They Call Themselves Sustainabiliteens and They Are Formidable

Meet three young activists taking their elders to school on the climate crisis.

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Learning by doing. Rebecca Hamilton (at right) speaking to climate strikers at the Vancouver Art Gallery on March 18, 2019. Photo by Jackie Dives.

On a Vancouver fall evening, a handful of teenagers met for dinner to make last-minute preparations for the climate strike they’d been planning for the next day. As they ate chili and peered at their event page on Facebook, they wondered how many would show up to join them when they walked out of classes and took to the streets.Our lineup of captivating speakers will explore this place we call home. Feb. 18 in Vancouver.

They’d organized a similar strike in May, and a few thousand people had turned out. But this one, slated for Sept. 27, felt different.

As Grade 12 student Naia Lee rode the 99 B-Line home from dinner that evening, she spied a stranger holding a large sign and asked if she would be striking. Yes, she would, and she was bringing her friends, too.

Later that night, 17-year-old Rebecca Hamilton was working on her speech when her mother guessed she might be addressing 40,000 people, even more. “Don’t talk about it,” she told her mom. “No, that’s crazy.”

The morning dawned clear and bright. As Hamilton approached city hall, where the march would begin, her SkyTrain car was jam-packed, and when she emerged from the station, the streets were teeming, a sea of people stretching across the Cambie Street Bridge.

The crowd was officially estimated to be 100,000. The teens put the number closer to 150,000. Either way, this would be one of the largest mass mobilizations in Vancouver’s history, linked with similarly huge protests in cities across the world over the past two years, coordinated by Global Climate Strikes and FridaysForFuture.

“We couldn’t even comprehend the amount of people there,” says Hamilton, thinking back at the rush she felt joining the meandering mass as it coursed through downtown Vancouver.

Samantha Lin, a Grade 12 student, remembers being shocked at what she’d helped pull off. “There wasn’t really any precedent for what was going to happen just the next day. There was nothing to prepare me in my mind for the amount of people that I would see.”

Lee, Hamilton and Lin — and the other youth climate activists they organize with — call themselves the Sustainabiliteens. In the year they’ve been working together, they have organized classroom strikesoccupied a B.C. cabinet minister’s office, mounted a die-in outside the Vancouver offices of fossil fuel company Teck Resources Limited and staged funerals for their future, one of them outside of an international fracked gas conference.

Their lives are busy with classes and exams, meetings, and interviews with journalists. They could be playing volleyball, dancing, or, as Lee laughs, “spending a lot more time with my family.”

But “the urgency of the climate crisis,” says Lin, “wasn’t something that was going to wait. And I didn’t see any action happening from governments.”

Hamilton finds it “really confusing” to see so many adults complacent in the face of the climate crisis. “People go on just living their daily lives, and the politicians talking about other things, and we go to school and learn math, and nobody’s really acknowledging that we’re living in a really pivotal time in human history.”

She knew she had to do something. “I had this one moment when I realized, if we can’t live on our planet, nothing else matters.”

Even well-meaning environmental efforts at school didn’t seem to match the urgency students like Lin feel. Growing up in Vancouver, she came to appreciate the outdoors and the beauty of nature. As she grew older, she became more aware of the massive levels of waste generated by our economy. “Just seeing our overconsumption, our world system. We’re not sustainable.”

Lin started working and organizing events around sustainability with people in her school, but she felt like a lot of it had what she called a “very non-urgent” perspective on the climate crisis. “It was very ‘let’s reduce waste’ or ‘let’s think of how we can make changes in our school’ instead of the climate justice lens that we’re looking at it through now.”

Hamilton agrees with the sentiment. “It was really hard to figure out how to get involved because all the youth groups I could find were talking about, like, recycling.”

In spring 2018, Lin and Hamilton crossed paths at a climate activism workshop. After the school term and over the summer, the two attended a climate activism camp. A friendship was born.

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‘What’s important in a group, I think, is having trust between everybody,’ says Rebecca Hamilton. Photo by Carolyn Pinsky.

