CBD creams and other topical ointments are a great way to help treat pain naturally. If you've been in the market for a CBD topical but don't know where to begin, we've got you covered. Read on to see which brands are our top picks for the best CBD creams, salves, and lotions.
While oils, gummies, vapes, and other edible/inhalable options of CBD offer users a natural way to help manage various health conditions, a topical cream is the best way to target specific muscle and joint aches and pains.
Topical creams are a wonderful way to bring CBD directly to any area of the body that is having tension, aches, and pains. Many people who deal with chronic muscle aches, arthritis, fibromyalgia, and other conditions often turn to CBD cream because it offers fast, targeted, natural relief.
Our guide to the best CBD creams will not only inform you about CBD topicals and how they work, but we will also give you our top picks for the best CBD creams out on the market today so that you can get the very best natural relief possible.
Our Picks for Best CBD Creams and Topicals
- FAB CBD Topical Cream - Best Overall
- Spruce CBD Cream - Strongest CBD Cream
- Plant People CBD Balm - Best for Sprains and Bruises
- Medterra Pain Cream - Best for Joint Pain
- CBDistillery CBD Balm - Best Post-Workout Cream
- cbdMD Freeze Roller - Best Broad Spectrum Roll-On
- Charlotte's Web Hemp-Infused Cream - Best Price
How We Selected the Best CBD Creams
The CBD market is flooded with brands and products claiming to be the very best. But not all brands are the same, and not all products are created equally. We want to remove the frustration and confusion of finding the right CBD product so you can easily find the right CBD cream.
We evaluated each brand of CBD cream on the following six key categories.
- Value — How much does the CBD cream cost?
- Strength — How many milligrams of CBD does the cream contain?
- Source — Where does the hemp used for CBD come from?
- Scent — Is the cream scented at all, and does it use natural ingredients?
- Transparency — Does the brand use third-party lab testing to ensure quality?
- Customer Experience — Do customer reviews show a positive experience overall?
Learn more about each of the CBD creams on our list below.
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn a commission.
Best CBD Creams & Salves
Every one of FAB's products contains the very best full spectrum extract that's been sourced from organically grown Colorado hemp. FAB's topical cream is made with 600mg of CBD from a full spectrum hemp extract. Not only is the cream smooth, silky, and non-greasy, it's also light as a feather and has a lovely subtle blood orange scent.
FAB CBD is also known for having a strong customer service department that makes ordering and shipping a breeze.
When you're looking for a CBD cream, you should be zeroing in on the following:
- Value — The price of FAB's topical cream is right in line with many of the other highly regarded brands. Not only is FAB's cream affordable, it's also highly effective, clean, and of the highest potency.
- Strength — 600mg full spectrum CBD per jar
- Hemp source — All of FAB's organic hemp is cultivated in Colorado.
- Scent — Blood orange
- Transparency — FAB believes in transparency, so it makes all of its third- party lab test results easy for customers to find on its website. Along with ensuring that all of the hemp is free from chemicals, herbicides, pesticides, and toxic unnatural fertilizers, FAB also uses state-of-the-art equipment to both clone and harvest the hemp. FAB uses an extremely safe and clean Co2 extraction process to ensure that there are no chemicals or impurities in the extracts.
- Customer experience — Many customers regularly use FAB's topical cream to help with tough health issues including arthritis, nerve pain, muscle aches, sleep issues, and many other difficult conditions. A host of verified positive customer reviews solidify the fact that FAB has one of the most effective and highly potent creams on the market today.
Why buy — We love FAB not only because the brand's products are top-notch, but also because the FAB team truly cares about their customers. FAB's products are not only affordable, they're also very potent and highly effective. We recommend FAB's CBD topical cream for its light feel, silky texture, and fresh citrus scent.
Spruce makes its salve from full spectrum CBD; this means that, in addition to CBD, there may be other plant parts and terpenes that can help bolster the product's therapeutic effectiveness. These ingredients combine with the full spectrum CBD for powerful pain relief. In fact, their CBD salve offers the highest concentration of CBD per ounce of any product on our list.
- Value — At $89 for 1000mg of CBD per 0.87oz. container, or $169 for 3000mg of CBD per 1.7oz. container, Spruce offers a very strong product at a reasonable price point.
- Strength — 1000mg or 3000mg full spectrum CBD per container.
- Hemp source — Kentucky and North Carolina
- Scent — None
- Transparency — Third-party lab tested with easily-accessible results online.
- Customer experience — Customer reviews offer plenty of success stories from patients who have used Spruce CBD salve to treat their arthritis symptoms and other chronic pains.
Why buy — We love the Spruce product line for a number of reasons, not least the fact that their product is made with natural ingredients and plant-derived scents. These ingredients combine with the full spectrum CBD for powerful pain relief.
Plant People makes an outstanding CBD balm, which is formulated with full spectrum CBD to soothe aches and pains. It's specifically cited for its effectiveness reviving sore knuckles, muscles, and knees. Indeed, Plant People boasts that its CBD balm is good for recovery as well as for addressing stiffness and swelling.
- Value — The price point is just under $50, but you can save on each order if you subscribe to regular deliveries.
- Strength — The Plant People CBD balm offers 450mg of CBD in its 2oz. package.
- Hemp source — Colorado
- Scent — None
- Transparency — All Plant People products are tested by independent third-party labs and the results are easy to access on each page of their site.
- Customer experience — Customers who have used this CBD balm claim that it works well to help relieve sore muscles and joints, and that they love the scent provided by its natural ingredients.
Why buy — Plant People's CBD balm is said to be highly effective at enhancing circulation, and can also be a good topical remedy for athletic sprains and bruises. It's non-GMO, USDA organic, and gluten-free.
Medterra is another company that offers a range of salves, lotions, and creams. The basic Medterra CBD Pain cream is recommended for those who suffer from arthritic pain of any kind, as well as those afflicted by swollen joints, a stiff neck, or a tender back.
- Value — This cream comes in two different strengths, with the 500mg option starting at $35.
