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Video: Freedom to Breathe Tour Bus Visits Communities Across the Country Working on Climate Solutions

Climate

By Owen Agnew

Wildfires, sea level rise, air pollution, asthma—you don't have to go far to find communities living with climate change impacts. But there are also climate solutions everywhere you look. This summer, the Freedom to Breathe Tour visited communities across the country that are working to reduce carbon emissions and make their communities healthier and more resilient.


Freedom to Breathe Solutions youtu.be

At Chispas Farm in Albuquerque, New Mexico, climate change figures into every planting decision. "The whole goal and why we grow so many crops, is this idea of resilience and diversity," farm manager Casey Holland said. "We grow over 120 different varieties of vegetables, mainly because, with a changing climate, some will do better than others."

Crop diversity is an important way farmers can adapt to climate variability, but many older crop varieties are being lost. In the U.S., 90 percent of the fruit and vegetable varieties grown by farmers a century ago are no longer available. Seed banks can help keep older, traditional varieties readily available to farmers and communities. At Tesuque Pueblo outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico, where people have been farming for more than 900 years, the pueblo's seed bank stores traditional varieties of corn, beans, squash, melons and other vegetables. Gailey Morgan, foreman at Tesuque Pueblo Farm, said the goal of the seed bank is to make locally sourced seeds available to the community. "We're here in the high desert, and we feel like our seeds are adapted to our environment here," Morgan said.

From locally-sourced seeds in New Mexico, the Freedom to Breathe Tour traveled to Nevada, where community members, politicians and businesses are working together to make solar power available to everyone. Last year assemblyman Chris Brooks helped pass a state law bringing back net metering, which makes roof-top solar viable. "We're providing a democratization of energy production," Brooks said, "and that is so important to so many segments of society. Everyone should be able to participate in both making their own energy, creating high-paying good-quality jobs, but also being part of the solution as we fight climate change, instead of being part of the problem."

Residential solar company Sunrun is helping to make solar affordable in Nevada and elsewhere. They offer discounted electricity rates to low-income customers in Nevada, and in California, they've committed to installing 100MW of solar on affordable housing around the state in the next ten years.

The growth of solar and wind energy across the country means that the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions is no longer power generation—it's transportation. In California, where transportation accounts for 41 percent of emissions, the state is investing heavily in EVs and EV charging infrastructure, and plans to move to all electric buses by 2040. That includes school buses. With the help of state funds, school districts across the state are investing in electric school buses. For John Clements, a former district transportation director and a self-described electric bus evangelist, every bus is a mark of progress. "In my own school district, one in six students carried an inhaler to school. That's an example of what we're trying to change here," Clements said.

The move to electric school buses is just beginning—the leading manufacturer, Lion Electric, has about 150 electric school buses on the road across the country, and there are almost 500,000 school buses nationwide. But many states are planning to devote some of their share of the $3 billion Volkswagen settlement money towards replacing diesel school buses, which means the number of zero-emission school buses will continue to rise.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Nexus Media.

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Speaking during a conference in Washington, DC in June, Derrick Morgan, senior vice president for federal and regulatory affairs at the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), touted "model legislation" that states across the nation have passed in recent months.

AFPM represents a number of major fossil fuel giants, including Chevron, Koch Industries and ExxonMobil.

"We've seen a lot of success at the state level, particularly starting with Oklahoma in 2017," said Morgan, citing Dakota Access Pipeline protests as the motivation behind the aggressive lobbying effort. "We're up to nine states that have passed laws that are substantially close to the model policy that you have in your packet."


The audio recording comes just months after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law legislation that would punish anti-pipeline demonstrators with up to 10 years in prison, a move environmentalists condemned as a flagrant attack on free expression.

"Big Oil is hijacking our legislative system," Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network said after the Texas Senate passed the bill in May.

As The Intercept's Lee Fang reported Monday, the model legislation Morgan cited in his remarks "has been introduced in various forms in 22 states and passed in ... Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Missouri, Indiana, Iowa, South Dakota, and North Dakota."

"The AFPM lobbyist also boasted that the template legislation has enjoyed bipartisan support," according to Fang. "In Louisiana, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the version of the bill there, which is being challenged by the Center for Constitutional Rights. Even in Illinois, Morgan noted, 'We almost got that across the finish line in a very Democratic-dominated legislature.' The bill did not pass as it got pushed aside over time constraints at the end of the legislative session."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.

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