In fall 2018, a teen emerged on the world stage who projected a fiercely pragmatic, the-time-is-now message about the climate crisis. She was 15-year-old Greta Thunberg, gaining notoriety for spending her school days climate striking outside the Swedish parliament. Thousands of daring Australian students, too, were marching through the streets of major cities. They paid no mind when a federal cabinet minister scolded them, saying their futures would see them “up in a line asking for a handout, not actually taking charge of your life and getting a real job.”

“There was just a great public consciousness around the climate crisis and just how much of a crisis it was,” Lin recalls.

And it was inspiring. “My parents have always raised me to be very aware of what’s going on. And not only to be aware, but also to understand that I need to care about what’s happening,” Lee says. “It was just a matter of time before I started to really take that on myself.”

Lee had already been involved in a housing justice initiative and also runs a gender equity club with one of her best friends from school. About this time last year, she was walking out of school in support of the Wet’suwet’en land defenders in opposition to the Coastal GasLink LNG pipeline in northern B.C. when she met a bunch of teens who had gone to the December strike. She became friends with Hamilton on Facebook and joined the Sustainabiliteens.

Lee is quick to credit members of older generations for preparing the way. “It’s the work of frontline communities and most-affected individuals who’ve started this movement and who have been pushing it for decades,” she says.

“This isn’t a movement that we started,” agrees Hamilton. “We’re really following in the footsteps of Indigenous land defence, which has been going on for 500 years. And the continued assertion of Indigenous presence on their land has really stemmed, I think, what could be a much worse situation and has halted a lot of destruction.”

Hamilton used to think about climate change as a really scary thing that is coming at all of us. It is, but now she understands that “the big and scary thing” had come for some people already.

For some it has meant surviving historic-level floods. Others have experienced the melting away of their previously frozen homelands. Others find themselves on the frontlines of forest fires. For these people, many of them Indigenous, the climate crisis isn’t about saving the future, it’s already a matter of life and death.

You can’t separate environmentalism and climate justice from advocating for human rights or issues that affect marginalized communities, notes Lee. Climate change “exacerbates other issues, and other issues exacerbate climate change,” she says. “We’ve just really tried to make that a core pillar of how Sustainabiliteens interacts and engages with the movement.”

Hamilton would like older people who find teenagers like her inspiring to not assume “OK, the kids have got it from here.”

“The point of us being inspiring is for you to act. It’s not about just us doing our thing and doing it well,” she says.

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‘The urgency of the climate crisis,’ says Samantha Lin, ‘wasn’t something that was going to wait. And I didn’t see any action happening from governments.’ Lin is at centre of photo with Rebecca Hamilton over her left shoulder. Photo by Carolyn Pinsky.

A week before the Sept. 27 strike, Thunberg delivered a speech to a United Nations summit that rang in the ears of world leaders. “How dare you,” she’d said. “You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet, I’m one of the lucky ones.”

“The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say we will never forgive you. We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the line,” she said. The world leaders applauded. None of the major goals of the summit, nor any of those required to reduce carbon emissions in any meaningful way, were pledged.

Right now, Hamilton says, adults need to be speaking up in their communities and organizations they’re a part of, working to transform every level of society and transition to a post carbon future. They should ask themselves, “What does this transition look like for our industry?” And, “Is what we’re doing in alignment with the recognition that we’re living in a climate crisis?”

The Sustainabiliteens are trying to move beyond just mobilizing people for strikes, and into creating long-term organizing structures. The group set up a school leads program to ensure high-school students across Vancouver have access to a strong community that is taking action on climate justice in their schools.

In October, the group organized their ninth climate strike, a stop on Thunberg’s world tour. Recently, the teens helped launch a walkout in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en land defenders.

The three climate activists have grown to be very close friends in the year they’ve been organizing together. They are thinking of taking a gap year to travel B.C. and meet other communities of climate strikers.

“What’s important in a group, I think, is having trust between everybody, and having relationships that extend outside of organizing,” Hamilton says.

“I’m really grateful, having met Naia and Rebecca because they are two of the closest friends that I have to this day,” says Lin.

“And I’m really grateful for them, because I know that there’s a certain sense of shared responsibility that we all feel and that’s the reason why we organize together. We just very much enjoy our time together and I’ve come to really trust them as people and just trust their intentions.”  [Tyee] SOURCE

Every day matters: Guardian Stops Accepting Fossil Fuel Ads

It said the decision was based on the efforts by the industry to prevent meaningful climate action by governments.

