Writing

‘The only failure would be to do nothing at all’ – Grist

Hey there,

About a year ago, my daughter, then 13, helped organize a climate march in our town. As she told our local paper, “I’m here because I think people have been talking about getting something done for the past 50 years, but nobody has actually acted yet, and it’s time to act.”

In a word, hell yes. OK, that’s two words, but you get the idea. I am ridiculously proud of my daughter and inspired by the knowledge that she is far from alone. The climate movement is expanding and changing in all kinds of amazing ways. Around the world, people of all ages and ethnicities and gender identities are standing up to be counted in this climate fight. No, not standing up to be counted — they’re standing up to lead and transform the thing.

It’s a point brought home by the new anthology All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis, which brings together dozens of women who are climate leaders to reflect on the work they do and the urgency of getting it done.

“Look around and you will see on the rise climate leadership that is more characteristically feminine and more faithfully feminist, rooted in compassion, connection, creativity, and collaboration,” write the book’s editors, Fixer Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine K. Wilkinson. The alliterative activism they extol promises a way forward, and today’s newsletter spotlights just some of the inspiring women who are leading the march.

Drop me a line any time, and don’t forget to subscribe your unsuspecting friends to this newsletter,

Your new heroes

Among the more than 40 contributors to All We Can Save are eight Fixers from the Grist 50, who share their thoughts about building a better world:

  • Rihana Gunn-Wright, who helped to develop the Green New Deal policy framework and is now the director of climate policy at the Roosevelt Institute, says the climate challenge demands an economic mobilization that is both ambitious and equitable. “The price of national progress cannot be exploitation and systematic oppression,” she writes. “Not unless we want to fuel the crisis that we are trying to avert.”
  • Leah Penniman talks about a sacred relationship that Black people have had with soil for thousands of years and describes her work at Soul Fire Farm to return to pre-colonial practices of nurturing the soil — and letting it nurture right back. She writes, “In healing our relationship with soil, we heal the climate, and we heal ourselves.”
  • Christine Nieves Rodriguez details her experience living through Hurricane Maria shortly after she returned home to Puerto Rico. In response to the storm’s devastation, she helped to launch a mutual-aid initiative that has created “a model of what it means for a community to be healthy enough and organized enough to face natural disasters.”
  • Varshini Prakash describes the launch and growth of the Sunrise Movement, which she cofounded, and the weight of climate uncertainty. “There always will be the fear of defeat,” she writes, “but there is also the knowledge that something is more important — a deep spiritual calling toward doing something to better people’s lives, the lives of those we love, and those we’ll never meet. … The only failure would be to do nothing at all.”
  • Favianna Rodriguez, the Oakland-based artist and activist whom I wrote about last month in Shift Happens and whose art is featured in this newsletter, writes about how art drives social change: “We urgently need more compelling and relatable stories that show us what a just, healthy, and sustainable world looks like.”
  • Model and activist Cameron Russell pens a letter to fossil-fuel executives, with much more compassion and grace than most of us could muster. Acknowledging her own complicity in the fashion industry’s exploitative practices, she appeals to executives’ better nature, saying “the money and power you all have amassed should immediately be poured into dismantling extractive systems and into clean, renewable energy.”
  • Teen climate activist Alexandria Villaseñor writes a letter to the adults of the world, urging them to get on board with the climate fight: “We young people are doing everything we can, so please join us. We need your help.”

  • “As entrepreneurs and investors dream up huge machines that can pull carbon out of the air,” writes Jane Zelikova, an ecologist and cofounder of 500 Women Scientists, “I can’t help but notice the hubris of relying on technology when ecology has been here all along.” She talks about soil restoration and the role that humble microbes play in drawing down carbon from the atmosphere.

You can read more about the book, and the feminist climate renaissance it celebrates, in this piece by my colleague Brianna Baker.

Your pick-me-up

Passing on gas. California Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order ending sales of new gas-powered vehicles in the state by 2035, the first mandate of its kind in the country. This is what’s known as kind of a big deal; after all, California is the largest auto market in the U.S.

Lights, camera, Action Corps. Newsom also announced the creation of the Climate Action Corps, a program that will put “climate-action fellows” to work in frontline communities in exchange for a stipend and financial support for college. (To the great frustration of activists, the governor’s flurry of executive orders last week didn’t include a fracking ban, though he did call on the state legislature to consider it.)

If only we could still congregate. From train stations in Europe to shopping malls in the States, buildings are increasingly cutting energy use by capturing heat from human bodies. Sure, it’s a little Hannibal Lecter, but since buildings and construction are responsible for a third of the world’s energy consumption and roughly 40 percent of carbon emissions, we’ll take it.

Retail revolution. Walmart, the country’s largest company, is promising to reach zero emissions in its operations by 2040, with the broader goal of becoming, as its CEO says, a “regenerative company, one dedicated to placing nature and humanity at the center of our business practices.” That … does not sound like the Walmart we know. Then again, shift happens.

Flipping the prescription. A group of doctors has created a framework to teach medical residents how to address the climate crisis, noting that a changing climate affects almost every organ in our bodies. (See this Fix piece about how one doctor is prescribing climate action.)

Or maybe he’s just a big fan of Sir Isaac Newton. We don’t know if he was motivated by geopolitics, concern for current and future generations, or his eternal quest to one-up Walmart, but President Xi Jinping declared last week that China, the world’s top emitter of greenhouse gases, would become carbon neutral by 2060 — that’s a huge shift in policy, if not yet practice.

Your next move

Start (or join) a climate book club!

SDI Productions / Getty Images

Looking for an escape from the grinding realities of the daily news cycle? Why not start or join a book club dedicated to the grinding realities of climate change! But with some inspiration and aspiration mixed in, of course. This virtual world we’re living in makes it easier than ever to kibbitz about carbon. Here are just a few options: