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How One Person Can Make a Big Difference
Most people can identify a problem when they see one. What sets Climate Reality Leaders apart is their drive to do something about it, to be a part of the solution. Which means asking a lot of tough questions and acting on the answers, even when it means some difficult decisions.
Wei-Tai Kwok could identify a problem at a pretty early age. When he was still just a sophomore in 1978, he saw the problems American dependency on oil and gas presented and knew there had to be better alternatives. So at a national high school debate on energy, he started asking questions and proposed that the U.S. expand its use of solar power as a way to cut down on fossil fuels.
But it wasn’t until years later, when he walked out of the theater after seeing An Inconvenient Truth, that he realized his life wasn’t aligning with the solution to the larger problem that fossil fuels were driving: climate change. At that point, he was the CEO of his own successful advertising agency, helping businesses grow by selling more products and encouraging more consumption. “But,” he wondered, “is increasing consumer spending and endless annual growth part of the solution? Or part of the problem?”
The question led him to a crossroads, and it wasn’t long before he chose to leave his own agency and walk a new path. He found a new start as the head of global marketing with Suntech Power, one of the world’s largest solar energy companies. Wei-Tai saw what forward-thinking businesses and solar could do to address climate change—after all, he was working on the very solution he’d proposed as a teenager—but after several years with Suntech, he also saw how ordinary Americans had to join in and he knew he could do more to help.
So he began asking himself how. When he received an email about a Climate Reality Leadership Corps training in Chicago in August of 2013, he decided to go, feeling it was the perfect opportunity to get the skills he needed.
Wei-Tai said later that it was “the most interesting conference” he had ever attended. He met people from Asia, Europe, Africa, and America, and trained alongside Jews, Christians, Buddhists and atheists. “It made me feel that people all over the world did care so much about this topic,” he said. “It gave me hope that we, the people of this Earth, are in fact going to do something about this problem. And we are ready to do it NOW.”
After the training, Wei-Tai returned home to Lafayette, California and set a personal goal to reach 1,000 people with the truth about climate change. But he soon discovered it was not something he could do alone. After initially struggling to find audiences for his message, he got some invaluable advice from a friend.
Steve Richard, founder of a local nonprofit called Sustainable Lafayette, told Wei-Tai that he could spread his message further and faster if people in the community were spreading it for him. All he had to do was start asking for their help. So he began to close each of his presentations with the statement, “I have a personal goal of giving this presentation to 1,000 people this year. So you can help me, and you can help spread the facts. If any groups you’re involved with, or your business or your church, would be interested in having me speak to you, please contact me afterwards.”
The difference that simple request made was tremendous. Every presentation he gave quickly led to others as people in the audience, energized by what they’d heard and eager to help, came up to connect him with friends and other groups he could speak to. It was working better than he had dared to hope and a sign that not only was his message on climate change resonating, but also that the people hearing it wanted to be part of the solution. All he had to do was ask.
The proof was in the numbers. In 2014, Wei-Tai beat his personal goal of reaching 1,000 people (he got to 1,200). For 2015, he’s extended his goal and hopes to reach 2,000 people. And the numbers weren’t the only benefit.
“It’s been great to meet so many people in my community the past 18 months,” he says. “From middle-schoolers to senior citizens, I’ve been totally encouraged to see that people genuinely care about climate change. There is growing momentum, and that gives me hope that this generation in this decade will put some meaningful legislation in place. I have been surprised, and very happy, to meet so many people who care.”
To find out how you can become a part of the solution, visit the Climate Reality Leadership Corps Training page and sign up for our next training in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, May 5-7.
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Global Banks, Led by JPMorgan Chase, Invested $1.9 Trillion in Fossil Fuels Since Paris Climate Pact
By Sharon Kelly
A report published Wednesday names the banks that have played the biggest recent role in funding fossil fuel projects, finding that since 2016, immediately following the Paris agreement's adoption, 33 global banks have poured $1.9 trillion into financing climate-changing projects worldwide.
By Patti Lynn
2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in "the number of Americans who say they worry 'a great deal' about climate change."
England faces an "existential threat" if it does not change how it manages its water, the head of the country's Environment Agency warned Tuesday.
By Jessica Corbett
A new analysis revealed Tuesday that over the past two decades heat records across the U.S. have been broken twice as often as cold ones—underscoring experts' warnings about the increasingly dangerous consequences of failing to dramatically curb planet-warming emissions.
By Madison Dapcevich
Ask any resident of San Francisco about the waterfront parrots, and they will surely tell you a story of red-faced conures squawking or dive-bombing between building peaks. Ask a team of researchers from the University of Georgia, however, and they will tell you of a mysterious string of neurological poisonings impacting the naturalized flock for decades.
The initial cause of the fire was not yet known, but it has been driven by the strong wind and jumped the North Santiam River, The Salem Statesman Journal reported. As of Tuesday night, it threatened around 35 homes and 30 buildings, and was 20 percent contained.
The unanimous verdict was announced Tuesday in San Francisco in the first federal case to be brought against Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, alleging that repeated use of the company's glyphosate-containing weedkiller caused the plaintiff's cancer. Seventy-year-old Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa, California said he used Roundup for almost 30 years on his properties before developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"Today's verdict reinforces what another jury found last year, and what scientists with the state of California and the World Health Organization have concluded: Glyphosate causes cancer in people," Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement. "As similar lawsuits mount, the evidence will grow that Roundup is not safe, and that the company has tried to cover it up."
Judge Vince Chhabria has split Hardeman's trial into two phases. The first, decided Tuesday, focused exclusively on whether or not Roundup use caused the plaintiff's cancer. The second, to begin Wednesday, will assess if Bayer is liable for damages.
"We are disappointed with the jury's initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer," Bayer spokesman Dan Childs said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto's conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman's cancer."
Some legal experts said that Chhabria's decision to split the trial was beneficial to Bayer, Reuters reported. The company had complained that the jury in Johnson's case had been distracted by the lawyers' claims that Monsanto had sought to mislead scientists and the public about Roundup's safety.
However, a remark made by Chhabria during the trial and reported by The Guardian was blatantly critical of the company.
"Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue," he said.
Many regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have ruled that glyphosate is safe for humans, but the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer found it was "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. A university study earlier this year found that glyphosate use increased cancer risk by as much as 41 percent.
Hardeman's lawyers Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff said they would now reveal Monsanto's efforts to mislead the public about the safety of its product.
"Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup," they wrote in a statement reported by The Guardian.
Hardeman's case is considered a "bellwether" trial for the more than 760 glyphosate cases Chhabria is hearing. In total, there are around 11,200 such lawsuits pending in the U.S., according to Reuters.
University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told Reuters that Tuesday's decision showed that the verdict in Johnson's case was not "an aberration," and could possibly predict how future juries in the thousands of pending cases would respond.