The British newspaper had said in October that it would stop referring to “climate change” and use terms like “climate emergency” or “climate crisis” instead.

Credit…Shutterstock

LONDON — The Guardian newspaper said it would stop accepting advertisements from oil and gas companies, making it the latest institution to limit financial ties to fossil fuel businesses.

The announcement highlights how the risk of climate change is increasingly recognized and discussed in the business world, just days after climate change took center stage at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

“Our decision is based on the decades-long efforts by many in that industry to prevent meaningful climate action by governments around the world,” said Anna Bateson, the acting chief executive, and Hamish Nicklin, the chief revenue officer, in a statement on Wednesday.

The British newspaper said in October that it would stop referring to “climate change” and use terms like “climate emergency” or “climate crisis” instead. “We need to tackle it now, and every day matters,” said Katharine Viner, the editor in chief, at the time.

The Guardian is owned by a charity, the Scott Trust, which has already shifted its investments away from fossil fuel investments. Fossil fuel-related investments now represent less than 1 percent of its fund, the newspaper said. The Guardian Media Group has also committed to getting its emissions down to net zero by 2030.

The Guardian and its Sunday paper, The Observer, rely on advertising for about 40 percent of their revenue, but the statement did not say how much came from fossil fuel extractors.

The executives conceded that the company could have taken bigger steps to put pressure on the companies that advertise with them.

“Of course we know some readers would like us to go further, banning ads for any product with a significant carbon footprint, such as cars or holidays,” wrote Ms. Bateson and Mr. Nicklin in their blog explaining the reasons behind the decision. “Stopping those ads would be a severe financial blow, and might force us to make significant cuts to Guardian and Observer journalism around the world.”

Greenpeace, which had petitioned for an end to oil companies advertising in the media, said that other media, arts and sports organizations should follow suit.

“For too long fossil fuel giants like BP and Shell, who are causing our climate emergency, have been able to get away with green wash advertising while investing 97 percent of their business in oil and gas,” said Mel Evans, a senior climate campaigner for Greenpeace UK, in a statement. “Oil and gas firms now find themselves alongside tobacco companies as businesses that threaten the health and well-being of everyone on this planet.”

Advocacy group 350.org, which works to raise awareness about the danger of climate change, urged other media companies to follow The Guardian’s lead.

350.org Europe@350Europe

Speaking of which…

Join us and over 90,000 others in calling for a : https://act.350.org/sign/fossilfreefacebook/ 

We want a Fossil Free Facebook

We want fossil free newsfeeds.

act.350.org

350.org Europe@350Europe

And we think @Reuters should go next. They’ve already signed on to the @CoveringClimate Now initiative and this should be their next step.https://act.350.org/sign/reuters/ 

Reuters, ban fossil ads!

Following the Guardian’s historic move, we call on Reuters to stop advertising coal, oil and gas. Sign now >>

act.350.org

The chief executives of major European oil companies have reacted to the criticism by saying they are working to reshape their companies into producers of energy that generates lower amounts of greenhouse gases, but that this shift will require decades, the cooperation of governments and a range of industries, and acceptance by consumers.

“We cannot go faster than society, we cannot sell what customers don’t want,” Ben van Beurden, chief executive of Royal Dutch Shell, Europe’s largest oil company, said during a call with reporters on Thursday.

Mr. van Beurden characterized the move to lower-carbon energy as “a system challenge of unimaginable proportions that can only be done if we have collaboration at levels not yet displayed.”

Mr. van Beurden said that Shell was slowly building a portfolio of lower-carbon energy sources like natural gas and electric power generation, but he conceded that the industry had work to do to make clear to the public that it was working seriously on solutions for climate change.

“The sector needs to do more to explain how it is serving society,” he said.

Why isn’t Facebook taking Yellow Vests Canada seriously?


A screenshot of the Yellow Vests Canada Facebook page.

In January, Facebook started removing some content from the main Yellow Vests Canada page after the company was made aware of comments calling for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to be killed. At the time, a Facebook spokesperson told Global News it was taking action to mitigate any “real-world harm” that may stem from activity on the platform.