- Strength — 500mg of CBD, or 1000mg of CBD, per 1.7oz. container.
- Hemp source — Kentucky
- Scent — None
- Transparency — The CBD is carefully tested by independent labs and verified to be strong, pure, and efficacious.
- Customer experience — Medterra customers say that they enjoy this product because it works fast and has a soothing and pleasant fragrance from its natural ingredients.
Why buy — There's a lot to appreciate about this CBD cream, including the fact that it's made with U.S. hemp and it's grown organically, without any GMO use. Peppermint, jojoba oil, menthol, arnica, and aloe enhance the product's therapeutic effect.
CBDistillery's CBD salve offers 500mg of CBD in a 1oz. tub. Made with a number of natural oils, it's designed to be quickly absorbed into the skin, offering prompt relief. This product is recommended for anyone who deals with chronic pain, or simply wants to revive their muscles after strenuous physical activity.
- Value — You can get 1oz. of this CBD cream for $50, which makes it very affordably priced for the concentration.
- Strength — 500mg of full spectrum CBD per 1oz. tub.
- Hemp source — Colorado
- Scent — None
- Transparency — All CBDistillery products are vetted by a third-party lab to ensure their quality.
- Customer experience — CBDistillery is one of the most trusted of all CBD brands, and not without reason. Customers say they love this product for its effectiveness and its affordable price.
Why buy — CBDistillery makes all of its products using natural, eco-friendly farming practices, and there are no GMOs in the hemp oil. Non-greasy balm formula makes it easy to apply and fast to absorb.
cbdMD is one of the most popular CBD companies, and a quick look at their lineup of topical products shows you why. There are a lot of great options to choose from as you seek CBD-enhanced pain relief. For example, cbdMD offers basic creams, lip balms, hemp-infused roll-ons, and more.
The cbdMD Freeze roll-on is made with menthol, arnica montana, and aloe vera to support soothing and healing.
- Value — cbdMD's Freeze roller starts at $30 for the 300mg option and goes up to $150 for the 3000mg option, making it easy to select the right strength and price for you.
- Strength — 300mg, 750mg, 1500mg, or 3000mg broad spectrum CBD per 3oz. container.
- Hemp source — USA
- Scent — None
- Transparency — Third-party, ISO-certified lab tested to ensure purity and safety
- Customer experience — Customer reviews attest that this product works quickly to help relieve different types of pain. cbdMD also offers a 60-day money back guarantee which makes it easy to try this product for yourself.
Why buy — cbdMD's CBD roller uses a broad spectrum CBD that includes other cannabinoids (CBD, CBG, CBN) and terpenes without THC. It also includes menthol for a natural cooling sensation, and the non-greasy roller makes it easy to apply.
Charlotte's Web basic CBD cream offers a botanical formula that's designed to go on smoothly, and to provide comfort and relief even for those with sensitive skin. Best of all, the Charlotte's Web CBD cream is made without any parabens, artificial colors or dyes, GMOs, or synthetic fragrances.
- Value — This is the most affordable CBD cream on our list; the smaller of the two tubes costs less than $20.
- Strength — The 2.5-ounce tube includes 750mg of full spectrum CBD; the 1-ounce tube contains 300mg.
- Hemp source — Colorado
- Scent — None
- Transparency — Third-party lab test results available online for all products.
- Customer experience — Multiple customer reviews state this cream offers fast-acting and long-lasting relief.
Why buy — In addition to full spectrum CBD, some of the therapeutic ingredients used in Charlotte's Web CBD cream include aloe vera, coconut oil, and oat extract. It's also both gluten-free and vegan, and is made without any animal testing.
Learn More About CBD Creams, Balms, and Salves
Why are CBD Topical Creams and Salves Popular?
Topical creams and salves are fast becoming the go-to method of CBD intake among people with an active lifestyle. Topical creams infused with CBD offer athletes, weekend warriors, pain-sufferers, and anyone and everyone a quick way to target tough muscle aches and pains. Moreover, along with muscle pain relief, topical cream may also help to increase relaxation.
Many individuals who suffer with chronic or acute pain are discovering that CBD is a safe, natural alternative treatment over prescription painkillers that can be both dangerous and addictive. Not only that, but unlike oils, capsules, edibles, and other forms of CBD, topical creams and salves go right to work when massaged into the affected area. Therefore, creams and salves are becoming the product of choice for those wanting quick relief from painful muscle strains, arthritis pain, fibromyalgia, nerve pain, and other conditions.
How Do CBD Creams Work?
Topical creams and salves work so well because, once massaged into the skin, the CBD goes to work with the body's endocannabinoid system. This system is a highly intricate cell-signaling system that was first discovered in the 1990s by researchers who were exploring the cannabis compound tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.
While doctors and researchers are still trying to completely comprehend the endocannabinoid system, or ECS, they do know that it plays a pivotal role in regulating both functions and processes such as:
- Mood regulation
- Pain reduction and regulation
- Motor Control
- Inflammation and immune responses
- Skin and Nerve Functioning
- Bone Remodeling and Growth
- Liver Function
The body has two main endocannabinoid receptors: CB1 receptors that are located in the central nervous system, and CB2 receptors that are found in the peripheral nervous system. All of these functions help to keep the body in a state of homeostasis, or stability. Pain, chronic health conditions, or injury can throw these functions off, and that's when the ECS jumps in to help the body return to normal functioning or balance.
CBD Creams and Pain Management
When you use full-spectrum products like a full-spectrum CBD topical cream or salve, the trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and cannabidiol, or CBD, in the cream interact with the ECS. Researchers have found that THC helps to reduce pain and stimulate appetite by binding with CB1 and CB2 receptors, while CBD prevents the breakdown of endocannabinoids, which in turn allows them to have a stronger effect on the body. Researchers also believe that CBD helps to reduce pain, nausea, and other uncomfortable symptoms that are caused by various health/medical conditions.
When you rub CBD topical cream or salve into an area of discomfort, the CBD enters into the skin and sebaceous glands to synergistically work with the body to help reduce pain and inflammation while returning the body to a state of balance. Topical creams can directly help to relieve pain in the specific areas of the body where it's applied.
