The topic of climate change has been largely absent from the presidential election debate while historic wildfires engulf parts of the country.
The topic of climate change has been largely absent from the presidential election debate while historic wildfires engulf parts of the country.
It’s time to wake up. On Global Day of Climate Action, VICE Media Group is solely telling stories about our current climate crisis. Click here to meet young climate leaders from around the globe and learn how you can take action. There are, of course, many reasons to vote. But as wildfires engulf the West Coast, heat waves and hurricanes devastate entire regions, and rising sea levels threaten cities like Miami, an increasing number of voters are saying climate change is what’s driving them to cast their ballot — and in some cases, even influencing who they support.“Climate change voters” aren’t yet a reliable voting bloc the way gun-loving NRA voters are for the Republican Party, Alec Tyson of the Pew Research Center told Quartz. But they’re quickly becoming one. In the past few years, more people have started to identify themselves as such, and naming climate change as the primary issue that is motivating them to vote. “I think that in 2020, this will be the first election where you’re going to see climate come up like healthcare, national security, jobs, and economic security, as a reason people vote and a reason people engage in this election,” Lauren French, senior communications director at Climate Power 2020, told Refinery29.In fact, climate change is the single most important issue among Democrats during this election cycle, edging out concerns over healthcare and the economy, according to a recently released NPR survey. (For Republicans, it doesn’t even rank as one of their top six concerns.)Between 2014 and 2019, the number of Americans who are worried about climate change nearly tripled, reports the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. A recent poll conducted by VICE Media Group and several partners found that 78% of voters support retraining former fossil fuel workers into renewable energy jobs, to help rebuild the economy after COVID. And 65% of voters say they want to see Congress and the next president draft a serious and comprehensive bill addressing how the U.S. plans to fight climate change as soon as next year. Despite the fact that it’s top of mind for voters, climate change is chronically under-discussed in the media and political debates. “The last time a climate question was asked [during a presidential or vice presidential debate] was in 2008, which seems to be fake, but it’s just an absurd amount of time,” French said. The Commission on Presidential Debates recently announced which topics President Donald Trump and former VP Joe Biden will cover in the upcoming debate on September 29, and — once again — climate change is not on the roster. Varshini Prakash, Executive Director of the Sunrise Movement, said it is an “abdication of the media’s role to keep people informed for climate to be completely erased from the docket.”French said the September 29 roster surprised her, given the push among voters for politicians to talk about the issue during debates. “I recognize that Chris Wallace works for Fox, I’m a pretty pragmatic and realistic human being, but [during the debates, he’s been chosen to] ask on behalf of all American voters, not just the audience that watches Fox News,” she said. “So he has a greater responsibility than to appease folks who watch Fox and don’t want to believe that the climate crisis is here.” Asked about the debate topic, Biden deputy national press secretary Matt Hill said, “Regardless of what’s happening in the news or on the debate stage, Vice President Biden will continue treating the climate crisis as a front-and-center issue, as he has been throughout the entire campaign.”Unfortunately, views on climate change — like wearing masks during the pandemic, another life-or-death issue — tend to be divided among party lines. Pew Research Center found that 88% of Democrats consider climate change a major threat, compared to only 31% of Republicans. 78% of Democrats think dealing with global climate change should be a “top priority” this year (up from 46% in 2015), while only 21% of Republicans agree.This election season, climate change voters are unequivocal about getting rid of Trump — who has withdrawn from the Paris Climate agreement, consistently scaled back environmental protections, expanded Arctic drilling, and denied that climate change even exists. Joe Biden, to them, presents the best hope for the future. After engaging with communities, including environmental organizations, environmental justice advocates, and labor unions, his campaign has developed an aggressive plan to end carbon emissions from power plants by 2035 with a broad investment in jobs and infrastructure. This includes $2 trillion for clean energy projects, as well as a promise to direct 40% of its climate spending to marginalized communities. “The fact that you have the League of Conservation Voters, the Sierra Club, the United Auto Workers, IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers), and a swath of environmental justice leaders all coming out in support of the same climate plan is unprecedented and speaks to Joe Biden’s ability to bring together all kinds of leaders who we need to be engaging on this issue,” said Hill.Trump’s embrace of fossil fuels and climate denial — he recently dismissively said that it will “start getting cooler” in reference to the West Coast wildfires — have even pushed a considerable number of climate voters to the Democratic party, French said. David Jeffrey Arnot, 22, who lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, said he changed his registration after seeing “an increasingly worrying denial of science from the Republican party.” According to an April survey by Climate Power 2020, 62% of Republican-leaning “persuadable voters” disapprove of Trump’s handling of climate and 72% think that strong climate action will be good for the economy. The other major “climate voter” group are “Bernie voters” who are not necessarily sold on Biden, but who are so passionate about stepping up on climate action that they will vote for him, since of the current candidates, he is the only one with solutions to the issue, French said. Then, there are the Democrats who would likely vote for Biden otherwise, and also consider climate change their number-one issue. Another Climate Power 2020 survey shows that Latinx voters are particularly engaged on climate change: 77% of Latinx voters favor bold government action on climate change, 71% of voters overall support it. Women, millennials, people of color, and those earning under $50,000 a year are all more likely to list this issue as top priority in elections, according to the Environmental Voter Project. This may be because climate change affects these populations more significantly and directly: Reports say climate change will take a disproportionate toll on low-income communities, for instance, as they already have higher rates of adverse health conditions, are more exposed to environmental hazards, and take longer to bounce back from natural disasters. For many climate change voters, their personal experience has helped inform their attitudes. Ivette Alsina, 49, who lives in Winter Haven, FL, fled from Cayey, Puerto Rico, after Hurricane Maria; scientists say climate change was behind the hurricane’s deadly rainfall. Alsina said she had to leave behind a lot of family and friends. “We need to start paying attention to what is happening, because it’s not only happening in Puerto Rico, but around the world,” she said.Alejandra Cadiz, 53, in Grayson, GA, says the heatwaves in Georgia have gotten unbearable — she hasn’t experienced anything like it since she moved there in 1996. “Without taking care of this problem, we are not going to be here in 50 more years, we are not going to live on this planet. So nothing else will matter, not healthcare, not economics,” she said. Heather Toney, 44, lives in Oxford, MS, and has two children ages four and 14. The former mayor of Greenville, MS, she now works with the Biden campaign on climate issues. Mississippi has dealt not only with extensive flooding, but a record number of storms. “Joe understands that we are working now to protect the next generation, but that we always need to have practical solutions,” Toney told Refinery29. “I’m a Black woman in Mississippi and a mother, so I cannot be anything but a climate change voter,” Toney said, adding that there is a clear connection between climate justice and racial justice. “Voter suppression is directly connected to climate change because to achieve change, we have to have the people voting. But we can’t get the people into office who would make changes because the vote is being suppressed.” Because of redlining policies, the devastating effects of chemical pollution on Black communities are intensified. In “cancer alley” — where people are 50 times as likely to get cancer than the average American — you see the product of redlining at work, with low-income Black people living along an 85-mile-long stretch along the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Baton Rouge in Louisiana, which is covered with oil refineries and petrochemical plants. The area has also seen some of the highest COVID-19 death rates in the U.S.Among some younger voters, attitudes toward Biden’s climate change plan are more mixed. The Green New Deal, written by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed. Markey, is in their view a more ambitious plan than Biden’s. Biden has essentially embraced the framework of the Green New Deal, including its jobs guarantee, but wouldn’t ban natural gas and oil fracking or phase out nuclear power.“When I vote, especially at the more local level, I vote for representatives who either support the Green New Deal or have similar elements on their platform,” Lourdes Ginart, 27, from Eugene, Oregon, who is registered as an Independent and is voting for Biden, told Refinery29. “I think winning the Senate back will be the best way for climate champions and concerned representatives like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or Ed Markey to push the legislation we desperately need for a more equitable and sustainable U.S.” Daniel Jubelirer, 27, said that he volunteered for Sen. Bernie Sanders in the primary, and plans to vote for Biden largely because of his climate plan. “I got involved with the Sunrise Movement a few years ago, and it was through Sunrise that I saw that the Democratic Party is what we push for them to be,” he said, referring to the youth climate justice movement that played a big role in advocating for the Green New Deal to be part of Biden’s plan. “If you push candidates to support very bold policies, they will. I’ve been really impressed with the way that Biden has listened to young leaders. I don’t think he goes far enough, and I’d love to see him do more. But his climate plan is still the most ambitious of any nominee in history. I like that he’s addressing creating jobs. If his climate plan is fully implemented, it’s very good.” Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?
