10 Incredible Moments in 2015: A Landmark Year in Climate Action
We've really been on a roll this year.
And when I say we I don't just mean 350.org the organization. I mean this big, broad movement we've built together—you, me, 350’s many partner organizations, the hundreds of local groups we work with every day and all the many individuals around the world who take action in ways large and small.
This was such a landmark year that we had a really hard time picking just 10 things for the list below. In fact, it really seems like we're getting close to a sort of climate-action tipping point.
Of course, we're not kidding ourselves into thinking that the fossil fuel industry is going to sit back and let it all happen. (In fact, the Secretary-General of Europe's coal lobby recently accused the European Commission of being “in cahoots with protest movements” and called for the creation of a "less ambitious" climate plan in 2016).
People and companies that benefit from the status quo will pull us backwards if we let them—so we can't let them. Can you help us continue this fight in 2016?
Next year, we're taking on the fossil fuel industry more directly than ever, as well as keeping the pressure on world governments to "close the gap" between the commitments they made in Paris and what the science actually says the world needs. I think next year is going to be at least as amazing as this one.
For now, because everyone loves a good list, here are the top 10 amazing things we did together in 2015 (in no particular order):
1. We Showed That We Are Greater Than Tar Sands
Throughout North America, the fight to stop the Canadian tar sands reached a fever pitch this year. Led by First Nations and other Indigenous groups and backed up by farmers, ranchers, labor unions and organizers in every corner of the continent, this movement stalled pipelines, called out hypocrisy and took to the streets for events like Toronto’s "March for Jobs, Justice and the Climate" and a “Climate Welcome” for new Canadian PM Justin Trudeau.
2. We Made Fracking a Contentious Political Issue in Brazil
The campaign to ban fracking in Brazil heated up big time—to the point that organizers started to feel some serious pressure from industry and the government. From interrupting a fracking auction with Indigenous voices to sparking protests at Brazilian embassies around the world, our team in Brazil is causing a stir.
3. We Shut Down One of the Biggest Coal Mines in Europe
To be fair, it was just for a day ... but nobody’s stopping there. The "Ende Gelände" action—translated as "here and no further"—was organized by grassroots climate activists to shut down the Garzweiler lignite mine in Germany. Most of the 1,500 people who participated in this epic act of civil disobedience had never done anything like it before.
4. We Pulled the Rug Out from Under Australia’s Biggest Coal Project
Our friends at 350 Australia—along with a big coalition of partners—helped pressure more than 14 banks to pull funding from Adani’s proposed giant coal mine in the Galilee Basin.
5. We Pushed California to Divest the U.S.' Second Largest Pension Fund
Divestment activists in California worked hard to pass a precedent-setting bill to divest the state’s two huge pension funds from coal, which together total half a trillion dollars. Up next: working even harder to divest from all fossil fuels.
6. We Called Out One the Richest, Most Powerful Corporations on the Planet
They really deserved it. After the revelations earlier this year that Exxon knew about the impacts of climate change nearly 40 years ago, we shone a spotlight on their criminal campaign of deception and denial. Along with many of our partners and allies, we’ve asked U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to investigate Exxon for their cover-up. And we’re going to keep pressing.
7. We Mobilized Against "Free Trade" Agreements that Consolidate Corporate Power
From the U.S. to the Philippines, we stood strong against "free trade" agreements like the Trans Pacific Partnership and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. Agreements like these are often negotiated in secret and put corporate interests over people's well-being.
8. We Raised the Bar on Divestment Commitments—to $3.4 Trillion (and Counting!)
2015 was a great year for the fossil fuel divestment movement. Global Divestment Day in February saw hundreds of events around the world, students escalated their campaigns on campus throughout the early part of the year and a snowballing of divestment commitments ahead of the Paris climate summit brought the new count to $3.4 trillion in managed assets committed to divestment.
9. We Stopped the Keystone XL Pipeline
President Obama may have struck the final blow, but it was the climate movement that stopped the world’s most notorious pipeline. When we started fighting this thing, they said it was a done deal. It was a long, hard fight, but it was worth it. Let that be a lesson to all the pipeline builders, coal financiers and frackers of the world: Don’t bet against the climate movement. We’re playing for keeps.
10. We Helped Make the Paris Climate Agreement Happen
The Paris climate agreement doesn’t get us where the world needs to be. But we have a deal and that’s extraordinary. Although our plans had to change following the terrorist attacks in Paris in November, the climate movement really came together before and during the big summit—for the Global Climate March on Nov. 29, which brought 775,000 people into the streets in more than 2,300 places around the world and for the final mobilization in Paris at the end of the talks. Now it’s up to us to close the gap between the rhetoric of the deal and the reality of this crisis. And we’re ready.
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Cooking has always intimidated me. As a child, I would anxiously peer into the kitchen as my mother prepared Christmas dinner for our family.