Targeting Various Conditions and Injuries
Yes, you can achieve relief by applying a CBD topical cream or salve onto your body. However, you can also add in other modalities to help get more relief. For example, if you're using topical cream for a sports-related injury, why not try adding ice or heat to further help calm down the swelling or inflammation.
Likewise, heat or ice on top of topical cream can also be a great way of calming arthritis pain and other chronic pain from conditions such as fibromyalgia, bursitis, Crohn's Disease, gout, knee injuries, and so many others.
CBD topical cream can be used to help treat:
- Chronic Pain
- Acute Pain
- Sore Joints
- Sore Muscles
- Skin Infections
How to Use CBD Creams for Pain
When you begin using CBD cream, you first need to apply the cream around the painful area to treat it locally. Actually, applying topical cream is very much the same as applying regular lotion. The main issue is that you have to use more care when using a CBD topical.
In order to make sure you're getting the correct dosage of CBD cream, you need to find out how many milligrams of CBD are in the topical. This way, you will know right off the bat whether there's enough CBD in the cream to give you therapeutic relief. Typically, topical creams with lower milligrams of CBD in them will be less effective than those with higher milligrams.
In general, you should use topical CBD creams as you would use CBD oil: start low and go slow. Begin with a low dose and then gradually increase the amount of the topical until you find the dose that gives you the most optimal therapeutic relief.
When it comes to deciding on a cream, there are a lot of varieties to choose from. Some topicals are lotions that help to moisturize the skin, while others are balms, salves, liniments, or ointments that contain CBD and extra natural ingredients to create hot or cold sensations for extra help with pain relief. Topical creams can contain a host of natural ingredients including citrus, mint, pepper, menthol, camphor, methyl salicylate, and triethanolamine salicylate. The type of topical you choose will purely be based on both preference and need. Regardless of the variety, the topical will still have the same function.
Generally, when you are applying cream to an area of pain, you would apply it exactly to where the pain is stemming from. However, if you are unsure as to where the pain is originating, then you should apply it close to the area that hurts.
Applying cream to various trigger points will also help alleviate pain in the general area. Some specific trigger point areas you an apply cream to are:
- Soles of the feet
- Any joint and the muscles surrounding it
Another great tip for applying cream is to always make sure the area you are massaging it into is clean and free from sweat, dirt, and dead skin cells. When your skin is clean, the CBD molecules will have a better chance of reaching the affected area. When you apply the cream to the area, make sure that you use a good sized dollop. The goal is to not just rub the cream onto the area, but to thoroughly and gently massage it into the skin. Deeply massaging the topical into the skin serves to both increase the blood flow to the area as well as help the cream penetrate deeper into the tissue and spread over a wider area of the body.
Lastly, always wash your hands after applying topical cream. Since some brands have cooling or heating ingredients added to them, it definitely would not feel good if you rubbed your eyes or touched your nose or mouth after an application. Likewise, you also might want to avoid applying creams with mint, pepper, camphor, or menthol to the insides of your elbows or the backs of your knees as the skin could be easily irritated.
How Long Does It Take for CBD Creams to Work?
While you will feel almost immediate relief from general aches and pains such as sunburns, sore, strained muscles, or minor skin irritations, chronic pain issues caused by arthritis, bursitis, or other medical conditions will take a little longer to manage. The key is to be patient and understand that some conditions require more time than others to get under control. If your pain worsens, or if you are dealing with chronic pain generally, you should consult with your primary care physician to fully treat the issue.
What are the Benefits of CBD?
CBD, a compound of the hemp and cannabis plants, has many health benefits associated with it including:
- Relief from chronic pain
- Nerve pain reduction
- Relief of muscle spasms and muscle tension
- Nausea relief
- Decreased anxiety and depression
- Reduced inflammation
- Improvement in sleep and relaxation
Not only can CBD topical cream help to alleviate these conditions, it can also help to improve the overall health and wellness of your skin. CBD has anti-inflammatory properties that can benefit the skin to help reduce oil production, relieve pain and itching, and help to moisturize. In fact, topical CBD cream can help to treat eczema, psoriasis, and other inflammatory skin conditions .
Many people falsely worry about purchasing full cspectrum products because they fear that they will get "high" from them. By law, all full spectrum CBD products must contain less than 0.3% THC; therefore, you can use full spectrum oils, creams, edibles, vapes, etc., without any fear of getting high. The good news is that when you use full spectrum topical creams, your body will be able to reap all of the benefits of the entourage effect.
During the entourage effect, CBD, THC, and other cannabis compounds and terpenes work together to decrease each other's negative effects while increasing their positive effects. For example, THC is known to cause nausea, paranoia, and anxiety in some people, however, when combined with CBD, these negative side effects are drastically reduced, therefore allowing for greater pain reduction and appetite stimulation.
Final Thoughts on Our CBD Creams and Salves List
Whether you suffer from sports injuries, muscle strains or sprains, or acute or chronic pain from conditions such as arthritis, Crohn's Disease, Fibromyalgia, bursitis, back pain, or others, a topical CBD cream might be a great option to help you treat specific localized areas of pain on your body. Even though oils, gummies, vapes, and capsules are also helpful and effective in their own way, a topical cream is the best option for painful areas on your body because it offers fast, targeted relief in a way that ingestible options cannot.
Topical creams can be used alone or with other modalities such as heat or ice to add further relief from tough muscle pain, sports injuries, and muscle tension issues.
Do Your Research
Regardless of how you use the cream and what you use along with it, it's always a good idea to first ensure that you've purchased the very best product for yourself. Because CBD continues to grow in popularity, so have the number of brands and products that are out on the market today. But before you spend your hard-earned money on a product that could potentially be inferior and ineffective, it's advised that you scour the brands' websites to locate third-party lab results. Remember, a brand that hires a reputable third-party lab not only cares about the quality, purity, and strength of its products, it also cares about what its customers are putting into their bodies.
