Ask Your Campus if Divestment is the Right Choice

Show them why they are wrong if they say no.
By: Josh Cozine

Every great now and again the long term economic advantages of investing in an industry, and our collective understanding of the ethics involved in continuing to do so, come to a distinct crossroads.

Disinvesting, or divesting, is one tool used in such circumstances, and is the process through which a group or organization pull their money out of potentially dangerous or socially harmful investments. Past instances include divestment from many South African companies to combat state sponsored racism during apartheid, as well as many institutions divesting from tobacco companies in the 1990’s to early 2000’s as health concerns and lawsuits against tobacco companies reached a critical mass.

Many student led groups and environmental organizations are now pushing for divestment from fossil fuel industries under some of the same arguments: investing in, and the ultimate burning of fossil fuels contributes negatively to human health and the health of our shared environment.

Getting such movements accomplished on a national or even statewide scale can take decades or be nearly impossible with legislative red tape. However, on the local level great strides can be made.

Campus Campaigns:

CSU Chico:
In December of 2014 CSU Chico made national history by becoming the first public university to pledge to fully divest from the top 200 fossil fuel companies. The victory, culminating in an 8-4 vote by the University Foundation’s Board of Governors in favor of divestment, came about only after three semesters of planning, work, and activism by a group of students and their professor of a course entitled Environmental Thought and Action.

According to Kevin Killion, previous Council Chair here with the California Student Sustainability Coalition, and one of the co-coordinators of the students at Chico State running the project, their campaign can be divided into three different segments, with each being the primary focus of one semester’s work. “The first semester was primarily information gathering and planning. Finding which documents we needed to fill out, where the fossil fuel money was being invested, and who we needed to convince, which our professor, ‘Dr. Mark,’ was incredibly helpful with,” Kevin recalls.

When questioned about how exactly he was able to help as a faculty member involved with the push to divest, Professor of Geography Mark Stemen, whose courses place a large emphasis on the environment and working with local communities, responded, “I was able to help by getting signatures from over 100 other faculty members on a petition to divest, as well helping the students to understand administrative policies and how to work to change them. Often times this could be just as simple as pointing students to the right documents to fill out, or knowing who to email or call and where to start.”

During the next semester students gathered signatures for petitions and put forth their measure to be included in the Associated Students student election, written such that a yes vote will direct student elected leaders to encourage the University to fully divest. Students then took their message public, with large scale demonstrations around campus, including a ‘human oil spill,’ and a banner drop from one of their largest buildings.



(Left: Students Drop banners to spell out the word DIVEST. Photo from Chico State Geography and Planning Dept website. Right: Chico state students create a mock oil spill as a demonstration to inform and educate students. Photo from Chico State newsletter The Orion, photo credit: Emily Teague.)

Along with this students set up social media campaigns as well as distributing orange square patches to be worn by student supporters while placing orange square signs all across campus as a symbol of the cause. All this and more led to an atmosphere of campus wide awareness leading to the measure passing at 85% yes for all students who voted.

The third and final segment of the campaign involved lobbying and working with the foundation and board before they made their final vote on whether or not funds would be divested. Kevin notes here that, “It is important to maintain a respectful yet confident demeanor with administration in this regard.”

Direct action and activism can be useful tools for garnering student support and getting your groups voice heard, but after doing so, attempting to reach out and work together with board members can actually work. By crafting thoughtful presentations to help inform the board of the inherent hypocrisy of investing in fossil fuels while claiming to be a University dedicated to sustainability, and by showing examples of other institutions successful divestments, with little to no monetary loss, the students were able to persuade the board to fully divest.

(The Ayes have it! Board approves CSU Chico Foundation fund to divest from fossil fuels holdings by 8-4 margin. Photo from The Orion, photo credit: David McVicker)

In May of 2014 Stanford University’s Board of Trustees voted to remove all of its investments in coal. This vote, passed by the Stanford Board of Trustees, did not come up as a part of due course, but happened once again on the back of years of work and organization by students of the campus. Of special note are the members of Fossil Free Stanford. Started near the end of 2012, Fossil Free Stanford (FFS) formed with the goal of convincing Stanford to divest from all fossil fuel industries. After a written letter of intent the group held a march and a rally before they were able to speak with their school investment panel.

(Fossil Free Stanford students, on a march to raise awareness of their cause. Photo from

They then submitted a request for review of fossil fuel investments on the grounds that such industries contribute massively to climate change which may cause dangerous and unforeseen consequences across the globe. “The system for review of investments was already there, which was really nice,” mentions John Ribiero-Broomhead, member of FFS.

Stanford had been a part of the previous South African Apartheid, and tobacco divestment movements, so all the framework needed to start a fossil fuel divestment campaign could be found by looking to past work. The students gathered the required 1000 signature petition in order to get a movement on the ballot for the student body to vote if in favor of, or against divestment. They then campaigned before student elections, leading to a 75% vote by students in favor of divestment.

(Members of Fossil Free Stanford. Photo from

While the group took the news of the 2014 coal divestment as a huge win, they remain dedicated to fully divesting their school from all fossil fuels. Shortly following the coal divestment decision, FFS filed another request for review for Stanford’s remaining holdings in the natural gas and oil industries. However, a new addendum had been added to the divestment criteria between the coal decision and their next request for review.

This addendum states that industries must be examined to see if they provide a ‘net social benefit or net social harm,’ before divestment can occur, and due to this addition their request for review was denied. “In this instance Stanford is ignoring their own published research by climate scientists we have within our faculty,” John contends, regarding the notion that oil and gas industries can possibly be viewed to be seen as causing more net good for society than harm.

After spending further months attempting to speak with administration about getting their request reevaluated and subsequently being ignored for months, the members of FFS, and other students in agreement of the divestment movement, staged a nonviolent direct action sit-in event where they camped out in the main quad of the president’s office. Finally, at the end of the week long camp out, the president agreed to a meeting with FFS members.

“Nothing further was promised to be divested that day, but we didn’t see it as a failure, rather we all felt inspired to finally be able to once again have our voices heard, and our concerns responded to,” John says, describing the feelings of those present. “We are also still very hopeful. This happened last year and we now have a new President of the University. Perhaps we won’t need to stage any more direct action events to finish our mission, but we will be ready to if we need to, and Fossil Free Stanford won’t stop until Stanford is fully divested from all fossil fuels.”

Butte College:
Beginning in late 2016, students at my own Butte College formed a group dedicated to getting our campus fully divested from fossil fuels. Butte College has long claimed itself as a leader in sustainability, even offering a certificate in sustainability studies, held by yours truly. Yet when it comes to the matter of divestment, administration has so far failed to lead by example.

“We’re still in the formulation and outreach steps of our campaign, but our next step is going to be drafting a letter to the Butte College Board of Trustees, asking them to make their investments transparent, and to state our intent of getting any investments in the top 200 fossil fuel industries divested elsewhere,” stated Courtney Copper, coordinator of the group, and fellow California Student Sustainability Coalition (CSSC) member. “We’ve also been working with other organizations like the CSSC, FossilFreeUC, as well as working with former members of the Chico State divestment campaign.”

“I’m hopeful,” says Edward Fortenberry, another student working within the campaign when asked his thoughts on what a letter to the board might accomplish. “They seem to be entertaining the idea now,” he also responded regarding the Board of Trustees current attitude toward divestment.

The group is prepared to make plans of direct action events if necessary, hoping to raise awareness amongst the student body in a similar fashion to other campaigns. First though, “You start by talking, then you act,” according JT Abbott, another student member who is responsible for social media and outreach for the group.

“What we need most right now is more members and more people interested,” Courtney said in closing, “And we want all types of people: artists, activists, researchers, and people from other organizations. There’s a place for everyone. We’re a small group right now but have hopes of growing much larger, and I for one am not leaving until I see Butte College divested.”

Start Small, Think Big, Act Responsibly, and Follow Through
One of the aspects that all of these campaigns have had in common is that they all started very small and grew into larger movements. The campaign to divest at Stanford, which successfully convinced the Board of trustees to divest in coal, and continues on with Fossil Free Stanford, started very simply after a group of students heard Bill Mckibben speak one night and decided to meet for pizza after and continue talking about what they could do. The wildly successful Chico State campaign started with the work of one class, and eventually led to it being the first Public University in the US to fully divest from the fossil fuel industry. The Butte College group is currently only a small core of interested students with some support from other divestment organizations, but hopes to grow substantially in the coming semesters, and have promised not to quit until their job is done.

Another point mentioned by all these campaigns that is worth reiterating is to remember to act respectfully and responsibly. Passions can run very high in students when it comes to the areas of sustainable practices and divestment. This is especially true when there is often a generational and emotional gap between the students who will inherit the consequences of such investments, and the administration with an often rigid fiduciary responsibility that favors monetary returns over all else. The different direct action events mentioned throughout the article undoubtedly helped in raising awareness of their issues, but these actions came only after attempts to change things non disruptively, and likely would have accomplished nothing without thorough follow through.

Final Thoughts:
Our modern society and western ways of life are sadly, almost completely intertwined to the present use of fossil fuels, but that does not mean our future has to be. Indeed it must not be, according to nearly unanimous scientific consensus. Which brings us to the final argument, articulated by all of the divestment campaigns mentioned; How can we, as rational beings, continue to invest in a catastrophically environmentally destructive industry that we know must be phased out if we want to continue living on a planet that even resembles what we all now call home?

If you are involved with a group focused on divestment at your California campus and are interested in further help please contact and connect with us here at the CSSC. As divestment becomes a larger movement we hope to have to the chance to cover and share more stories of successful student campaigns. You can also find useful resources as well as like-minded people with experience working towards divestment.

Spotlight: Will Carlon, J.D., CSSC Board Member

S. Drew Story | September 29, 2016

The Board of Directors at the California Student Sustainability Coalition (CSSC) is a diverse team of individuals working together towards one common goal of empowering students across California to affect positive change towards sustainable culture, both on campus and in their communities. The diversity of this team is not limited by ethnicity and cultural background. The Board consists of a variety of professional skills and educational training, and this ensures a refreshing mix of perspectives.

Will Carlon, J.D., has come full circle in his engagement with the fight to promote sustainability. From his time at UC Davis as an undergraduate to his tenure as a law student at the University of Oregon, culminating in his recent appointment to the CSSC Board of Directors, Will contributes to sustainability efforts through his law practice and his service with the Coalition.

Having grown up on an organic blueberry farm, Will has a self-professed close connection with nature. He always imagined committing his life to an environmentally relevant career. Public interest environmental law is a natural prescription for that innate desire, and his training has granted him unique skills that he brings to the CSSC table. Will’s sense of responsibility to be an actor in the sustainability movement, and specifically within CSSC, comes from his recognition of his ability to contribute. When asked “Why you, and why now?” pertaining to his involvement with sustainability, Will’s answer was simple. “If it’s not us, then who is it going to be?” he said.

As a practicing environmental attorney, Mr. Carlon looks at the word slightly differently than most associated with CSSC. Logistically, Will is able to guide the team regarding actions it can take as a non-profit, such as the level and types of political engagement we can participate in that do not jeopardize our non-profit status. Will’s familiarity with public records requests is a useful tool that CSSC can use to determine how much money different public institutions invest in the fossil fuel industry, for example.

A UC alum, Will provides some experiential advice on how current students can be most effective when it comes to engaging their communities, both on- and off-campus regarding sustainability. Campus administration is responsible to its current students. This provides a platform for students to feel empowered to speak their minds on issues affecting the student body, whereas an external organization does not have the vested interest and therefore immediate attention of the administration. However, Will is quick to point out that if the institution is at odds with student’s calls for change, the strategy on behalf of the university can quickly devolve to playing the long game, waiting for a new wave of students to enroll and replace those demanding action. In this scenario, Will points out that organizations like CSSC can provide “continuity of message through years,” and thus getting involved with CSSC can be crucial to the success of student-led campaigns. CSSC has the infrastructure and staff that can provide organizational support and allow students to effectively participate in the sustainability movement.

Will Carlon is a key member of the Board of Directors, and with his experience and passion, the California Student Sustainability Coalition can continue to be an invaluable resource for students in California.

Into 2017 We Go

By. Kezia Wright, guest blogger

The dawn of 2017 is fast approaching and with it comes a time of reflection on the gains of the environmental movement. Last week, beginning the 12th December, the first wind farm in US waters off the coast of Rhode Island quietly started to send electricity to the grid as its 240-foot-long blades began to spin. The Block Island Project which will provide enough power to sustain 17,000 homes is not large scale. At just 30 megawatts, it is only a fraction of what may be produced by an average coal or natural gas plant. However, its opening is symbolic. It represents the nascent shift in US energy provision towards renewable, cleaner alternatives.

The $300m Block Island Project off the coast of Rhode Island

December 5th saw the remarkable victory for the Standing Rock Sioux as the Obama administration announced that the easement required for the completion of the Dakota Access pipeline would be rejected. After months of blood, sweat and tears, the coalition of activists led by the Standing Rock Sioux finally won out. Their plight harkens back to indigenous battles of old such as Little Big Horn. Images circulated of men and women courageously riding on horse back as they were affronted with tear gas and water hoses. The stories emanating from North Dakota stirred the hearts and minds of onlookers both at home and abroad and their slogan – “Water is Life” –  had a profound resonance, which will no doubt be felt deeper in the years ahead.

Victory for the Standing Rock Sioux

These advent occurrences are without a doubt milestones in US environmental history and they testify to shifting attitudes.  These attitudes are most evident among the youth groups which rallied throughout 2016 to demand change of the government. The Fossil Free Divestment movement is a good example. A few weeks ago a report was published revealing that the fossil fuel divestment funds have doubled to over $5.2tn in just one year, a remarkable achievement that Ban Ki Moon lauded, stating that “Investments in clean energy are the right thing to do and the smart way to build prosperity for all, while protecting our planet”. Here in California, educational institutions such as Chico State University, Humboldt State University and Pitzer College have already divested. The University of California has yet to fully divest, however, at the bi-monthly University of California Regents Meeting, divestment ranked high on the agenda, with numerous pleas made to UC Regent Richard Sherman along with a petition with over 600 signatures. Let’s hope that 2017 will bear the breakthrough move to divest that the Fossil Free UC movement has been so vigorously pushing for. Youth leadership on environmental issues could not have been so evident than at the Power Shift West Convergence which took place at the  University of California, Berkeley in mid-November. The Convergence saw over 400 students gather to discuss, coordinate and cooperate around issues such as the DAPL and Fossil Fuel Divestment. Having attended the Convergence myself, I have never witnessed such enthusiasm, passion and dedication from a bunch of students in my three years of college.

The Northern California Climate Mobilization

These experiences prove that youth leadership around environmental justice is alive and growing ever stronger. Milestones such as the Block Island Project and the victory in North Dakota stand as testament to our efforts and energise the youth movement, providing focal points for re-organisation around energy politics. January is going to be testing and that is why now more than ever youth leadership needs to renew its determination and power forwards. Trump’s projected cabinet representatives are a foretaste of what is to come and, most notably, he has chosen Scott Pruitt, a renowned climate change denialist, to head the EPA. This ominous decision sent shockwaves across all those who are hopeful for a greener future. Yet, we must take the successes of this past month as examples, as testaments to the power of perseverance.

Fossil Free UC secures coal and tar sands divestment victory


What began in 2008 has culminated in an important campaign victory. For several years, the California Student Sustainability Coalition’s student, alumni, and staff leaders have addressed the issue of unsustainable and unethical fossil fuel investments in the University of California (UC). Having first explored responsible investment frameworks and continuing with an initial exposé on the UC’s investments in the top ”filthy 15” coal companies, the campaign evolved to demand divestment from ALL fossil fuels. After years of strategic campaigning and dedicated student organizing, the Fossil Free UC campaign has reached an incredible milestone:

Late Wednesday afternoon on September 9th, the University of California’s Investment Office announced that it has divested $198 million of the university’s nearly $100 billion portfolio from coal mining and oil companies focused on tar sands extraction. This was in addition to their commitment of implementing sustainable investing criteria across their investment portfolio.
At the UC Regents’ Committee on Investments meeting, Chief Investment Officer Jagdeep Bachher outlined: “We’ve gone one step further as part of our housekeeping and managing risks over the course of the year, and selling our direct holdings, to reiterate, in coal mining companies, oil sands focused companies.” This announcement comes just one week after the California State Legislature passed a bill requiring CalPERS and CalSTRS, the nation’s largest public pension funds, to divest from thermal coal stocks.

While we applaud their decision, let us not forget that student leadership was the fundamental impetus and catalyst for this victory.


The university administration has not acknowledged students as the reason they have divested from coal and tar sands. Having campaigned for 3 years – and cultivating political and organizing roots for longer- the UC’s decision followed in response to sustained student pressure, including powerful escalation this past spring across the country at a dozen schools including UC Berkeley, Harvard, Bowdoin and Swarthmore.

Please support the critical work of this on-going campaign by making a contribution to the California Student Sustainability Coalition


Yesterday’s divestment announcement came through the university’s Framework for Sustainable Investing, which was a product of a task force charged with investigating divestment last summer after responding to students’ pressure. “This is a hard-fought victory for students and our allies from across California who have been demanding the UC truly live up to its big talk on climate change,” said Jake Soiffer, an undergraduate student at UC Berkeley and leader with Fossil Free UC.
In the last three years, the Fossil Free UC campaign has passed student government resolutions supporting divestment at all ten UC campuses, as well as graduate student and faculty association resolutions at Berkeley, and support from the UCSB Academic Senate. This year, students ramped up the campaign through a series of coordinated protests across the UC campuses—including an overnight sit-in outside the chancellor’s office at UC Berkeley.
Despite student pressure, the regents are still profiting off of the oil and gas industries, which are major polluters in California. According to Soiffer, “This is a much needed first step, but oil and natural gas are the most powerful polluters in California, and we expect the UC to take robust action on the biggest climate villains in their backyard.”
Though the announcement is not accompanied by an official policy statement, students see this as a permanent shift in the operations of the investment office. “This is a big deal, and an important first step that takes $200 million away from companies like Peabody — but we need our schools to take a stance against Exxon and Shell too. They’re every bit as responsible for the climate crisis.” said Alden Phinney, undergraduate student at UC Santa Cruz and organizer with Fossil Free UC.
Fossil Free UC will continue pushing the UC to divest fully, including oil and gas, and reinvest that money back in the hands of communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis. Victoria Fernandez, recent UC Berkeley graduate and organizer with Fossil Free UC, shared, “If the regents are serious about climate solutions that means not just divesting from fossil fuel companies, but investing in a just transition away from fossil fuels and towards the non-extractive economy. There is no stopping this movement. We have glimpsed a future of dignity, justice and sustainability, and we are determined to make it real.”


Silver Hannon, California Student Sustainability Coalition’s Fossil Free UC Campaign Director and recent UC Berkeley graduate, underscores the call to action in this moment, “Our university has said they agree we must combat climate change but disagree on the means to do so. Because of the urgency of our fight, we need to use all the tools we have to fight for climate justice. We are pushing full force to demand the UC fully divest its holding from fossil fuels and reinvest in community-based solutions for a just and livable future. Was this a huge victory? Yes. Does this mean we will rest on our laurels? Absolutely not.”
Many students who have worked on this campaign were introduced to it through the California Student Sustainability Coalition. If you would like to be part of this evolving campaign please contact CSSC’s Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign Director, Silver Hannon.


Divestment is a tactic for a much deeper struggle for climate justice; it is our vision to utilize the UC system’s position and resources to exhibit the values and models that are essential to cultivating a truly regenerative society and equitable economy.

Please consider making a contribution to the California Student Sustainability Coalition to support our long term vision for climate justice.

What’s Next 
This Fall there are two opportunities to engage and push this campaign forward:
On November 6th-8th CSSC will be hosting a special Fall Leadership Retreat open to anyone and everyone who would like to shape the future of the organization. Divestment is one very powerful focus of CSSC; this is an opportunity to learn about more ways to engage with our statewide community of organizers and to build deep relationships with likeminded people.

On October 9th-11th in Berkeley, CA the Divestment Student Network and California Student Sustainability Coalition are co-hosting a California Fossil Fuel Divestment Convergence! We want to support students who are running active fossil fuel divestment campaigns by providing in-depth training, building a regional network, and getting used to relational organizing. We hope to ground the work we do on our campuses in principles of solidarity, environmental justice, and in our relationships to frontline communities. Learn more about the tactic of divestment and see how we can play our part in the climate justice movement. We encourage women, people of color, queer/trans self-identified, low-income, undocumented, and/or people with disabilities to attend. Come be a part of the network and get trained! The deadline to register is September 11th, 2015 To register, please contact your campus lead, who will provide you with the registration form.


