How young climate activists built a mass movement to be reckoned with

The below piece, originally published on Waging Nonviolence, sums up some of the key takeaways from Movement Makers: How Young Activists Upended the Politics of Climate Change

When I became a climate organizer in college in the early 2000s, the words “youth climate movement” referred more to something activists hoped to bring into existence than a real-world phenomenon.

Growing numbers of young people were concerned about the climate crisis and had begun organizing in small groups on college campuses and in communities throughout the U.S. But as much as we talked about building a mass movement, it was mainly just a dream at that point.

Almost 20 years later it’s impossible to deny a very real, vibrant youth climate movement has become an important force in national politics. With the rise of campaigns like the Fridays for Future school strikes a few years ago, it burst into the public spotlight in an unprecedented way. This year the United States passed its first major piece of national climate legislation. Much work remains to be done, but the rise of a youth-led mass movement for a livable future has to be considered one of the most important positive developments in 21st-century politics.

Continue reading on Waging Nonviolence

Movement Makers: How Young Activists Upended the Politics of Climate Change

School strikes for the climate. A bold campaign for a Green New Deal. Fossil fuel divestment. Over the last few years, these and other youth-driven climate initiatives have grabbed the public’s attention and irrevocably altered the dialogue about climate change in the United States. But where did this unprecedented wave of activism come from? In Movement Makers, the first book to cover more than two decades of youth climate activism in astounding detail, reveals the behind-the-scenes story of how a scattering of small groups led by young people grew into a true mass uprising.

Order your copy of Movement Makers, or get the ebook.

Along with deep insights into how movements form and create change, in the pages of Movement Makers you’ll hear from interviews with current and former youth climate leaders including:

  • Jamie Margolin, the Seattle high school student who helped inspire Greta Thunberg to launch the climate strike movement,
  • Alyssa Lee, whose work reinvigorated campus fossil fuel divestment campaigns nationwide,
  • Will Lawrence, co-founder of Sunrise Movement and its youth-led drive for a Green New Deal,
  • Evon Peter, a key leader in the effort to defend Indigenous Gwich’in land from oil drilling,
  • Billy Parish, founder of the first major, nationally recognized coalition of climate groups led by young people,
  • Joseph White Eyes and Morgan Brings Plenty, leaders in the fight against the Dakota Access pipeline,
  • Enei Begaye, founder of the Black Mesa Water Coalition and a precedent-setting campaign against coal mining in Navajo country,
  • Lydia Avila, whose push for diversity and inclusion transformed climate organizations,
  • Tim DeChristopher, the University of Utah student who disrupted an oil and gas auction with an act of creative civil disobedience,
  • Dany Sigwalt, current executive director of the Power Shift Network,
  • Hridesh Singh, organizer of a youth-driven effort to divest New York from fossil fuels,
  • Ilana Cohen, leader in the campaign that forced Harvard to divest,
  • and many, many others!

No previous book has covered the U.S. youth climate movement in such a comprehensive way, illuminating how more than twenty years of organizing laid the foundation for seismic shifts in our national politics. Prepare to be amazed at the meteoric rise of a movement fighting for young people’s future—and be inspired to find your place in it.

Order your copy of Movement Makers or get the ebook!

The Fossil Free Research movement is taking universities by storm

Originally published on Waging Nonviolence

When over 40 Cambridge students and academics occupied the elite U.K. university’s BP Institute earlier this year, they were escalating one of the newest, fastest-growing campaigns focused on dissociating higher education institutions from fossil fuels. For just over an hour, activists from the grassroots initiative Fossil Free Research held a sit-in inside the building named after one of Europe’s largest oil producers, while making speeches and staging a street theater production that called attention to links between BP and the school.

“We’re drawing attention to how the fossil fuel industry continues to infiltrate prestigious academic institutions, mooch off their credibility, and even exert influence over the production of knowledge crucial to shaping climate policy,” said Ilana Cohen, a lead organizer for the international Fossil Free Research campaign, who is currently a senior at Harvard.

