Trying to Read the News in 2017

(in Colin Farell Gifs)

Every single cabinet pick:

https://giphy.com/gifs/true-detective-colin-farrell-vince-vaughn-WxDBxbigRJ1NS

Each new Trump administration official who gets caught lying about their communications with Russian diplomats/business people:

https://giphy.com/gifs/colin-farrell-iN6R9SizCWW9W

“You know, the only one that cares about my tax returns are the reporters, okay? They’re the only ones, I won; I mean, I became president. No, I don’t think they care at all. I don’t think they care at all. I think you care.” -DJT

Colin Farrell GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Every time Trump shakes anyone’s hand:

https://giphy.com/gifs/colin-farrell-wfNblcYVxM0aA

DJT 2011: “He doesn’t have a birth certificate, or if he does, there’s something on that certificate that is very bad for him. Now, somebody told me … where it says ‘religion,’ it might have ‘Muslim.’ And if you’re a Muslim, you don’t change your religion, by the way.”

DJT 2016: “President Barack Obama was born in the United States. Period,”

DJT 2016: “I think he’s the worst president maybe in the history of our country,”

DJT 2016: “I must tell you, you know, I never met him before this. I never spoke to him before this. I really — I do like him.”

recent Mother Jones headline: “Trump: Obama Tapped My Phone, He’s a Sick Guy”

Colin Farrell GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Literally me watching the inauguration in a Starbucks 5 blocks from it:

Colin Farrell GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

“Are they friends of yours?”

Colin Farrell GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

The golden showers thing:

Colin Farrell GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Realizing that despite this great selection of gifs, this post is actually making it all feel worse…

https://giphy.com/gifs/colin-farrell-co5jx0O8S7j0c

Everyone in Congress who voted to confirm Trump’s cabinet picks:

https://giphy.com/gifs/colin-farrell-CMYAEsqAXwOas

“Rick Perry confirmed as Energy Secretary”

“Rex Tillerson skips State Department’s annual announcement on human rights, alarming advocates”

MIKE PENCE WILL BE THE MOST POWERFUL CHRISTIAN SUPREMACIST IN U.S. HISTORY

Colin Farrell GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

“When I was young, in high school and in college, everybody used to say we never lost a war. America never lost. Now, we never win a war.” -DJT

Colin Farrell James Douglas Clayton GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

When Donald Trump, whose closest advisor ran Breitbart, calls actual news outlets fake news

https://giphy.com/gifs/colin-farrell-in-bruges-mVwnc8jCukkik

“… the VOICE agency is expected to publish a weekly list of all crimes committed by immigrants, suggesting that anyone who has moved to the US, both documented and undocumented, could find their name on the public document.” — AJZ

https://giphy.com/gifs/true-detective-colin-farrell-ray-velcoro-9n4UF8KKF7Q4w

Fucking everything that’s happened since Trump came down the escalator surrounded by a crowd of supporters who were probably/actually paid actors:

https://giphy.com/gifs/seven-psychopaths-efQGwxU2zF636

When you consider that maybe the Mayans were just off by 5 years:

https://giphy.com/gifs/seven-psychopaths-Pcd6oe9iOSIIU

Stressed Colin Farrell GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

#punchingNazis:

https://giphy.com/gifs/10QbHITjO1p9n2

Voices from the vigil for free expression

Writers of conscience confront hopelessness in the early weeks of the Trump presidency.

On the night of Feb. 11, attendees of the 2017 Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) Conference held a candlelight vigil in front of the White House. The videos below contain most of the speeches that were given at the event.

“Don’t stop using your words. It isn’t trivial. It is more important than ever.”

— Melissa Febos [part 1, 5:55]

Writer Carolyn Forche read Walt Whitman’s “This is What You Shall Do” [part 1, 8:00]:

“This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.”

Gabrielle Bellot [part 2, 3:30]

We need to stop acting as if it is normal, after the second World War, for Nazis to tell the president what to do. We need to obstruct the appointment of politicians who want to take this country back to the days before integration.

We live in… a world where a hateful troll like Milo Yiannapolis is given a book deal on the grounds of free speech by the same company that refused to publish “American Psycho” on the grounds of decency.

I believe in love. I want to work together with people to make a world where we have to dream less. No matter their skin color. No matter their gender or race, or even their political affiliations. We need unity, not segregation, more now than ever if we are going to win back our freedom.

Poet Ross Gay read Cornelius Eady’s “Grattitude” [part 3, 4:20]:


In truth, I had no idea there was going to be a vigil for free expression that night. I didn’t know what (AWP) was until I googled it after the event.

I was walking back to the McPherson Square metro station to head home after covering an immigrants’ rights march that had concluded on the other side of the White House when I heard cheers.

In the middle of a crosswalk, I turned around and started heading back. The park was too dark to tell what was going on, but I knew I had to check it out. My mantra these last few months of observing and documenting these, often spontaneous, protests since the election has been “head towards the White House and follow the yelling.”

When I noticed the candles, my first thought was that it was an event organized by anti-choice activists (a large group of them were in town for some event that weekend). I walked around the growing mass of people until I ended up, basically by accident, right next to where the microphone was.

The speeches that followed were intimate, cathartic, and genuine. The speakers dealt with the existential questions we’ve all been asking ourselves since the election: Does anything we do now matter? Where, if anywhere, is there strength to be found in such dark times? How can we start rebuilding when we can’t stop the damage being done?

Melissa Febos left the crowd with a reminder to seek happiness, and to keep creating, even now [part 1, 5:40]:

Denying your own joy doesn’t deliver it to anyone else. It only deprives you before they get the chance to. So go ahead and feel afraid if you’re afraid, feel hopeless if you feel hopeless. Now is a period of keeping awake during the time usually spent asleep.

Don’t go to sleep. Don’t stop using your words. It isn’t trivial. It is more important than ever.

