McKibben Smiles

Illustration of a smokestack windmills and trees.

Illustration by João Fazenda

When Bill McKibben is frustrated, you know it. Much less frequently you can find evidence of his ability to take a deep breath and sense some progress, however modest, so enjoy it when it comes, and try to smile:

Barbados, Leadership & Climate Action

Sargassum seaweed, which thrives in warming oceans, is overtaking a beach in Barbados. Credit: Erika Larsen/Redux, for The New York Times

The region is likely to bear disproportionate challenges from climate change and this island is not taking it lightly. We appreciate the effort described in this story by Abrahm Lustgarten, published by ProPublica:

Until the recent completion of an infrastructure project, Kenneth Blades was able to keep only part of his farmland watered. Credit: Erika Larsen/Redux, for The New York Times

Barbados Resists Climate Colonialism in an Effort to Survive the Costs of Global Warming

Across the Caribbean, soaring national debt is a hidden but decisive aspect of the climate crisis, hobbling countries’ ability to protect themselves from disaster. One island’s leader is fighting to find a way out.

Late on May 31, 2018, five days after she was sworn in as prime minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley and her top advisers gathered in the windowless anteroom of her administrative office in Bridgetown, the capital, for a call that could determine the fate of her island nation. Continue reading

Clever Climate Work Perk

(Adam Maida / The Atlantic ; CSA Images / Getty)

If you have not been reading Robinson Meyer’s excellent newsletter, take a look at this week’s and you might want to sign up over at The Atlantic:

Corporate Climate Action Is an Employee Perk

In February, Bank of America offered its employees a notable perk: If they had worked at the bank for at least three years, and made less than $250,000, then it would give them $4,000 to buy a new electric car. (Employees interested in merely leasing an EV could claim $2,000.) The move, attached to a company-wide round of salary increases, wasn’t the first time that the bank had made the offer; it had made a similar one in 2015, and again in 2020, although those incentives had also applied to gas-electric hybrids. Continue reading

Why Are Starbucks Workers United?

Maggie Carter, a Starbucks barista in Knoxville, Tenn., keeps a stack of union cards with her. Audra Melton for The New York Times

We wrote one time previously about the Starbucks union drive, wondering why Starbucks is against it. We know the typical corporate reasons, but Starbucks has represented itself as atypical. So, we wanted to know. And in related news, the company’s efforts to keep unionization at bay has a new leader. Today we consider a related question, this time from workers’ perspective:

Why a Rhodes Scholar’s Ambition Led Her to a Job at Starbucks

Jaz Brisack became a barista for the same reasons that talented young people have long chosen their career paths: a mix of idealism and ambition.

Most weekend mornings, Jaz Brisack gets up around 5, wills her semiconscious body into a Toyota Prius and winds her way through Buffalo, to the Starbucks on Elmwood Avenue. After a supervisor unlocks the door, she clocks in, checks herself for Covid symptoms and helps get the store ready for customers. Continue reading

Kaboom! The First Successful Climate Raid Ever

Capitalism in the right hands: How a tech bro just rewrote Australia’s climate future

Until reading about them in this newsletter I read each week, Blair Palese, Peter McKillop and the Climate & Capital Media team were not on my radar. Now they are, and I enjoyed reading what they have written to Jeff Bezos about changing the game:

Capitalism in the right hands: How a tech bro just rewrote Australia’s climate future

  • Following a stunning shareholder coup, Australian software billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes becomes the world’s first corporate raider with a mission to radically reduce Australia’s carbon footprint.
  • Cannon-Brookes made billions in software, but he is not retiring from the game in order to “give back” in the gentlemanly pursuit of charity.
  • His victorious raid demonstrates that real climate action requires more than just writing checks.
  • Instead Cannon-Brookes channeled corporate raider Carl Icahn, investor Henry Kravis, feminist organizer Gloria Steinem, Cajun political strategist James Carville and to do what no person has ever done: Merge political, financial, shareholder, and climate action into a single, ground-breaking capitalist moment to take on global warming.
  • We thought Jeff Bezos should know Mike.

Dear Jeff Bezos,

Greetings from Climate & Capital Media. We tried to send you a message on LinkedIn, but there are like at least two dozen Jeff Bezoses and you are not one of them. We applaud your commitment to climate action and setting up the $10 Billion charitable Earth Fund.

