Amazon illegally fired two employees after they publicly criticized the company for its lack of action on climate change and its failure to protect warehouse workers from the novel coronavirus, the National Labor Relations Board determined.
Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa were highly visible members of the small group of Amazon employees who in 2018 called for Amazon to do more to address climate change, and eventually got 8,700 colleagues to sign on to their efforts. They were fired last April, not long after their group of about 400 employees spoke out, in intentional and public violation of Amazon's tightened down internal policies clamping down on employee criticism.
Cunningham and Costa allege they were fired in retaliation for their activism. If they and Amazon do not settle the case, the NLRB will accuse Amazon of unfair labor practices and the case will go before an administrative law judge. Also this week, the NLRB will be counting votes to see if Amazon's 6,000 Alabama warehouse employees will unionize, a potentially major change for the company's notoriously exploitative labor practices.
As reported by The Associated Press:
Cunningham said the ruling proves that they were on the right side of history.
"Amazon tried to silence us," said Cunningham. "It didn't work."
Because of the ruling, Amazon could be forced to offer Cunningham and Costa their jobs back, pay them back pay and reimburse them for expenses related to losing their jobs.
Cunningham and Costa, who were user-experience designers at Amazon, were the two most prominent voices among a group of workers who wanted the company, which has a giant carbon footprint, to take more steps to combat climate change and to stop doing business with oil and gas companies. They held protests and spoke to the media about their concerns.
About a year ago, Cunningham and Costa planned a call between Amazon warehouse and office workers to talk about unsafe conditions in the e-commerce giant's warehouses. Before it could happen, Amazon fired both women. An Amazon executive quit in protest, saying he couldn't stand by as whistleblowers were silenced.
For a deeper dive:
- Employees Are Fighting for Climate Change at Work - EcoWatch ›
- Amazon Threatens to Fire Employees Who Speak out on Climate ... ›
- Amazon Employees Risk Jobs to Protest the Company's Climate ... ›
For the first time, major companies are adding their voices to the call for a ban on deep-sea mining.
Google, BMW, Volvo and Samsung SD all signed a WWF statement last Wednesday calling for a moratorium on the controversial practice until its environmental impacts are thoroughly understood, Reuters reported.
"We welcome this important step, and call on other companies who care about the ocean to join these leaders by signing on to the statement," WWF International Global Ocean leader John Tanzer said in a press release. "It is a clear message to those who are swayed by the false promise that deep seabed mining is a 'green' and attractive investment proposition. It is not so."
Deep-sea mining would involve the extraction of mineral-rich, potato-sized nodules from the ocean floor, as BBC News explained. These nodules contain elements like cobalt that are necessary for building electric vehicle batteries. Proponents therefore argue that mining the seafloor is an important tool for fighting the climate crisis while being less damaging than mining on land.
But WWF counters that the practice could be extremely damaging for little-understood deep-sea ecosystems, harm fisheries and disrupt nutrient and carbon cycles. This argument has proved persuasive to some companies.
"It's the fear that everything we do down there could have irreversible consequences," senior BMW sustainability expert Claudia Becker told BBC News. "Those nodules grew over millions of years and if we take them out now, we don't understand how many species depend on them – what does this mean for the beginning of our food chain? There's way too little evidence, the research is just starting, it's too big a risk."
In signing WWF's statement, BMW and the other companies are pledging not to source minerals from the seabed, not to permit them into their supply chains and not to fund any mining exploration. They are asking the moratorium be kept in place until three conditions are met:
- The risks are clearly understood.
- All alternative mineral sources have been used up.
- It is clear the mining can be done in a way that preserves marine ecosystems and biodiversity.
Despite WWF's concerns, mining companies are moving ahead with exploring the possibilities of deep-sea mining. DeepGreen, GSR and UK Seabed Resources, a UK Lockheed Martin subsidiary, all hold exploratory licenses, Reuters reported. Norway has said it could license companies to begin the practice as soon as 2023.
DeepGreen, which plans to mine in the Pacific, argued that the mining was necessary to fight the climate crisis and was less harmful than other ways of accessing key minerals.
"Where exactly will BMW get the battery metals it needs to fully electrify its products, and with what impact to our climate?" the company said in a statement reported by BBC News. "Will Volvo customers really prefer rainforest metals in their EVs once they realise their dire impacts on freshwater ecosystems, indigenous peoples, charismatic megafauna and carbon-storing forests?"
However, WWF argued that these are the wrong questions.
"The pro-deep seabed mining lobby is creating their own narrative by choosing to portray only some of what we know and don't know. They are selling a story that companies need deep seabed minerals in order to produce electric cars, batteries and other items that reduce carbon emissions," Jessica Battle, leader of WWF's No Deep Seabed Mining Initiative, said in the press release. "But savvy companies that are committed to sustainability are seeing through that false narrative. Deep seabed mining is an avoidable environmental disaster. We can decarbonize through innovation, redesigning, reducing, reusing and recycling."
- Will the Race for Electric Vehicles Endanger the Seafloor? - EcoWatch ›
- David Attenborough Calls For Ban on Deep-Sea Mining - EcoWatch ›
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
Cities around the globe dimmed their lights for an hour on Saturday, to mark Earth Hour. The annual event organized by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) encourages countries to dim their lights for an hour starting at 8:30 p.m. local time.
This year, organizers said they wanted to highlight the link between the destruction of nature and increasing outbreaks of diseases like COVID-19.
Experts are of the opinion that human activity, such as widespread deforestation, destruction of animals' habitats and climate change, is spurring an increase in the incidence of disease, and warn more pandemics could occur if nothing is done.
Cities Across the World Go Dark
The Asia Pacific kicked off the event, by turning off their lights at night time. New Zealand was the first to do so, with Auckland's Sky Tower and Wellington's parliament buildings switching off their power.
In Europe, Berlin's Brandenburg Gate, Paris' Eiffel Tower, and the Vatican's Saint Peter's Basilica also hit the light switch. Other cities that celebrated included Tokyo, Sydney, Moscow, New Delhi, and London.
"#EarthHour reminds us that small actions can make a great difference for our planet," tweeted European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
"Whether it is a decline in pollinators, fewer fish in the ocean and rivers, disappearing forests or the wider loss of biodiversity, the evidence is mounting that nature is in free fall. Protecting nature is our moral responsibility but losing it also increases our vulnerability to pandemics, accelerates climate change, and threatens our food security," said Marco Lambertini, director-general of the WWF.
"One hour is not enough for us to remember that climate change is actually a problem — I don't really see (Earth Hour) as very significant," he added.
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
- Earth Is Warning Us We Must Change. Will We Listen? - EcoWatch ›
- Earth Hour 2021 Shines a Virtual Spotlight on the Natural World ... ›
By Nicole Greenfield
The climate crisis disproportionately impacts women—and women of color in particular. This is why women must lead on its solutions.
Last fall, two powerful hurricanes, Eta and Iota, slammed into Central America within two weeks of each other, causing massive flooding and landslides and affecting millions of people, primarily in Honduras and Nicaragua. Thousands were uprooted from their homes, and women, many with children in tow, suffered the greatest. The events followed a disturbing but familiar trend: The United Nations estimates that 80 percent of people displaced by climate change are women. And it's not just storms that affect them; researchers in India have found that droughts, too, hit women the hardest, rendering them more vulnerable than men to income loss, food insecurity, water scarcity, and related health complications.
