set aside banana peels, coffee grounds, eggshells, and other biodegradable waste for composting, which returns nutrients to the soil and transforms waste into a valuable resource for growing more food.

Just as I washed my dishes, I scrubbed my soda cans, potato chip bags, and juice bottles with soap and water and hung them on my dish rack to dry. “Doesn’t your trash stink?” people often asked. As long as I washed and dried everything, it didn’t smell.

I believe that “waste” is actually a resource that can be used rather than discarded. Saving my trash allowed me to recycle or “repurpose” it into resources I value. I’m an artist, and I plan to use my glass bottles to create garden dividers, glass mugs, and wind chimes. My aluminum cans can be melted and used to make sculptures.

Rather than throw out my plastic bags and wrappers, I’ll stuff them into plastic bottles that can be used as “bricks” to build bus stops, benches, and even houses. This spring, I was part of a group of students at the University of California, Davis, who used plastic bricks to create a bench for the campus—a symbol of our commitment to helping eliminate waste.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the average American produces 4.3 pounds of garbage a day, 30 pounds a week, and about 1,600 pounds a year. In 2010, I produced 215 pounds of trash, slightly more than half a pound a day.

Though I won’t be saving all my trash again this year, my experience has permanently changed my consumption habits. Every trip to the grocery store is now an expedition. I bring reusable bags for produce, jars and containers to collect food from the bulk section, and cloth bags to carry it all back on my bicycle. I never leave home without my reusable mug. And I avoid consuming drinks from glass bottles; aluminum cans weigh less and therefore require less energy to recycle.

In short, I’ll never again be able to buy anything without pausing to ask myself: Is this really something I need? Is there a way to get it that involves less waste? And how can I reuse or repurpose the packaging?

I just graduated, and I plan to get involved in the “zero waste” movement, which is gaining momentum in California and across the nation. Several cities, like my hometown of Palo Alto, California, and universities, such as UC Davis, have pledged to find alternatives to placing trash in landfills.

I’m hoping that one day all people will see “waste” as just a resource in the wrong place.

By Brennan Blazer Bird
The New York Times Upfront, Vol. 143, April 18, 2011
Original URL: http://teacher.scholastic.com/scholasticnews/indepth/upfront/voices/index.asp?article=v041811

Tim DeChristopher found guilty, shows power of nonviolent civil disobedience

Climate activist Tim DeChristopher, who was put on trial in Salt Lake City, Utah, this week for his interference with an oil and gas auction held at the end of the Bush administration, on Thursday was found guilty by a jury. He faces a sentence of up to 10 years, to be determined by a judge.

After finding out the jury’s decision, DeChristopher spoke to supporters outside of the courthouse. “We now know I’ll have to go to prison. That’s the job I have to do,” he said.

In a recent interview with Grist, DeChristopher talked about the power of nonviolent civil disobedience and the role it can play in fighting climate change. He compares the need for action in the climate movement to the action taken by the Freedom Riders during the Civil Rights Movement. Watch the interview here:

DeChristopher hopes his sentencing and the act of “going to jail for justice” will give people perspective on our dire climate situation. In our interview, he said:

Climate change is a war against people and especially young people. People’s lives are being traded for the profit of others. That’s a war. And yet it doesn’t look that way, it doesn’t feel that way to most people. It just looks like businessmen making a profit. It looks like congressmen not doing their jobs very well. So when we make ourselves vulnerable and invite that reaction against ourselves, whether it’s a physical reaction or a reaction of the legal system, it starts to reframe that perspective for people.

Climate hawks and environmentalists are voicing their support for DeChristopher and calling him an example for the rest of us. Henia Belalia of Peaceful Uprising, a group cofounded by DeChristopher, responded to the verdict with this text message: “Heartbreaking, outrageous and yet not surprising with a limited defense. Justice did not prevail today — our response: resolve and a massive call to action.”

A sampling of reax from the Twittersphere:

Bill McKibben:

  • “Tim has shown the power of civil disobedience to shine a light — the government should be giving him a medal, not a sentence.” (Author and activist Jeff Biggers agrees.)
  • “If the Feds think this will deter protest, they couldn’t be wronger. Tim was brave alone; we need some mass bravery.”
  • “this is precisely the sort of event that reminds us just why we need a real, mass mobilization to stop the climate crisis.”

Rising Tide: “We will continue to stand w/ DeChristopher and take the guilty verdict as encouragement to act in the name of climate justice.”

Post Carbon Institute: “Tim is one of an exceedingly small handful of activists who walk the walk and now he’s on the shelf.”

talonpoint: “A society with its priorities straight would be talking about Tim DeChristopher instead of Charlie Sheen.”

brianwholt: “let’s hope @DeChristopher gets the same treatment as the bankers profiled in #InsideJob”

Read more from Bill McKibben on DeChristopher.

Watch the full DeChristopher interview.

Environmentalists stand up to Obama, win big

Under intense pressure from green groups and their members, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) announced Friday that Republican proposals to gut the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act were off the table in budget negotiations.

“Neither the White House nor Senate Leaders is going to accept any EPA riders,” Reid said.

Reid’s pledge follows 48 hours of intense pressure on the White House from major green groups, marking the first time many large environmental organizations have so openly and loudly targeted Obama and Reid — and it produced extraordinarily rapid results.

Indeed, as recently as Wednesday, the Associated Press had reported that Obama was insisting that congressional Democrats swallow rollbacks to EPA’s authority to crack down on climate emissions, mountaintop-removal coal mining, and Chesapeake Bay pollution as the price for passing a budget deal. When asked about the report, the White House refused to issue a veto threat against the rollbacks, and last Tuesday, Reid told reporters, “We’re happy to look at the policy riders. There aren’t many of them that excite me. But we’re willing to look at them. In fact, we’ve already started looking at some of the policy riders.”

That attitude began to change when environmentalists decided they’d gone too far:

  • “Obama to Sell Out the EPA?” — Sierra Club email blast from Conservation Director Sarah Hodgdon
  • “Tell Obama & Reid: Don’t Cave to Polluters” — League of Conservation Voters (LCV) Executive Director Gene Karpinski
  • “At EDF, our position is that children’s health should not be a bargaining chip.” — Environmental Defense Fund President Fred Krupp

The last quote was particularly striking given EDF’s reputation as the ultimate insider in the environmental movement, and probably the green group with the closest ties to the administration.

And Energy Action, the organizers of the upcoming Powershift youth climate conference, showed that environmentalists weren’t just cyber-angry; they were actual angry, announcing that “thousands of young, forgotten Obama voters,” were going to protest Obama outside the White House on April 18.

By Friday, the White House was beginning to back off, and Reid’s statement seems to have ended the debate, at least for now.

Nonetheless, it’s still open to question to what extent the environmental movement will learn from this win. Although Democratic leadership seems to be standing up for the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, those are hardly the only attacks on the environment emanating from the White House and its Democratic allies. Last week alone, the administration announced a massive expansion of coal mining that will produce pollution equivalent to that emitted by 300 coal fired power plants in a year, and has been rushing to issue new permits to drill offshore in the Gulf of Mexico — hardly less egregious than the contemplated EPA rollbacks.

Meanwhile, a range of Democrats have been following the White House’s lead and rushing to embrace the fossil fuel industries and other polluters. Democrat Sens. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan (LCV score 100) and Max Baucus of Montana went so far as to issue their own bills to gut the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases.

Over in the House, during a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Western Hemisphere subcommittee, New Jersey Rep. Albio Sires (D) surprised greens by expressing support for the Keystone XL pipeline, which would bring ultra-dirty oil from Canada’s tar sands to the United States, while panel Chairman Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) declined to take a position.

Whether or not these Democrats face the kind of intense pressure and protests that the White House did over the EPA rollbacks will tell whether this has been a true learning moment for greens and the broader environmental movement. In the past, on those few occasions when environmentalists have been forced to sorta stand up to Democrats, there’s been a tendency for confrontation-averse greens to creep back into our fawning shell once we win rather than to learn from the experience.

But the huge nature of this victory may be different — and we may have a chance of making Democrats believe that this movement has a backbone made of something other than organic jello.

Glenn Hurowitz is a Senior Fellow at the Center for International Policy and you can follow his Twitter feed about forests, climate, and wildlife @glennhurowitz

Full url: http://www.grist.org/politics/2011-04-01-environmentalists-stand-up-to-obama-win-big

Our Chance to Get Clean Energy Right

It’s springtime and birders, rock climbers, wildflower lovers and maybe even some long-lost U2 fans are flocking to the boulder-strewn desert wilderness just east of Palm Springs. But unless we act quickly to curb climate disruption, soon the one thing they won’t be able to find in Joshua Tree National Park is an actual Joshua tree.