But word in New York is you are a tad frustrated with the fund’s impact. Continue reading

100% Renewable California Energy Milestone

Solar and wind power projects have been booming in California, like the Pine Tree Wind Farm and Solar Power Plant in the Tehachapi Mountains, but that doesn’t mean fossil fuels are fading away quickly. Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Recovery from a long-term addiction to fossil fuels was never going to be easy. Necessary? Yes. But it will still be a long haul even with milestones like this one in the western USA. Thanks to National Public Radio (USA) for this news:

California just ran on 100% renewable energy, but fossil fuels aren’t fading away yet

On a mild Sunday afternoon, California set a historic milestone in the quest for clean energy. The sun was shining, the wind was blowing and on May 8th, the state produced enough renewable electricity to meet 103% of consumer demand. That broke a record set a week earlier of 99.9%. Continue reading

Lawns Gone, Good Riddance

Jaime Gonzalez of Par 3 Landscape and Maintenance removed grass at a condominium complex in Las Vegas. The lawn is considered “nonfunctional” under a new state law.

In case you have been to the city, or even just heard about how water is flaunted as a key attraction, and wondered how they can justify such use of a limited resource, then Is That an Outlaw Lawn? Las Vegas Has a New Approach to Saving Water may be worth a few minutes of your time. We recently shared news of a voluntary initiative to reconsider lawns for reasons entirely different from those in the story below. Henry Fountain‘s text accompanied by Joe Buglewicz’s photos, tells the story of Las Vegas lawns, where water resources are so limited, this seems a long time coming:

Mr. Donnarumma documented water running off a sidewalk into the curb from sprinkler overspray.

With drought and growth taking a toll on the Colorado River, the source of 90 percent of the region’s water, a new law mandates the removal of turf, patch by patch.

LAS VEGAS — It was a perfectly decent patch of lawn, several hundred square feet of grass in a condominium community on this city’s western edge. But Jaime Gonzalez, a worker with a local landscaping firm, had a job to do. Continue reading

Carbon, Sequestration & Hope

(Brandon Thibodeaux / The New York Times / Redux)

When I read about a promising new technology related to carbon sequestration, I am ambivalent based on the experience of many past false hopes. Carbon is a very large problem. Finding new methods of sequestration is a very challenging puzzle.

I track such developments every week by reading the newsletter that Bill McKibben posts on Substack. Most weeks I post something here from that, and do my best to balance the terrifying and enraging with the more hopeful news he occasionally shares there.

The only other newsletter I read regularly is Robinson Meyer’s newsletter for the Atlantic, called The Weekly Planet. Here is one of his worth reading for a bit of encouragement (when you click the hyperlink it will go to the current newsletter, which until April 20 is this one; after April 20 scroll to find this edition):

The Biggest Investment Ever in Sucking Carbon Out of the Sky

The world’s biggest tech companies are getting serious about carbon removal, the still-nascent technology wherein humanity can pull heat-trapping carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. Yesterday, an alliance of prominent Silicon Valley companies—including Google, Meta, Shopify, and the payment company Stripe—announced that it is purchasing $925 million in carbon removal over the next eight years. In a world awash in overhyped corporate climate commitments, this is actually a big deal. Continue reading

When Diplomats Must Be Undiplomatic

Yesterday I posted about one of the easier topics among the many options I have to post about every day. Today, a topic increasingly frequent in my posts, but definitely not an easy one. So I look to one person to summarize our week-to-week progress or lack of it. As always, I recommend signing up for his newsletter:

The World’s Top Diplomat Has Had It Up to Here

The Secretary General of the UN models how to think about climate change

I can remember when some of us organized what may have been the planet’s first truly huge climate march, with 400,000 people descending on New York in 2014. Then UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon came to walk with us for a few blocks, and it was considered remarkable: the world’s top diplomat had previously been too diplomatic to join in protests challenging the policies of his member nations. Continue reading

Youth & Perspective

It should not be this difficult to change viewpoints on an existential topic. But apparently it is. If it requires a new social media platform, and watching a few short, catchy videos, so be it:

A growing chorus of young people is focusing on climate solutions. “‘It’s too late’ means ‘I don’t have to do anything, and the responsibility is off me.’”

Alaina Wood is well aware that, planetarily speaking, things aren’t looking so great. She’s read the dire climate reports, tracked cataclysmic weather events and gone through more than a few dark nights of the soul. Continue reading

Jumpstarting System Change

So many things to change, so little time. If you are looking for a way to jumpstart a change to the system, consider these six lifestyle adjustments (thanks to the Guardian for the feature story on Jump):

From using smartphones for longer to ending car ownership, research shows ‘less stuff and more joy’ is the way forward

Founder of the Jump campaign Tom Bailey. Photograph: Andy Hall/The Observer

Research shows that people in wealthier, high-consuming countries can help avert climate breakdown by making six relatively straightforward lifestyle changes, creating a society of “less stuff and more joy”.