"The climate crisis is not gender neutral," says Katharine K. Wilkinson, coeditor of the anthology All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis, a book of essays and poems written entirely by women contributors. "It grows out of a patriarchal system that is also entangled with racism and white supremacy and extractive capitalism. And the unequal impacts of climate change are making it harder to achieve a gender-equal world."
In the face of this reality, the world needs to embrace a feminist approach to tackling the climate crisis, she adds. That includes a collective mission to shift who is leading the way on solutions to the crisis, and what the approach will be.
A Multiplier of Injustice
"The intersections of climate and justice and feminism include the disproportionate impact of climate change and the entire climate continuum on women," says Jacqueline Patterson, director of the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program. "We also add the race lens, of course, and the additional risks that are unique to BIPOC women and, most specifically, Black women."
Climate change developed in an unjust world, and now it's exacerbating the vulnerabilities and inequalities experienced by women, particularly those who live in rural areas or the Global South and those who are Black, Indigenous, or other people of color. Patterson reflects on this injustice in the essay "At the Intersections," which appears in the All We Can Save collection. She opens with an anecdote about the first time she saw racism, misogyny, and poverty collide with environmental issues as a Peace Corps volunteer in her father's homeland of Jamaica. Later in her career, as a human rights activist working internationally to combat HIV/AIDS and gender injustice, Patterson learned the story of a woman who left her native Cameroon because the crops in her community had dried up, only to become a victim of rape and then to contract HIV at the country's border. "These stories drew my tears," she writes. "There is a pandemic of devastating impacts at the intersection between violence against women and climate change."
These days in her environmental justice work with the NAACP, Patterson is committed to ensuring that communities in "grindingly desperate circumstances, communities that aren't even thought about," like those without running water or electricity, for example, aren't left out of the climate conversation. And that means not just including them, but deliberately prioritizing them and ensuring their voices are heard on all levels. She asks, "How do we make sure we don't continue with the ills of the past in terms of assuming the rising tide will lift all boats?"
“A Feminist Climate Renaissance”
According to Wilkinson, these injustices of the climate crisis also highlight a leadership crisis. What we truly need, she and All We Can Save coeditor Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, a marine biologist, write, is a "feminist climate renaissance." Without this, a just and liveable future becomes impossible. "Research shows that women's leadership and equal participation result in better outcomes for climate policy, reducing emissions, and protecting land," Wilkinson adds.
Indeed, many of today's most influential climate leaders are women. On the international stage, Christiana Figueres, as the head of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, was the architect of the historic 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, which in its preamble called out the need to empower women in climate decision making. Celebrities like Jane Fonda have brought attention to the climate crisis through civil disobedience and Fire Drill Fridays—inspired, of course, by the activism of Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg and the powerful Fridays for Future movement she began. Female government officials are likewise leading on climate. New Zealand's prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, recently declared a climate change emergency and committed her country to going carbon-neutral by 2025. Meanwhile in the United States, representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was the visionary behind the Green New Deal, a plan for the country to move away from fossil fuels and toward a clean-energy future. And over the past few years, groups like the Sunrise Movement, led by Varshini Prakash, have done critical work inserting the climate crisis into American public discourse.
Wilkinson and Johnson see four main characteristics shared by leaders like these. First and foremost, they prioritize making change over being in charge. "We need to get over ego, competition, and control—all that patriarchal, supremacist, hierarchical stuff that gets in the way, burns a lot of energy, and keeps us from collaborating," Wilkinson says.
Feminist climate leaders also tend to have a deep commitment to justice and equality. Having emotional intelligence is necessary, too. "This is the biggest challenge humanity has ever grappled with, and we're not going to solve it from our prefrontal cortex alone," Wilkinson declares. "We need to come to this as whole human beings. And that means the grief, the uncertainty, the rage, the anxiety, but also the really ferocious love."
Last, feminist climate leaders recognize that building community is a prerequisite for building a better world. Community holds incredible wisdom, while "individualism comes up short on good ideas, and certainly on a sense of purpose and joy," Wilkinson says. Nurturing that sense of community in the broad climate movement is often a first step, especially when uniting allies from disparate groups. As Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy founder Colette Pichon Battle advises, before diverse groups of women can stand on the front lines together, they must heal the relationships and reconcile the unjust social dynamics that exist between their various communities.
The good news is that women are uniquely prepared to take on this social and environmental healing work. "Women have had to develop a coping and a nurturing set of skills in order to see the survival of our families," Patterson says, adding that caring for a family under the most dire of circumstances has been bred into the DNA of Black women, who carry the trauma of slavery. "Women have just had to," she says.
For her part, Wilkinson says that she sees evidence of the growth and power of the feminist climate ecosystem every time she turns around. Leaders in the youth climate justice movement embody these characteristics, and increasing numbers of women are getting a seat at the national table (including former NRDC president Gina McCarthy, another All We Can Save contributor, who is now steering domestic climate policy from the White House). "There are lots of signs that this galloping herd is getting bigger and faster and stronger. And that gives me a lot of courage," Wilkinson says.
Power and Joy
For their nonprofit All We Can Save Project, Wilkinson and Johnson have developed a 2030 vision for women leading on climate to hold the power to create transformational change and experience deep joy in their work. Their community-minded approach to solving the climate crisis prioritizes the collective lifting of one another's spirits and helps build momentum—both of which serve as an antidote to the gloom that can sometimes consume the lone climate warrior. "We're really into this idea of power and joy," Wilkinson explains. "Power is what you need to make change happen. And joy is frankly what you need to keep showing up every day."
With climate feminists at the helm, more resources and investments could be procured for the transformational climate work that cisgender and trans women and nonbinary leaders are already doing—developing solutions, researching and writing, doing community organizing—often at night or on the weekends. These leaders and their teams can also serve as examples and mentors for emerging climate feminists of all genders and ages.
And of course, men can be climate feminists too. "There's a really important role for men, and I think it starts with listening," Wilkinson says. "And when we consider core approaches to climate leadership, things like compassion, connection, creativity, collaboration, care, a commitment to justice, all of that is open to people of any gender." She notes that men in positions of power—whether they control funding or platforms or lead an institution—can be more intentional in helping to change the face of climate leadership. They can extend invitations to more women and to others from diverse backgrounds to bring forth ideas and lead projects, or they can step back and let others make decisions and set the vision.
Such collaborative work is increasingly urgent. "Even now, at the 11th hour for climate action, so many people in power are denying, blocking, and delaying, or putting forward hollow promises about what they're going to do," says Wilkinson. "It's absolutely devastating. But I do think the tide is turning. I think we will win."
She adds that Ireland's former and first female president Mary Robinson sums up the situation perfectly with the tagline to her Mothers of Invention podcast: "Climate change is a man-made problem—with a feminist solution!"
Reposted with permission from the Natural Resources Defense Council.
On Saturday, March 27, people around the world will celebrate the annual Earth Hour, albeit in a slightly different way.
This annual tradition, first launched by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and its partners in Sydney in 2007, involves participants from more than 180 countries switching off their lights on the last Saturday in March in order to call attention to the climate crisis and biodiversity loss. This year, the organizers are adding something extra: a virtual spotlight that can be shined on the Earth by sharing their video.
The Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, is among the major landmarks that will turn off its lights for Earth Hour on March 27, 2021. Antoine Antoniol / Getty Images
"Our goal is simple," organizers wrote. "Put the spotlight on our planet and make it the most watched video in the world on March 27 (or beyond!) so that as many people as possible hear our message."
The virtual spotlight comes about a year into the coronavirus pandemic, as many countries remain under some type of safety regulation. While COVID-19 necessitates an online celebration, it also reflects the importance of protecting the natural world.
"Protecting nature is our moral responsibility but losing it also increases our vulnerability to pandemics, accelerates climate change, and threatens our food security," WWF International Director General Marco Lambertini said in a press release. "We must stop taking nature for granted, respect its intrinsic value, and — importantly — value the crucial services it provides to our health, wellbeing and economy."
Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. 🕣The time has finally come as #EarthHour is in 2 days! Here’s how to take part in our Virt… https://t.co/jNddKv6lAK— Earth Hour Official (@Earth Hour Official)1616645400.0
This year's Earth Hour also comes at a crucial moment in the international push to protect the world's plants and animals. In a few months, world leaders will gather in Kunming, China, for the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity. Scientists, activists and the UN are hoping the summit will result in an agreement to protect 30 percent of land and oceans by 2030.
Earth Hour said they hoped their video would build momentum toward this conference. At the same time, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recorded a video in support of Earth Hour.
"In this make or break year, let your actions and voices send a clear message to leaders everywhere," Guterres said. "Now is the time to be bold and ambitious. Let's show the world that we are determined to protect the one home we all share."
This year's Earth Hour will also include the traditional lights-out celebration. Major landmarks, including the Eiffel Tower, Tokyo Skytree, Hong Kong's Victoria Harbor, Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, the Colosseum in Rome, Sydney Opera House and Gardens by the Bay in Singapore, will all go dark. Anyone can join by simply turning off lights for an hour beginning at 8:30 p.m. local time.
To participate online, keep an eye on Earth Hour's pages on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter and share the video when it drops. It can be added to a social media story, reposted or even sent in private messages.
'We urgently need to take action to prevent further degradation of our natural world, for securing our own future," John Kani, an actor and environmentalist who will lend his voice to the video, said in the press release. "Join me this Earth Hour when we collectively raise our voice for nature to secure a greener, healthier future for all."
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By Brett Wilkins
In what Indigenous and environmental activists hailed as a testament to the power of grassroots organizing, a leading U.S. fossil fuel company on Monday announced the cancellation of a planned fracked natural gas terminal in southern Texas.
Reuters reports liquefied natural gas developer Annova LNG said it will immediately discontinue work on the Brownsville export terminal "due to changes in the global LNG market." The company's facility would have been capable of exporting 6.5 million tonnes per annum (MTPA) of liquefied natural gas. The project was one of three proposed fracked natural gas terminals in the Rio Grande Valley.
"If built, Annova LNG would have destroyed wetlands, blocked a wildlife corridor threatening the survival of endangered wildlife, and put communities needlessly at risk," said the Sierra Club in a statement Monday.
"Today's victory is the result of six years of tireless efforts of the Rio Grande Valley communities in South Texas who have written comments, attended hearings, protested banks, and more to protect their health, their precious coastline, and the climate from Annova LNG's proposed fracked gas project," said Sierra Club Gulf Coast Campaign representative Bekah Hinojosa.
"No LNG export terminal has any place in our communities or our energy future, and today's news is a step in the right direction to putting an end to exporting fracked gas across the world," she added.
Annova LNG is CANCELED! Today’s victory is the result of 6 yrs of tireless efforts of the Rio Grande Valley commun… https://t.co/Zo9065QO9P— Bekah Hinojosa (@Bekah Hinojosa)1616437408.0
Juan Mancias, chairman of the Carrizo Comecrudo tribe, welcomed the cancellation in a statement.
"Ayema ahua'p pele maute alpa Esto'k Gna," he said—It is a good day to be a human being.
"Thank you to all who have worked so hard to fight this fracked gas project and protect our sacred lands from pollution," said Mancias. "There's more work to do to ensure other proposed fracked gas export terminals, which would desecrate our burial sites and sacred lands, are never built, but today we celebrate this important victory for our people and our environment. The other two Rio Grande Valley proposed LNG terminals must be stopped."
In addition to the cancelled Annova terminal, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission during the administration of former President Donald Trump also approved Texas LNG Brownsville's proposal for a four million metric tons per year terminal at the Brownsville Ship Canal and Rio Grande LNG's Rio Bravo pipeline terminal at the Port of Brownsville.
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
By Michael Svoboda
To honor Women's History Month, Yale Climate Connections's March bookshelf presents a selection of new and recent titles on how women are changing the politics and prospects for action on climate change.
Three books focus on the efforts of young women. Another four books offer the seasoned perspectives of veteran activists, organizers, and/or journalists, including Jane Fonda and Elizabeth Kolbert.
Rounding out the collection are a natural history/memoir by New York Times columnist Margaret Renkl, two cli-fi novels, an academic appraisal of "the new climate activism," and an NGO report on the importance of gender diversity for climate innovation.
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 listed, the latter is for the paperback edition.
No Planet B: A Teen Vogue Guide to the Climate Crisis, edited by Lucy Diavolo (Haymarket Books 2021, 248 pages, $15.95 paperback)
As the political classes watch our world burn, a new movement of young people is rising to meet the challenge of climate catastrophe. An urgent call for climate justice from Teen Vogue, one of this generation's leading voices, this book is a guide, a toolkit, a warning and a cause for hope.
"I hope that this book embodies Teen Vogue's motto of making young people feel seen and heard all over the world. I hope that it forces their parents, communities, loved ones, friends, and – most importantly – those in power to see that the health of our planet depends on how quickly and drastically we change our behaviors. I hope it forces them all to respond." – From the foreword by Teen Vogue editor-in-chief, Lindsay Peoples Wagner
Girl Warriors: How 25 Young Activists Are Saving the World, by Rachel Sarah (Chicago Review Press 2021, 192 pages, $16.99 paperback)
Girl Warriors tells the stories of 25 climate leaders under age 25. These fearless girls and young women from all over the world are standing up to demand change when no one else is. They've led hundreds of thousands of people in climate strikes, founded non-profits, given TED talks, and sued their governments. A rousing call to action, this book will leave you feeling hopeful that we can make a difference in an age of turmoil, destruction, and uncertainty. "It gives me true hope to read about the phenomenal young women of Girl Warriors. Their fierce commitment to the future of our precious planet is as inspiring as it is vital." – Kate Schatz, New York Times bestselling author of Rad American Women A-Z and Rad Women Worldwide(
Editor's note: YCC's March 2020 bookshelf included seven titles by or about Greta Thunberg.)
What Can I Do? From Climate Despair to Action, by Jane Fonda (Penguin Random House 2020, 352 pages, $30.00)
In the fall of 2019, frustrated with the obvious inaction of politicians and inspired by Greta Thunberg and student climate strikers, Jane Fonda moved to Washington, D.C., to lead weekly climate change demonstrations on Capitol Hill. On October 11, she launched Fire Drill Fridays, and has since led thousands of people in nonviolent civil disobedience. In What Can I Do?, Fonda weaves her deeply personal journey as an activist with conversations and speeches by leading climate scientists and inspiring community organizers. She dives deep into issues – like water, migration, and human rights – to emphasize what is at stake. More, Fonda equips us with the tools we need to join her in protest, so that everyone can work to combat the climate crisis.