From the time John Muir founded the Sierra Club in 1892, we have known how to stand up to the forces that would destroy the treasured landscapes that are so essential to human happiness. Our historic adversaries — mining, logging and development interests — have always been formidable. But now climate disruption poses an even bigger threat to those places. And the dirty energy industries responsible for climate change are even more powerful and relentless in resisting our efforts.

Today, being good stewards of our land, water and wildlife requires that we do everything we can to end our dependence on dirty energy, especially by moving aggressively to replace coal and oil with clean energy solutions.

We can take our first steps toward this goal by making our homes and offices as energy-efficient as possible and by putting Americans to work installing ingeniously-designed and affordable solar panels on rooftops and in urban parking lots as quickly and as aggressively as we can.

We will also have to build a number of large-scale clean energy projects, like the 700 MW Maricopa Sun project that we helped move forward in California this past week. While coal and oil are dirty vestiges of the 19th century that pollute our water and air, solar projects represent a fusion of cutting edge innovation with old-fashioned can-do spirit. But they are not without challenges.

Any large energy project carries the potential to damage wildlife habitat and natural resources — the very treasures that our 1.4 million members and supporters work with us to safeguard. In the Mojave Desert, we worry about protecting vulnerable creatures like desert tortoises, bighorn sheep and golden eagles.

We are in a tough position. But there are solid solutions to this dilemma. We must build large-scale energy projects in the places where they will cause the least harm — abandoned agricultural lands, defunct mines and other areas that have already been developed. By putting projects next to roads and transmission lines, we avoid the most sensitive habitat. We’ve worked with the Obama administration on a plan for developing these projects responsibly by setting aside special solar-energy zones that meet these criteria. When developments do cross habitat, we need to protect additional land in order to offset the damage.

Those of us who have dedicated our lives to protecting wildlife and wild places, and who are now taking on dirty coal and Big Oil, have a unique role to play in making sure that large-scale clean energy is developed both swiftly and responsibly. Because climate disruption is not only a hazard to our health and our communities — it also poses a threat to wildlife and wildlands that outstrips anything we’ve seen before. If we allow it to worsen, and if we don’t manage our landscapes in ways that quickly compensate for the damage already done, some of the wildlife that we treasure most here in California, like bighorn sheep, will be lost as habitat changes and they literally are left with no place to go.

That’s why Sierra Club and other environmental organizations are working closely with energy developers to help them do the right thing by responsibly meeting strict environmental review, and by helping them identify the best possible locations and practices for solar and wind projects. Our volunteers and staff have already worked to improve and promote projects that add up to more than 5,000 MW of solar in southwestern states alone.

This isn’t any easy endeavor, but it’s one of the most important we have ever faced. We are deeply committed to creating the solar and wind energy we need, and we will be working hard to make sure it’s done wisely.

This is our chance to get clean energy right, from the start.

Michael Brune – Michael Brune is the executive director of the Sierra Club. He previously served as executive director of the Rainforest Action Network and as an organizer for Greenpeace.
Full url: http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2011/04/our-chance-to-get-clean-energy-right/73345/

Koch-Funded Climate Skeptic’s Own Data Confirms Warming

This week, a climate hearing was held in the US House of Reps. Six ‘experts’ on climate were brought in, but only three were scientists. And it turns out that one of the GOP’s star witnesses — a scientist who’s been vocal in his skepticism of global temperature records, the physicist Richard Muller, of University of California, Berkeley, didn’t quite help them disprove climate change. Quite the opposite, in fact.

GOOD reports on what’s got to be my favorite anecdote from the climate hearings. But first, some background:

[Richard] Muller has been working on an independent project to better estimate the planet’s surface temperatures over time. Because he is willing to say publicly that he has some doubts about the accuracy of the temperature stations that most climate models are based on, he has been embraced by the science denying crowd. A Koch brothers charity, for example, has donated nearly 25 percent of the financial support provided to Muller’s project.

Skeptics of climate science have been licking their lips waiting for his latest research, which they hoped would undermine the data behind basic theories of anthropogenic climate change. At the hearing today, however, Muller threw them for a loop with this graph …

That’s the one above.

As you can see — and more importantly, as Muller himself has come to believe — the established data collected by temperature stations around the world are accurate. Muller’s independent work confirms that the data on which the majority of the best climate models rely upon is actually quite good.

Which is why it must have pissed off the GOP Reps, who were counting on him to offer testimony skeptical of climate change, when he announced the following: “We see a global warming trend that is very similar to that previously reported by the other groups. The world temperature data has sufficient integrity to be used to determine global temperature trends.”

In other words, Muller’s Koch-funded project, which skeptics had hoped would call into question the validity of the data backing the projections of climate models, instead provided even further evidence yet that they are correct. There’s even better reason to believe that the climate models are accurate than there was before. It’s science, folks.

By Brian Merchant | Sourced from Treehugger
Posted at April 1, 2011, 4:38 pm

Full url: http://www.alternet.org/newsandviews/article/546941/koch-funded_climate_skeptic’s_own_data_confirms_warming/

Students Rally Against Prop 23 Supporters in Rancho Mirage

UCSD was one of several universities represented at a rally against oil company executives held on Jan. 30 in Rancho Mirage, where a secret meeting was held by energy conglomerate Koch Industries and Tea Party members.

The rally was organized by the California Student Sustainability Coalition, an organization that works with universities across the state to increase sustainability and awareness. About 2,000 protestors, including 50 San Diegans, showed up with only a handful of peaceful arrests made.

“The goal of the protest was to really expose that the Koch brothers were having this secret meeting and continue to raise hundreds of millions of dollars to take over our democratic elections,” CSSC Campaign Director Gabriel Elsner said.

Andrew Breitbart, a frequent guest commentator for “Fox News,” attended the secret meeting held by the Koch brothers.

“He was on roller skates trying to rile up the crowd and insult them,” Elsner said. “It was uncalled for.”
The rally began at around 1 p.m. Participants marched in front of the Rancho Las Palmas Resort, where the Koch Industries meeting was held.

“Getting the Koch brothers into the light and showing the American public what these brothers are doing is one of our strategies to get corporations and dirty money out of our elections,” Elsner said.

Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas were in attendance at the executive meeting— two of the justices who voted in favor of protecting corporations, allowing unlimited spending on elections.
The Koch Industries meeting was to discuss approaches to the 2010 elections in light of last year’s Supreme Court ruling, which protects their unlimited spending.

“[The Koch brothers] are funding far-right wing politicians and groups that spread misinformation about our government so that they can elect politicians who want to deregulate and defund our governments institutions that safeguard the public,” Elsner said.

The New York Times received a leaked invitation to the meeting, according to Elsner.

“[The Koch brothers] keep their company private by owning 51 percent of it, so they can do whatever the heck they please,” UCSD Student Sustainability Collective Director Jared Muscat said.

Muscat organized buses to the meeting in Palm Springs from San Diego. Protestors were also bused in from Los Angeles and Santa Barbara.

“The Koch brothers do a really good job of keeping everything they do behind closed doors,” Muscat said. “But they do an extra special job of never having to answer to anyone but themselves.”

The Koch brothers invested at least $1 million to support Prop 23, which would have suspended the “Global Warming Act of 2006,” but was defeated in the Nov. 2010 election.

“The Koch ideology is more private profits at the expense of the health and prosperity of the American people,” Elsner said.

Students from the CSSC are also working with partner organizations including Greenpeace and ACLU.
“We’ve never been too big of fans of the Koch brothers,” Muscat said, “They’ve never really cared about the environment.”

Thousands Converge on Koch Brothers Billionaire’s Caucus; 25 Arrested

(Katie Falkenberg, For The Times / January 31, 2011)Twenty-five protesters were arrested in Rancho Mirage, California today, at a protest in front of the Rancho Las Palmas resort, site of the “Billionaire’s Caucus,” an annual meeting put on by the Koch Brothers and other corporate entities and conservative movement operators.

Riverside Sheriff’s deputy Melissa Nieburger said that the sheriff’s department did have contacts with protest organizers, which included the California Courage Campaign, CREDO, MoveOn.org, 350.org, the California Nurses Association, United Domestic Workers of America and the main sponsor, the good-government group Common Cause, prior to the event, and that they were aware that some protesters would seek to be arrested for trespassing. She would not guarantee that all 25 who were arrested were part of that coordinated operation. The police, who wore riot gear, batons and helmets, did put the arrested into plastic handcuffs. Nieburger described them as “passive restraints.” They were being processed at press time, and Nieburger would not say whether they would be released or would spend the night at the jail in Indio.

