Call for a Ceasefire in Israel and Gaza 

The linkage between war and the ecological climate crisis we are witnessing is undeniable. Being an environmental activist means being a peace builder; it means standing for all living beings. In the struggle between Palestinians and Israelis, innocent people are suffering.  We acknowledge their pain, losses, fears, and grief.  In one week of war, 1400 Israelis and as of 10/25/2023, 6,546 Palestinians have died . Plus there is a continued humanitarian crisis with the bombings of Gaza, and blockades of food, water, medical supplies, and fuel to run hospitals, and the displacements of a million people.

Statements only go so far, we must take action to stop this war.  We must join those voices calling for an immediate ceasefire and an end to the bombing of Gaza where half the population are children. No military aid should be afforded Israel which must cease their aggression against Gaza, including dropping any plans for a ground attack which would also endanger hostages. 

Humanitarian and medical assistance must be made fully available for all those who have been displaced.  Violence breeds violence, and this conflict must be solved by other means.  There must be dialog towards a long-term solution and the end of colonialist apartheid and the oppression of Palestinians whose lands were taken and whose humans rights have been abused for decades. 

Palestinian pleas for freedom, human rights and repeated efforts of non-violent resistance (boycotts, sanctions, and the application of international law) have been undermined by the USA and other countries for their own economic interests instead of the true interests of the Palestinians, or for that matter, Israeli people.  Call your Representative and tell them to cosponsor the ceasefire resolution in the House.  Call your senators and the White House and tell them to push for a ceasefire and only fund humanitarian aid.  Do it daily until the killing stops.   

Reckless Human Mastery

Photo Credit: Ivan Radic

We human beings are animals, like millions of other species who move about the earth, communicate vocally and visually, gather, harvest, and/or hunt other species for food, and manipulate pieces of our habitat to make our survival more likely.  We, too, have sex, feed and care for our young, play, form bonds with others of our species, and feel anger, fear, and loneliness.  In countless ways, we are no better or worse than other inhabitants of Earth. 

And we are a different kind of animal.  We have speech that can be recorded in script or print.  We have taken intellect to levels of creative, abstract, and manipulative thinking that have totally outstripped that of other beings.  We have developed technologies that transform elements of other species into substances that serve only us and that have made us masters of the environment to the detriment and demise of many other species.    We rule our world – and we have achieved that because we realized millenia ago that we could.  We have convinced ourselves that we are essentially selfish, greedy, and insatiable, and that that is more than OK.  We are the only species on the planet with that kind of hubris – and foolhardiness. 

We have mechanized and toxified nature well past the point of our own safety, and made of our home, Earth, a ruins.  Because we are addicted to material progress and the accumulation of wealth, we have undermined the original sources of that wealth – the soil, and the masses of our kind who have been relegated to work that soil and extract from it the minerals that have made a tiny minority of us filthy, amorally rich.  As a species, we have no allegiance to the land, to nature, or to Earth, let alone to each other or other kinds of beings.   We have ignored the centuries old wisdom of many Indigenous peoples who know that nothing of what surrounds us, from the tiniest microbe to other beasts that dwarf us, belongs to us, but rather that we belong with all of them.  Out of that ignorance and hubris, we have extracted and manipulated every substance and life form that has held the promise of serving our needs and desires.  Our ethic has been, if we can make it work – for us – at whatever external cost to other species and our environment – and if we can count our gain from that self-serving, privatizing enterprise in dollars, then it is deemed “good” – for everyone, or at least for every human being.

But that inherently inefficient calculus has brought us to obscene collective excess and luxury for only an increasingly elite few.  In its wake it has left incalculable and undeniable needs, from sufficient oxygen in our oceans to assure the survival of countless species to the money, labor, and skills to take proper, loving care of our children, our sick and disabled, and our elders.  The work of care, in general, has not been valued enough, particularly in economic terms, to maintain the health of whatever beings have been unjustly exploited or have not been tapped to make a profit.  The work of making money has come to dominate our lives and habitat to the extent that we are convinced that that is why we are here.  But in truth we are here to take care of and joy in each other.  The emergence and persistence of catastrophic diseases and the dramatic increase in mental illness are no accident.  They are the logical and predictable consequence of our belief that we could solve all our problems with money and the technology driven by the profit motive.

