Youth-Led Climate Actions

Progressive Christian Social Action

Youth-Led Climate Campaigns

I often walk along a canal in the woods near my home.  One day, while walking there with my teenage granddaughters and two of their friends, our talk turned from light-hearted banter to the state of the planet.  Sixteen-year-old Darren said, “When I think of the future, it’s hard to be optimistic…  The media feeds you a lot of negativity.” We all walked silently as his words sunk in. The other kids seemed to agree with him. I agreed with him. But hope is different than optimism, so I shared a few words of comfort and hope.

While we need to take the warnings of climate scientists seriously, being stuck in powerlessness and despair doesn’t help. There are actions we can take that not only make us feel more hopeful, but that improve prospects for the future and make the world a more hopeful place.  And in many cases, young people are leading the way, making clear the extremity of our situation and showing us that we need to treat climate change as the emergency that it is.

Two months after the walk I took with the young people along the canal, several of these teens, including Darren, attended a climate change agents’ camp organized by Full Circle Learning, a locally-based international nonprofit that has worked in thirty countries to equip children and youth to become agents of change. At the camp they learned about mitigating climate change by reducing their carbon footprints, adapting to climate change by becoming resilient and helping build resilient communities, educating others, and acting in solidarity with people who are suffering immediate harm caused by climate change in vulnerable countries.

I later asked Darren how the climate change agents’ camp had impacted him. He said it had helped him in several ways. He acknowledged that the media does show some positive stories of people working to bring about change, but that “it’s more believable to be among people who are actually working for change.” He also spoke of hope: “It helped to be with people living, eating, and sleeping together while working toward the common goal of conserving the world. Sharing the same passion gives me a sense of hope and obligation to act upon that hope.” He added, “It gives me a sense of security to know we have the support of our prior generations.  It helps to know we have someone older than us backing us up.”

This is a time of global turmoil and great challenge. Young people are taking action on climate change around the world, and in many cases leading the way, but we need to back them up. Tomorrow night I will be giving a presentation at the Madelyn Helling Library on the following youth-led campaigns:

Juliana vs. the United States is an ongoing high-stakes lawsuit in which 21 young people, supported by Our Children’s Trust, are suing the federal government for violating their rights to life, liberty, and property by knowingly enacting policies that cause climate change. The lawsuit was filed in 2015 by a group of young people who claim a constitutional right to “a climate system capable of sustaining human life” and charge that the US government is violating that right through policies that promote climate change. They are calling on the court to order the federal government to enact and implement a “National Climate Recovery Plan” that would restore atmospheric levels of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) to 350 parts per million, stabilize the climate, and de-acidify the oceans. Both the Obama and Trump administrations have tried to have this case dismissed, but judges have refused to do so. The court has already ruled that the plaintiffs have “the right to a climate system capable of supporting human life,” that “air, running water, sea, and the seashore” are public trust assets, and that the government “has failed to protect them.” The court has also ruled that this case will not be about whether climate change is real or human-caused because “the science is undisputed.” Some have called this “the trial of the century.”

Fossil Fuel Divestment: The campaign to get institutions to divest from fossil fuels emerged in 2010 on US college and university campuses, with students urging their administrations to turn their investments in the fossil fuel industry into investments in clean energy and communities most impacted by climate change. In 2012, 350.org launched their Go Fossil Free Campaign, which calls on colleges, universities, cities, religious institutions, and pension funds to withdraw their investments from fossil fuel companies. To date, $11 trillion has been divested from coal, oil, and gas 350.org makes clear that climate change is a moral issue and explains that “It’s wrong to profit from wrecking the planet.” Campaigns for institutional divestment are active and growing around the world.  Colleges and universities continue to lead the way.

The Sunrise Movement is a multi-race grassroots movement of young people (ages 13 to 35) who have been training leaders and organizing locally and globally since 2017. Sunrise has been a central force in developing and lobbying for a Green New Deal. In the 2018 national election, the Sunrise Movement endorsed 30 candidates. Nineteen of them were elected. The Sunrise Movement advocated for a Democratic debate on climate change; their actions resulted in a town hall with the leading candidates.  They recently endorsed their first congressional candidate for 2020, Audrey Denny, who is running against Representative Doug La Malfa in the First Congressional District.  The Sunrise Movement website says, “We are not looking to the right or left.  We look forward. Together we will change this country and this world, sure as the sun rises each morning.”