Continue reading this piece on Waging Nonviolence

Climate activists across the Global South and North unite to stop the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline

Originally published on Waging Nonviolence

On last month’s annual celebration known as Africa Day, activists in Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana and elsewhere held demonstrations targeting French oil giant TotalEnergies’ involvement in African fossil fuel extraction projects. A main focus of the protests was Total’s proposed East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline, or EACOP, which would transport 200,000 barrels of oil per day from western Uganda to export terminals 1,445 kilometers away on the Tanzanian coast.

Grassroots organizers in Uganda and Tanzania have been speaking out against EACOP for years, sometimes at great risk to their own safety. But in a testament to the project’s significance for biodiversity and human rights, the campaign to stop the pipeline is now entering a new, increasingly global phase.

Continue reading this piece on Waging Nonviolence

A Year of Observing Closely: The Beginning

It’s time for a new project. Over the last several months, I’ve been pondering what it means to be truly tuned in to the natural world around us. Many of us, even when we’re immersed in nature, don’t truly look at it very closely. It’s easy to take a pleasant stroll through a park or patch of woods, noticing the surrounded greenery and a few individual flowers or trees that stand out, but still missing most of what is going on around you. In the canopies of trees, flocks of chickadees and bushtits forage for insects. Around flowers cluster an amazing diversity of small creatures–bees and beetles, flies and moths. And beneath your feet countless mites, springtails, nematodes, and microscopic organisms flourish.

The vast majority of people, even dedicated hikers and nature lovers, miss the vast majority of this web of life even as they pass through–simply because we haven’t gotten into the habit of looking closely enough. I myself have noticed myself falling into this trap lately, and I have resolved to make a conscious effort to do better. It is for this reason that I’m embarking on the new project mentioned above: over the course of a full year, I plan to take time for at least one session of observing the nature around me, every day that I can. I began yesterday, on this year’s Summer Solstice.

Eventually, the observations I make over this next year will likely form material for a writing project–perhaps even a book. In the meantime, I’ll be posting updates now and then here.

During my first two days of observation, I made visits to two natural areas well within the city limits of Bellingham, WA: the 100 Acre Wood and Sehome Hill. In both places, I got to observe the local natural landscape as it transitions from spring to summer. Many plants–like dull Oregon grape–have finished blooming and are beginning to form fruits that have not yet matured. Others whose flowering time comes later in the season, like ocean spray, have new flower buds getting ready to open. From the canopies of Douglas-fir trees come the high-pitched calls of songbirds foraging in a flock. Birds I heard singing include robins, red-breasted nuthatches, dark-eyed juncos, and a Pacific wren.

One treat came yesterday as I entered the 100 Acre Wood and spotted this interesting fungus on the side of dead alder snag:

I have not yet been able to identify the species–fungi are not my strong suit–but I hope to do so. Close examination revealed the organism felt soft but almost waxy to the touch near its top. The lower part was softer still, and moist. Small insects, including a couple of gnat-like dipterans and a tiny hymenopteran, perched on the fungus, apparently drawn to it for some reason.

It would have been all too easy to walk by this complex living organisms–as dedicated to its own survival as are you or I–without noticing it, or giving it only the briefest of glances. For me, it felt good to stop and really see it. Not only that, but to touch it, observe what other life had drawn near it, and ponder what might be its role in the ecosystem.

I hope to have many more such experiences in months ahead.

Three years after the first global school strike, signs of the youth climate movement’s success are everywhere

I loved catching up on what the climate school strike movement and its offshoots are doing for this piece on

Three years ago this week — on March 15, 2019 — an estimated 1.4 million young people and supporters in 128 countries skipped school or work for what was then the largest youth-led day of climate protests in history. That record was soon eclipsed by even larger demonstrations later that year, with 1.8 million joining a May 24 day of action, and 7.6 million protesting for the climate over the course of Sept. 20 and the week that followed. The school strikes for climate movement, launched by 15-year-old Greta Thunberg of Sweden in late 2018, had reinvigorated the global climate movement and brought public participation to levels never seen before.

By early 2019, thousands of young people were already skipping school to protest for the climate each week in Europe, but the school strikes had only just begun to catch on in the United States. March 15 of that year was arguably when Thunberg’s campaign truly became a global phenomenon, with large demonstrations in cities all over the world. The youth-led strikes went on to revolutionize and grow the climate movement, helping to popularize concepts like the Green New Deal and grab the attention of policymakers and the media. Three years on, it’s a good time to assess what this flood of activism accomplished and how the youth climate movement has adapted to the challenges of the early 2020s.