(Editor's note: 100% of the author's net proceeds from What Can I Do? go to Greenpeace.)
Who Cares Wins: Reasons for Optimisms in Our Changing World, by Lily Cole (Rizzoli 2020, 480 pages, $35.00)
The climate crisis, mass extinctions, political polarization, extreme inequality – the world faces terrifying challenges that threaten to divide us. Yet activist and filmmaker Lily Cole argues that it is up to us to actively choose optimism, collaborate, make changes, and define what is possible: "We are the ancestors of our future. The choices we make now and the actions we take today will define and transform future generations." Cole explores divisive issues from fast fashion to fast food and from renewable energy to gender equality, and interviews some of today's greatest influencers. The book also features a 32-page photo insert documenting Lily's experiences and vision, as well as the artists, activists, and others who have inspired her.
The New Climate Activism: NGO Authority and Participation in Climate Change Governance, by Jen Iris Allan (University of Toronto Press 2021, 226 pages, $32.95 paperback)
At the 2019 UN climate change conference, activists and delegates from groups representing Indigenous, youth, women, and labor rights were among those marching through the halls chanting "Climate Justice, People Power." In The New Climate Activism, Jen Iris Allan looks at why and how these social activists came to participate in climate change governance while others remain outside of climate activism. As a result, concepts such as gender mainstreaming, just transition, and climate justice are common terms, while human rights and health remain "fringe issues" in climate change governance. The New Climate Activism explores why and how some activists brought their issues to climate change, and succeeded, while others did not.
Cool: Women Leaders Reversing Global Warming, by Paola Gianturco and Avery Sangster (Powerhouse Books 2021, 192 pages, $39.95)
Women are especially effective leaders when it comes to combating global warming. Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac, architects of the 2015 Paris Agreement, report that "Nations with greater female representation in positions of power have smaller climate footprints. Companies with women on their executive boards are more likely to invest in renewable energy and develop products that help solve the climate crisis." For this book, Paola Gianturco and her granddaughter and co-author, Avery Sangster, interviewed and photographed women leaders, of organizations public and private, from around the world. COOL tells their inspiring stories in their own words and suggests actions you can take to join them on this existential journey.
All We Can Save: Truth, Courage and Solutions for the Climate Crisis, edited by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine K. Wilkinson (Penguin Random House 2020, 448 pages, $29.00)
There is a renaissance blooming in the climate movement: leadership that is more characteristically feminine and more faithfully feminist, rooted in compassion, connection, creativity, and collaboration. All We Can Save illuminates the expertise and insights of dozens of diverse women leading on climate in the United States – scientists, journalists, farmers, lawyers, teachers, activists, and designers, across generations, geographies, and race – and aims to advance a more representative and solution-oriented public conversation on the climate crisis. Curated by two climate leaders and intermixing essays with poetry and art, this book is both a balm and a guide, bolstering our resolve never to give up on one another or our collective future.
A proportion of 30% or more for women on corporate boards has shown a positive correlation with better climate governance and innovation in the global electric utilities, oil and gas, and mining sectors over the last four years, according to a new report by BloombergNEF and Sasakawa Peace Foundation. Gender diversity does not directly contribute to lowering emissions, but integrated oil companies with higher female representation at the board level, for example, are also more likely to have a set of decarbonization strategies and to have invested in digitalization activities. Gender Diversity and Climate Innovation examines the impact of gender diversity on climate governance, climate performance, innovation, and climate innovation.
(Editor's note: See also the report just released by Sustainable Policy Institute, Gender Balance Index 2021.)
Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future, by Elizabeth Kolbert (Penguin Random House 2021, 256 pages, $28.00)
In Under a White Sky, Elizabeth Kolbert takes a hard look at the new world we are creating. Along the way, she meets biologists who are trying to preserve the world's rarest fish, which lives in a single tiny pool in the middle of the Mojave; engineers who are turning carbon emissions to stone in Iceland; Australian researchers who are trying to develop a "super coral" that can survive on a hotter globe; and physicists who are contemplating shooting tiny diamonds into the stratosphere to cool the earth. One way to look at human civilization, says Kolbert, is as a ten-thousand-year exercise in defying nature. By turns inspiring, terrifying, and darkly comic, Under a White Sky is an utterly original examination of the challenges we face.
Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss, by Margaret Renkl (Milkweed Editions 2021, 248 pages, $16.95 paperback)
From New York Times opinion writer Margaret Renkl comes an unusual, captivating portrait of a family – and of the cycles of joy and grief that inscribe human lives within the natural world. Growing up in Alabama, Renkl was a devoted reader, an explorer of riverbeds and red-dirt roads, and a fiercely loved daughter. Ringing with rapture and heartache, Renkl's linked essays convey the dignity of bluebirds and rat snakes, monarch butterflies and native bees. Renkl suggests that there is astonishment to be found in common things – in what seems ordinary, in what we all share. Illustrated by Billy Renkl, Late Migrations is an assured and memorable debut. (Editor's note: A companion volume, Graceland at Last, will be published in September.)
Migrations: A Novel, by Charlotte McConaghy (Flatiron Books 2020, 272 pages, $26.99)
Franny Stone has always been the kind of woman who is able to love but unable to stay. Leaving behind everything but her research gear, she arrives in Greenland with a singular purpose: to follow the last Arctic terns in the world on what might be their final migration to Antarctica. Franny talks her way onto a fishing boat, and she and the crew set sail, traveling ever further from shore and safety. But as Franny's history begins to unspool, it becomes clear that she is chasing more than just the birds. How much is she willing to risk for one more chance at redemption? Epic and intimate, Charlotte McConaghy's Migrations is an ode to a disappearing world and a breathtaking page-turner about the possibility of hope against all odds.
(Editor's note: Readers can find YCC's interview with the author, by Amy Brady, here.)
High as the Waters Rise: A Novel, by Anja Kampmann, translated by Anne Posten (Penguin Random House 2020, 320 pages, $26.00)
One night aboard an oil drilling platform in the Atlantic, Waclaw returns to his cabin to find that his bunkmate and companion, Mátyás, has gone missing. A search of the rig confirms his fear that Mátyás has fallen into the sea. Grief–stricken, he embarks on an epic emotional and physical journey that takes him to Morocco, to Mátyás's hometown in Hungary, and finally to the mining town of his childhood in Germany. Waclaw's encounters along the way with other lost and yearning souls bring us closer to his origins. High as the Waters Rise is a stirring exploration of male intimacy, the nature of grief, and the cost of freedom. It's the story of a man who stands at the margins of a society from which he has little profited, even though it depends on his labor.
(Editor's note: Readers can find YCC's interview with the author, by Amy Brady, here.)
Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.
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By Martin Kuebler
When Fridays for Future (FFF) takes to the streets on March 19, activists around the world are going to be doing everything they can to make sure the climate crisis stays in the news.
In the Netherlands, 16-year-old Erik Christiansson will join a small physically distanced protest in The Hague with other Dutch FFF members.
