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Clean Sustainable Environment for All

environmentThis page includes articles on progressive solutions for insuring a clean, sustainable environment for all. Climate change may well be the catalyst that will unify diverse grassroots movements and finally end the death grip extractive industries have on our electoral system. This change must happen before the Earth's ecosystems are damaged beyond repair. The links below identify actions you can take now to move us toward a more sustainable environment.

[By Dr. Ken Lans, a retired physician and Climate Leader with the Climate Reality Project]

Climate Reality Logo GlobeI’m on the steering committee of the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy, so I wanted to share with you what we’re working on (policy) — “Fund the Solutions, Price the Pollution.” — and stress the importance of us all coming together now to push forward with decisive, effective, and equitable climate action here in Washington. While it’s pretty clear that we’ll be on the defensive nationally and the best we can hope for there is to prevent as much backward, dangerous and destructive results as possible — we have a chance to make real progress here in our state and become a model for the rest of the nation for what's possible. 

And I’m not referring strictly to climate action, but to the broader progress I think we all recognize we need to make toward a more fair, just, equal, inclusive, equitable, and sustainable society and world. If it showed us nothing else, the election highlighted that all these things are under a concerted, block attack, and that while, as individuals we may find we’re most effective focusing our time, energy and efforts on one or two areas, these issues are fundamentally linked and tied together and can’t be addressed in isolation from each other. Not just because it’s the right thing to do, but also because (politically and practically) we need broader awareness and support if we have any hope to move our climate agenda forward, environmentalists and climate activists need to particularly understand — and find ways to address — the issues that concern communities of color and low income groups (as well as workers and labor groups). We need to be talking, strategizing, and working together on issues of common concern — and showing our active support for the struggles most important to each other.

That’s just what we’re doing here in Washington. Working together, as a broad-based coalition, to tackle climate change. The Alliance sent out a letter the day after the election outlining the policy framework we’ve put forward — and a group of legislative leaders are currently working with us to finalize actual legislation to be introduced in January. 

Along with the good transit news (the passage of ST3), our state has also reelected Gov. Inslee and we have a new Commissioner of Public Lands (Hilary Franz) who is a dynamo and totally committed to climate action and figuring out ways to insert her efforts and those of her office toward that end.

If you’re anything like me, it’s been hard some days (the couple right after election I found it hard to eat and sometimes even breath) to not slide into wallowing in despair, negativity and depression. There’s no way to sugar coat the fact that things have suddenly gotten much more difficult and scary (I also work, with WPSR, on nuclear proliferation issues) and our task more challenging and difficult. I find the best way to cope — to not feel helpless and hopeless — is (and my medical experience backs this up) to be active, to do something, to get and stay involved. But no need to be manic about it — find a way that’s healthy and sustainable for you.

waterbucketsAccess to water is a human right; it should not be a source of corporate profiteering. Recently the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation divested from global water privatizer Veolia. This represents an important step toward ensuring water corporations can’t exploit such an essential, priceless resource.

Through its investment in and promotion of private water, the World Bank helps enable corporations to take over and profit from municipal water systems -- to the detriment of people’s access to this vital public good. For years we have organized with people around the globe to demand an end to the World Bank’s promotion of private water, making investment in Veolia a liability for the World Bank. Now, Veolia can no longer count on the IFC for the financial support and credibility it needs to expand water privatization. This is a victory for the movement to protect water as a human right.

lagosIn cities where Veolia controls water utilities, people struggle with skyrocketing rates and poor water quality -- that is, if the tap hasn’t run dry in their neighborhood. For example, in 2013, half the people of Nagpur, India lost water service for two days when the system shut down. Along with rate increases and erratic supply, many of Veolia’s projects fail to deliver on commitments to expand infrastructure, focusing on increasing profit margins instead.

Since 2007, Veolia has benefited from support from the IFC, the World Bank agency that directly finances private sector projects. But we recently discovered the IFC divested about $160 million from two Veolia subsidiaries, an amount equal to about 25 percent of Veolia’s total investment budget. That’s huge. The IFC off-loading also deprives Veolia of the access and clout that come with funding from the powerful World Bank.

the guardian water privatisation worldwide failureThe IFC’s divestment from Veolia is a major victory for the human right to water. But we need your help to keep pressure on the World Bank so it stays out of private water. Not only does the IFC still have investments in other water corporations, but the World Bank as a whole also continues to promote privatization schemes through its advisory services, marketing, and knowledge production. At the World Bank Spring Meetings we are building on this pivotal success to push the World Bank to step away from private water completely.



goreAt the Seattle Westin on December 5, 2014, Al Gore spoke to a full banquet room at a fundraiser for Jay Inslee. Gore offered praise for the Washington Governor’s much vaunted plan to combat global warming. Inslee has proposed putting a price on carbon, improving public transportation, encouraging energy efficiency, and increasing use of solar power and electric cars. It remains to be seen how much of this agenda can come to fruition with Republicans still in control of the State Senate.

Nonetheless, it is worth noting that taking a strong stand on addressing the climate crisis has now become an effective campaign fundraising technique. Not so long ago, such a topic would have earned barely a mention from an elected official with such a high profile as Inslee. Gore, author of An Inconvenient TruthEarth in the Balance, and other books calling for action to address climate change as well as founder of The Climate Reality Project, called Washington’s Governor the best of all U.S. governors on this critically important issue.

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While giving a nod to the importance of fully funding education as mandated by the McCleary decision, Inslee spoke at length about his plans to find “market-driven” solutions to the problem of reducing carbon emissions, telling the crowd of likely Democratic donors the importance of seeing the current crisis as not just a danger to be averted but as an opportunity for Washington State to lead the nation and the world in 21stCentury green energy technologies, drawing on our State’s history as a leader in the aerospace and software industries. Gore recited a familiar litany of dire predictions of climate chaos, but he also pivoted to a more hopeful message: the cost of clean energy technologies is dropping at rates much faster than predicted just five years ago. When the former Vice President spoke of the lower cost and higher efficiency of solar panels, a couple at my table who had recently installed solar panels on their home gave each other a quiet high-five. (They also told me that homeowners buying solar panels from a Washington State based company can look to having the cost recouped in the form of lower power bills in no more than five years.)
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But while Gore and Inslee were inspirational, the star of the day was 9 year-old Abby Snodgrass, a member of Plant for the Planet, who has taken it upon herself to help in the effort to plant “a thousand billion trees”. She believes children planting one million trees in every country on earth could offset CO2 emissions all on their own, while adults are still talking about doing it. Each tree binds a CO2 intake of 10 kg per year. Abby called on all the adults to follow her example and choose not to be a bystander just because the climate problem seems too big to solve. Abby is right. The message of the day is that we will never solve the problem of global warming by doing nothing. The scope of the problem requires all of us to work together. The plan put forward by Governor Inslee won’t solve the problem by itself, but like Abby planting dozens of trees, it’s a meaningful step in the right direction.