After you've found those lab test results, take some time to pour through them and learn exactly what's in the topical cream that you intend on buying. If you're feeling overwhelmed or confused at any time during your research, you can always begin your journey by looking into the brands that our list. FAB CBD's Topical Cream is our number one choice not only because of the brand's stellar reputation and transparency, but also because FAB truly creates a potent, clean, and highly effective product.
When it comes to how pain sufferers are choosing to treat their tough chronic or acute pain, a great number of them are opting to forego the use of dangerous and potentially addictive prescription painkillers. Instead, many of them have successfully treated their health issues by using safe, natural, and non-addictive CBD topical creams.
Topical creams, as well as all other CBD products, contain a host of benefits which include nausea reduction, pain relief, reduction of muscle tension and spasms, increased relaxation, a reduction in sleep-related issues such as insomnia, reduced inflammation, nerve pain relief, and so much more. Rather than have to worry about the damage that a prescription medication is potentially doing to your body, you can have peace of mind knowing that your body is benefitting from the many benefits that CBD is giving it.
Consult With Your Doctor
Lastly, if you have any questions or concerns about using CBD, never hesitate to schedule a visit with your primary care provider or specialist. CBD is a wonderful, natural, safe way to help heal a great many health issues. So if you think it might be the best option for you but are still nervous, unsure, or have questions, then your healthcare provider can help you sort them out so that you can make the best decision possible for your health.
So many people are discovering first-hand the many benefits that CBD has to offer. If you've been wondering about what a topical CBD cream can do for you, then look no further than our top brands. The time to stop suffering with pain is now. Why not explore the many ways that CBD can both improve your health issues and enhance your life?
Marc Lewis aims to help people access the scientific consensus on natural health topics in a simple and direct format. His perspective on CBD as a natural remedy has been featured in Business Insider, Forbes, MarketWatch, and Yahoo.
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
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By Courtney Lindwall
Coined in the 1970s, the classic Earth Day mantra "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" has encouraged consumers to take stock of the materials they buy, use, and often quickly pitch — all in the name of curbing pollution and saving the earth's resources. Most of us listened, or lord knows we tried. We've carried totes and refused straws and dutifully rinsed yogurt cartons before placing them in the appropriately marked bins. And yet, nearly half a century later, the United States still produces more than 35 million tons of plastic annually, and sends more and more of it into our oceans, lakes, soils, and bodies.
Clearly, something isn't working, but as a consumer, I'm sick of the weight of those millions of tons of trash falling squarely on consumers' shoulders. While I'll continue to do my part, it's high time that the companies profiting from all this waste also step up and help us deal with their ever-growing footprint on our planet.
An investigation last year by NPR and PBS confirmed that polluting industries have long relied on recycling as a greenwashing scapegoat. If the public came to view recycling as a panacea for sky-high plastic consumption, manufacturers—as well as the oil and gas companies that sell the raw materials that make up plastics—bet they could continue deluging the market with their products.
There are currently no laws that require manufacturers to help pay for expensive recycling programs or make the process easier, but a promising trend is emerging. Earlier this year, New York legislators Todd Kaminsky and Steven Englebright proposed a bill—the "Extended Producer Responsibility Act"—that would make manufacturers in the state responsible for the disposal of their products.
Other laws exist in some states for hazardous wastes, such as electronics, car batteries, paint, and pesticide containers. Paint manufacturers in nearly a dozen states, for example, must manage easy-access recycling drop-off sites for leftover paint. Those laws have so far kept more than 16 million gallons of paint from contaminating the environment. But for the first time, manufacturers could soon be on the hook for much broader categories of trash—including everyday paper, metal, glass, and plastic packaging—by paying fees to the municipalities that run waste management systems. In addition to New York, the states of California, Washington, and Colorado also currently have such bills in the works.
"The New York bill would be a foundation on which a modern, more sustainable waste management system could be built," says NRDC waste expert Eric Goldstein.
In New York City alone, the proposed legislation would cover an estimated 50 percent of the municipal waste stream. Importantly, it would funnel millions of dollars into the state's beleaguered recycling programs. This would free up funds to hire more workers and modernize sorting equipment while also allowing cities to re-allocate their previous recycling budgets toward other important services, such as education, public parks, and mass transit.
The bills aren't about playing the blame game—they are necessary. Unsurprisingly, Americans still produce far more trash than anyone else in the world, clocking in at an average of nearly 5 pounds per person, every day—clogging landfills and waterways, harming wildlife, contributing to the climate crisis, and blighting communities. As of now, a mere 8 percent of the plastic we buy gets recycled, and at least six times more of our plastic waste ends up in an incinerator than gets reused.
It's easy to see why. Current recycling rules vary widely depending on where you live—and they're notoriously confusing. Contrary to what many of us have been told, proper recycling requires more than simply looking for that green-arrowed triangle, a label that may tell you what a product is made out of and that it is recyclable in theory, but not whether that material can be recycled in your town—or anywhere at all. About 90 percent of all plastic can't be recycled, often because it's either logistically difficult to sort or there's no market for it to be sold.
That recycling marketplace is also ever changing. When China, which was importing about a third of our country's recyclable plastic, started refusing our (usually contaminated) waste streams in 2018, demand for recyclables tanked. This led to cities as big as Philadelphia and towns as small as Hancock, Maine, to send even their well-sorted recyclables to landfills. Municipalities now had to either foot big bills to pick up recyclables they once sold for a profit or shutter recycling services altogether.
According to Goldstein, New York's bill has a good shot of passing this spring—and it already has the support of some companies that see the writing on the wall, or as the New York Times puts it, "the glimmer of a cultural reset, a shift in how Americans view corporate and individual responsibility." If the bill does go through, New Yorkers could start to see changes to both local recycling programs and product packaging within a few years.
What makes these bills so groundbreaking isn't that they force manufacturers to pay for the messes they make, but that they could incentivize companies to make smarter, less wasteful choices in the first place.