The jig is up.  If we don’t turn our attention, right now, to taking care of our brothers, sisters, and nonbinary siblings, i.e., all the Earth’s flora and fauna, and every member of the human family, we face the continued crumbling of our civilization and more importantly our natural world.  We must pour all of our talents and resources into building justice for the Earth and all its inhabitants.  The path to do that is determining together what resources are sufficient to ensure the survival and thriving of each species.  That means we humans, as the keystone species, must give up prioritizing our needs and desires and pursuing excess wealth, i.e., any use of resources that ignores or harms the well-being of other species or each other.  We must attack wealth inequity and ensure that every species has sufficient nourishment, habitat, and care.  We must now center care, global justice, and sufficiency.

A Gradual Awakening: Climate Change in the Media 

After spending hours waving signs on street corners around Portland over the past three years, I have noticed an uptick in interest in my Climate Action Now! awareness message. Drivers have communicated their approval with smiles, thumbs-up, waves and honks. Pedestrians often come up and thank me for being out highlighting the issue.

During that time, I’ve become interested in how the media has been covering climate change and global warming. I’ve located several resources that track media coverage, including the Pew Research Center and the Media and Climate Change Observatory (MeCCO).

MeCCO monitors 131 sources, including newspapers, radio and TV, in 59 countries in seven different regions around the world. This multi-university collaboration is housed at the University of Colorado Boulder. Charts and figures on their website show media coverage broken down by major sources like the one below of US newspaper articles.

I was encouraged to see increasing numbers of articles and TV coverage from around the world focused on climate change and global warming.

The Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan fact tank, also tracks issues, attitudes and trends shaping the world. A recent study of Climate, Energy & Environment data looked at Americans’ views of climate change. It showed a distinct political divide between Democratic leaning respondents and Republican leaning respondents. This association of climate with political affiliation is one of the many impacts of disinformation campaigns promoted by the fossil fuel industry to protect profits.

The Climate Action Tracker is another source for trends in sectors related to climate change. Funded by foundations and governments, the CAT is an independent scientific project that tracks government climate action and measures it against the Paris Agreement. The Tracker is focused on the drivers of climate change, not media coverage. You can search the tracker for information by country or region, industry type, measurable indicators and for historical data or current projections. 

I was happy to discover these measurable data sets related to climate change that supported my personal experience of a growing awareness in the local community. However, the slow pace of that awakening and lack of urgency toward addressing the horrific effects of global warming is frustrating. We are in a ‘State of Emergency’ and we must demand a massive climate action mobilization now! So make a sign and wave it like you mean it on a street corner near you. If enough people who support climate action get out on the streets it will have an impact.

Oppose Oregon “Domestic Terrorism” Legislation

“There has to be a way to protect infrastructure while also supporting citizens to express their voices. I urge you to include voices traditionally most vulnerable to all manner of injustices in the process of crafting such protection.” – excerpt from letter opposing HB 2772 by XRPDX member Jennifer Krauel

As if we didn’t have enough to do, we climate/environmental activists and concerned citizens must now STOP Oregon House Bill HB 2772 (currently in Ways and Means Committee).

So-called “Domestic Terrorism” legislation is being proposed across the country under the guise of stopping violent, extremist attacks, but in reality these bills are being used to discredit non-violent actions. If passed into law, these bills act as obstacles to our work. They are used to villify and incarcerate activists working for climate justice, social justice, Indigenous rights, racial justice, and environmental justice. 

