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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Michael Shellenberger Says It's Time for a Breakthrough on Climate Change (Part 2)

In the second and final part of our interview with Michael Shellenberger, the Energy Action Coalition and the Power Shift organizing and outreach team chat with the author of "The Death of Environmentalism" and the new book Break Through about the exciting "break through potential" of young climate activists and their role in the broader movement for climate solutions.

Part one of the interview can be found here.

Power Shift: What kind of impact do you see the youth climate movement having on electoral politics (especially the 2008 elections)? How can youth maximize their impact?

Michael Shellenberger: For students and young Americans to have a powerful impact they'll need to challenge the assumptions of the older generation of political and environmental leaders who often treat anyone under 30 as water-carriers for outmoded ideas.

What can be done to win action on global warming in Congress?

We need to shift our political and policy framework from a narrow focus on stopping global warming through pollution limits to an expansive vision of making clean energy cheap, creating jobs, and achieving energy independence through investment and innovation. Not only is this framework more in line with core American values of ingenuity, enterprise, and creativity, it is also far more popular.

Do you see the new generation of young climate activists as an opportunity to shift the prevailing mindset of the environmental movement?

Yes. Young Americans aren't yet locked into the older environmental movement's pollution paradigm and politics of limits, and thus tend to be more open to embracing a more expansive framework for dealing with the challenge. One place for that is through Breakthrough Generation, a new student group affiliated with the Breakthrough Institute, which was founded by Teryn [Norris] and Aden [Van Noppen]. They'll be having their first national meeting next January.

But, that being said, there are still plenty of young environmentalists who think like old environmental leaders.

What do you mean?

We are in the middle of a 16-city book tour [for Break Through], and invariable we are told, during the Q&A session afterwards, that there just isn't room for all seven billion of us on lifeboat Earth. Shockingly, we hear this dystopian view articulated by young people.

The old discourses of "overpopulation" and "the limits to growth" and "Earth's carrying capacity" are constantly being proven wrong because we humans are a creative, adaptive species. We can prove the dystopians wrong again — to do so, we'll need to offer a big, positive vision of the future that is backed by a huge investment in clean energy technology and infrastructure.

But isn't it true that there's not enough resources — or climate — for the Chinese to consume like we've been consuming?

If the Chinese burn all the coal and oil by 2050 that they are set to burn, we are in big trouble. We may already be in deep trouble – which means we should prepare for global warming while we prevent it.

But keep in mind that the Chinese and Indians and Brazilians aren't asking us for our permission to burn a lot of coal and oil. Right now national environmental leaders insist that China will follow the U.S. when we take action to limit pollution.

This is patronizing — and wrong. Grassroots environmental leaders suggest we should go to China and encourage a "grassroots movement" in China on global warming. This is equally patronizing and equally wrong.

What's the alternative?

Our work is here in the U.S., with an eye to the world. That means we should be putting forward a global vision of investment into clean energy — one made with our allies in Europe as well as with China — that results in a massive and rapid growth of solar, wind, geothermal, ocean and all of these other clean energy technologies. Developing economies will be sustainable to the extent that we invest in their development.

When you talk to people about climate change, what do you encourage them to do to make a difference?

There are things we must do as a nation and things we must do as individuals. As a nation, we need to make large, long-term investments into technology innovation and infrastructure to bring down the price of clean energy as quickly as possible. That's why Break Through is a book about politics. But it's also a book about human development — and the importance of a politics that supports individuality alongside community. As individuals, we believe our aim is to realize our unique potential to be creative, open, and expansive beings.

Does the youth climate movement have "breakthrough potential" and if so, how should young activists focus on harnessing this potential?

Yes. Younger Americans tend to be more comfortable with complexity and ambiguity than older Americans. They tend to be less nostalgic for how great things were in the good old days of the 1960s and 70s. They tend to be more comfortable with new technology. And they aren't as traumatized as many baby boomer liberals seem to be that somebody might accuse them of being a "tax and spend liberal" or "big government."

Would you say the younger generational is post-ideological?

I wouldn't go that far. But it's definitely becoming post-environmentalist.

Thanks to Michael for the interview. We look forward to unlocking the breakthrough potential of the youth climate movement.

For other interviews in this series see:

  • Michael Shellenberger Says It's Time for a Breakthrough - Part 1

  • Bill McKibben Says It’s Time to “Organize, Organize, Organize” for a Cleaner Future

  • ________________________________

    Michael Shellenberger is an author, political strategist and co-founder and president of the Breakthrough Institute. His most recent book is Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalist to the Politics of Possibility.

    More information, agenda and registration for Power Shift are available at and information on Energy Action Coalition is available at

    Check out It's Getting Hot In Here for frequent dispatches from the youth climate movement.

    Read more!

    Tuesday, October 30, 2007

    Michael Shellenberger Says It's Time For A Breakthrough on Climate Change (Part 1)

    Youth climate activists must shift their focus from simply avoiding the impending global warming apocalypse to articulating a vision of a new prosperous and sustainable clean energy economy, says Michael Shellenberger, Power Shift 2007 speaker and coauthor of the new book, Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility.

    Shellenberger - well-known for kicking up a stir with the controversial essay, "The Death of Environmentalism," co-authored with his "partner-in-crime" Ted Nordhaus in 2004 - is now the President of the Breakthrough Institute, a small think tank which focuses on a new kind of progressive politics.

    This weekend, Shellenberger will share his vision of a new, "post-environmentalist," progressive climate movement with attendees at Power Shift 2007, the first national youth climate summit, November 2nd-5th in D.C.

    Registration for Power Shift has topped 5,000 people, making the event the largest climate summit in history!

    Energy Action Coalition and the Power Shift organizing and outreach team recently chatted with Michael to get a sneak peak of what Power Shift attendees will be in store for this weekend.