Gavin Grimm is officially a national LGBTQ civil rights hero

A teenager from a small town in Virginia got shouted out at the Grammys, praised on progressive podcasts… and then his name echoed in a thousand headlines

Gloucester, Virginia has a population of about 37,000. I drove through it one time. It’s very small.

In 2015, then-16-year-old Gavin Grimm sued Gloucester School Division over its policy regarding gender identification and bathrooms. The case was similar to the fight that would take place a couple hours to the South over what became known as North Carolina’s “Bathroom Bill,” although it didn’t garner the same kind of media attention (at least back then).

On Oct. 28, 2016, the Supreme Court, which had issued a stay following a lower court’s decision, announced that it would hear the case. The Washington Post called it “the most high-profile case the eight-member court has accepted since the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.”

The court recently set oral arguments for March 28.

Explaining to “CBS This Morning,” why she told viewers to google Grimm’s name before introducing Lady Gaga and Metallica at the Grammys, TV star Laverne Cox said:

This will be the first time that the Supreme Court is hearing a case about trans rights. And last year over 50 bills criminalizing trans people for using the bathroom that’s consistent with their gender identity were introduced in state legislatures all over the country.

(And, not that you need a reminder, but this Trump’s America now.)

Cox’s shout-out almost could not have been from a bigger megaphone. According to the New York Times, Grammy viewers averaged 26 million, and that’s just the people that watched it live.

Over the following days and hours, the press exploded (as the screenshots show) with stories and articles about the case. From the LA Times to the New York Times; “The Daily Show” to “The Late Show.”

Grimm also got some mentions in the world of political podcasts —a refuge for many queer-identifying people and their allies.

John and Molly Knefel of Radio Dispatch discussed the case, on their Feb. 15 episode and explained how Cox’s move was “a perfect media strategy” in terms of keeping the case in the spotlight (starts at 42:50).

Citizen Radio’s Allison Kilkenny called called Grimm “an amazing person, and extremely brave and awesome,” on their Feb. 14 episode (12:30).

To those that care deeply about these issues — who are quite worried about the future these days — Grimm is undeniably a hero. He’s fighting a very important battle, the outcome of which will have major implications for the future of trans rights.

If they can make laws regulating which bathroom you can use, you can bet any remaining semblance of basic discrimination protections will be next.

ACLU

Calling Grimm a hero may be the least we could do, considering that this case also robbed him of his high school years. He explained in an interview with the Daily Press:

[My] school experience is ruined and it will never not be ruined. It was taken from me, it was just blown out of the water. It’s never going to be what it should’ve been. It’s never going to be comfortable. I’m never going to be there and only have to think about what a normal high schooler has to think about. I’m always going to be the kid from the bathroom thing. I’m always going to be the transgender kid who made a fuss about bathrooms… [High school] is associated with many, many negative things at this point. And of course there’s the fear of, I’ve gotta go back and I can’t even use the men’s room. It’s ridiculous. And I have to go back in the face of this being so public… knowing that now more than ever there’s scrutiny on me by my peers.

Also from the Daily Press:

“It’s humiliating, it’s ostracizing and I don’t want to take that walk of shame to the unisex bathroom and know that everyone who saw me go in there knows why I’m in there — because I’m different, and I’ve been marked different by my school and publicly. … I’m not comfortable with it whatsoever. I’m not an ‘other’ and I’m not unisex, I’m a boy.”

And it’s not just his classmates. Imagine being the focal point of a national story in a community that, according to the New York Times, went 67 percent for Trump. When asked about the case, one local man told a reporter: “If they’re not fixed like a man, they should not use the men’s bathroom,” according to the Daily Press.

The video below includes some clips of parents’ negative comments about Grimm:

Maybe he should get like a day of the year or something…

Cue the #RealAmericanHeroes jingle.

For more info:

https://www.aclu.org/blog/speak-freely/supreme-court-case-could-affect-trans-lives-generations

#WTFWarner: Sen. Mark Warner is voting to confirm (fmr.) Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson?

Mark Warner — the Democratic senator from Virginia that wasn’t Hillary Clinton’s running mate — is going to vote to confirm (now, former) Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson to be secretary of state today (Wednesday).

Tillerson has only ever worked at Exxon, one of the largest oil and gas companies in the world, which, BTW, totally knew that climate change was a thing in the 1970s but did everything it could to confuse the public about the reality of the impacts of increased CO2 emissions.*

Allow me to state that again in slightly different terms:

Mark Warner (D!!!) is voting to install a man as head of the state department who has known for many, many years that the better his company does, the more desperately poor, unlucky people will become homeless, destitute and, with absolutely no hyperbole, die.

If you disagree with that analysis, that’s fine with me. We’re obviously dealing with a separate set of facts,

Warner, on the other hand, has somewhat of a history of endorsing this expert-driven, peer-reviewed, globalist conspiracy of >97 percent of the world’s climate scientists. So, either he’s been lying to his constituents about what he believes (politicians will say anything…), or he has something to gain personally from confirming Tillerson — something worth dangerously jeopardizing his and our children’s future…

Here’s what Warner has said about climate change:

According to The Hill, in a July 2014 debate against Republican candidate Ed Gillespie, he said this:

“My opponent has never been willing to acknowledge the science around climate change, and that man has an effect on it. I’d love to take my opponent to Norfolk where seas are rising so much that the Navy is spending tens of millions a year just to raise the barriers.”

Here he is endorsing Obama’s Clean Power Plan:

He has an 86-percent rating with the League of Conservation Voters. Clean Water Action gave his 2015–2016 record a 75 percent.

Here’s Rex Tillerson’s record on climate issues:

In an April 2015 interview with the AP he said:

We are in the depletion business. There will come a time when all the resources that are supplying the world’s economies today are going to go in decline. This will be what’s needed next. If we start today it’ll take 20, 30, 40 years for those to come on.