These legislative measures are opposed by both the ACLU and the Center for the Defense of Civil Liberties in Oregon, as well as by many environmental, BIPOC, and social justice organizations. Substantive legislation is already on the books criminalizing attacks on property and persons under Oregon statutes, but as documented in multiple cases, “Domestic Terrorism” laws are utilized to defame and tie up in court a broad range of primarily progressive, peaceful activists.

We have seen this tactic recently in the #StopCopCity struggle in Atlanta. In that case, 42 folks who were forest defenders and BIPOC activists have been charged with “Domestic Terrorism” even though they were attending a peaceful concert. Law enforcement ignored a group of folks near the same site who were actually damaging property. Through the use of the Freedom of Information Act, it was found that law enforcement at every level of government had been meeting for months and planned to utilize the “Domestic Terrorism” legislation to defame the peaceful movement. #StopCopCity had been working for over two years to protect the Weelaunee Forest and wetlands and working against further militarization of police in a predominantly Black neighborhood. Even more disconcerting, the Georgia legislation only focused on extreme acts of violence, yet it is selectively being used against peaceful activists, as has also happened in other parts of the country. 

The language proposed in Oregon is overbroad and subject to abuse for many reasons. For instance, it includes vague reference to actions that would “disrupt critical infrastructure.” The extensive laundry list of critical infrastructure could lead to criminalizing anyone for blocking a road or protesting against private jets at an exclusive airport gate, with a sentence of 10 years in prison and a quarter million dollar fine. 

Without extensive community engagement and input, no “Domestic Terrorism” offense should be passed. Legislators must listen to those Oregonians who have suffered the impacts of overreaching surveillance and state power, and are targeted for acts of resistance to those who profit from endangering the lives of so many, locally and around the world.   

Where are the “Domestic Terrorism” charges for those profiting from worsening climate chaos that continues to kill thousands a year in our country alone?  Recently our own Senator Merkley gave national recognition of the risks taken by climate and other activists globally who struggle to protect the Earth and human rights. Our state legislature should be engaged in efforts like that, instead of lining up to pass legislation that will further endanger those working to protect the Earth, waters, land, air, and essential human rights. 

This trend is yet another example of a recent tendency to attempt to undermine democratic rights. It must be opposed. Undemocratic attacks, such as these bills, on those who try to address environmental and social change will escalate an authoritarian approach right here in Oregon. Please write to members of the Ways and Means Committee today (contact list below; please copy and paste into one email, or better yet create individual emails) to ask them to oppose HB 2772.

Send emails to the members of the Ways and Means Committee:
























Photo credit: Janet Weil. Of course, to defend the climate and democracy we have to do more than vote!

Manchin’s Act, Merkley’s Words

Five hundred and eighteen: the word count of Senator Merkley’s letter to Senator Schumer. The letter objects to what Merkley calls “proposed permitting reforms” on environmental justice grounds. Seven senators (Booker, Cardin, Duckworth, Markey, Sanders, Van Hollen, and Warren) joined Merkley in signing, but NOT self-styled “Climate Champion” and Number 1 recipient of Big Timber Industry contributions Ron Wyden. Those 518 words do not contain the 5 words that Extinction Rebellion PDX demanded in a street action at Merkley’s Portland office and that we still demand: I Pledge to Vote No.

“Proposed permitting reforms” is a euphemism for the legislation, originally drafted by the American Petroleum Institute, to speed up the approval of fossil fuel infrastructure projects. Secretively in some committee room, somewhat like the original deal-making between Schumer and Manchin, that text has been rewritten as the “[fill in the blank] Energy Independence and Security Act of 2022.” Really. The first word is left blank for now. Maybe Joe Manchin’s name will eventually fill the blank. Or you can think of an adjective. Read the bill here: https://www.energy.senate.gov/services/files/EAB527DC-FA23-4BA9-B3C6-6AB108626F02

Environmental justice and climate organizations have named this “the dirty side deal” — the goody bag inducing Manchin to vote for the Inflation Reduction Act, a deeply flawed bill with giveaways to oil and gas companies. Manchin’s deal, if passed as either an amendment to the Continuing Resolution government funding bill or as a stand-alone bill, would stifle citizen powers to protect communities (usually Black, Latino, Indigenous and/or poor white) against the deep pockets of corporations and the devastation of extraction sites, pipelines, refineries, LNG export facilities and more. Environmental justice, mentioned 8 times in Merkley’s letter, would indeed be an empty phrase and a broken promise if Manchin’s side deal goes through.