    In this first part of the interview, Michael discusses his vision of a new investment-centric paradigm for the climate movement. In Part Two, we ask Michael about the exciting "break through potential" of young climate activists and their role in the broader movement for climate solutions.

    Power Shift: "The Death of Environmentalism," which you wrote before the November 2004 elections, was a seminal piece among young climate activists. It is currently being taught in most college environmental studies classes. What led you to write it?

    Michael Shellenberger: [Ted Nordhaus and I] wrote the essay because we were frustrated that the older generation of environmental leaders was stuck in an older pollution paradigm and a politics of limits that simply can't deal with the monumental challenge of global warming.

    At the time, you told that you released the essay at the annual meeting of environmental grantmakers because there was no other forum to have those kinds of conversations. Has that changed?

    It's changing. For example, it's great to see that Power Shift [the first national youth climate summit] is happening. Our hope is that a substantial group of young people will see the challenge we face as fundamentally intellectual and conceptual — not just strategic and tactical.

    This isn't simply a matter of mobilizing a few more campus groups or passing another city-wide or state-wide resolution about the need for pollution limits. Global warming is a civilization-wide challenge, one that demands our best thinking and largest selves.

    You criticize the pollution paradigm. But isn't global warming a pollution problem?

    Sure — but it's not just a pollution problem. It's connected to fundamental questions of economic development for very poor people in places like China and Brazil and India. And it's also a psychological challenge.

    But here's the biggest paradox: global warming can't be fixed through pollution limits alone. We might get to 30 percent emissions reductions by 2050 – in the U.S. But we need to reduce our emissions 80 percent by 2050. As importantly, we need a solution that will help countries like China and India – which aren't asking our permission to burn coal and oil – to achieve economic development while also reducing their emissions.

    How can that be done?

    The most important thing we can do is bring down the price of clean energy as quickly as possible. This requires huge breakthroughs in the price and performance of clean energy technologies like solar and wind. And that requires big public-private investment – on the order of $50 - $250 billion per year.

    Why should this message appeal to young climate activists?

    The vast majority of young people we meet who are concerned about global warming tell us that they are more inspired by a new vision of accelerating the transition to a global, clean energy economy than they are by the old vision of avoiding global warming apocalypse.

    You've been faulted for not being more specific.

    We wanted our book to reach a wider audience than environmental policy experts. That said, it's great that there's interest in policy questions. Young people in particular need to pay attention to what specific energy policies will do and what they won't do. For that reason we wrote a white paper called "Fast Clean Cheap" that will be published in the Harvard Law and Policy Review in January. We co-authored it with Teryn Norris, a sophomore at Johns Hopkins and Aden Van Noppen, a junior at Brown University. It can be downloaded from our web site.

    Is this what you mean by global warming being a "psychological challenge"?

    Yes, in part. We have to recognize that while global warming might be the biggest and most important issue for us personally, it may never be that for most Americans. It's notable that after "An Inconvenient Truth" came out, global warming actually declined in importance for most Americans, hovering around 15th out of 20 or so issues.

    What are the implications of that?

    We have to stop being so goddamn literal about this. Let's make this about national security. About prosperity. About clean energy jobs. Those are higher priorities for voters than global warming – and they help us to get the political action we need.

    Aren't regulations needed, too?

    Yes. They are needed to get the low-hanging fruit of emissions reductions through conservation, efficiency, and wind. But the big gains will come from investment. If done right, the global warming regulations being debated in Congress could generate the $50 to $250 billion per year we need.

    Stay tuned for Part Two of this interview with Michael Shellenberger (now online here). For other interviews in this series see:

  • Bill McKibben Says It’s Time to “Organize, Organize, Organize” for a Cleaner Future

  • ________________________________

    Michael Shellenberger is an author, political strategist and co-founder and president of the Breakthrough Institute. His most recent book is Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalist to the Politics of Possibility.

    More information, agenda and registration for Power Shift are available at and information on Energy Action Coalition is available at

    Check out It's Getting Hot In Here for frequent dispatches from the youth climate movement.

    Read more!

    Monday, October 29, 2007

    Bill McKibben Says It's Time to "Organize, Organize, Organize" for a Cleaner Future

    Bill McKibben has three pieces of advice for people who want to make a difference in the fight against global warming:

    "1: Organize. 2. Organize. 3. Organize," says the well-beloved author, educator, climate activist and co-founder of Step It Up.

    Only then does he add his fourth piece of advice: "After that, if they have some energy left, by all means change the light-bulbs."

    And to the young climate activists who are putting together a growing and increasingly sophisticated youth climate movement, McKibben says, "Keep it up!" This weekend, over 5,000 young leaders will converge in Washington D.C. for Power Shift 2007, the first-ever national youth climate summit, organized by the Energy Action Coalition. Back at home, tens of thousands more youth will be joining in hundreds of actions in their home communities as part of the second nationwide Step It Up day of action, November 3rd.

    Energy Action Coalition and the Power Shift organizing and outreach team caught up with Bill McKibben for a quick interview today to get his perspective on the upcoming youth climate events in DC and around the nation:

    Energy Action/Power Shift Team: With Power Shift on the horizon, what stage of development do you see the youth climate movement at? Where is it going next?

    Bill McKibben: This wave has just begun to build, and it's not even close to cresting. This will prove to be the biggest student movement—and the biggest social movement in general—since the end of the war in Vietnam.

    What do you consider the youth climate movement's biggest task after Power Shift?

    I think that it will increasingly join with the broader activist movement around climate change exemplified by the new 1Sky coalition. Important as it is to change campus policies, etc., the real fight is over federal policy.

    What kind of impact do you see the youth climate movement having on electoral politics (especially the 2008 elections)? How can youth maximize their impact?

    By making it clear that they are casting their votes on one primary issue—the transition to a new energy system.

    If you could give one piece of advice/say just one thing to the members of the youth climate movement, what would it be?

    Keep it up!