Via Buzzfeed:

“I agree with the consensus view that combustion of fossil fuels is a leading cause for increased concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere,” [Tillerson] wrote to Cardin. “I understand these gases to be a factor in rising temperature, but I do not believe the scientific consensus supports their characterization as the ‘key’ factor.”

In reality, the 2013 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report that synthesized thousands of climate studies to examine the physics behind a warming atmosphere concluded that increased carbon dioxide, a byproduct of burning coal, oil and natural gas, caused the “largest contribution” to global warming, followed by other greenhouse gases that are likewise emitted by human industry.

Here is the NRDC’s argument against Tillerson.

On Tuesday, the Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club condemned Warner’s expected yes vote:

Rex Tillerson is an unacceptable candidate for Secretary of State. While CEO of Exxon, he knowingly covered up the reality of climate change, showing his willingness to put his company’s profits over people’s health and safety.

So what has Warner said to explain his odd infatuation with this man, whose parents literally named him after a prehistoric man-eating monster?

“Climate change is a problem, but not a big OOOOOOONNNNEEEEEE!!!” — [T] Rex Tillerson (probably)

From WaPo:

“There are clearly going to be some Trump nominees that give me pause, but there are some I’m going to be supporting,” Warner said in an interview on Capitol Hill Tuesday. “I argued strenuously, both as a governor and under President Obama, that you give the president, or the governor, the chance to put his team in place.”

Warner said he’s opposed to Trump picks Betsy Devos and Steve Mnuchin.

Here he is on Devos:

Access to a quality public education is key to ensuring every child has a fair shot, and the Secretary of Education’s role in safeguarding students’ civil rights and safety cannot be understated. Ms. DeVos has not demonstrated that she appreciates the scope of these responsibilities, or that she is prepared to effectively fulfill them. For these reasons, I will not be supporting her nomination to be Secretary of Education.

On Mnuchin:

Throughout the confirmation process, Mr. Mnuchin has failed to adequately demonstrate that he will be a forceful advocate for innovative policies that will make the U.S. economy work better for the majority of Americans.

How he came to the conclusion that the CEO of a fossil fuel company would be one to “appreciate the scope” of climate change or “be a forceful advocate for innovative [clean energy] policies” he has yet to explain.

And he owes that to the people who elected and reelected him in 2008 and 2014. #WTFWarner???

Top donors to Sen. Mark Warner (via VPAP). Dominion is Virginia’s largest carbon emitter.

What have Warner’s constituents said to him about Tillerson?

From WaPo:

“They need to do anything they can to defeat or delay the seating of Senator Sessions, Mr. Tillerson and Mr. Price,” said Maggie Godbold, 62, a retiree and Democratic activist from Fairfax County, Va., who helped organize the protest at Warner’s office, one of 200 across the country Tuesday. “They’re unqualified.”

https://www.facebook.com/events/1844253852486534/

“We need Democrats who are willing to stand up and fight for the people, not give concessions to Trump. VA deserves more and we’re going to fight one way or another.”

https://twitter.com/khaldrugo/status/826612486275268609

Oh, and they were pretty pissed that he helped prevent a filibuster of the vote for Tillerson altogether on Tuesday…


I, by no means, want to appear to be telling activists and organizers what to do… but if they want to remake the Democratic Party (or Congress, more broadly), Warner is up for re-election again in 2020…


*You can read Inside Climate News’ reports on Exxon’s early knowledge of climate change, which got them nominated for a Pulitzer, HERE.

“I mean what the F*** dude” pic: New America

Last Week in Climate Change

What was new in climate change: 12/13 — 12/18

Svein T veitdal

Trump and Related

  • This is the most important link on this page:

View at Medium.com

The difference between the Carbon Bubble deflating rapidly now and popping spectacularly in a decade or more could mean literally trillions more dollars in profits for the kind of people now helicoptering into Washington.

But that same delay would also bring on climate catastrophe, damage our democracy and bring financial ruin for the investors who are left holding those assets when the bubble pops. If history is any guide, those investors will be pensions and mutual funds and small timers — in other words, regular people…

Journalists are unused to thinking about climate change as being an economic and financial issue — much less the core political issue of our day — so for a lot of us this whole problem is invisible, despite the credibility of everyone pointing it out. It sounds like a conspiracy theory, frankly, because we are so cognitively unprepared to see the Bubble in front of us. That we are so blind to these risks is a tragedy.

View at Medium.com

Trump has already made it pretty clear that he would like to undo the Paris Climate Agreement. CEI lays out a plan for doing so by reclassifying the agreement as a treaty requiring ratification in the Senate, which would almost certainly fail to receive the necessary two thirds vote…

CEI also calls for overturning the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, which includes carbon dioxide and other pollution standards for power plants. If Congress can’t dismantle the actual Clean Power Plan rule, which the report describes as “an unlawful power grab that will increase consumer electricity prices,” the think tank suggests a plan B, defunding the EPA’s implementation of it.

View at Medium.com

[Under Tillerson] Exxon shifted from its public position of doubting climate change to declaring that there is “no question” that human activity was the source of carbon dioxide emissions contributing to the phenomenon…

After Tillerson took over, the company backed a tax on carbon dioxide emissions, implemented an internal accounting measure to put a fee on carbon emissions and stopped funding many groups that outright reject the scientific consensus behind climate change, all major shifts away from its previous positions.

Exxon endorsed last year’s agreement in Paris on global warming.

That doesn’t mean anyone should be putting any faith in him to change Trump’s views (or do anything not terrible), however:

Tillerson nonetheless disagrees with environmentalists’ views that fighting climate change means using less fossil fuels. Instead, Exxon looks at solutions like replacing coal with natural gas — which the company produces — and adapting to the effects of a changing world.