The letter is strangely silent on two key points. One is the Elephant in the Room: the climate impacts of all this new, speeded-through infrastructure. The IPCC, the UN Secretary General, the International Energy Agency, and climate scientists around the world are saying in one loud voice: No New Oil and Gas Development!

Second, Merkley’s letter to Schumer talks of listening to those concerned with environmental justice and agreeing with them – but says nothing about how Merkley and the few like-minded senators will VOTE. This letter should inform Schumer in no uncertain terms that these 8 senators will vote no on the dirty side deal; thus far, only Senators Sanders and Kaine have pledged to do so. Amendment, separate bill – makes no difference. We weren’t in the room when you gave the nod to Manchin, but we’re here now and we are telling you NO, kill the bill. Instead, in a letter to constituents dated September 23, Merkley says “I am fighting to keep this unpopular bill off of a must-pass spending bill so that we can avert any risk of a government shutdown, which would also disproportionately impact communities of color.” Is this his signal that if Schumer, after publicly pledging to include Manchin’s dirty deal as an amendment to the Continuing Resolution, then follows through, Merkley will vote YEA using his support for “communities of color” as an excuse?

And yes, it is diabolical that Majority Leader Schumer and Speaker Pelosi are planning to use the government funding bill as an instrument of blackmail for votes for Manchin’s deal, “a cruel and direct attack on environmental justice communities and the climate,” according to a letter to congressional leadership signed by 650 organizations. On September 22, 11 executive directors of climate, environmental and labor organizations were arrested in a brave protest action blocking the Hart Senate Building.

Will Merkley’s virtue-signaling using “environmental justice” rhetoric satisfy us if he votes the wrong way? More importantly, what will this terrible Act, if it is signed into law, do to the lands, waters, homes and people of Appalachia, the Gulf Coast States, and Alaska? They will have neither independence nor security, just more destruction for others’ profit.

This bill is a hinge. If it passes, we will suddenly live in a more dangerous world where fossil fuel corporations have more power, and vulnerable people have less. If it fails, we will have held on to our access to legal tools in the crucial fights for real environmental and climate justice. We will find out soon which side of that hinge Senator Merkley (and Wyden) are on.

Here’s a reminder of what the Manchin deal would do:

  • Almost immediately, “eliminate any judicial review for key parts of the MVP [Mountain Valley Pipeline in West Virginia and Virginia] process and strip jurisdiction away from the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit for cases involving the MVP” (thanks to VA Senator Tom Kaine for these details)
  • Fast-track at least 4 mining operations; 5 fossil fuel energy projects; 2 carbon capture projects; 1 hydrogen project among others (thanks to Jim Walsh, Policy Director of Food & Water Watch)
  • Limit public comment period to 60 days unless the developer grants an extension
  • Restrict legal challenges to 150 days
  • Block the use of National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and states’ use of the Clean Water Act as tools to deny permits to projects
  • And more; see https://www.commondreams.org/news/2022/09/21/manchin-unveils-full-text-shameless-handout-fossil-fuel-industry

The vote on the Continuing Resolution to fund the federal government will happen on September 30. The dirty side deal may be included as an amendment. Keep calling, and keep spreading the word. 202-224-3121.

Zenith’s Greenwashing Ploy

On September 15th, Zenith Energy announced that, if the City of Portland granted their Land Use Compatibility Statement (LUCS), they would move towards 100% renewable fuels in the next five years. In earlier communications, they had committed to 50% renewables in five years. Clearly Zenith Energy and their lawyers at Stoel Rives are getting a bit nervous about losing round after round through the legal system. But Zenith needs to stop all fossil fuel activity now, not five years from now. 