Nieburger estimated between 800 and 1,000 activists at the “Uncloak the Kochs” event. Event organizers chartered buses from several locations around Southern California and claimed 1,500 people signed up for those buses, on top of any local activists who attended. It appeared from the ground that well over 1,000 protesters were there.

While the sheriff’s deputy claimed no knowledge of who called out the Riverside County sheriffs and the Palm Springs police department to the proceedings, Common Cause was contacted by the sheriff to see what they were planning and coordinate appropriate resources. The city of Rancho Mirage contracts with the Riverside County sheriff’s department for their law enforcement needs.

Van Jones, the former green jobs deputy in the Obama Administration and senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, described the anti-Koch rally as “the beginning of our fight back.” The leadership of Common Cause, generally a far more congenial organization, was a bit unusual, part of a new aggressiveness and penchant for direct action from the group. “I think you’re going to see a new Common Cause.”

The Koch Brothers, billionaires who have generously funded conservative and libertarian causes for over a generation – including the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute, and tea party groups like Americans for Prosperity – put together an annual meeting, typically held in the California desert, with fellow corporate CEOs and conservative operatives, to plan the year ahead. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and 2012 Republican Presidential candidate Herman Cain were reputed to attend the gathering at the sprawling Rancho Las Palmas resort. The Kochs bought out the entire resort for Saturday and Sunday. Some activists who stayed at the resort Friday night and booked dinners at their restaurants on Saturday had their reservations canceled by the resort, and were given $150 each for their trouble.

Common Cause organized the protest weeks ago, and set up a stage in the parking lot across the street from the Rancho Las Palmas resort. But from the beginning, activists were far more interested in the resort site, and they massed themselves across the street and then eventually in the driveway of the resort. The police, in their riot gear, came out very early to guard the resort, only letting in authorized personnel. Hotel guests, presumably attendees to the Koch Brothers meeting, looked on, holding smart phone cameras and taking pictures of the display. In addition, conservative provocateur Andrew Breitbart, resplendent in shorts and roller skates, mulled around the crowd with a couple lackeys and a small video camera, talking to (and arguing with) attendees. I asked Breitbart exactly who necessitated the riot police, the lady with the papier-maché puppet or the Code Pink lady’s umbrella, and he claimed to have seen unspecified “internal emails” proving the potential for violence and the need for security. Surely that will come out in the next few days. I didn’t want to keep him from his workout, so I wrapped up the interview.

After a litany of speakers – including Jim Hightower, Rick Jacobs of the Courage Campaign, and Common Cause President and former Illinois Pennsylvania Congressman Bob Edgar, the entire group of protesters moved to the setup across the street from the resort. Police helicopters buzzed overhead. After a while, the police agreed to shut down Bob Hope Drive, and the protesters streamed across the street and directly in front of the resort, just a few inches away from the phalanx of riot cops. The usual protest chanting and raising of banners ensued. More cops were brought in, traipsing over the flower beds. And 25 protesters were taken away in a paddy wagon. The protests were generally peaceful, and the police professional.

The protesters generally decried the Koch Brothers’ influence over American democracy, in particular their use of the Citizens United ruling to spend corporate money in elections. Koch Industries’ funding of climate denialism and other conservative causes was on the minds of the protesters as well.

After about 45 minutes, the cops opened the road again (the police originally said they would only shut the street for 7 minutes) and asked the crowd to disperse. Eventually, the crowd did so, chanting “This is just the beginning.”

Sheriff’s deputy Neiburger would not say whether this was the first time protesters had disrupted the Koch Brothers meetings, but up until last year and a series of articles by Lee Fang of Think Progress, they had not been well-publicized.

Bob Edgar, the President of Common Cause, said in a brief interview that he was happy with the turnout and the outcome. I asked him if this was evidence of a more aggressive organization. “Keep watching,” he said.

By: David Dayen Sunday January 30, 2011 4:34 pm
Original url: http://news.firedoglake.com/2011/01/30/thousands-converge-on-koch-brothers-billionaires-caucus-25-arrested/

Strengthening the Roots Convergence 2011

Held at UC Santa Cruz Feb. 18-20, this year’s fourth annual Strengthening the Roots Convergence is going to be bigger than ever. Thanks to the help of partner organizations throughout the region, this year’s STR will strengthen the roots of our movement for just and sustainable food by bringing 450+ students and allies together for workshops, panel discussions, and leadership trainings. The convergence will empower high school and college students to actively engage in their local communities and institutions by providing them with leadership skills, successful models and case studies, and a broader network of activists and allies.

Want to learn more? Want to attend? Check out the Strengthening the Roots website and REGISTER HERE!

Arnold Lashes Out at Valero, Prop 23

Proposition 23, the initiative that would suspend California’s greenhouse gas laws, is not about saving jobs. It is about greed, said California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Speaking at a Commonwealth Club event in Santa Clara, the governor lashed out at the companies–particularly Valero, Koch Industries and Tesoro–trying to effectively get rid of the state’s carbon regulation law, known by its bill name AB 32. Technically, Prop 23 would suspend AB 32 until employment falls below 5.5 percent, something that has occured only sporadically in the last few decades.

“This is a corruption of the democratic process,” he said. “Texas oil companies have descended upon California to overturn a California law. There is a struggle playing out right here in California that the world does not know much about.”

The effort is similar to the conspiracy hatched among oil companies in the 1920s to get rid of light rail systems. Then, the companies bought up the easements for light rail systems in 45 cities and then systematically dismantled them.

“Today, Valero and Tesoro are in a conspiracy. Not in a criminal conspiracy, but a cynical one about self-serving greed,” he said. “Does anyone think in their black oil company hearts that they want to create jobs?

“Valero and Tesoro want to stop the movement from old energy to new energy because its means lost market share,” he added.

He then rattled off a number of impressive statistics. California is home to 12,000 green companies. Approximately 40 percent of the green patents are awarded to California inventors. A wind farm in Kern County has created 1,000 jobs. Solar thermal will create 2,000 jobs. Greentech jobs have grown ten times faster than jobs in other sectors. 500,000 green jobs have popped up in California since 2005, he added.

“Green jobs are the single largest source of job growth in California,” he said.

The U.S. Navy has also imposed stringent goals for renewable energy, he noted, adding that the Navy isn’t the usual pot-smoking, left-of-center Berkeley resident.

He also displayed a gift for colorful analogies, contending that Valero’s argument that suspending AB 32 will create jobs is like “Eva Braun writing a kosher cookbook.”

Despite all of the rhetoric about Valero, Schwarzenegger declined to criticize Meg Whitman, the Republican running for his job. Whitman recently said she opposed Proposition 23 but wants to suspend AB 32, passed four years ago, for a year in a vintage bit of hair splitting. The governor said he’s mostly concentrating on defeating Proposition 23. Neither Whitman or opponent Jerry Brown will be governor when that vote takes place, he said. All Schwarzenegger said was that Whitman, who has spent $119 million of her own money on her campaign, should spend her millions on defeating Prop 23.

“California is America’s last hope for energy change,” he added. “We intend to win this battle.”

Other comments:

–Permitting has to be improved in the state. Getting a runway put in at an airport can take ten years. “It is stupid,” he said. The California Energy Commission has sped up the process for solar thermal process, but the backlog is still pretty large. The Tehachapi permit almost got defeated because it appeared that condor migratory routes might be moving. “You can’t go by there if there could be a squirrel, or could be a condor,” he said. “I am all for protecting the environment, but when it is too much, it is too much.”

State Senator Fran Pavley (and author of AB 32) pointed out that the legislature is trying to consolidate review for parcels near urban areas.

–The U.S. needs to move faster on high speed rail. “It is crazy that we travel the same way today that we did 100 years ago,” he said. “Italy, Spain, England, France, Germany. They all have high speed rail. Hello? Are we asleep?”

Convergence in T-Minus 17 Days!

Happy Tuesday everyone!

The convergence is less than THREE weeks away and we here at UCSB are excitedly getting our campus ready for all your shining faces and brilliant minds!

Get ready for a weekend in beautiful Santa Barbara that is at once intense and relaxing, inspiring and energizing. There will be amazing farm-fresh local food, great music Saturday night, and space for you to have amazing conversations with some of the most amazing people you will meet.

So get your butts on over on the 15th of October! The Environmental Affairs Board at UCSB has been hard at work getting our campus ready for an overflow of awesome activists and getting our year started off the right way by rocking that vote for clean energy in November!

Peace and Trees,

P.S. If you’ve got something awesome to share, we would love for you to lead a workshop at the Convergence. The deadline’s this Sunday, don’t miss out!

Floods, fire, and fiddling

Legend has it that Nero fiddled while Rome burned. These days, Congress fiddles while the world burns.