View at Medium.com

“There is no doubt that Rick Perry is completely unfit to run an agency he sought to eliminate — and couldn’t even name. Perry is a climate change denier, opposes renewable energy even as it has boomed in Texas, and doesn’t even believe CO2 is a pollutant,” League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinski said in a statement. “Not only that, he is deep in the pocket of Big Polluters, who have contributed over $2.5 million to his presidential campaigns, a disturbing sign that they expected him to protect their profits in office, not do what’s best for the American people.”

Perry sits on the board of Energy Transfer Partners, the firm that is trying to complete work on the Dakota Access Pipeline on the Great Plains.

Science

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nqQVBmMMgEw

This is kind of an incredible clip.

View at Medium.com

Drinking water can be affected at any stage of the fracking process, the report notes, from acquiring the water that will be used to injecting it into production wells and disposing of the wastewater afterward. Impacts are generally seen at sites close to production wells.

View at Medium.com

A number of independent groups of scientists, technologists and journalists are working to get a snapshot of crucial U.S. government datasets and mirror it on private servers should access be curtailed…

American data is crucial for understanding everything from big questions about how carbon dioxide moves around the globe to tiny ones like how tides are affecting sand crabs on South Padre Island in Texas. Its usefulness extends beyond pure science questions to ones about infrastructure, forest management, climate negotiations and insurance rates…

“What strikes me the most over those 20 years is that even when researchers aren’t specifically looking for evidence of climate change or anthropogenic influence, they often find it,” said Laura Naranjo, a science writer at the National Snow and Ice Data Center…

View at Medium.com

“We are going to respect the professional and scientific integrity and independence of our employees at our labs and across our department,”
– Energy spokesman Eben Burnham-Snyder

Effects

View at Medium.com

The world’s tallest animal is at risk of extinction after suffering a devastating decline in numbers, with nearly 40% of giraffes lost in the last 30 years, according to the latest “red list” analysis…

The natural world is in the midst of a mass extinction as wild places are destroyed by conversion to farmland, mining and pollution, and animals are hunted in huge numbers. In October, a major analysis found the number of wild creatures was on track to fall by two-thirds by 2020, compared to 1970. Recent red list updates have found the eastern Gorilla and whale shark moving closer to extinction, while the prospects of the giant panda are improving.

Energy

View at Medium.com

The overall shift to clean energy can be more expensive in wealthier nations, where electricity demand is flat or falling and new solar must compete with existing billion-dollar coal and gas plants. But in countries that are adding new electricity capacity as quickly as possible, “renewable energy will beat any other technology in most of the world without subsidies,” said Liebreich.

View at Medium.com

This is likely the first time an American city has wielded its zoning code to halt such a large array of fossil fuel projects. Under the new ordinance, which will take effect next month, new large terminals for transporting and storing coal, methanol and various natural gas and oil products can’t be built in the city. The rules also forbid expansion of Portland’s 11 existing facilities — one liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant and 10 terminals for petroleum fuels.

View at Medium.com

Other

View at Medium.com

As a scientific concept, the Anthropocene is ambiguous and disputed. As a political and ethical concept, it is sharper: it means we have take responsibility for a world we partly create. Simple “preservation of the world,” as Thoreau named it, is not an option anymore, just as nothing today is truly wild…

I’ve been wondering, though, whether we can’t have a Thoreau for the Anthropocene, a Thoreau who is less interested in wilderness than in how to live with, relate to and value a world we have irrevocably changed, a world where nothing is really separate from us. I like this idea because the Anthropocene needs its own cultural history, its environmental texts.

https://twitter.com/MatthewCNovak1/status/810193330432774144

Some post-California thoughts on the election

1- Bernie Sanders just *didn’t* drop out…

but he’s just delaying the inevitable. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to vote for the man – he embodies a lot of the fundamental things we need to embrace – but we’re talking about an upset in a corporately-controlled political party. If he had taken the nomination, it would’ve disproven some of the things he stood for, ironically. What he and his supporters did was completely unprecedented and they should be proud of that. The fact that they won so many delegates is still something to be hopeful about.
2- There are A TON of things I dislike about Hillary Clinton (just as there are with Barrack Obama), but I will vote for her for two reasons: 1- She’s a woman. When there are no good policy-based choices, at least there’s something to be said about finally having a woman as president. Today’s children would benefit from seeing that. May they grow up without (or with fewer of) the moronic ideas about gender that we grew up with. And 2- She’s not Donald Trump.
3- There are a lot of things to be said about Donald Trump, just as there are a lot of things that Donald Trump has said, and in both almost none of them are good. At this point, if you don’t grasp how dangerous he and the movement behind him are, then I probably won’t convince you (and neither will anyone else).
4- I can’t wait for the scholarly papers and think pieces about the Bernie Sanders’ Dank Meme Stash group in the coming years. We live in interesting time, and it’s cool to see the future of politics and communication happening in front of you (even if it is generally obnoxious). Doubt it? Give it a couple years and check back in.
5- Speaking of “Bernie or Bust,” I think that there is a time and place to vote with your conscience, but this is not it. Several people have made this point before, but not voting against Donald Trump while also not having to worry about how his policies will affect you is not the best way to use your privilege. (This is me saying I’m not telling people of color and other minority groups how to vote)
6- above all else, I think that grassroots activism is an incredibly important tool for making change. There are quite a few (young) Bernie supporters that weren’t politically active before, that have spent the last months knocking on doors, phone-banking and meme-making that will spend the months after Bernie drops out in comatose-like depression. That’s totally valid, but let me make two requests: go vote against Trump on November 8, and don’t waste all of the epic networking you just spent the last six months building. I can’t think of any meaningful progressive action taken by a president over the last 50+ years that wasn’t caused by pressure from activists. Presidential elections may be a million times sexier than organizing at the local level, but that doesn’t mean it’s not critically (and more) important. With today’s issues – chiefly, climate change – this world needs all the help it can get.
7- I remember September 2011. OWS really felt like a revolution (and it was, in a sense). Most people today would say that Occupy was a failure, that a bunch of jobless hippies camped out in parks, that they never had demands, that it was all a waste. Most of those curious observers that became passionate occupiers all across the country know that’s not true. What OWS accomplished wasn’t concrete policy changes or officials elected. I covered student activism for two+ years and have talked with tons of environmentalists all around the state. One of the near universal things these driven, passionate individuals have in common is an “Occupy story.” People become really political for different reasons. What matters is that they are really political.