New York's bill, for instance, could help reward more sustainable product design. A company might pay less of a fee if it reduces the total amount of waste of a product, sources a higher percentage of recycled material, or makes the end product more easily recyclable by, say, using only one type of plastic instead of three.
"Producers are in the best position to be responsible because they control the types and amounts of packaging, plastics, and paper products that are put into the marketplace," Goldstein says.
Bills like these embody the principles of a circular economy—that elusive North Star toward which all waste management policies should point. By encouraging companies to use more recycled materials, demand for recyclables goes up and the recycling industry itself is revitalized. What gets produced gets put back into the stream for reuse.
If widely adopted, we could significantly reduce our overall consumption and burden on the planet. With less paper used, more forests would stay intact—to continue to store carbon, filter air and water, and provide habitat for wildlife and sustenance for communities. With less plastic produced, less trash would clog oceans and contaminate ecosystems and food supplies. In turn, we'd give fossil fuels even more reasons to stay in the ground, where they belong.
That would be my Earth Day dream come true—with little hand-wringing of fellow guilt-stricken individuals required.
Courtney Lindwall is a writer and editor in NRDC's Communications department. Prior to NRDC, she worked in publishing and taught writing to New York City public school students. Lindwall has a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Florida. She is based in the New York office.
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By Alexandria Villaseñor
This story is part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.
My journey to becoming an activist began in late 2018. During a trip to California to visit family, the Camp Fire broke out. At the time, it was the most devastating and destructive wildfire in California history. Thousands of acres and structures burned, and many lives were lost. Since then, California's wildfires have accelerated: This past year, we saw the first-ever "gigafire," and by the end of 2020, more than four million acres had burned.
After experiencing California's wildfires, I researched the connection between wildfires and climate change. Even though I was only 13 at the time, I realized I needed to do everything in my power to advocate for our planet and ensure that we have a safe and habitable Earth for not only my generation's future, but for future generations. Every day, our planet is increasing its calls for our help. Our ice caps are melting; sea levels are rising; heatwaves and droughts are increasing. We're seeing more frequent wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes, and other extreme weather events. Climate change is happening right now, and people all over the world are losing their livelihoods — and even their lives — as a result of the growing number of climate-fueled disasters.
My activism started with the youth climate strike movement, which began when Greta Thunberg started striking in front of the Swedish Parliament in 2018. However, I want to acknowledge that young people, especially youth of color, have been protesting and demanding action for the planet for decades. I'm honored to follow in the footsteps of all the youth activists who paved the way for my activism and for the phenomenal growth of the youth climate movement that we have seen since 2018.
My experiences in the youth climate movement have allowed me to see that one of the greatest barriers we have to urgent climate action is education. Because of the lack of climate education around the world, I founded Earth Uprising International to help young people educate one another on the climate crisis, which ultimately has the effect of empowering young people to take direct action for their futures.
The primary mission of Earth Uprising International is increased climate and civics education for youth. Climate literacy and environmental education are the first steps to mobilizing our generations. By adding climate literacy to curricula worldwide, governments can ensure young people leave school with the skills and environmental knowledge needed to be engaged citizens in their communities. A climate-educated and environmentally literate global public is more likely to take part in the green jobs revolution, make more sustainable consumer choices, and hold world leaders accountable for their climate action commitments. Youth who have been educated about the climate crisis will lead the way in adaptation, mitigation, and solution making. Youth will be the ones who will protect democracy and freedom, advocate for climate and environmental migrants, and create the political will necessary to address climate change at the scale of the crisis.
So this year, for Earth Week, I am thrilled to be organizing a global youth climate summit called "Youth Speaks: Our Message to World Leaders," on April 20. Together, in collaboration with EARTHDAY.ORG and hundreds of youth climate activists around the world, the summit will address our main issues of concern, including climate literacy, biodiversity protection, sustainable agriculture, the creation of green jobs, civic skill training, environmental justice, environmental migration and borders, the protection of democracy and free speech, governmental policy making, and political will.
From this summit, youth climate activists from all over the world will be creating a concise list of demands that we want addressed at President Biden's World Leaders Summit, occurring on Earth Day, April 22. We believe that youth must inform and inspire these critical conversations about climate change that will impact all of us!
For more information about our global youth climate summit, "Youth Speaks: Our Message to World Leaders," go to www.EarthUprising.org/YouthSpeaks2021. There, you will find information about how to participate in our summit as well as be kept up to date on the latest agenda, participants, and follow along as we develop our demands and platform.
The youth will continue to make noise and necessary trouble. There is so much left to be done.
This story originally appeared in Teen Vogue and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.
By Jessica Corbett
As the Biden administration reviews the U.S. government's federal fossil fuels program and faces pressure to block any new dirty energy development, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland won praise from environmentalists on Friday for issuing a pair of climate-related secretarial orders.
"Today is a watershed moment in the history of the U.S. Department of the Interior," declared Jeremy Nichols, climate and energy program director for WildEarth Guardians. "With Secretary Haaland's actions today, it's clear the Interior Department is now working for communities, science, and justice. We are grateful for her leadership and bold action to put people over polluters."
"Today's orders make certain that the Interior Department is no longer going to serve as a rubber-stamp for the coal and oil and gas industries," said Nichols. "Secretary Haaland's actions set the stage for deep reforms within the Interior Department to ensure the federal government gets out of the business of fossil fuels and into the business of confronting the climate crisis."
BREAKING: Interior Secretary Deb Haalaned just repealed Trump-era policies that prioritized Big Oil execs above com… https://t.co/m1d2uolRWV— Friends of the Earth (Action) (@Friends of the Earth (Action))1618595500.0
Secretarial Order 3398 rescinds a dozen orders issued under the Trump administration which an Interior statement collectively described as "inconsistent with the department's commitment to protect public health; conserve land, water, and wildlife; and elevate science."
Specifically, she revoked: S.O. 3348; S.O. 3349; SO 3350; S.O. 3351; SO 3352; S.O. 3354; S.O. 3355; S.O. 3358; S.O. 3360; S.O. 3380; SO 3385; and SO 3389. Implemented throughout former President Donald Trump's term, they related to "American energy independence," the National Petroleum Reserve – Alaska, and leasing and permitting for energy projects, among other topics. With the order, Haaland reinstated the federal moratorium on coal leasing.