More precisely, it’s Russia that’s burning at the moment, with a record heat wave and forest fires being blamed for as many as 15,000 deaths so far. Also troubling is the drought, which prompted the Russian government to ban wheat exports this year, sending shock waves through global food markets.

And as Russia burns, Pakistan drowns, with record rainfall producing floods that have affected 20 million people. A nuclear power ever teetering on the verge of chaos, Pakistan could be pushed over the edge by a catastrophe like this one.

While we can’t blame global climate change for any specific weather event, the disasters now unfolding follow a pattern of greater extremes predicted by scientists amid rising world temperatures. A warmer atmosphere, for instance, holds more water vapor, which produces heavier rainfall. (Just ask the people of Nashville, where the stage of the Grand Ole Opry was under water earlier this year.)

If we don’t take steps to stop climate change, these freakish extremes will become the new norm in the decades to come. How many droughts, fires, and floods will it take before we act?

Despite the evident urgency of the issue, the U.S. Senate failed to consider a climate and energy bill before members of Congress returned home this month. The odds of such legislation passing this year look very slim.

Not that the proposals being considered were anything to be hopeful about.

The latest congressional measure to limit carbon dioxide emissions is aimed only at electric utilities, and it would give away most permits to emit the greenhouse gas in the initial years. When the free permits run out, the proposal would allow polluters to purchase cheap carbon offsets that would, in most instances, fail to produce net reductions in CO2.

Top it all off with a volatile trading system that fails to send a clear price signal to clean-energy investors, and you have a recipe for failure.

This is what you might expect, of course, when legislation to control climate change is dictated by the people who are causing it. Perhaps Congress should stop trying to appease the coal and oil lobbies and start listening to the folks who actually want to preserve a sustainable world for their grandchildren.

Climate scientist James Hansen is one of those folks. In the preface of his recently published Storms of My Grandchildren, Hansen writes, “I did not want my grandchildren, someday in the future, to look back and say, ‘[Grandpa] understood what was happening, but he did not make it clear.’ ”

Hansen is doing everything in his power to be clear about climate change and what needs to be done. At an Earth Day rally on the National Mall in Washington this past spring, he unveiled a proposal called “The People’s Climate Stewardship Act.”

Simple, transparent, and effective, the proposal calls for a direct fee on carbon-based fuels at the source – whether coal mine, oil well, or port of entry – that would rise each year. As a result, clean-energy sources would be cheaper than fossil fuels within a decade. Since this would increase the cost of energy, the revenue from the carbon fee would be returned to households in the form of monthly payments or reduced payroll taxes, shielding families from higher prices.

The carbon fee would level the playing field for wind, solar, and other clean-energy technologies, unleashing a flood of investments that produce millions of jobs and wean our nation off coal, oil, and natural gas.

Now that cap-and-trade climate legislation has failed in the Senate for the fourth time, we should regroup and gather support in the next Congress for the simple, fresh approach of a carbon fee and dividend. Rep. John Larson (D., Conn.) introduced such a bill last year, but it was tabled when the House passed the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill.

Let’s hope Larson makes another run at the proposal in January. The smoky haze hanging over Moscow and the floodwaters inundating Pakistan serve as a warning that we’re running out of time.

Marshall Saunders is the founder and president of Citizens Climate Lobby. He can be reached at ccl@citizensclimatelobby.org.

Full article url: http://www.philly.com/inquirer/opinion/101280824.html#ixzz0xYLOA78n

Strong public support for climate law, but battle brews

Despite a whole lot of brouhaha over AB 32 and the proposition to derail it, two-thirds of California residents continue to back it — a percent unchanged from last year. So says a poll conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California.

But the results don’t put the climate law in the clear in November. Pollsters asked residents whether the state should take action “right away” on its plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or wait until the state’s economy and job situation improve: Respondents were evenly split.

Controversy surrounds the job-creating powers of the climate law, although most studies find a modest bump (and this analysis finds a definite boost to government jobs).

It’s important to note, though, that Prop 23 wouldn’t just put AB 32 on hold for a spell: It would wait for employment numbers so good that the state has seen them just three times in the past three decades, according to data from the California Department of Labor.

Earlier this week, Prop 23 backers — who get two-thirds of their financing from the Texas oil companies Valero and Tesoro — sued the state over language to be used on the ballot. The ballot will describe the measure as one that “suspends air pollution control laws requiring major polluters to report and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” Backers deny that greenhouse gas emissions are air pollution and contend that AB 32 requires more than just “major polluters” to reduce their emissions.

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/green/detail?entry_id=69072#ixzz0wyMQWQTT

Paved with Good Intentions: Fiscal Politics, Freeways and the 20th Century American City

Stuck in traffic in Washington, DC in 1959, President Eisenhower was shocked to learn that the delay was being caused by Interstate Highway construction. Surely the Interstates were being built between cities, not in them. The President demanded to know who was responsible for this state of affairs, only to be told that he was; it was the result of legislation he had signed three years earlier. Aghast, Eisenhower attempted to get the federal government out of the urban freeway business. But it was too late: the program had built up momentum that not even he could halt.

Fifty years later, many planners and urbanists are still asking Eisenhower’s question: Why did the United States, unlike every other developed country, choose to mass-produce freeways in cities? What caused the Interstate Highway program to urbanize, decisively shaping both intracity travel and American cities?

Other questions about America’s unique urban freeway systems abound. Why did the Interstate program shift control over crucial metropolitan transportation decisions from city halls to statehouses and Washington? Why are urban freeways not nimble, context-sensitive facilities but the large, ungainly ones we have today? Why did poor, predominantly minority communities in the inner city, and newer low-density communities on the suburban fringe, bear the brunt of freeway construction, while established, better-heeled neighborhoods were spared? And why did freeway-building explode onto the scene so dramatically, only to flame out just as spectacularly such a short time later?

The answers to these questions involve planning, engineering, and politics. But more importantly, they involve a force as prosaic as it is powerful: money. The development of metropolitan freeways is a powerful testament to the ways that money—the constraints caused by the lack of it, the means of raising it, the politics of dividing it, and the policies for spending it—can powerfully, even decisively, shape transportation outcomes. To a surprising—and perhaps disturbing—extent, the urban freeways’ capacity, routing, geometrics, safety provisions, and much else were significantly shaped by the internal logic of the transportation finance system. To understand the development of metropolitan freeways, and thus the American city, it is necessary to “follow the money.”

Planning for Cars In Cities

In the early years of the 20th century, urban transportation was funded at the municipal level. Property taxes and special assessments paid for street networks. Since these taxes were levied and collected locally, local officials had authority over the transportation system.

Thus it was municipalities, armed with locally-generated revenue streams, that struggled to cope with the tidal wave of automobiles that flooded city streets as the car became a mass market good. Auto registrations rose from 8,000 in 1900, to half a million in 1910, to over 8 million in 1920, to over 22 million in 1930—a more than 2,700-fold increase in just 30 years. In an effort to deal with the congestion that resulted, cities hired consultants from among a small coterie of planners and engineers to map out plans to accommodate the car. These consultants, who included planning pioneers like Harland Bartholomew, Charles Cheney, and John Nolen, usually recommended operational fixes like widening and standardizing streets, eliminating jogs and dead ends, installing traffic signals, funneling traffic onto main thoroughfares, and segregating different types of traffic (i.e. streetcars, autos, trucks, and pedestrians). For a time these measures provided congestion relief, but the ever-increasing number of autos meant that more radical approaches were soon needed.

Planners proposed one such approach: a new type of road that adapted design principles from facilities intended for recreational motoring. In the late 1800s, real estate developers discovered that access to parks could boost property values. To capitalize on this they built “parkways,” roads that scenically linked their developments to nearby open space. The builders of parkways took advantage of two crucial design features. Limited access to the roads prevented slow-moving vehicles from unpredictably entering and exiting the traffic stream. This meant less disruption to traffic, a reduced risk of collisions, and less cluttering of streets. Grade separation at intersections eliminated the need to stop at cross streets, increasing speeds on both roads and effectively doubling the parkways’ vehicular capacity.

Transportation planners incorporated these features into plans for a type of facility that, it was thought, would be the permanent solution to urban traffic woes. The relatively free movement of vehicles on these proposed roads led to their eventual name: “freeways.”

