8 Reasons to Be Optimistic About the Climate Movement in 2015
Xiuhtezcatl Martinez is a 14-year-old Indigenous Eco Hip-hop Activist that has been speaking out to protect the Earth since he was six years old. Since then he has spoken at more than 100 schools, conferences, at the United Nations on numerous occasions and other high profile events to educate and inspire his generation into positive, concerted action to protect their future.
I have a feeling 2015 is going to be huge for the climate movement. Here are my top eight reasons to get excited about what we are building together.
1. Frontline Communities are Leading
The People's Climate March in New York City last September was among the most diverse actions I've ever been to. An estimated 400,000 people joined the march and frontline communities were front and center. People of color have long occupied the frontlines in confronting climate change, but now it seems climate justice advocates are receiving long overdo recognition as movement leaders. Low income youth of color will be the most affected by the changing climate, so it’s about time our climate movement embraces more frontline voices. We still have long way to go in the struggle for climate justice, but I believe in 2015 we’ll see another big leap forward in the support of frontline leadership.
2. Pope Francis will issue an edict on climate change
The world has 1.2 billion Catholics, about four times as many people as the population of the entire U.S., so the leader of the Catholic Church taking on climate change is a big deal. The impact on Catholics is just a fraction of the potential from the Pope’s climate actions. The Pope also plans to call a world summit of religious leaders to discuss the issue, framing climate change as a moral issue. As one of the billions of young people tired of citizens continually become frustrated with politicians playing games with our future, this act of leadership from the Catholic Church could not have come soon enough.
3. Success of divestment movement
The student-led movement, to cleanse universities and other institutions of its fossil fuel investments, is taking the country by storm. With more than 400 campus campaigns, 181 divested institutions/campuses representing some $50 billion, 2014 was a huge year for divest from fossil fuel movement. All the success is leading to thousands of conversations about the morality of investing in fossil fuels. Perhaps that’s why the fossil fuel industry has started pushing back so hard. Real change can often occur when a critical mass starts questioning ‘is this right?’ But, all of this feels like just the beginning. On Feb. 13 and 14 more than 450 events were organized in more than 60 countries in honor of Global Divestment Day. Big Oil an Gas can run, but they can’t hide.
4. New York Banned fracking
Since the film Gasland was released in 2010, the oil an gas drilling method hydraulic fracturing (fracking) has been associated with flaming faucets, but just as scary is what you can’t see. A recent study published in National Geographic found levels of the carcinogen benzene up to 12,000 times the safe exposure limit. When fracking was proposed in New York State an amazing grassroots movement was formed to protect public health from these dangers. The call for a ban on fracking was heard from farmers, doctors, scientists, teachers, students and small business owners, everyday people who wanted to protect the health of their families and their businesses. After more than five years, the people succeeded. Governor Cuomo cited health reasons for the ban, but there is also a huge climate impact. The ban on fracking will keep at least 273 million tons of carbon dioxide from being emitted equivalent to 57 million passenger cars on the road. This shows us that if we work together to build our movement we can accomplish anything.
5. The Year We Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline
While the Keystone XL pipeline passed both chambers of Congress, the Obama administration has publicly stated that the President will veto the bill. Obama himself said that the pipeline would only serve our national interest if the pipeline “does not significantly exacerbate the climate problem.” Any question in his mind should be erased after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released comments estimating that the pipeline could release an additional 1.37 billion tons of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. However, the movement to oppose this dangerous pipeline is what pushed Obama to fully evaluate the disastrous impacts, and it’s that movement that gives me hope. It’s the Idle No More indigenous movement that has been engaging in tar sands resistance from Alberta, Canada down through the Great Plains and the thousands of people arrested or demonstrated from DC to Nebraska. Indigenous people and youth have the most at stake and are at the front lines of this pipeline fight, and it violates our basic human rights to clean water, air, land and health. This movement is strong and it’s growing and I know we will step up now that it’s crunch time. Our futures are on the line, so we are drawing the line! #NoKXL
6. Kids Putting Climate Change on Trial
Youth from all 50 states have joined Our Children’s Trust in state and federal lawsuits to cap emissions and enact climate recovery plans. The lawsuits are based on the Public Trust doctrine, which protects common resources like the atmosphere and water resources. In Colorado myself and six other Earth Guardians are suing the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission for not upholding their mission to protect public health and safety. It’s one of many similar state cases that will be heard in court in 2015. There is something so powerful about taking the government to court to demand a safe, healthy future and it will be inspiring to see how these cases play out in 2015 as our voices are heard.