Experts say if enacted these “shifts” would account for a quarter of the required emissions reductions needed to keep the global heating down to 1.5C and increase pressure on government and the private sector to make the necessary far-reaching systemic change. Continue reading

Plastic, The Gift That Keeps Giving

An artwork at the Nairobi summit venue by the artist Benjamin von Wong, made with rubbish from Kibera slum, urging people to ‘turn off the plastic tap’. Photograph: Monicah Mwangi/Reuters

We have endless opportunities to demonstrate leadership, thanks to plastic:

World leaders agree to draw up ‘historic’ treaty on plastic waste

UN environment assembly resolution is being hailed as biggest climate deal since 2015 Paris accord

World leaders, environment ministers and other representatives from 173 countries have agreed to develop a legally binding treaty on plastics, in what many described a truly historic moment. Continue reading

We Have Seen The Future, And It Is Youthful

Sunrise models itself on the civil-rights movement of the fifties and sixties. Photograph by Evan Jenkins for The New Yorker

In the current issue of the New Yorker, Andrew Marantz offers an inside view of The Youth Movement Trying to Revolutionize Climate Politics; we can only hope they succeed where previous generations have failed:

Sunrise has already shifted the conventional wisdom about climate change. Now it wants to create a mass movement, combining street protest with policy negotiation, while there’s still time.

On the evening of November 12, 2018, six days after being elected to Congress and six weeks before being sworn in, the socialist Democrats Rashida Tlaib and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez walked into an Episcopal church in Washington, D.C. Inside, more than a hundred activists in their teens and twenties milled around a font of holy water, wearing nametags on their flannel and fleece, eating pizza from paper plates. Continue reading

Airborne Wind Energy

An airborne wind turbine at the SkySails Power’s pilot site in Klixbüll, Germany. AXEL HEIMKEN / PICTURE ALLIANCE VIA GETTY IMAGES

Wind energy, as we have pictured it, was in a race between fixed and floating models. We did not know about the airborne model. Nicola Jones, writing in Yale e360, gives a clear picture of why it faltered and how it is recovering:

After a Shaky Start, Airborne Wind Energy Is Slowly Taking Off

This long-exposure nighttime photograph shows the figure-eight flight pattern of Kitepower’s airborne wind system. KITEPOWER

Numerous companies are developing technologies, such as large kites, that can harvest wind energy up to a half-mile above ground. While still in its nascent stages, airborne wind power could potentially be used in remote locations or flying from barges far offshore.

Look up over the white sand beaches of Mauritius and you may see a gigantic sail, much like the kind used by paragliders or kite surfers but the size of a three-bedroom apartment, looping figure-eights overhead. Continue reading

Big Companies, Big Noise

(Original Caption) A man sitting atop a girder over the city is shown taking photos of the unfinished municipal building.

Bill Mckibben’s newsletter is one of the most efficient ways to stay informed on issues of interest to us in our daily posts on this platform. This week’s edition, titled Needs Improvement, is as good as any other recent edition. Consider subscription options that suit your budget by clicking the button, if you appreciate what you read below:

The Economic Giants Must Do Better than Meh

No one expects small businesses to be the leaders on climate change, though of course a noble handful are. It’s the giants—who have enormous brands to protect, and large margins to cover the cost of changing—that need to be out front. The ones with big ad campaigns with lots of windmills and penguins and cheerful shots of the smiling future. The ones who have made a lot of noise about ‘net zero.’ And how are they doing? Meh. Continue reading

Chile Has New Hands On Deck

The receding Santa Ines glacier in Seno Ballena fjord in Punta Arenas, southern Chile. Photograph: Martin Bernetti/AFP/Getty

Bringing experts into government does not sound like a news story, until you consider Chile. A country governed for decades by Chicago school economics–a strong invisible hand of market forces combined with a strong visible hand of military rule to keep leftists at bay–Chile’s most recent election led to some new hands in the governance picture.