    What, in your estimation, will be the biggest deciding factor/have the biggest impact on making positive legislative as quickly as possible?

    How much political pressure we can muster. So far so good—efforts like StepItUp have changed the Capitol Hill debate a lot already, but they are nowhere near where they need to be be.

    What are you personally working on after Power Shift?

    We're trying out figure out how to help support an international grass roots movement.

    When you talk to people about climate change, what do you encourage them to do to make a difference?

    1--organize. 2--organize. 3--organize. 4--if they have some energy left, by all means change the light-bulbs.

    What is your favorite aspect of the "1 Sky" Principles?

    That they've been agreed on by the widest possible range of activists. We have a real chance to have a movement that doesn't factionalize, split apart on the basis of age, etc.

    Anything else you'd like to add?

    This weekend—the culmination of StepItUp, the glory of Power Shift, the launch of 1Sky—will be the most exciting and important few days in the history of the American fight for action against global warming!

    Thanks Bill for the interview and for all you're doing to help spark a movement, get organized, and make a difference!


    Bill McKibben is an author, environmentalist, activist and educator. His most recent books are Fight Global Warming Now: The Handbook for Taking Action in Your Community and Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future. He is a scholar in residence at Middlebury College in Vermont and the co-founder of Step It Up successfully led the organization of the largest demonstrations against global warming in American history. McKibben and the Step It Up crew are at it again, organizing another nationwide day of actions for this Saturday, November 3rd, 2007.

    More information, agenda and registration for Power Shift are available at and information on Energy Action Coalition is available at

    Read more!

    Saturday, October 27, 2007

    Global Warming Claims Island Community, Displaces 2,000 in Papua New Guinea

    The 2,000 residents of the Carteret Islands in Papua New Guinea are now some of the world's first climate change refuges, as rising sea levels driven by global warming have claimed their island homes. The residents of the low-lying South Pacific atolls have given up their 20-year losing fight against rising seas and will be resettled elsewhere in Papua New Guinea.

    [From Pacific Islands Report:]

    The Carteret Islands are almost invisible on a map of the South Pacific, but the horseshoe scattering of atolls in eastern-most Papua New Guinea is on the front line of climate change, as rising sea levels and storm surges eat away at their existence.

    For 20 years, the 2,000 islanders living there have fought a losing battle against the ocean, building sea walls and trying to plant mangroves. Each year, the waves surge in higher, destroying vegetable gardens, washing away homes and contaminating fresh water supplies.

    [Image: View of Huene Island in the Carteret's. Huene used to be one island but has now been bisected by rising seas. Fallen coconut trees in the foreground (on Iolassa Island) are also caused by the erosion of the coastline. Han Island, the largest in the group is in the distance.]

    Recently, Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare appropriated PGK4.1 million [US$1.4 million] to resettle PNG villagers affected by global warming.

    The funding was part of a PGK1.6 billion [US$569 million] supplementary budget handed down by Treasury and Finance Minister Patrick Pruaitch.

    Out of the PGK4.1 million funding, PGK2 million [US$712,000] will go to the Bougainville Autonomous Region’s Carteret Islanders.

    The local Bougainville government has an ongoing resettlement program which it hopes to complete by the end of the year.

    Rising sea levels will not only displace human populations. Coral reefs are expected to be affected by changes in ocean levels and sea surface temperatures.

    As a result, the communities that depend upon these marine resources will be affected as well.

    PNG’s Carteret islanders are destined to become some of the world’s first climate change refugees. Their islands are becoming uninhabitable, and may soon disappear below the waves.

    A decision has been made to move the islanders to the larger nearby Bougainville Island, a four-hour boat ride to the southwest.

    Ten families at a time will be moved once funds are released for the resettlement program.

    An IPCC has predicted that average sea levels are likely to rise between 9cm and 88cm (3.5 to 35 inches) by 2100.

    Read more!

    Friday, October 26, 2007

    White House Puts the Muzzle on CDC Testimony on Health Effects of Global Warming

    The White House is at it again, censoring expert testimony on Global Warming. This time the Bush Administration cut out over half of Center for Disease Control Director Julie Gerberding's Senate testimony on the public health effects of climate change.

    The White House PR machine first tried to pass the Administration's edits off as "minor edits." DeSmogBlog blows away that argument with a comparison between the Gerberding's original testimony and the final version after the White House got through with it.

    The White House cut the original version down from 3,100 words to only 1,500, completely wiping out whole sections on health related effects due to extreme weather, air pollution-related health effect, allergic diseases, water and food-borne infectious diseases, food and water scarcity and the long term impacts of chronic diseases and other health effects.

    Then the White House shifted tune, saying that they had removed the sections because they conflicted with findings from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

    Several Congressional Democrats, including Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chair, Barbara Boxer (D-CA), promptly called bull$h!t.

    Boxer's office published a paragraph-by-paragraph comparison of the deleted sections of Dr. Gerberding's testimony and the IPCC report on how climate change will affect public health.

    Needless to say, the comparison reveals striking similarities, not conflicting reports.

    According to

    Both [Dr. Gerberdin and the IPCC] raised virtually identical concerns: heat stress on vulnerable populations; the likelihood of respiratory illnesses from increased air pollution; the spread of waterborne infectious diseases; and more injuries from severe weather events such as wildfires.
    Nice try President Bush. What's the next lie ... er ... "spin", you want to put on this story?

    How many times do you need to lie to get impeached in this country? Just once when it comes to sex, but apparently at least a few dozen when it comes to beating the drums of war and fussing around with the fate of the world as we know it...

    [A hat tip to the crew at DeSmogBlog's excellent muckraking.]

    Read more!

    Wednesday, October 24, 2007

    Watch Out for the Echo-Boom: Why Politicians Had Better Start Paying Attention to the Millennial Generation

    80 million teens and twenty-somethings are ready to make their mark on American politics. Is the growing youth climate movement - now poised to explode off campuses and into the nation's capitol for Power Shift 2007, the first national youth climate summit - the vanguard of a new progressive, pro-environment youth political movement?

