How twelve young activists forced a bold idea into the mainstream of the Democratic Party
Illustration by Alex Nabaum
On November 13, 2018, just days after Democrats reclaimed the House of Representatives, dozens of young activists filed silently into Representative Nancy Pelosi’s office on Capitol Hill. Some sat down along the walls of the office, unfurling banners and forming a circle. Others stood in the center and told their stories.
A teenage woman from Northern California began, “There were fires at my school. There was ash falling from the sky for a week.” She and her companions in the Cannon Office Building that day carried manila envelopes containing pictures of the people and places in their lives that climate change would destroy—or already had.
On one side of the envelopes were the words “Dear Democrats”; on the other, “What Is Your Plan?” After some time, they began to sing—the protest songs of another generation, like “Which Side Are You On?,” and new ones they’d written themselves, about waters rising up and people rising, too. Their voices echoed down the marble halls.
“The whirlwind” evokes something visceral about what it feels like to be involved in a wave of political upheaval. It disorients, defies gravity, upends things and leaves them in a new place.
Within weeks, their ambitious demand for a “Green New Deal” to decarbonize the U.S. economy by 2030 and provide a green job to anyone who wants one was on the lips of every congressional staffer, cable news reporter, and progressive candidate for president in the country. MORE
Whether it’s out of a sincerely held belief or a profit motive, celebrities endorse products or lifestyle choices all the time. But concern about climate change has moved certain famous folks to appeal to our shared humanity.
Earlier this week, in an attempt to draw attention to the carbon footprint of meat production, a group of celebrities including Paul McCartney and actors Woody Harrelson and Joaquin Phoenix resorted to an elaborate ruse. Co-signing an impassioned letter by a 12-year-old California eco-activist named Genesis Butler, they challenged Pope Francis to go vegan for Lent.
If he agrees, the campaign will offer $1 million US to a charity of the Pope’s choice. And it stands to reason that the Pope’s participation might also inspire Catholics to reconsider their own eating habits.
Whether or not the Pope takes the bait, the Million Dollar Vegan stunt undoubtedly shines more light on the issue of meat production. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, farming livestock accounts for about 18 per cent of global carbon emissions. People are unlikely to stop eating animal proteins. But eating fewer of them, and diversifying into plant-based ones, certainly benefits the planet. MORE
Some put lack of action down to fundamental differences between the two countries
Young people take part in a climate march in Brussels on 25 January. Photograph: Stéphanie Lecocq/EPA
It started with a solo protest outside Sweden’s parliament by 16-year-old Greta Thunberg and has snowballed across the globe.
Schoolchildren demanding action on climate change have played truant and taken to the streets in Australia, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Switzerland and, in their greatest numbers, in Belgium, where 35,000 made their voices heard in Brussels a week ago and a further 12,500 marched on Thursday.
But in the Netherlands, where half the country is below sea level and awareness of global warming is high, there have been no such demonstrations. And for the first march, planned for Thursday in The Hague, organisers say they hope for a rather modest turnout of about 3,000.
“The commitment of Belgian youth seems to be greater than that of Dutch young people,” said the Dutch newspaper Trouw on Friday. “Why?”
But while encouraging students to make their voices heard, the Dutch MEP Sophia in ‘t Veld suggested there may be a cultural reason for Dutch teenagers’ apparent reticence. In report after report, the Netherlands tops OECD countries for high life satisfaction among its young people, partly because they already have the ear of their elders. MORE
About 15 minutes down the road from the worksite is the Unist’ot’en camp and healing centre. The camp is located on the edge of the Wedzin Kwah (Morice River) and is currently home to dozens of people, many of whom have come to support the Unist’ot’en in their opposition to the pipeline.
The bridge that crosses the river has been used as a checkpoint by the group for nearly a decade. People at the camp have been controlling who has access to the territory past the bridge in an effort to put Wet’suwet’en law into practice on the land.
Approaching the bridge on Wednesday it’s clear much has changed since the RCMP arrived earlier this month to enforce a court injunction for access. That led to an agreement between the nation’s hereditary chiefs and police to allow pipeline workers through Unist’ot’en.
As it stands, work continues on the TransCanada-owned Coastal GasLink pipeline while Wet’suwet’en hereditary leadership are still fighting the project, calling for a stop work order from the province. MORE
Local school children join Greta Thunberg’s initiative on climate strike during the COP24 UN Climate Change Conference 2018
Image: REUTERS/Agencja Gazeta
The time for action is now – this is the mantra being taken up by Generation Z across the world. Already this year, thousands of high school students across the world have skipped school to protest their governments’ inaction on climate change. The students were inspired by 16-year-old Swede Greta Thunberg, who started the movement by skipping school every Friday since August 2018. This is only the beginning: further demonstrations are already scheduled for the coming weeks.
Gen Z has the most to lose from the negative effects of climate change, and Thunberg made a compelling call to action at the recent COP24 conference in Katowice, Poland: “You say you love your children above all else – and yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes,” she told global leaders during the climate summit. “Until you start focusing on what needs to be done rather than what is politically possible, there is no hope. We cannot solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis,” she added.
While Greta’s message may have fallen on deaf ears at COP24, her appeal to global business leaders
at the annual World Economic Forum
in Davos, Switzerland, holds more promise. As scholars in social innovation, we are interested in understanding how youth activism can transform the business sector, by aligning sustainable business models with a meaningful purpose and positive impact on the environment. MORE
Courtenay city council listens to the Dogwood presentation on January 28th, 2019. Photo by James Wood/98.9 The Goat/Vista Radio
COURTENAY, B.C- The question of whether or not Courtenay city council will ask fossil fuel companies to pay for climate costs won’t be decided immediately.
That’s according to Courtenay mayor Bob Wells, speaking to the MyComoxValleyNow.com newsroom after a presentation from the Dogwood Initiative, a non-profit based in British Columbia, which advocates for support for environmental causes.
The group sent a delegation to the council meeting on Monday evening, encouraging council to send a “climate accountability letter” to twenty of the world’s largest fossil fuel companies. They included a draft letter, addressed to Chevron, talking about Courtenay’s flood costs.
Andrew Gage, a lawyer with West Coast Environmental Law (WCEL), handled the bulk of the presentation. MORE