Where parkways were recreational facilities, early plans for freeways were utilitarian, designed to untangle the jams of autos, streetcars, trucks, buses, and pedestrians that cluttered American cities. They envisioned roads far different from those we know today. These freeways would have had fewer lanes (typically four), lower design speeds (usually 45 mph, though by the 1930s most new cars were capable of going much faster), and smaller, simpler interchanges. Building them would have required displacing some homes and businesses, but far fewer than were eventually displaced to accommodate the much larger freeways eventually constructed. The early freeway plans also called for dense networks of highways, with an eye towards dispersing traffic, not concentrating it on a few large facilities. And land use was integral to many of the early plans; the freeways were designed to cut with the urban grain, not against it. Proposed joint highway/real estate developments were not uncommon, and in some cases freeways were to be multi-modal, with transit vehicles traveling in the medians. Finally, some early plans called for gridiron as opposed to radial layouts to disperse traffic across rapidly decentralizing cities.

Show Me The Money: Finance Drives Planning

Most cities had the technical and financial means to widen their streets, install traffic signals, and carry out other operational fixes. But they lacked the means to shoehorn extensive freeway systems into dense urban areas. One problem was that the tax instruments available to local governments were not appropriate for the task. Local governments had the authority to levy taxes and special assessments on property and businesses, but not, for example, on fuel. The property tax is a sensible mechanism for financing local streets and roads, because these streets link individual land parcels to the world and help give them value. It is thus logical for property owners to help pay for local street construction. Freeways, however, affect the value of property across the entire metropolitan area, not just of nearby parcels. This makes it hard to justify special assessments on freeway-adjacent properties, since the majority of a freeway’s benefits accrue to travelers and landowners over much larger areas. (Indeed, being too close to a freeway can lower land values, particularly for residential property.) And in any case, property tax revenues were inadequate for building even relatively modest freeway facilities, much less networks of them.

A potential solution to these problems emerged in the 1920s with the development of the gas tax. As a way to finance freeways, gas taxes had much to recommend them: they placed the tax burden on users of the system, they were relatively easy to administer and collect, and they were robust. Property tax revenues nationwide plummeted 72 percent during the Depression years of 1930 to 1939, but fuel consumption and its associated tax revenues proved surprisingly resilient. Except for a small dip at the beginning of the Depression, fuel consumption rose every year until World War II.

But the gas tax had one key drawback for cities: the revenues were collected at the state and later the federal levels. Accepting outside funding would mean accepting outside control. City officials thus faced the Hobson’s choice of giving authority over metropolitan freeways to the states, or foregoing most of their ambitious plans. With congestion worsening, city officials had to act. So in the dozen years following the Second World War most cities ceded authority over the planning, development, and operation of urban freeways to state highway departments and the engineers who staffed them.

Transferring control from municipal to state (and later federal) authority needn’t have meant abandoning the locally-developed metropolitan freeway plans. But with state money and state authority came state ideas. State highway departments had a rural orientation; they were primarily responsible for rural roads and their engineers were disproportionately from rural areas. The state highway engineers typically focused on high-speed farm-to-market and intercity access, increasing access to remote areas, rural economic development, and reducing rural road accidents. They also sought to maximize traffic flows on new high-speed facilities; in the eyes of state highway engineers, the challenge facing rural roads was not that they attracted too much traffic but that they often attracted insufficient traffic to justify the investment.

For the most part state highway engineers lacked a holistic view of freeways’ place within the larger urban organism. Context, land use, and multi-modalism were largely absent from their plans. For example, many early freeway plans called for frequent interchanges in order to alleviate the burden of traffic spillover on nearby streets, but state highway engineers sought to minimize the number of interchanges in order to speed traffic, discourage short trips, and reduce costs. This rural-centered focus on high-speed superhighways, even in cities, was gradually etched in stone and would become—for better or worse—a hallmark of the Interstate system.

Ramping Up The Program: The Genesis Of The Interstates

Though the state departments of transportation took over most metropolitan highway planning in the late 1940s and early 1950s, during World War II and the years that followed little progress was made in building freeways either within or outside of cities. The national Interstate Highway System was adopted in 1944, but the program lay nearly dormant for over a decade. The dearth of freeway building at either the state or federal levels was largely due to a lack of funds. Only California surged ahead with state construction of metropolitan freeways, which is one reason its model of state-directed urban freeway development would later be copied nationwide. California’s pioneering role can be traced to finance: to pay for its freeways the state passed steep tax increases on fuel and trucks in 1947.

In contrast to California’s decisive action, it took a dozen years of false starts and dead ends before the financing system for the massive national network could be crafted. That schema required the cobbling together of a diverse coalition of interests to support the substantial tax increases needed to fund the system. In political terms, the creation of this coalition was a triumph. But in transportation terms the outcome was decidedly mixed. The final, landmark legislation that turned the beliefs of state highway engineers into “facts on the ground” also sounded the death knell for the vision of the early metropolitan transportation planners, and introduced financial incentives that would have important unintended consequences for urban freeway development.

In 1955, Congress soundly defeated yet another piece of legislation to fund the Interstates. A year later, similar legislation easily passed both houses and was signed into law. Why did Congress have such a sudden change of heart? First, the 1955 bill faced opposition from the rubber, petroleum, trucking, and intercity bus industries, as well as the Teamsters and the American Automobile Association. The former organizations objected to proposed tax increases on fuel and tires. The trucking industry protested that taxes on diesel fuel and other levies on heavy vehicles were too onerous; the AAA protested they were too light.

In addition, urban members of Congress were generally uninterested in what was widely perceived as a rural intercity highway bill. The original Interstate highway plan adopted in 1944 had explicitly left the urban portions of the system unplanned, with the routes to be located and designated later. While this deference represented an enormous tip of the hat to urban transportation planners, it also meant urban legislators failed to grasp the implications of the proposed freeways for their districts. In order to capture the imagination (and support) of urban congressmen, in 1956 federal highway officials hastily sketched out the urban segments of the system. In a planning process lasting only eight months, deference to local transportation planning and urban concerns was cast aside and routes were hurriedly laid out for one-size-fits-all superhighways through cities large and small around the country.

To overcome opposition to the tax increases, the congressmen, federal highway officials, and interest group members (particularly from the construction industry) who formed the core of the interstate lobby created the Highway Trust Fund. The Trust Fund guaranteed that all new revenues from fuel and other taxes would be dedicated only to highways. Dedicating the revenue secured widespread political support, even from the interests being taxed, and at the same time conjured an up avalanche of money. But it also narrowed the possibilities for freeway building. Dedication of money to the Trust Fund, for example, meant that plans including transit were jettisoned in favor of highway-only facilities.

The rules governing the financing of the system had other important effects. Prior to the Interstate program, the federal government had matched states’ expenditures on federal-aid highways on a 1:1 basis. Beginning in the early 1950s this ratio began to rise, reflecting bi-partisan enthusiasm for highway development and a fear that states might not prioritize Interstate construction. Finally, the 1956 legislation settled on a terrifically generous 9:1 match. This meant that states could best leverage their transportation dollars on Interstate spending. Predictably, to maximize the buying power of their revenues, states all but dropped plans for smaller, less invasive complementary facilities and concentrated their resources on new Interstates.

To create a limited system of superhighways, the federal legislation capped the centerline mileage of Interstate highway each state was permitted to build. While this was perhaps a sensible way to manage the extent of the system, the limit encouraged states to concentrate traffic onto sparse networks of freeways, in a sharp contrast to what was proposed by early metropolitan freeway plans. Moreover, while capping mileage, the federal government did not cap expenditures; this encouraged the building of roads with as many lanes and bells and whistles (weaving sections, elaborate interchanges) as possible. The resulting sparse networks of very high-capacity urban freeways disrupted cities more than the planners’ original vision of denser, smaller, often multi-modal networks would have.

Financial considerations also dictated that during the early years of the program the Interstates were built with terrific haste. The increases in fuel and other taxes brought in so much money in the decade after 1956 that state highway engineers literally couldn’t build planned freeways fast enough; states were forced to quicken the pace of Interstate construction for fear that unused funds might be reallocated. This decade of rushed freeway construction offered planners and engineers limited opportunity to learn from their mistakes.

Financial incentives also helped to ensure that the burden of freeway construction fell disproportionately on lower-income neighborhoods. While freeway builders had lavish funding at their disposal in the early years, their desire to quickly complete as much mileage as possible drove them to start with the inexpensive low-hanging fruit: suburban segments (which required minimal displacement of existing homes and businesses) and routes through lower-income central city neighborhoods (where land costs were lower and organized political opposition was weaker). Higher-cost routes, by contrast, were often moved down in the queue. But by the time these more expensive (and often controversial) segments were ready for construction, money had begun to run short and the freeway-building program was winding down. Thus many of these routes (like a planned freeway through Beverly Hills) were shelved and never built.

End of the Road

The rapid ascent of freeway-building was matched by an equally rapid demise. By the mid-1970s, only 20 years after the program commenced, urban freeway construction had slowed to a trickle, even though the system remained well short of completion.