    By 2010, another 17.3 million young Americans will come of age, swelling the already sizable ranks of voting-age "Millennials" – those teens and twenty-somethings coming to age in the early years of the 21st century. At 80 million strong, the Millennial generation outnumbers even the Baby Boomers by 3 million and represents the single-largest demographic age group in electoral politics, according to a recent Mother Jones article ("The 50-Year Strategy", in the Nov/Dec 2007 issue).

    Polling data, recent voter turnout, and the swelling ranks and increasing coordination of the youth climate movement all demonstrate that this young generation is remarkably engaged, overwhelmingly progressive and pro-environment, and has largely rejected the "government-is-the-problem" conservative mentality that still dominates the general population (see table below).

    General PopulationVoting-age Youth (age 18-25)Issue
    agree that the federal government "is usually inefficient and wasteful"
    say regulating business "does more harm than good"
    say protecting the environment is at least as important as protecting jobs
    favor tax-financed, government-administered universal health care
    Source: "The 50-Year Strategy", Mother Jones, the Nov/Dec 2007 issue

    This young generation is razing the old stereotypes of the apathetic, unengaged youth that may have accurately characterized Generation Xers, as youth turnout in the past two elections hit the highest level in at least 20 years.

    And the Millennials aren't simply waiting for politicians to take notice and seemingly won't content themselves with limiting their impact to the ballot box. In fact, they're demanding to be noticed, as thousands get ready to storm our nation's capitol to flex some political muscle in the first-ever national youth climate summit, Power Shift 2007, and rally at nationwide Step it Up actions in November.

    According to, over 5,000 youth and students from across the country will soon explode off of campuses and converge on D.C. for Power Shift 2007, November 2nd-5th. With all 50 states represented, youth attending the conference will engage with solutions to global warming and learn how to effectively put solutions into practice as they cement the core of an increasingly sophisticated and coordinated nationwide youth climate movement.

    Power Shift's agenda includes issue briefings from leading scientists and policy experts, training sessions, an opportunities fair, and additional networking opportunities, all designed to connect young leaders and use their collective experience to focus action on America's greener, more prosperous future.

    That same weekend, tens of thousands more student and youth activists will join in hundreds of actions in their home communities as part of the second Step It Up nationwide day of action, Saturday, November 3rd (see

    Founded and organized by a group of Middlebury College students, recent grads, and their mentor, Bill McKibbon, Step It Up successfully organized 1,400 actions across the U.S. involving hundreds of thousands of citizens in their first nationwide day of action, April 14th, 2007. Thanks largely to these highly visible and well-attended actions – which demanded Congress “step it up” and cut carbon emissions 80% by 2050 – virtually all of the 2008 Democratic candidates for president are chanting the 80x2050"mantra in their stump speeches these days and striving to out-compete each other for the meanest, greenest energy plan. Sponsorship and support is also building behind bills in Congress that would tackle the climate crisis and put the 80x2050 plan into action.

    This November, the young minds behind Step it Up 2 will be at it again, this time joined by the thousands of participants at Power Shift 2007 to demand real action to address the climate crisis and secure the future of today's youth. On Monday, November 5th, the youth at Power Shift will carry reports and pictures of the hundreds of Step It Up actions into the offices of their senators and representatives, as thousands of young people descend on Capitol Hill to make their voices heard.

    If the increasing coordination, sophistication and activism of the youth climate movement is any indication, the Millennial generation has arrived on the political scene, and they are sure to make their mark.

    According to Mother Jones authors Simon Rosenberg and Peter Leyden:
    "[The Millennial] generation is politically engaged, votes in high numbers, and leans overwhelmingly Democratic. ... But the millennials' impact will show up beyond the ballot box. Polling data indicate that they are unusually civic minded (they volunteer at the highest level recorded for youths in 40 years, according to one study) and hold a wide range of progressive values ... [they] even believe in government again (Sixty-three percent think government should do more to solve the nation's problems)."
    As the authors conclude, "This generation is poised to become the core of a 21st century progressive coalition."

    It's clearly time for today's politicians to start paying serious attention to the Millennials – especially candidates in the 2008 elections.

    According to Rosenberg and Leyden, if people under age 29 had been the only voters in the 2004 election, John Kerry would have won by a landslide with 372 electoral votes. And in the 2006 midterms, "the same age group went for Democrats over Republicans by 22 percent - an almost unheard-of margin."

    When thousands of young people take to the streets in Step it Up actions and head to D.C. for Power Shift in a couple of weeks, politicians would be wise to take note. If they don't, they just might find themselves looking for a new job, as millions of young voters throw their support behind more progressive, pro-environment candidates committed to ending the climate crisis and protecting the future of the Millennial generation.


    Power Shift is organized by the Energy Action Coalition (, an alliance of more than 40 organizations from across the United States and Canada, founded and led by youth to help support and strengthen the student and youth clean energy movement in North America.

    Energy Action Coalition groups have successfully launched campaigns on over 600 college and high school campuses through the Campus Climate Challenge and successfully won commitments from 400 college and university presidents to work towards complete climate neutrality at their institutions.

    The blog “It’s Getting Hot in Here” ( is the Energy Action Coalition’s outlet for the voices of the growing youth movement on climate change, is regularly visited by tens of thousands of readers from across the globe.

    For more information on the Energy Action Coalition and its partners in Power Shift 2007:

    For information on Step it Up and the 1Sky Campaign:

    Read more!

    Monday, October 22, 2007

    Generation Anything-But-Quiet: Just Wait for the Noise at Power Shift 2007!

    The Youth Climate Movement is poised to explode off of campuses and into our nation’s capitol for PowerShift 2007, November 2nd-5th.