7. Building toward Paris
The UN Climate Change Conference in Paris this December may be our best opportunity to solve the climate crisis before it’s too late. In Lima last year, countries agreed to non-binding targets with the understanding of reaching a possible comprehensive agreement on mitigating climate change during the Paris. However, it is not just world leaders who need to stand up: it’s we the people. We need to show that we are committed to climate solutions and are willing to work toward them. That is why my 11 year-old little brother Itzcuauhtli went on a 45-day silent strike and created a Silence Into Action pledge to be a climate leader. We will deliver these pledges to world leaders in Paris. Youth organizers are aiming to collect one million signatures. Sign here and spread the word.
It’s not just our signatures; it’s our actions that will make the difference. All over the world communities are having the discussion about what they can do reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Burlington, Vermont recently transitioned to 100 percent renewable electricity and if they can do it, it can be done anywhere. I am working with an amazing council of young solutionaries from across the nation to help make this shift happen. Our project is called RYSE (Rising Youth for a Sustainable Earth) and it is building the youth-led, movement toward climate solutions. In communities across the U.S., RYSE will be hosting climate solution activation sessions and implementing projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Join the Earth Guardians in creating this change. You can support the project by clicking here.
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By Gwen Ranniger
In the midst of a pandemic, sales of cleaning products have skyrocketed, and many feel a need to clean more often. Knowing what to look for when purchasing cleaning supplies can help prevent unwanted and dangerous toxics from entering your home.
1. Fragrance – Avoid It<p>One of the fastest ways to narrow down your product options is immediately eliminating any product that promotes a fragrance, or parfum. That scent of "fresh breeze" or lemon might initially smell good, but the fragrance does not last. What does last? The concoction of various undisclosed and unregulated chemicals that created that fragrance.</p><p>Many fragrances contain phthalates, which are linked to many health risks including reproductive problems and cancer.</p>
2. With Bleach? Do Without<p>Going scent-free should have narrowed down your options substantially – now, check the front of the remaining packaging. Any that include ammonia or chlorine bleach ought to go, as these substances are irritating and corrosive to your body. While bleach is commonly known as a powerful disinfectant, there are safer alternatives that you can use in your home, such as sodium borate or hydrogen peroxide.</p><p>While you're at it, check if there are any warnings on the label – "flammable," "use in ventilated area," etc. – if the product is hazardous, that's a red flag and should be avoided.</p>
3. Check the Back Label<p>Flip to the back of the remaining contenders and check out that ingredient list. Less is more, here. Opt for a shorter ingredient list with words you recognize and/or can pronounce.</p><p>You may notice many products do not have ingredient lists – while this doesn't necessarily mean they contain toxic ingredients, transparency is key. Feel free to look up a list online, or stick to products that are open about their ingredients.</p>
4. Ingredients to Avoid<p>We already mentioned that cleaners containing fragrance or parfum, and bleach or ammonia should be avoided, but there are other ingredients to look out for as well.</p><ul><li>Quaternary ammonium "quats" – lung irritants that contribute to asthma and other breathing problems. Also linger on surfaces long after they've been cleaned.</li><li>Parabens – Known hormone disruptor; can contribute to ailments such as cancer</li><li>Triclosan – triclosan and other antibacterial chemicals are registered with the EPA as pesticides. Triclosan is a known hormone disruptor and can also impact your immune system.</li><li>Formaldehyde – Causes irritation of eyes, nose, and throat; studies suggest formaldehyde exposure is linked with certain varieties of cancer. Can be found in products or become a byproduct of chemical reactions in the air.</li></ul>
Cleaning Products and Toxics: The Bottom Line<p>Do your research. There are many cleaning products available, but taking these steps will drastically reduce your options and help keep your home toxic-free. Protecting your home from bacteria and viruses is important, but make sure you do so in a way that doesn't introduce other health risks into the home.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.ehn.org/how-to-shop-for-cleaning-products-while-avoiding-toxics-2648130273.html" target="_blank">Environmental Health News</a>. </em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649054624#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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Twenty-five years ago, a food called Tofurky made its debut on grocery store shelves. Since then, the tofu-based roast has become a beloved part of many vegetarians' holiday feasts.
By Jessica Corbett
A leading environmental advocacy group marked Native American Heritage Month on Wednesday by urging President-elect Joe Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Kamala Harris, and the entire incoming administration "to honor Indigenous sovereignty and immediately halt the Keystone XL, Dakota Access, and Line 3 pipelines."
