A staged "die-in" at Santa Rosa mall to demonstrate the perils of climate change

Youth-led staged “die-in” successful in raising awareness about climate change dangers

by Gavin Sellers and Amy Jolly

The Climate Center staff members recently turned out to participate in a youth-led climate strike. The action, organized by the Sonoma County Sunrise Movement, began at Courthouse Square in Santa Rosa, where about 50 youth members and supporting individuals assembled at 12:00 pm on Friday, December 6th. The participants marched to the Santa Rosa Downtown Mall, where they staged a “die-in.” Positioning themselves in the center of the mall’s bustling plaza, they lay silent and somber on the ground as if dead to illustrate the catastrophic consequences of climate change. For 11 minutes – one for each of the years that we have left to make changes and avert the worst effects of a destabilized climate – the demonstrators remained on the ground, and then rose exultantly to their feet as organizers spoke into a megaphone, projecting inspirational words across the mall plaza and demanding a livable future. Having aroused the curiosity and in some cases great enthusiasm of shoppers, the assembly burst into song and paraded out of the mall. The event received extensive media coverage in the local newspaper as well.

The event made clear that youth-driven activism with a demand for systemic change is becoming a staple of the suburban American experience– even in shopping malls. Several Climate Center staff members attended the event and former Climate Center intern Christine Byrne was the lead organizer of the action. The Climate Center’s Renewable Energy Program Associate Nina Turner addressed the assemblage during the rally and helped organize the event. Gavin Sellors, the current intern at The Climate Center’s youth program also spoke. 

By empowering youth, The Climate Center continues to build a movement demanding bold climate action through smart policies that will help us rapidly decarbonize to reverse the climate crisis and return us to a safe and stable climate.

The youth climate response – when impatience is a virtue

It is hard not to notice the upwelling of young people leading the way in the current climate movement. As a youth leadership program, this is an exciting time to listen and be inspired! By now most have heard Swedish 16-year old Greta Thunberg, “I don’t want your hope,…I want you to act.” Greta has inspired Fridays for Our Future, and School Strike 4 Climate which has sparked school walkouts around Europe, Australia, Great Britain and here in the U.S. Tens of thousands of students have already participated in these events.

There are also the twenty-one young plaintiffs in Juliana v. the United States suing the federal government for its inaction on climate change.  Another influential group is the youth activists at the Sunrise Movement, demanding a Green New Deal. Their recent visit with Diane Feinstein went viral as the Senator is seen defensively chiding young activists asking her to support the resolution, “I’ve been doing this for 30 years. I know what I’m doing.”

Is that why the hottest years on record have all occurred in the last decade – because we know what we are doing? To those who wonder how we can afford policy around the Green New Deal, it is important to note we already spend an average of $240 billion a year in economic losses from weather events influenced by climate change and health damages due to air pollution caused by fossil fuel energy production. The cost of doing nothing is accruing an unconscionably hefty price tag.

The clarity with which young people are understanding this crisis and taking action is a powerful tonic to the paralysis and timid steps of the past.  How would you feel if you were born into a world where a crisis has been evident, for so long, with the solutions right there ready to be deployed, and yet, the world stumbles to set meaningful targets. Scientists wrote in the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report detailing the urgency of taking bold action within this decade, and yet we live in a country where our President tragically confuses weather for climate.

These young activists understand the basic arithmetic: when we use fossil fuels, like coal, oil, and natural gas for energy, we release excess carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, where it builds up acting like a heat-trapping blanket. The more fossil fuels we burn for energy, the more that blanket thickens, and the more our planet warms. This warming disrupts ecosystems on land and at sea which is evident with our fierce storms, relentless fire seasons, and epic heat waves.

As the Sunrise Movement group camped outside Mitch McConnell’s office in Kentucky, demanding to talk to their representative,  a 17-year-old Louisville high school student pleads, “We demand he look us in the eyes and tell us that the $1.9 million that he gets from fossil fuel industries is more important than my generation’s future.” The time has come to for us to ask: which do we care about more, fossil fuel interests or a stable climate?

These are the history-making days. Will we be  the ones who rolled our eyes at these young people demanding a sensible response? Or the ones that said yes, we will transition and we are here to support you any way we can.

We know what to do. The solutions are ready to go, and they will make our lives better.