A Look at Student Activism (Trend Piece)

I had to write a trend piece for my feature writing class…

Students from around the country gathered to march against the Keystone XL Pipeline in Washington D.C. on March 2, 2014 (Sean Davis)
Students from around the country gathered to march against the Keystone XL Pipeline in Washington D.C. on March 2, 2014 (Sean Davis)

“My Hope Lies with Young People” –Jane Goodall.

Despite being derided as “lazy, entitled, selfish and shallow,” by their parents and grandparents, millenials may actually be proving themselves a powerful force for social change. Since late 2011, youth activism has been on the upswing as students have faced uncertain job prospects, exploding inequality, and a changing climate.

The United States has virtually always seen some level of dissent and dissatisfaction manifesting itself in the streets. This tends to ebb and flow, however, depending on any number of things from unemployment rates and opportunity to foreign policy and immigration.

“I feel that the youth are disenfranchised and do not appreciate nor agree with what the older generations have been doing in our name,” said University of Mary Washington first year and progressive activist Noah Goodwin.

Although youth engagement and advocacy have also contributed to the rise of the Tea Party and especially the success of libertarian political figures like Ron Paul, liberal/progressive causes have been the main beneficiaries. The same has largely been true throughout recent history.

“Students have a key role in being catalysts for change because of the privilege given to them. With flexible schedules, extra time, and the given community of campus and education, students are in the perfect environment to throw themselves into movements” – Rabib Hasan

“[During the civil rights movement,] students were able to provide a left flank and do things that if their parents had done they would have been fired from their jobs [or] ostracized further from white power structure,” explained Sierra Club organizer Kendyl Crawford.

“Student organizing is a great opportunity for ‘radical’ demands and to have a voice present bringing more ideas into the conversation that push what the general population is comfortable with,” she said.

Social media’s role in modern organizing, communication, and raising awareness cannot be overstated. The so-called “Arab Spring” and Occupy (Wall St.) movement of 2011 were perhaps the first major illustrations of this.

“Our evidence suggests that social media carried a cascade of messages about freedom and democracy across North Africa and the Middle East, and helped raise expectations for the success of political uprising,” Washington University Associate Professor Phillip Howard told UW Today in September 2011.

If you ask any current student activist, there’s a good chance they have, what’s known as, an “Occupy story,” in which they visited or participated in their local chapter’s happenings.

“We are coming into an age, where knowledge is so easily accessible and because of that we also are able to share that energy towards making the world suck a bit less,” said organizer and Old Dominion University first year Michelle Johnstone.

There’s also the convenience that many non-working students experience.

“Students have a key role in being catalysts for change because of the privilege given to them. With flexible schedules, extra time, and the given community of campus and education, students are in the perfect environment to throw themselves into movements,” explained UMW third year Rabib Hasan

Students marched in their own block in the People's Climate March. Sept. 21, 2014. (Sean Davis)
Students marched in their own block in the People’s Climate March. Sept. 21, 2014. (Sean Davis)

Hasan is part of the school’s Divest UMW movement, which seeks to put pressure on the Board of Visitors to pull the schools endowment out of fossil fuel companies’ stocks.

The national divestment movement, which is still only a couple years old, has chalked up some notable victories including the divestments of Stanford, the New School, and even the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Just last week, The Guardian Newspaper and the U.N. through their support behind the movement.

The UMW campaign recently held an action coinciding with Global Divestment Day, which saw one of the biggest turnouts in the country.

“I got involved in student activism because I’ve always believed that grassroots organizing is the true practice of democracy. All politics should originate from the bottom, and the top should be channeling those interest,” he said. “Student activism is definitely at the roots of our society.”

Hasan is also the newly elected vice chair of the Virginia Student Environmental Coalition, a group that has grown substantially and gained legitimacy in the state despite being less than two years old.

Last year, members participated in the student-organized XL Dissent protest and were some of the 398 arrested in front of the White House. In September 2014, hundreds of them joined the hundreds of thousands that marched in the People’s Climate March in New York City. They’ve already held two statewide conferences with registration in the hundreds.

Members of the Virginia Student Environmental Coalition were arrested in front of the White House. March 2, 2014. (Sean Davis)
Members of the Virginia Student Environmental Coalition were arrested in front of the White House. March 2, 2014. (Sean Davis)

“Students are the future leaders of the world,” said Mace & Crown photographer and Ad Manager Jason Kazi, who has covered a number of local protest actions.

Even President Obama has expressed faith in his children’s generation, recently telling Vice’s Shane Smith “you talk to Malia and Sasha… 16 and 13, and the sophistication and awareness that they have about environmental issues compared to my generation or yours – they’re way ahead of the game.”

The climate movement, especially, carries with it a worrying sense of urgency.

“2015 is most likely the last chance we have and take action in order to ensure a stable climate,” Hasan said.

ODU, along with many other universities around the country, saw a sizable protest movement arise after the police killing of Ferguson, Missouri teen Michael brown.

One action in particular saw about 80 students form a human piece sign and then “die in” on the school’s mall – a particularly noteworthy accomplishment for a school with such low student engagement in general.

“We, as young, educated people, have a duty to stand up for ourselves and other people, and raise up other people who do not have the same opportunities we do,” -Noah Goodwin

At UVA, students quickly organized a rally to denounce police brutality less than 24 hours after a Black student was assaulted by police on St. Patrick’s Day.

A defining characteristic of today’s student and youth movements is that they are more diverse, coherent and focused than ever before. Students rarely only focus on one issue, and stress finding common cause at the intersections of different issues.

