Climate Action Lab: Catalyzing Youth Organizing and Grassroots Leadership by EJS organizing team
Join @SustainUS and youth activists to fight for climate justice through a 3-month organizing fellowship.
We are young organizers who care deeply about human rights and social justice. We seek a world where everyone has access to sustainable energy and no one suffers unjustly in an economy based on fossil fuels. We believe that the best way to move towards a just and sustainable world is through organizing.
We are currently organizing Energy Justice Summer, a prototype for Climate Action Lab where youth are working in solidarity with communities directly impacted by natural shale gas extraction in Pennsylvania. In this proposal, we seek to take the lessons learned from our recent work and establish “Action Labs” around the world that empower young people to effectively organize for climate justice.
Through “Action Labs,” eight to ten organizing fellows will live and work together for three months gaining organizing skills, building lasting relationships, and growing grassroots power for climate victories at the local level. Fellows will receive rent, food, and living stipends. Each Action Lab will focus on four areas of work: trainings, media, research, and campaigns.
§ EMPOWERING TRAININGS: We will host trainings for students and residents on how to monitor the impacts and communicate the consequences of local fossil fuels, as well as organize to stop the development of further fossil fuel infrastructure.
§ CREATIVE MEDIA: Through photographic, video, and written testimonials, we will record and share personal stories of community members who have been negatively impacted by fossil fuels.
§ COLLABORATIVE RESEARCH: We will analyze the environmental harms and violations of local fossil fuel companies and investigate possibilities for a local just transition to an inclusive green economy.
§ STRONG CAMPAIGNS: We will support existing community groups in ongoing fights to stop the expansion of local fossil fuel infrastructure.
Category of action
Youth Leadership on Climate Change
What actions do you propose?
Our Vision: Climate Action Labs around the world
In January, three SustainUS Leaders (Adam Hasz, Collin Rees, and Alyssa Tsuchiya) began working on a project called “Climate Action Lab.” Our vision was to empower young people to organize locally for climate justice by setting up community houses (“Action Labs”) where young people would live and organize together for local climate justice campaigns. We first intended to focus on federal policy, but after a few months we pivoted and decided our first Action Lab should be located in an area with heavy fossil fuel extraction.
We combined forces with the local Pennsylvania organization Energy Justice Network and named our pilot project “Energy Justice Summer.” Through this project, we brought seven organizing fellows to live and work in a rural farmhouse in Susquehanna County, PA (home to over 1,000 shale gas wells). We are now seeking to take the lessons from the last few months and establish Action Labs all over the world.
Using the Energy Justice Initiative as a Model Action Lab
We see Climate Action Lab as a means to empower young people all over the world to launch projects similar to Energy Justice Summer. We cannot predict what these specific projects will be, nor do we think it wise to define or constrain their scope. However, we envision each Action Lab having four areas of work: empowering trainings, creative media, collaborative research, and powerful campaigns.
For the purposes of providing a deep dive into the possibilities of an Action Lab, below we provide more information about our specific activities in Northeast PA with the Energy Justice Summer house. We plan to continue organizing from this house throughout the next year, rebranding our efforts as “Energy Justice Initiative.”
While work will be different in other Action Labs, we think the organizing outputs will be similar to what we describe below for Energy Justice Initiative:
Empowering Trainings in PA: Frack University
Frack University is a traveling training program that brings workshops on organizing and fracking issues to schools, union halls, conferences, and communities. We envision a mix of traveling speakers, an immersive experience on the frontlines for youth (including Fall and Spring Break programs), webinars, films, and educational materials. With this flexibility, we will be able to equip a broad range of youth constituencies with information and organizing resources to fight fracking and extreme extraction.
Through collaboration between SustainUS, Energy Justice Network, and many other Pennsylvania organizations, Frack University will offer a variety of programming, including:
· Community Organizing & Media Relations
· Violations Analysis & Regulatory Appeals
· Visual & Biological Water Monitoring Training
· Divestment & Student Organizing
· IWW Union Organizing Training
· Just Transitions to a Green Economy
· Direct Action Training
Main Outcomes from Frack University: over one hundred students trained in organizing skills; five campus groups working collaboratively with shalefield residents.
Creative Media: “Stories from the Shale - PA”
The following is a pitch by EJS writer Spencer Johnson describing his project, “Stories from the Shale.”