With the climate crisis, Chile has an opportunity to set a new example for the world. The failure of markets until now to address a human-induced environmental catastrophe will be met with the combined force of expert scientific knowledge and public sector governance:

‘We need politicians and experts’: how Chile is putting the climate crisis first

President Gabriel Boric has brought renowned named climate scientist Maisa Rojas into government to help ensure a greener future

‘We need politicians and experts’: how Chile is putting the climate crisis first
President Gabriel Boric has brought renowned named climate scientist Maisa Rojas into government to help ensure a greener future

Hidden behind the Andes in a quiet corner of South America, a formidable generation of former student leaders are putting together one of the world’s most exciting progressive movements.

On 11 March, Gabriel Boric, 35, a tattooed leftist with a steely resolve to reform Chile from the bottom up, will become the country’s youngest ever president – and his green agenda is echoing across the world as time ticks away on an impending climate catastrophe.

“It is so exciting to see what these young people have done,” says Maisa Rojas, 49, a renowned Chilean climate scientist who has been named environment minister in a cabinet including several of Boric’s student protest generation. Continue reading

Civic Responsibility, Palm Oil & Change

Forest clearance in Indonesia. Palm oil production in the country, which is one of the world’s largest producers, has been linked to deforestation. Photograph: Ulet Ifansasti/Greenpeace

Smouldering peatland following a suspected land clearance fire in Kampar, Sumatra, in 2019. Photograph: Adek Berry/AFP/Getty Images

Palm oil has a dirty history. It causes havoc, to put it politely. May we all do our part to elect civic leaders with a keen sense of responsibility for devastation in other parts of the world, and get them to take action to reduce it. We thank Patrick Greenfield for his reporting in this article titled The UK city taking a stand on palm oil in the fight against deforestation:

A growing number of towns and villages are following Chester’s lead in helping local businesses to eradicate deforestation-linked oil from their supply chains

Orangutans, tigers, Sumatran rhinos and many other threatened species are affected by habitat loss and human-wildlife conflict that stems from palm oil plantations. Photograph: Vier Pfoten/Four Paws/Rhoi/REX/Shutterstock

From mince pies and biscuits to lipstick and soap, palm oil grown on deforested land in south-east Asia will have been hard to avoid this Christmas. The vegetable oil is found in almost half of all packaged products in UK supermarkets, according to WWF.

But a growing number of towns and cities are trying to use only sustainable palm oil, helping orangutans, tigers, Sumatran rhinos and many other threatened species. Continue reading

A Time For Giving, With Top Shelf Advice

MacKenzie Scott never featured in our many posts about the fortune she suddenly found herself with. She wants to give that fortune away, fast. So, she is a person of interest to us, for all kinds of good reasons. But not so fast, the Economist’s semi-charitable subtitle, the charity-industrial complex, seems to say introducing the article below about advisors to givers:

Bridgespan Group: the most powerful consultants you’ve never heard of

They direct philanthropic billions around the world

OVER THE past 18 months, the world has heard a lot about MacKenzie Scott, the billionaire philanthropist formerly married to Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. She has given generously to charities on the frontline of the pandemic, including food banks, schools and children’s health programmes. Relatively unknown, however, is the consultancy that has helped distribute almost $9bn on Ms Scott’s behalf: the Bridgespan Group. Continue reading

Costa Rica, Never Old

A tapir in Braulio Carrillo national park, near San José. Costa Rica’s policy of paying citizens to protect and restore ecosystems is credited with reversing deforestation rates, which threaten the species. Photograph: Michiel van Noppen/2021 Wildlife Photographer of the Year

The stories we use the title Really to highlight are among the heavies. Too much malfeasance, too often. Reading stories about Costa Rica‘s remarkable achievements related to the environment never gets old:

Billionaires, princes and prime ministers are among those keen to learn from the Central American country, which has long put nature at the heart of its policies

If there had been a popularity contest at Cop26, the Costa Rican president, Carlos Alvarado Quesada, would have been a clear winner. Leonardo DiCaprio, Jeff Bezos, Boris Johnson and Prince William all wanted to speak with the leader of the tiny Central American country, eager to bask in its green glow. Continue reading

Spain Harnesses The Power In The Air

View of a wind farm in the province of Burgos.

While we were paying attention to many other things over the last decade, Spain transformed into a wind power house. How did we miss it with all the attention we paid to renewable energy? Thanks to El Pais for this news:

Wind power becomes Spain’s leading energy source for 2021

Renewable sources already cover almost half of the country’s consumption needs – so far this year, they have contributed almost 47% of the total compared to less than 30% a decade ago

Even if the wind stops blowing in the next three weeks, wind power will end the year as the leading source of electricity in Spain. Continue reading

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