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 Eric Tate and Christopher Emrich
Disasters stemming from hazards like floods, wildfires, and disease often garner attention because of their extreme conditions and heavy societal impacts. Although the nature of the damage may vary, major disasters are alike in that socially vulnerable populations often experience the worst repercussions. For example, we saw this following Hurricanes Katrina and Harvey, each of which generated widespread physical damage and outsized impacts to low-income and minority survivors.
Mapping Social Vulnerability<p>Figure 1a is a typical map of social vulnerability across the United States at the census tract level based on the Social Vulnerability Index (SoVI) algorithm of <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1540-6237.8402002" target="_blank"><em>Cutter et al.</em></a> . Spatial representation of the index depicts high social vulnerability regionally in the Southwest, upper Great Plains, eastern Oklahoma, southern Texas, and southern Appalachia, among other places. With such a map, users can focus attention on select places and identify population characteristics associated with elevated vulnerabilities.</p>
Fig. 1. (a) Social vulnerability across the United States at the census tract scale is mapped here following the Social Vulnerability Index (SoVI). Red and pink hues indicate high social vulnerability. (b) This bivariate map depicts social vulnerability (blue hues) and annualized per capita hazard losses (pink hues) for U.S. counties from 2010 to 2019.<p>Many current indexes in the United States and abroad are direct or conceptual offshoots of SoVI, which has been widely replicated [e.g., <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13753-016-0090-9" target="_blank"><em>de Loyola Hummell et al.</em></a>, 2016]. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) <a href="https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/placeandhealth/svi/index.html" target="_blank">has also developed</a> a commonly used social vulnerability index intended to help local officials identify communities that may need support before, during, and after disasters.</p><p>The first modeling and mapping efforts, starting around the mid-2000s, largely focused on describing spatial distributions of social vulnerability at varying geographic scales. Over time, research in this area came to emphasize spatial comparisons between social vulnerability and physical hazards [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-009-9376-1" target="_blank"><em>Wood et al.</em></a>, 2010], modeling population dynamics following disasters [<a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11111-008-0072-y" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Myers et al.</em></a>, 2008], and quantifying the robustness of social vulnerability measures [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-012-0152-2" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Tate</em></a>, 2012].</p><p>More recent work is beginning to dissolve barriers between social vulnerability and environmental justice scholarship [<a href="https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2018.304846" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Chakraborty et al.</em></a>, 2019], which has traditionally focused on root causes of exposure to pollution hazards. Another prominent new research direction involves deeper interrogation of social vulnerability drivers in specific hazard contexts and disaster phases (e.g., before, during, after). Such work has revealed that interactions among drivers are important, but existing case studies are ill suited to guiding development of new indicators [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijdrr.2015.09.013" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Rufat et al.</em></a>, 2015].</p><p>Advances in geostatistical analyses have enabled researchers to characterize interactions more accurately among social vulnerability and hazard outcomes. Figure 1b depicts social vulnerability and annualized per capita hazard losses for U.S. counties from 2010 to 2019, facilitating visualization of the spatial coincidence of pre‑event susceptibilities and hazard impacts. Places ranked high in both dimensions may be priority locations for management interventions. Further, such analysis provides invaluable comparisons between places as well as information summarizing state and regional conditions.</p><p>In Figure 2, we take the analysis of interactions a step further, dividing counties into two categories: those experiencing annual per capita losses above or below the national average from 2010 to 2019. The differences among individual race, ethnicity, and poverty variables between the two county groups are small. But expressing race together with poverty (poverty attenuated by race) produces quite different results: Counties with high hazard losses have higher percentages of both impoverished Black populations and impoverished white populations than counties with low hazard losses. These county differences are most pronounced for impoverished Black populations.</p>
Fig. 2. Differences in population percentages between counties experiencing annual per capita losses above or below the national average from 2010 to 2019 for individual and compound social vulnerability indicators (race and poverty).<p>Our current work focuses on social vulnerability to floods using geostatistical modeling and mapping. The research directions are twofold. The first is to develop hazard-specific indicators of social vulnerability to aid in mitigation planning [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-020-04470-2" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Tate et al.</em></a>, 2021]. Because natural hazards differ in their innate characteristics (e.g., rate of onset, spatial extent), causal processes (e.g., urbanization, meteorology), and programmatic responses by government, manifestations of social vulnerability vary across hazards.</p><p>The second is to assess the degree to which socially vulnerable populations benefit from the leading disaster recovery programs [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/17477891.2019.1675578" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Emrich et al.</em></a>, 2020], such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) <a href="https://www.fema.gov/individual-disaster-assistance" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Individual Assistance</a> program and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) <a href="https://www.hudexchange.info/programs/cdbg-dr/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Disaster Recovery</a> program. Both research directions posit social vulnerability indicators as potential measures of social equity.</p>