“We do not tolerate harassment on Facebook, and it’s our aim to prevent any potential real-world harm that may be related to content on our platform,” the spokesperson said. “That’s why we remove content, disable accounts and use a combination of technology, reports from our community and human review to enforce our policies.”

But recent activity on the Yellow Vests Canada page indicates that these efforts are falling short. And as Canada’s federal election fast approaches ⁠— with all the fierce rhetoric that the campaign is sure to elicit ⁠— real-world consequences, which are already in evidence, could quickly pile up.

In recent weeks and months, yellow vest demonstrations across Canada have frequently attracted far-right extremists and hate groups. In numerous cases, yellow vest members have faced criminal charges for threats they posted on Facebook, while others have been arrested and found to be in possession of weapons and explosives after leaving threatening posts on the social media platform.

Violence continues to be a problem at rallies organized and attended by the yellow vest, thrusting communities like Hamilton onto the “front line” of extremist activity in the region. On any given weekend, white nationalist figures and far-right groups like the Canadian Nationalist Party, Soldiers of Odin and Wolves of Odin, Proud Boys and Northern Guard can be seen marching alongside demonstrators in yellow vests — and in many instances, engaging in acts of hate and violence.

According to activists who monitor the yellow vest movement, none of this would be possible without Facebook.

In the process of building social networks and connections to friends, Facebook has also helped create networks of hate and, potentially, new pathways to extremism in Canada.

“It’s their primary tool for networking and advertising events,” one of the operators of the Twitter account Yellow Vests Exposed, which monitors incidents of hate and violence posted to social media by yellow vest protesters, told National Observer. “Without Facebook there would be no yellow vest movement in Canada.”

Extremism is a feature, not a bug

Members of the yellow vest movement are, in many ways, using Facebook exactly as it was meant to be used. They’ve created anextensive network of local and national chapters under Facebook’s “groups” feature, and created affiliated Facebook pages for many of those groups. They also use Facebook’s “events” feature to organize and advertise events across Canada.

This is what Facebook was designed for — and that’s why it’s so alarming to see what the platform has enabled in the case of Canada’s yellow vest movement. In the process of building social networks and connections to friends, Facebook has also helped create networks of hate and, potentially, new pathways to extremism.

The connection between the yellow vests’ online activity and the mounting real-world consequences couldn’t be clearer. MORE

RELATED:

What 35,000 political ads on Facebook reveal about Canada’s election-year message battle

Elizabeth Warren: Here’s how we can break up Big Tech

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Apple, Amazon, Google, and Facebook face a new and sweeping review of their activities by the US Department of Justice (DOJ).

Twenty-five years ago, Facebook, Google, and Amazon didn’t exist. Now they are among the most valuable and well-known companies in the world. It’s a great story — but also one that highlights why the government must break up monopolies and promote competitive markets.

Today’s big tech companies have too much power — too much power over our economy, our society, and our democracy. They’ve bulldozed competition, used our private information for profit, and tilted the playing field against everyone else. And in the process, they have hurt small businesses and stifled innovation.

…we need to stop this generation of big tech companies from throwing around their political power to shape the rules in their favor and throwing around their economic power to snuff out or buy up every potential competitor.

America’s big tech companies provide valuable products but also wield enormous power over our digital lives. Nearly half of all e-commerce goes through Amazon. More than 70% of all Internet traffic goes through sites owned or operated by Google or Facebook.

Elizabeth Warren puts a giant tech breakup billboard in San Francisco’s face Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

As these companies have grown larger and more powerful, they have used their resources and control over the way we use the Internet to squash small businesses and innovation, and substitute their own financial interests for the broader interests of the American people. To restore the balance of power in our democracy, to promote competition, and to ensure that the next generation of technology innovation is as vibrant as the last, it’s time to break up our biggest tech companies.

Using Proprietary Marketplaces to Limit Competition.

Many big tech companies own a marketplace — where buyers and sellers transact — while also participating on the marketplace. This can create a conflict of interest that undermines competition. Amazon crushes small companies by copying the goods they sell on the Amazon Marketplace and then selling its own branded version. Google allegedly snuffed out a competing small search engine by demoting its content on its search algorithm, and it has favored its own restaurant ratings over those of Yelp.

