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[Click here for the latest on the Dakota Access Pipeline: 141 Arrested During Police Raid of Camp Halting Construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.]

Actor Mark Ruffalo and Native Renewables founder Wahleah Johns presented Standing Rock Sioux tribal elders with mobile solar panels on trailers, bringing clean power to the protest encampment where the largest gathering of Native Americans in modern history is taking a stand against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Jon WankThe Solutions Project

"This pipeline is a black snake that traverses four states and 200 waterways with fracked Bakken oil," said Ruffalo, co-founder of The Solutions Project, which works to accelerate the transition to 100 percent clean and renewable energy.

"We know from experience that pipelines leak, explode, pollute and poison land and water. But it doesn't have to be that way."

The solar trailers will provide clean energy to power medical tents and other critical facilities for Native American protesters and their allies at the encampment. The trailers symbolize a healthy, equitable, prosperous energy future made possible by clean renewable energy.

"Water is life," said Johns, a Navajo leader. "By leading a transition to energy that is powered by the sun, the wind and water, we ensure a better future for all of our people and for future generations."

Johns' company, Native Renewables, promotes low-cost clean energy solutions for Native American families throughout the U.S., with an emphasis on job creation and on benefiting the community as a whole. The trailers were built by members of the Navajo nation and were financed by Empowered by Light and Give Power.

Research led by Stanford Prof. Mark Jacobson, another Solutions Project co-founder, shows that it would be technically possible and economically beneficial to transition to 100 percent clean renewable energy in each and every state across the country. In North Dakota, for example, wind and solar energy would be the primary sources of clean power and transitioning to 100 percent renewables would create 30,000 jobs.

The Standing Rock Sioux tribe says it was not sufficiently consulted when the Dakota Access Pipeline was in the planning stages. The pipeline endangers the tribe's water supply—and the water supply of millions of other people, as well, given the pipeline's planned crossing under the Missouri River. The pipeline's construction has already marred sacred lands, including burial sites. The Standing Rock Sioux and their allies—including indigenous people from across the U.S. and around the world—see it as a clear threat to both the tribe's cultural heritage and the basic human right to clean water.

"Around the world, more than 80 percent of the forests and lands with protected waterways and rich biodiversity are held by indigenous tribes. This is no coincidence," Ruffalo said. "As so many of us suffer from polluted water, air and land in our rural and urban communities, the water defenders at Standing Rock are showing us another way."

One year after establishing itself as a climate and clean energy funder, The Solutions Project is launching the Fighter Fund, a new grant-making program for community-based groups on the front lines of the fight for clean energy and climate justice. The Fighter Fund is designed to be a highly responsive source of money that invests in change makers as change is happening. Plans call for the Fighter Fund to respond to most applicants' requests in a matter of days, instead of the months traditional philanthropic funding decisions can often take.

Mark Ruffalo and Leonardo DiCaprio at an event hosted by The Solutions Project. Kelly Taub / BFA.com

"Often philanthropy can't keep up with what's happening on the ground," said Tyler Nickerson, director of investments and state strategy at The Solutions Project, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to 100 percent clean energy for all. "The Fighter Fund is designed to make small grants at key movement moments so that homegrown, frontline groups working with regular people from Alaska to Alabama to Alberta can empower and mobilize communities."

The grants, topping out at $15,000 each, will be available on a rolling basis to nonprofits throughout the U.S., Mexico and Canada. Groups are encouraged to apply when this money would make a tangible difference in their work.

"If we want real change—a sunlight revolution—we have to support fighters on the front lines," said The Solutions Project Co-Founder Mark Ruffalo, who came up with the idea and the name for the Fighter Fund and recruited his fellow actor Leonardo DiCaprio and other donors to co-fund the effort.

"I'm excited about this innovation in clean energy philanthropy. We're creating a nimble source of funding that sends money where it's needed, when it's needed, to support bold action, collaboration and leadership in communities across the continent."

Examples of occasions when nonprofits could successfully apply for funding include:

  • Direct actions or organizing that support a transition to 100 percent clean energy or keeping fossil fuels in the ground;
  • Communications, earned media or new media that builds public will and cultural power for the energy transition; and
  • Movement-building actions such as planning, convening and training activities.

The Fighter Fund grew out of The Solutions Project's first year of grant making through the 100% Leadership Fund, which so far has invested nearly $1 million supporting nonprofits working for clean energy in the states of Iowa, New York and California.

"The 100% Leadership Fund involves bigger investments and longer-term commitments to organizations across the country," Nickerson said. "But we need to be able to move money faster and more strategically to keep pace with what is going on with the climate justice movement. The Fighter Fund allows us to do that—and to make riskier frontline bets."

Earlier this year, 100% Leadership Fund grants went to Iowa groups involved in working on that state's astonishing progress in wind energy. Iowa now gets more than 31 percent of its electricity from wind power and Gov. Terry Branstad, a Republican, is calling for Iowa to hit 40 percent wind power in the next five years.

Most recently, The Solutions Project announced fresh 100% Leadership grants to groups working for policies that advance clean energy in the state of New York. As part of the NY Renews coalition, they launched an effort to make New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's ambitious clean energy targets—including 50 percent renewable energy by 2030, which is one of the country's most ambitious clean-energy goals—first benefit working families. In June, the coalition cheered as the New York Assembly passed the nation's most ambitious climate bill, requiring that greenhouse gas emissions from major sources fall to zero by 2050 while safeguarding economic and environmental justice.

"A year after establishing The Solutions Project as a climate and clean energy funder, we are excited to add this new grant program to our portfolio of work," said Sarah Shanley Hope, The Solutions Project's executive director.

"We take a hybrid approach: We inspire action through our 100% campaign, while also providing direct financial support to grassroots organizations across the country. To achieve 100 percent clean energy for 100 percent of the people, we must all give our 100 percent. We know these investments will help get us there."

The 100% Leadership Fund and the Fighter Fund are generously supported by the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, Sara & Evan Williams Foundation, JPB Foundation and Franciscan Sisters of Mary.

Community-based nonprofits interested in Fighter Fund grants can ask questions of The Solutions Project's program officer, Rudi Navarra, at rudi@thesolutionsproject.org, and can submit applications here.

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