Keep reading on Waging Nonviolence

Why activism needs to be part of any meaningful climate education

The topic of this piece, originally published on, is especially close to my heart as an educator! Education about activism is essential.

Last month, crowds of young people and supporters gathered in 1,500 locations around the world for one of the largest youth-led climate protests since countries began emerging from the most restrictive phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many students skipped school or staged class walkouts to participate in the Sept. 24 day of action, the latest surge of activity from the school strike movement that launched in late 2018.

The protest was a sign that youth climate activists, who have had to adapt to COVID lockdowns and restrictions on large gatherings, are ready to reassert themselves through mass mobilizations. In just the last few years, young people have raised the profile of climate change as a national concern in the United States, made climate a major issue in Congress for the first time in over a decade, and persuaded colleges and universities to divest billions of dollars from fossil fuel companies. Most recently, thanks to student advocacy, schools like Harvard and Boston University have announced they are divesting from coal, oil and gas.

Keep reading on Waging Nonviolence

As Biden backslides, a bigger, better-organized climate movement prepares to seize this ‘now or never’ moment

Originally published on

Over 500 activists from the youth-led Sunrise Movement descended on Washington, D.C. last week for one of the largest U.S. climate protests since COVID-related restrictions began easing. The young people rallied in front of the White House on June 28, to hear from a range of speakers, including Reps. Jamaal Bowman and Cori Bush, Indigenous pipeline fighters from Anishinaabe land in Minnesota and Sunrise organizers from all corners of the country. All called on President Biden to act swiftly to address the climate crisis.

“I’m from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, a town built around Bethlehem Steel, a job hub that manufactured steel for infrastructure all over the country,” Sunrise activist Mary Collier told the crowd. “But when politicians abandoned my city, all those good-paying jobs vanished.”

Keep reading on Waging Nonviolence

Young Indigenous organizers are taking the fight against oil pipelines to Biden

Originally published on

The work of Charger, Peltier and others has already stopped at least one black snake. On his first day in office, President Biden overturned the permit for Keystone XL, putting a cap on the years-long campaign to stop that project. With the April 1 action, Indigenous organizers signaled they won’t stop until other, equally destructive pipelines are halted as well — and that Biden can’t escape a movement that has already spanned two presidential administrations and more than a decade of pipeline resistance.

From Keystone XL to Dakota Access and Line 3

Joseph White Eyes was in his early 20s, and already a seasoned pipeline fighter, when elders from Standing Rock convened a meeting to discuss resisting the then-proposed Dakota Access pipeline at the beginning of 2016. A member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, White Eyes had attended nonviolent direct action trainings organized by groups like the Indigenous Environmental Network and Owe Aku International Justice Project, which were intended to prepare for direct action against Keystone XL. This got him thinking about other pipelines.

Keep reading on Waging Nonviolence

Overwhelming odds, unexpected alliances and tough losses — how defeating Keystone XL built a bolder, savvier climate movement

There’s nothing that’s more fun than being able to report on a huge climate movement win! Originally published on

Credit: Chesapeake Climate

When President Biden rescinded a crucial permit for the Keystone XL pipeline last week, it marked the culmination of one of the longest, highest-profile campaigns in the North American climate movement. The opposition to Keystone XL included large environmental organizations, grassroots climate activist networks, Nebraska farmers, Texas landowners, Indigenous rights groups and tribal governments. Few environmental campaigns have touched so many people over such large swaths of the continent.

The Keystone XL resistance was part of the ongoing opposition to the Canadian tar sands, one of the most carbon-intensive industrial projects on the planet. Yet, it came to symbolize something even bigger. Many activists saw stopping Keystone XL as a measure of success for the climate movement itself.

“Keystone XL isn’t just any project,” said longtime activist Matt Leonard, who coordinated several major protests against the pipeline. “Its defeat is a testament to what movement building and direct action can accomplish.”

Keep reading this inspiring story of resistance on!