In part the urban freeways were stopped due to “freeway revolts.” Spearheaded by the nascent environmental and social justice movements, agitation against freeways took place in cities like Baltimore, Boston, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York, Reno, and San Francisco. In some cases the anti-freeway movement scored spectacular successes, using popular and political pressure to block highway projects. Environmental legislation like the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which was signed into law in 1970, shapes transportation planning to this day thanks in part to popular discontent with freeway-building.

But the more significant cause of the freeway program’s premature sunset was simpler: it ran out of money. Stagnant real revenues and escalating costs for labor, materials, and rights-of-way (all of which rose considerably faster than inflation) doomed the program, which was waning well before most freeway revolts began. Chronic fiscal shortfalls resulted not so much from a conscious effort to terminate the freeway program as from benign neglect and political inertia, as public officials turned their collective attention elsewhere. Moreover, freeway building ironically carried some of the seeds of its own demise. With the exception of immediately adjacent residential parcels, freeways generally increase surrounding land values, especially in new, outlying suburbs. Thus when new freeways were proposed, speculators often rushed to purchase land in the proposed corridor, thereby raising property values and driving up right-of-way costs for the departments of transportation.

By the 1970s, the fiscal shortfalls were so dramatic that dozens of locally popular routes to which there was little opposition were shelved—evidence that dollars, and not dissent, were the primary force behind the withering of the freeway-building program.

Changing Lanes

Today, we have in many ways come full circle and returned to the outlook of the early 20th century urban planners. The current highway planning process is a well-intentioned if sometimes quixotic effort to ensure that the mistakes of the Interstate-building era will never be repeated.

Cities and regions now have much more input into and control over their transportation destinies. To a large extent we have moved from embracing to tolerating autos, from circumventing stakeholder objections to facilitating stakeholder input, from fostering auto-oriented suburban expansion to encouraging less auto-dependent forms of development, from constructing major new highways to mitigating the effects of transportation facilities, and from focusing on metropolitan freeway networks to multimodal planning with an emphasis on transit in larger cities. Regional transportation plans and proposals today—like those crafted before the freeway-building era—reflect a wide array of urban concerns, including reducing congestion, preserving central business districts, improving public transit, and reviving depressed communities.

And yet it is possible the pendulum may have swung too far. An era of comprehensive, centrally-directed planning has given way to an era of piecemeal, atomized planning that often lacks coordination, direction, vision, or, importantly, a sustainable stream of revenue. The freeway era of fantastic financial largesse has given way to one of comparative penury, as cities and regions scramble to cobble together funds for popular individual projects—another way in which the modern planning paradigm resembles that of the first half of the 20th century. Instead of fuel taxes, general sales taxes and public debt increasingly fund projects, a change that abandons the user-fee logic of the past and brings a very different set of constraints and incentives.

President Obama’s 2009 stimulus package momentarily changed this calculus; once again boom replaced bust in transportation finance. In the haste with which the funds were allocated, the stimulus harkened back to the Interstate era. Thus it is wise to remember the unintended consequences this kind of spending can have. Interstate backers wanted to build freeways, and were willing to make many financial compromises to do so. Freeways were built, in spectacular fashion, but the unforeseen and sometimes harmful results of their achievements reverberate to the present day.

By Jeffrey A. Brown, Eric A. Morris, and Brian D. Taylor

Full article url: http://www.uctc.net/access/35/access35_Paved_with_Good_Intentions_Fiscal_Politics_.shtml

Ensuring Food Security Means Protecting Pavlovsk Seed Bank

Riddle me this: What’s more valuable, global food security or a batch of luxury homes? I know, seems like kind of a no-brainer. Keeping the world fed should obviously come before some new McMansions. But apparently a Russian court thinks otherwise.


Yesterday, a Russian court declared that the Russian Federal Fund of Residential Real Estate could take over the land currently occupied by the Pavlovsk Experiment Station, a global seed bank. By seed bank, I don’t mean a building containing drawers full of seeds. I mean a more than 173-acre area housing tends of thousands of living, growing crops, 90 percent of which aren’t found anywhere else in the world. As USA Today recently reported, “there are apples from 35 countries, 1,000 varieties of strawberries from 40 countries, black currants from 30 countries, plums from 12 countries and multiple other crops.”

Seed banks like Pavlovsk serve a vital role in ensuring food security. For one, they prevent crop varieties from going the way of the Dodo. But perhaps more importantly, seed banks allow scientists to create new crop varieties. For example, by cross-breeding one variety with another, researchers can develop plants that can withstand drought or higher temperatures, an especially important research area considering this whole climate change thing we’ve got going on. Destroying the Pavlovsk seed bank, then, isn’t just ruining thousands of plants in an isolated area. It threatens the future of food across the globe.

In 1926, famed geneticist Nikolai Vavilov started the Pavlovsk seed bank, which is now maintained by the Vavilov Institute of Plant Industry. Throughout the decades, the seed collection acquired thousands of crop varieties, which scientists fought hard to expand and cultivate. During the 900-day Siege of Leningrad during World War II, 12 scientists starved to death rather than eat the rare plants contained in Pavlovsk. It’s a shame to think that this extraordinary collection that scientists literally gave their lives for could see its demise from a few McMansions.

But it’s not too late to take action. Vavilov Institute instantly appealed the court’s decision to hand Pavlovsk over to real estate developers. The appeal buys the seed bank about one month of time before any development can happen. President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin possess the power to protect Pavlovsk seed bank. Sign this petition asking President Medvedev to conserve Pavlovsk and stop the destruction of the future of food.

Sarah Parsons is Change.org’s Sustainable Food Editor. Her work has appeared in Popular Science, OnEarth, Audubon and Plenty.

Photo credit: Noel Zia Lee via Flickr

Full article url: http://food.change.org/blog/view/ensuring_food_security_means_protecting_pavlovsk_seed_bank

Crabs provide evidence oil tainting Gulf food web

To assess how heavy a blow the BP oil spill has dealt the Gulf of Mexico, researchers are closely watching a staple of the seafood industry and primary indicator of the ecosystem’s health: the blue crab.

Weeks ago, before engineers pumped in mud and cement to plug the gusher, scientists began finding specks of oil in crab larvae plucked from waters across the Gulf coast.

The government said last week that three-quarters of the spilled oil has been removed or naturally dissipated from the water. But the crab larvae discovery was an ominous sign that crude had already infiltrated the Gulf’s vast food web and could affect it for years to come.

“It would suggest the oil has reached a position where it can start moving up the food chain instead of just hanging in the water,” said Bob Thomas, a biologist at Loyola University in New Orleans. “Something likely will eat those oiled larvae … and then that animal will be eaten by something bigger and so on.”

Tiny creatures might take in such low amounts of oil that they could survive, Thomas said. But those at the top of the chain, such as dolphins and tuna, could get fatal “megadoses.”

Marine biologists routinely gather shellfish for study. Since the spill began, many of the crab larvae collected have had the distinctive orange oil droplets, said Harriet Perry, a biologist with the University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Coast Research Laboratory.

“In my 42 years of studying crabs I’ve never seen this,” Perry said.

She wouldn’t estimate how much of the crab larvae are contaminated overall, but said about 40 percent of the area they are known to inhabit has been affected by oil from the spill.

While fish can metabolize dispersant and oil, crabs may accumulate the hydrocarbons, which could harm their ability to reproduce, Perry said in an earlier interview with Science magazine.

She told the magazine there are two encouraging signs for the wild larvae — they are alive when collected and may lose oil droplets when they molt.

Tulane University researchers are investigating whether the splotches also contain toxic chemical dispersants that were spread to break up the oil but have reached no conclusions, biologist Caz Taylor said.

If large numbers of blue crab larvae are tainted, their population is virtually certain to take a hit over the next year and perhaps longer, scientists say. The spawning season occurs between April and October, but the peak months are in July and August.

How large the die-off would be is unclear, Perry said. An estimated 207 million gallons of oil have spewed into the Gulf since an April 20 drilling rig explosion triggered the spill, and thousands of gallons of dispersant chemicals have been dumped.

Scientists will be focusing on crabs because they’re a “keystone species” that play a crucial role in the food web as both predator and prey, Perry said.

Richard Condrey, a Louisiana State University oceanographer, said the crabs are “a living repository of information on the health of the environment.”

Named for the light-blue tint of their claws, the crabs have thick shells and 10 legs, allowing them to swim and scuttle across bottomlands. As adults, they live in the Gulf’s bays and estuaries amid marshes that offer protection and abundant food, including snails, tiny shellfish, plants and even smaller crabs. In turn, they provide sustenance for a variety of wildlife, from redfish to raccoons and whooping cranes.