In community,

Fossil Free UC Students, Alumni, and Staff members
California Student Sustainability Coalition

Recap: Fall 2014 UC Davis Convergence a Success

by: Eva Malis

This past weekend (Nov. 14th-16th) over 550 students gathered at UC Davis to learn, grow, and build. The theme Act Collectively, Transition Together – Systems for Justice pushed the boundaries of a sustainability movement towards confronting the intersections of social justice with those of the sustainability community.

On Saturday morning, keynote speakers Gopal Dayaneni, Stephanie Hervey, Alyssa Bradford, and Julia Ho touched on strategies for building movements through social justice examples such as Ferguson and human trafficking. Their speeches were met with loud cheering from a crowd of mostly students devoted to sustainability and environmental problem-solving.

Convergence coordinator and UC Davis alumna Emili Abdel-Ghany expressed that she was “so grateful everyone had received the keynotes so well, and for how radical and meaningful the conversation was”.

“Some main things that our speakers advocated for was throwing down for other forms of justice! Keeping within environmental lens is not always the right thing for the times [and it is] sometimes important to put the work you’re doing in perspective!” proclaimed Emili.

Following the morning speakers, students were able to choose from around 40 different one-hour workshops with a large variety of topics including zero waste, sustainable food systems, fossil freedom, oil by rail, clean energy, the convict lease system, peace corps, nonviolent communication, and much more! Over the duration of the weekend, attendees were able to select three workshops from five tracks: Transition: Fossil Freedom and the New Economy, Transform: Changing Our Models, Systems for Justice: Intersecting Movements, Closing the Loop: Systemic Solutions to Global and Local Issues, and Together: Creating Change and Community.

“My favorite workshop was the Sustainability in Science one which focused on two researchers that were able to make their lab ‘green.’” asserted Patrick Stetz, CSSC Newsletter Editor. “This workshop was a great example of the activism I like. It not only addressed the problem of resource/energy waste in labs but showed how someone can change that.”

CSSC’s Students Against Fracking and Fossil Fuel Divestment campaigns hosted a handful of workshops throughout the weekend where students from across the state were able to learn how to start chapters on their own campuses. Both campaigns were able to hold visioning conversations to strategize within the battle for fossil freedom.


Youth Climate Justice Panel on Sunday morning. Left to Right: Facilitator: Shoshanna Howard

Speakers: Ethan Buckner, Kristy Drutman, Jake Soiffer, Julia Ho, and Jason Schwartz -Photo Credit: SERC

Throughout the weekend, organizers held caucuses and break out groups that addressed topics such as identity (race, gender, class), anti-capitalism, intro to CSSC, and climate justice. Closed and open spaces were held for people to engage in productive conversations surrounding some topics that are not often easy to talk about or historically not included in sustainability conversations.

“I thought the API caucus was a great space for conveying and working through important struggles specific to that identity that are difficult to reflect on with others I know or on my own,” stated Lucy Tate, student of Society and the Environment at UC Berkeley

There were also three panels on Saturday evening: the Intergenerational Lessons Panel, the Research for Social Change Panel, and the Levels of Action Panel.

On Sunday afternoon, 400+ attendees gathered in a circle on West Quad, clasping hands to participate in an art demonstration led by Ryan Camero of the Beehive Design Collective. A scroll of art was passed along the enormous circle which told a story of environmental justice scenes from around the world while the circle hummed a united tune and Camero sung a song titled It’s All the Same. As the scroll moved around the circle, students broke out into spontaneous dance which eventually escalated into a massive group hug towards the end of the activity.

“At the end of convergence when we were passing around the scroll, I was standing with Kevin Gong and he just started dancing and smiling a lot… Just that moment I was feeling like we had just accomplished something really great, and I had felt it several times throughout weekend—just realizing the magnitude of what we’ve done.” commented Emili Abdel-Ghany.

On the same moment, planning team member Madeline Oliver described, “It was amazing how the visual artwork and music united everyone to the point where the whole group organically moved towards the center to end the weekend in dance and song.”

Students enjoy lunch on West Quad -Photo Credit: SERC at UCB

Other students felt similar sentiments regarding the success of the weekend.

“My favorite part of the convergence, besides the amazing speakers, workshops, and events, had to be the opportunities to connect with people from across the state,” says Jacob Elsanadi, a second year UC Berkeley student. “I met so many wonderful people and created new connections with students from schools across California… It was a truly unique experience. I highly recommend anyone even remotely interested in sustainability attend this wonderful event.”

Kevin Gong of the planning team states, “Given the fact that this was the first time the planning team had any experience organizing something of this scale, I feel like the event reflected how much work (a ton!!) we put into organizing, and hearing such positive face to face feedback from attendees definitely made Convergence worth planning.”

Abdel-Ghany summarizes, “Everyone’s doing something important, but sometimes we need to rally around things together and make sacrifices. What I hope people got out of this [is that they] are at least ready to have conversations about how to be better allies.”

For those inspired by this event, there are many ways to get involved with CSSC. Students can apply to be a council member representative of their campuses or apply to work on the Operating Team. For those looking to become a part of CSSC leadership, the Winter Leadership Retreat will be held on January 16th-20th in Dancing Deer Farm in San Luis Obispo. The location for next semester’s convergence has not yet been determined, so feel free to contact Kevin Killion if interested in organizing the Spring 2015 convergence at your campus.

Students can transform what they learned this past weekend into action by pursuing more involvement with CSSC, forming Students Against Fracking or divestment chapters in their schools, and strategically building the movement from within their home institutions. They can also apply for a Zero Waste Mini-grant to promote the sustainability of their school and local community.

Convergence Group Photo – Photo Cred: CSSC

Spotlight on Butte’s Anti-Fracking Beer Campaign

by Katie Wilken, Butte College student

Interviewed by Meredith Jacobson, CSSC Online Content Manager


What is the general summary of this campaign?

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

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

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

What successes have you had?

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

What are the next steps?

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

Why this campaign? Why are you excited about it?

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


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

2013 Building Resilient Communities Convergence

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

     2013 Building Resilient Communities Convergence      

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

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

        Visit to learn more and purchase tickets.

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

Tickets Available Here:


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

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

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

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

A Stunning Location

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

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

A Special Invitation to Next-Generation Leaders

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

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

Help Us Build a Model Resilient Community

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

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

Celebrate the Harvest!

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

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


Work-trade application now available!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Towards Resilient Communities,

– The 2013 Building Resilient Communities Organizing Team

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

2013 Building Resilient Communities

30 Castro Avenue, San Rafael, CA 94901

Add us to your address book

Why YOU Should Register for the Fall Convergence

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

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

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

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

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This Fall with CSSC

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



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

Why now? Why us?

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

And me? Can I go to Powershift?

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

Northern California Regional Organizer: Roberta Giordano,

Southern California Regional Organizer: Emily Williams,

For more information about Powershift, visit



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

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

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

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

More information Fossil Free California


Emily Williams, Southern California:

Katie Hoffman, Northern California:




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

 Are you a Humboldt State student interested in joining the convergence planning team? It’s a big effort and extra brains and hands are always appreciated. Contact Julia Clark:, Eric Recchia:, or Emily Maloney:

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



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

 Positions Include:

Online Content Co-Manager (to assist current manager)

Newsletter Editor (to assist current editor)

Regional Events Coordinators (1-2 per region)

 *Refer HERE for descriptions of all CSSC Operating Team positions

 How to Apply:

Please use Application Form to apply today.

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

Applications are open until September 15th

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


If you have any questions or comments please send them to the Operating Team Co-Chairs: Emili ( or Kevin (


Anything else?

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


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

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

Launching Our Resistance

Power Shift 2013

We are the generation that occupied Wall Street, Sandy, and Tahrir Square. We dyed Facebook red in support of marriage equality. We’ve turned out in record numbers to every election we’ve been allowed to vote in, and elected President Barack Obama – twice.

We have shut down hundreds of coal plants and kept countless more from being built, while leading the charge to create a green economy in our communities. We have put our fists in the air and our bodies on the line to fight Keystone XL, fracking, and mountaintop removal — and we’re willing to do it again.

But we have much more work to do. As you read this, more wells are being fracked, sirens blare across Appalachia as coal companies blow the tops off mountains, and somewhere on Capitol Hill an industry lobbyist with fat pockets is selling out our future for quick profits.

This Fall at Power Shift 2013 we draw a line in the sand and say no more. Register now and join us!

From October 18th-21st, more than ten thousand youth leaders from every walk of life — college students, young environmental justice leaders, DREAMers, young people of faith, young workers — will come together in Pittsburgh, PA to train, build, and launch our resistance.

And Power Shift 2013 is just the beginning. Power Shift 2013 will launch hundreds of sustained campaigns and mass actions to demand climate justice. Together, our voices will unite in a drumbeat calling for change that will not be ignored.

Register today for Power Shift 2013:

Power Shift 2013 is our opportunity to come together and shift ENTIRELY AWAY from fossil fuels and TOWARD local clean energy solutions. Our movement has done the impossible before — from divesting our schools from fossil fuels, to banning fracking in our communities — and now is the time to come together and do the impossible again.

See you in Pittsburgh!

Maura Cowley
Executive Director
Energy Action Coalition

Wildest EARTH DAY Dance Video: Nature SuperHero


Earth Day Viral Dance VideoAn Earth Day Viral Dance Video

In an Earlier Post, we mentioned that the creators of Pacha’s Pajamas, BALANCE Edutainment is creating an Earth Day Viral Video that combines great dance and a powerful message into an incredibly made video of impact.

Below is the Video. Enjoy:

Since we have been sharing about this topic lately, this is also a great example of Marketing Gamification: turning a campaign into something interesting and engaging.

Of course, outside of Earth Day and the Viral Videos, the CSSC Spring Convergence in Berekeley is coming up soon. Don’t forget to Register as soon as possible!

Spring 2013 CSSC Convergence

Agenda, Workshop Schedule, Map, and Panel Information



  • 5pm-10:00pm Early Registration Begins at Berkeley Student Food Collective


  • 7:30-8:30am: Breakfast and On-Site Registration Begin in Dwinelle Plaza
  • 9:00-10:15am: Welcome and Key Note Speakers in Dwinelle 155
  • 10:30-12:30pm: Track 1 Workshops
  • 12:30-1:30pm: Lunch in Dwinelle Plaza
  • 1:30pm-3:30pm:  Track 2 Workshops
  • 3:45pm-5:15pm: Interdisciplinary Panel Discussion with Professors and Community  Leaders.
  • 5:30pm-6:30pm: Break Out Caucuses
  • 6:30pm-7:30pm: Dinner at Memorial Glade
  • 7:00pm-10:00pm: “Infusion: Bringing Together Heart, Spirit and Mind” Main Entertainment at Memorial Glade
  • 10:00pm-8:00am: Quiet Hours


  • 8:30-9:30am Breakfast at Campanile
  • 10:00am-10:45am: Key Note Address by Hunter Lovins and Q&A in Dwinelle 155
  • 11am-12pm Break Out Caucuses
  • 12:00-12:30pm: Closing Words in Dwinelle 155
  • 12:30-1:30pm: Spiral Hug and Photo Location TBA



Workshop Schedule (See separate document)



Map (See separate document)


Interdisciplinary Panel Discussion with Professors and Community Leaders

1. Innovation: The application of creativity and knowledge to address a problem that needs a new solution.

Moderated by Jason Trager in VLSB 2060

Jason Trager is a PhD Candidate in Mechanical Engineering at the University of California Berkeley. While his degree will be within the field of Mechanical Engineering, he likes to consider himself a Sustainability Engineer. He pursued his undergraduate degree in Biomedical Engineering from Rutgers University, but left this field in favor of an environmental focus after careful thought on how to make the largest impact in the world. He then received a Masters of Engineering in Environmental and Water Resource Systems from Cornell University before making the decision to attend UC Berkeley. Jason has served on the UCB Graduate Assembly sustainability committee for two years, with one year as Environmental Sustainability Officer(2011-2012). He has started multiple programs related to sustainability at UC Berkeley, including establishing a sustainability fellowship program for graduate students, and a sustainability internship program for undergraduates. Aside from his PhD work, these two programs are his main focus. In Jason’s free time, he serves as an organizer for the East Bay Bike Party and an active member of the East Bay Bicycle Coalition.

Panelists: Tarek Zohdi, Shannon Biggs, Paul Hoffman

Tarek Zohdi: Tarek I. Zohdi is currently a Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at UC Berkeley. He received his Ph.D. in 1997 in Computational and Applied Mathematics from UT Austin and his Habilitation in Mechanics from the Leibniz Universitaet Hannover, in 2002. He was Chair of the Engineering Science Program at UC Berkeley from 7/2008-6/2012 and Vice Chair for Instruction in Mechanical Engineering from 7/2009-6/2012.

Currently, he is Chair of the UC Berkeley Computational Science and Engineering Program. His main research interests are in computational methods for micro-mechanical material design, particulate flow and the mechanics of high-strength fabric, with emphasis on computational approaches for nonconvex multiscale-multiphysics inverse problems, in particular addressing the issue of how large numbers of micro-constituents interact to produce macroscale aggregate behavior. He published approximately 100 archival refereed journal papers and four books: 

(a) Introduction to Computational Micromechanics (Springer)
(b) An Introduction to Modeling and Simulation of Particulate Flows (SIAM), 
(c) Electromagnetic Properties of Multiphase Dielectrics: A Primer on
Modeling, Theory and Computation (Springer) 
(d) Dynamics of Charged Particulate Systems: Modeling, Theory and Computation(Springer). 

He is on the editorial board of 10 journals, an editor of the journal Computational Mechanics and co-founder and co-editor-in-chief of a new journal, Computational Particle Mechanics. In 2000, he received the Zienkiewicz Prize and Medal and in 2003, he received the Junior Achievement Award of the American Academy of Mechanics. He is a Fellow of the United States Association for Computational Mechanics (USACM) and a Fellow of the International Association for Computational Mechanics (IACM). He is currently President of USACM.

Shannon Biggs: Shannon Biggs is the director of the Community Rights program at Global Exchange. She recently co-authored two books, Building the Green Economy: Success Stories from the Grass Roots (PoliPoint Press), and The Rights of Nature: The Case for a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth, a project of Council of Canadians, Global Exchange, and Fundacion Pachamama.

Her current work focuses on assisting communities confronted by corporate harms to enact binding laws that place the rights of communities and nature above the claimed legal “rights” of corporations. Over 140 communities across the US have used this new understanding to stop working defensively against corporations and take courageous action to assert their rights to make governing decisions where they live.

Paul Hoffman: Paul Hoffman is a civil and human rights attorney based in Venice, California.  He is the former Legal Director of the ACLU Foundation of Southern California and the former Chair of the Board of Amnesty International.  He is a leading litigator of international human rights cases in U.S. courts and argued Kiobel v Royal Dutch Petroleum in the U.S. Supreme Court.  He has taught International Human Rights and Civil Rights at several law schools, including Stanford, UCLA and UCI.  He has written extensively on human and civil rights issues.


2. Inspiration: At the core of innovation there are inspired individuals who recognize that real change starts within. They see possibilities behind obstacles and take action on their shared values.

 Moderated by Guy VI Fairon in VLSB 2050

Guy Fairon grew up in the Bay Area and he is a former student at Cal.  After spending 3 years at Cal, he left in the fall of 2009 and lived in Hawaii for a year and a half.  On his flight back from Hawaii, his life changed.  He sat next to a very kind Japanese woman who introduced him to Buddhism.  In the months following, he began to read the Dalai Lama, Mahatma Gandhi, and Friedrich Nietzsche and his entire worldview flipped.  He found purpose and embarked on a journey of determined personal growth and maximum world impact.  Now, he finds himself enmeshed in a community of like-minded and incredible people called the Conscious Living Collective.  He has served as a core member, meeting facilitator and outreach coordinator.

Panelists: Yoni Landau, Nolan Pack, Ashel Elridge

Yoni Landau: Yoni is the Co-founder, Chief Evangelist and Co-Director of CoFED (the Cooperative Food Empowerment Directive). After launching a successful campaign to prevent the first fast food chain from opening at UC Berkeley, he helped raise over $120,000 for a cooperative alternative, the Berkeley Student Food Collective. He’s been a fellow of the New Leader’s council, spoken at conferences like the Slow Money National Gathering and been featured as Huffington Post’s “Greatest Person of the Day” He loves to cook vegetables in his Bay Area kitchen and enjoys improv theater, singing, and smiling.

Nolan Pack: Nolan Pack is a transfer student with a long history of creating positive change through student government. At Pasadena City College, Nolan worked to raise awareness about environmental and social issues by serving as the student government’s first Sustainability Chair*. As a result of his work, sustainability has been included in the College’s Educational Master Plan and the student government’s Constitution and By-Laws.

As an elected ASUC Senator at UC Berkeley, Nolan continues to deliver results through involvement with the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Sustainability and active involvement on various projects. Nolan is actively working on projects related to Fair Trade and sustainable purchasing policies, the establishment of a permanent Student Sustainability Resource Center, the creation of top priorities for queer community advocacy, increasing ASUC outreach for transfer student involvement, and more.

Ashel Eldridge: aka Seasunz, originally from Chicago is a frontman emcee, vocalist, producer, and the founder of Earth Amplified. Based in Oakland, he performs and presents his conscious music, poetry and spiritual activism nationally. His acclaimed CD release, Earth Amplified, is a fierce tribute to the Earth and peoples’ liberation. Seasunz is an educator with the Alliance for Climate Education in Oakland, CA, and a Green For All Fellow. He is a co-founder of United Roots – Oakland’s Green Youth Arts and Media Center, where he serves as the Health and Sustainability Coordinator. He is also a co-founder of CommuniTree, Oakland Resilience Alliance, and the father of a new baby boy.

3. Investment: The power to devote resources-money, commitment, wisdom- to inspire innovation in ways which shape a just and sustainable future for generations to come.

Moderated by Katie Hoffman in Dwinelle 155

Katie Hoffman is a fourth year undergraduate student at UC Berkeley studying History and Environmental Science, Policy and Management.  Katie has had the opportunity and pleasure to empower and coordinate student leaders through her work as Chief of Staff for the Student Environmental Resource Center, and as a UC system-wide coordinator for fossil fuel divestment. Among other things, Katie was the author of SB-10: a bill passed unanimously by the Associated Students to divest their $3-4 million in assets holdings from the fossil industry. Passionate about environmental health, sustainable investment and climate justice, Katie looks forward to continuing work with students at Cal and across the state to make our higher education institutions innovative and ethical leaders in economic, environmental and social sustainability.

Panelists: Jamie Henn, Crystal Lameman, Laura Nader

Jamie Henn: Jamie Henn is the Communications and East Asia Director for the international climate campaign In 2009, he coordinated media for over 5,200 simultaneous events in more than 180 countries, landing on front pages and newscasts around the world. CNN called the events “the most widespread day of political action in history.” As East Asia director for, Jamie coordinated nearly 500 events across East Asia, including over 300 rallies in China. This year, is organizing a Global Work Party on 10/10/10, with thousands of events planned across the globe where people will get to work on climate solutions and celebrate a sustainable future. Before co-founding with environmental writer Bill McKibben, Jamie helped lead the Step It Up 2007 campaign. He is a graduate of Middlebury College and co-author of the book Fight Global Warming Now.

Crystal Lameman: Crystal Lameman is a Beaver Lake Cree First Nation activist, a Sierra Club Prairie activist and the Peace River tar sands campaigner for the Indigenous Environmental Network in Alberta, Canada – and a mother of two. With infectious dedication and passion, Crystal is committed to restoring Native treaty rights and stopping the expansion of the tar sands. Crystal is involved in the work of her nation to take the Canadian government to court over 17,000 treaty violations. In May 2008, the Beaver Lake Cree Nation filed a Statement of Claim in Alberta’s Court of Queen’s Bench taking the Government of Canada to court. In March 2012, they were granted a trial. This trial stands as a precedent for other oil sands rights violations.