Reverend Lennox Yearwood, speaking at the first VSEC conference explained that culture plays, and has played, a critical role in uniting different groups of young people.

“When Joan Baez [played] with Harry Belafonte, or when Abbie Hoffman [linked up] with the Black panthers in Chicago – when the cultures linked, then those silos began to be broken down,” he said.

Rev. Lennox Yearwood speaks at the student-organized Virginia Power Shift conference. Feb. 14, 2015 (Sean Davis)
Rev. Lennox Yearwood speaks at the student-organized Virginia Power Shift conference. Feb. 14, 2015 (Sean Davis)

The young left has found a nuanced understanding of inequality and privilege based not just on income, but gender and sexual identity, race, and a myriad of other things.

“If one has privilege, it’s important to know how that differentiates people from one another, and how people with less privilege are still disenfranchised,” Goodwin said.

“We, as young, educated people, have a duty to stand up for ourselves and other people, and raise up other people who do not have the same opportunities we do,” he added.

Ultimately, long term social change isn’t just rooted in students and young people, but the expectation that as they age and become adults, their work will continue.

“I believe that my activism will continue into adulthood because I’ve already established the connections in the activist scene. Once you become embedded in the community you continue to grow as an organizer as you share your experiences with other organizers,” Hasan said.

“I guess we’re all still growing in a sense. But Yes, I hope that I can be an advocate for my community for as long as I’m still standing,” Johnstone said.

Disclaimer- this was for a class , so the same rules didn’t apply, but just to disclose it, I was on the VSEC executive board.

In Response to “Weigh the Costs with the Benefits”

Lynchburg’s newspaper, the News & Advance came out in support of a $2 billion natural gas pipeline that will run from West Virginia, through Virginia and eventually to North Carolina.

 

This is why we shouldn’t support it:

In Response to “Weigh the Costs With the Benefits”

Sean Davis

Seeing my hometown newspaper come out in favor of Dominion’s proposed pipeline to bring natural gas through Nelson County to Hampton Roads and beyond was heartbreaking.

Especially just months after seeing a derailed crude oil train send flames 80 feet into the air along the James River¬.

 

That that event didn’t kill a single person, I believe, is a complete miracle and other communities have not been so fortunate.

As someone that’s been following the environmental movement and covering actions against the expansion of fossil fuels, I really thought that the train derailment would be a wake up call for many in the area.

It presented such an extreme image. People would have to ask questions– why was crude oil from North Dakota being shipped through Lynchburg of all places? Why weren’t the safety regulations in place to prevent this? Had this happened anywhere else?

It’s seemed that wasn’t the case, unfortunately. As soon as the fires burned out and the images were uploaded to social media, we just accepted that it was a freak accident- both random and unpreventable.

Almost a month to the day before the derailment, Sierra Club Virginia released a statement citing recent oil train incidents in the US and Canada. Sierra Club Virginia director, Glen Besa, said in a statement, “These trains are travelling through Lynchburg along the James River through Richmond and on to the York County facility on the York River. We’re concerned that a train derailment could result in an explosion and the loss of life or an oil spill that could jeopardize our drinking water supplies and the environment.”

Turns out they were dead right. Maybe we shouldn’t dismiss their concerns about this pipeline so quickly.

“We share some of their concerns for environmental impact of the construction phase,” the News & Advance Editorial Board claims, as if the only environmental risks are from the construction. “We must look at the bigger picture… the $17 trillion, energy-driven U.S. economy,” it continues.

First of all, the “bigger picture” is the planet and the future of its inhabitants.

There is no debate that climate change is happening; only a failure of the media to accurately portray facts and science to the American people, and the incredible success of fossil fuel lobbyists and propagandists to paint a scientific consensus as a massive hoax perpetrated by hundreds of thousands of scientists from around the world in order to… get increased funding(?).

The real debate is how we are going to deal with rising seas, catastrophic flooding and increased drought while cutting emissions, not whether or not we can pretend we don’t have to.

Second, the article fails to acknowledge the “bigger picture” that is the pivotal fight in this country, and beyond, over energy policy. There really isn’t middle ground. As much as “all-of-the-above” sounds nice, it’s not progressive enough.

We have a choice– either full ahead over the cliff of environmental negligence and intergenerational tyranny, or a full stop, and a change of course to a more just, sustainable future.

That fight encompasses people from across the continent- from indigenous communities in Canada, to ranchers in Texas; from the low-income urban communities that tend to get hit most directly by environmental pollution to community-owned wind farm co-ops in the Midwest; from West Virginia residents fighting mountaintop-removal coal mining to Washington residents fighting against proposed coal export terminals.

And it includes the fight in Nelson County.

Much of that fight to date has been over the controversial natural gas extraction process known as “fracking.” At best, it’s extremely water and energy intensive and it’s effects simply haven’t been studied enough, and the adequate regulations haven’t been put into place(or have been removed such as the “Halliburton Loophole” which exempts fracking companies from provisions of the Safe Drinking Water Act).

At worst, it destroys the health of people nearby wells and pipelines, contaminates drinking water and aquifers, turns idyllic wilderness to moonscape and causes earthquakes.

We know now too, that natural gas is not the clean “bridge fuel” the industry touted it as.

The New York Times reported earlier this year that “the drilling and production of natural gas can lead to leaks of methane, a greenhouse gas 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide.” Accounting for that, “total greenhouse gas emissions… are nearly identical to coal,” according to the Sierra Club.

The natural gas plant in New Brunswick, which would be connected to the pipeline, “would emit as much carbon pollution annually as half a million cars,” according to a report by the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (Full disclosure, the author is a CCAN fellow). The report also notes that in the company’s most recent 15-year plan, proportionally, there will be no increase in clean energy.