It’s time to wake up. On Global Day of Climate Action, VICE Media Group is solely telling stories about our current climate crisis. Click here to meet young climate leaders from around the globe and learn how you can take action. “So, I recognize the irony in this analogy,” begins Renee Salas, MD, MPH, an emergency medicine doctor and a fellow at the Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment at Harvard University. “But the effect climate change has on health is kind of like an iceberg. There are the connections research and science has shown us — that’s what’s above water. But there’s probably so much more going on underneath the surface.”Even considering that, the effects we can see are shocking. “In 2014, we did a survey of physicians at the National Medical Association [a U.S. organization representing African American physicians and their patients]. It found that 88% of our doctors were already seeing the health effects of climate change in their patients,” Mark Mitchell, MD, a public health physician specializing in environmental health, tells Refinery29.The main thing these physicians reported was an exacerbation of preexisting heart and lung conditions, says Dr. Mitchell, who is also the associate professor of Climate Change, Energy, and Environmental Health Equity at George Mason University. But injuries from severe weather events, such as smoke inhalation due to wildfires, were equally common.When I ask him to list all the ways we know climate change is harming health, he uses the mnemonic HEATWAVE, meaning: Heat effects; Exacerbation of preexisting heart and lung conditions; Asthma; Traumatic injury caused by climate-related severe weather; Water- and food-borne illnesses; Allergies; Vector-borne diseases, such as West Nile and Zika; and Emotional and mental health impacts from experiences like loss of property or life due to climate-related disaster.Many of these problems are either partially or exclusively driven by the fact that the world is getting hotter. So if climate change is the iceberg, then its tip consists of the problems we can see, like the risk of heat-related illness and death. But lurking below the surface are dozens of less-obvious but profound dangers. Like this: Rising heat is associated with an increased incidence in antibiotics-resistant bacteria, Dr. Salas tells Refinery29. Or this: When pregnant women are exposed to extreme temperature, their fetuses may be at an increased risk of congenital heart defects. Climate change may also be contributing to the spread of disease-carrying insects like ticks into new areas, resulting in an increase of issues like Lyme disease. Heat may play a role in hastening the spread of viruses like West Nile and Zika, too, by altering mosquitoes’ lifespan and behavior. Increasing heat increases air pollution and lengthens the ragweed pollen season, which in turn exacerbates allergies and asthma, Dr. Mitchell points out: “Some of our allergists in the NMA are saying that they are concerned that they’re having to provide more and more adult allergy medications to younger and younger children — even though many haven’t been approved for kids. But the health effects are getting worse faster than we’re doing the research required to find out which medications are safe in kids.”Then there’s the fact that students in non-air-conditioned buildings have a hard time thinking; they can fall behind in school. Heat can impair sleep among those who do not have access to air conditioners, which can have widespread impacts on their life. “That can be a hidden way it harms health,” Dr. Salas says. “Heat is insidious.”So too are extreme weather conditions and climate-related disasters, both of which have become more common in the past several years due to climate change. Hurricanes, flooding, wildfires, and drought all have the power to kill and injure, as we’re seeing in real time with the West Coast wildfires, which have killed at least 33 people and affected countless others through issues like smoke inhalation.But a less-talked-about way climate change affects health is by damaging infrastructure, Dr. Salas notes. Power outages are becoming more frequent due to heat and extreme weather events, she says. “In one case, the hospital down the street from where I live lost power,” she tells me, explaining that the building had generators, but only enough to cool certain areas. “They had to evacuate patients from the upper levels because it got so hot. Even once the power was restored, some of the equipment had gotten so hot that it took even longer for it to come back online.” After Hurricane Maria, she adds, a factory in Puerto Rico that made hospital equipment was damaged; shortages reached Dr. Salas’s hospital in Boston: “We had strict criteria on who could receive IV fluids, and I handed out Gatorade to those who didn’t meet the criteria.”Some of the damage is more subtle. While many areas aren’t necessarily getting more precipitation annually, the U.S. is experiencing more heavy downpours, Dr. Mitchell says. As a result, buildings, especially sub-standard housing, are developing more leaks, and the increased moisture is allowing more mold to grow — and that can worsen asthma and allergies.Then there are the mental health effects of climate change, which Surili Patel, the director of the Center for Climate, Health and Equity, says get underreported. “There are acute impacts, such as the post-traumatic stress disorder after a hurricane rips through a town, but there are gradual impacts too,” she explains. “When a kid has grown up with the possibility of a severe asthma attack hanging over their head, that is harmful to mental health.”DashDividers_1_500x100Not all communities are equally impacted by the health-related effects of climate change. The experts who spoke with Refinery29 said the young, the elderly, the low-income, and communities of color are particularly vulnerable.Children and the elderly (and, Dr. Mitchell adds, pregnant people) are especially at risk physically. Children’s bodies are still developing, which makes them more susceptible to illness from increased air and water pollution. Their mental health may also be harmed long-term by climate-related disaster disruptions and displacements from their home lives.Older adults are predisposed to health conditions and prone to injury, Patel notes. They’re also less able to regulate their body temperature, making them at high risk for issues like heat stroke.Pregnant women are more likely to become dehydrated, always a risk in extreme heat. “They can even go into premature labor due to heat,” Dr. Mitchell notes. Premature babies are more at risk for issues like learning disabilities. Black pregnant women are disproportionately affected by climate change in the U.S., research published in the journal JAMA Network Open showed, for many of the same reasons that people of color in general form another high-risk group.People of color are more likely to have more underlying conditions and pre-existing illnesses that could make them especially vulnerable to climate effects, Dr. Mitchell says. At all income levels, they are significantly more likely than white people to have high rates of exposure to air pollution, water pollution, and toxic chemicals, and to suffer the resulting health effects, he says. They’re also more likely to be low-income, which makes it difficult to avoid or reduce environmental exposures and their health effects.“Communities of all different colors are affected more severely by climate change than white communities,” Patel says. “Systemically, we have communities that have been drained of power and resources — or never had the power and resources to build healthy communities to begin with. I often say, we’ll all be impacted by, say, extreme weather conditions. The difference is, some communities will be able to rebuild and bounce back after a weather event destroys a town, and some will not because of these systemic issues.”Additionally, low-income people tend to live in “urban heat islands,” areas that are hotter than neighboring communities, often due to a lack of green life and an overuse of cement. Low-income people may also be less likely to be able to afford air-conditioning, increasing their odds of being affected by the hotter temperature.As with so many things, how climate change affects health is intersectional. Dr. Salas describes one recent patient, a man whose wife called 911 after he started acting confused. When he got to the hospital, his core temperature was 106 degrees Fahrenheit. “His body was literally cooking itself, and his brain couldn’t function,” Dr. Salas says. The man was low-income and elderly: He was living on the top floor of an apartment building, with no air-conditioning unit and one small window that didn’t open all the way. Climate change made the day hot, but being low-income placed the man in that un-air-conditioned room, which was even hotter, and being elderly made him even more susceptible to the extreme heat.Dr. Mitchell describes working with people in a low-income housing development that was right next to a highway in Connecticut. “The [air] pollution and noise pollution were really, really bad, and harmful for people who had asthma. Their nurses would say to them, ‘You should close your windows,’ but they didn’t have air-conditioning. When it’s over 90 degrees, they’d have to have their windows open. But then their children would have asthma attacks and wind up in the hospital. The waiting list to change apartments was more than one-year long so there was little that they could do to change the situation.” DashDividers_1_500x100Emphasizing all the ways climate change has affected our well-being — and what we’re at risk for if things continue along their same path — may be key to actually prompting real change. “Climate change is not just about polar bears and icebergs,” Dr. Salas tells Refinery29. “The way in which climate impacts health, and the way it’s disproportionately impacting some vulnerable populations, makes climate change personal. This is affecting your health, your kids’ health, your parents’ health, your neighbors’ health. And that can be a central driving force for climate action.”“I think talking about the health effects makes climate change real to everyone,” Dr. Mitchell agrees. “It’s not just ‘out there,’ happening someplace else. A lot of families have someone with asthma, with lung disease, with heart disease. And so now they can’t go outside on certain days when it’s too hot or there is too much air pollution,” he says. “It’s not a political issue — health is health; it’s for everybody.”While there are things individuals can do to protect themselves from the downstream effects of climate change — monitoring local air quality and staying indoors on hot or smoggy days; finding access to an air-conditioned space like a local library to use on hot days; having a plan for natural disaster; being aware of your local risk of vector-borne illness and using an appropriate repellent — these are short-term solutions for a long-term problem.“In many ways I think we’re forced to put a Band-aid on a bullet wound,” Dr Salas acknowledges. “Studies show, for instance, that as A/C use increases, we’re creating more greenhouse gas emissions and more air pollution.” But as the world gets hotter, A/C can save lives. As such, she advocates for solutions that make it more accessible or affordable, like subsidizing electricity for cooling for those who need it (similar to heat subsidies), while at the same time pushing for bigger solutions, such as creating more green space in cities to reduce the urban heat island effect. Dr. Mitchell is also in favor of allowing health professionals to write prescriptions for air conditioning units, and of climate-protective solutions that benefit the more vulnerable communities. He talks about closing down fossil fuel power plants in urban areas, for instance, which has been associated with a drop in asthma symptoms among people who live near them — who are often predominately Black and low-income communities.“The COVID-19 pandemic shows that we as a society can rapidly change our behavior. We can do the same thing with climate change, and emerge from the ashes of this stronger and more resilient. But prevention is so critical, as the pandemic has shown,” Dr. Salas says.Patel says that while meaningful change requires action from policymakers, there’s at least one thing individuals can do to help move the needle on the climate crisis. “Vote. Vote for health,” she says. “Not just in the national elections; the local ones are so important, because local decisions impact parks, education, and infrastructure in a huge way. So get to know your local candidates. And vote — I can’t stress it enough.”Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?1 Year Later, This Is What Greta Thunberg's Up ToWhat Calling Racism A Public Health Crisis MeansWhat It's Like To Be A Climate Change Activist Now
"There is this sense of kind of feeling lost even when you're at your home," Dr. Jen Hartstein tells Yahoo Life.