    Thomas Friedman, the popular New York Times columnist, recently labeled teens and twenty-somethings coming to age in the early years of the 21st century the “Quiet Generation.” Accusing today’s young people of being “too quiet, too online for [their] own good, and for the country's own good,” Friedman went on to say that today’s students and youth are “so much less radical and politically engaged than they need to be.” (See “'Generation Q' - the Quiet Americans,” New York Times, Oct. 10th, 2007)

    Well, in two weeks, Mr. Friedman – and the rest of the nation – will hear what this young generation really sounds like, and it will be anything but quiet! More than 3,300 young people will explode off of their campuses and away from the internet, descending – in person and in droves – on the nation’s capitol for Power Shift 2007, the first-ever national youth summit on global warming, November 2nd-5th.

    Power Shift will bring together thousands of students and youth from all 50 states to wrestle with our generation’s greatest challenge and our greatest opportunity: The climate crisis. At the conference, attendees will learn new skills, share ideas, connect with fellow activists and ultimately use their collective experience, enthusiasm and commitment to forge a powerful movement to end the climate crisis and make their innovative and inspiring new vision of a sustainable, just, and prosperous future a reality.

    The conference will be held November 2nd-5th in College Park, Maryland, just outside of Washington D.C. Power Shift’s agenda includes: keynote addresses from seasoned and inspiring activists, politicians, and leaders; up-to-the-minute issue briefings from the nation’s leading scientists and policy experts; expert-led training sessions on crucial movement-building skills including organizing, advocacy, and media relations; an “opportunities fair” featuring some of the country’s leading environmental employers; a lobby day on Capitol Hill; and plenty of opportunities for young activists to network and strengthen the bonds of a nationwide youth movement (see

    On Saturday, November 3rd, the activities of the thousands of young people attending Power Shift will join with and be amplified by the hundreds of actions taking place in communities across the nation as part of the second nationwide Step It Up day of action (

    April 14th, the first Step It Up day of action, saw over 1,400 events across the country involving hundreds of thousands of community-members, activists, and yes, youth, all calling for steep cuts in carbon emissions: at least 80% by 2050. The weekend of Power Shift, Step It Up activists will be at it again, and this time they’ll be asking who our nation’s real leaders are as they challenge politicians again to Step It Up!

    The attendees at Power Shift will join with the Step It Up organizers on Saturday night for the joint keynote events of both Power Shift and Step It Up. Many thousands more young people who aren’t going to make the trip to Power Shift will be back home organizing, recruiting for, and attending Step it Up events in their communities. Wherever there’s a successful Step It Up event, you can bet that there’s the fire, passion, and innovative ideas of a member of “Generation Anything-But-Quiet” somewhere behind it.

    And as if there won’t be enough packed into a weekend of organizing, training and action, on Monday, November 5th, more than a thousand youth and students will converge on Capitol Hill to flex their collective political muscle and do exactly what Mr. Friedman seems to think today’s young people are too timid to do – something most citizens are too timid to do – sit face-to-face with their representatives and senators, and speak the truth to power, demanding committed action to end the climate crisis.

    Monday’s giant lobby day will begin with a morning rally on Capitol Hill’s West Lawn featuring members of the House and Senate leadership and leaders in the youth climate movement as speakers before teams of young citizens head for scheduled lobbying meetings with House and Senate members from all 50 states. The House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming has also scheduled a hearing Monday afternoon where young people directly affected by climate change will speak out on the issue. Youth witnesses representing the Arctic north, Appalachia, the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, and other locations will testify on the urgency of the crisis and the importance of bold action.

    Throughout the Power Shift conference, at lobby day, and at Step It Up events across the nation, young people will join with concerned citizens of all ages to demand Congress takes immediate action to implement the “1Sky” Climate Initiative ( including:

    • creating 5 million new “green” jobs in the clean energy sector working to help save 20% of our energy by 2015;
    • immediately freezing climate pollution levels and cutting them at least 30% by 2020 and 80% by 2050;
    • and transforming our energy priorities from dirty, depleting, and often-imported fossil fuels to clean, renewable, and local energy sources, beginning with a moratorium on all new coal plants until they can safely dispose of their pollution.
    Lobby day attendees will also demand that Congress pass a strong energy bill this fall as a down payment on the serious cuts in carbon emissions we urgently need. A bill that includes the best elements of the energy packages passed earlier this year by the House and Senate (including strong fuel economy standards, a national renewable electricity standard, and the reinvestment of federal subsidies from fossil fuels into renewable energy and energy efficiency) will be a critical first step towards the sustainable, just, and prosperous future today’s young climate activists are committed to making a reality.

    After the Power Shift conference and lobby day, students and youth will return to their campuses and communities. They’ll probably be temporarily exhausted from all the action, but at the same time, they’ll be energized, empowered, and equipped to strengthen their nationwide movement and push for bold solutions on their campuses, in their communities, and in their state and national capitols.

    How’s that for quiet, Mr. Freidman?


    Power Shift is organized by the Energy Action Coalition (, an alliance of more than 40 organizations from across the United States and Canada, founded and led by youth to help support and strengthen the student and youth clean energy movement in North America.

    Energy Action Coalition groups have successfully launched campaigns on over 600 college and high school campuses through the Campus Climate Challenge and successfully won commitments from 400 college and university presidents to work towards complete climate neutrality at their institutions.

    The blog “It’s Getting Hot in Here” ( is the Energy Action Coalition’s outlet for the voices of the growing youth movement on climate change, is regularly visited by tens of thousands of readers from across the globe.

    For more information on the Energy Action Coalition and its partners in Power Shift 2007:

    For information on Step it Up and the 1Sky Campaign:

    Read more!

    Friday, October 19, 2007

    Oil Futures Rise Above $90 Per Barrel Before Falling ... For Now

    According to the New York Times, oil futures rose to a new record of over $90 per barrel before falling somewhat today.