Laura Nader: Laura Nader is Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley, and has held visiting professorships at the Yale University Law School and Wellesley College. Her fieldwork as an anthropologist has been centered in Oaxaca, Mexico. Professor Nader has over 100 scholarly contributions to the scientific literature of anthropology and law and has received several honors for her work including the Morgan Spanish Prize from Wells College, the Wells College Alumnae Award, and the Radcliffe College Alumnae Award.

Professor Nader is a member of the American Anthropological Association, the Society of Women Geographers, the Law and Society Association, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. her professional activities include service on committees of the American Anthropological Association, the National Institute of Mental Health, the Social Science Research Council, and the National Science Foundation. Professor Nader has been a trustee of the Law and Society Association and is a trustee of the Center for the Study of Responsive Law. She has been a member of the Carnegie Council on Children and the California Council for the Humanities. She is a continuing member of the editorial committee for Law and Society Review.





Divestment is the Tactic, Climate Justice is the Goal

Divestment is the Tactic, Climate Justice is the Goal

April 9th through 11th, students at UC Berkeley will be asked to vote on a referendum in support of fossil fuel divestment at Cal and across the UC System. Student support for the referendum will send a clear message to UC administrators that students at one of the leading public institutions in the world stand in solidarity with people across the country, demanding comprehensive sustainable investment policies that eliminate the environmental and social injustices perpetuated by the fossil fuel industry.


Introduced by a coalition of environmental organizations at Cal, including the Student Environmental Resource Center (SERC), the ASUC Sustainability team (STeam) and Cal Students for Sustainable Investment, the referendum is the latest action in the Fossil Free divestment campaign at UC Berkeley to raise awareness about the importance of sustainable investment as a means to change the national and international dialogue and policy surrounding climate change. Katie Hoffman, SERC Chief of Staff, argues, “the tactic of divesting from fossil fuels is part of a larger international movement to advance climate justice and sustainable development—We want to send a clear message to the fossil fuel companies that our institutions will not invest money in an industry whose existence threatens our future.”


But why divest from the fossil fuel industry as a means to advance climate justice? Since the industrial revolution human activities, primarily the extraction and use of fossil fuels, has accelerated carbon dioxide emissions, leading to the irreversible warming of our planet. According to a recent report by the World Bank entitled “Turn Down the Heat,” at the continued rate of growth and fossil fuel consumption, human beings will likely cause 2-4 °C of warming by 2100. The effects of a warming planet have already manifested across the globe in the form of famine, rising sea levels, more frequent and intense weather patterns and species extinction. One only needs to think back to October 2012 when Hurricane Sandy ravaged the U.S. eastern seaboard.

At the local level, whether it’s idling trucks in West Oakland or toxic explosions at the Chevron refinery in Richmond, frontline communities and fossil fuel industry workers are continuously exposed to noxious chemicals that contribute to public health issues ranging from asthma to terminal cancer. At the international level, climate negotiations have consistently stalled with little discussion about the disproportionate burdens climate change has and will continue to have on marginalized peoples from California to the Maldives. In the U.S., denial of anthropogenic climate change is on the rise as the government has failed to pass comprehensive climate policies that address mitigation, adaptation, and our nation’s historical responsibility for producing roughly 30% of the world’s carbon emissions since the 19th century despite having roughly 5% of the world’s population.

Higher education institutions across the nation hold more than $400 billion in endowment assets. To date, more than 256 universities including schools with the largest endowments like Harvard, Yale, and Stanford, are actively leading fossil fuel divestment campaigns to remove their tacit support for an industry whose public health, environmental and social impacts are felt by communities across the world.

Why divestment? History reminds us that student organizing around divestment has had a critical impact in advancing justice. In the 1980s, the UC system joined more than 150 institutions across the nation in divesting from companies profiting from South Africa’s oppressive apartheid regime. Because of students like those organizing around fossil fuel divestment today, UC Berkeley also screens investments from companies benefitting from business in Sudan and from the tobacco industry.



That’s why come April 9th-11th, I’m voting for the referendum to divest the UC from fossil fuels—because when one does the math, it makes little sense to support divestment from our future by investing in the fossil fuel industry.



Chris Peeden is a fourth year student in the College of Natural Resources and Operations Analyst at Skydeck | Berkeley.  


CSSC Spring Convergence at UC Berkeley- April 26-28

Inspire, Invest, & Innovate

UC Berkeley, April 26-28

You’re invited to this years California Student Sustainability Coalition’s Spring 2013 Convergence at UC Berkeley!

The event will play host to a series of inspirational keynote speakers, dynamic panels and engaging workshops.


Come join hundreds of student leaders from across the state to network, learn, and have fun!

Join young leaders from UCs, CSUs, CCCs and private schools to take part in a weekend of activities focused around leadership development, education, and social networking.

Every Convergence has a theme, and this Spring Convergence, our team at UC Berkeley has chosen to focus on the three “In’s”:

Innovation: The application of creativity and knowledge to address a problem that needs a new solution.

Inspiration: At the core of innovation there are inspired individuals who recognize that real change starts within. They see possibilities behind obstacles and take action on their shared values.

Investment: The power to devote resources- money, commitment, wisdom- to inspire innovation in ways which shape an equitable and sustainable future for generations to come.

Registration is now open! Registration for students is $20 online until April 1st, $25 online until April 19th, $30 if you pay when you arrive, $30 for community members, and free for all Berkeley students.

Photo by Tia Tyler

Photo by Tia Tyler

Register to Attend!

Host a Workshop!

Apply for a Scholarship

Agenda (coming soon)

CSSC is Looking for Interns!


Our organization is growing both in size and impact. We are expanding our reaches into more aspects of sustainability and at the same time are gaining much momentum for our campaigns and programs. The sustainability movement is being lead by students like you and me and CSSC is at the forefront of the California student sustainability movement. We would like to invite more passionate, dedicated and motivated students to share their talents in contribution to our collective goals.

Please apply by March 15th. We will be selecting our interns by April 1st.

Two Positions Have Opened Up for Spring 2013!

Internship Credit Details

  • Arrange an internship with your college department
  • We will work with you to establish your specific duties and tasks
  • You provide the necessary documentation and send it to the Operating Team Co-Chairs
  • Operating Team Co-Chairs will sign off on your hours and duties for verification


To find more info and to Apply click HERE

Earth Day

Our New Community Survey

We want to hear from YOU.


The CSSC is a community and this community has needs. So to better serve those needs, we are asking current students to fill out this survey. This information collected will help the CSSC meet the needs of student organizers across our state and shape our upcoming steps for the year.


So if you want to help-out click here and spend a few minutes to fill out the survey!

Upcoming Opportunities

Check out these three fabulous opportunities to enhance your leadership in the sustainability movement:


1. Greenpeace Action Camp, 10/4-10/7 – Apply ASAP! 

Are you ready to escalate your campus campaigns? Want to learn how to create, plan, and use effective non-violent direct action tactics? Join Greenpeace October 4-7 just north of Los Angeles for an intensive, weekend training program that includes an introduction to Greenpeace, non-violent direct action, legal briefing, action simulation, and much more! According to Zen Trenholm, UC Berkeley student and CSSC Board Member, “This is a phenomenal training…Be prepared to learn, reflect and challenge your assumptions.”

Sign up today!


2. Sierra Student Coalition, Beyond Oil Campaign 

Are you ready for a world of clean air, green energy, and good jobs? Sick of seeing the influence of Big Oil everywhere you turn? Launch a Campuses Beyond Oil campaign at your school this fall!

We cannot win on climate unless we win on oil.  Colleges and universities are the place to catalyze this change.  Our nation’s schools burn through oil in their campus fleets and through student, faculty, and staff travel.

As part of the Campuses Beyond Oil campaign, you will play a crucial role in reducing this dangerous oil use. You can create some of our nation’s first oil free communities – by working with your administration to trade dirty, polluting cars for fleets of cleaner, more efficient vehicles and by partnering with fellow students and community members to reduce oil use in the way students, faculty, and staff get around campus and into the community. You will be supported in this work by a unique set of resources developed by the Sierra Student Coalition and the Sierra Club’s Beyond Oil Campaign just for this campaign! In addition to a campaign toolkit and recruitment materials, you will have direct support from staff and student experts on this campaign.

Launching a Campuses Beyond Oil Campaign is a unique opportunity that will create tangible solutions that other schools, organizations, and businesses will follow to reduce their own oil use. And schools across California are the prime place to launch this transformation. With your help,we will be the first generation   to move beyond oil. 

Are you interested in learning more? Sign up now to be one of the first to launch a Campuses Beyond Oil Campaign this fall!   

-The Campuses Beyond Oil Team


3. Organize with Grassroots Global Justice Alliance! 

Grassroots Global Justice Alliance (GGJ) provides an exciting opportunity for a self-motivated, creative and experienced organizer.  The Organizer works under the supervision of GGJ’s National Coordinator.  The position requires willingness to work long hours (more than 40+ per week) a flexible schedule including some nights and weekends, frequent travel within the USA and some international travel.  This is a full time position.

Grassroots Global Justice is a national alliance of grassroots organizations building a popular movement for peace, democracy and a sustainable world. Alliance members support each other’s local struggles and collaborate with international allies committed to building a transformative social justice movement beyond borders.  GGJ provides opportunities for grassroots leaders to dialogue, think strategically and sharpen our understanding of global political and economic forces that cause poverty, conflict and environmental destruction in our communities.  After organizing an extensive participatory process with our members, in September of 2011 GGJ affirmed a new initiative at our membership congress: “No War, No Warming, Build an Economy for People and the Planet!” We are prioritizing climate justice, anti-war and militarism, and developing alternative visions for the economy as our core areas of work.  For more about Grassroots Global Justice Alliance (GGJ), visit our website here:

Reflections on the 2012 Summer Leadership Retreat

Twice a year, the CSSC hosts leadership retreats for students who are interested in getting involved or staying involved in the leadership of the organization. The CSSC operates with a three-pronged structure: a Council of students from across the state, an Operating Team, and a Board of Representatives. At retreats, these bodies get together to discuss the direction and structure of the CSSC, plan and strategize for campaigns and projects, come up with new ideas, elect new leadership, and have fun with one another!

Photo by Tia Tyler

The 2012 Summer Leadership Retreat took place at the McLaughlin Natural Reserve in Lower Lake, CA, from August 9th-13th. 28 student leaders were able to attend, and the retreat was one of the best ones yet. Here are what some of the attendees had to say:

The Summer Leadership Retreat energized and equipped me as a leader by giving me strategic training, new friends, and a sense of community as we work toward a common purpose. I highly recommend this experience and this organization for anybody who wishes to create positive change in the world.
Chara Bui, Council Rep, San Jose State University

This summer leadership retreat brought me around full circle to my first leadership retreat I attended in 2010. It was an amazing reminder of the diversity of experience and passion for this work held by CSSC students. I am so excited to have had the chance to connect with leaders old and new and am really looking forward to working with our new student leaders this coming school year.
Andrew Chang, CSSC Campaign Director, UC Santa Barbara Class of 2011

CSSC is a beautiful framily. This year’s summer leadership retreat was full of daily conversations about making real positive change in the world. Everyone is so honest and welcoming, and full of passion for earth justice. Each member of the CSSC brings their own unique perspective on sustainability issues but we come together and work with our strengths and through our weaknesses to shake up this world for good. I’m so glad I went, and shared great food and random hugs with such incredible people. Looking forward to campaigning, outreach, and the Convergence in Butte!
Emili Abdel-Ghany, Council Co-Rep, UC Davis

It is so fantastic coming back to the retreat for the fourth time around and seeing seasoned and new CSSCers alike tackle some of the hardest questions facing any student-run organization. These folks are building bonds not just for this academic year, but for the rest of their lives and I am grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this amazing experience. I will never forget the moment when Butte College took on the challenge of becoming the first community college campus ever to host a convergence over a (very) late night snack of organic veggie pizza. UBUNTU!
Kristina Davtyan, CSSC Operating Team Co-Chair, California State University of Los Angeles

This years summer leadership retreat marked my first year with CSSC. Looking back to my very first retreat last summer, the CSSC has grown tremendously! We are now in the midst of our second Power Vote campaign and I could not be more excited about the future of CSSC. At every retreat our leaders get to connect on many different levels with one another, and it is through these connections that we form the bonds needed to work in unity and passion for a more sustainable tomorrow. I am so blessed to know and work with such wonderful people.
Wendy Myvett, CSSC Council Co-Chair, City College of San Francisco.

In my experience in the youth sustainability movement there is no other organization that does what the CSSC does, not only are its students bright, intelligent, but they are some of the most loving, caring individuals I have met. This year at the Summer leadership Retreat new attendees well as veteran CSSC’ers came together to share best practices and pass the flame to the next generation. It is through this non-hierarchical snowflake model that the CSSC’s web is ever growing and empowering new youth leaders. The retreat is a chance to come together as a close-knit family and begin planning and strategizing for the upcoming semester. This group displays the finest work and play ethics around, providing an environment of intense learning and intimate bonding.
Thanks CSSC!!!!
Kevin Killion, Convergence Coordinator, Butte College

*If you are interested in getting involved with the CSSC, we hope to see you at our Fall 2012 Convergence at Butte College — stay tuned for updates!*

Photos by Tia Tyler

Real Food Challenge Regional Training

Real Food Champs!

A brand new school year is just around the corner, and with that, many opportunities are in store for you and your campus organization to grow in skills and campaign planning. The Real Food Challenge invites you to participate in our annual regional training for the West Coast happening on September 6-9th, to refine your organizing talents and connect with students across the region. 

What can you expect at this 4-day intensive training?

  • Workshops on campaign planning, the Real Food calculator, working with faculty, and more..
  • Delicious meals prepared with real food!
  • Skill sharing
  • Story-telling
  • Games, fun, and plenty more!


This year’s training will be held at UC Santa Cruz. The cost for the training is $30-$50 per attend
ee, costs will cover transportation, food, materials, and facility usage. We hope to have 2-5 student leader representation per campus.

Register now for this great opportunity here. For questions or comments, please contact us at


We hope you can join us and we look forward to meeting you!


Your West Coast RFC Team,

Chloe, Kitty, and Alex


Early Bird Registration Now Open for the Spring Convergence

Early Bird Registration for the 2012 CSSC Spring Convergence at San Luis Obispo is officially open! Join us April 27th-29th and help build a resoNATION. Details and registration are here.

In case you have not yet been convinced that you should go to the convergence, here is a list of 25 reasons, compiled by CSSC veterans and newbies alike.

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

Not convinced yet? Check out our Facebook Event and get a taste of the enthusiasm and excitement that are already generating.

We can’t wait to see you!

Capitalism vs. the Climate (Part 1)

There is a question from a gentleman in the fourth row.

He introduces himself as Richard Rothschild. He tells the crowd that he ran for county commissioner in Maryland’s Carroll County because he had come to the conclusion that policies to combat global warming were actually “an attack on middle-class American capitalism.” His question for the panelists, gathered in a Washington, DC, Marriott Hotel in late June, is this: “To what extent is this entire movement simply a green Trojan horse, whose belly is full with red Marxist socioeconomic doctrine?”

Here at the Heartland Institute’s Sixth International Conference on Climate Change, the premier gathering for those dedicated to denying the overwhelming scientific consensus that human activity is warming the planet, this qualifies as a rhetorical question. Like asking a meeting of German central bankers if Greeks are untrustworthy. Still, the panelists aren’t going to pass up an opportunity to tell the questioner just how right he is.

Chris Horner, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute who specializes in harassing climate scientists with nuisance lawsuits and Freedom of Information fishing expeditions, angles the table mic over to his mouth. “You can believe this is about the climate,” he says darkly, “and many people do, but it’s not a reasonable belief.” Horner, whose prematurely silver hair makes him look like a right-wing Anderson Cooper, likes to invoke Saul Alinsky: “The issue isn’t the issue.” The issue, apparently, is that “no free society would do to itself what this agenda requires…. The first step to that is to remove these nagging freedoms that keep getting in the way.”

Claiming that climate change is a plot to steal American freedom is rather tame by Heartland standards. Over the course of this two-day conference, I will learn that Obama’s campaign promise to support locally owned biofuels refineries was really about “green communitarianism,” akin to the “Maoist” scheme to put “a pig iron furnace in everybody’s backyard” (the Cato Institute’s Patrick Michaels). That climate change is “a stalking horse for National Socialism” (former Republican senator and retired astronaut Harrison Schmitt). And that environmentalists are like Aztec priests, sacrificing countless people to appease the gods and change the weather (Marc Morano, editor of the denialists’ go-to website,

Most of all, however, I will hear versions of the opinion expressed by the county commissioner in the fourth row: that climate change is a Trojan horse designed to abolish capitalism and replace it with some kind of eco-socialism. As conference speaker Larry Bell succinctly puts it in his new book Climate of Corruption, climate change “has little to do with the state of the environment and much to do with shackling capitalism and transforming the American way of life in the interests of global wealth redistribution.”

Yes, sure, there is a pretense that the delegates’ rejection of climate science is rooted in serious disagreement about the data. And the organizers go to some lengths to mimic credible scientific conferences, calling the gathering “Restoring the Scientific Method” and even adopting the organizational acronym ICCC, a mere one letter off from the world’s leading authority on climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). But the scientific theories presented here are old and long discredited. And no attempt is made to explain why each speaker seems to contradict the next. (Is there no warming, or is there warming but it’s not a problem? And if there is no warming, then what’s all this talk about sunspots causing temperatures to rise?)

In truth, several members of the mostly elderly audience seem to doze off while the temperature graphs are projected. They come to life only when the rock stars of the movement take the stage—not the C-team scientists but the A-team ideological warriors like Morano and Horner. This is the true purpose of the gathering: providing a forum for die-hard denialists to collect the rhetorical baseball bats with which they will club environmentalists and climate scientists in the weeks and months to come. The talking points first tested here will jam the comment sections beneath every article and YouTube video that contains the phrase “climate change” or “global warming.” They will also exit the mouths of hundreds of right-wing commentators and politicians—from Republican presidential candidates like Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann all the way down to county commissioners like Richard Rothschild. In an interview outside the sessions, Joseph Bast, president of the Heartland Institute, proudly takes credit for “thousands of articles and op-eds and speeches…that were informed by or motivated by somebody attending one of these conferences.”

The Heartland Institute, a Chicago-based think tank devoted to “promoting free-market solutions,” has been holding these confabs since 2008, sometimes twice a year. And the strategy appears to be working. At the end of day one, Morano—whose claim to fame is having broken the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth story that sank John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign—leads the gathering through a series of victory laps. Cap and trade: dead! Obama at the Copenhagen summit: failure! The climate movement: suicidal! He even projects a couple of quotes from climate activists beating up on themselves (as progressives do so well) and exhorts the audience to “celebrate!”

There were no balloons or confetti descending from the rafters, but there may as well have been.

* * *

When public opinion on the big social and political issues changes, the trends tend to be relatively gradual. Abrupt shifts, when they come, are usually precipitated by dramatic events. Which is why pollsters are so surprised by what has happened to perceptions about climate change over a span of just four years. A 2007 Harris poll found that 71 percent of Americans believed that the continued burning of fossil fuels would cause the climate to change. By 2009 the figure had dropped to 51 percent. In June 2011 the number of Americans who agreed was down to 44 percent—well under half the population. According to Scott Keeter, director of survey research at the Pew Research Center for People and the Press, this is “among the largest shifts over a short period of time seen in recent public opinion history.”

Even more striking, this shift has occurred almost entirely at one end of the political spectrum. As recently as 2008 (the year Newt Gingrich did a climate change TV spot with Nancy Pelosi) the issue still had a veneer of bipartisan support in the United States. Those days are decidedly over. Today, 70–75 percent of self-identified Democrats and liberals believe humans are changing the climate—a level that has remained stable or risen slightly over the past decade. In sharp contrast, Republicans, particularly Tea Party members, have overwhelmingly chosen to reject the scientific consensus. In some regions, only about 20 percent of self-identified Republicans accept the science.

Equally significant has been a shift in emotional intensity. Climate change used to be something most everyone said they cared about—just not all that much. When Americans were asked to rank their political concerns in order of priority, climate change would reliably come in last.