As Greta plainly states, “The main solution, however, is so simple even a child can understand. We have to stop the emissions of greenhouse gasses.” Yes, Greta, Yes, we do.

Here at ECO2school, we are blessed to work with our inspiring Youth Advisory Board (YAB)!  These local leaders meet monthly to share a meal, deepen their skills, plan events- like this last November’s Green Teen, and feel the power of their shared values in this climate of youth action. In April the group will be partnering with and the Santa Rosa Junior College to host a Climate Action Night. Locally and globally the youth are leading the way!

‘We will be waiting’: Tribe says Keystone XL construction is not welcome

by Phil Mckenna, InsideClimate News

The company building the long-contested Keystone XL oil pipeline notified the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe in a letter this week that it will start stockpiling equipment along the pipeline’s route this month in preparation for construction.

Tribal Chairman Harold Frazier sent back a sharp, one-line response: “We will be waiting.”
The Cheyenne River tribe has opposed the Keystone pipeline since it was first proposed in 2008, and it has seen how pipeline protests can play out.

read more:

Activists put solar directly in the path of Keystone XL pipeline


Solar XL is a wave of renewable energy resistance that’s building solar arrays directly in the route of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline – putting clean energy solutions in the path of the problem.

The project was launched by Bold Nebraska,, Indigenous Environmental Network, CREDO, and Oil Change International.

This 8-minute film shares the stories of the people and vision behind Solar XL. This is bigger than one pipeline. It’s about resisting with clean energy solutions that support communities and protect our climate.


Land Rights Protest

200 environmental and land-rights activists murdered in 2016, report finds

by Georgina Gustin, InsideClimate News

Some 200 environmental and land-rights activists were killed in 2016, making it the deadliest year on record as an intensifying battle over shrinking natural resources and climate-cooling forests leads to more clashes.

The death toll, tallied by the UK-based group Global Witness, is the highest since the group began tracking deaths in 2012. The largest number of deaths involved protesters opposing the mining and oil industries. A growing number were linked to efforts to fight off deforestation or encroachment of agricultural companies onto indigenous lands, where native forests act as important carbon sinks.

The numbers are climbing and so is the reach. Global Witness found that environmental activists were murdered in 24 countries last year, up from 16 countries in 2015. Brazil suffered the most, with 49 deaths.

Ben Leather, a campaigner with Global Witness, says he believes the violence is spreading largely because murders are going unpunished. “That sends a message to perpetrators that they can brutally silence these people and get away with it,” Leather said.

Nearly 40 percent of those killed were from indigenous tribes or communities, a number that could have significant consequences for climate-stabilizing forests. Researchers have found that old-growth forests store more carbon than replanted ones. Many of those native forests are collectively managed by indigenous people. A 2016 analysis found that indigenously managed forest accounted for a quarter of all carbon stored in tropical forests—nearly 55,000 million metric tons, about four times the carbon emissions emitted in 2014.

“These people have a role in slowing the impact of climate change,” Leather said. “Many of these activists are effectively land-rights activists. What we’re talking about is land-grabs—that’s definitely the case with agribusiness. But the impact is, once that land is grabbed, native trees and ecosystems are destroyed to plant crops.”

“Even if the priority is their land, the knock-on effect is that they’re protecting the environment,” Leather added.

Global Witness researchers rely on networks of activists on the ground in countries across the world. They acknowledge that getting precise information on the motivation for a murder or the precise perpetrator is challenging. But inclusion in the report is based on a clear link to environmental activism, Leather said.

The report found that 33 activists protesting against extraction industries—oil and mining—were murdered in 2016, and the number of logging industry protesters killed rose from 15 to 23. Twenty-three agribusiness protesters were found murdered.

Brazil remained the deadliest country, with 49 environmental and land-rights activists killed last year—16 of them for fighting expanding agribusiness and logging. Sixty percent of the people killed were from Latin America; Nicaragua was the worst location per capita, with 11 killings in 2016.

But the report also pointed out that environmental activists are increasingly threatened in developed countries, too.

“Developed countries are ramping up other methods to suppress activists, notably in the U.S., where environmental defenders are being given every reason to protest by the Trump administration,” the report said. “It is increasingly clear that, globally, governments and businesses are failing in their duty to protect activists at risk.”