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Returning the ‘Three Sisters’ – Corn, Beans and Squash – to Native American Farms Nourishes People, Land and Cultures
By Christina Gish Hill
Historians know that turkey and corn were part of the first Thanksgiving, when Wampanoag peoples shared a harvest meal with the pilgrims of Plymouth plantation in Massachusetts. And traditional Native American farming practices tell us that squash and beans likely were part of that 1621 dinner too.
Abundant Harvests<p>Historically, Native people throughout the Americas bred indigenous plant varieties specific to the growing conditions of their homelands. They selected seeds for many different traits, such as <a href="https://emergencemagazine.org/story/corn-tastes-better/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">flavor, texture and color</a>.</p><p>Native growers knew that planting corn, beans, squash and sunflowers together produced mutual benefits. Corn stalks created a trellis for beans to climb, and beans' twining vines secured the corn in high winds. They also certainly observed that corn and bean plants growing together tended to be healthier than when raised separately. Today we know the reason: Bacteria living on bean plant roots pull nitrogen – an essential plant nutrient – from the air and <a href="http://www.tilthalliance.org/learn/resources-1/almanac/october/octobermngg" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">convert it to a form that both beans and corn can use</a>.</p><p>Squash plants contributed by shading the ground with their broad leaves, preventing weeds from growing and retaining water in the soil. Heritage squash varieties also had spines that discouraged deer and raccoons from visiting the garden for a snack. And sunflowers planted around the edges of the garden created a natural fence, protecting other plants from wind and animals and attracting pollinators.</p><p>Interplanting these agricultural sisters produced bountiful harvests that sustained large Native communities and <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/eam.2015.0016" target="_blank">spurred fruitful trade economies</a>. The first Europeans who reached the Americas were shocked at the abundant food crops they found. My research is exploring how, 200 years ago, Native American agriculturalists around the Great Lakes and along the Missouri and Red rivers fed fur traders with their diverse vegetable products.</p>
Displaced From the Land<p>As Euro-Americans settled permanently on the most fertile North American lands and acquired seeds that Native growers had carefully bred, they imposed policies that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1086/ahr/87.2.550" target="_blank">made Native farming practices impossible</a>. In 1830 President Andrew Jackson signed the <a href="https://guides.loc.gov/indian-removal-act" target="_blank">Indian Removal Act</a>, which made it official U.S. policy to force Native peoples from their home locations, pushing them onto subpar lands.</p><p>On reservations, U.S. government officials discouraged Native women from cultivating anything larger than small garden plots and pressured Native men to practice Euro-American style monoculture. Allotment policies assigned small plots to nuclear families, further limiting Native Americans' access to land and preventing them from using communal farming practices.</p><p>Native children were forced to attend boarding schools, where they had no opportunity to <a href="https://doi.org/10.5749/jamerindieduc.57.1.0145" target="_blank">learn Native agriculture techniques or preservation and preparation of Indigenous foods</a>. Instead they were forced to eat Western foods, turning their palates away from their traditional preferences. Taken together, these policies <a href="https://kansaspress.ku.edu/978-0-7006-0802-7.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">almost entirely eradicated three sisters agriculture</a> from Native communities in the Midwest by the 1930s.</p>
Reviving Native Agriculture<p>Today Native people all over the U.S. are working diligently to <a href="https://www.oupress.com/books/15107980/indigenous-food-sovereignty-in-the-united-sta" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reclaim Indigenous varieties of corn, beans, squash, sunflowers and other crops</a>. This effort is important for many reasons.</p><p>Improving Native people's access to healthy, culturally appropriate foods will help lower rates of <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/aian-diabetes/index.html" target="_blank">diabetes</a> and <a href="https://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/ethnicity-health/native-american/obesity" target="_blank">obesity</a>, which affect Native Americans at disproportionately high rates. Sharing traditional knowledge about agriculture is a way for elders to pass cultural information along to younger generations. Indigenous growing techniques also protect the lands that Native nations now inhabit, and can potentially benefit the wider ecosystems around them.</p>
By Jake Johnson
Amid reports that oil industry-friendly former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz remains under consideration to return to his old post in the incoming Biden administration, a diverse coalition of environmental groups is mobilizing for an "all-out push" to keep Moniz away from the White House and demand a cabinet willing to boldly confront the corporations responsible for the climate emergency.