    Prices began to retreat today as investors sold to lock into profits, but prices are expected to continue to push upwards into new territory in the days ahead, inching ever closer to $100 per barrel as speculators continue to drive the market.

    The Times reports that crude oil futures briefly passed $90 a barrel - rising as high as $90.07 - twice in electronic trading overnight, despite a growing consensus among analysts that the oil's underlying supply and demand fundamentals do not support such high prices.

    "This market has been hijacked by speculators," wrote Stephen Schork, a trader and analyst in Villanova, Pa., in a research note.

    According to the Times:

    Crude prices have jumped 28 percent since late August. The advance appears to be trickling down to consumers in the form of higher gas prices, and may result in higher heating prices this winter.

    Prices at the pump have risen 5.3 cents over the past four days, averaging $2.81 a gallon on Friday, according to AAA and the Oil Price Information Service. Meanwhile, heating oil costs are expected to jump more than 20 percent this winter.
    After last night's run-up in price, light, sweet crude for November delivery fell 87 cents to settle at $88.60 on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the Times reports.

    Overall, oil futures rose $4.91 this week, or 6 percent in a single week. Oil prices have risen from around $25 per barrel since 2002 to well over $80 per barrel in the past five years.

    Despite venturing into record territory this year in nominal terms, the price of oil is still below inflation-adjusted highs hit in early 1980. Depending on the adjustment, a $38 barrel of oil in 1980 would be worth $96 to $101 or more today, the Times reports.

    Read more!

    Tuesday, October 16, 2007

    Step It UP! and the Power of the Click


    Check out this recent op-ed in the L.A. Times by Bill McKibben on the internet, politics, and Step It Up 2007. The weekend of Power Shift 07, we're using the internet to get politicians back into communities around the country and asking for their plan to stop global warming - what other ways can our movement use the internet beyond the spread-the-word / fund-raise / information-sharing that we are doing now?

    The Power of the Click
    by Bill McKibben, LA Times, Oct. 16, 2007
    The Internet is a maturing technology now. It's reached the point where we're figuring out how to do things that don't involve gambling, shopping or looking at the scantily clad. Politics, for instance. Politics in whole new ways that might change the balance of power between politician and citizen.

    The 2004 election cycle saw one breakthrough. Especially on the left, candidates figured out how to raise money over the Web. Howard Dean was the pioneer. This time around, it's Barack Obama, who says he has amassed 300,000 contributors -- one American in 1,000 has given cash to his campaign, which is pretty remarkable.

    For 2008, though, activists are trying to turn the Internet into something more than an ATM. We're trying to take the candidates out of their game plans and make them answer to our concerns, right now, before the votes are cast and while there's still some leverage. We're trying to use electrons to pin them down.

    Those of us working on global warming, for instance, are focusing efforts this fall on Last spring, we used this website to coordinate 1,400 simultaneous rallies in all 50 states calling for deep cuts in U.S. carbon emissions. On Nov. 3, we're staging another series of gatherings across the country, this time aimed squarely at politicians, trying to see if there are some Al-Gores-in-waiting out there, ready to actually lead on this issue.

    Using a new "widget" -- a small, easy-to-share Web tool -- we're able to let people issue invitations to their politicians of choice to speak at these rallies. Since this project debuted early this month, more than 3,000 people have taken us up on it, inviting almost every member of Congress and all the presidential candidates. And some of those politicians are promising that they'll show up.

    This is new. In days of yore, if you were concerned about, say, global warming, you might write a letter to your congressman. You might research the presidential candidates to figure out which one was most aggressive about climate change, and then you might mail him a check. But the chance to work together with people around the country on a common cause was mostly reserved for "organizations" -- for environmental groups, say, with big buildings in Washington, calendars and boards of directors.

    In the Internet Age, though, new models emerge. When we ran those rallies last spring, we had help from the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council and many others -- but we also had hundreds upon hundreds of organizers who had never done anything like it before.

    In the course of six to eight weeks, they were able to parlay their e-mail lists of friends, family and contacts into geometrically expanding circles of potential protesters. For $100,000, we ran one of the largest days of environmental protest since the first Earth Day in 1970 -- and did it in the districts of members of Congress, not on the Mall in Washington.

    Now, with our new "invite tool," you can sit at your computer and in 10 minutes ask every one of your political leaders for an RSVP. It feels as though we're starting to make them respond to our agenda, not the other way around.

    We're finding, in other words, that a certain kind of organizing no longer requires years of groundwork. It requires a good idea and a well-written e-mail. has been working this terrain for years; now groups like ours are trying to figure out how to mix real-world and virtual politics, how to work the system as nimbly and with as much savvy as the K Street lobbyists. We can't come up with $1,000 for a plate of dinner, but we can muster 1,000 people in 1,000 different places to demand action.

    In certain ways, it's a lousy time to be coming of age -- those satellite photos last month of the rapidly melting Arctic ice cap foreshadowed a century that will be spent trying to deal with the greatest threat to stability that human civilization has ever encountered.

    But the moment has also given us a new set of tools for connection. The fight against global warming requires all kinds of technology -- solar panels and windmills, but also servers and routers.

    Bill McKibben, a scholar in residence at Middlebury College, is co-founder of and coauthor of the just-published "Fight Global Warming Now."
    Click here to see the article at

    Read more!

    New Zealand Bans New Fossil Fuel Power Plants!

    New Zealand electricity producers face a 10-year moratorium on all new gas- or coal-fired power plants to help the country reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The nation's Prime Minister also commits to 90% renewable electricity by 2025.

    Electricity producers in New Zealand are now barred from constructing any new fossil fuel power plants for the next ten years, according to

    New Zealand already produces about 70 percent of its power from non-polluting and renewable energy sources, including wind, hydro-electric and geothermal generators. New Zealand's Prime Minister, Helen Clarke, recently announced intention to commit to 90% renewable electricity by 2025 and the government is blocking construction of new gas-fired power plants to speed investment in wind and geothermal energy.