In the City’s Terminal Zoning amendment revision that passed in August, the City exempted bio/renewable fuels from the regulation. Extinction Rebellion has major concerns about the problems with bio/renewable fuels. Bottom line: bio/renewable fuels are not the answer. 

As we move with a coalition of other groups into a new round of community education and action on Zenith, let’s remember that Zenith has time and time again not told the truth about its operations. They have been caught lying, paid some small fines, and continued on. The City needs to stay strong and not grant Zenith the LUCS that it wants.  Train watching in the spring showed that the vast majority (95%+) of the trains at Zenith were carrying crude oil, not renewable diesel. There should be regulators who go out to the CEI hub and monitor the operations first hand. 

In terms of pending catastrophe, the CEI Hub is the most dangerous place in Portland and  bio/renewable fuels explode and burn just like fossil fuels. We need to reduce all fuels in the CEI hub, not expand them. We need better public transit, not more dangerous fuels. We need a walkable, bikeable Portland, not more polluting fuels.

Zenith Energy’s announcement is nothing but greenwashing by a nervous company.  

Inflation Reduction? We Need Carbon Reduction!

So… Joe “Coal Baron” Manchin finally came around. After his slow-motion takedown of Biden’s Build Back Better effort, the senator from the plundered state of West Virginia bargained with Majority Leader Schumer to produce the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022.

Just before the Senate’s long summer break, the Democrats are looking ahead to midterm elections that could go very badly. They need to deliver something to people hammered by a poorly managed pandemic, racist violence, the overturning of abortion rights, crises in housing and costs of living, and oh YEAH, the climate emergency. Just because the president hasn’t declared it doesn’t mean it’s not happening. (As I write this, the temperature is hitting 97 degrees in yet another heat wave; Mt. Hood saw 91 degrees.)

The process of putting together legislation, especially a huge bill like this, involves old-fashioned horse trading: “You give me oil and gas leases, I’ll give you $7500 rebates for middle class people who buy EVs” etc. That’s how it worked in the 1950s (CO2 levels were then around 300 ppm) when Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson was kicking ass and making deals, and that’s how it works now.

But that’s not how atmospheric physics works. Carbon dioxide, methane and other emissions just add to what I call “the smothering blanket effect” (not the benign sounding “greenhouse effect”), no matter what else is going on. New oil and gas production will lock in future emissions, and the global atmosphere doesn’t care what U.S. politicians do to “balance” their interests, or “spin” the message. The CO2 number is at 421 ppm now, and going up fast.

But there’s $369 billion earmarked for “climate and energy security”! What’s so wrong with this bill? Read it, as I and many others have, and you’ll see the legislation:

  • requires 2 million acres for oil and gas leasing in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska (lumped together under the designation of “Outer Continental Shelf”);
  • does not permit wind or solar energy development on federal land unless the oil and gas leases are allowed;
  • includes hundreds of millions for nuclear power and research, hydrogen, and carbon capture schemes; all of these may or may not reduce CO2 emissions, with their own carbon footprints to build and operate.

Worst of all, this bill is tied to a separate deal for what my father used to sarcastically call “greasing the skids” of the permitting process for either fossil fuel or renewable energy projects. This would facilitate corporations getting their permits approved and their money rolling in, whether the project was environmentally just or not. Here in Portland, as we struggle to get Zenith Energy (which has never had a current air quality permit) shut down, we know all too well how making permitting easier goes.

Groups in opposition include: Center for Biological Diversity, Climate Justice Alliance, Food & Water Action, Greenpeace USA, Indigenous Environmental Network, Our Revolution and Sunrise Movement. Read more about that here.

Other environmental and social justice groups are cheering on this legislation. That’s another potentially terrible impact: it could split movements, turn us against each other. There are, of course, some good things in the bill.