"Solastalgia" is a generally new term coined by psychologists in response to feelings of climate-induced despair following an influx in negative environmental events like the wildfires along the west coast. Yahoo Life Mental Health Contributor, Jen Hartstein, offers tips to ease some of the negative effects that solastalgia may be having on your mental health. “When we feel disconnected from the Earth, which solastalgia highlights, we want to looks for ways to be connected or places and locations that we do feel secure and safe,” she says. “Maybe it's finding that special place in the park that you know is there, and you know is safe, that you can get to every day or as often as you can. That will help us get the balance we need to get through each day more effectively.” Hartstein recommends talking with others about how you're feeling, to find support in your community as everyone goes through this together. Then we can find out if there are ways to make a difference. “Can we help rescue animals? Can we help send money for the Red Cross to provide materials and goods to the people who are losing those things? Maybe it's getting involved in eco-friendly organizations to help work on things related to climate change,” Hartstein explains. “Engage in those things and be active in your community, figure out how you can work with your community, that you live in to make things better and safer for everybody.” Doing what you can to create change is one of the best weighs to combat feeling powerless and overcome solastalgia.
It’s time to wake up. On Global Day of Climate Action, VICE Media Group is solely telling stories about our current climate crisis. Click here to meet young climate leaders from around the globe and learn how you can take action.TikTok is home to some of 2020’s most viral fashion trends, from knitting challenges inspired by Harry Styles to a Little Women-esque aesthetic known as cottagecore. It also gives a platform to everyone from vintage clothing store owners and mending experts to fashion sustainability experts. One scroll on the app and you’ll find tips on how to transform a bedsheet into a prairie dress, followed by a lesson on the water shortage caused by denim production. With its bite-size videos and an algorithm that prioritizes discovery and can turn a user with zero followers into one with a million in seconds, TikTok has become the go-to app for Gen Z, in particular, for information on all kinds of things, including climate change. On the platform, upcycling — the process of taking an existing item of clothing or fabrics and reworking it into a new piece — is portrayed as a fun new craft project. And making your own clothing isn’t an inconvenience to be solved by a trip to Zara, but rather an excuse for a photoshoot, one that resembles being on set with Florence Pugh and Timothée Chalamet. But more than just providing sustainable fashion inspiration, the app has become an educational platform — one that many young people turn to and even trust more than traditional media outlets. “TikTok feels very real to me,” says Megan McSherry, the 23-year-old founder of AcTEEvism, a blog about sustainable fashion and conscious consumerism. “There’s a personable aspect that makes the educational part of it — especially about sustainability — come across better.” Prior to TikTok, she says finding information about sustainability that she could relate to was a struggle. Instead, she saw videos of unrelatable “experts” on Instagram and YouTube living perfectly zero-waste lifestyles in their greenhouses, wearing 100% organic cotton jumpsuits and preaching about the importance of veganism. > “Young people on TikTok see through the whole aspirational aesthetic of sustainability, and have figured out the real contributors to climate change, which are governments and large corporations.”> > – Megan McSherry, Founder of Acteevism“The term ‘perfection paralysis’ is common in the sustainable community,” she tells Refinery29. According to McSherry, perfection paralysis happens when you realize that, if you can’t be “that perfect aesthetically pleasing version of a sustainable person,” you shouldn’t even try. “You just end up spending all your time asking yourself: Are you even making a difference? Are you really good enough? But right now, we need everyone to do every little thing they can — pressuring governments and corporations who can make the big changes,” she says. “We don’t need everybody to have a perfectly zero-waste kitchen.” McSherry says her introduction to TikTok was a breath of fresh air. “Young people on TikTok see through the whole aspirational aesthetic of sustainability that’s been sold to us by companies, and have figured out the real contributors to climate change, which are governments and large corporations,” she says. “It has more to do with a revolution and large-scale action than it does with the green, natural-looking pants that you choose to wear.”McSherry, who has a Masters of Science in Global Supply Chain Management from the University of Southern California, joined TikTok a year ago, but didn’t start making her own videos until lockdown. Today, her videos — like this one about the alarmingly high temperatures in California — have views of up to 280k. She’s amassed over 55k followers, all of whom come to her for information ranging from corporate propaganda and government rollbacks of environmental regulations to ethical fashion and composting. And she’s hardly the only member of Gen Z who’s tackling climate change on the platform. The ClimateChange page has over 356 million views. ClimateCrisis has 10 million views. In total, there are 800 million users on TikTok worldwide, 60% of which are members of Gen Z, and many of them are creating (and learning from) content like McSherry’s. > @acteevism> > everybody makes mistakes!!! 🤷♀️🌍🧚♀️🥰 oil climatecrisis climatechange> > ♬ EverybodyMakesMistakes – jasonwolbertAccording to her, the trick to finding educational information lies in who you follow. She chooses to follow a wide variety of people whose areas of expertise range from politics to low-waste lifestyle. “Maybe that means finding a new vegan recipe, or perhaps, learning about how a big corporation has wronged individuals in the past.” Either way, McSherry says that TikTok, with its digestible videos, makes learning about all aspects of sustainability and getting involved interesting and convenient.The 60-second time limit for videos on TikTok plays an important role for anyone who’s attracted to a “no-bullshit” way of thinking about climate change, according to McSherry. There’s no jargon involved, nor are there added aesthetics that are commonplace on Instagram. Instead, only necessary information and facts are included, allowing viewers to get to the root of the problem. For example, in less than a minute, TikTok user @feminaziii listed off more than 10 different catastrophes happening right now around the world, including Yemen’s humanitarian crisis and the all-time high temperatures in the Arctic. Nowhere in the video did she cite her sources, but her 120k followers don’t seem to mind. They trust her, which, according to McSherry, isn’t how they feel about traditional news outlets. “How can you trust the media when it’s buying into narratives created by the same conglomerates that created the term ‘carbon footprint’ to make individuals feel bad about their consumption habits?” she asks. “Even if the news they’re telling is factually correct, it feels a lot better to hear it from a social media outlet like TikTok, where you can pick up on those biases and maybe choose not to listen to them or take things for the facts that they are.”With more and more new users joining TikTok daily, many of whom will use the platform to educate themselves and their followers on issues — ranging from the environmental impact of fashion to politics, social justice reform, mental health, and more — it was only a matter of time before the company itself chose to support them. At the start of the pandemic, TikTok launched the Creative Learning Fund, which provided $50 million in grant money to over 800 young educators, from teachers and business professionals to public figures, who were reviewed and then asked to use the app as an educational tool. Topics included sex education, herbal medicine, and DIY fashion tutorials, among others. Framed as a form of COVID relief, the Creative Learning Fund was designed to provide young people with educational resources that were otherwise put on hold due to lockdown, like in-person schooling and extracurriculars. In many ways, though, the fund was a way for TikTok to highlight the fact that the platform has a purpose beyond dance videos. “The joy of learning on TikTok is that the content offers instructional tips and takeaways in a creative format, teaching something useful and inspiring users to seek out more information in a way that is fun and engaging,” says Bryan Thoensen, TikTok’s Head of Content Partnerships. The team also worked closely with all recipients to ensure that they “understand community guidelines and best practices for creating learning content.”One Creative Learning Fund grant winner is Lily Fulop, 24, the author of Wear, Repair, Repurpose: A Maker’s Guide to Mending and Upcycling Clothes (and a designer at Refinery29). On her TikTok page, Mindful Mending, Fulop shows her followers how to buy less and reduce waste, while making more. She’s also taken up sewing her own clothes — “in the more traditional sense, instead of being scrappy and upcycling,” she says — after watching others do so on the app. Like McSherry, Fulop believes that fashion’s impact on the environment isn’t all on the shoulders of individual consumers, which is why she also uses her TikTok to shine a light on the corporate institutions that are responsible. Earlier this month, Fulop posted a clip highlighting the large-scale effects of denim production. (998.8 gallons of water are used to make a single pair of Levi’s, according to a study financed by the American denim brand.) She also shared one about how brands, from fast fashion to luxury, destroy their returned or unsold products, respectively. Sewing and mending clothes play directly into the cottagecore trend. An aesthetically driven return to a more traditional, simple way of life, cottagecore involves romanticizing nature and creating items, from clothing to home decor, by hand. “If you enjoy just being free in a frilly dress in some grass and love baking and picking flowers, then I’d say this is the right place for you,” says Jade Dobson, an 18-year-old who goes by @softgrlfrnd on social media. The popular aesthetic has 4 billion views on the platform, a fan in Taylor Swift, and thousands of videos, a majority of which take place in lush, green fields — fields that, without serious changes, probably won’t be lush for much longer. “Sustainability and do-it-yourself projects are key to [the cottagecore] aesthetic,” Dobson says, explaining that cottagecore fashion falls into three categories: secondhand clothing, clothing from small businesses, and clothing made by hand, with an emphasis on the latter. But not every cottagecore fan started out with a knack for needle and thread. Instead, many were first introduced to the trend through thrifting. > “The way that [TikTok] pushes out information is so different, and that’s what makes it so important and valuable.”> > – Megan McSherry, Founder of ActeevismBefore cottagecore, the Creative Learning Fund, or upcycling blew up on TikTok, there were thrift hauls. (The hashtag thrift has 1 billion views and counting on the app.) For Gen Z, thrifting has always been an integral part of their shopping routine. Some shared with me that it’s the individuality factor that brought them to it; others, the low prices. Most, though, named sustainability as their reason for diving into Goodwill’s pay-by-the-pound bins and scouring racks and racks at Salvation Army. “We need to produce less clothing, and make use of the clothes that are already in existence,” says Fulop. “Doing so will save water, reduce microplastics and petroleum use, cut down on pollution from pesticides, dye, and shipping.” Thrifting is among the easiest and most cost-efficient ways to do that.Estella Struck, a sophomore in college and an environmentalist, spent the beginning of lockdown learning about the damaging impact that the fashion industry has on the environment. From what she learned, she decided to take matters into her own hands, by creating a sustainable brand called Ethica Clothing. At Ethica, Struck sources secondhand pieces that would’ve otherwise been thrown away and sells them under-$10. In addition to selling, she also shares her knowledge about the climate crisis with shoppers. “I wanted to create something that gives people an accessible, non-time consuming way to thrift,” Struck wrote on her website.> @ethica.clothing> > Also taking shorter showers!! Do what you can to help the planet😘🤍 ecofriendly environment sustainability ethicalfashion sustainableliving> > ♬ Paradise – IksonGiven how quickly she was able to grow a following on TikTok, Struck uses it as her main channel, rather than Instagram or Facebook. “There are a lot of opportunities on TikTok to get your message out to a lot of people for free,” she tells Refinery29. “For example my video about what Ethica is reached one million people in five hours for free.” In addition to videos of new clothing drops, Struck uses her TikTok to urge shoppers to vote, spread information about coral reefs, glaciers, and the water shortage. It allows me to not only talk about my business and market my business to people but also introduce new people to sustainability and help educate people on why we need to really look around and take tangible steps towards a green future,” Struck says. “I feel like a lot of people when they think of sustainability and environmentalism think about a granola-type people, which maybe isn’t the lifestyle that a majority of people want to live, causing people to shy away from a sustainable lifestyle,” she explains. For her, TikTok has become a way to show young people that anyone can take steps toward a safer, cleaner future.Now, with a potential ban on TikTok downloads just days away — Trump made a last-minute deal with the company on Monday, which pushed the ban by one week, to September 27 — many Gen Z TikTokers are nervous. “I have 55k followers who follow me to learn about environmental issues,” says McSherry. “And we don’t have environmental education in this country, at least not really; I didn’t get that until I went to college where I chose to study it.” It isn’t simply a matter of switching to other platforms, either. “Other social media platforms just don’t have the reach or power that TikTok has in terms of really having the ability for anybody at any following size to get a message out there to millions of people,” she says. “The way that it pushes out information is so different, and that’s what makes it so important and valuable.” But if we learned anything from Trump’s lack of concern about the California wildfires, it’s this: He really doesn’t care about the climate crisis, nor does he care what TikTok means to the environmental movement or about young peoples’ educations on the topic. That’s why Gen Zers with a platform like McSherry and Struck are focusing their attention on getting their followers to the polls on November 3. “The future of our planet hangs on the ballot on November 3rd,” Struck said in a recent TikTok video. “Show up for your planet.”Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?Is Sustainable Loungewear The Future Of Fashion?This Is What A Truly Sustainable Bikini Looks Like8 Sustainable Wardrobe Swaps Worth Trying On
It’s time to wake up. On Global Day of Climate Action, VICE Media Group is solely telling stories about our current climate crisis. Click here to meet young climate leaders from around the globe and learn how you can take action. Many people first started paying attention to the youth climate movement in 2018, when now-17-year-old Greta Thunberg began protesting outside Swedish Parliament in her home country. Her small act of civil disobedience had a ripple effect. Students across the globe began striking by refusing to attend classes, which eventually turned into the “Fridays For Future” movement.It may sound like a ploy to get out of chemistry, but it’s not. Gen Z ranks climate change as the most important issue of our time, according to last year’s Amnesty International survey of more than 10,000 members of 18- to 25-year-olds. “Older generations were not out there protesting in the streets on this issue the way Gen Z is,” asserts Rebecca Bromley-Trujillo, PhD, who teaches political science and environmental policy at Christopher Newport University. These under-25 activists have formed organizations like Fridays For Future and Zero Hour, a movement that focuses on helping young people take action. Others have sued their state or even the United Nations. They’ve staged hunger strikes. They’ve performed spoken word poetry. These kids care. A lot. “Younger people see the total mess that Boomers and, to a lesser extent, millennials have left, and they have to figure out how to fix it,” says Jessica Green, PhD, an associate professor focused on climate governance at the University of Toronto. That’s a heavy burden to bear. Many self-report feeling eco-anxiety, or “a chronic fear of environmental doom,” according to the American Psychological Association. “For some Gen Z folks with whom I work, their eco-anxiety is related to a continuation of generations’ worth of oppression,” notes Kristi E. White, PhD, a clinical health psychologist with a focus on how climate change affects well-being. She’s referring specifically to BIPOC communities, which “have always been the most severely impacted by sustainability failures.” Others are confronting the more recent realization that they’re “inheriting many generations’ worth of avoidance and poor stewardship,” she says.While not every young adult is channeling their energy into activism, the post-millennials who are seem particularly ardent. Their attitude is: “The world is falling apart right now, and if you think it’s okay, what’s wrong with you?” Green says. We talked to leading climate activists in the U.S. — most of whom still can’t buy a legal drink — about how they got their start, what their activism looks like mid-pandemic, and why they think the youth are such incredible change-makers. DashDividers_1_500x100 Alexandria VillaseñorAge: 15 Location: New York City, NY Activism History: Founder of Earth Uprising; co-founder of the US Youth Climate Strike, a part of the Fridays for Future movement; filed a complaint against the United Nations, along with Greta Thunberg and 15 other climate activists. On getting her start in activism“When I was young, 5 or 6, I wanted to be a writer. I never would have expected that I’d end up being a climate activist at 15. But in 2018, I started striking at the end of the week as part of Fridays for Future. People called me alarmist and dramatic. I would tell them that, in the future, school wouldn’t matter anymore because we’d be running from multiple crises. And here we are. That future is now. Even if COVID didn’t exist, the entire West Coast couldn’t go because of the air quality. It would be so unsafe. And other places are beginning to see catastrophic events because of climate change. “The fires show us just how quickly we need to take action. I have a lot of family out in California. I was actually there over the last few months, very close to the LNU Lighting Complex fire. I’m very lucky to have been able to leave a few weeks ago. But as an asthma sufferer, I’m still recovering from the smoke inhalation. The scientists are warning us about the future and that it will get so much worse. We should listen to them.” On channeling fear for the future into action “I feel a sense of eco-grief. For me, that means a feeling of sadness and loss. I’m seeing the collapse of our biodiversity. I recently wrote a chapter in the book All We Can Save, and doing that reminded me of the Monarch butterflies in California. When I was growing up every year in the springtime, we’d get just so many butterflies. I’d see them on the playground, and in the fields, and it was always so exciting. But the population has declined drastically in the past couple of years. And so it’s just extremely upsetting to see those things that were very personal, and know that future young people won’t be able to experience them. “One thing that helps my eco-grief is taking direct action. Going out and protesting.”On why younger generations make great activists“Young people are forces when it comes to climate change because we speak very directly and bluntly. We have resources such as technology and social media and use them to our advantage when it comes to organizing and connecting with each other. Especially during the pandemic, we’ve been using social media to our advantage. Doing initiatives and campaigns, and putting pressure on politicians and those in power. “Youth activists think more outside the box, and don’t think just in terms of what’s ‘politically possible.’ It’s not only that we’ll be using the planet the longest — although things will get worse in our lifetime. We’ll see the worst consequences of climate change. “The youth climate movement has also seen how our movement needed to grow and be more intersectional, that it needs to have more people of color and people being affected directly by the climate crisis at the front lines. Because of that, I think that we’ll come out of this pandemic even stronger.”DashDividers_1_500x100 Sophia Kianni Age: 18 Location: McLean, Virginia School: Indiana University, public policy analysis major Activism History: Founder of Climate Cardinals; Youngest member of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Youth Advisory Group On Climate ChangeOn getting her start in activism“I first got into climate activism in sixth grade. My dad and I have a tradition of stargazing together. He’s super into astronomy, and we’d go out every night when I was little and he’d talk to me about the different constellations. But when I was visiting my grandmother’s house in the capital of Iran, Tehran, I went out and couldn’t see the stars because of the air quality. I thought, That’s so sad. “The climate crisis is affecting the Middle East, with temperatures rising more than twice the global average. I was struck by the fact that my relatives weren’t really aware of what was happening and didn’t know about climate change. And so for the past, like, six years, I’ve been translating climate information to help educate them. “And it’s not just my relatives. I found a study that showed only 5% of Iranian university students could properly explain the greenhouse gas effect. I saw there was clearly an issue, and I couldn’t find much climate change education that was available in Farsi, the language they speak. So, I founded Climate Cardinals, where I work with volunteers to translate climate information into 109 different languages. Recently we partnered with the UN’s environmental program to translate their Youth ForNature Manifesto that they’re going to be releasing soon in different languages.” On why younger generations make great activists“I think it’s because we have more to lose. We’re going to be around much longer than the politicians who are in their 60s and 70s who haven’t taken action on the climate crises. They just don’t have as much as stake. Hopefully the rest of us have many years left on this planet, and we don’t want to continue to live knowing it’s getting worse every year.”On going to extremes to raise awareness“Last year, at 17, I got up at 5 a.m. and took an Uber by myself to DC instead of going to school. I was the youngest person and one of the only women to join a week-long hunger strike at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office. I was demanding that she take action, and wanted an on camera, hour-long meeting with her to discuss the climate emergency. She was calling the Green New Deal ‘The Green Dream, or whatever.’ I could only join in DC the first day because I couldn’t skip more school, but I continued the hunger strike. I had such a horrible headache by the time I stopped. The first thing I finally had was a strawberry and almond milk smoothie because I didn’t want to overwhelm my body. “Sometimes you have to escalate things to raise awareness, to get people and press to pay attention. And the climate crisis is being escalated every year, so.”On inciting change during a pandemic“There’s no substitute for nonviolent, civil disobedience like the way Fridays for Future was doing with their weekly protests. But there are a lot of ways to continue activism virtually, during COVID. I’ve been very much focused on continuing to grow Climate Cardinals during this time, and our transcriptions can be done from the safety of your home. Anyone who cares about climate change should know there are still ways to get involved, and I’d urge them to take the first step and put themselves out there.” DashDividers_1_500x100 Meghna ShankarAge: 19 Location: Redmond, Washington School: University of Washington, physics and computer science major Activism History: Organizer at Fridays For Future Seattle; Member of Sunrise UWOn getting her start in activism “In fifth grade, I read Al Gore’s book on climate change, Our Choice. The book was a gift from my dad. It got me interested in the cause. Then in high school, I heard about Greta Thunberg’s strike for global action on March 15, 2019, so I started organizing a protest. We walked out, went to our city hall, and spoke to our mayor and our city council president about our concerns about climate change. I believe students in [112 countries] also walked out in solidarity with the movement that day. I think it really shows that many young people are willing to put their education at stake for the sake of their future. “I was so nervous that day because I had never done something like that before. I honestly was known for being a more quiet student, and following the rules. So for me, it was a big deal. I kept striking on some Fridays after that. I remember I would talk to my friends, and some of them would say, ‘Oh, I don’t see why this is such a big issue. I don’t want to skip lunch to come to your protest.’ In high school, there tends to be a lot of apathy coming from students because they don’t want to stand out. You know, they wanted to look cool. But climate change is something you can’t really opt out of.” On inciting change during a pandemic“Since the COVID pandemic, we haven’t been able to strike in person, but Friday For Future has been doing digital campaigns. We’ll do Twitter storms, and create informational graphics for the Global Day Of Action. “But it’s not the same. I think if you don’t see the protests every day, you feel detached after a while. With Fridays For Future, we were able to engage young people in the community who weren’t necessarily able to do more intensive actions like going to policy makers offices or writing letters. Very young children would go to our strikes, and they would just hold up a sign. Anyone could get involved. Now we have to resort to posting photos on our Instagrams every Friday, which isn’t the same as standing outside for an hour. It feels a bit sad, but there are a lot of other youth-led organizations that are filling the gap virtually.” On channeling fear for the future into action “In the back of my head, I’m always thinking about climate change. Because of the fires on the West Coast, I’m looking out my window right now and I can maybe see half a mile away, I can’t really see the mountains. “It’s scary because even adults who claim to support you aren’t doing enough to make change. Mayors, senators — they say ‘oh we’re so proud of what you’re doing, and we support you.’ And they’re happy to take a picture with us, but they don’t really do anything. Or they’ll approve things that increase carbon emissions. They say they’re for climate justice and the next week approve a new cruise ship terminal Seattle. And, right now, that gives me more anxiety than not being able to protest in the streets. It feels like adults are seeing the changes happening around us but nobody cares enough to do something about it. That’s why we have to act.”DashDividers_1_500x100 Zanagee ArtisAge: 20 Location: Clinton, Connecticut School: Brown University, environmental studies and political science Activism History: Co-founder and deputy director of policy at Zero Hour; Fellow for Joe Biden’s campaignOn getting a start in activism “When I was a kid, I loved the beluga whale at the Mystic aquarium in Connecticut. I have a picture of me standing in front of the giant tank with huge whales. I look so tiny. Going to the aquarium back then got me interested in environmental activism. I learned about pollution, and thought, Look at all these amazing sea creatures that are being impacted by plastic in the ocean.”On why younger generations make great activists“The youth climate movement is really about taking our futures into our own hands, but also fighting for people who are facing climate change in the present. Environmental actions of the past were not as radical in calling for systemic overhaul as we are today. But we know that without dismantling the systems at the root of climate change — the patriarchy, colonialism, capitalism, and racism — we’ll never be able to have climate justice and have a transition to sustainable energy for the future. “We started Zero Hour to emphasize that we have run out of time to address climate change. You can see rising temperatures in the Arctic, for indigenous communities their lifestyles