Meanwhile, some 12,000 kilometers to the south in Zambia, a 26-year-old man named Chilekwa Kangwa will give a radio interview highlighting the importance of education and sustainable agriculture.
Across the Atlantic and eight time zones away, Adriana Calderon, an 18-year-old Mexican, will be deploying a sticker campaign in support of renewable energy and targeting the massive global K-pop fan base on social media, in the hope that the FFF message goes viral.
"The big marches with tens of thousands of people which we had in 2019 are just not possible anymore," said Christiansson, 16, speaking with DW from his home near Utrecht.
Over the past year, he and other young activists around the globe have tried to adapt and come up with new virtual approaches to get the message out — a #DigitalStrike from online class, for example, or social media posts with eye-catching slogans.
School strike week 82. In a crisis we change our behaviour and adapt to the new circumstances for the greater good… https://t.co/OHNXdFHsj9— Greta Thunberg (@Greta Thunberg)1584087062.0
Overall, though, it's been a struggle. "We noticed that it's been a lot less effective," said Christiansson, who has been involved with climate advocacy for about two years. "On social media, often your posts get seen by other people who already agree with you and you don't really get that much attention from outside."
Calderon has also found it difficult to share her climate concerns under Mexico's emergency coronavirus measures. Speaking with passersby at an in-person march, she said, you may have several minutes to get your message across. Online, that attention span shrinks to just seconds.
"With social media, it's very hard — you have to be really precise in your words," she said. Her local FFF group, based in Cuernavaca, Morelos, found it too difficult to carry on under the quarantine measures and shut down its social media presence in November.
Has the Pandemic Weakened Friday's for Future?
Still, Friday's for Future has managed to continue. But can it regain the momentum it once had?
"Visible public events are undeniably the foundation for a social movement — to mobilize people, to mobilize support and to gain public attention. And this is definitely missing," said Jens Marquardt, a postdoctoral researcher in climate change politics and societal transformation at Stockholm University.
While it was inevitable that some media coverage would drop off in 2020 once the movement's novelty had worn off, he believes the pandemic has hit FFF particularly hard and made it difficult for the movement to get its message out. But that hasn't necessarily been detrimental, said Darrick Evensen, a professor of environmental politics at the University of Edinburgh.
"It's a very different world because of the coronavirus pandemic and the manifestation of climate activism has certainly evolved — necessarily so because of the lack of opportunities for in-person interaction," he said.
Christiansson agrees. Stuck at home in the Netherlands under lockdown, Christiansson helped produce some webinars for the FFF YouTube channel and began chatting with other activists his age abroad.
"We've talked a lot more internationally than we did before, when everyone was focused on their own strikes and their national politics," he said. "Since we were communicating with everyone online already, it was easy to get connections with people in other countries as well."
Evensen points out that it's not just the medium of the message that's changing, either — the message itself has evolved over the last year. Global strikes like the one set for this Friday aren't just stressing the climate emergency; talking points now include worker welfare, climate justice and the role of civil society in climate decision-making.
"The rhetoric is changing," said Evensen. "It does seem that this really heavy focus on science is waning, and it's become more of a blended image in terms of the interests that are that are being represented."
This shift in focus could be linked to the secondary effects of the pandemic and a heightened perception of risk, both in terms of our health and the health of the planet, he said, adding, "People are maybe spending more time outside, people are thinking more about their interaction with the natural world."
Evensen was part of a recent UK study showing that climate concerns haven't diminished during the pandemic, as they did during the last global financial crisis in 2008 — and he said he was seeing similar data in other parts of the world. In some cases, respondents even identified climate change as a bigger threat than the virus.
"It is actually quite astonishing to see that this [FFF] movement has been so resilient and robust, despite this massive crisis," said Marquardt. "This year of reflection has been helpful in shaping the agenda about what this movement is about and what this movement wants to achieve in the future."
More Space for Marginalized Voices
Marquardt said the pandemic has also given FFF the chance to bring in marginalized voices. At the last global strike on September 25 the movement emphasized the "most affected people and areas," or MAPA, a new term for the areas of the world that will be disproportionately harmed by climate change, in an attempt to bring them into the global debate.
"Of course, you still have some imbalance, in terms of basic internet access, ways of communicating, who speaks for whom. [But] the pandemic has very much increased cooperation and also exchange between different national and local activist groups," he said.
Adriana Calderon, who joined FFF in Mexico about a year ago just as the world was shutting down, has thrown herself into virtual campaigns on social media and YouTube, coordinating global support for MAPA. Before the pandemic, she said, people in the Global South lacked this dedicated community to express themselves among people who understood their concerns.
"Today, there are more than a hundred activists, and we are like a community. We have calls on Saturdays, we have our own social media. We plan together what we want to do, and we ally with other groups to make campaigns," she said. "There was a community before, but now I think the international community is doing more because we were forced to move to digital, forced to interact with other groups. And I can see how much the movement has grown since last year."
'We Can't Stop Here'
Taking part of that growth has been Chilekwa Kangwa, a 26-year-old from Mpika in northeastern Zambia. Kangwa, who founded the Action for Nature conservation and development group in 2017, only got involved with FFF recently. But he has already linked up with several campaigners in other countries to swap stories about sustainable agriculture and other issues relevant for his region.
"Climate change affects people in different ways," he said, adding that this global exchange through MAPA can help his community, and others, find the tools needed to fight climate change and transform livelihoods. "What should be done now is that we must begin to listen to one another."
On Friday, Zambia's less restrictive coronavirus measures will allow Kangwa to take part in a march in Mpika with many excited young students, the first such FFF event in his community. That's an experience that Calderon hopes will soon be possible in her part of the world, too.
"People miss physically going on strike," she said. But she thinks that when the world begins to emerge from the COVID restrictions, the digital advances of the last year won't be forgotten. "At the end of the day, we will still be using both. We have developed so much, and we can't stop here."
Reposted with permission from Deutsche Welle.
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"I AM DONE!!! I DID IT!!!"
I AM DONE!!! I DID IT!!! After **589** days of picking up trash every single day, I can say with confidence that E… https://t.co/7ko2wntQK3— Edgar McGregor (@Edgar McGregor)1614982100.0
The 20-year-old visited Eaton Canyon, his local park, for at least an hour every day to clean up municipal waste. He persisted during the pandemic and through extreme weather, including hail, 65 MPH winds and ashy rain from nearby wildfires, he said in the viral video celebrating his accomplishment.
McGregor's goal involved cleaning up after visitors in order to leave the hiking trail, which is part of the Angeles National Forest in Southern California, trash-free. Armed every day with gloves and empty paint buckets, the activist told ABC that he filled up at least two buckets during each visit.
"I just started picking up one day because I knew it needed to be done. I knew no one was doing it, and that was that," he added.
McGregor shared his daily progress on Twitter, gaining more than 18,000 followers. He documented not just how much trash he picked up, but also the weather, minor injuries he sustained, where he cleaned and how long it took.
On March 5, the last day of his marathon cleanup, he proudly announced, "After **589** days of picking up trash every single day, I can say with confidence that Eaton Canyon, one of Los Angeles's most popular hiking trail [sic], is now free of municipal waste!" That single tweet has been liked on Twitter's platform more than 107,600 times, and even famed climate activist Greta Thunberg congratulated McGregor.
"There is nothing more satisfying than seeing brand new animals return to your park after months of cleaning up. I highly encourage anyone with any spare time to give this mission a shot. Your parks need you," McGregor told NPR.
During his months of garbage removal, McGregor separated recyclables from trash and traded the former for cash. It totaled roughly $30 every two to three weeks, NPR reported, and McGregor donated that money to various charities and causes that mattered to him and his followers.
Earlier this week, McGregor tweeted that he raised more than $400 from recycling and donated all of it to plant native trees in Eaton Canyon, fund charities around the world and support political candidates that promise to act on the climate crisis.
McGregor also uses his platform to explain why cleanups matter and how they help.
Five days after his monumental achievement and proclamation, he recorded a new message in Eaton Canyon. McGregor explained how new trash had entered the park from several adjacent communities at higher elevations.
Trash pickup day 594. This was a 150 minute pickup. #EarthCleanUp It's hailing! Did two buckets in my park. Most… https://t.co/AcEAkC10Xn— Edgar McGregor (@Edgar McGregor)1615406445.0
"So trash on city streets gets into storm drains and dumps into this park," he said. "So this morning, all of this trash in this bucket was brand new. It entered this park after midnight today, and I was able to come out here before the rainstorm hit and clean up trash."
In his video, McGregor pointed out how the nearby storm drain had filled with water from a flash flood and carried tons of trash a mile and a half. Had he not intervened, that trash would have entered a local watershed that feeds directly to the Pacific Ocean, he explained. McGregor added a call to action for his followers, saying, "So, if you see rain in the forecast, be sure to clean up trash on your local streets and your local boulevards. Because if that trash is not cleaned up and the rain hits, it's gonna flow into the storm drains, and it can get into your local parks. It can get into the rivers, and, even worse, it can get into the ocean. And, it's a lot harder to clean up."
ON CBS, McGregor shared his ideal solution to this massive trash problem, saying, "The only solution to picking up trash in our local parks is to... hire people to clean them up permanently."
Because that isn't yet a reality, McGregor continues to return several times a week to Eaton Canyon to remove trash while also considering new parks to clean up. He encourages everyone to go on their own pickup expeditions and post photos with the hashtag #EarthCleanUp, which he promises to retweet and celebrate.
"If you think my work is inspiring, prove it to me by going out there and defending this planet with all you've got," McGregor urged on Twitter. "It can be anything within your abilities. It just has to be something."
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By Kenny Stancil
Amid the ongoing climate emergency and the devastating coronavirus pandemic that has resulted in more than 500,000 deaths in the U.S. alone as well as an economic meltdown that has left millions of people unemployed, the Sunrise Movement on Thursday launched its "Good Jobs for All" campaign to demand that lawmakers pursue a robust recovery that guarantees a good job to anyone who wants one and puts the country on a path toward a Green New Deal.
"It will take millions of people to build a new energy grid, care for older folks, teach little kids, restore parks and buildings that have fallen into disrepair, and do the work of building happy, healthy communities," the climate justice organization wrote on its campaign website. "This year, we can put millions of people back to work in good paying jobs building a sustainable, just, and people-centered economy."
"In the richest country in the world, no one should go without a good job," Varshini Prakash, executive director of the Sunrise Movement, said to thousands of people across the country who attended Thursday's online launch event via livestream or at one of 600 virtual watch parties. "For years, our movement has been demanding a Green New Deal that fulfills Franklin Delano Roosevelt's promise and Coretta Scott King's dream through guaranteed good jobs and a better society."
"This campaign," Prakash added, "will galvanize and grow our movement around this critical component of the Green New Deal as we recover from Covid-19 and the economic recession."
We’re coming together to fight for each other and guarantee #GoodJobsForAll Join us: https://t.co/MoJhmlzoaS https://t.co/IAPa8DeeLR— Sunrise Movement 🌅 (@Sunrise Movement 🌅)1614908186.0
During the campaign launch, Sunrise—joined by Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Sara Nelson, president of the the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO—introduced their Good Jobs for All Pledge, which calls on President Joe Biden and members of Congress to immediately enact economic recovery legislation that meets the scale of the overlapping crises society is facing and paves the way for a Green New Deal that puts millions of people to work to fight against catastrophic climate change.
Given the current convergence of crises—public health, economic inequality, racial injustice, and "a climate crisis that looms over it all"—the Good Jobs for All Pledge stresses that "with so much work to do building a better society that works for all of us, there's no reason anyone in the richest country in the history of the world should be unemployed, underemployed, or working a job that isn't in the public interest."
Pressley, a Green New Deal co-sponsor, recently introduced the Federal Job Guarantee Resolution, which seeks to make "meaningful, dignified work" at a livable wage an enforceable legal right.
Becoming the first signatory of the Good Jobs For All Pledge, the Massachusetts Democrat said Thursday that "establishing the legal right to a good job for every person will help address the current employment crisis, create the foundation for an equitable economic recovery, and ensure that we are able to meet the pressing challenges facing our communities."
"I'm excited to work alongside the Sunrise Movement—as well as my colleagues, advocates, and activists across the country—to advance bold employment policies that ensure every person has access to a good job that pays a living wage, and that we put people to work addressing urgent priorities, like the climate crisis," said Pressley, who is expected to soon be joined by other prominent progressive lawmakers.
Signatories to the Good Jobs for All Pledge promise to do everything in their power—including abolishing the Senate's anti-democratic filibuster rule that obstructs the will of the majority—to "champion economic recovery legislation that invests $10 trillion to create at least 15 million good jobs sustained over the next decade in clean energy, transportation, housing, the care economy, public services, and regenerative agriculture, with the goal of ultimately guaranteeing full employment."
In addition, backers of the pledge vow to:
- Support "Indigenous sovereignty and strong labor, equity, immigration, and environmental justice standards," as outlined in the THRIVE Agenda, a proposal for a just and sustainable recovery from the coronavirus crisis unveiled in September 2020 by a progressive coalition of unions, advocacy groups, and Democratic lawmakers;
- Create or improve "public employment programs to directly put Americans to work in serving the public interest, including the robust funding of a Civilian Climate Corps and a Public Health Jobs Corps";
- Strengthen and protect the nation's "workforce, unions, and workers' rights through the provisions in the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act," a broad piece of legislation introduced in May 2019 that would "negate four decades worth of anti-labor barriers that right-wing forces have put in place," according to Alan Minsky, executive director of Progressive Democrats of America;
- Direct "at least 50% of investment funds to communities on the frontlines of our economic, environmental, and public health crises"; and
- Shift "every sector of the economy to 100% clean, renewable energy as fast as possible over the next decade."
As Sunrise noted in a statement released Friday, "The campaign comes 43 days into the administration, as time ticks down on the Democrats' now or never moment to stop the worst effects of the climate catastrophe and avoid the fatal political mistakes of the early Obama years: not acting at the full scale of the economic crisis, and falling short in delivering on promises made."
Emphasizing that "the clock is ticking," Prakash said that "we expect Biden and Congress to deliver on a bold economic recovery in its first 100 days—by April 30th."
"We're going to put on the pressure to make sure that they do," she added. "And if they don't, well then they're really gonna hear from us—and there'll be hell to pay. You've got 57 days to deliver."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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By Jeff Turrentine
Tamara Lindeman certainly doesn't seem particularly anxious, or grief stricken, or angry. In fact, in a recent Zoom conversation, the Toronto-based singer-songwriter (who records and performs under the name The Weather Station) comes across as friendly, thoughtful, and a little shy.
Nevertheless, anxiety, grief, and anger are what fueled Lindeman's creative process for the making of Ignorance, her just-released fifth album. Over skittering drumbeats and densely layered sonic textures that hover somewhere between chilly and ethereal, Lindeman has crafted a 40-minute song cycle that examines our collective climate trauma as experienced through a single, highly agitated psyche.
"People are like, is it a political album? And I say no, it's an emotional album," she tells me. "I wasn't trying to write about these feelings; it's just that these were the feelings that I was having at the time, so they kept flowing through." Lindeman wrote more than 40 songs over the course of the winter of 2018–2019, much of which she spent in relative isolation. And when she wasn't writing, she was reading. "I had gone down the rabbit hole and had become obsessed with trying to understand the climate crisis," Lindeman says. "I was trying to figure out how I could be of use. Could I become an activist? Do I have that in me?"
Apparently she does. Lindeman joined the throngs who took to the streets as part of the "Fridays for Future" movement inspired by Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg. She studied the massive report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that warned of the catastrophic consequences of failing to curb global carbon emissions immediately. Lindeman even hosted a series of public talks on the subject, interviewing economists, activists, political figures, and other artists about the need for climate action.
Amid all of this, she continued to compose—moving away from the indie-folk that had defined The Weather Station's earlier albums toward a new style that incorporates jazz, chamber pop, and (especially) the lushly produced soundscapes of artists like Kate Bush and Sarah McLachlan. It's a style well suited for a song like "Robber," Ignorance's opening track, which sets a tone of foreboding that permeates the entire album. As strings swell nervously, Lindeman sings of a thief who
permission by words, permission of thanks, permission of laws, permission of banks,
white tablecloth dinners, convention centers.
It was all done real carefully.
"I wrote that song right after I had read an article about Exxon," Lindeman says. "I hadn't known the full story of Exxon—that long before most people knew about climate change, [Exxon] knew about it. Because they had researched it, as far back as 1981." After tasking its own scientists to study whether the burning of fossil fuels could lead to climate change, the oil giant sat on its findings for decades and even funded a vast network of climate deniers in order to maximize profits. "They had two paths," Lindeman says, "and they chose, actively, not just to allow it to happen, but to hide what they knew and to make it difficult for us as citizens to fight back."
Notably, "Robber" never mentions Exxon—or oil, or climate change, for that matter. As she does with all of the songs on Ignorance, Lindeman approaches her subject obliquely. There's no calling out of specific bad actors, and there's certainly no discussion of carbon emissions or sea level rise. She understands that such language would instantly and lethally deflate these songs, plunging them from the realm of art into the wide but shallow pool of didacticism.
Instead, Lindeman gives us something very much like poetry. In another song, "Trust," she makes a final appeal to a lover at what feels like the ending of a relationship:
Bring me all the evidence,
the baskets of wild roses,
the crumpled petals and misshapen heads of reeds and rushes,
the bodies of the common birds, robins, crows, and thrushes,
everything that I have loved and all the light touches,
while we still have time.
That the lover remains undefined—is it a person or a planet?—is another indication that Lindeman is less interested in preaching than in exploring feelings of profound loss through the use of concrete, if highly personalized, imagery. But this song, too, has its creative origins in a real-life incident. In this case it was the songwriter's despair at witnessing the Canadian government, in the form of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), attack and arrest members of the Wet'suwet'en First Nation in northern British Columbia for blocking a roadway in an attempt to stop the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline through their ancestral lands.
"The RCMP was approaching with dogs and helicopters," Lindeman says, recalling the late-2019 event that led to the writing of "Trust." "They looked like an invading army. And I thought: This is my government." As she followed the conflict on social media, Lindeman recalls, all the lines of communication from the scene suddenly went dead. "No one knew why. There was, like, two hours where the WiFi in the area went down and people weren't able to communicate. And I wrote that song in those two hours, while people were waiting to find out what had happened and if people were OK."
Lindeman acknowledges some ambivalence about sharing the story, "because obviously it's not my story to tell—I'm not Indigenous," she says. "But I felt, as a citizen, an immense betrayal. This government that had been elected to take action on climate and Indigenous reconciliation had essentially invaded people's land in order to protect a pipeline company. And people were there chaining themselves to fences to stop it from happening. Somehow that filtered into the song. There are other things that went into it—from my life, from my subconscious. But that image was the crux of it. Why are we still having to argue over the value of something like water, or a landscape?"
It's not easy to make poignant, lasting art about climate change. The problem is so immense and all-encompassing that the vocabularies of music, poetry, theater, painting, or film can seem insufficient to the task, but in fact, they may be just what we need. As people and governments mobilize to address this global existential crisis, we need artists to check our work, to hold us accountable, to spur us on. And we need them to remind us of the human toll—both physical and emotional—as we head deeper into an uncertain future.
And we need to them to be as persistent as the tiny yet full-throated creature Lindeman memorializes in her song "Parking Lot":
Waiting outside the club in a parking lot
I watched some bird fly up and land on the rooftop
then up again into the sky, in and out of sight,
flying down again to land on the pavement.
It felt intimate to watch it,
its small chest rising and falling as it sang the same song
over and over and over and over again,
over the traffic and the noise.
Reposted with permission from Natural Resources Defense Council.
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By Deborah Moore, Michael Simon and Darryl Knudsen
There's some good news amidst the grim global pandemic: At long last, the world's largest dam removal is finally happening.
The landmark agreement, which was finalized in November 2020 between farmers, tribes and dam owners, will finally bring down four aging, inefficient dams along the Klamath River in the Pacific Northwest. This is an important step in restoring historic salmon runs, which have drastically declined in recent years since the dams were constructed. It's also an incredible win for the Karuk and Yurok tribes, who for untold generations have relied on the salmon runs for both sustenance and spiritual well-being.
The tribes, supported by environmental activists, led a decades-long effort to broker an agreement. They faced vehement opposition from some farmers and owners of lakeside properties, but in 2010, they managed what had seemed impossible: PacifiCorp, the operator of the dams, signed a dam removal agreement, along with 40 other signatories that included the tribes and the state governments of Oregon and California. Unfortunately, progress stalled for years when questions arose around who would pay for the dam removals.
A young activist for a free-flowing Salween River. A team of campaigners and lawyers from EarthRights International joined Indigenous Karen communities on the Salween in 2018 to celebrate the International Day of Actions for Rivers on March 14. This year, EarthRights joined communities living in the Eu-Wae-Tta internally displaced persons camp for a celebration in solidarity with those impacted by dam projects on the Salween River. EarthRights International
The dam removal project is a sign of the decline of the hydropower industry, whose fortunes have fallen as the troubling cost-benefit ratio of dams has become clear over the years. The rise of more cost-effective and sustainable energy sources (including wind and solar) has hastened this shift. This is exactly the type of progress envisioned by the World Commission on Dams (WCD), a global multi-stakeholder body that was established by the World Bank and International Union for Conservation of Nature in 1998 to investigate the effectiveness and performance of large dams around the world. The WCD released a damning landmark report in November 2000 on the enormous financial, environmental and human costs and the dismal performance of large dams. The commission spent two years analyzing the outcome of the trillions of dollars invested in dams, reviewing dozens of case studies and testimonies from over a thousand communities and individuals, before producing the report.