But now there is a significant cohort of Republicans who care passionately, even obsessively, about climate change—though what they care about is exposing it as a “hoax” being perpetrated by liberals to force them to change their light bulbs, live in Soviet-style tenements and surrender their SUVs. For these right-wingers, opposition to climate change has become as central to their worldview as low taxes, gun ownership and opposition to abortion. Many climate scientists report receiving death threats, as do authors of articles on subjects as seemingly innocuous as energy conservation. (As one letter writer put it to Stan Cox, author of a book critical of air-conditioning, “You can pry my thermostat out of my cold dead hands.”)

This culture-war intensity is the worst news of all, because when you challenge a person’s position on an issue core to his or her identity, facts and arguments are seen as little more than further attacks, easily deflected. (The deniers have even found a way to dismiss a new study confirming the reality of global warming that was partially funded by the Koch brothers, and led by a scientist sympathetic to the “skeptic” position.)

The effects of this emotional intensity have been on full display in the race to lead the Republican Party. Days into his presidential campaign, with his home state literally burning up with wildfires, Texas Governor Rick Perry delighted the base by declaring that climate scientists were manipulating data “so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects.” Meanwhile, the only candidate to consistently defend climate science, Jon Huntsman, was dead on arrival. And part of what has rescued Mitt Romney’s campaign has been his flight from earlier statements supporting the scientific consensus on climate change.

By Naomi Klein
Originally published at The Nation

Beyond environment: falling back in love with Mother Earth

Photograph: Plum VillageZen master Thich Nhat Hanh has been practising meditation and mindfulness for 70 years and radiates an extraordinary sense of calm and peace. This is a man who on a fundamental level walks his talk, and whom Buddhists revere as a Bodhisattva; seeking the highest level of being in order to help others.

Ever since being caught up in the horrors of the Vietnam war, the 86-year-old monk has committed his life to reconciling conflict and in 1967 Martin Luther King nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize, saying “his ideas for peace, if applied, would build a monument to ecumenism, to world brotherhood, to humanity.”

So it seems only natural that in recent years he has turned his attention towards not only addressing peoples’ disharmonious relationships with each other, but also with the planet on which all our lives depend.

Thay, as he is known to his many thousands of followers, sees the lack of meaning and connection in peoples’ lives as being the cause of our addiction to consumerism and that it is vital we recognise and respond to the stress we are putting on Earth if civilisation is to survive.

What Buddhism offers, he says, is the recognition that we all suffer and the way to overcome that pain is to directly confront it, rather than seeking to hide or bypass it through our obsession with shopping, entertainment, work or the beautification of our bodies. The craving for fame, wealth, power and sex serves to create only the illusion of happiness and ends up exacerbating feelings of disconnection and emptiness.

Thay refers to a billionaire chief executive of one of America’s largest companies, who came to one of his meditation courses and talked of his suffering, worries and doubts, of thinking everyone was coming to take advantage of him and that he had no friends.

In an interview at his home and retreat centre in Plum Village, near Bordeaux, Thay outlines how a spiritual revolution is needed if we are going to confront the multitude of environmental challenges.

While many experts point to the enormous complexity and difficulty in addressing issues ranging from the destruction of ecosystems to the loss of millions of species, Thay sees a Gordian Knot that needs slicing through with a single strike of a sharp blade.

Move beyond concept of the “environment”

He believes we need to move beyond talking about the environment, as this leads people to experience themselves and Earth as two separate entities and to see the planet in terms only of what it can do for them.

Change is possible only if there is a recognition that people and planet are ultimately one and the same.

“You carry Mother Earth within you,” says Thay. “She is not outside of you. Mother Earth is not just your environment.

“In that insight of inter-being, it is possible to have real communication with the Earth, which is the highest form of prayer. In that kind of relationship you have enough love, strength and awakening in order to change your life.

“Changing is not just changing the things outside of us. First of all we need the right view that transcends all notions including of being and non-being, creator and creature, mind and spirit. That kind of insight is crucial for transformation and healing.

“Fear, separation, hate and anger come from the wrong view that you and the earth are two separate entities, the Earth is only the environment. You are in the centre and you want to do something for the Earth in order for you to survive. That is a dualistic way of seeing.

“So to breathe in and be aware of your body and look deeply into it and realise you are the Earth and your consciousness is also the consciousness of the earth. Not to cut the tree not to pollute the water, that is not enough.”

Putting an economic value on nature is not enough

Thay, who will this spring be in the UK to lead a five-day retreat as well as a mindfulness in education conference, says the current vogue in economic and business circles that the best way to protect the planet is by putting an economic value on nature is akin to putting a plaster on a gaping wound.

“I don’t think it will work,” he says. “We need a real awakening, enlightenment, to change our way of thinking and seeing things.”

Rather than placing a price tag of our forests and coral reefs, Thay says change will happen on a fundamental level only if we fall back in love with the planet: “The Earth cannot be described either by the notion of matter or mind, which are just ideas, two faces of the same reality. That pine tree is not just matter as it possesses a sense of knowing. A dust particle is not just matter since each of its atoms has intelligence and is a living reality.

“When we recognise the virtues, the talent, the beauty of Mother Earth, something is born in us, some kind of connection, love is born.

“We want to be connected. That is the meaning of love, to be at one. When you love someone you want to say I need you, I take refuge in you. You do anything for the benefit of the Earth and the Earth will do anything for your wellbeing.”

In the world of business, Thay gives the example of Yvon Chouinard, founder and owner of outdoor clothing company Patagonia, who combined developing a successful business with the practice of mindfulness and compassion: “It’s possible to make money in a way that is not destructive, that promotes more social justice and more understanding and lessens the suffering that exists all around us,” says Thay.

“Looking deeply, we see that it’s possible to work in the corporate world in a way that brings a lot of happiness both to other people and to us … our work has meaning.”

Thay, who has written more than 100 books, suggests that the lost connection with Earth’s natural rhythm is behind many modern sicknesses and that, in a similar way to our psychological pattern of blaming our mother and father for our unhappiness, there is an even more hidden unconscious dynamic of blaming Mother Earth.

In a new essay, Intimate Conversation with Mother Earth, he writes: “Some of us resent you for giving birth to them, causing them to endure suffering, because they are not yet able to understand and appreciate you.”

How mindfulness can reconnect people to Mother Earth

He points to increasing evidence that mindfulness can help people to reconnect by slowing down and appreciating all the gifts that the earth can offer.

“Many people suffer deeply and they do not know they suffer,” he says. “They try to cover up the suffering by being busy. Many people get sick today because they get alienated from Mother Earth.

“The practice of mindfulness helps us to touch Mother Earth inside of the body and this practice can help heal people. So the healing of the people should go together with the healing of the Earth and this is the insight and it is possible for anyone to practice.

“This kind of enlightenment is very crucial to a collective awakening. In Buddhism we talk of meditation as an act of awakening, to be awake to the fact that the earth is in danger and living species are in danger.”

Thay gives the example of something as simple and ordinary as drinking a cup of tea. This can help transform a person’s life if he or she were truly to devote their attention to it.

“When I am mindful, I enjoy more my tea,” says Thay as he pours himself a cup and slowly savours the first sip. “I am fully present in the here and now, not carried away by my sorrow, my fear, my projects, the past and the future. I am here available to life.

“When I drink tea this is a wonderful moment. You do not need a lot of power or fame or money to be happy. Mindfulness can help you to be happy in the here and now. Every moment can be a happy moment. Set an example and help people to do the same. Take a few minutes in order to experiment to see the truth.”

Need to deal with ones own anger to be an effective social activist

Thay has over many years developed the notion of applied Buddhism underpinned by a set of ethical practices known as the five mindfulness trainings, which are very clear on the importance of tackling social injustice.

However, if social and environmental activists are to be effective, Thay says they must first deal with their own anger. Only if people discover compassion for themselves will they be able to confront those they hold accountable for polluting our seas and cutting down our forests.

“In Buddhism we speak of collective action,” he says. “Sometimes something wrong is going on in the world and we think it is the other people who are doing it and we are not doing it.

“But you are part of the wrongdoing by the way you live your life. If you are able to understand that, not only you suffer but the other person suffers, that is also an insight.

“When you see the other person suffer you will not want to punish or blame but help that person to suffer less. If you are burdened with anger, fear, ignorance and you suffer too much, you cannot help another person. If you suffer less you are lighter more smiling, pleasant to be with, and in a position to help the person.

“Activists have to have a spiritual practice in order to help them to suffer less, to nourish the happiness and to handle the suffering so they will be effective in helping the world. With anger and frustration you cannot do much.”

Touching the “ultimate dimension”

Key to Thay’s teaching is the importance of understanding that while we need to live and operate in a dualistic world, it is also vital to understand that our peace and happiness lie in the recognition of the ultimate dimension: “If we are able to touch deeply the historical dimension – through a leaf, a flower, a pebble, a beam of light, a mountain, a river, a bird, or our own body – we touch at the same time the ultimate dimension. The ultimate dimension cannot be described as personal or impersonal, material or spiritual, object or subject of cognition – we say only that it is always shining, and shining on itself.

“Touching the ultimate dimension, we feel happy and comfortable, like the birds enjoying the blue sky, or the deer enjoying the green fields. We know that we do not have to look for the ultimate outside of ourselves – it is available within us, in this very moment.”

While Thay believes there is a way of creating a more harmonious relationship between humanity and the planet, he also recognises that there is a very real risk that we will continue on our destructive path and that civilisation may collapse.

He says all we need to do is see how nature has responded to other species that have got out of control: “When the need to survive is replaced with greed and pride, there is violence, which always brings about unnecessary devastation.

“We have learned the lesson that when we perpetrate violence towards our own and other species, we are violent towards ourselves; and when we know how to protect all beings, we are protecting ourselves.”

Remaining optimistic despite risk of impending catastrophe

In Greek mythology, when Pandora opened the gift of a box, all the evils were released into the world. The one remaining item was “hope”.

Thay is clear that maintaining optimism is essential if we are to find a way of avoiding devastating climate change and the enormous social upheavals that will result.

However, he is not naïve and recognises that powerful forces are steadily pushing us further towards the edge of the precipice.

In his best-selling book on the environment, The World we Have, he writes: “We have constructed a system we can’t control. It imposes itself on us, and we become its slaves and victims.

“We have created a society in which the rich become richer and the poor become poorer, and in which we are so caught up in our own immediate problems that we cannot afford to be aware of what is going on with the rest of the human family or our planet Earth.

“In my mind I see a group of chickens in a cage disputing over a few seeds of grain, unaware that in a few hours they will all be killed.”

An edited video of Jo Confino’s interview with Thich Nhat Hahn can be seen here.

For information on Thay’s visit to the UK this spring, which includes a meditation in Trafalgar Square, a talk at the Royal Festival Hall, a five-day retreat and a three-day mindfulness in education conference, go to the Cooling the Flames website.

Author: Jo Confino
Full url: Originally posted on The Guardian Online

Battling The Bottle: Students And Industry Face Off Over Water

Students at Humboldt State University created this display to educate peers on the perceived ills of bottled water, ahead of a campus-wide ban.

Bottled water is trickling away from college campuses nationwide, thanks to the efforts of student activists and the non-profit groups that support them with campaigns like Ban the Bottle.

But that’s not going over too well with the International Bottled Water Association. The industry, which had $10.6 billion in revenue in 2010, went on the defensive this month with a YouTube video to counter what it calls “misinformation” used to turn college students against bottled water.

Corporate Accountability International, which created the Think Outside the Bottle campaign that has been used on some campuses, says more than twenty schools have complete or partial bans on bottled water because of environmental and health concerns about the industry. Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn., and California’s Humboldt State University imposed campus-wide bans in September, and the University of Vermont announced last month it will end its contract with Dasani bottler Coca-Cola in July.

In addition to removing bottled water from vending machines, stores and cafeterias, students have pushed for reusable bottle hand-outs, water fountains, and filling stations. “We’re really trying to make it part of the student culture to carry a water bottle,” says Clare Pillsbury, a Macalester senior who led her campus’s effort.

But the IBWA video suggests the cause is unworthy of students’ energy – instead, perhaps they could focus on genocide in Darfur. It claims bottled water is a good alternative to sugary beverages and easier to recycle than other packaged drinks. The IBWA also argues bottled water is safer than tap water.

The students – and a lot of water experts and authors – disagree with most of these points. They say the bottles add up to a lot of waste, and that the companies have privatized something that should essentially be free.

So, what’s the take-away?

IBWA president Joe Doss always circles around to freedom of choice. “It’s not a tap water versus bottled water issue,” he says; the industry just wants students to have the option.

And they do, the activists say – they just have to go off-campus.

The bottled water war is spreading beyond campuses, though. Several cities have stopped using public funds to purchase bottled water, and Grand Canyon National Park announced Monday it will stop selling water in containers smaller than one gallon.

Doss estimates his industry grew by five percent in 2011, so for now the freedom of choice looks safe. But that could change, if activists continue to get their way.

“The fact is, you could eliminate bottled water,” Pillsbury says. “These companies are creating a product that we don’t need.”

Written by Ted Burnham

Originally published at The Salt: NPR’s food blog

Monsanto guilty of chemical poisoning in France

A French court on Monday declared U.S. biotech giant Monsanto guilty of chemical poisoning of a French farmer, a judgment that could lend weight to other health claims against pesticides.

In the first such case heard in court in France, grain grower Paul Francois says he suffered neurological problems including memory loss, headaches and stammering after inhaling Monsanto’s Lasso weedkiller in 2004.

He blames the agri-business giant for not providing adequate warnings on the product label.

The ruling was given by a court in Lyon, southeast France, which ordered an expert opinion of Francois’s losses to establish the sum of damages.

Lawyers for Monsanto could not immediately be reached for comment.

Previous health claims from farmers have foundered because of the difficulty of establishing clear links between illnesses and exposure to pesticides.

“I am alive today, but part of the farming population is going to be sacrificed and is going to die because of this,” Francois, 47, told Reuters.

He and other farmers suffering from illness set up an association last year to make a case that their health problems should be linked to their use of crop protection products.

The agricultural branch of the French social security system says that since 1996, it has gathered farmers’ reports of sickness potentially related to pesticides, with about 200 alerts a year.

But only about 47 cases have been recognized as due to pesticides in the past 10 years. Francois, who suffers from neurological problems, obtained work invalidity status only after a court appeal.


The Francois case goes back to a period of intensive use of crop-protection chemicals in the European Union. The EU and its member countries have since banned a large number of substances considered dangerous.

Monsanto’s Lasso was banned in France in 2007 following an EU directive after the product had already been withdrawn in some other countries.

France, the EU’s largest agricultural producer, is now targeting a 50 percent reduction in pesticide use between 2008 and 2018, with initial results showing a 4 percent cut in farm and non-farm use in 2008-2010.

The Francois claim may be easier to argue than others because he can pinpoint a specific incident – inhaling the Lasso when cleaning the tank of his crop sprayer – whereas fellow farmers are trying to show accumulated effects from various products.

“It’s like lying on a bed of thorns and trying to say which one cut you,” said a farmer, who has recovered from prostate cancer and asked not to be named.

The French association of crop protection companies, UIPP, says pesticides are all subject to testing and that any evidence of a cancer risk in humans leads to withdrawal of products from the market.

“I think if we had a major health problem with pesticides, we would have already known about it,” Jean-Charles Bocquet, UIPP’s managing director, said.

The social security’s farming branch this year is due to add Parkinson’s disease to its list of conditions related to pesticide use after already recognizing some cases of blood cancers and bladder and respiratory problems.

France’s health and environment safety agency (ANSES), meanwhile, is conducting a study on farmers’ health, with results expected next year.

Writing by Gus Trompiz; Editing by Muriel Boselli, Sybille de La Hamaide and Jane Baird

24 Hours to Stop the Pipeline – Be the Solution

Every once in a while an opportunity comes along for all of us to be the solution. This is one of those times. We’re collecting a half million messages to stop the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline in the next 24 hours.

This dirty, dangerous tar sands pipeline is not in the national interest. It’s that simple. And the United States Senate, officials of both parties, need to hear that message loud and clear and fast because some of them are threatening to push a bill as soon as Tuesday, to approve it.

Go to and send a message. Then turn up the volume and send it to everyone you know….tweet it, Facebook it, blog it…urging everyone you know to become part of the solution in the next 24 hours. Go to, please, and send a message.

This U.S. Senate has to stop looking towards the past and move into the new century. If only some of these politicians showed the same level of passion for creating new markets around cleaner forms of energy, as they’re showing for crippling a sitting president with a dirty, potentially highly dangerous, old-school Canadian tar sands pipeline.

This struggle is about every parent’s fears for our children’s future. And this struggle is about every young person’s hope for their immediate future. It should be every parent’s worst nightmare that these people we sent to Washington to lead us into the future, will continue to embrace the flawed philosophical case for doing nothing.

This do nothing option is the same flawed recommendation that economists made in the 1960’s and 1970’s to the automobile industry. Imagine something like seat belts being seen as the jobs killer of that day. We should not make the same mistake around energy.

Be the solution. Send a message! Go to

Author: Robert Redford

Chile’s Commander Camila, The Student Who Can Shut Down a City

Not since the days of Zapatistas’ Subcomandante Marcos has Latin America been so charmed by a rebel leader. This time, there is no ski mask, no pipe and no gun, just a silver nose ring.

Meet Commander Camila, a student leader in Chile who has become the face of a populist uprising that some analysts are calling the Chilean winter. Her press conferences can lead to the sacking of a minister. The street marches she leads shut down sections of the Chilean capital. She has the government on the run, and now even has police protection after receiving death threats.

Yet six months ago, no one had heard of Camila Vallejo, the 23-year-old spearheading an uprising that has shaken not only the presidency of the billionaire businessman Sebastián Piñera, but the entire Chilean political class. Opinion polls show that 26% of the public support Piñera and only 16% back his recently ousted Concertación coalition.

Wednesday saw the start of a two-day nationwide shutdown, as transport workers and other public-sector employees joined the burgeoning student movement in protest.

“There are huge levels of discontent,” said Vallejo in a recent interview. “It is always the youth that make the first move … we don’t have family commitments, this allows us to be freer. We took the first step, but we are no longer alone, the older generations are now joining this fight.”

Elected as only the second female leader in the 105-year history of the University of Chile’s student union, Vallejo, who is also a member of the Chilean Communist party, is the face of a movement the likes of which has not been seen since the last years of Augusto Pinochet in the 80s.

Hundreds of thousands of high-school and university students have refused to go to lessons since early June, calling for better and more affordable education and an end to a two-tier system that creates a few wealthy, elite colleges amid many underfunded public ones. Vallejo has organised several cacerolazos – protests in which participants bang pots and pans. Some demonstrations have turned violent.

“We don’t want violence, our fight is not versus the police or to destroy commercial shops … our fight is to recover the right to education, on that we have been emphatic and clear,” said Vallejo as she stood outside the presidential palace.

The government has rushed out a number of initiatives to try to head off protests, promising to amend Chile’s constitution to include a guarantee of quality education and cutting interest rates on student loans from 6.4% to 2%. But the promise of an extra 1.9 trillion Chilean pesos (£2.5bn) in education spending has done little to quell the uprising. Few analysts believe the students will back down despite a heavy police presence at recent demonstrations.

As she spoke, Vallejo was surrounded by students laying out a huge peace sign made up of hundreds of empty teargas canisters that had been used against students.

“Here we have more than 50m pesos’ worth of teargas bombs,” said Vallejo. “Imagine how much was used on the regional or the national level? This is unacceptable, we want to reiterate our demand that we made to the minister of the interior that he step aside.”

Tatiana Acuña, a government official in the ministry of culture, was recently fired for suggesting that the assassination of Vallejo would end the protests. On Tuesday, Chile’s supreme court ordered police protection for the student leader.

Vallejo has become a cult figure – with odes on YouTube and predictions that her charisma may well catapult her into Chilean politics. “We are all in love with her,” said the Bolivian vice-president, Álvaro García Linera.

At a recent gathering of Bolivian youth leaders he urged students to follow the example of the youth movements in the rest of South America. “You need to talk about what is happening in Argentina, Brazil or Chile, where there is a young and beautiful leader, who is leading the youth in a grand uprising,” said García Linera.

Vallejo said on the subject of her looks: “You have to recognise that beauty can be a hook. It can be a compliment, they come to listen to me because of my appearance, but then I explain the ideas. A movement as historical as this cannot be summarised in such superficial terms.

“We do not want to improve the actual system; we want a profound change – to stop seeing education as a consumer good, to see education as a right where the state provides a guarantee.

“Why do we need education? To make profits. To make a business? Or to develop the country and have social integration and development? Those are the issues in dispute.”