Social Vulnerability as a Measure of Equity<p>Given their focus on social marginalization and economic barriers, social vulnerability indicators are attracting growing scientific interest as measures of inequity resulting from disasters. Indeed, social vulnerability and inequity are related concepts. Social vulnerability research explores the differential susceptibilities and capacities of disaster-affected populations, whereas social equity analyses tend to focus on population disparities in the allocation of resources for hazard mitigation and disaster recovery. Interventions with an equity focus emphasize full and equal resource access for all people with unmet disaster needs.</p><p>Yet newer studies of inequity in disaster programs have documented troubling disparities in income, race, and home ownership among those who <a href="https://eos.org/articles/equity-concerns-raised-in-federal-flood-property-buyouts" target="_blank">participate in flood buyout programs</a>, are <a href="https://www.eenews.net/stories/1063477407" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">eligible for postdisaster loans</a>, receive short-term recovery assistance [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijdrr.2020.102010" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Drakes et al.</em></a>, 2021], and have <a href="https://www.texastribune.org/2020/08/25/texas-natural-disasters--mental-health/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">access to mental health services</a>. For example, a recent analysis of federal flood buyouts found racial privilege to be infused at multiple program stages and geographic scales, resulting in resources that disproportionately benefit whiter and more urban counties and neighborhoods [<a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/2378023120905439" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Elliott et al.</em></a>, 2020].</p><p>Investments in disaster risk reduction are largely prioritized on the basis of hazard modeling, historical impacts, and economic risk. Social equity, meanwhile, has been far less integrated into the considerations of public agencies for hazard and disaster management. But this situation may be beginning to shift. Following the adage of "what gets measured gets managed," social equity metrics are increasingly being inserted into disaster management.</p><p>At the national level, FEMA has <a href="https://www.fema.gov/news-release/20200220/fema-releases-affordability-framework-national-flood-insurance-program" target="_blank">developed options</a> to increase the affordability of flood insurance [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 2018]. At the subnational scale, Puerto Rico has integrated social vulnerability into its CDBG Mitigation Action Plan, expanding its considerations of risk beyond only economic factors. At the local level, Harris County, Texas, has begun using social vulnerability indicators alongside traditional measures of flood risk to introduce equity into the prioritization of flood mitigation projects [<a href="https://www.hcfcd.org/Portals/62/Resilience/Bond-Program/Prioritization-Framework/final_prioritization-framework-report_20190827.pdf?ver=2019-09-19-092535-743" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Harris County Flood Control District</em></a>, 2019].</p><p>Unfortunately, many existing measures of disaster equity fall short. They may be unidimensional, using single indicators such as income in places where underlying vulnerability processes suggest that a multidimensional measure like racialized poverty (Figure 2) would be more valid. And criteria presumed to be objective and neutral for determining resource allocation, such as economic loss and cost-benefit ratios, prioritize asset value over social equity. For example, following the <a href="http://www.cedar-rapids.org/discover_cedar_rapids/flood_of_2008/2008_flood_facts.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2008 flooding</a> in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, cost-benefit criteria supported new flood protections for the city's central business district on the east side of the Cedar River but not for vulnerable populations and workforce housing on the west side.</p><p>Furthermore, many equity measures are aspatial or ahistorical, even though the roots of marginalization may lie in systemic and spatially explicit processes that originated long ago like redlining and urban renewal. More research is thus needed to understand which measures are most suitable for which social equity analyses.</p>
Challenges for Disaster Equity Analysis<p>Across studies that quantify, map, and analyze social vulnerability to natural hazards, modelers have faced recurrent measurement challenges, many of which also apply in measuring disaster equity (Table 1). The first is clearly establishing the purpose of an equity analysis by defining characteristics such as the end user and intended use, the type of hazard, and the disaster stage (i.e., mitigation, response, or recovery). Analyses using generalized indicators like the CDC Social Vulnerability Index may be appropriate for identifying broad areas of concern, whereas more detailed analyses are ideal for high-stakes decisions about budget allocations and project prioritization.</p>
By Jessica Corbett
Sen. Bernie Sanders on Tuesday was the lone progressive to vote against Tom Vilsack reprising his role as secretary of agriculture, citing concerns that progressive advocacy groups have been raising since even before President Joe Biden officially nominated the former Obama administration appointee.