    Eventually, the Prime Minister (pictured below) would like to see the country carbon-neutral. “I have set out the challenge to our nation to become the first truly sustainable nation on earth … to dare to aspire to be carbon neutral," Prime Minister Clarke said.

    The Prime Minister also gave a brief outline of further goals, which included a 2040 target of reducing by half per capita emissions from transport and widely introducing electric vehicles. She also stated the goal of achieving a net increase in forest area of 250,000 hectares (617,000 acres) by 2020.

    “The long-term benefits of becoming a sustainable nation will spread beyond our national reputation and success in business to benefit all New Zealanders,” Prime Minister Clarke added.

    Both announcements come as the government releases the New Zealand Energy Strategy, the New Zealand Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy and the Transport Strategy Implementation Plan.

    Well there's an example of how you set your priorities if you are truly committed to the sustainable, just, and prosperous energy future we should all be striving for. Complete carbon neutrality is the ultimate objective for developed nations, and New Zealand seems committed to showing us the way. Bravo!

    Read more!

    Saturday, October 13, 2007

    Building a Brilliant Future: We Need Your Brains!

    I have spent the last two days talking to and listening to Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger, of Death of Environmentalism Fame/Infamy, and the question they always are asked is, what is your positive vision for the future? Well, I will be doing a full review of the book soon, but the question is being asked of the wrong people. Tom Friedman got it seriously wrong, as well. The activists engaged in the Youth Climate Movement are the most innovative, creative, and brilliant creators of a green future and are both inspired by and engaging with the "bright green" thinkers that are launching a community thinking experiment online. If you have never gone to WorldChanging, go there. Now. Then come back.

    Friedman wants us to hit the streets, Gore wants us to encircle bulldozers. Sure, done that. Will, do more. But they value us for our passion, our bodies, our commitment. But they don't value us for our ideas, our minds. That just makes us feel like exploited dates. The diversity of solutions launched by the Campus Climate Challenge, by our efforts to challenge the rest of society to act by building carbon neutral campuses and a clean energy economy, is awe inspiring. We have designed better bio-reactors for biodiesel from waste, clean energy investment funds, green building innovations by the score, alternative transportation systems, dense campus-community development plans, erected utility scale wind turbines, researched best practices for every major system the microcosm of a campus uses, launched fair trade me, I can go on.

    The Solar Decathlon on the mall right now represents pioneering developments in sustainable housing by student teams, the EPA's national design for sustainability competition is, you guessed it, for student teams. We are designing a brilliant future, today. There are some smart initiatives to get our ideas valued, check out the Roosevelt Institution and submit your brilliant policy ideas, like these. But policy is just part of it. We can communicate our ideas to each other, here, or elsewhere online. I promise I will fight for the resources to we can do just that and I know others will join me. So come to Power Shift 2007, and bring your thinking caps as much as your boots, cause we got work to do!

    A word of caution, Big NGOs, talking heads, and others will want us to protest, to act, to support their ideas. But policies like Cap and Auction or even a Big Federal Investment in Clean Energy RnD, while they have tremendous value, leave the job of innovation, launching the projects, ideas, businesses, and community efforts, to others. They want to light the spark of creative imagination, but they don't always value those who have already lit it and and are showing it to the world. Hold your head up high, whether you take an internship or a job where you aren't valued because you are young, learn as much as you can but remember you can build a brilliant future, with the power of your ideas.

    Read more!

    Thursday, October 11, 2007

    Rep. Ed Markey vs. Toyota On New Fuel Economy Standards

    The supposedly "green" automaker, Toyota, is fighting tougher fuel economy legislation that would save American consumers billions of dollars and put a major dent in the United States' oil addiction.

    Some of you may have missed the buzz kicked up recently by a nationwide campaign to put the heat on Toyota for lobbying against tougher fuel economy standards. The campaign, coordinated by NRDC , the National Environmental Trust, the Union of Concerned Scientists and others is focused on calling out the fact that Toyota, maker of the 46-mpg hybrid Prius, is joining with the Big Three Detroit automakers to lobby hard against a proposed increase in fuel economy standards to 35 miles per gallon (MPG) by 2020.

    The Senate passed an energy bill including a 35 mpg by 2020 standard and the House is currently considering similar legislation (in the form of the Markey-Platts bill). Toyota, who often touts their fuel-efficient hybrid Pruis, Camry and Highlander models and markets itself as a "green" car company, is lobbying hard against the 35 mpg by 2020 standard and supporting the significantly more industry-friendly Hill-Terry bill (HR 2927) as part of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (which also includes General Motors, Ford and Chrysler).

    New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman helped spread the word about Toyota and Detroit's shenanigans in a column last week and media and grassroots events across the country continue to put pressure on Toyota for fighting increased fuel economy standards.

    In response to the pressure, Toyota issued this statement:

    There are various bills before Congress that would mandate a new target of 35 mpg by 2020 and require both cars and trucks to meet that standard. Our engineers tell us the requirements specified by these proposed measures are beyond what is possible. Toyota spends $23 million every day on research and development but, at this point, the technology to meet such stringent standards by 2020 does not exist.

    Toyota has long supported an increase in the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards. Moreover, Toyota has always exceeded federal fuel economy requirements. We are continuously striving to improve our fuel economy, regardless of federal mandates. [emphasis added]

    Representative Edward Markey, chair of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming and sponsor of the House 35x2020 proposal has personally challenged Toyota's claims that meeting the 35 mpg by 2020 fuel economy standards in the Senate Energy Bill would be "impossible."

    In a press release last week, Rep. Markey said:
    Toyota, intent on keeping its image as a “green” company, has responded to calls of fuel economy obstructionism by telling their customers that higher fuel economy standards being considered in an energy bill before Congress are “impossible.” Yet a thorough analysis of international fuel economy standards clearly shows that Toyota is already meeting—and exceeding—the 35 mile per gallon standard in the energy bill. In Japan.