By Jonathan Franklin in Santiago
Full url:

I Do Not Want Mercy, I Want You To Join Me

Tim DeChristopher, who was sentenced Tuesday to two years in federal prison and a $10,000 fine for ‘disrupting’ a Bureau of Land Management auction in 2008, had an opportunity to address the court and the judge immediately before his sentence was announced. This is his statement:

Thank you for the opportunity to speak before the court. When I first met Mr. Manross, the sentencing officer who prepared the presentence report, he explained that it was essentially his job to “get to know me.” He said he had to get to know who I really was and why I did what I did in order to decide what kind of sentence was appropriate. I was struck by the fact that he was the first person in this courthouse to call me by my first name, or even really look me in the eye. I appreciate this opportunity to speak openly to you for the first time. I’m not here asking for your mercy, but I am here asking that you know me.

Mr. Huber has leveled a lot of character attacks at me, many of which are contrary to Mr. Manross’s report. While reading Mr Huber’s critiques of my character and my integrity, as well as his assumptions about my motivations, I was reminded that Mr Huber and I have never had a conversation. Over the two and half years of this prosecution, he has never asked my any of the questions that he makes assumptions about in the government’s report. Apparently, Mr. Huber has never considered it his job to get to know me, and yet he is quite willing to disregard the opinions of the one person who does see that as his job.

There are alternating characterizations that Mr Huber would like you to believe about me. In one paragraph, the government claims I “played out the parts of accuser, jury, and judge as he determined the fate of the oil and gas lease auction and its intended participants that day.” In the very next paragraph, they claim “It was not the defendant’s crimes that effected such a change.” Mr Huber would lead you to believe that I’m either a dangerous criminal who holds the oil and gas industry in the palm of my hand, or I’m just an incompetent child who didn’t affect the outcome of anything. As evidenced by the continued back and forth of contradictory arguments in the government’s memorandum, they’re not quite sure which of those extreme caricatures I am, but they are certain that I am nothing in between. Rather than the job of getting to know me, it seems Mr Huber prefers the job of fitting me into whatever extreme characterization is most politically expedient at the moment.

In nearly every paragraph, the government’s memorandum uses the words lie, lied, lying, liar. It makes me want to thank whatever clerk edited out the words “pants on fire.” Their report doesn’t mention the fact that at the auction in question, the first person who asked me what I was doing there was Agent Dan Love. And I told him very clearly that I was there to stand in the way of an illegitimate auction that threatened my future. I proceeded to answer all of his questions openly and honestly, and have done so to this day when speaking about that auction in any forum, including this courtroom. The entire basis for the false statements charge that I was convicted of was the fact that I wrote my real name and address on a form that included the words “bona fide bidder.” When I sat there on the witness stand, Mr Romney asked me if I ever had any intention of being a bona fide bidder. I responded by asking Mr Romney to clarify what “bona fide bidder” meant in this context. Mr Romney then withdrew the question and moved on to the next subject. On that right there is the entire basis for the government’s repeated attacks on my integrity. Ambition should be made of sterner stuff, your honor.

Mr Huber also makes grand assumptions about my level of respect for the rule of law. The government claims a long prison sentence is necessary to counteract the political statements I’ve made and promote a respect for the law. The only evidence provided for my lack of respect for the law is political statements that I’ve made in public forums. Again, the government doesn’t mention my actions in regard to the drastic restrictions that were put upon my defense in this courtroom. My political disagreements with the court about the proper role of a jury in the legal system are probably well known. I’ve given several public speeches and interviews about how the jury system was established and how it has evolved to it’s current state. Outside of this courtroom, I’ve made my views clear that I agree with the founding fathers that juries should be the conscience of the community and a defense against legislative tyranny. I even went so far as to organize a book study group that read about the history of jury nullification. Some of the participants in that book group later began passing out leaflets to the public about jury rights, as is their right. Mr Huber was apparently so outraged by this that he made the slanderous accusations that I tried to taint the jury. He didn’t specify the extra number of months that I should spend in prison for the heinous activity of holding a book group at the Unitarian Church and quoting Thomas Jefferson in public, but he says you should have “little tolerance for this behavior.”

But here is the important point that Mr Huber would rather ignore. Despite my strong disagreements with the court about the Constitutional basis for the limits on my defense, while I was in this courtroom I respected the authority of the court. Whether I agreed with them or not, I abided by the restrictions that you put on me and my legal team. I never attempted to “taint” the jury, as Mr Huber claimed, by sharing any of the relevant facts about the auction in question that the court had decided were off limits. I didn’t burst out and tell the jury that I successfully raised the down payment and offered it to the BLM. I didn’t let the jury know that the auction was later reversed because it was illegitimate in the first place. To this day I still think I should have had the right to do so, but disagreement with the law should not be confused with disrespect for the law.

My public statements about jury nullification were not the only political statements that Mr Huber thinks I should be punished for. As the government’s memorandum points out, I have also made public statements about the value of civil disobedience in bringing the rule of law closer to our shared sense of justice. In fact, I have openly and explicitly called for nonviolent civil disobedience against mountaintop removal coal mining in my home state of West Virginia. Mountaintop removal is itself an illegal activity, which has always been in violation of the Clean Water Act, and it is an illegal activity that kills people. A West Virginia state investigation found that Massey Energy had been cited with 62,923 violations of the law in the ten years preceding the disaster that killed 29 people last year. The investigation also revealed that Massey paid for almost none of those violations because the company provided millions of dollars worth of campaign contributions that elected most of the appeals court judges in the state. When I was growing up in West Virginia, my mother was one of many who pursued every legal avenue for making the coal industry follow the law. She commented at hearings, wrote petitions and filed lawsuits, and many have continued to do ever since, to no avail. I actually have great respect for the rule of law, because I see what happens when it doesn’t exist, as is the case with the fossil fuel industry. Those crimes committed by Massey Energy led not only to the deaths of their own workers, but to the deaths of countless local residents, such as Joshua McCormick, who died of kidney cancer at age 22 because he was unlucky enough to live downstream from a coal mine. When a corrupted government is no longer willing to uphold the rule of law, I advocate that citizens step up to that responsibility.

This is really the heart of what this case is about. The rule of law is dependent upon a government that is willing to abide by the law. Disrespect for the rule of law begins when the government believes itself and its corporate sponsors to be above the law.

Mr Huber claims that the seriousness of my offense was that I “obstructed lawful government proceedings.” But the auction in question was not a lawful proceeding. I know you’ve heard another case about some of the irregularities for which the auction was overturned. But that case did not involve the BLM’s blatant violation of Secretarial Order 3226, which was a law that went into effect in 2001 and required the BLM to weigh the impacts on climate change for all its major decisions, particularly resource development. A federal judge in Montana ruled last year that the BLM was in constant violation of this law throughout the Bush administration. In all the proceedings and debates about this auction, no apologist for the government or the BLM has ever even tried to claim that the BLM followed this law. In both the December 2008 auction and the creation of the Resource Management Plan on which this auction was based, the BLM did not even attempt to follow this law.

And this law is not a trivial regulation about crossing t’s or dotting i’s to make some government accountant’s job easier. This law was put into effect to mitigate the impacts of catastrophic climate change and defend a livable future on this planet. This law was about protecting the survival of young generations. That’s kind of a big deal. It’s a very big deal to me. If the government is going to refuse to step up to that responsibility to defend a livable future, I believe that creates a moral imperative for me and other citizens. My future, and the future of everyone I care about, is being traded for short term profits. I take that very personally. Until our leaders take seriously their responsibility to pass on a healthy and just world to the next generation, I will continue this fight.

The government has made the claim that there were legal alternatives to standing in the way of this auction. Particularly, I could have filed a written protest against certain parcels. The government does not mention, however, that two months prior to this auction, in October 2008, a Congressional report was released that looked into those protests. The report, by the House committee on public lands, stated that it had become common practice for the BLM to take volunteers from the oil and gas industry to process those permits. The oil industry was paying people specifically to volunteer for the industry that was supposed to be regulating it, and it was to those industry staff that I would have been appealing. Moreover, this auction was just three months after the New York Times reported on a major scandal involving Department of the Interior regulators who were taking bribes of sex and drugs from the oil companies that they were supposed to be regulating. In 2008, this was the condition of the rule of law, for which Mr Huber says I lacked respect. Just as the legal avenues which people in West Virginia have been pursuing for 30 years, the legal avenues in this case were constructed precisely to protect the corporations who control the government.

The reality is not that I lack respect for the law; it’s that I have greater respect for justice. Where there is a conflict between the law and the higher moral code that we all share, my loyalty is to that higher moral code. I know Mr Huber disagrees with me on this. He wrote that “The rule of law is the bedrock of our civilized society, not acts of ‘civil disobedience’ committed in the name of the cause of the day.” That’s an especially ironic statement when he is representing the United States of America, a place where the rule of law was created through acts of civil disobedience. Since those bedrock acts of civil disobedience by our founding fathers, the rule of law in this country has continued to grow closer to our shared higher moral code through the civil disobedience that drew attention to legalized injustice. The authority of the government exists to the degree that the rule of law reflects the higher moral code of the citizens, and throughout American history, it has been civil disobedience that has bound them together.

This philosophical difference is serious enough that Mr Huber thinks I should be imprisoned to discourage the spread of this idea. Much of the government’s memorandum focuses on the political statements that I’ve made in public. But it hasn’t always been this way. When Mr Huber was arguing that my defense should be limited, he addressed my views this way: “The public square is the proper stage for the defendant’s message, not criminal proceedings in federal court.” But now that the jury is gone, Mr. Huber wants to take my message from the public square and make it a central part of these federal court proceedings. I have no problem with that. I’m just as willing to have those views on display as I’ve ever been.

The government’s memorandum states, “As opposed to preventing this particular defendant from committing further crimes, the sentence should be crafted ‘to afford adequate deterrence to criminal conduct’ by others.” Their concern is not the danger that I present, but the danger presented by my ideas and words that might lead others to action. Perhaps Mr Huber is right to be concerned. He represents the United States Government. His job is to protect those currently in power, and by extension, their corporate sponsors. After months of no action after the auction, the way I found out about my indictment was the day before it happened, Pat Shea got a call from an Associated Press reporter who said, “I just wanted to let you know that tomorrow Tim is going to be indicted, and this is what the charges are going to be.” That reporter had gotten that information two weeks earlier from an oil industry lobbyist. Our request for disclosure of what role that lobbyist played in the US Attorney’s office was denied, but we know that she apparently holds sway and that the government feels the need to protect the industry’s interests.

The things that I’ve been publicly saying may indeed be threatening to that power structure. There have been several references to the speech I gave after the conviction, but I’ve only ever seen half of one sentence of that speech quoted. In the government’s report, they actually had to add their own words to that one sentence to make it sound more threatening. But the speech was about empowerment. It was about recognizing our interconnectedness rather than viewing ourselves as isolated individuals. The message of the speech was that when people stand together, they no longer have to be exploited by powerful corporations. Alienation is perhaps the most effective tool of control in America, and every reminder of our real connectedness weakens that tool.

But the sentencing guidelines don’t mention the need to protect corporations or politicians from ideas that threaten their control. The guidelines say “protect the public.” The question is whether the public is helped or harmed by my actions. The easiest way to answer that question is with the direct impacts of my action. As the oil executive stated in his testimony, the parcels I didn’t bid on averaged $12 per acre, but the ones I did bid on averaged $125. Those are the prices paid for public property to the public trust. The industry admits very openly that they were getting those parcels for an order of magnitude less than what they were worth. Not only did those oil companies drive up the prices to $125 during the bidding, they were then given an opportunity to withdraw their bids once my actions were explained. They kept the parcels, presumably because they knew they were still a good deal at $125. The oil companies knew they were getting a steal from the American people, and now they’re crying because they had to pay a little closer to what those parcels were actually worth. The government claims I should be held accountable for the steal the oil companies didn’t get. The government’s report demands $600,000 worth of financial impacts for the amount which the oil industry wasn’t able to steal from the public.

That extra revenue for the public became almost irrelevant, though, once most of those parcels were revoked by Secretary Salazar. Most of the parcels I won were later deemed inappropriate for drilling. In other words, the highest and best value to the public for those particular lands was not for oil and gas drilling. Had the auction gone off without a hitch, it would have been a loss for the public. The fact that the auction was delayed, extra attention was brought to the process, and the parcels were ultimately revoked was a good thing for the public.

More generally, the question of whether civil disobedience is good for the public is a matter of perspective. Civil disobedience is inherently an attempt at change. Those in power, whom Mr Huber represents, are those for whom the status quo is working, so they always see civil disobedience as a bad thing. The decision you are making today, your honor, is what segment of the public you are meant to protect. Mr Huber clearly has cast his lot with that segment who wishes to preserve the status quo. But the majority of the public is exploited by the status quo far more than they are benefited by it. The young are the most obvious group who is exploited and condemned to an ugly future by letting the fossil fuel industry call the shots. There is an overwhelming amount of scientific research, some of which you received as part of our proffer on the necessity defense, that reveals the catastrophic consequences which the young will have to deal with over the coming decades.

But just as real is the exploitation of the communities where fossil fuels are extracted. As a native of West Virginia, I have seen from a young age that the exploitation of fossil fuels has always gone hand in hand with the exploitation of local people. In West Virginia, we’ve been extracting coal longer than anyone else. And after 150 years of making other people rich, West Virginia is almost dead last among the states in per capita income, education rates and life expectancy. And it’s not an anomaly. The areas with the richest fossil fuel resources, whether coal in West Virginia and Kentucky, or oil in Louisiana and Mississippi, are the areas with the lowest standards of living. In part, this is a necessity of the industry. The only way to convince someone to blow up their backyard or poison their water is to make sure they are so desperate that they have no other option. But it is also the nature of the economic model. Since fossil fuels are a limited resources, whoever controls access to that resource in the beginning gets to set all the terms. They set the terms for their workers, for the local communities, and apparently even for the regulatory agencies. A renewable energy economy is a threat to that model. Since no one can control access to the sun or the wind, the wealth is more likely to flow to whoever does the work of harnessing that energy, and therefore to create a more distributed economic system, which leads to a more distributed political system. It threatens the profits of the handful of corporations for whom the current system works, but our question is which segment of the public are you tasked with protecting. I am here today because I have chosen to protect the people locked out of the system over the profits of the corporations running the system. I say this not because I want your mercy, but because I want you to join me.

After this difference of political philosophies, the rest of the sentencing debate has been based on the financial loss from my actions. The government has suggested a variety of numbers loosely associated with my actions, but as of yet has yet to establish any causality between my actions and any of those figures. The most commonly discussed figure is perhaps the most easily debunked. This is the figure of roughly $140,000, which is the amount the BLM originally spent to hold the December 2008 auction. By definition, this number is the amount of money the BLM spent before I ever got involved. The relevant question is what the BLM spent because of my actions, but apparently that question has yet to be asked. The only logic that relates the $140,000 figure to my actions is if I caused the entire auction to be null and void and the BLM had to start from scratch to redo the entire auction. But that of course is not the case. First is the prosecution’s on-again-off-again argument that I didn’t have any impact on the auction being overturned. More importantly, the BLM never did redo the auction because it was decided that many of those parcels should never have been auctioned in the first place. Rather than this arbitrary figure of $140,000, it would have been easy to ask the BLM how much money they spent or will spend on redoing the auction. But the government never asked this question, probably because they knew they wouldn’t like the answer.

The other number suggested in the government’s memorandum is the $166,000 that was the total price of the three parcels I won which were not invalidated. Strangely, the government wants me to pay for these parcels, but has never offered to actually give them to me. When I offered the BLM the money a couple weeks after the auction, they refused to take it. Aside from that history, this figure is still not a valid financial loss from my actions. When we wrote there was no loss from my actions, we actually meant that rather literally. Those three parcels were not evaporated or blasted into space because of my actions, not was the oil underneath them sucked dry by my bid card. They’re still there, and in fact the BLM has already issued public notice of their intent to re-auction those parcels in February of 2012.

The final figure suggested as a financial loss is the $600,000 that the oil company wasn’t able to steal from the public. That completely unsubstantiated number is supposedly the extra amount the BLM received because of my actions. This is when things get tricky. The government’s report takes that $600,000 positive for the BLM and adds it to that roughly $300,000 negative for the BLM, and comes up with a $900,000 negative. With math like that, it’s obvious that Mr Huber works for the federal government.

After most of those figures were disputed in the presentence report, the government claimed in their most recent objection that I should be punished according to the intended financial impact that I intended to cause. The government tries to assume my intentions and then claims, “This is consistent with the testimony that Mr. DeChristopher provided at trial, admitting that his intention was to cause financial harm to others with whom he disagreed.” Now I didn’t get to say a whole lot at the trial, so it was pretty easy to look back through the transcripts. The statement claimed by the government never happened. There was nothing even close enough to make their statement a paraphrase or artistic license. This statement in the government’s objection is a complete fiction. Mr Huber’s inability to judge my intent is revealed in this case by the degree to which he underestimates my ambition. The truth is that my intention, then as now, was to expose, embarrass and hold accountable the oil industry to the extent that it cuts into the $100 billion in annual profits that it makes through exploitation. I actually intended for my actions to play a role in the wide variety of actions that steer the country toward a clean energy economy where those $100 billion in oil profits are completely eliminated. When I read Mr Huber’s new logic, I was terrified to consider that my slightly unrealistic intention to have a $100 billion impact will fetch me several consecutive life sentences. Luckily this reasoning is as unrealistic as it is silly.

A more serious look at my intentions is found in Mr Huber’s attempt to find contradictions in my statements. Mr Huber points out that in public I acted proud of my actions and treated it like a success, while in our sentencing memorandum we claimed that my actions led to “no loss.” On the one hand I think it was a success, and yet I claim it there was no loss. Success, but no loss. Mr Huber presents these ideas as mutually contradictory and obvious proof that I was either dishonest or backing down from my convictions. But for success to be contradictory to no loss, there has to be another assumption. One has to assume that my intent was to cause a loss. But the only loss that I intended to cause was the loss of secrecy by which the government gave away public property for private profit. As I actually stated in the trial, my intent was to shine a light on a corrupt process and get the government to take a second look at how this auction was conducted. The success of that intent is not dependent on any loss. I knew that if I was completely off base, and the government took that second look and decided that nothing was wrong with that auction, the cost of my action would be another day’s salary for the auctioneer and some minor costs of re-auctioning the parcels. But if I was right about the irregularities of the auction, I knew that allowing the auction to proceed would mean the permanent loss of lands better suited for other purposes and the permanent loss of a safe climate. The intent was to prevent loss, but again that is a matter of perspective.

Mr Huber wants you to weigh the loss for the corporations that expected to get public property for pennies on the dollar, but I believe the important factor is the loss to the public which I helped prevent. Again, we come back to this philosophical difference. From any perspective, this is a case about the right of citizens to challenge the government. The US Attorney’s office makes clear that their interest is not only to punish me for doing so, but to discourage others from challenging the government, even when the government is acting inappropriately. Their memorandum states, “To be sure, a federal prison term here will deter others from entering a path of criminal behavior.” The certainty of this statement not only ignores the history of political prisoners, it ignores the severity of the present situation. Those who are inspired to follow my actions are those who understand that we are on a path toward catastrophic consequences of climate change. They know their future, and the future of their loved ones, is on the line. And they know were are running out of time to turn things around. The closer we get to that point where it’s too late, the less people have to lose by fighting back. The power of the Justice Department is based on its ability to take things away from people. The more that people feel that they have nothing to lose, the more that power begins to shrivel. The people who are committed to fighting for a livable future will not be discouraged or intimidated by anything that happens here today. And neither will I. I will continue to confront the system that threatens our future. Given the destruction of our democratic institutions that once gave citizens access to power, my future will likely involve civil disobedience. Nothing that happens here today will change that. I don’t mean that in any sort of disrespectful way at all, but you don’t have that authority. You have authority over my life, but not my principles. Those are mine alone.