Haaland's other measure, Secretarial Order 3399, establishes a departmental Climate Task Force that will identify policies needed to tackle the climate emergency, support the use of the best available science on greenhouse gas emissions, implement the review and reconsideration of federal gas and oil leasing and permitting practices, identify actions needed to "address current and historic environmental injustice" as well as "foster economic revitalization of, and investment in, energy communities," and work with state, tribe, and local governments.
The department also noted that "the solicitor's office issued a withdrawal of M-37062, an opinion that concluded that the Interior secretary must promulgate a National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program consisting of a five-year lease schedule with at least two lease sales during the five-year plan," which allows DOI "to evaluate its obligations under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act."
Today, @SecHaaland revoked a dozen pro-Big Oil and anti-environment orders from the Trump administration. Little by… https://t.co/p0tHEciEct— Western Values Project (@Western Values Project)1618606421.0
Haaland — a former congresswoman and first-ever Native American Cabinet secretary whose confirmation was celebrated by climate campaigners, Indigenous leaders, and various progressive advocacy groups — said Friday that "from day one, President Biden was clear that we must take a whole-of-government approach to tackle the climate crisis, strengthen the economy, and address environmental justice."
"At the Department of the Interior, I believe we have a unique opportunity to make our communities more resilient to climate change and to help lead the transition to a clean energy economy, Haaland continued. "These steps will align the Interior Department with the president's priorities and better position the team to be a part of the climate solution."
"I know that signing secretarial orders alone won't address the urgency of the climate crisis. But I'm hopeful that these steps will help make clear that we, as a department, have a mandate to act," she added. "With the vast experience, talent, and ingenuity of our public servants at the Department of the Interior, I'm optimistic about what we can accomplish together to care for our natural resources for the benefit of current and future generations."
Haaland's orders were welcomed by environmental and climate groups as well as other critics of fossil fuel development on public lands and in federal waters.
Kristen Miller, conservation director at Alaska Wilderness League, said the orders "are another important step toward restoring scientific integrity, meaningful public process, and the longstanding stewardship responsibilities for America's public lands and waters at the Department of Interior. This is the type of bold and visionary leadership we need if we're to effectively fight climate change, tackle the extinction crisis, and prioritize environmental justice and tribal consultation."
"We applaud the secretary's actions to ensure meaningful consultation and elevate strong science, especially around climate change, into decision-making across the department," Miller added. "And we thank the secretary for reversing the Trump administration's energy dominance agenda in the Arctic Ocean and the National Petroleum Reserve – Alaska, and look forward to working with her on a different management direction for the western Arctic that focuses on addressing the climate crisis and protecting its extraordinary wildlife habitat, biodiversity, and cultural values."
Environment America public lands campaign director Ellen Montgomery said that "Haaland is building on President Biden's strong start by restoring conservation as a priority for the Department of the Interior. Our public lands and waters should be protected for the sake of the wildlife and people who depend on them. They should not be mined and drilled to extract fossil fuels — an antiquated 20th-century pursuit that pollutes our air and makes climate change worse."
"The Interior Department is in a powerful position to drive bold action for the climate in the United States," said Nichols of WildEarth Guardians. "Haaland's actions today confirm that President Biden and his administration are seizing the opportunity to rein in fossil fuels and make climate action and climate justice a reality."
"We can't have fossil fuels and a safe climate and today's orders take a major step forward in acknowledging and acting upon this reality," he said. "If we truly have any chance of protecting peoples' health, advancing economic prosperity, and achieving environmental justice, we have to start keeping our fossil fuels in the ground."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
Next week marks the second Earth Day of the coronavirus pandemic. While a year of lockdowns and travel restrictions has limited our ability to explore the natural world and gather with others for its defense, it is still possible to experience the wonder and inspiration from the safety of your home.
Here are three new films to watch this Earth Week that will transport you from pole to pole and introduce you to the scientists and activists working to save our shared home.
Where to Watch: Apple TV+
When to Watch: From April 16
The coronavirus pandemic has brought home the stakes of humanity's impact on the environment. But the lockdowns also proved how quickly nature can recover when humans give it the space. Birds sang in empty cities, whales surfaced in Glacier Bay and capybara roamed the South American suburbs.
The Year Earth Changed captures this unique year with footage from more than 30 lockdowned cities between May 2020 to January 2021. Narrated by renowned wildlife broadcaster David Attenborough, the film explores what positive lessons we can take from the experience of a quieter, less trafficked world.
"What the film shows is that the natural world can bounce back remarkably quickly when we take a step back and reduce our impact as we did during lockdown," executive producer Alice Keens-Soper of BBC Studios Natural History Unit told EcoWatch. "If we are willing to make even small changes to our habits, the natural world can flourish. We need to learn how to co-exist with nature and understand that we are not separate from it- for example if we closed some of our beaches at for a few weeks during the turtle breeding we see that it can make a huge difference to their success. There are many ways that we can adapt our behavior to allow the natural world to thrive as it did in lockdown."
Where to Watch: San Francisco International Film Festival
In 1989, Will Steger led an international team of six scientists and explorers to be the first humans to cross Antarctica by dogsled. Steger and his team weren't just in it for the adventure. They also wanted to draw attention to the ways in which the climate crisis was already transforming the icy continent and to rally support for the renewal of the Antarctic Treaty, which would keep the continent safe from extractive industries.
In After Antarctica, award-winning filmmaker Tasha Van Zandt follows Steger 30 years later as he travels the Arctic this time, reflecting on his original journey and once again bringing awareness to changes in a polar landscape. The film intersperses this contemporary journey with footage from the original expedition, some of which has never been seen before.