The Last Chance Alliance is a California climate justice alliance that includes hundreds of organizations. Many of its leaders are young people whose communities are being negatively impacted by fossil fuel extraction, transport, and processing. They are calling on Governor Newsom to stop issuing oil and gas permits altogether and to institute 2500 foot-setbacks from oil and gas wells for schools and residential areas. In September 2018, “Brown’s Last Chance” demonstrations outside the Global Action Climate Summit in San Francisco focused on the same goals. These demonstrations included cooperation between indigenous people from as far away as the Amazon and young people from impacted communities, including those who live in Richmond near the Chevron refinery and in Kern County near fracking operations. They call on California’s governor and legislators to abandon false solutions and to work toward an immediate, just, and effective transition away from fossil fuels.

Extinction Rebellion Youth is a “network for everyone born after 1990.” It is aligned with the larger Extinction Rebellion Movement. “We are a generation that has never known a stable climate and that will be defined by how the world responds to the climate and ecological crisis.” They call for nonviolent direct action to amplify the voices of people calling for structural change in order to persuade governments to take strong action on climate change.

The Global Climate Strike, scheduled for September 20-27 2019, is an outgrowth of Fridays for Future, a global youth movement that was started by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg.  Greta started going on strike from school every Friday to highlight the climate emergency.  She asks, “Why study for a future that may not be there?” Friday for Future strikes have caught on; varied actions have taken place in countries around the world. Now Greta and other climate strikers are calling for people of all ages to show support for them by participating in a Global Climate Strike. People have responded by organizing strikes, demonstrations, and other actions in 150 countries. It is expected to be the largest global climate action ever.

Young people around the world are rising to the challenges posed by climate change.  They are:

  • Educating themselves and others, acting to build resilient communities, and reaching out to those who are suffering first and worst from climate change
  • Filing court cases claiming their fundamental right to a stable climate
  • Calling on institutions to divest from fossil fuels
  • Advocating for a Green New Deal
  • Engaging in solidarity actions with young people in indigenous and other vulnerable communities
  • Calling on leaders to make systemic changes in order to create climate solutions that will really work.

Our action or our inaction will impact not only today’s children and youth, but generations into the distant future. What are we willing to do to offer our youth a hopeful future through our actions?  How well are we backing them up?

Websites Related to Youth Actions for the Climate:

Our Children’s Trust, with Juliana vs. The United States: https://www.ourchildrenstrust.org/. This website also includes the 60 Minutes program: The Climate Change Lawsuit that Could Stop the US Government from Supporting Fossil Fuels.

The Sunrise Movement:  https://www.sunrisemovement.org/

“Sunrise Movement, the Force Behind the Green New Deal, Ramps Up Plans for 2020,” in Rolling Stone:  https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-features/sunrise-movement-green-new-deal-2020-828766/

Go Fossil Free, an overview of colleges and universities that have ongoing campaigns or have divested:  https://campaigns.gofossilfree.org/efforts/fossil-fuel-divestment-colleges-universities.

Institutions divested from fossil fuels: https://gofossilfree.org/divestment/commitments/

College and University campaigns: campaigns.gofossilfree.org/efforts/fossil-fuel-divestment-colleges-universities.  Over $11 trillion divested: https://www.commondreams.org/news/2019/09/09/people-power-winning-fossil-fuel-divestment-movement-celebrates-11-trillion

Last Chance Alliance: https://lastchancealliance.org/

Read the stories of impacted communities:  https://lastchancealliance.org/stories/

Extinction Rebellion Youth: https://www.xryouth.org/about

Global Climate Strike: https://globalclimatestrike.net/

Fridays for Future: https://www.fridaysforfuture.org/

Naomi Klein interviews Greta Thunberg, with presentations by other youth, including plaintiffs in the lawsuit:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vw58ckJdDmI&fbclid=IwAR2f-9I9p7R2pNI477YnXXaocKI-Tn1WbIMnSYXYSeBCS0JD6Ea3zyDCv9s

“A Message from the Future” video, with Alexandria Octavio Cortez: https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=a+future%2c+AOC&&view=detail&mid=65A1D4302730C5C9935B65A1D4302730C5C9935B&&FORM=VDRVRV

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Other blog postings about climate change can be found here.  

Global Climate Strike

Progressive Christian Social Action

Global Climate Strike

In a recent article, climate leader Bill McKibben challenged adults to offer support to children and youth who face accelerating climate change by joining in upcoming Global Climate Strike actions. He asked, “On what kind of world do we expect 15-year-olds to tackle our biggest problems by themselves?”

Those of us who care, including people of faith, need to offer our support to young people who are calling for bold action on climate change. Around the world, young people are rising to this challenge with passion and dedication that elude most of us who are older and more immersed in what we consider realistic within the current social and political state of affairs. As climate-related disasters become more common, young people are exposed to the impacts and dangers of climate change. They also face other related social and environmental challenges. Few young people have the means to invest in electric cars or solar panels; many do not have the political power that comes with the vote. They know that they have not caused climate change, but that it will impact them and their descendants into the future. For these reasons, they call not only for lifestyle change but for climate justice, which will entail broad social and political change.