I’m not saying any of this to ask you for mercy, but to ask you to join me. If you side with Mr Huber and believe that your role is to discourage citizens from holding their government accountable, then you should follow his recommendations and lock me away. I certainly don’t want that. I have no desire to go to prison, and any assertion that I want to be even a temporary martyr is false. I want you to join me in standing up for the right and responsibility of citizens to challenge their government. I want you to join me in valuing this country’s rich history of nonviolent civil disobedience. If you share those values but think my tactics are mistaken, you have the power to redirect them. You can sentence me to a wide range of community service efforts that would point my commitment to a healthy and just world down a different path. You can have me work with troubled teens, as I spent most of my career doing. You can have me help disadvantaged communities or even just pull weeds for the BLM. You can steer that commitment if you agree with it, but you can’t kill it. This is not going away. At this point of unimaginable threats on the horizon, this is what hope looks like. In these times of a morally bankrupt government that has sold out its principles, this is what patriotism looks like. With countless lives on the line, this is what love looks like, and it will only grow. The choice you are making today is what side are you on.

Banning Corporate Personhood: How Communities Are Taking the Law Back from Big Companies

The following is from Sabrina Artel’s Trailer Talk: The Frack Talk Marcellus Shale Water Project. You can listen to the complete program here.

These last few days for gas drilling news in New York as been critical and a new level of urgency has been reached as the country watches how New York defines and decides its fate, the future of its famous unfiltered water supply, and communities in the directly impacted regions, whether for or against drilling are forging ahead to determine their immediate future and that for future generations.

It’s coming down to Home Rule and self-determination as a way to protect municipalities from fracking. As the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) releases New Recommendations for Drilling in New York explained in the Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) released a few days ago, environmental groups, like Catskill Mountainkeeper are calling for a statewide ban and municipalities organize to decide the fate of their towns.

One of the important and positive points in the otherwise very problematic and potentially dangerous draft, combined with a governor apparently wanting to surge forward with gas extraction is this: “Local Land Use & Zoning: Applicant must certify that a proposed activity is consistent with local land use and zoning laws. Failure to certify or a challenge by a locality would trigger additional DEC review before a permit could be issued.” These words in the SGEIS give further power to Home Rule.

The Highland and Lumberland Committees on Energy and the Environment formed last year to decide the fate of their towns. They sponsored a forum on February 19th that was held at the Eldred High School to talk about the options that municipalities have to protect themselves from being industrialized and how the power of Home Rule can be preserved. The speakers were Helen Slottje, an attorney with the Community Environmental Defense Council based in Ithaca, NY and Ben Price, the Projects Director from the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) located in Chambersburg, PA. Ben Price has been advising residents about stopping fracking in their communities acting on the premise that they already have the right to say no. He states, “…You have the right to protect your community, your families, your kids, your property values, your drinking water. These are fundamental rights…”

More towns in upstate New York are re-writing their plans and residents are becoming involved in their town politics whether organizing educational meetings, deciding to run for office and reaching out for advice. One such person is Narrowsburg resident Andrea Reynosa, an artist and farmer who lives with her family on a homestead that has been farmed since 1841. Their farm includes river frontage on the East Ten Mile River and sits in the Delaware River Valley, an area under urgent threat from drilling as its neighbor Pennsylvania sits across the Delaware with drill pads in the watershed waiting for approval.

Andrea says, “In November of 2010, we created a local chapter of Concerned Citizens, Tusten Concerned Citizens, whose primary focus is initiating and establishing stringent Land Use laws into our municipal zoning ordinances that address Heavy Industrial Use, i.e. gas drilling, to protect the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of the Town of Tusten. The Town of Tusten is working with Helen and David Slottje and the Tusten Concerned Citizens along with its First Saturday of the Month SkyDog Supper Club will be hosting a Democracy School led by Ben Price later this year.” In addition to organizing the town hall meeting supper club as a place for community engagement, Andrea and her partner Kevin Vertrees have been organizing collaborative art events, Flow Projects that are celebrations of pure water as their community is threatened by drilling and hydraulic fracturing.

This is the continuation of the story of individuals speaking up when the gas corporations are attempting to control their hometowns and of individual becoming increasingly involved in their local government, collaborating with each other as they face drilling throughout the area.

The following is from Ben Price of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund speaking to residents of the Sullivan County Catskills in Eldred, New York. You can read (or hear) Helen Slottje’s part of the talk here. The event was moderated by John Conway.

John Conway: Ben Price, will talk about a little bit different approach. And Ben’s approach involves an outright ban, passing a local law that would provide an outright ban on drilling.

Ben Price is the Projects Director of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund. Ben coordinates community organizing across Pennsylvania, where over 100 communities have already adopted Legal Defense Fund-drafted laws. He has served as consultant to the Pittsburgh City Council; assisted in drafting Pittsburgh’s Protection from Natural Gas Drilling Ordinance; and is working with other communities in both Pennsylvania and New York, as well as Maryland and Ohio, to adopt community rights ordinances that assert the authority of municipalities to protect their community health, safety, welfare, quality of life, and the natural environment by banning industrial activities such as gas extraction. As Projects Director, Ben offers communities free organizing assistance and training for municipal officials and residents for the adoption of local laws.

He also assists with strategic organizing in New England and northern California, and is the First Chair Democracy School lecturer. Ladies and gentlemen, Ben Price.

Ben Price: Thank you, John, and thanks to everybody for being here this morning. I’ll tell a little bit more about the Legal Defense Fund in just a second, but before I begin I wanted to say something maybe you may not expect, but I agree with everything that Helen said. I do. That is where we are right now. And I actually do believe that given the state of affairs with New York law, that land use laws are a viable tool in order to actually keep the drilling out. I think that makes sense as a starting point.

I’m here, I guess in a way, to offer a cautionary tale. I think that it behooves you and your communities to engage in precautionary measures in anticipation of what has happened in other states. The Legal Defense Fund opened its doors in 1995, and the plan was to offer free legal services to municipalities and community groups in order to assist them to protect their quality of life, their health, safety and welfare, their environments, because in general it’s those small municipalities and towns — it’s the community groups — that don’t have the financial wherewithal to fight the large corporations when they come in and they say, “Here’s what we’re going to do whether you like it or not.” And whether you like it not, sometimes — as everyone has heard already — you can sue anybody for anything with one small caveat — if you’ve got the cash. And the industries have the money, and in general the municipalities and the people do not.

Our experience early on back in ’95 when the Legal Defense Fund opened their doors was pretty typical. We engaged in rather traditional community organizing, which is to say that we assisted community groups and individuals to challenge permits from being issued, to review the applications for permits that would allow for some legal activity — and by the way, gas drilling in Pennsylvania and in New York, and Ohio and West Virginia and Maryland is legal. It’s legal. And it’s regulated — we know that, too.

But the permits are the license to engage in the activity.

What we found was that the state more and more — the state legislature — adopted laws wherein they occupied the field of regulation and stripped local governments of the opportunity to regulate industry and the activities they engage in locally. And just to give you an example, the Legal Defense Fund didn’t start working with communities on the gas drilling issue. That’s become a huge issue. Everywhere I go, the crowds get larger and larger. When we go to municipal meetings and talk to folks, the crowds are getting huge. People are just energized about this issue.

But that’s not where we started working. Frankly, we began working in rural communities in Pennsylvania on issues generally having to do with agriculture — communities that were concerned about the establishment of factory farms as the new way of engaging in agriculture in Pennsylvania. That wasn’t seemingly such a big problem back before the mid-1990s. We had about 400 communities — municipalities in Pennsylvania at the time — that had ordinances in place — legal ordinances — not challenging any existing law, that said that factory farms essentially were excluded. They wanted to support independent family farming.

Unfortunately — and this is part of the precautionary tale I want to tell — is that just because you have what looked like strong local authority under your home rule provisions of your constitution doesn’t mean they’re permanent. And I don’t mean that just to scare you. As a Pennsylvanian, I envy your Home Rule law. I think it’s great as it stands. It really does afford a degree of local control that the folks in Pennsylvania — 12-1/2 million of them in over 1,200 municipalities — wish they could have back.

We have experienced, though, that when industry wants to make it easier to get what they want, they change the laws for us. That’s what we experienced. That’s why we changed our strategy in terms of what to do in order to combat the industrialization of our communities, and really … you’ll hear me talk about corporations — I’m not anti-corporation; I actually work for one. It’s a nonprofit, but I actually work for one. They’re good tools; they’re good legal tools. They can also be used in a negative way, just like a lot of legal things can be.

What we experienced beginning in the early 2000s was a transformation of state law that stripped local communities of the authority to say “no” to the industrialization of agriculture … by the way, to say “no” to mining. We had land use laws under the Municipalities Planning Code — that’s the state code of land use law — that did not prohibit communities from zoning out mining, and did not prohibit them from zoning out agriculture that was industrialized. The Municipalities Planning Code was amended any number of times, and it’s a litany of surrender of local control and Home Rule authority to industry, where the Municipalities Planning Code was amended to disallow local municipal control or regulation of the timber industry, of mining, of water withdrawals, of agriculture, one after another after another, to the point where what we have left in terms of our ability to deal with an industry like gas drilling is, we can regulate the roads and impact on roads. We can attempt to impose conditions in terms of putting up fences and what color paint is used on the drilling rigs so that they blend in with the background.

Doesn’t mean we have no local control over gas drilling in Pennsylvania. We can say where they can drill, but not whether or not they can drill — the idea of zoning being that we still retain the authority to segregate incompatible uses of land, to try to keep the drill rigs away from the swings and the monkey bars in the kids’ playground. We can try to do that.

You can separate incompatible uses of land, but you’re not allowed to say “no” to a legal use of land. That’s where we are in Pennsylvania. I don’t want that to be where you come to in New York.

When it comes to what authority and what power we have to protect our health, safety and welfare at the local level, we’re up against three main obstacles. The first one is state preemption, which I just talked about briefly, which is where the state decides to adopt state laws, or to amend existing laws that strip that local authority. In New York, as well as in other states, general laws of the state apply to all communities, and if a general law specifically preempts — in other words, it strips the authority of the municipality — to say “no” to a particular legal use of land — and how do we know it’s a legal use of land? Well, permits are issued for it. Permits are issued for gas drilling by the State of New York. You have not yet been preempted to adopt local land use laws that have the effect of excluding gas drilling. And I do agree with Helen — that’s a tool you should use. You have it, you should use it. You should, in fact.

Preemption is one of the main obstacles we have to overcome if it’s in place. Right now, you don’t have preemption of land use in place, but you do have preemption in terms of regulating the industry. State law essentially says, yes, you can in effect preempt it through your land use decisions, but you can’t say anything about the process of the extraction. You can’t regulate the industrial activity itself. The state has occupied the field of regulation there, and that is to say you are preempted.

But those laws in existence today in New York that say you can stop it through land use are not immutable, and they’re not perpetual.

There’s another obstacle to local control called “Dylan’s Rule,” and it’s a theory of law that says — by the way, it’s not in the U.S. Constitution; it’s not really even in the state constitution — but it’s a tradition of and a theory of law that says municipalities essentially have the same relationship to the state — the state legislature — as a child has to a parent — which is to say that the municipality has no authority of its own and no agency of its own unless the state delegates that power and that authority … which also means that at any given time the state can withdraw that power or that authority. That’s the experience I’ve been relating to that we’ve had in Pennsylvania on lots of issues.

By the way, it’s also the experience they have in Ohio. In 2005, the state legislature adopted a law dealing with the regulation of oil and gas, and they stripped municipalities of the authority to regulate — to do anything at the local level that applies to those industries.

We’re used to hearing about that horrible term, the “Halliburton loophole.” Most of you have heard that, right? It’s that horrible thing that they did at the federal level that said this gas industry is exempt from a host of federal laws that purport to protect our environment and our communities — you know, the Clean Drinking Water Act; the Clean Air Act; the Superfund Act — things like that.

We don’t generally think about the fact that in many states — and by the way, in New York as well, the industry is also exempt from local control, local regulation in New York, fortunately, as Helen pointed out, except in terms of land use.

But in terms of industrial activities themselves, they are exempt from local laws. I’d just like to question, what does that word “exempt” mean? It means you don’t have to obey laws that everybody else does. It means you’re above those laws. It means you’re exceptional and you have privileges that no one else in the community, the state or the land has. And that’s the position of the gas industry in terms of those ostensibly protective laws. Why would they have to be exempt from them? Maybe it’s because they couldn’t live up to them; maybe it’s because they couldn’t actually obey them and actually continue to engage in the industrial activities that they want to be involved in.

So, I mentioned preemption and Dylan’s Rule, and what I’m getting at now, too, is a third obstacle that we have to actually creating the kinds of communities that we want to live in, and that is corporate supremacy. As individuals, we don’t get exemptions from laws that the rest of our neighbors have to obey. That’s not a privilege that we as human beings have. But corporations do, and corporations have been recognized by the courts to share protections of the Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution as though they were living human beings. Again, I’m not against corporations — I think they’re actually very useful tools.

Folks who benefit from private for-profit corporations benefit also from the fact that they often have limited liability; that the individuals who benefit from those corporations that engage in activities that in general community majorities find to be harmful — that those individuals benefitting from those harmful activities are not responsible for the harm. That’s the joy of a limited liability.

On top of that, they get an extra scoop of rights to come in to your community as a corporation. As individuals, every member of the board of directors of a corporations has individual constitutional protections. As individuals, every investor in a corporation retains those rights — not the responsibilities for the harms they inflict using that legal tool of the corporation when they enter your community. They hold on to their rights and they aren’t responsible for the actions.

Now, I know you’re at a good spot here where you can potentially adopt land use laws to actually prohibit … keep out the drilling for now. You can’t use other types of laws because you have been preempted from doing so. In Pennsylvania and Ohio, in Maryland and West Virginia, communities there have no such comparable Home Rule power through land use laws. So, what do they do and what have they begun to do?

Well, in Pittsburg, which is probably the one community that you may have heard of dealing with it in this way, in a community rights forum … What they’ve done is, they adopted a law — and I’ll just describe it in general terms. It’s not simply an outright prohibition on gas drilling, although it does prohibit gas drilling. That’s not where it starts. We refer to them as “community rights laws” because it starts with a local bill of rights that enumerate rights such as the right to local self-government on issues with direct impact on the community — the assertion that the state does not have the authority to license corporations to engage in activities that actually violate the rights of the members of the community.

We actually are self-governing people with rights that we retain and have not surrendered, and we’re going to act on that premise, and if the state believes we do not have the right to protect our health, safety, welfare, quality of life, natural environment, they’ll need to come and take away our rights ’cause we’re not going to sit on our hands and act as though we do not have those rights. That’s a pretty profound and provocative thing for them to do, I admit it. And they didn’t do it lightly. And we don’t engage … The Legal Defense Fund does not engage in the kind of community organizing that we do lightly either.

But when the consent of the governed is denied, and when private interests are licensed to engage in activities against the consent of the governed, we’re left with a question of what to do about it, and I think maybe there’s about three choices that we can select from, and I mean it sincerely — it’s not up to me to decide for any given community. I have a voice in my own, but not in yours or anyone else’s. Which choice your community takes is up to you and your community, and I’m not being sarcastic about it when I go through these three choices, the first one being, you can decide to do nothing.

And even with the strength of your land use laws in New York, the ability to use them to stop the drilling, there will be communities, I dare say, that will decide to do nothing — they won’t pursue that. They may not be convinced. And Helen, I hope you do convince them because I think it would behoove them all to do it, if at minimum to do that. Absolutely.

But some won’t do it, and they’ll have arguments to say — and I don’t mean … again, this isn’t meant in any judgmental way — “Well, we’re too busy; we’re not really that concerned about it.” Whatever the reasons are, that is a valid choice. But we’re the adults in the room and we’re responsible for the outcomes of our decisions, and if we decide to do nothing, and the outcome of our decision is that our communities are destroyed for future generations to live in them and enjoy their natural environment, their drinking water and the rest of it, we are responsible to that choice; we in our communities are responsible for those choices.

The second of three possible decisions we might make is to attempt to use existing structure of law to create the outcomes that we want. We don’t want drilling; let’s try to use the laws we have, and that means use your land use laws to try and stop the drilling. But you can’t use other types of laws; you don’t have regulatory authority over the industry in your municipality, so you don’t have that option.

What we can try to do is regulate it. In general, that’s what we’re given. What does it mean to regulate? It doesn’t mean to disallow. It means to allow under certain conditions. And so, a community might say, “Well, we’re not really going to impose land use laws that have the effect of eliminating the drilling; we’re going to allow it in certain places,” which means we’re going to decide which parts of our municipality to surrender to the industry — that’s a choice. I think doing nothing and using existing law, you have a very strong possibility of getting fracked — a very strong possibility.

The third option is the one that the Legal Defense Fund has been pursing and advising communities on, and it has to do with acting on the premise that you already have the right to say “no,” that you already have the right to protect your community, your families, your kids, your property values, your drinking water — that those are fundamental rights. It’s a crazy thing — in Pennsylvania we actually have it. It says it right in the Constitution, Article 1, Section 27, that we have a right to clean air, clean water, clean soil, and that the state has the responsibility to protect the resources of the state and to be the steward of those resources for all of Pennsylvania for generations to come. And then the Supreme Court of the state says things like, “However, Article 1, Declaration of Rights — those rights are actually non-self-executing.” I’m not a lawyer, if I didn’t mention that, but sometimes they say silly things like that, which is to say, “These rights — long list of rights — they’re not self-executing.”

What does that mean? It means that the state has not created explicit statutory law to tell us how we’re allowed to enjoy those rights. I know I’m speaking colloquially; I’m not being precise in my legal language. I engage in community organizing around these issues, and I think it’s important for people to understand what it is — what does it really mean?

And what we’re being told is, the right to clean air, clean water and the rest of it — well, that’s protected by the Department of Environmental Protection. The laws and the regulations of the state through that agency — that’s how we can enjoy those rights. And then we look to see what those agencies actually do. They issue permits to industry to engage in activities that the people in our communities are told they have no authority to say “no” to — and that’s how our rights get protected.

What can we do in anticipation of New York going the way of Pennsylvania and Ohio and Maryland and West Virginia? There really are differences among the states in terms of Home Rule authority. About 46 states have some form of Home Rule at the municipal level. Some of it is statutory; some of it’s constitutional; some of it is a mix.

In Pennsylvania, in 1968, they amended the state constitution to allow for municipal home rule. Well, we’ve got quite a few municipalities in Pennsylvania; 67 of them have decided to go Home Rule. Why so few? Because the state legislature has been very busy since 1968 adopting laws that newly preempt Home Rule authority. So, we had statutory municipalities before, and they were being preempted; and now we have Home Rule communities and their local Home Rule authority is being whittled away one after another.

How does that happen? Our experience is that industry has the ear of our legislators. And, for instance, when the DEP talks about their clients, they’re talking about the industries that they’re charged with assisting to engage in the activities that they permit. It’s kind of an upside-down view of what an environmental agency might do.

So, by the way, is the regulatory system of most states, including New York, where when it comes to preemptive power, what they say is, “Here is the maximum amount of protection legally that a municipality will be offered — that the members of a municipality will be offered by the state.” And you would be acting beyond your authority to adopt laws that regulate that industry any more strictly and offer more protection to your community. If we had legislatures who considered the human beings in the state to be their constituents, we might see a regulatory regime that said, “Here is the minimum amount of protection every community must offer its members, and if they so decide, they can impose more strict regulations to protect the health, safety and welfare of their communities.” Just the opposite is the case.

What we’re suggesting is that communities take seriously their rights — and members of the communities take seriously the rights. When Pittsburgh adopted their ordinance, they were not the first in Pennsylvania or the first in other states … By the way, we have worked in communities in New Hampshire, in Maine, in Virginia and elsewhere where local laws have been adopted that stand in the face of state preemption and challenge those laws and say, “The state is acting beyond its authority to deprive the rights of the members of this community by licensing state-chartered corporations to engage in activities that threaten our rights.” The ordinances do a couple of other interesting things. They recognize the inalienable rights of natural communities and ecosystems to exist and flourish — what does that mean? And does it mean that the communities that adopted these ordinances have all gone “enviro,” or turned into Druids or something? No, it doesn’t mean that.

Most of the communities that have adopted rights-of-nature provisions have been what I would describe as rather conservative, but they understand the real pragmatic reason for doing so. When it comes to protecting your environment — and yes, we can litigate over anything we want to … But if you want to sue a corporation for engaging in a harmful activity in your community and you go to court, one of the first things they’re going to ask is, “Well, what’s your interest in this?” to explore to see if you have standing. Are you actually going to be materially harmed, or have you been materially harmed by this corporate activity? In other words, do you own the land that’s been harmed? Has your property value been damaged? Something along those lines. And if the answer is “No, I live on the other side of town but I just didn’t want to see our environment destroyed,” your case is dismissed.