"Will's life journey as an explorer and climate activist has led him not only to see more of the polar world than anyone else alive today, but to being an eyewitness to the changes occurring across both poles," Van Zandt told EcoWatch. "But now, these changes are happening in all of our own backyards and we have all become eyewitnesses. Through my journey with Will, I have learned that although we cannot always control change, we can change our response. I feel strongly that this is a message that resonates when we look at the current state of the world, as we each have power and control over how we choose to respond to hardships, and we all have the power to unite with others through collective action around a common goal."
After Antarctica is available to stream once you purchase a ticket to the San Francisco International Film Festival. If you miss it this weekend, it will screen again at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival from May 13 to May 23.
Tasha Van Zandt
Where to Watch: Virtual Cinema
While many films about the climate crisis seek to raise awareness about the extent of the problem, The Race to Save the World focuses on the people who are trying to stop it. The film tells the story of climate activists ranging from 15-year-old Aji to 72-year-old Miriam who are working to create a sustainable future. It follows them from the streets to the courtroom to their homes, and explores the impact of their advocacy on their personal lives and relationships.
Emmy award-winning documentary filmmaker Joe Gantz told EcoWatch that he wanted to make a film about climate change, but did not want to depress viewers with overwhelming statistics. Instead, he chose to inspire them by sharing the stories of people trying to make a difference.
"Unless millions of people take to the streets and make their voices heard for a livable future, the politicians are not going to get on board to help make the changes needed for a sustainable future," Gantz told Ecowatch. "I think that The Race To Save The World will energize and inspire people to take action so that future generations, as well as the plants, animals and ecosystems, can survive and thrive on this planet."
Check back with EcoWatch on the morning of Earth Day for a special preview of this inspiring film!
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By Michael Svoboda
For April's bookshelf we take a cue from Earth Day and step back to look at the bigger picture. It wasn't climate change that motivated people to attend the teach-ins and protests that marked that first observance in 1970; it was pollution, the destruction of wild lands and habitats, and the consequent deaths of species.
The earliest Earth Days raised awareness, led to passage of new laws, and spurred conservation. But the original problems are still with us. And now they intersect with climate change, making it impossible to address one problem without affecting the others.
The 12 books listed below remind us about these defining interconnections.
The first three focus on biodiversity and on humanity's fractured relationships with the animals we live with on land.
The second trio explores the oceans and, at the same time, considers social and cultural factors that determine what we know – and don't know – about the 75% of our planet that is covered by water, perhaps the least well understood part of the climate system.
Agriculture and food security are examined by the third tranche of titles. This set includes a biography that may challenge what you think was/is possible, culturally and politically, in the American system.
Finally, there is the problem of waste, the problem of single-use plastics in particular. These three titles offer practical advice and qualified hope. Reducing litter might also reduce emissions – and vice versa.
As always, the descriptions of the works listed below are drawn from copy provided by the publishers or organizations that released them. When two dates of publication are included, the latter is for the paperback edition.
A Life on Our Planet My Witness Statement and Vision for the Future, by David Attenborough (Grand Central Publishing 2020, 272 pages, $26.00)
See the world. Then make it better. I am 93. I've had an extraordinary life. It's only now that I appreciate how extraordinary. As a young man, I felt I was out there in the wild, experiencing the untouched natural world – but it was an illusion. The tragedy of our time has been happening all around us, barely noticeable from day to day – the loss of our planet's wild places, its bio-diversity. I have been witness to this decline. A Life on Our Planet is my witness statement, and my vision for the future. It is the story of how we came to make this, our greatest mistake – and how, if we act now, we can yet put it right. We have one final chance to create the perfect home for ourselves and restore the wonderful world we inherited. All we need is the will to do so.
Beloved Beasts: Fighting for Life in an Age of Extinction, by Michelle Nijhuis (W.W. Norton 2021, 352 pages, $27.95)
In the late 19th century, as humans came to realize that our industrializing and globalizing societies were driving other animal species to extinction, a movement to conserve them was born. In Beloved Beasts, science journalist Michelle Nijhuis traces the movement's history. She describes the vital role of scientists and activists such as Aldo Leopold and Rachel Carson; she reveals the origins of organizations like the Audubon Society and the World Wildlife Fund; she explores current efforts to protect species; and she confronts the darker side of conservation, long shadowed by racism and colonialism. As the destruction of other species continues and the effects of climate change escalate, Beloved Beasts charts the ways conservation is becoming a movement for the protection of all species – including our own.
How to Be an Animal: A New History of What It Means to Be Human, by Melanie Challenger (Penguin Random House 2021, 272 pages, $17.00 paperback)
How to Be an Animal tells a remarkable story of what it means to be human and argues that at the heart of our existence is a profound struggle with being animal. We possess a psychology that seeks separation between humanity and the rest of nature, and we have invented grand ideologies to magnify this. In her book, nature historian Melanie Challenger explores the ways this mindset affects our lives, from our politics to our environments. She examines how technology influences our relationship with our own animal nature and with the other species with whom we share this fragile planet. Blending nature writing, history, and philosophy, How to Be an Animal both reappraises what it means to be human and robustly defends what it means to be an animal.
Ocean Speaks: How Marie Tharp Revealed the Ocean's Biggest Secret, by Jess Keating, Illustrated by Katie Hickey (Tundra Books 2020, 34 pages, $17.99)
From a young age, Marie Tharp loved watching the world. She loved solving problems. And she loved pushing the limits of what girls and women were expected to do and be. In the mid-twentieth century, women were not welcome in the sciences, but Marie was tenacious. She got a job at a laboratory in New York. But then she faced another barrier: women were not allowed on the research ships (they were considered bad luck on boats). So Marie stayed back and dove deep into the data her colleagues recorded. At first the scientific community refused to believe her, but her evidence was irrefutable. The mid-ocean ridge that Marie discovered is the single largest geographic feature on the planet, and she mapped it all from her small, cramped office.