The Global Climate Strike, scheduled for the week of September 20 through 27, is an outgrowth of Fridays for Future, a global youth movement that was started by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg. Greta started going on strike from school every Friday to highlight the climate crisis.   She asks, “Why study for a future that may not be there?” Friday for Future strikes have caught on; varied actions have taken place in countries around the world. Now Greta and other climate strikers are calling for people of all ages to show support by participating in a Global Climate Strike. People have responded by organizing strikes, demonstrations, and other actions in over 150 countries. It is expected to be the largest coordinated global climate action ever. Over 500 actions are scheduled in the United States alone. To find an action near you, go to https://strikewithus.org/ or https://globalclimatestrike.net/.

According to globalclimatestrike.net, “Our only hope of achieving the sweeping transformation we need to save our futures is with the power of a mass movement.” Fortunately, the climate justice movement continues to grow and gain momentum, illustrated by the words on a banner at a climate march, “The seas are rising and so are we.”

The Global Climate Strike is one example of young people acting to secure their future by highlighting the fact that we are in a climate emergency. But this can’t be their task alone. They are asking for us to join them in these actions.  They are asking for our help. “Elders need to act like elders,” said Bill McKibben.  “If a kid says help, you help.”

In a speech at the 2019 World Economic Forum, Greta Thunberg said, “Adults keep saying we owe it to the young people to give them hope. But I don’t want your hope… I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act, I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if the house was on fire, because it is.” In a TED talk, Greta later clarified: “Yes, we do need hope—of course, we do. But the one thing we need more than hope is action. Once we start to act, hope is everywhere. So instead of looking for hope, look for action. Then, and only then, hope will come.”

In this time of great suffering and danger, when many feel disheartened and powerlessness, Greta urges us to take action.  In the words of Joan Baez, “Action is the antidote for despair.”

 

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Sharon’s other blog postings about climate change can be found here.  

Guest Post: We Will Not Be Controlled

 

Progressive Christian Social Action

Good Friday Guest Post by Mark Davies, see the original at One World House:

We Will Not Be Controlled

In our desire to leap past Good Friday to Easter, we tend to forget that Jesus was a human person. He felt pleasure and pain. He had hopes and fears. He had moments of laughter, and he wept. He had friends and family whom he loved deeply. When he died, he had so much to live for.

Yet Jesus could not keep from speaking out for love. He could not keep from turning over the tables of corruption and injustice. He could not keep from calling out hypocrisy and greed. He could not keep from spending time with persons with whom “respectable” religious leaders were not supposed to be around. He could not keep from proclaiming good news for the poor and oppressed, and good news for the poor and oppressed was not seen as good ness by the wealthy and the oppressors. He could not keep from challenging the power of the empire with a different kind of power, and for this, the empire brutally and publicly murdered him.

Whatever one thinks about what happened to Jesus on the Sunday after Good Friday, may we never lose sight of the person Jesus was – a person who lived and loved so fully that he could not give up on turning over tables for the most vulnerable in his community. May we never lost sight of what led him to the cross – the corrupt power of a colonial empire threatened by the radical Beloved Community of justice that Jesus called for with his life.

If we focus too much on the resurrection and lose sight of Jesus as a person who lived, laughed, cried, hoped, feared, loved, suffered, and died; then we run the risk of missing what the radical vision of Jesus can bring to this life by focusing too much on the next. Jesus reminds us that we are to love, be present with, and seek justice for the poor, the sick, the hungry and thirsty, the naked, the homeless, the prisoners, the outcasts, the vulnerable, and the oppressed in this life.

Empires like for their people to focus on the afterlife as a way to maintain control over them in this life. Jesus lived and loved for so much more than what life will be after we die. He did not simply live to be a human sacrifice for our sins.

When the empire murdered Jesus they thought they had controlled him. They thought they had killed the movement of love and justice he created, but Jesus would not be controlled. The Empire, however, never stops trying to control those who follow this way of radical love and justice in this world…. On this Good Friday, may we live and love in resolve that like Jesus, we will not be controlled.

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Hearts and Ashes

Progressive Christian Social Action

Hearts and Ashes

Today is both Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.  I usually observe both.  My mother Ruth’s birthday was on February 14, so I’ll be carrying her with me all day (as I often do). This evening, I’ll go with two of my granddaughters while they hand out hand-made valentines at a residence for seniors.  Then tonight, Guari and I will celebrate our love by going out Salsa dancing, for the first time in a long while.