Falling in Love With Food All Over Again<p>Slowly, through my most intimate relationships with friends and partners, I began to see the beauty — and rewards — of cooking.</p><p>I got tired of giving in to defeat and always bringing chips or paper products to social gatherings. I started asking my mom to send me her Christmas and Thanksgiving recipes. I even volunteered to host Thanksgiving dinner at my place.</p><p>Each time I heard my loved ones sing the praises of the foods I prepared for them, I felt a tinge more confident that I could carry out our traditions my way.</p><p>In reaching out to other relatives for their favorite recipes, I learned that they had a little help of their own. They didn't rely solely on their ancestral cooking instincts. They turned to Black chefs for guidance.</p><p>These 7 cookbooks by Black chefs have inspired my family and fed us in nutrients, joy, and spiritual sustenance. They're also helping me overcome my personal fears of cooking.</p>
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The conclusion to decades of work to remove a dam on the Middle Fork Nooksack River east of Bellingham, Washington began with a bang yesterday as crews breached the dam with a carefully planned detonation. This explosive denouement is also a beginning.
The History<p>The Middle Fork Nooksack drains glacier-fed headwater streams that run off the icy summit of 10,778-foot Mt. Baker. The Middle Fork joins the North Fork and then the mainstem of the Nooksack River, which travels to Bellingham Bay and Puget Sound. The entire Nooksack watershed stretches 830 square miles across Washington and into British Columbia.</p>
A Plan Comes Together<p>The Middle Fork dam is not a pool dam built for water storage. Much of the time, water flows over the top until dam operators drop a floodgate to divert water to new locations. That water travels about 14 miles through tunnel and pipeline to Mirror Lake, then Anderson Creek, and to Lake Whatcom before finally being delivered to residents' taps.</p><p>Before removing the dam, engineers had to move the water intake 700 feet upstream and situate it at an elevation that still enabled city water withdrawals throughout the year, regardless of flow conditions.</p><p>They also needed to make sure that the rushing water didn't sweep up fish and accidentally send them through the water-supply system.</p><p>"The solution required a fairly complex design in the intake structure, including a fish exit pipe out of that structure to put fish back into the river in a way that meets current environmental permit standards," explains LaCroix.</p>
Project layout for the removal of the Middle Fork Nooksack diversion dam and rebuilding of water intake. City of Bellingham<p>Despite the cost and the work, she says, being able to continue to meet their municipal water obligations while opening up habitat for threatened species has been a win-win.</p><p>"I think there's a lot of benefits to having a dam removal versus fish passage — the main one being that you get a free-flowing river that can be a dynamic ecosystem and change over time," she says. "A static fish ladder just can't provide that same level of ecosystem benefit."</p>
Restoration Success<p>Despite local authorities' championing dam removal on the Middle Fork, the project has largely flown under the radar, overshadowed in the Pacific Northwest by heated discussions about a much larger potential project — removing <a href="https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/feds-reject-removal-of-4-snake-river-dams-in-key-report/" target="_blank">four federal hydroelectric dams on the lower Snake River</a>, a major tributary of the Columbia River.</p><p>Proponents of dam removal there see it as the best chance for recovering threatened salmon populations, including Chinook, which could help starving Southern Resident killer whales. Those dams also provide irrigation water, barge navigation and hydropower, so there's been more pushback against removal efforts.</p><p>Previous dam removals around the country, however, have proved successful at aiding fish recovery and river restoration.</p><p>Most notably the 1999 demolition of <a href="https://therevelator.org/edwards-dam-removal/" target="_blank">Edwards Dam on Maine's Kennebec River</a> restored the annual run of alewives, a type of herring essential to the food web. The fish run has gone from zero to 5 million in the two decades since dam removal. Blueback herring, striped bass, sturgeon and shad have also extended their reach. And the resurgence has brought back osprey, bald eagles and other wildlife, too.</p><p>The overwhelming success of river restoration on the Kennebec helped to spur a nationwide dam removal movement that's now seen 1,200 dams come down since 1999. Last year a record <a href="https://www.americanrivers.org/conservation-resource/a-record-26-states-removed-dams-in-2019/" target="_blank">90 dams</a> were removed in 26 states, including <a href="https://therevelator.org/cleveland-forest-dam-removal/" target="_blank">20 dams in California's Cleveland National Forest</a>.</p>
Spider excavators remove on dam on San Juan Creek in California's Cleveland National Forest. Julie Donnell, USFS<p>The results have been seen in the Pacific Northwest, as well, which boasts the largest dam removal thus far in the country. In 2011 and 2014, the demolition of <a href="https://therevelator.org/elwha-dam-removal/" target="_blank">two dams</a> on Elwha River, which runs through Washington's Olympic National Park, opened up 70 miles of habitat that had been blocked for a century. Scientists have started seeing all five species of salmon native to the river coming back, particularly Chinook and coho. Bull trout, they've observed, have increased in size since the dams were removal.</p>