Science on a Mission: How Military Funding Shaped What We Do and Don't Know about the Ocean, by Naomi Oreskes (University of Chicago Press 2021, 744 pages, $40.00)
What difference does it make who pays for science? After World War II, the US military turned to a new, uncharted theater of warfare: the deep sea. The earth sciences – particularly physical oceanography and marine geophysics – became essential to the US Navy, which poured unprecedented money and logistical support into their study. In Science on a Mission, historian Naomi Oreskes delves into the role of patronage in science, what emerges is a vivid portrait of how naval oversight transformed what we know about the sea. It is a detailed, sweeping history that illuminates the ways funding shapes the subject, scope, and tenor of research, and it raises profound questions about American science. What difference does it make who pays? A lot.
Dark Side of the Ocean: The Destruction of Our Seas, Why It Matters, and What We Can Do About It, by Albert Bates (Groundswell Books 2020, 158 pages, $12.95 paperback)
Our oceans face levels of devastation previously unknown in human history due to pollution, overfishing, and damage to delicate aquatic ecosystems affected by global warming. Climate author Albert Bates explains how ocean life maintains adequate oxygen levels, prevents erosion from storms, and sustains a vital food source that factory-fishing operations cannot match. Bates also profiles organizations dedicated to changing the human impact on marine reserves, improving ocean permaculture, and putting the brakes on heat waves that destroy sea life and imperil human habitation at the ocean's edge. The Dark Side of the Ocean conveys a deep appreciation for the fragile nature of the ocean's majesty and compels us to act now to preserve it.
The Planter of Modern Life: Louis Bromfield and the Seeds of a Food Revolution, by Stephen Heyman (W.W. Norton 2020, 352 pages, $26.95)
Louis Bromfield was a World War I ambulance driver, a Paris expat, and a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist as famous in the 1920s as Hemingway. But he cashed in his literary success to finance a wild agrarian dream in his native Ohio. There, in 1938, Bromfield transformed 600 badly eroded acres into a thriving cooperative farm, which became a mecca for agricultural pioneers and a country retreat for celebrities like Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. This sweeping biography unearths a lost icon of American culture. While Bromfield's name has faded into obscurity, his mission seems more critical today than ever before. The ideas he planted at his utopian experimental farm, Malabar, would inspire America's first generation of organic farmers and popularize the tenets of environmentalism years before Rachel Carson's Silent Spring.
Food Fights: How History Matters to Contemporary Food Debates, edited by Charles C. Ludington and Matthew Morse Booker (University of North Carolina Press 2019, 304 pages, $32.95 paperback)
What we eat, where it is from, and how it is produced are vital questions in today's America. We think seriously about food because it is freighted with the hopes, fears, and anxieties of modern life. Yet critiques of food and food systems all too often sprawl into jeremiads against modernity itself, while supporters of the status quo refuse to acknowledge the problems with today's methods of food production and distribution. Food Fights sheds new light on these crucial debates, using a historical lens. Its essays take strong positions, even arguing with one another, as they explore the many themes and tensions that define how we understand our food – from the promises and failures of agricultural technology to the politics of taste.
Our Changing Menu: Climate Change and the Foods We Love and Need, by Michael P. Hoffmann, Carrie Koplinka-Loehr, and Danielle L. Eiseman (Comstock Publishing Associates 2021, 264 pages, $21.95 paperback)
Our Changing Menu unpacks the increasingly complex relationships between food and climate change. In it, Michael Hoffmann, Carrie Koplinka-Loehr, and Danielle Eiseman offer an eye-opening journey through a complete menu of before-dinner drinks and salads; main courses and sides; and coffee and dessert. Along the way, they examine the escalating changes occurring to the flavors of spices and teas, the yields of wheat, the vitamins in rice, and the price of vanilla. Their story ends with a primer on the global food system, the causes and impacts of climate change, and what we can do. Our Changing Menu is a celebration of food and a call to all – from the common ground of food – to help tackle the greatest challenge of our time.
Plastic Free: The Inspiring Story of a Global Environmental Movement and Why It Matters, by Rebecca Prince-Ruiz and Joanna Atherhold Finn (Columbia University Press 2020, 272 pages, $28.00)
In July 2011, Rebecca Prince-Ruiz challenged herself and some friends to go plastic free for the whole month. Since then, the Plastic Free July movement has grown from a small group of people in the city of Perth into a 250-million strong community across 177 countries. Plastic Free tells the story of this world-leading environmental campaign. From narrating marine-debris research expeditions to tracking what actually happens to our waste to sharing insights from behavioral research, Plastic Free speaks to the massive scale of the plastic waste problem and how we can tackle it together. Interweaving interviews from participants, activists, and experts, it tells the inspiring story of how ordinary people have created change in their homes, communities, workplaces, schools, businesses, and beyond. Plastic Fee offers hope for the future.
Can I Recycle This? A Guide to Better Recycling and How to Reduce Single Use Plastics, by Jennie Romer (Penguin Books 2021, 272 pages, $22.00)
Since the dawn of the recycling system, men and women the world over have stood by their bins, holding an everyday object, wondering, "Can I recycle this?" This simple question links our concerns for the environment with how we interact with our local governments. Recycling rules seem to differ in every municipality, leaving average Americans scratching their heads at the simple act of throwing something away. Taking readers on an informative tour of how recycling actually works (setting aside the propaganda we were all taught as kids), Can I Recycle This gives straightforward answers to whether dozens of common household objects can be recycled. And it provides the information you need to make that decision for anything else you encounter.
Zero Waste Living: The 80/20 Way: The Busy Person's Guide to a Lighter Footprint, by Stephanie J. Miller (Changemaker Books 2020, 112 pages, $10.95 paperback)
Many of us feel powerless to solve the looming climate and waste crises. We have too much on our plates, and so may think these problems are better solved by governments and businesses. This book unlocks the potential in each "too busy" individual to be a crucial part of the solution. Stephanie Miller combines her climate-focused career with her own research and personal experience to show how relatively easy lifestyle changes can create significant positive impacts. Using the simplicity of the 80/20 rule, she shows us those things (the 20%) that we can do to make the biggest (80%) difference in reversing the climate and waste crises. Her book empowers busy individuals to do the easy things that have a real impact on the climate and waste crises.
Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.
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