Some, I’m sure, will argue that moving towards clean energy is not feasible, or that the economy wouldn’t be able to support it. Indeed the original article asks, “Would opponents of the pipeline want those homes and businesses in Virginia using electricity from coal-burning power plants… [or the] plant in New Brunswick to be burning coal or carbon-emitting biomass fuel instead?” as if there just isn’t any other option.

Instead of investing $2 billion into this pipeline, Dominion should instead spend that money on renewable energy sources including developing its offshore wind program. Last year the company won the lease to over 112,000 acres off the Virginia coast, but has only slated to build two 6-megawatt turbines.

The entire area has the potential to create 2,000 megawatts and power over 700,000 homes!

The cost of solar energy has plummeted recently- by as much as 60% in two years– making it a viable option as well. Our neighbor to the south, North Carolina, is now behind just California in solar growth, while we rank 26th, with no utility-scale solar production.

A move to clean energy would create tens of thousands of jobs as well, and we’re already seeing that across the country where there are now more jobs in clean energy than in coal. Studies show that just developing offshore wind would create 10,000 jobs while the pipeline will create a negligible amount of permanent jobs.

The idea that we can face the defining issue of this generation head on is not just a pipedream. Our shift away from fossil fuels is inevitable, and the sooner we embrace it, the better- for jobs, for those already experiencing the effects of climate change, for the planet as a whole, and for our posterity.

The same people that will make unspeakable amounts of money from this pipeline and the extraction of natural gas, are the same people that knew DOT-111 tanker cars were unsafe for Bakken crude oil transportation, and still decided to use them to ship unfathomable amounts of oil through large population centers every day.

They are the same people that are destroying West Virginia by literally leveling mountains and valleys, leaving the communities there perpetually impoverished and dependent on an industry that has actively exploited their cheap labor for decades.

They are the same people that convinced us to go along with their oil and gas “boom” without the proper regulations in place, without even the infrastructure to handle it, in the name of energy independence only to ship these same extracted fuels to the coast for export to other countries.

One Time Some of My Friends Got Arrested at the White House

I’ve had a lot of people ask me about the protest pictures I posted a couple weeks ago from the #XLDissent protest in Washington D.C.

Why did they get arrested? What were they Protesting? What is The Keystone XL Pipeline?

The funny thing about KXL is that if you know about it, you probably already have a very strong opinion about it. It’s very polarizing, and yet if you haven’t heard of it, it sounds like an oddly specific thing for so many people to be so worked up about.

Protesters await arrest in front of the White House. March 2, 2014. Sean Davis
Protesters await arrest in front of the White House. March 2, 2014. Sean Davis

On March 1, 2014 I joined members of the ODU EcoReps organization, as well as the ODU chapter of the Virginia Student Environmental Coalition, as they traveled to the nation’s capital. It was one of my favorite VSEC road trips because we didn’t leave until noon.

I was still late.

They were making the trip up to join with just under 2000 other student activists to rally and march against the pipeline. The event was called #XLDissent (hashtag included, it’s 2014 duh).

While it wasn’t the biggest protest against KXL, many have claimed that it was the biggest act of student civil disobedience since the Vietnam war.

Instead of explaining why so many young people are angry about seemingly this one little thing, I’ll let them explain…

Jugal Patel is a junior at ODU, majoring in Political Science and Philosophy. He works with CCAN and contributes to The Borgen Project.
Jugal Patel is a junior at ODU, majoring in Political Science and Philosophy. He works with CCAN and contributes to The Borgen Project.

 

Erin Fagan is a Senior at ODU, majoring in Marine Biology. She's the VSEC founder as well as a campus rep and committee member, the EcoReps event coordinator, a Greenpeace community coach, and she's associated with a ton of other campus and environmental organizations I don't have room to list.
Erin Fagan is a Senior at ODU, majoring in Marine Biology. She’s the VSEC founder as well as a campus rep and committee member, the EcoReps event coordinator, a Greenpeace community coach, and she’s in charge of or part of a ton of other campus and environmental organizations I don’t have room to list.

What was XL Dissent?

Erin: “XL Dissent was the first event in the long line of anti-kxl protests/marches/rallies (after Tar sands Action, NOKXL, and Forward on Climate, as well as some smaller ones) that was organized by, and facilitated nearly completely by students. It was an opportunity for students to demonstrate that we aren’t taking this sitting down, and that we are willing to put our bodies on the line in opposition of KXL, and to prove that we aren’t just fighting for, but fighting with people from frontline communities.”

So whats wrong with the pipeline?

Erin: If the pipeline is approved, it would carry over 800,00 barrels of tar sands oil through Montanan, right by North Dakota, through South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, down to Houston and Port Arthur, every single day. Although we’re told this is for the U.S., it would definitely be China-bound.

This would spell absolute disaster for not only ecosystems, but all of the communities along the way. These communities are largely those of indigenous people, communities of color, and low-income communities who are being taken advantage of.

A part of the Keystone Pipeline already exists… All of the terrible things people hear are not just rumors or speculation. They are based on whats already been happening.

During the six-month study conducted by the State Department, there were 1,692 pipeline “incidents…” this rate has not slowed down. We know that we can expect regular leaks and spills everywhere that pipeline exists.

The safety regulations are sub-standard at best, and not at all worth the 38-42 permanent jobs that we would get, in an economy of 322 million people.

We could be creating more and more permanent clean energy, technology and engineering jobs.

“I have been involved in this particular cause since 2011, and it is a fight that I will be involved in until the end.”

Jugal: As a scientific consensus, fossil fuels such as the tar sands oil contribute significantly to the problem of climate change. Unless the burning of fossil fuels is phased out to make way for clean and renewable sources of energy such as wind and solar problems that we’re already seeing with the with the climate will continue to worsen.

Therefore, it is necessary for our generation to do all it can to stop the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline- or else we are risking the future of the planet.

Why did you zip-tie yourself to the White House gate?