Ash Wednesday is a whole different kind of observation.  I’ll jog to town for the noon service, which includes the imposition of ashes, and I’ll hear again the biblical call to repentance and the reminder of our mortality: “Remember, O mortal, that you are dust, and to dust you will return.”

I am grateful for the love that blesses my life and for the divine love which surrounds and enlivens us.  At the same time, I grieve for the ways that I participate in and am complicit in institutions and systems that cause harm.  The “Powers that be” are corrupted by money, dominated by corporations, supported by hierarchical religions and ideologies, and enforced by violence, with the ultimate sanction being death. Current harm includes: immigration policies that scapegoat our young (the Dreamers) and  separate families, a tax bill that gives tax breaks to the wealthy and to  corporations while cutting benefits for poor and working class people, a proposal to cut SNAP (food stamps) benefits, the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure and the locking in of a future of ever-accelerating climate change, using the shock of Hurricane Maria to privatize Puerto Rico’s electrical grid, developing more useable nuclear weapons along with a doctrine that makes them more likely to be used, destroying cities in Iraq in the fight against ISIS while refusing to rebuild or give aid to repair the damage because “We’re not in the business of nation-building,” and the current popularity of a form of Christianity that seems to be the antithesis of what Jesus lived and taught.  These are just a few.  The list goes on.

Ash Wednesday and the whole forty days of Lent give me an opportunity to repent for my participation, to resist the dehumanizing influence of the Powers, to renounce their bribes, to rebuke them by calling them to repentance, and to recall the Love in which we “live and move and have our being.”

Love is what motivates me to observe this day and this season. My understanding of the “good news” proclaimed and demonstrated by Jesus is that “God is love.”  This means to me that love is the ultimate Reality, the power that brought the universe into being, the Ground of Being, the Source and End of all things.  If this is true (and I stake my life on it), then living out of that love is the purpose and meaning of life.  And, as Jesus demonstrated, this means acting in solidarity with those who are marginalized, nonviolently resisting the Powers that threaten us (or those who are most vulnerable), and creating an alternative community of inclusion, based on love.

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Cross Country by Train

 

 

As some of you know, last year I traveled cross county by train—not once, but twice.  The first time was to Washington DC, in September, to work with a team of United Methodists from around the world on updating the “Natural World” section of our denomination’s Social Principles.  The second time, I got a one-month rail pass and presented my book, Love in a Time of Climate Change, at several East Coast venues.  I spent Thanksgiving with my sister in Asheville, North Carolina, where I also presented my book.

One of the benefits of traveling by train is a sense of “freedom from the bondage of time.”  There are none of the usual demands of life while going long distance by train.  I eat when I’m hungry and sleep when I’m tired, visit with a fellow passenger now and then, meditate as I gaze out at the scenery, and get out for occasional “fresh air breaks” at various stations.  I settle in to the rhythm and am comforted by the sound of the train’s whistle up ahead.  I trust that I am being carried to my destination.  And in between, I write, write, write, listening for the inspiration of the Spirit.

Long-distance train trips function as writing retreats for me.  On both trips, as I was traveling with my newly-released book, I was also working on a Second Edition to Shaking the Gates of Hell, my first book.  I was working under deadline, and sure enough, I got the draft of updates and edits submitted to my publisher in mid-December, two weeks before the end-of-year deadline.

Now it’s in their hands, and eventually I’ll get their suggestions back, then typeset pages for me to proof, and finally, the book itself.  The Second Edition of Shaking the Gates of Hell is scheduled to be released later this year.

My challenge in these days is to continue living free from the bondage of time, amidst the many demands and opportunities that each day presents.  I know that especially as an activist, it’s easy to take on too much, trying to fill whatever need I see.  There have been times when I’ve taken on so much that I feel like I’m on a train that’s taking me further and further from where I want to be, so that I can hardly remember why I got on in the first place.  I end up running on automatic.  Then I crash… and I have to stop, re-evaluate, limit my commitments, and make more realistic (and humble) choices.

I understand that not everyone can cut back on activities, especially if they are supporting their families.  That’s why we all need to continue promoting justice (including a living wage), so that everyone will be able to be sustained.

I was at the demonstration today on the bridge in Nevada City, commemorating ongoing resistance to the policies of the Trump Administration.  Then I walked home, up the hill from town, enjoying the beauty of the day.   Each of us can only do so much, and I want to be a spiritually fit as possible so that I know what I need to do and will be equipped to do it.  I choose to be sustained by spiritual practice for the long haul, and I practice trusting in the same way that I trusted while I was on the train, that I am being guided and carried to my destination.

 

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