Do we want the wealthy to be taxed more? Sure.

Rebates for middle-class homeowners and landlords to insulate homes and switch out methane-burning appliances for electric? Yes, indeed.

Low income neighborhoods getting $3 billion in block grants for community-led programs dealing with air pollution, urban heat islands, and public health during extreme heat events? Damn right, and long overdue.

But not at the cost of additional oil and gas production that harms communities – mostly Indigenous, Black, Brown and low-income – and nature, while locking in climate-killing emissions for decades. That’s a fool’s deal.

“It’s self-defeating to handcuff renewable energy development to massive new oil and gas extraction,” observed Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD).

The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 is a profoundly flawed piece of legislation. The “poison pills” called out by CBD must be removed. Of course, this bill may go nowhere like Build Back Better did. Senator Sinema may not play along.

We are living in an existential crisis. We cannot lose: life itself is at stake at the negotiating table. We are Extinction Rebellion: we tell the truth. We refuse to accept the unacceptable.

Join us on Tuesday, August 2, noon, at Pioneer Square to demand that President Biden do what he should have done on Inauguration Day: declare a national Climate Emergency and use his executive powers to take serious and immediate action.

XRPDX Statement on WV v. EPA

On June 30, 2022, the Supreme Court ruled on the case West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency , 6 – 3, in favor of a lawsuit brought by fossil-fuel-producing states including coal-baron-controlled West Virginia that ensures that the P in EPA will no longer stand for protection from pollution spewed out by coal- or methane-fired power plants. This judicial decision makes federal action to phase out fossil-fueled power plants using the Clean Air Act almost impossible.

Replacing dirty plants with clean(er) plants was one of the main ways that the U.S. was supposed to meet its goal of cutting in half greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Going even beyond last week’s devastating ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade and make abortion illegal (and thus far more dangerous) for millions of Americans, the WV v. EPA decision will probably cause more damage, to living beings and the natural environment, than any other decision by this court.

As the Guardian article linked above noted: “The federal government also had the power of administrative regulations in order to force reductions in emissions but the Supreme Court ruling will now imperil this ability.” Notice the past tense: “had.”

We can’t shrug this off, telling ourselves that Oregon has better regulations.

West Virginia is on the other side of the continent, but because the effects of this ruling impact the global atmosphere, carbon dioxide or methane emitted in West Virginia will raise temperatures in Oregon.

This ruling exposes how the current court continues to ignore the science of climate change.

The EPA is a federal agency. Losing the case means we lose federal environmental protections in Oregon too.

The hypocrisy of this decision is staggering: our legal system denies children in Eugene standing to sue for climate justice so that their right to a livable planet is protected, but grants the owners of coal plants protection from EPA regulation.

This Supreme Court continues to rule against, and thus show the urgent need for, the first two demands of Extinction Rebellion: to acknowledge the reality of climate change, and to do something about it, right now. The need for rebellion – nonviolent, committed, escalating in numbers and power – has never been greater. Join us.

XRPDX was contacted by a KOIN TV news reporter for comment on this terrible ruling. Action team member Michael Fairhurst responded; please watch and share:


[Michael Fairhurst contributed to this blog post.]

Not Giving Up on Our Future

If you’re reading our blog, I think you’re already aware that the climate crisis is happening now. We’re coming up on the one-year anniversary of the Heat Dome that took the lives of 96 Oregonians, and countless other no less valuable, nonhuman lives. Floods, hail storms, and wildfires are a part of the daily lives of so many Americans. It’s happening now, and it’s painful to see. 

You may have read some of my earlier blog posts here, about working for Outdoor School, about climate anxiety, and about some books that have given me hope. You may have seen that young Oregonians like me are feeling crushed by waves of climate anxiety. I think that a lot of us are on a similar journey right now, and people are starting to pay attention. 