What if, in your bill of rights, in a community rights ordinance you include a recognition of the rights of ecosystems to exist and flourish, and you further recognize that every member of the community has legal standing to advocate for those rights in a court of law? And then the legal relationship in terms of property is not the relevant question. The question is, “Have these rights been violated?”

One other provision, which is a key one … Sometimes we’re told what we’re really interested in is just getting rid of corporate rights, and there’s bill of rights protections that corporations have been granted.

We have a provision in the ordinance that says corporations that would violate the prohibitions of this law will not be recognized to have the legal protections of the Bill of Rights and similar protections of state law. Why would we do that? It’s not just because we want to be nasty. It’s because people in our communities are at disadvantages when lawyers for corporations come in and they say, “We’re suing; we’re bringing a Section 1983 lawsuit, which is a civil rights lawsuit, on behalf of the civil rights of the corporation that are being violated.” It’s that “takings” thing. “Takings” means that your Fifth Amendment protections of government not to take private property for public use without just compensation are being violated. And a corporation lawyer comes in and claims, “That’s exactly what your municipality’s doing to us by adopting a local law that says we can’t access our minerals, or we can’t exercise the lease, or the permit.” That’s the type of argument we get.

Nullifying that claim is not about stripping rights from corporations; it’s about making sure that the rights of the members of the community are understood to be superior to the privileges of state-chartered corporations — chartered corporations, and they are chartered by the state legislature in the name of the people. The state cannot turn around, not legitimately, and issue permits to them in a way that would have the effect of violating the rights of the very people who chartered the corporation. It’s a Frankenstein model. It makes no sense to allow that to stand, and so we do challenge that.

This is very provocative stuff. We know it. We understand that this isn’t for everybody, because it takes a lot to explain it, and I, with 30 minutes quite frankly, have really but scratched the surface.

What would we suggest in terms of New York and where you are? And again, it’s back to the cautionary tale, and I think the precautionary measures that I would suggest, we would suggest, which is to say, put in place your land use laws to eliminate the use of land for gas extraction, combined with community rights provisions that recognize that you’re doing so not only because you acknowledge the authority of the state which has devolved these powers to you, but also because you understand and embrace the rights of the community to adopt laws and have the effect of governing state-chartered corporations in the name of the people. This is about, I believe, putting in place local laws that anticipate the possibility of losing the one tool you do have right now. I wish you had more tools, because in a self-governing democracy, the people wouldn’t simply be allowed one last shot at self-governance through land use; it would actually be a broad spectrum of authority understood and recognized by the state.

There’s a lot to this, and if you have further questions, I’m happy to answer them. Thanks.

Conway: Thank you, Ben.

Ben, our first question: “What role, or what impact, if any, would a public health officer in a town or the county or public health law have on gas drilling?” Can public health issues be used in a town ordinance to prohibit gas drilling?

Price: I’m not going to presume to speak on New York law specifically. I’m not an attorney to begin with, but New York law — I’m familiar with it to the degree I am.

When we talk about a bill of rights and these local ordinances, they’re not limited in scope. I mean, if it’s a matter of retained rights of the people being enumerated locally, and prohibitions being put in place as Pittsburgh did, the prohibition on gas drilling is not simply a free-floating prohibition. It’s put in place, and specifically the language of the law says, “This prohibition is intended to protect the rights enumerated in this ordinance.” And so, a right to health and not to have health damaged would seem to be a legitimate jumping-off point for prohibition on drilling.

Conway: Ben, you mentioned the Pennsylvania State Constitution. I’m not sure if you can address this, but, “Does New York have the same right to clean water, land, soil, in our state constitution, and can we enact a ban or a bill of rights at the same time? And once a ban or a bill of rights is enacted, can it be overturned once it’s passed?”

Price: To my knowledge, the New York Constitution isn’t quite as explicit as Pennsylvania’s, but it’s not based on Pennsylvania’s constitution that these ordinances are being drawn up the way they are. We’re not claiming that we get our authority or our rights from Article 1, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution. That right preexists the Pennsylvania Constitution.

The theory of government, in this country at least, going all the way back to the Declaration of Independence — it declares that governments are instituted — what for? — by the people to defend and protect their rights. And when governments no longer act in that manner, then it is not only the right, but it says the duty of people to alter or abolish it.

So, the rights precede the constitution, and it doesn’t matter whether you have that language in the New York Constitution. That’s not the question to ask on whether or not you can institute local bills of rights that recognize those rights. Retained rights — I mean, if you want to look for a place, the Ninth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution talks about unenumerated rights being retained by the people. Unenumerated — just because there’s 10 amendments to the Constitution early on doesn’t mean that the listing of those rights is exhaustive. Unenumerated rights are retained by the people. Let’s enumerate them and protect them.

Conway: Ben, if corporations are considered a person, as has become prevalent of late, do they have the same protections as a person might expect?

Price: Well, the same and more. And there are specific examples I could give. There are particular amendments to the Constitution that corporate attorneys will claim belong to corporations now. The 14th Amendment was the first one, and it guaranteed equal protection of the law and due process of law. The 14th Amendment was adopted after the Civil War. The 13th Amendment ended slavery, and the 14th Amendment — at least as I read it, and many folks read it — was intended to guarantee equal protection of the law and due process of the law to those freed slaves — and, by the way, to everyone, ’cause it didn’t mention that it was just freed slaves.

The courts looked at the word “person” and the second clause of that amendment, and determined in 1886 that the word “person” also referred to corporations as well, and in that particular case, the Santa Clara case, decided that corporations had the 14th Amendment protection of equal protection of the law, which was the foot in the door, and now we see that corporations are recognized to have First Amendment free speech protections — that was first decided in the Bilotti case of 1978; it wasn’t the Citizens United case that actually opened that can of worms; that was just the cherry on top.

You know, Fifth Amendment protections — wonderful stuff. In 1922, Pennsylvania had a state law on the books that said corporations must leave columns of coal under the ground. They couldn’t just strip out all of the coal with the effect of the surface collapsing in, subsidence, destroying surface properties and ponds and having streams disappear, and the rest of it.

Well, Pennsylvania Coal Company went to court and they got a nice decision from the Supreme Court that said, “You know, that’s a violation of the Fifth Amendment protections of that corporation under the ‘Takings’ clause, because making them leave their coal underground — those pillars of coal — that’s their property. It’s stuff they could have harvested and made a profit selling on the market. And so, you can’t make them … Pennsylvania … you can’t make them leave that there.” And the state law was overturned.

It’s a bizarre thing. Do corporations have the same rights as people? I don’t know. I think that in that case, and in many similar cases, in fact the people living on the surface lost their rights and the corporations gained them.

And by the way, it wasn’t just the Pennsylvania Coal Company that gained that Fifth Amendment “Takings” protection. It was every corporation in the country. Every time that the U.S. Supreme Court decides to find, to discover, corporations in the U.S. Constitution, the word doesn’t appear there, by the way. Every time they discover corporations in the Constitution, that’s a discovery for every corporation, not just for the one that goes to court. We don’t get such benefits when we get a court decision in general.

And by the way, future lost profits as a property right belonging to corporations — can you imagine? I’m going to exaggerate a little bit here, but what if you went down to a nearby business, filled out a job application, and said, “I’d like this job,” and you got turned down? Imagine trying to sue for the future profits you could have made if they’d have only hired you. Well, it sounds absurd, I know. I think it’s absurd that a corporation could, under any guise, say that the gas they have plans to retrieve is something that they can claim a vested property right in under any guise.

Conway: Okay, we’re going to call this the last question, and I’m combining a bunch here, Ben, so I’d ask you to try to address this in its entirety as quickly as possible. A number of people expressed kind of a helplessness here. “Are there any actions that citizen groups can take if their townships are all pro-drilling? How does a resident stop a test well from becoming a production well now, and, based on your experience, what is the timeframe it would take to put your community rights provisions into effect?”

Price: The work we do really is not so much about making sure that we stop drilling, just to be honest with you. Our job is to make sure that we attempt to empower community majorities to establish local control to the greatest degree possible.

Having said that, if you have a community majority that is against gas drilling, how long would it take to get an ordinance in place? In general, the process I’m used to in Pennsylvania and elsewhere — there’s usually … there’s a legal process you have to go through of advertising a proposed ordinance at one meeting, and then as soon as possible would be to have a hearing, and then maybe a vote on it at that very meeting. So, a couple of months. But that’s a couple of months after you’ve persuaded your community, “This is the way to go”; after you’ve secured and persuaded your local officials to vote in the affirmative, assuming you don’t have initiative and referendum; and also, assuming that you’ve got the language in place. We don’t simply hand communities, “Here’s the finished product,” and say, “There it is; go with it.”

We engage in a real dialogue with people in the community; find out what it is precisely they want to do. We have some communities, all they want to do is ban drilling — that’s it. Someone’ll say, “We want to ban drilling. We also want to ban them from depositing the frack water anywhere in our community. We want to ban them from withdrawing water and using that for the drilling process, even if they don’t do it in our community.” There are a number of things that we can discuss about what outcome you’re looking for — what the law’s going to look for. Length of process — it varies. The shortest would be a couple of months. That would be real fast, I think.

You can listen to the complete program here.

By Sabrina Artel, AlterNet
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Sabrina Artel is the creator and host of Trailer Talk, stories from America’s kitchen table. Her weekly radio show explores community engagement through conversations about culture, politics, the arts and the environment. To find out more about Trailer Talk’s Frack Talk Marcellus Shale Water Project please visit Trailer Talk.

Join the Activist Network! Intern with Greenpeace

Do you want to join the fight for climate justice with the world’s largest independent environmental organization?

Greenpeace has several incredible volunteer internships available in San Francisco! You’ll get the chance to work on the most pressing issues of our time – saving ancient rainforests, protecting our oceans, stopping toxic threats, and launching a clean energy revolution.

Whether it’s activating volunteers and other students across the country or mobilizing people here in San Francisco, you’ll gain grassroots activism skills, learn about the environmental movement, gain issue expertise, meet awesome people, and make a real difference! Find out how this isn’t your average internship.

Apply today!

The deadline for Fall 2011 Intern Applications is July 31st!

The Network interns primarily help us connect with our Lead Activists over the phone, email and online social networks to assist them with all of their campaign work in hundreds of communities nationwide. They also help our Network team in SF with all other priorities that arise including the following –


  • Manage research projects
  • Logistics coordination and administrative work
  • Materials production (trainings, kits, etc)
  • Data entry as needed
  • Quickly develop knowledge of global warming and other campaign issues
  • Assist in other projects as needed

Desired Skills and Qualifications:

  • Able to inspire, recruit and train campaign volunteers over the phone
  • Strong communication skills including public speaking, written and oral
  • Critical thinking and time-management skills
  • Able to keep a level head in a fast-paced campaign environment
  • Commitment to grassroots organizing as a means of affecting change
  • Reliable and responsible

What you gain from a Greenpeace Internship:

  • Leadership experience
  • Hands on grassroots organizing and campaign experience with the world’s largest environmental organization, Greenpeace!
  • References and a letter of recommendation upon completion of the internship
  • Experience building citizen power using new media and a cutting edge organizing model
  • An opportunity to explore a career in the non-profit sector, politics, community services, activism, and grassroots organizing

Greenpeace strongly encourages applications from women, people of color, LGBTQ folks, people with disabilities, and members of other marginalized communities.

***Be sure to mark ‘San Francisco’ and ‘Activist Network’ on your application!***

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
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Al Gore to Deliver Keynote to 10,000 Young Environmental Leaders at Power Shift 2011

Former Vice President and Nobel Laureate Al Gore will join 10,000 youth activists at Power Shift 2011 as the opening keynote speaker on April 15, 2011.

Gore, who is chairman of the Alliance for Climate Protection, will be speaking about climate change and how we can take action to solve the climate crisis.

For four days, young leaders will come together for Power Shift 2011 — a historic summit where activists will get the skills they need to create clean and just energy solutions in communities around the country and around the world.

“I’m coming to Power Shift because I truly believe we must lead the world to a clean energy future, and young leaders are the driving force behind the movement that will make it happen,” Gore said today.

Sponsored by the Energy Action Coalition, Power Shift 2011 will feature a range of prominent voices. In addition to Al Gore, leaders such as Van Jones and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson will join the conference.

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Students gather at UCSC for food and justice summit

Bill Lovejoy/SentinelWith journalists like Michael Pollan and books like “Fast Food Nation” bringing national attention to nutrition and food justice, it’s no wonder that 300 students from 40 California campuses gathered at UC Santa Cruz Saturday for the fifth annual “Real Food Challenge.”

The conference, founded in 2007 with the intention of educating students about the complex food issues that their generation is inheriting, was one of five summits happening around the country this year.

During their three days at the Stevenson College Event Center, the students learned about the impacts of pesticides, justice for food service workers, different forms of consumption and dieting, as well as leadership skills, so that they can take their new knowledge and make a difference in their own communities.

“We teach students how to take all of that information and grow a movement that will make change,” said conference founder Tim Galarneau, who works for the UCSC Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Systems.
While the goal of Friday night was to form relationships and get a “Taste of Santa Cruz” with dinner courtesy of India Joze and The Penny Ice Creamery, Saturday’s agenda involved immersing the students in food issues. Today’s schedule will focus on what the students can do with what they’ve learned to influence federal and institutional policy.

“We’re facing the advent of interrelated problems in food access, the climate, the economy and the
environment, with world food prices hitting a record high this week,” said Galarneau. “We need to change how we relate to food.”

While the conference worked primarily with student groups promoting fair trade when it launched, Saturday, attendees of all age groups – including students in college, high school and a couple in junior high – wore recycled cardboard name tags and walked around the various display tables in between workshops.
“I’m impressed by the ambition,” said event organizer Kelsey Meagher, a grad student at UC Davis. “It’s exciting to hear from people who’ve never heard about food systems and social justice and other people who’ve made a career out of it.”

Housed in two churches on High Street, the 300 attendees were encouraged to challenge the more than $5 billion spent on dining food at colleges across the country, support alternative food suppliers, start community gardens and band together with like-minded individuals for the betterment of the environment.

“We’ve taught the younger generations to be consumptive and selfish,” said Galarneau. “Here we give them a sense of how they can impact the world around them for the better.”

By Jenna Brogan — Santa Cruz Sentinel
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The (Koch) Empire Strikes Back

copyright Gabe ElsnerOn Sunday [January 29th], nearly 2,000 citizens converged on the resort town of Rancho Mirage, California to confront a secretive meeting of billionaires meeting behind closed doors. The event has generated widespread coverage in the LA Times, NY Times, Politico, Reuters and many more. As a result, the Koch Brothers recently hired a public relations firm to transform the coverage to be more favorable to Koch Industries and their web of front groups, as revealed in Politico. Unfortunately, some of the reporting and opining completely omits key reasons why the organizers of the protest decided to Uncloak the Kochs.

The LA Times Editorial Board wrote an editorial saying:

    “The point of the rally was to decry the corrosive impact of money on American governance, but we’re not sure that the marchers were quite clear on the concepts of democracy and free speech.”

Let me respond on behalf of an unprecedented coalition effort – we are quite clear on the concept of democracy and free speech. Our problem with money in politics (and why we were protesting the Koch Brothers’ secretive billionaires retreat) is that it is drowning out the voices of ordinary citizens in the United States and elevating the interests of CEOs, bankers, polluters, and corporations.

Joel Francis, a Marine Corps veteran and student leader said it on Sunday:

    “We need real solutions to the jobs crisis, rising health care costs, our addiction to fossil fuels, climate change, the foreclosure crisis and other economic problems facing families across the country. We need public officials who will stand up to the private interests and take the side of America’s middle class. We need an economy that works for working families and a democracy where the people and citizens of our great nation count more than private profit.”

The Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission opened the floodgates for people like Charles Koch (and other billionaires) to influence our democratic elections process through direct campaign contributions, front groups, television advertisements and more. Unfortunately, our democracy, post-Citizens United will continue to put corporate interests over people until we level the playing field.

The Wall Street Journal (owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, whose employees have been regular guests at Koch retreats) reported that:

    “Billionaires have political views (often strong ones) and they aren’t afraid to use their money to support them. There are activist billionaires on all points of the political spectrum, and their influence often is kept in check by each other. In the end, it is unclear what impact they really have on the country beyond funding a vast industry of think tanks, panel discussions, vanity publications and golf retreats for legislative aids.”

Yes, there are billionaires on both sides of the aisle influencing public policy, but unfortunately there is no balance of power. Billionaires are still putting their interests over the interests of working families and ordinary citizens. Furthermore, there is a huge difference between funding a think tank or front group to promote your interests and meeting with Supreme Court Justices while they are considering a case on corporate spending in democratic elections. Justices Scalia and Thomas both attended previous Koch retreats and as a result, Common Cause sent a letter to the Department of Justice asking for an investigation into a possible conflict of interest – an investigation that could undermine the 5-4 Citizens United ruling.

Finally, Sunday was NOT about liberals versus conservatives. Sunday was about We the People. It was about rebuilding a democracy of We the People – a country where you don’t need to have millions of dollars to have your voice heard. Where the government is small, but it protects the public health from polluters, protects our economy from bankers and speculators, and protects our national security even when the oil companies don’t want to invest in homegrown American energy.

By Gabriel Elsner

Let’s replace We the Corporations with We the People

President Obama gave his State of the Union last night and set out a clear vision for our country. I agree that we need to win the future – and we can begin by investing locally in clean energy technology, reinvigorating our manufacturing sector, and leading the world to a sustainable 21st century economy. We need to invest in our young people and expand educational opportunities across the country.
Unfortunately, the President was not completely honest with the American people on the true state of our union. Families are in crisis – people are losing their homes and cannot find work. Their health is being threatened every day by our addiction to dirty and dangerous fossil fuels. Halliburton (among others) continue to undermine water supplies for millions of Americans through hydraulic fracturing – a dangerous method of extracting natural gas. We continue to spend $6 billion per month on the War in Afghanistan. And our country spends 59% of its budget on the military – while states and cities are being forced to cut education funding, enlarge class sizes, eliminate mental health programs, and squeeze budgets across the board.

The President did not acknowledge that hundreds of millions of dollars poured into campaign coffers from undisclosed sources and large corporations. He did not highlight that the Supreme Court in its’ Citizens United ruling – gave corporations the rights of people under our constitution – allowing unrestricted corporate spending in our elections.

Most Americans know that Washington is broken and is no longer working in the best interests of We the People. But, members of the Corporate Elite – spearheaded by the Koch Brothers (tied for the 9th richest people in America – read about them in the New Yorker) – are plotting how to continue undermining our democratic system for private profit. The Kochs are convening a meeting this weekend of billionaires to plot their dominance of the 2012 elections. Previous attendees to these meetings include: Fred Malek, one of Karl Rove’s top fundraisers; Glenn Beck, Fox News host and radio personality; David Chavern, Executive Vice President at the US Chamber of Commerce; Tim Phillips, President of Americans for Prosperity (a Koch-funded group), among many others.

Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia – two of the five Justices who sided with “We the Corporations” in the Citizens United ruling – have also been in attendance at previous Koch meetings. Common Cause ( sent a letter to the Department of Justice asking for an investigation into a possible conflict of interest due to their attendance at these activist events – an investigation that could undermine or even vacate the 5-4 Citizens United ruling. (See their letter here)

We need a Power Shift – and that begins by taking corporations out of our democracy – and giving our government back to We the People. That’s why a broad coalition of ordinary citizens, non-profits, and working Americans will be converging on Sunday at the Rancho Las Palmas Resort to expose the corporate elites secretive meeting.

One of the biggest criticisms of this event is that we are only attacking the right wing. What about George Soros and other billionaires funding the left? My reply is this: If I thought we could continue to operate in the left-right framing of our political spectrum that our country currently operates, I would understand this argument. But, this is not a partisan issue. It is a fundamental breakdown in our democratic system. The vision of the founding fathers of a functioning democratic republic, where public debate thrives, is being destroyed by the corruption and greed of our economic system. If corporations and the monied elite are the only arbiters of our political debate, our democracy is broken.

We need to put the power of our politics back in the hands of the people – ordinary Americans on the left and the right of the spectrum – so that we can have a real dialogue and public debate about where we need to go as a country.