and livelihoods are changing, you can see desertification, and deforestation happening in the Amazon. We know that this has been happening for at least the past few years now, and that climate change has been a stressor on communities around the world. And so we need to act right now.”On channeling fear for the future into action“I think a worst case scenario for the planet is something that most people are incapable of comprehending. The amount of change to the natural environment that will happen if we don’t act is terrifying. It could look like elongated hurricane and tornado seasons. Or like wildfire spreading from the West coast all throughout the country. We don’t really know for sure, although the climate scientists know a lot. It could look like the apocalypse. That’s why we’re fighting every day. “After I finish at Brown, I’m planning to go to law school, and I’m interested in studying environmental or constitutional law. I want to do this to enhance my powers as an activist. I want to advocate for young people, especially those who are unable to vote, and anyone who I believe is being disproportionately harmed by a system that was not designed to protect them. And I’d like to someday eventually run for elected office.” DashDividers_1_500x100 Delaney ReynoldsAge: 21 Location: Miami, Florida School: University of Miami, marine science and geology major Activism history: Founder of The Sink or Swim Project; member of the Youth Leadership Council of EarthEcho International; Suing the state of Florida; Member of the CLEO Institute’s Leadership CouncilOn getting a start in activism “I grew up in and around the water, learning about sustainability. And because of that, I’ve always had a vast love for the ocean. When I was 8 years old, I actually wrote my first children’s book about ecology based on No Name Key, a super-small island in the Florida Keys where I grew up part-time. As I was researching for that, I began to learn about climate change and how it’d affect the habitat that I love so dearly. I started to become extremely concerned because of how dire the situation seemed to be. I went on to found The Sink or Swim Project, a nonprofit advocacy organization focused on sea level rise and other environmental topics. “It’s sad; my family has lived in Florida for generations, but recently, we’ve started having really bad flooding days every October. They have to close down the park where both my father and I learned how to swim. I hate it, because I want my future kids to follow in my dad and my footsteps and learn to swim there too.” On going to extremes to raise awareness“I’m the lead plaintiff in the Reynolds vs. The State of Florida climate change lawsuit. Seven of my friends and I are suing our state for not upholding duties outlined in the Florida constitution and something called the Public Trust Doctrine. That doctrine says the state has the responsibility to protect our land, the water, and, we believe, also the atmosphere. We’re asking the state to implement laws to help cut back carbon emissions so that we can help protect our atmosphere, because we know that burning fossil fuels and emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere is what’s causing the crisis. So we’re basically asking the judge to require that the state do their job. “I have to say, I never expected to sue anyone at the age of 18. Now I’m 21, and we just had our first hearing in June. But we’ve kept pushing on it. It’s been daunting at times, but it’s also really important. We’re seeing the effects of sea level rise, and it’s hurting the coral reefs, the land, and us.” On channeling fear for the future into action“Our family just finished recovering and renovating from Hurricane Irma, which made landfall in 2017 at our home in the Keys. Then we recently had another hurricane, Sally. When she went over the panhandle last week, all we had was some light rain, luckily. But hurricane season is extremely stressful. With a record number of storms forming in the Atlantic, it is a constant reminder of climate change. Warm ocean water is what fuels these hurricanes, so as we continue to warm our planet, these storms will become increasingly more frequent and stronger. That’s scary, and that’s why we have to keep fighting.” Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?
It’s time to wake up. On Global Day of Climate Action, VICE Media Group is solely telling stories about our current climate crisis. Click here to meet young climate leaders from around the globe and learn how you can take action. We need to talk about our carbon footprint. Not how much of it comes from driving versus eating meat, but the popular concept of dividing up all the greenhouse gases polluting the atmosphere into the fraction that you personally own. Today we have an abundance of handy online calculators and apps that estimate your individual footprint for you. Everyone’s getting involved in the effort; one newly released app called VYVE is even backed by oil giant BP. The app’s home page succinctly captures the motivation behind calculating your footprint: “Take responsibility for your carbon impact.”To be sure, we should take responsibility. A carbon footprint calculator can help bring an overwhelming global crisis into your backyard. You can compare the average carbon footprint of an American (around 16 metric tons CO2e) to that of neighboring Mexico (about 4 metric tons) and grasp that a high-consumption American lifestyle has a much heavier impact on the environment than others do. It can also be a good jumping-off point for those who want to take action but are unsure of what changes they can make in their lives.But we also need to admit that the obsession around personal carbon footprints has been harmful. For too long, the dominant call to action has been encouraging the public to opt-in to a set of different lifestyle habits, through carbon footprint quizzes and by invoking the duty to take charge of your personal contribution. Despite this messaging, 88% of Americans still owned a car in 2015 and car ownership has continued to rise. U.S. airlines carried a record number of passengers in 2019. Even though there’s recently been a lot of coverage on the role of animal products in climate change, as of 2018, only 3% of Americans said they were vegan. In 2018, the U.S. also hit record-high energy consumption.It’s not that shrinking your own carbon footprint isn’t necessary to avoiding climate catastrophe. It is. It’s that, given the state of things, dedicating so much space to the concept clearly hasn’t worked on a wide enough scale. We don’t just need to shave emissions here and there; we need to make them disappear at incredible speed. But according to a Washington Post poll from 2019, most Americans still believe small personal sacrifices will be enough. We have until 2030 before much of the climate damage becomes irreversible due to the triggering of tipping points that can collapse entire ecosystems. The damage is already enormous; more people are being harmed by the climate crisis every year. We’re not on track to keep temperature rise below 2°C of the pre-industrial era, the target set by the Paris Agreement in 2015. More likely, we’ll see a global rise of at least 3°C. Affluent countries like the U.S. need a revolution in the way we live, and that requires systems, not just individual lifestyles, to transform. Even the most commonly recommended lifestyle changes often require people to swim against strong currents. The fact that most Americans rely on personal vehicles over public transportation might lead you to write us off as hopelessly obsessed with gas-guzzling cars — but cultural fixations don’t arise from nowhere. The post-WWII era was dizzy with incentives, policies, and mass infrastructure projects that made owning a car much more feasible and attractive than in other nations. To this day, a stunning variety of laws help maintain a landscape where having your own car is either the safer, cheaper option, or the only option. U.S. cities with well-connected, affordable public transportation remain extremely rare, partly because public works in general are underfunded, but also because groups that have a stake in the auto or fossil fuel industry use their piles of money to help ensure they don’t get built. Even when it comes to reducing energy use in your home, there are larger factors at play that can outweigh the good you’re trying to do. A recent University of Michigan study found that in some states, the climate benefit from households consuming less energy than the national average was erased by their grid’s method of producing electricity being carbon-intensive. In Florida, for example, there’s less need to heat homes in winter, leading to energy savings, but its electricity production is more intensive in producing greenhouse gases than average. Power companies in Florida, as in many other places, have also been fighting wider adoption of renewable energy. The sunshine state only generated 1% of its electricity from solar energy last year.Or take recycling. Americans recycle or compost about 35% of waste. Is the rate so low because of laziness? Maybe partly. But considering that over 90% of the plastic we were told to recycle wasn’t actually recycled — which Pepsi, Coca Cola, Nestle, and others are being sued for right now — it’s not fair to blame individuals.Obsessing about reducing our individual footprints, then, is an exercise in missing the burning forest for the trees. It’s based on the hope that, by pointing it out, an enormous wave of people will be swayed to live differently — and that massive systems and corporations will also support that goal. Maybe this messaging convinces you to shrink your footprint down from 16 metric tons CO2e to 5 metric tons. Annual global greenhouse gas emissions are around 50 billion tons CO2e; only 49,999,999,989 to go. The climate crisis is a problem of mind-breaking scale.And this