Working outside in the forests along the Sandy River is a magical experience. Working with kids is an amazing opportunity. Both fill me with such joy, and also, both break my heart. This spring, we returned to on-site learning with our sixth grade students. It was only a day program, and it wasn’t perfect, but seeing these kids learn and explore the outdoors, oftentimes for the first time, was beautiful. Sitting in silence with a group of 45 as we watched a Barred owl teach her chick how to hunt was an experience I’ll never forget. But I’ll also never be able to forget having to explain day after day, that our Western Red Cedars are sick. That they’re dying, and that soon this won’t be Cedarland anymore. Because the climate crisis is happening, and we can see it. Our children see it even in our most magical, wild places. 

But in these kids, in these feisty, silly, strong, scared eleven- and twelve-year-olds I see determination. In my high school volunteers I see power. And that gives me hope. The climate crisis is happening, and it’s happening now. But us young people are also here now. And we aren’t going to give up on our future.

And I hope that you won’t either.

Finding Our Real Power: From Individual Choice to Collective Action

As a child in the early ‘90s, I was  already deeply worried about the world I would inherit as an adult. My well-meaning parents bought me a book, a children’s version of a new best seller, Fifty Things You Can Do to Save the Earth. Like thousands of others that year, I read the book voraciously and began to more carefully sort our household recyclables, make sure lights were turned off in unoccupied rooms, and tried unsuccessfully to convince my parents to start using canvas bags for their groceries. It felt good, but in retrospect, amounted to very little.

Since that time, environmental action has been framed in mainstream discourse almost exclusively as a matter of personal responsibility. This mentality lives on in our fixation on our individual carbon footprints. “If only I can drive a little less, eat less rice, and buy a few more offsets,” the logic goes, “I can be carbon neutral and I’ve done my part.” That narrative resonates in a capitalist society driven by myths of rugged individualism, but this approach is not just insufficient, it’s harmful. The focus on lifestyle choices provides us with a false sense of accomplishment when we pull the recycling bins out to the curb, an illusory feeling of efficacy and control that is appealing in the face of global challenges that can seem insurmountable. We should individually reduce waste and our reliance on fossil fuels where we can, but that’s not going to be enough and it’s not where our real power lies. That’s precisely why many automobile and oil companies have embraced the idea of carbon footprints in their marketing–it’s a comforting distraction from the real work we need to do that shifts responsibility onto consumers.

Even in consumer societies like the US, each individual’s contribution to climate change is miniscule in the big picture. Put simply, the most significant source of greenhouse gasses is giant corporations. Research from the Climate Accountability Institute has consistently shown that fewer than 100 companies are responsible for two-thirds or more of global carbon emissions. The individualist approach would be to boycott those companies, but even a cursory glance at history shows us that boycotts without direct action seldom accomplish much. There may be value in boycotts as an ethical exercise or as part of a broader political communication strategy, but to think they are going to significantly impact the bottom lines of major corporations is mostly delusional. 

Our real lever of power is collective action aimed at either compelling companies to change their business practices, or even better, pressuring elected leaders to enact policies that change the rules of social institutions–universities, cities, counties, states, nations. If we’re serious about moving the needle, this is where the action is. Representative Earl Blumenauer’s efforts to pass the Climate RESILIENCE Act and pressure President Biden to declare a climate emergency are an admirable example of what can happen when we make people in office hear our voices. The latter would give President Biden executive authority to bypass some of the intractable gridlock in DC.

In the absence of such powers, however, our most promising opportunities for substantive change are at the state and local levels. This is the fundamental principle behind two XRPDX campaigns for 2022. Compelling the City of Portland to create and enforce policies that will reduce emissions citywide will do more than several lifetimes of recycling bottles and cans. That’s why I got involved with Extinction Rebellion, as a means of moving beyond such individual gestures. With the window for action to avert climate disaster rapidly closing, we must think bigger than our carbon footprints. So go ahead and pull those recycling bins out to the curb, but more importantly, join us next time we take to the streets.