Jugal: Those who face the worst effects of climate change are those who have done the least to produce it. The lives of people within developing nations and future generations are at stake if action is not taken. It is for this reason that I hope to make the strongest political statement possible: that my generation is very serious about environmental problems and that we intend to address them. Acts of civil disobedience have been integral to correcting injustices throughout history and I fully intend to be a part of the movement that makes the world a better place to live.

How was the experience?

Jugal: Because of weeks of communication between organizers and DC police departments, the experience was very smooth. The police are fully aware of the role that civil disobedience plays into politics and understood that our nonviolent political action was justified.

The most favorable aspect of the experience, from my perspective, was getting to know the other activists risking arrests. Many of us were stuck at the white house fence for up to 5 hours, so it was plenty of time to get to know each other! 

Explain your protest sign.

Erin: Martin Luther King Jr’s quote “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” I chose this because I can never stress enough how important it is to understand how everything is connected.

It may seem like this is happening so far away, but the destruction of vital ecosystems and resources (water?!), the suffering of fellow human beings, and the human-caused extinction of animals along the way all relate directly back to us.

KXL is Pandora’s Box. Once we begin to become reliant on this dirty form of oil, it will be infinitely harder to stop using it.

This social/environmental injustice that may seem completely disconnected from us is really threatening the entire planet in every way.

How did this thing come about, and how did you get involved?

Erin: I started organizing for Virginia about a month in advance, recruiting not just at ODU and Norfolk, but across the state as well. The idea for XL Dissent came from the historic 2011 sit-ins and rallies which played a huge role in drawing attention to the issue and breaking the, then, consensus among politicians.

After the State Department’s January report that the tar sands and pipeline would not negatively impact climate change, it was time to be more innovative and begin escalation and radicalization.

There was a lot of planning and organizing that went into this event to keep it under control and nonviolent, why is that?

Erin: With a march of this size, it is still very important to be respectful. DC sees plenty of non-peaceful protests too, so letting them know what’s going on and working with the police instead of against them (they’re doing their jobs, after all), ensures not only that residents who know what’s happening will not be scared, but it protects the safety of the protesters.

A huge group is intimidating, and more so when they are unexpected, so we try to avoid a scenario where we could be physically harmed for no reason.

The arrests were planned because it was important to make history. There are lots of small arrestable events that happen here and there, but unless something about them is different and innovative, no one ever hears about them. Planning ahead increases the chances of reaching goals like this.

Had it not been permitted, we never would have made it to the White House– we would’ve been kicked off the streets at the beginning, and anyone who didn’t obey would’ve been in jail under entirely different circumstances.

It is important that these events remain non-violent because we do not want to be made into the “bad guys”. If we use scare/intimidation tactics, harm people and their property, or make people feel unsafe in any way, we’re becoming a part of the problem, being hypocritical, and only gaining negative attention, which would be very well-deserved.

Why do you believe protesting and nonviolent direct action are an effective means for change?

Jugal: In a democratic political system, it is more than necessary for direct action to be a fundamental aspect of popular involvement within the political process. History has proven time and again that significant change for the better can occur with protest.

In a society where the institution of business has monumental political influence, the perspectives of people from lower socio-economic classes are often neglected—resulting in widespread injustice. Therefore, popular protest and direct action is necessary to allow for democracy to fulfill its intentions.

Erin: NVDA is absolutely effective, but not by itself. We still need to meet professionally with politicians and “make nice”. We need to find common ground with shareholders and decision-makers. We need to focus on educating people, and most of all, involving those in frontline communities–anything that we could say to convince someone would be dwarfed by what they have to live with every day.

NVDA is a means of campaign escalation, an issue is not getting the attention that it needs, or when it is not being taken seriously. We need people to take on these different roles so that we cover all of our bases. An arrestable action of this type is usually the first step in radicalization and escalation, which draws attention to the issue to reach more people. Historically, these events are often able to sway politicians’ opinions.

What similar actions have you been a part of?

Erin: I’ve been involved in at least a dozen large rallies/protests (“large” meaning over 1000 people), with the largest being Forward on Climate last February (50k people! Largest environmental rally in history).

While this was not the largest, the energy of the mass arrest was very unique. It felt much more drastic, because nothing like this had been done for the last few years (and even then, it was over a couple of weeks). Each time, I find myself re-energized and re-inspired to work on bigger campaigns and causes, both here in Norfolk and on a larger scale.

The most important thing about events like this is that we ride this new energy and take advantage of our enhanced motivation to make waves.

Finally, what’s happening at ODU, and what would you like to see happen?

Erin: ODU’s environmental group EcoReps has been growing rapidly since the introduction of VSEC. With this change, EcoReps is making the move from passive action to direct action, and demanding real change from ODU.

Other groups, such as the Marine Bio Student Association, Social Entrepreneurs Council, and the Environmental Health Club, are all taking a new, special interest in environmental aspects that relate to their core values.

I will be working on plans to increase our STARS rating 🙂 (currently bronze, booo). Ultimately, my larger goals for ODU are for them to form a permanent, full-time sustainability board, to get a divestment campaign off the ground, and for ODU to join the other universities who have demanded that Aramark take on more sustainable policies.

More important than this, however, is how we get there.

The reason this hasn’t happened already is because there’s a huge lack of student accountability and and a surplus of apathy.

If more students at ODU demand action from President Broderick, the Board of Trustees, shareholders, and high-donating alumni, then they would take us seriously. They do want to make their students happy, but not nearly enough students are demanding change. It’ll take more voices and more action for them to be be convinced.

Jugal: With discoveries in regard to just how vulnerable the city of Norfolk is to sea level rise from climate change, the ODU community is beginning to become much more active politically.

I hope to see this continue and expand because Virginia’s political system is currently very environmentally negligent. Students also have much more political power than they may feel at times, so it is very important that we continue to organize and get involved in the political process.

If we fail to do so, the problems that we face both in the present and the future risk being unaccounted for.