discourse didn’t come about by accident. Even though scientists began loudly calling for climate action back in 1988, “carbon footprint” wasn’t a well-known concept until BP helped popularize it in the mid-2000s. The premise of a carbon footprint is that we’re all contributing to the emergency — so deal with your share. But what if we aren’t all equally to blame? What would the solution look like then?DashDividers_1_500x100The fact is, climate crisis denial is thriving. Attacks on the science of it may not be as fashionable as they once were, but the footprint of disinformation remains: many Americans are still fuzzy on whether scientists have formed a consensus (there never wasn’t a consensus), and whether climate change is mainly caused by human activity (it is). In 2015, an investigative report by InsideClimate News uncovered evidence that ExxonMobil knew about the climate crisis as early as the late 1970s, thanks to research conducted by its own scientists. Oil companies then spent decades spilling money into the effort of confusing the public. They didn’t need to provide air-tight proof that temperatures weren’t rising, or that it wouldn’t impact the Earth very much. All they had to do was nudge some doubt into the discussion.These days, more of us accept that global warming is happening than in the past. Oil companies have changed their tack too, taking a public stance on how they intend to fight climate change. Instead of poking holes in the science, denial today increasingly takes the form of greenwashing — crafting an image that makes corporations seem more environmentally conscious than their business practices would indicate. But this kind of denial still works by spreading confusion; confusion over the best strategy to combat climate change, confusion over the degree of fossil fuel culpability, confusion over what “environmentally conscious” even means in our late-stage capitalist world.In 2020, you can hardly find a company that hasn’t made a commitment to social and environmental responsibility, whether it’s by partnering with environmental groups across the globe or helping developing nations grow their economy sustainably. Keywords like “innovation” and “growth” get thrown around a lot. In 2000, BP unveiled the slogan “beyond petroleum” and soon launched an ad campaign around the theme that included TV commercials asking people about their carbon footprint and portraying the company as a beacon of progress. But do these amount to real efforts to address the climate crisis?The answer is no, at least according to a recent analysis on the activities of ten major oil companies between 2008 to 2019, including U.S.-owned Chevron and ExxonMobil. The researchers found that none have been moving away from fossil fuels. At best, companies increased their share of natural gas production, which has been extolled as a temporary “bridge” to carbon-free energy because it emits 50% less CO2 than coal. But natural gas is not clean energy. It’s mostly made up of methane, a greenhouse gas that traps heat 86 times more effectively than CO2. Scientists now believe the amount of methane released by extracting natural gas has been underestimated by up to 40%. Currently, millions of abandoned, uncapped gas wells are leaking methane. The 2008-2019 analysis found that “not a single major oil and gas firm has invested more than 0.1% of revenues into renewable energy” during this period. In 2011, BP sold off its solar assets, facing financial difficulties in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. It recently announced a commitment to more renewables investment — but whether it pans out remains to be seen.Oil companies haven’t just continued to extract fossil fuels; they’ve been busy constructing new pipelines and developments, which has major implications for future carbon emissions — once a new development is built, it’s likely to be extracting for at least the time it takes to recoup the cost of building it. All ten companies analyzed by researchers “are planning significant expansion of oil and gas assets, totalling some USD$1.4 trillion in the period 2020-2024.” The podcast Drilled, which describes itself as “a true-crime podcast about climate change,” lays out how the deception of the fossil fuel industry is an obstacle to the systemic change we need. In its first season, it references a 2018 issue of the New York Times Magazine that was wholly dedicated to climate change as a case study in diffusing blame. “The story makes the problem of climate change global,” notes Drilled host and producer Amy Westervelt. “We all failed to act, not just the handful of men in power. The solution, or lack thereof? Individual. It’s human nature. We make short-sighted decisions and there’s nothing we can do to change that.”The fact is that since 1988, just 100 fossil fuel companies have produced roughly 70% of industrial greenhouse gas emissions. We know that burning fossil fuels is incompatible with having a future. Yet today, about 80% of energy demand in the U.S. is still met through fossil fuels. To be fair, it’s not solely the fault of oil companies. In 2015 alone, the U.S. government gave the industry $649 billion in subsidies. In 2018, we got the dubious honor of becoming the largest producer of crude oil in the world, thanks to the modern fracking boom. At least 82,000 fracking wells have popped up across the country since 2005.And yet too often, we nod along with blaming the climate crisis vaguely on “human nature.” This fatalistic view isn’t just a dead end, it suggests we apologize for existing at all, especially when coupled with the myth that overpopulation is a leading cause of rising temperatures. Man-made climate change is a modern emergency representing a sliver of the 6,000 years human civilizations have existed. The start of man-made warming coincides with the explosion of industrial capitalism in just a handful of wealthy countries — whose incredible riches were accumulated through the systematic looting of labor and resources from around the world. While we all have to act, the idea that we all shoulder the blame for a crisis spurred by deregulated capitalism doesn’t create solidarity. It’s not showing humility or personal integrity. It only upholds the people and systems that have perpetuated climate change, and creates fog around those who have been most violated by it.DashDividers_1_500x100By seeing climate as a human rights problem, not just an environmental one, a clearer path opens up. For environmental group 350.org, the goal is simple: no more fossil fuels. “The climate change is a systemic crisis, so we need systemic solutions,” says Thanu Yakupitiyage, head of U.S. communications at 350.org. “Ultimately we’re talking about capitalism, right?” she says. “When we talk about consumption, we’re talking about the level at which we consume and the level at which we’re engaged in these capitalist forces.” It’s another reason why corporate greenwashing is dangerous; promoting your product as being “greener” than another one perpetuates the idea that the solution is to consume differently, not consume less.The climate justice movement isn’t new, but it has gained more attention in the past few years. It points to the perpetrators of the crisis, and also demands restitution. At the 2009 U.N. climate change conference, several nations in Latin America and the Caribbean began calling for wealthy nations like the U.S. to pay their climate debt. The logic is that the economic growth of the U.S. has been achieved at the expense of global wellbeing. When we say modern climate change is caused by human activity, we mean economic activity. In its rush to grow fast and never stop growing, the U.S. has single-handedly released a quarter of all the greenhouse gas pollution since 1750. “350 really believes in climate reparations,” says Yakupitiyage. “The fossil fuel industry must pay for the damage they’ve caused to our communities and climate.”Climate change is also entangled with racism and structural violence. In the U.S., people of color are more likely to live in polluted places. An area along the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, which has a majority Black population, is known as “Cancer Alley” due to soaring cancer rates connected to the abundance of petrochemical factories. In order to extract resources to be consumed by wealthy economies, indigenous homes and livelihoods are ripped apart. Later, they are often among the earliest to face the consequences of global warming.Then there’s the violence that comes from resistance. According to environmental rights NGO Global Witness, at least 212 environmental activists were killed around the world last year, a vast proportion of them indigenous people defending their land. One of the most infamous acts of environmental violence was committed against the Ogoni Nine in 1995. The nine men were members of the Ogoni ethnic group in southeastern Nigeria and involved in the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), which demanded reparations from the oil industry for polluting their community until they could no longer farm or fish. The government brutally cracked down on protestors, allegedly encouraged by Shell. When four local Ogoni chiefs were killed by a mob, the nine activists, including MOSOP leader Ken Saro-Wiwa, were put on trial and executed by the Nigerian government. Shell has been accused by Amnesty International of helping frame the activists, and according to the testimony of their widows, prosecution witnesses later admitted they had been bribed with money and job offers at Shell.