Adults could be harmed by direct contact with oil and from eating polluted food. But scientists are particularly worried about the vulnerable larvae.

That’s because females don’t lay their eggs in sheltered places, but in areas where estuaries meet the open sea. Condrey discovered several years ago that some even deposit offspring on shoals miles offshore in the Gulf.

The larvae grow as they drift with the currents back toward the estuaries for a month or longer. Many are eaten by predators, and only a handful of the 3 million or so eggs from a single female live to adulthood.

But their survival could drop even lower if the larvae run into oil and dispersants.

“Crabs are very abundant. I don’t think we’re looking at extinction or anything close to it,” said Taylor, one of the researchers who discovered the orange spots.

Still, crabs and other estuary-dependent species such as shrimp and red snapper could feel the effects of remnants of the spill for years, Perry said.

“There could be some mortality, but how much is impossible to say at this point,” said Vince Guillory, biologist manager with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

Perry, Taylor and Condrey will be among scientists monitoring crabs for negative effects such as population drop-offs and damage to reproductive capabilities and growth rates.

Crabs are big business in the region. In Louisiana alone, some 33 million pounds are harvested annually, generating nearly $300 million in economic activity, Guillory said.

Blue crabs are harvested year-round, but summer and early fall are peak months for harvesting, Guillory said.

Prices for live blue crab generally have gone up, partly because of the Louisiana catch scaling back due to fishing closures, said Steve Hedlund, editor of SeafoodSource.com, a website that covers the global seafood industry.

Fishermen who can make a six-figure income off crabs in a good year now are now idled — and worried about the future.

“If they’d let us go out and fish today, we’d probably catch crabs,” said Glen Despaux, 37, who sets his traps in Louisiana’s Barataria Bay. “But what’s going to happen next year, if this water is polluted and it’s killing the eggs and the larvae? I think it’s going to be a long-term problem.”

John Flesher
Full article url: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100809/ap_on_bi_ge/us_gulf_oil_spill_blue_crabs

New ocean garbage patch discovered

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a mess of trash and plastic that moves around the north Pacific Ocean and is roughly the size of Texas. It has a high concentration of plastics and chemical sludge. Photos from the patch of trapped sea turtles and tires will snare the attention of even the most stone-hearted cynic. A second plastic gyre has been discovered in the north Atlantic Ocean. And as Yahoo Green reports, another gyre was recently spotted in the Indian Ocean.

Ocean currents collect floating garbage and drop it into gyres that serve as a convergence spot. Trash has long washed up on the beaches of India, and now experts have confirmed that it may in part be due to a giant swirl of refuse making its way around the Indian Ocean.

Anna Cummins and Marcus Eriksen — co-founders of the 5 Gyres Institute, which is focused on plastic pollution in the oceans — report that of “the 12 water samples collected in the 3,000 miles between Perth, Australia, and Port Louis, Mauritius (an island due East of Madagascar), contain plastic.” As Cummins explained to Yahoo Green, “We now have a third accumulation zone of plastic pollution that shows compounding evidence that the trash isn’t condensed to an island. It’s spread out across the entire gyre from coast to coast.”

Often called the world’s largest dump, these oceanic gyres are comprised of anything and everything that goes into the sea. Discover Magazine refers to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch this way: “Around and around: bottles, plastic bags, fishnets, clothing, lighters, and myriad other man-made items, held until they disintegrate, make their way to distant seas, or merely bob among the waves before washing up on someone’s beach.” In the North America alone, over 14 billion pounds of trash go into the ocean each year. The U.S. Coast Guard estimates that merchant ships dump 90 percent of the waste, while recreational boaters, the military, and cruise ships contribute the rest — with a 1 percent dose of sewage thrown in.

So where does this leave the Indian Ocean Garbage Patch? Eriksen emphasizes the importance of stopping the flow of trash into our bodies of water. These gyres are almost impossible to clean out because they do not form a solid base of trash. Eriksen also suggests cleaning up beaches as quickly as possible to prevent trash from entering or returning to the water. Another solution — collective reduction in individual plastic consumption — would also help create cleaner bodies of water.

In the meantime, the 5 Gyres Institute plans expeditions into the southern hemisphere to look for more trash.

Katherine Butler
Full article url: http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/wilderness-resources/stories/new-ocean-garbage-patch-discovered

More Oiled Birds Than Ever Being Found

More than three weeks after BP capped its gushing oil well, skimming operations have all but stopped and federal scientists say just a quarter of the oil remains in the Gulf of Mexico.

But wildlife officials are rounding up more oiled birds than ever as fledgling birds get stuck in the residual goo and rescuers make initial visits to rookeries they had avoided disturbing during nesting season.

Before BP plugged the well with a temporary cap on July 15, an average of 37 oiled birds were being collected dead or alive each day. Since then, the figure has nearly doubled to 71 per day, according to a Times-Picayune review of daily wildlife rescue reports.

The figures for sea turtles have climbed even higher, with more oiled turtles recovered in the past 10 days than during the spill’s first three months.

While the increase in turtles remains a mystery, wildlife officials say there are several factors at play in the seemingly counterintuitive surge in the number of oiled birds recovered since the leak was stopped.

For starters, it took longer for the oil to reach nesting colonies in coastal marshes, creating a lag in the spill’s effect on sea birds, said Kyla Hastie, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

She said rescuers also had steered clear of some rookeries until recently.

“We’re just now getting into some of the really sensitive areas,” Hastie said. “If we had done so earlier, we could have done more harm than good.”

Young birds getting caught

Fledgling birds that are just now leaving nesting colonies are particularly vulnerable to landing in oiled areas, said Charlie Hebert, a deputy wildlife branch director for the Fish and Wildlife Service.

“We’re seeing more juvenile birds getting oiled as they’re trying out their wings,” he said.

While skimming operations have nearly stopped because the remaining oil is too dispersed, bird rescue efforts have held steady, with about 45 teams heading out each day, Hebert said.

Rescuers are in a race against the clock as the percentage of oiled birds recovered alive has dropped from 56 percent before the well was capped to 41 percent now.

As of Friday, a total of 1,794 oiled birds had been recovered alive, as well as 1,642 that had died, with 73 percent of the birds coming from Louisiana.

Hebert said the spill has primarily affected pelicans, herons, egrets, terns and laughing gulls, but information on how many of each species have been recovered was unavailable.

Wildlife officials had rehabilitated and released 657 birds through Thursday.

A total of 428 oiled sea turtles have been recovered, with 222 coming in just the past 10 days.

“The high number of turtles is a bit of a mystery to us,” Hebert said. “We’re finding oiled turtles feeding on seaweed drift lines, but there’s no apparent oil in the drift lines or on the open water.”

The prognosis for sea turtles has been much better than for birds, as just 17 visibly oiled turtles have died.

Exxon Valdez more deadly to wildlife

The wildlife death toll from the Gulf oil spill has been much lower than the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska, which killed an estimated 100,000 to 250,000 seabirds, 2,800 sea otters, 300 harbor seals, 250 bald eagles and up to 22 killer whales.

Hebert said the Exxon Valdez spill caused such carnage because it occurred close to shore in cold waters that quickly killed oiled birds who lost their waterproofing.

By contrast, birds oiled in the Gulf’s warm waters can survive for two or three weeks before they become debilitated enough to be captured by rescuers, Hebert said.

Because the Gulf region sits beneath one of the world’s major migratory flyways, a federal conservation agency is paying some farmers and ranchers to flood their fields to provide oil-free feeding and resting areas for millions of birds passing through the region.

The $20 million program will involve up to 150,000 acres of former wetland areas and low-lying land, according to the Agriculture Department’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Meanwhile, Hebert said nesting islands affected by the spill are “looking a lot better now.”

“Most of the oil has been removed,” he said. “From a wildlife point of view, I’ve been very happy with the cleanup efforts.”

Hebert said the recent uptick in the number of oiled birds being recovered is not expected to continue for a prolonged period.

“The oil has stopped flowing and there are no places where big numbers of birds could be hidden from us,” he said. “We’ve already been everywhere.”

Paul Rioux, The Times-Picayune

Full article url: http://www.nola.com/news/gulf-oil-spill/index.ssf/2010/08/oil_spill_plugged_but_more_oil.html

OurEarth.org Summer Internship – Application Due 5/21

OurEarth.org’s 2010 Summer Internship Program is a chance to work on a number of diverse environmental projects, be in a team with students from other colleges, and earn course credit. Because OurEarth.org is still a young organization, this is also an opportunity to join on the ground floor of an up-and-coming initiative. This means that you can take on leadership roles and, if you choose, have responsibilities that almost no other internships can offer–a great addition to your resume!