But despite this progress, we cannot take hydropower's decline as inevitable. As governments around the world plan for a post-pandemic recovery, hydropower companies sense an opportunity. The industry is eager to recast itself as climate-friendly (it's not) and secure precious stimulus funds to revive its dying industry — at the expense of people, the environment and a truly just, green recovery.
Hydropower’s Troubling Record
The world's largest hydropower dam removal project on the Klamath River is a significant win for tribal communities. But while the Yurok and Karuk tribes suffered terribly from the decline of the Klamath's fisheries, they were by no means alone in that experience. The environmental catastrophe that occurred along the Klamath River has been replicated all over the world since the global boom in hydropower construction began early in the 20th century.
The rush to dam rivers has had huge consequences. After decades of rampant construction, only 37 percent of the world's rivers remain free-flowing, according to one study. River fragmentation has decimated freshwater habitats and fish stocks, threatening food security for millions of the world's most vulnerable people, and hastening the decline of other myriad freshwater species, including mammals, birds and reptiles.
The communities that experienced the most harm from dams — whether in Asia, Latin America or Africa — often lacked political power and access. But that didn't stop grassroots movements from organizing and growing to fight for their rights and livelihoods. The people affected by dams began raising their voices, sharing their experiences and forging alliances across borders. By the 1990s, the public outcry against large dams had grown so loud that it finally led to the establishment of the WCD.
What the WCD found was stunning. While large dam projects had brought some economic benefits, they had also forcibly displaced an estimated 40 to 80 million people in the 20th century alone. To put that number into perspective, it is more than the current population of present-day France or the United Kingdom. These people lost their lands and homes to dams, and often with no compensation.
Subsequent research has compounded that finding. A paper published in Water Alternatives revealed that globally, more than 470 million people living downstream from large dams have faced significant impacts to their lives and livelihoods — much of it due to disruptions in water supply, which in turn harm the complex web of life that depends on healthy, free-flowing rivers. The WCD's findings, released in 2000, identified the importance of restoring rivers, compensating communities for their losses, and finding better energy alternatives to save rivers and ecosystems.
Facing a New Crisis
Twenty years after the WCD uncovered a crisis along the world's rivers and recommended a new development path — one that advances community-driven development and protects freshwater resources — we find ourselves in the midst of another crisis. The global pandemic has hit us hard, with surging loss of life, unemployment and instability.
But as governments work to rebuild economies and create job opportunities in the coming years, we have a choice: Double down on the failed, outdated technologies that have harmed so many, or change course and use this transformative moment to rebuild our natural systems and uplift communities.
There are many reasons to fight for a green recovery. The climate is changing even faster than expected, and some dams — especially those with reservoirs in hot climates — have been found to emit more greenhouse gases than a fossil fuel power plant. Other estimates have put global reservoirs' human-made greenhouse gas emissions each year on par with Canada's total emissions.
Meanwhile, we now understand that healthy rivers and freshwater ecosystems play a critical role in regulating and storing carbon. And at a time when biodiversity loss is soaring, anything we can do to restore habitat is key. But with more than 3,700 major dams proposed or under construction in the world (primarily in the Global South, with over 500 of these in protected areas), according to a 2014 report — and the hydropower industry jockeying for scarce stimulus dollars — we must act urgently.
Signs of Hope
Fish catch at the Siphandone on the Mekong River, prior to the completion of the Don Sahong Dam. Pai Deetes / International Rivers
So what would a strong, resilient and equitable recovery look like in the 21st century? Let's consider one example in Southeast Asia.
Running through six countries, the Mekong River is the world's 12th-longest river, which is home to one of the world's most biodiverse regions, and includes the world's largest inland fishery. Around 80 percent of the nearly 65 million people who live in the Lower Mekong River Basin depend on the river for their livelihoods, according to the Mekong River Commission. In 1994, Thailand built the Pak Mun Dam on a Mekong tributary. Six years later, the WCD studied the dam's performance and submitted its conclusions and recommendations as part of its final report in 2000. According to the WCD report, the Pak Mun Dam did not deliver the peaking energy service it was designed for, and it physically blocked a critical migration route for a range of fish species that migrated annually to breeding grounds upstream in the Mun River Basin. Cut off from their customary habitat, fish stocks plummeted, and so did the livelihoods of the local people.
Neighboring Laos, instead of learning from this debacle, followed in Thailand's footsteps, constructing two dams on the river's mainstem, Xayaburi Dam, commissioned in 2019, and Don Sahong Dam, commissioned in 2020. But then a sign of hope appeared. In early 2020, just as the pandemic began to spread across the world, the Cambodian government reconsidered its plans to build more dams on the Mekong. The science was indisputable: A government-commissioned report showed that further dams would reduce the river's wild fisheries, threaten critically endangered Irrawaddy dolphins and block nutrient-rich sediment from the delta's fertile agricultural lands.
Studies show that Cambodia didn't need to seek billions of dollars in loans to build more hydropower; instead, it could pursue more cost-effective solar and wind projects that would deliver needed electricity at a fraction of the cost — and without the ecological disasters to fisheries and the verdant Mekong delta. And, in a stunning reversal, Cambodia listened to the science — and to the people — and announced a 10-year moratorium on mainstream dams. Cambodia is now reconsidering its energy mix, recognizing that mainstream hydropower dams are too costly and undermine the economic and cultural values of its flagship river.
Toward a Green Recovery
Klamath River Rapids. Tupper Ansel Blake / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Increasingly, governments, civil servants and the public at large are rethinking how we produce energy and are seeking to preserve and restore precious freshwater resources. Dam removals are increasing exponentially across North America and Europe, and movements advancing permanent river protection are growing across Latin America, Asia and Africa.
We must use the COVID-19 crisis to accelerate the trend. Rather than relying on old destructive technologies and industry claims of newfound "sustainable hydropower," the world requires a new paradigm for an economic recovery that is rooted both in climate and economic justice as well as river stewardship. Since December 2020, hundreds of groups and individuals from more than 80 countries have joined the Rivers4Recovery call for a better way forward for rivers and natural places. This paradigm will protect our rivers as critical lifelines — supporting fisheries, biodiversity, water supply, food production, Indigenous peoples and diverse populations around the world — rather than damming and polluting them.
The promise of the Klamath dam removals is one of restoration — a move that finally recognizes the immense value of free-flowing rivers and the key role they play in nourishing both the world's biodiversity and hundreds of millions of people. Healthy rivers — connected to watershed forests, floodplains, wetlands and deltas — are key partners in building resilience in the face of an accelerating climate crisis. But if we allow the hydropower industry to succeed in its cynical grab for stimulus funds, we'll only perpetuate the 20th century's legacy of suffering and environmental degradation.
We must put our money where our values are. Twenty years ago, the WCD pointed the way forward to a model of development that takes humans, wildlife and the environment into account, and in 2020, we saw that vision flower along the Klamath River. It's time to bring that promise of healing and restoration to more of the world's rivers.
Deborah Moore is a former commissioner of the World Commission on Dams. Michael Simon was a member of the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Forum. Darryl Knudsen is the executive director of International Rivers.