“We really must see the climate crisis as inherently linked to all forms of injustice, from racism to anti-immigrant sentiment,” says Yakupitiyage. Immigration is a lens that Yakupitiyage has particular expertise in. Before she became involved in the climate justice movement around the time of the 2014 People’s Climate March, she was working in immigrant rights. “It’s really important that the climate movement is both calling for the protection and safety of people, and also advocating for people’s right to migrate,” she says. “You see within nations like Bangladesh or India, in places in South America, people moving because of drought or because of floods. It’s estimated that up to 1 billion people will be displaced because of climate change by the year 2050.”Anti-immigration policies deny the reality that a great climate migration has already begun, as well as the cause of it. “Why is it that people are moving in the first place? They’re moving because of the fossil fuel industry and companies in the Global North who’ve made conditions in the Global South even worse,” says Yakupitiyage.Of course, transforming political ideology and holding corporate power accountable isn’t easy. In 1993, 30,000 locals of Lago Agrio, Ecuador filed a landmark class-action suit against Chevron, accusing the company of dumping 18 billion gallons of wastewater and 17 billion gallons of oil into their community. An Ecuadorian court ordered Chevron to pay $18 billion to the plaintiffs in 2011, later reduced to $9.5 billion. That same year, Chevron filed a fraud case against Steven Donziger, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs, claiming he had bribed the judge. According to documents obtained by The Intercept, Chevron sought to demonize Donziger. He was charged with criminal contempt for refusing to hand over his electronic devices, he’s been disbarred, his bank accounts have been frozen, and he was put under house arrest in August 2019. Since the class-action suit, Chevron has withdrawn all its business from Ecuador, which has made it difficult for the plaintiffs to collect on the $9.5 billion.Saving the planet will clearly be a herculean effort, but it’s the fight of our lifetime. That’s exactly why the climate justice movement has to grow. The best way to lower your carbon footprint is to stop being an individual and become a part of a movement. It requires demanding more from elected leaders — refusing to settle for “at least it’s better than nothing” — and ensuring that, at the very least, the Green New Deal passes. It means clashing with institutions, recognizing that reducing your individual consumption is important but not the same thing as justice.“It can be intimidating to take on these huge industries,” Yakupitiyage says. “But I think where I found security is in being part of a movement. A movement that has each other’s backs.” When she feels defeated, she finds strength in activists who’ve helped pave the way for a more equitable society, against incredible odds. “Folks like Assata Shakur, Angela Davis, Audre Lorde,” she says. “I look at their teachings in terms of what it means to be intimidated, and to be jailed, and to be told that you’re crazy.”When asked whether the fossil fuel industry is intimidated by the climate justice movement, Yakupitiyage’s answer is immediate. “Absolutely.”Like what you see? 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We're still not riding in flying cars, but we've come a long way. From Country Living
It’s time to wake up. On Global Day of Climate Action, VICE Media Group is solely telling stories about our current climate crisis. Click here to meet young climate leaders from around the globe and learn how you can take action. As wildfires continue to ravage the West Coast, breaking horrifying record after horrifying record — more than 3.2 million acres have been destroyed so far — I keep thinking about Ferngully: The Last Rainforest. To those who grew up watching the 1992 animated musical, the apocalyptic images of scorching orange flames consuming vibrant landscapes and giving way to gray, ashy devastation are eerily familiar. They echo the destruction wrought by Hexxus, the pollution specter villain voiced with menacing glee by Tim Curry. Unfortunately, our current dire situation won’t be fixed by a spiky-haired fairy wielding a magical seed. Based on Diana Young’s YA book by the same name, director Bill Kroyer’s answer to the Disney machine follows optimistic fairy Crysta (voiced by Samantha Matthis), one of the many magical inhabitants inside FernGully Rainforest, a lush and verdant oasis untouched by humans. Years ago, the wise Magi Lune (Grace Zabriskie) imprisoned their greatest foe, Hexxus, inside a tree, making FernGully a haven for the Earth to thrive. One day though, Crysta gets curious about the world beyond that green canopy, and goes exploring, coming across a group of lumberjacks tasked with clearing a forest on the outskirts of FernGully. Surprised, Crysta accidentally wields her magic, and causes a city boy named Zak (Jonathan Ward) to shrink down to her sprite-like size. As Zak is forced to confront the effects his kind have on Crysta’s world, he comes to understand the importance of preserving, rather than destroying, nature. But when his remaining crew accidentally unleashes Hexxus from his prison, there may not be a FernGully left to protect. > > Even more prescient was the idea of young women leading the charge against the destructive forces of climate change, a prophecy we’re seeing fulfilled in leaders like 17-year-old Greta Thunberg. Like many millennials, FernGully was a staple of my early childhood, the first — and most honest — lesson I received about the devastating effects of climate change. Vanity Fair once called it the “Millennial Silent Spring,” a reference to Rachel Carson’s world-altering 1962 book that helped shape the boomer generation’s view of their impact on the planet. In April, SyFy ran a story under the headline “How FernGully: The Last Rainforest Made Me An Eco-Friendly Kid.” The movie’s continued impact is seen in the FernGully memes flooding my timeline to denounce Donald Trump’s harmful stripping back of environmental protections or to poke fun at Melania’s gardening tastes. In August, when Hawaii’s Kaluae volcano erupted, forming a strange smiley face pattern, Twitter blamed Hexxus. (Like many animated villains, Hexxus also has a strong thirst following.) And don’t even get me started on the Avatar jokes. I’m not sure how much of FernGully’s lessons I grasped as a kid watching a VHS tape I rented over and over from Blockbuster. Mostly, I remember finding Batty Koda, the erratic animated bat voiced by the late Robin Williams in his first-ever film role (he’d go on to voice Genie in Aladdin that same year), raucously hilarious. After rewatching FernGully again as an adult, though, I’m struck by how dark and unvarnished the story is. Do you know why Batty Koda acts so weirdly? It’s because he has escaped from a nearby facility that introduced electrodes into his brain. In other words, he was an animal test subject, tortured and traumatized by humans. Like I said, dark. And then there’s Hexxus himself, a Venom-like oozy monster (designed incidentally, by Kathy Zielinski, the artist behind Ursula in Disney’s The Little Mermaid) who feeds off the poisonous fumes of machines and factories, whispering his catastrophic instructions to easily corruptible humans eager to follow his bidding for personal gain. Even more prescient was the idea of young women leading the charge against the destructive forces of climate change, a prophecy we’re seeing fulfilled in leaders like 17-year-old Greta Thunberg. In 2019, when teenage climate activists led A Global Climate Strike rally in New York City, young women made up the majority of the crowd. They are the face of this movement, and of the future we’re fighting for. We need them now more than ever. The sad truth about FernGully is that even as it sparked a burgeoning consciousness in a generation, we have largely failed to heed its warning. It’s easy to point fingers at leaders and call them Hexxus. But the reality is that most of us are Magi, burying our heads in the sand and clinging to the belief that the threat is contained. > In 2020, the movie is a caution against complacency, a call to arms for the next generation, but also an apology. For years, the FernGully fairies were living on borrowed time, sincerely believing that the previous generation had dealt with the problem by locking it away. When Crysta asks about Hexxus or the humans she’s heard about in legends, Magi waves her concerns away. Everything is fine. It’s not that bad. It’s far away. We did what we could. It’s hard to judge such an impulse. The ramifications and consequences of climate change are so vast, so all-encompassing, that burying our heads in the sand and wishing it away, hoping for a solution as clean and simple as a tree prison is, on some level, understandable. But it’s not sustainable. Ferngully doesn’t sugarcoat what’s at stake. The visuals of shorn, bare tree stumps stretching out for miles even after Hexxus’ defeat are haunting, but they are mere whispers of the real impact of the fires burning out of control across the West Coast, or the hurricanes that continue to worsen with each passing year. In 2020, the movie is a caution against complacency, a call to arms for the next generation, but also an apology. The final dedication card reads: “For our children, and our children’s children.” More than 25 years later, those children’s children are the ones tasked with cleaning up the mess their grandparents and parents were unable, or unwilling, to prevent. In the final moments of FernGully, Crysta uses her magic to grow a big, strong tree — the beginning of an entirely new forest. It’s a bittersweet ending, which gives hope for the future all while acknowledging the very real and lasting damage. It’s going to get worse before it gets better. We cannot escape unscathed. But that doesn’t mean we can’t start planting the seeds. Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?1 Year Later, This Is What Greta Thunberg's Up ToHow Staying Inside Is Impacting Climate ChangePoliticians Who Are Leading Climate Change In 2020
It's going to be a must-watch.