OurEarth.org involves over 60 environmental professionals, experts, and undergraduate and graduate students from around the country, so you can begin networking for a future environmental career. All work is done remotely, meaning you can work from your home, campus, or anywhere the wind takes you! But fear not, you will still have very frequent contact with the OurEarth.org leaders and interns via conference calls, email, webinars, and other electronic mediums.
OurEarth.org is a national, 501(c)3 non-profit organization and grassroots initiative that intends to completely transform the way environmental programs, activities, and information are found on the internet so that the public can become more proactive in protecting the environment.

If you are interested in an internship, visit the website and review the internship program description and application (http://www.ourearth.org/students/default.html). If you have any questions, please contact John Ullman at (410) 878 – 6485 or jgu@duke.edu, to get additional information.

Are You Interested In Joining CSSC’s Statewide Leadership? Tell Us About It!

CSSC is very active right now and we need your help to keep going strong. We are dependent entirely on student and alumni volunteers to accomplish our work. Joining CSSC’s leadership is an excellent way to take your work to the next level, build your resume, cultivate your leadership skils, and meet lifelong friends and colleagues. We will soon be looking for students to fill new positions on the Operating Team and Council of Representatives that will keep us moving forward strong. We will be putting out a call for applications around June 1st. If you have any interest in joining CSSC’s leadership, we ask that you fill out this super quick leadership interest form so we can be certain to be in touch with you when we put out our call for applications.

Screening & Discussion of LA MISSION Tuesday 5/11

Join the San Rafael community this Tuesday, May 11th, including partners such as Marin Peace and Justice Coalition and Teens Turning Green for a special screening of the new film LA MISSION, a film which captures the essence of the struggles of humanity on a personal, social and political level. Following the film, there will be a Q&A discussion with producer and director Peter Bratt and film cast members.

Buy tickets in advance HERE, from fandango.

Movie Description: Growing up in the Mission district of San Francisco, Che Rivera (Benjamin Bratt) has always had to be tough to survive. He’s a powerful man respected throughout the Mission barrio for his masculinity and his strength, as well as for his hobby building beautiful lowrider cars. A reformed inmate and recovering alcoholic, Che has worked hard to redeem his life and do right by his pride and joy: his only son, Jes, whom he has raised on his own after the death of his wife. Che’s path to redemption is tested, however, when he discovers Jes is gay. To survive his neighborhood, Che has always lived with his fists. To survive as a complete man, he’ll have to embrace a side of himself he’s never shown. For more information, visit http://www.lamissionthemovie.com/

Alice Walker has praised the film, saying “It is extraordinary. A film of Now, a film for us, for the emerging consciousness of what needs to happen in the heart and conscience for humanity to evolve beyond violence.
All the stars. Not five or six or ten.”

Please join us!

Apply for the Young Activist Award today!

The Mario Savio Memorial Lecture & Young Activist Award invites you to nominate a candidate for the 13th annual Young Activist Award. The award this year carries a cash prize of $6000, divided equally between the prize-winner and his or her organization. This award is presented to a young person (or persons) with a deep commitment to human rights and social justice and a proven ability to transform this commitment into effective action.

This award honors the late Mario Savio (1942-1996), who came to national prominence as a spokesperson for the Berkeley Free Speech Movement in 1964. His moral clarity, his eloquence, and his democratic style of leadership impelled thousands of his fellow Berkeley students to struggle for, and win, more political freedom, inspiring a generation of student activism. Savio remained a lifelong fighter for human rights and social justice.

Nominations are due by June 30, 2010. You can find more information on our website. Nomination forms and additional background information are available at www.savio.org.

Students Urge Regents to Strengthen Sustainability Policies

Gabi Kirk, UC Santa Cruz – On March 23rd, students from across the state pulled together successful messaging to ask the UC Regents to strengthen sustainable food policies and support UC’s investment in renewable energy projects. The UC Board of Regents met from March 23-25 at UC San Francisco. Various committees discussed every aspect of the UC system, from academic programs to fiscal structure to capital expansion. One key policy that was reviewed at the Committee on Grounds and Buildings, was the UC Policy on Sustainable Practices. This Policy, which was initially advocated for by students in 2003 who were apart of the CSSC, has led the UC System to becoming a leader in sustainability. Thanks to this policy the UC system is the 8th largest institutional purchaser of renewable energy in the nation. Since 2003, this policy has been hugely successful in guiding best sustainable practices at all UC campuses. Most UCs are on their way to meeting and exceeding goals, including 20% organic food in dining halls, reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 2000 levels by 2014, and a zero-waste UC system by 2020. Four CSSC students attended the meeting, advocated for increased sustainable food and energy policies and called for the Regents to fund these programs. Students look forward to the continued support of the UC Regents on sustainability projects. For more information on all items discussed at the March meetings, please visit the UC Regent Live blog, written by Student Regent-designate Jesse Bernal: http://ucregentlive.wordpress.com/

– Gabi Kirk, Student at UC Santa Cruz

West Coast Students Strengthen the Roots of the Real Food Movementlui

On February 12-14, over 200 students from 35 campuses gathered in Santa Cruz, California, for the third annual Strengthening the Roots: Food and Justice Convergence. The convergence brought together a diverse group of students – from aspiring farmers to animal rights activists to campus dining employees – who were committed to creating a healthy, just, and sustainable food system. This event empowered high school and college students to actively engage in their campuses and local communities by providing them with leadership skills, successful models and case studies, and a broader network of activists and allies.

The convergence began on Friday with a series of fun activities designed to build relationships and stimulate conversation around issues like sustainable agriculture and social justice. Participants discussed the guiding principles of the Real Food Challenge and drew posters to reflect their own interpretation of these concepts. Later, they created a timeline (shown at right) of the Real Food movement, beginning with the origin of agriculture and ending with their visions of a perfect food system. Students included their own accomplishments on the timeline, and they discussed their roles in changing our food system.

Saturday began bright and early with an innovative program featuring four food activists whose work represented different parts of the Real Food Wheel. During this Pecha Kucha ceremony, the presenters shared their experiences through photos, spoken word, and music. The rest of the day was filled with interactive workshops about agri-food issues, practical skills, and successful models and case studies. In these workshops, participants explored issues such as community empowerment, farmworker rights, and the role of protest in our movement. They also learned strategies for effective student organizing and shared success stories from their own campaigns.

After a long day of learning, students settled down to a delicious meal of pumpkin curry, Indian lentils, and a fresh salad made from local, organic produce. They shared their stories and then danced the night away at a Go Live: Real Food Concert! Artists Jennifer Johns and Erwin Thomas inspired the crowd with their music and engaged students in an interactive discussion about how communities can reclaim control of our food system. Photo from the concert at left.

On Sunday, participants came together for a panel discussion on food justice that featured experts and practitioners in the field. Panelist Lloyd Nadal, the program director of CANFIT, acknowledged the often competitive relationship between non-profits and urged students to build broad coalitions with other organizations seeking to improve people’s quality of life. After reflecting on the panel discussion and their own experiences during the convergence, students participated in a closing drum circle that left everyone energized and excited to bring new ideas back to their campus communities.

For more information or to get involved in the West Coast RFC, contact Kelsey Meagher: westcoast@realfoodchallenge.org.

Apply for an Internship or Volunteer with Voces y Manos

Voces y Manos Por el Derecho a la salud is looking to recruit enthusiastic, committed volunteers for our summer program! Since 2007, Voces y Manos has been working with Indigenous communities to promote educational opportunities for local youth, and community health. Voces y Manos is unlike the majority of other summer volunteer programs—our objective is not to make volunteers feel better about themselves through charity work, but rather to address global injustices in health by working in partnership with schools, families, and other community organizations.  If you are looking to sightsee or relax in Guatemala, we recommend looking for another program.  If you are looking to grow, to learn, to fully immerse yourself in the Maya-Achí culture and to engage in the struggle for health for all, this is the program for you.

What is the Voces y Manos experience like?

For 6 weeks, we will live with host families.  At first, we will learn as much as we can about the local culture from our host families, from working with NGOs, and from visiting sacred and cultural sights around Rabinal.  Beginning in the first or second week, volunteers will work
with a team of local youth to engage in a process of critical research.  Teams will identify problems of major health importance for the community.  For 3 weeks, teams will research that problem, primarily through community interviews.  Then for another three weeks,
teams will work to develop a mini-project to address the issue. Simultaneously, we will work as volunteers in Rabinal’s annual community health fairs: Family events that bring hundreds of community members together with numerous NGOs, doctors, dentists, and nurses from around the world to provide free health services to the community.  We are looking from volunteers from all academic disciplines: Pre-health, humanities, sciences, environmental studies, etc.  Please send an email to michaelbakal (at) gmail (dot) com if intersted!


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