We must unite the grassroots on the right and the left. The people that make up the Tea Party recognize the same truths as the people that make up the Progressive movement. Our government is not working in the best interests of We the People. We need real solutions to our economic depression, our addiction to fossil fuels, the housing crisis, the rising cost of health care, and our national deficit.

Money in our democracy is destroying the vision of America set out by our founding fathers over 200 years ago. We need a people’s movement to get money out of our politics and ensure that corporations are not treated as living and breathing human beings under our Bill of Rights. But we need your help – we need ordinary people to non-violently fight back against corporate elites attempting to purchase our democratic elections. I hope you join us in Palm Springs to ignite a Power Shift – as we take a first step to replace We the Corporations with We the People.

Study: California’s Prop 26 undermines green, health laws

A little-noticed California ballot initiative would “erect significant barriers” to funding state environmental and public health laws, according to a new study.

Proposition 26 “could have substantial and wide-ranging impacts on implementation of the state’s health, safety and environmental laws,” according to a Tuesday analysis by the UCLA School of Law.

Prop 26 would expand the definition of “tax” under state law to include certain state and local fees and require them to receive two-thirds backing in the state legislature instead of just majority support.

State environmentalists fear that the ballot initiative would undermine implementation of California’s landmark climate-change law — Assembly Bill 32 — which is also targeted by the higher profile Proposition 23. Environmentalists argue that, at a minimum, there is no telling exactly how much Prop 26 would affect the climate-change and other environmental laws.

The UCLA study underscores their argument.

“Legislative changes or updates to existing fees, which currently fund many environmental and public health programs, would require a 2/3 supermajority vote to enact unless they fall into one of the Proposition’s exceptions. The scope of the exceptions is both narrow enough and vague enough to risk the future of many fees,” according to the analysis.

Prop 26 would undercut the state’s “polluter pays” principle, where the government charges polluters upfront fees for external costs on the public due their impact on health and the environment, according to the analysis. Prop 26 would also likely repeal state programs aimed at preventing bulky products and certain chemicals from entering landfills if they are required to receive two-thirds support, the analysis states.

Prop 26 supporters have touted an analysis by a former general counsel of the California Environmental Protection Agency to underscore their argument that it would not affect regulation of state environmental law, including AB 32.

Specifically, they contend it would not affect “reasonable regulatory fees necessary to implement and enforce California’s environmental laws,” according to a “fact sheet” supporters are handing out.

By Darren Goode
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Global Work Party, 10/10/10

Today is’s Global Work Party as a way to tell our legislators “We’re getting to work, what about you?”

There are events going on in over 180 countries–that means that almost every country in the world is partaking in a grassroots movement to push for serious action on climate change. This year, organizers and participants are rolling out lists of climate solutions, from starting community gardens to promoting alternative transportation to installing solar panels.

This day is a catalyst for organizers to join together and be the change we wish to see in the world. Last year,’s Day of Climate Awareness was called the largest day of political action in history. This year is set to blow that day away. How will you be a part of history? >> Find a local event near you

350 Goal Will Never Be Achieved With Kerry-Lieberman

The details have finally emerged on the American Power Act, the climate and energy legislation rolled out Wednesday by Sens. John Kerry (D-MA) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT). More telling than the details, however, is a number not mentioned in the bill – 350.

You remember 350, don’t you?

Environmental activist Bill McKibben and thousands of volunteers organized events last fall calling attention to this number. It represents the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere — in parts per million — that leading scientists now say is safe and sustainable. We know this because we’ve already crossed that line – 390 ppm and climbing – and the Earth is telling us to go back. Most of the world’s glaciers are in retreat, ice shelves in polar regions are shrinking, and the seas are encroaching on islands and coasts.

Any legislation to address climate change needs to have the overarching goal of getting us back to 350 ppm of CO2 and keeping us there. But you’ll find no mention of this in the Kerry-Lieberman bill for one simple reason: There’s no way in hell their bill can achieve this goal. What’s really scary, however, is that most of the politicians in Washington are operating under the assumption that we don’t need to get to 350. The real eye-opener for me came last fall when a Senate aide I met with said we just need to keep CO2 under 450 ppm.

I have the greatest admiration for Sen. Kerry and the now-off-the-bus Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) for their tireless efforts to craft this legislation. But the flaws in this bill will prevent it from achieving its most important objective – stopping the worst effects of climate change.

In a statement issued Wednesday, several members of the Price Carbon Campaign weighed in on those flaws.

“The Kerry-Lieberman bill fails the acid test of climate legislation, which is to provide clear signals on emission prices,” said Charles Komanoff, co-founder of the Carbon Tax Center. “Investors, entrepreneurs and households all need certainty in future fuel and energy prices, but Kerry-Lieberman hides these crucial price signals behind a curtain of cap-and-trade.”

The American Power Act tries to limit the price volatility by establishing a price collar that starts with a floor of $12 and a ceiling of $25. The floor price would increase 3 percent a year while the ceiling would rise 5 percent. Even with the collar, though, there would be enough uncertainty in prices to discourage long-term investments in clean energy.

As Komanoff also points out, the pricing proposed in Kerry-Lieberman would produce meager reductions in CO2 emissions. Based on his carbon-pricing model, Komanoff estimates that by 2020 the bill would reduce CO2 by only 3 percent over 2009 emissions.

More damaging, perhaps, than the pricing mechanism, is the inclusion of carbon offsets, which could delay by decades America’s conversion to clean energy.

“Instead of making needed investments in renewable energy, utilities will have the much cheaper option of investing in third-world projects aimed at cutting carbon,” said Tom Stokes, Coordinator of the Climate Crisis Coalition, another member of the Price Carbon Campaign. “Most of these offsets do nothing to reduce current emissions, and they allow polluters in the U.S. to keep burning coal and other dirty fuels.”

In his post Wednesday, Kerry said, “Half measures won’t cut it,” but that’s precisely what’s been delivered in this bill, which was thoroughly vetted by big coal and big oil.

He also mentioned the Senate hearing he convened with Al Gore back in 1988 that first called attention to the emerging crisis of global warming. Those hearings introduced the nation and the world to climate scientist Dr. James Hansen, whose dire predictions have proven correct in the years since.

When Bill McKibben asked what the target should be for CO2 in the atmosphere, it was Hansen who said we must get back to 350 ppm. Hence, was born.

It’s time for decision-makers in Washington to listen to Hansen again. At the Climate Rally in Washington on April 25, he proposed the “People’s Climate Stewardship Act.” It’s a simple plan to put a steadily-increasing fee on carbon that will make clean energy competitive with fossil fuels within a decade. It also returns all the revenue to households so that families won’t bear the economic impact of rising energy costs.

Granted, I’m not a senator, and I don’t have to deal with Supreme Court decisions that allow corporations to play kingmaker. But if I’m trying to save the world, James Hansen is the guy I’d want to talk to, not the president of the American Petroleum Institute.

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AB32 to face 2 challenges on November ballot

Copyright couragecampaign.orgCalifornians will vote twice in November on the state’s groundbreaking law to reduce emissions that contribute to global warming – once on an oil company-backed initiative to put the law on hold indefinitely, and once in the governor’s race, where Republican Meg Whitman has promised to suspend the rules for a year.

Governors are normally required to enforce all state laws, including those they dislike. But AB32, which requires the state to cut emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases 25 percent by 2020, has a built-in escape hatch.

The law authorizes a governor to delay some or all of its provisions for up to a year “in the event of extraordinary circumstances, catastrophic events, or threat of significant economic harm.” The governor can renew the suspension if the conditions still exist after a year.

Citing the “significant economic harm” provision, Whitman said in September that she would suspend AB32 on her first day in office.

Wrong for the times

The law “may have been well-intentioned. But it is wrong for these challenging times,” she said in a column in the San Jose Mercury News. AB32, she declared, will drive up energy costs, “will discourage job creation and could kill any recovery.”

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who signed AB32 in 2006, responded that the law would create jobs, not destroy them. “Why would we want to go back to the Stone Age?” he asked at a “green jobs” exhibit in March.

He stepped up his criticism of AB32’s opponents last week in an interview with The Chronicle that appeared to target Whitman, his fellow Republican.

“Everyone who talks about suspending (AB32) is actually trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes” and “has the intention of eliminating it,” the governor said.

Brown backs law

Attorney General Jerry Brown, Whitman’s Democratic opponent, is also a fan of AB32.

“Addressing climate change is one of the great challenges of our time, something that California has been a leader on,” said Sterling Clifford, Brown’s campaign spokesman.

He said Brown’s promotion of wind power and other alternative energy sources as governor from 1975 to 1983 showed that “economic growth and environmental protection are not mutually exclusive.”

A one-year suspension in 2011 would come at a critical moment for AB32, the first law of its kind in the nation. The state Air Resources Board, whose members were appointed by Schwarzenegger, is scheduled to adopt regulations by Jan. 1, effective a year later, that would give the law its first teeth – binding emissions limits that would affect everything from motor vehicle fuels to power plants and landfills.

Post-primary stance

Whitman assailed AB32 as a job-killer during the Republican primary campaign. Asked at a debate May 2 whether humans cause climate change, she said, “I don’t know. I’m not a scientist.”

She has toned down her criticism of the law since winning the primary. Campaign spokeswoman Sarah Pompei said last week that Whitman, during her one-year moratorium, would “bring accountability and strong leadership to the AB32 process so the regulations effectively reduce our emissions while strengthening our economy.”

Pompei didn’t say how Whitman would accomplish those goals, which the candidate had previously suggested were in conflict. And she left the door open to a renewed suspension after the first year, saying Whitman would invoke her authority to delay regulations “until a comprehensive review of AB32’s effects on the economy and jobs can be fully understood.”

The candidate put it more bluntly in March when asked by a reporter if AB32 should be restored once the economy improves. “My thought is no,” she said.

Any suspension is tantamount to a repeal of the law, argued its legislative sponsor, state Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills (Los Angeles County), who introduced AB32 as an assemblywoman.

“People engaged in clean technology, alternate fuels and renewable energy need a signal that there’s a market for investment,” she said. “Suspension of AB32 would mean disaster.”

Lawmaker might sue

Pavley also said she would consider a lawsuit if Whitman was elected and carried out her pledge.

She said she had negotiated the escape clause with Schwarzenegger so a governor could suspend the law “in the most extraordinary circumstances … from wars to significant natural disasters.” The “significant economic harm” provision, Pavley said, was aimed at severe and long-lasting financial disruption, not at economic fluctuations.

But the text of the law contains no such limitations and appears to give the governor free rein to order a suspension. Michael Wara, a Stanford law professor who supports AB32, said a legal challenge would probably fail.

“If Whitman wants to roll this back, she can,” he said. “She has to provide a reasoned basis for doing so,” such as the unemployment rate and other signs of economic distress, Wara said.

The voters could take the issue out of the governor’s hands by passing Proposition 23, which would suspend AB32 until California’s unemployment rate, now 12.3 percent, dropped to 5.5 percent for four consecutive quarters. The Legislative Analyst’s Office says that’s happened three times in the last 40 years.

Brown opposes Prop. 23. So does Schwarzenegger, who describes its sponsors as “greedy oil companies who want to keep polluting in our state and making profits.” Whitman has not taken a stand on the measure.

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The Story of Cosmetics

Watch the film (along with other Story of Stuff videos) at the site

This film was inspired by major loopholes in US federal law that allow the $50 billion beauty industry to put unlimited amounts of chemicals into personal care products.

The seven-minute film, hosted by Annie Leonard, reveals the implications for consumer and worker health and the environment, and outlines ways we can move the industry away from hazardous chemicals and towards safer alternatives.

Activists Close Down BP Station

BP petrol stations in central London have been shut down by environmental activists.

Campaign group Greenpeace claimed it had shut off the fuel supplies to all stations in the area. The oil company said about 12 had been closed.

BP said activists stopped the flow of fuel by flipping safety switches, then removing them to prevent the petrol stations reopening.

Greenpeace said it wanted the company to adopt greener energy policies.

A BP spokesman said the petrol stations would be reopened as soon as it was safe to do so.

He described the stunt as “an irresponsible and childish act which is interfering with safety systems”.

Logo replaced

Greenpeace said the protest was being held to urge Bob Dudley, who is favourite to take over from outgoing BP chief executive Tony Hayward, to move away from “his predecessor’s obsession with high-risk, environmentally-reckless sources of oil”.

At one station in Camden, north London, Greenpeace climbers replaced BP’s logo with a new version showing the green “sunflower” disappearing into a sea of oil.

At others, protesters put up signs saying: “Closed. Moving beyond petroleum.”

Greenpeace executive director John Sauven said: “The moment has come for BP to move beyond oil.

“We’ve shut down all of BP’s stations in London to give the new boss a chance to come up with a better plan.

“They’re desperate for us to believe they’re going ‘beyond petroleum’. Well now’s the time to prove it.”

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The danger of Props. 16 and 17 (Editorial)

The problem here is not just two awful laws – it’s the idea that a single company, with loads of cash, can utterly subvert the basic premise of Democracy.

The California Democratic Party voted at its statewide convention April 17 to oppose Propositions 16 and 17. The San Francisco Chronicle — no friend of public power and consumer rights — endorsed strongly against both measures April 18. In fact, most major newspapers and civic groups have come out against what amounts to the most blatant attempt in California history by a pair of big corporations to buy favorable legislation at the ballot box.

And for Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and Mercury Insurance, none of that matters much.

This campaign is all about money — big gobs of money — and PG&E and Mercury have it and their opponents, so far, don’t. And if that doesn’t change in the next few weeks — if Democratic Party leaders, starting with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer — don’t immediately start making the defeat of these two measures a priority, California will send a signal to every big corporate interest in the world that its laws and policies are for sale.

Prop. 16 is being sold — in slick TV ads and mailers so deceptive they can only be called intentional lies — as giving the voters the right to have a say before local government gets into the business of selling electricity. The proposition, one PG&E flyer notes, “is our best protection against government spending your money to get into a business they [sic] know nothing about.”

Actually, government knows a lot about the electricity business. All over California, public power agencies offer better service and lower rates than the private utilities. Nationwide, residents of more than 2,000 communities have public power — and few want to give it up and return to buying electricity from private utilities.

But that’s not the point. Prop. 16 exists entirely because PG&E wanted to stop competition. The company is spending at least $35 million of its money to pass a law that would require a two-thirds vote (a nearly insurmountable obstacle) before any local agency can offer or expand local electricity service. The Chronicle, which has always opposed public power in San Francisco, argues that “Californians should be skeptical of any local government’s claim that it can deliver cheaper and cleaner power than an established utility. But they should be at least as wary when that monopoly utility wants to deprive them of that choice.”

Prop. 17 is another blatant single-interest measure, sponsored and underwritten entirely by one giant insurance company, to change the way car insurance is regulated in California. It would, among other things, allow insurers to raise rates for people who don’t already have coverage. Give up your car for a year (because you lost your job and couldn’t afford it, or decided that you could commute just as well by bicycle, or for any other reason) and the next time you buy insurance, your rates could soar — even if your driving record was clean.

The problem here is not just two awful laws — it’s the idea that a single company, with loads of cash, can utterly subvert not only the intent of California’s initiative law but the basic premise of Democracy. PG&E and Mercury were unable to get the state Legislature to do what they wanted, so they hired campaign consultants, paid millions for people to gather signatures on petitions, put the self-serving measures on the ballot, and are now flooding airwaves and mailboxes with well-crafted, effective lies. If they succeed, what’s going to stop every other sleazy big-money interest from doing the same?

Well, right now, nothing.

It’s absolutely critical, both for the issues of public power and consumer rights and for the fundamental notion that you can’t simply buy a new law, that Props. 16 and 17 are defeated. But we’re not seeing a lot of evidence that any of the most influential people in California are taking this seriously.

State Sen. Mark Leno has done tremendous work in getting the state party to oppose Prop. 16. Assembly Member Tom Ammiano has been working nonstop in Sacramento to try to get some money into the No on 16 coffers. San Francisco Sup. Ross Mirkarimi has led the statewide organizing efforts. And San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera joined a lawsuit to invalidate the law.

But in all the speeches and public statements that Pelosi, Boxer, Attorney General Jerry Brown, Lt. Gov. candidates Janice Hahn and Gavin Newsom, party chair John Burton, and others delivered at the state party convention, there was nary a mention of the fundamental importance of voting no on 16 and 17. None of the people who are capable of raising millions of dollars, the sort of money needed to defeat these measures, is making much of an effort to do it.

Props. 16 and 17 can be defeated. All it takes is a massive campaign to educate voters in a low turnout election about what these two measures actually are. But if the state’s political leaders allow these two measures to pass, California in 2010 will go down in history as the most corrupt and ungovernable state in America. And it’s very close to happening.

Editorial posted on Bruce’s Blog at SFGate, article can be found here

CA Higher Education Sustainability Conference

9th Annual CA Higher Education Sustainability Conference
June 20th-23rd, 2010
Hosted by Los Angeles Community College District
At Los Angeles Trade Technical College

  • Learn proven solutions from your peers
  • Discuss best practices designed for California campuses
  • Meet student leaders creating change
  • Meet green business leaders at the exhibitor show
  • Meet the decision-makers from the three higher education systems

For more information, visit our website:
Or email Katie Maynard at

Leadership Training in Colorado

Our generation’s calling is clear: If we are going to build a “Movement of movements” that is broad and connected enough to address the system-wide problems we are facing, we have to rally our entire generation to collective action, moving from apathy to engagement, powerlessness to empowerment, and connecting our individual efforts up within the groundswell of social change that is emerging in our time.

Through a partnership with Awakening the Dreamer and Generation Waking Up, participants will be trained in transformative leadership and social change skills — public narrative, systems thinking, shared leadership — along with learning to facilitate a “Wake Up” experience, a powerful organizing tool that provides a larger context for understanding today’s global challenges and opportunities, and that effectively moves people into inspired, collaborative action toward the creation of a thriving, just, sustainable world.

For more information and to sign up, please visit the site at

2010 California Higher Education Sustainability Conference

Over 1500 students, staff, faculty and administrators in California higher education will gather from June 20-23, 2010 at the 9th annual California Sustainability Conference at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College, to explore the ways in which we can implement social, environmental, and economic sustainability on our campuses statewide; prepare this generation for green collar jobs, and bring sustainability to campus practices, policies and contemporary culture.

We welcome you again in 2010 to present your best practices and learn about innovations in campus operations, planning, design, curriculum, and research through the peer-to-peer network that is being built within the California Community College (CCC), California State University (CSU) and University of California (UC) systems.

Learn more about the 2010 California Higher Education Sustainability Conference

CSSC LA Regional Potluck, Sherman Oaks – March 14th

ApplesPlease join us for a community building dinner of dedicated students working towards sustainability in the Los Angeles and Southern California region. Please bring a yummy dish, appetizer, desert, or beverage to share, as well as any musical instruments. Join us in this wonderful opportunity to get to know one other, celebrate, and become familiar with the good work that we all do in Los Angeles and surrounding regions. People who wish to attend can RSVP by emailing Joy at

California Water Tour

The California Water Tour seeks to bring together qualified students and young professionals on a week long exploration of California’s intricate natural and artificial water systems. Participants will visit public, private, research and non-profit institutions in a peer-to-peer dialogue concerning the future of California’s water. University students, recent graduates and young professionals have the technical expertise required to mitigate declining water supplies, but are not exposed to the complex network of public, private and non-profit entities involved in the operation California’s water system. The California Water Tour will provide this invaluable experience in an intensive week long trip to 20-25 qualified young people. The tour is open to currently enrolled college students or graduates who have completed at least 60 units in any major and who are engaged or interested in the sustainability of California’s water system.

Find more information and apply to participate >>

Film Festival

Contest: Student Sustainability Film Festival – Due May 14th

Film FestivalEntries Due May, 14 – The Northwest Institute for Social Change is now encouraging and accepting entries from high school and college students across North America for its 2010 Student Sustainability Film Festival. We are inviting students to produce and submit short films about projects their communities and colleges have instigated to promote sustainability. Entries are due on Friday, May 14. Students will be awarded cash prizes for top-ranked submissions, as determined by an esteemed board of noted judges and filmmakers, including Curt Ellis (producer of “King Corn”) and Matt Martin (editor for “No Impact Man”). Each winning film is awarded a $1000 cash prize. All final selections will be screened at a public event in Portland, Oregon in late May 2010.

Complete rules and submission guidelines >>