Benefits on the Middle Fork Nooksack<p>McEwan hopes to see a similar outcome on the Middle Fork.</p><p>Like the Elwha the Middle Fork Nooksack is a relatively pristine river with little development, and dam removal is expected to provide a big boost to fish. The additional miles of spawning habitat are important, but so is the temperature of that water.</p><p>The dam removal will open access to cold upstream waters, which are ideal for salmon and getting harder to come by as climate change warms waters and reduces mountain runoff.</p><p>"This is really great for the climate change resiliency for these species," says McEwan.</p><p>Steelhead will get back 45% of their historic habitat in the river, and scientists expect Chinook populations to increase in abundance by 31%.</p><p>That <em>could</em> help Southern Resident killer whales.</p><p>"When you get to the ocean, it's a little bit of a black box in terms of what you can model and say definitively is going to help, but more fish is better for orcas," McEwan says.</p><p>Upstream habitat will see benefits, too.</p><p>Oceangoing fish like salmon enrich their bodies with carbon and nitrogen while at sea. When they return to their natal rivers to spawn and die, the marine-derived nutrients they carry back upriver become important food and fertilizer for both riverine and terrestrial ecosystems — aiding everything from trees to birds to bears.</p><p>"Once the fish start making their way back, it will start changing the whole ecological system," says Delgado.</p><p><span></span>But any ecological benefit from salmon restoration, either in the ocean or the upper watershed, won't be immediate.<br></p><p>"The population of salmon on the Middle Fork is so low that we expect it's going to take quite a while to rebound," she says. "But the big picture is that what's good for salmon is good for the region — our history and our destiny are intricately intertwined."</p><p>After decades of work, that process of restoration has finally begun.</p>
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It can grow to a maximum of six inches (16 centimeters), change color depending on mood and habitat, and, like all seahorses, the White's seahorse male gestates its young. But this tiny snouted fish is under threat.
Building an Ocean Seahorse Destination<p>Seahorses are found in tropical and temperate coastal water worldwide, but are most abundant around Australia, China and the Philippines. </p><p>Trade in the tiny creatures is strictly regulated because of their use in traditional medicine, aquariums and their sale as dried curios. But because they are poor swimmers and cannot easily move elsewhere, habitat loss is a particular threat for these curious animals. </p><p>Seahorses wrap their tails around seagrass and corals to avoid being carried away on currents. They use the habitat to spawn and hide from predators such as crabs, while also feeding on riches of plankton and small crustaceans living in the reef.</p><p><span></span>Where corals aren't available, <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/aqc.1217" target="_blank">scientists</a> found seahorses taking up residence in fishing nets and old crab traps abandoned at the bottom of the ocean. </p>
Mixing With the Locals<p>Baby seahorse mortality is high in the wild because they are easily caught, so those bred in the protected environment of the aquarium weren't ready to be released into the wild until early May.</p><p>The team released 90 new arrivals into Sydney Harbor, placing some directly into the purpose-built hotels, and others onto a net that wild seahorses had already settled on.</p><p>Before setting them free, the researchers marked each young seahorse with a fluorescent tag with unique IDs inserted just beneath the skin to track how they get on in the different environments. </p><p>"The most exciting part was being able to put these animals into the wild and then go back a month later and still see them surviving and growing," said McCracken. </p><p>The seahorses will be old enough to mate and reproduce around October or November 2020. And researchers hope that by then, they will be able to breed with the wild population. </p>
Building a Global Seahorse Hotel Chain<p>With seahorses everywhere facing the loss of their coral reef homes, similar projects have sprung up in places like Greece and South Africa, home to the world's most endangered seahorse, the Knysna seahorse. </p><p>"The endangered South African seahorse is benefiting from something quite similar, even though it wasn't intentional," said Peter Teske, professor at the Department of Zoology, University of Johannesburg.</p><p>In the South African <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/322649251_An_endangered_seahorse_selectively_chooses_an_artificial_structure" target="_blank">case</a>, seahorses have bedded down in "Reno mattresses" — wire cages filled with rocks — that were used to build a new marina. Researchers from NGO Knysna Basin Project found the structures acted as a refuge for the animals.<span></span></p><p><span></span>While Teske describes the seahorse hotels as "a positive news story" and a great way to create public awareness of conservation, he added that establishing artificial habitats in some areas will only prevent the extinction of local populations.</p><p>"For a complete recovery, it is necessary to give the natural habitat a chance to regenerate," said the seahorse expert. </p>
Underwater Mascot<p>In Australia, the researchers hope the project could provide an opportunity to raise awareness not only of the plight of the Sydney seahorses but the other animals with which it shares its ocean habitat.</p><p>The waters around Sydney and the east coast are rich in biodiversity and include several threatened species like the weedy seadragon — a relative of the seahorse — and the grey nurse shark. Like the seahorse, they're also under pressure from pollution, ocean traffic and habitat loss through storms and coastal construction. </p><p>"It's a good thing to get people's support and interest. The seahorses are a useful vehicle to get people concerned if the harbor is in trouble," said David Booth, professor of marine ecology at the University of Technology Sydney who is also working on the project. </p><p>The hotels have become an attraction for divers hoping to catch a glimpse of these small but near mythical creatures. </p><p>"Everyone loves seahorses," added Booth, "they are so popular." </p>
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