My administration would restore competition to the tech sector by taking two major steps:

First, by passing legislation that requires large tech platforms to be designated as “Platform Utilities” and broken apart from any participant on that platform.

Second, my administration would appoint regulators committed to reversing illegal and anti-competitive tech mergers. MORE

RELATED:

Big Tech’s US antitrust nightmare just got a whole lot worse

 

What Women Know About the Internet

The digital world is not designed to keep women safe. New regulations should be.

CreditCreditJoan Wong

Like too many women, I’ve been harassed online. The harasser described in explicit detail how he intended to violate me, though somehow his threats didn’t violate Twitter’s terms of service. Twitter, despite my repeated reports, did nothing.

So I did. I gradually tightened my privacy settings across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. I mostly stopped sharing personal, nonwork-related updates and deleted photos of my children; I haven’t posted new pictures for more than a year.

I’m a tech journalist, so perhaps I am extra-sensitive to the dangers of the internet. But my concerns are widely shared by other women.

Several studies have found that women are more concerned about privacy risks online than men and are more likely to keep their profiles private and delete unwanted contacts. Female Italian college students are less likely to share their political views and relationship status than men and are more concerned about risks posed by other users and third parties. Norwegian women post fewer selfies than Norwegian men.

In other words, digital privacy is a women’s issue. We just don’t think about it that way, or discuss it that way. Of course, privacy is a concern for everyone, but this is also an issue, like health care, on which women have a particular view. Women know, for example, what consent really means. It’s not scrolling through seemingly endless “terms of service” and then checking a box. Online consent, just as it is with our bodies, should be clear, informed and a requirement for online platforms. MORE

 

 

Scientific fact often takes a hit on social media

The use of social media is not always benign. Here are just three examples.

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According to research almost everyone who believes in flat Earth theory got started on YouTube.

Incredibly, more people than ever believe in a flat Earth. Google searches for “flat earth” have grown massively over the past five years and flat Earth conventions have begun popping up all over the globe. Landrum interviewed 30 people who attended one flat Earth convention and found that all but one became flat Earthers after watching videos on YouTubeSOURCE

Revealed: Facebook enables ads to target users interested in ‘vaccine controversies’

Social media platforms under pressure by US congressman to crack down on anti-vaccine propaganda, citing Guardian investigations on Facebook and YouTube and sending letters to Mark Zuckerberg and Google CEO Sundar Pichai urging them to take more responsibility for health-related misinformation on their platforms.  MORE

A UK parliamentary committee has accused Facebook of being “digital gangsters”

A new, independent regulator should oversee tech companies and ensure they abide by a compulsory ethics code, a UK parliamentary committee has concluded. The 108-page report into disinformation singled Facebook out for criticism. It said the company “intentionally and knowingly” violated both data privacy and anti-competition laws and called for further investigation into its business practices. MORE

Ocasio-Cortez takes Facebook, Microsoft, and Google to task for conference promoting climate denial

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Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shown at a political event in the Bronx borough of New York City on June 27, 2018. Photo by Corey Torpie

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) sent a letter to three of the nation’s biggest tech companies on Monday decrying their sponsorship of a conference this month that promoted climate change denial.

“The spreading of misinformation can be dangerous to our society.” #climate

As Mother Jones reported last week, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft all sponsored LibertyCon, a libertarian student conference held in Washington, DC. The event featured a group called the CO2 Coalition, which handed out brochures in the exhibit hall that said its goal is to “explain how our lives and our planet Earth will be improved by additional atmospheric carbon dioxide.”

One brochure claimed that “more carbon dioxide will help everyone, including future generations of our families” and that the “recent increase in CO2 levels has had a measurable, positive effect on plant life,” apparently because the greenhouse gas will make plants grow faster. The group also sponsored the conference and a talk titled “Let’s Talk About Not Talking: Should There Be ‘No Debate’ that Industrial Carbon Dioxide is Causing Climate Catastrophe?”

Ocasio-Cortez and Pingree, who are both making climate change a priority in the new Congress, were not pleased by the news. On Monday, they sent a letter to the CEOs of Google, Facebook, and Microsoft expressing their concern that the tech companies are contributing to the spread of misinformation about the reality of climate change despite their public commitment to reducing carbon emissions in their own operations. MORE