    “Apparently the only thing that separates Toyota from the ‘impossible dream’ of 35 miles per gallon here in the U.S., is a flight across the Pacific Ocean,” said Chairman Edward J. Markey of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. “The International Date Line is an invisible barrier for fuel efficiency that Toyota is unwilling to cross.”

    Toyota claims that Japan does not have mandatory fleet standards comparable to the United States. This is not true. In Japan, the government first imposed weight-based fuel economy standards in 1999 and revised them in 2006 “because the majority of vehicles sold in Japan in 2002 already met or exceeded the 2010 standards,” according to a July 2007 report by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT). The same report says Japan’s fuel economy is currently at 41 mpg, and will have a fleetwide fuel economy of about 47 mpg in 2015 – 5 years before the 35 mile per gallon energy bill requirement is due to be met in the United States. A chart from the report on fuel economy levels around the world is included below (click to enlarge).
    The graphic also reveals the lie in GM, Ford and Chrysler's assertions that building vehicle efficient enough to meet the 35 mpg standard is impossible. All three companies already sell thousands of vehicles every year in Canada, Australia and China where fuel economy standards far exceed those in the U.S. and all three operate in Europe where standards are already higher than the 35 mpg standard the automakers are fighting so hard.

    So why are Toyota and Detroit fighting so hard against standards that will require them to achieve average fuel economy levels 13 years from now that they are already achieving today in Europe and Japan and will and will need to meet in just a few years in China, Australia and Canada?

    Why do these automakers insist on blocking the biggest step towards energy independence and increased energy security Congress has taken in decades?

    If you want to tell Toyota it's time to do as their slogan says, and truly get "moving forward," head over to the NRDC's site here.

    And click here to tell your representatives that you want to see the strongest elements of both the House and Senate energy packages make it into the final energy bill and onto the President's desk!

    [A hat tip to Hill Heat's the Cunctator]

    Read more!

    Wednesday, October 10, 2007

    Listen Up Friedman!

    This morning, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, who's been consistently and vehemently writing about the need for a clean energy revolution for the past several years, just threw down the gauntlet, and he's calling out members of my young generation!

    In this morning's article, he called us "'Generation Q' - the Quiet Americans" and accused us of being "too quiet, too online for our own good, and for the country's own good," saying we're "so much less radical and politically engaged than they need to be."

    Well, Mr. Freidman is right about one thing: Facebook "causes" and email petitions just won't cut it!

    But he's wrong if he thinks young people aren't organizing and building a movement that will do exactly what he challenges us to do: stand face to face to power and demand our chance to build a sustainable, just and prosperous future!

    For proof, Mr. Friedman should listen up to these events:

    On November 3rd, hundreds of thousands of young people will join community members in actions across the nation as part of Step it Up! 2, a national day of action demanding our leaders Step it UP! and take action on climate change.

    November 2nd-5th, more than 2,500 students and young activists will join together at the first national youth climate change conference, PowerShift 2007, in College Park, Maryland.

    And on January 31st, 2008, we’ll use our campuses to host nationwide, simultaneous education symposium on the climate crisis and demand attention from our elected officials as part of Focus the Nation.

    In addition to these national actions, dozens of local and regional groups have formed, driven by the energy, optimism and determination of students and young activists. Check out the voice of the youth climate movement at

    Mr. Friedman better listen up, because he’ll soon find that young Americans are anything but quiet when it comes to securing our future!

    Read more!

    Tuesday, October 02, 2007

    Two More Good Posts On Nordhaus and Shellenberger's Break Through

    To wrap up (I think) the discussion here on Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger's provocative ideas and new book, Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility (see previous posts here and here), I wanted to refer you to two more excellent posts on the topic:

  • Chris Mooney has a post at DeSmog Blog entitled: "Nordhaus and Shellenberger: Overselling the Right Message" that's worth checking out.

  • David Roberts has an excellent reply to Nordhaus and Shellenberger at GristMill in which he makes the excellent observation that N&S have both too much and too little faith in the power of markets.

    And of course, you should probably pick up a copy of N&S's book, Break Through and see what all the fuss is about yourself. There's a lot of good stuff in there. Happy reading...

    Read more!
  • "Proof" That Aliens Support Renewable Energy!

    This just in: we now have photographic proof that alien beings visited a cornfield in Iowa recently, "voicing" their support for a clean energy future...

    OK, so I lied. It's not proof of alien beings, or that they love wind power. Actually, this little stunt was pulled by Greenpeace activists. Clever though, and a nice piece of art...

    [A hat tip to Chris Mooney at The Intersection]

    Read more!

    Monday, October 01, 2007

    Two Environmentalists Anger Their Brethren: More on Shellenberger and Nordhaus

    Wired Magazine has a good interview with Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus, authors of "The Death of Environmentalism" and the new book Break Through. The two have been kicking up a bit of controversy with their unflinching critique of the traditional environmental movement and their vision of a new "post-environmentalism" (see previous post).

    The interview gets into the two authors' experiences with the environmental movement and their motivations for writing their provocative essay and book.

    From Wired:

    For angry heretics on the run, Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger sure know how to enjoy themselves. Sitting in a cozy Berkeley restaurant just a few blocks from San Francisco Bay, exchanging tasting notes on the vermentino ("cold white wine is so good with fatty, fried food," Shellenberger says), they recount with perverse pleasure, in tones almost as dry as the wine, how they've been branded as infidels by fellow environmentalists. It started in 2004, when they published their first Tom Paine-style essay accusing the movement's leaders of failing to deal effectively with the global warming crisis. "We thought that someone was going to take a swing at us," Shellenberger says. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope published withering counterattacks, and the two men were dubbed "the bad boys of American environmentalism" by author Bill McKibben.

    Full story at Wired.

    Read more!