Many documentaries have been filmed about fracking, but none of them have had a written and photographic element to accompany them. Our project will include cinematography, provocative photos, and an accompanying written story with background information, web links, and a voice that speaks for the harmed. Affected landowners will tell their story on camera while visually striking photos and a lyrically pleasing narrative follow below. Film buffs will burst at the sight of the videos, photographers will debating the symbolic significance of the photos, and writers will nod vehemently at the emotional flow of the narratives.
The interviewees will include both people who’ve already been directly affected by shale gas infrastructure and people who could/will be threatened in the near future. Some have received death threats, while others have worked for the industry and seen the spills, lack of regulations, and problems firsthand. Others, still, are awaiting impacts like the approval of the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline that would transport natural gas to proposed export facilities like Cove Point, freezing the gas and shipping resulting Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) overseas to the global market, opening up an avenue for more aggressive drilling.
This isn’t about climate change. This is about showing the public health dangers of the fossil fuel industry and their practices. The dreams of the affected are being stolen: their plans to build houses and grow organic gardens have been abandoned and any hope of safely raising their kids is drilled 15,000 feet into a deep-pocket deposit of Marcellus Shale methane. Pipeline and gas drilling activities have left these people and their families with chronic health problems, slashed property values, and poverty, despite the industry’s continued promises of safe drilling practices and economic prosperity.
The people in these testimonials will demonstrate what really happens when the gas industry comes in threatening and manipulating their way into signed property leases. Shale gas is not a black and white issue, and a lot of claims of gas drilling water contamination aren’t proven, but many are. One only needs to see the documents, hear the stories, and feel the pain of the affected to understand that this issue, at its core, is one of energy justice and freedom––clean water is a right and everyone deserves it.
Main Outcomes from Stories from the Shale: ten testimonials from impacted residents that include video, photos, and written interviews.
Collaborative Research: Supporting Community Organizations with information in Pennsylvania
Our comprehensive research will highlight the environmental and social impacts of fracking, showcasing the violations and socioeconomic consequences of the natural gas boom while proving a just transition to clean energy is possible for the people living in shalefield communities.
By analyzing the Department of Environmental Protection’s compliance reports for fracking operators, we can generate five reports for Energy Justice Network’s Know Your Driller series. EJN interns produced a hard-hitting report on Shell Oil Co. in 2013 and we will replicate it for other drillers. These reports can be used in community organizing, divestment campaigns, press kits, and political advocacy.
Socioeconomic Consequences of Fracking:
The gas industry claims prosperity abounds in the shalefields thanks to their operations; however, since 2008, the number of students enrolled in free or reduced lunch programs has increased for every school district in Susquehanna County, where over 860 fracking wells have been developed.
At least 30 dairy farms have shut down in Bradford County, and Penn State University reports an average 18.7% decrease in dairy cows in counties with more than 150 shale gas wells-- while counties with no wells experienced a mere 1.2% in the same time period. Bradford County has also suffered a 300% increase in foreclosures in 2013, despite the “record year” for shale gas development.
With further analysis of Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture reports, Department of Education statistics, and RealtyTrac foreclosure data, we will show fracking is an economic boom for only industry executives on the opposite end of the front lines, far away from the damages they are causing. Our presence in the shalefields will also yield testimonials from local farmers, residents, and gas workers about their experiences with the industry––often, the media quotes industry spokesmen, climate scientists, and experts. Rarely, do we hear anything from those who are being affected. Our testimonials project “Stories From The Shale” provides the personal stories of those who are fighting the extreme extraction in the shalefields––their stories and voices deserve to be heard.
Main Outcomes from Research track: Hard-hitting reports that demonstrate the harm of fracking and the viability of solutions, turning public opinion against the gas industry where it needs the most support.
Powerful Campaigns: Stopping the Growth of Gas
Through the campaigns track of Energy Justice Initiative, young people will organize with Pennsylvania community groups to fight three projects: the Milford Compressor Station, the Atlantic Sunrise gas pipeline, and the Constitution gas pipeline..
The Milford Compressor Station sits at the intersection of the Tennessee and Columbia pipelines. Removal of the existing facility and construction of a 9,400 horsepower expansion is scheduled to start on October 1st, 2014. The new facility will emit harmful emissions including formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, and sulfur oxides in proximity to area schools and residences. Additionally, it will emit approximately 50,762 tons per year of greenhouse gasses. The Tennessee and Columbia pipelines are the shortest route to proposed export terminals -- including Cove Point -- for a majority of fracked Marcellus Shale gas wells. Stopping this project will significantly delay build-out of further infrastructure.
We will partner with local community group Stop the Milford Compressor Station and the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund to pass a local ordinance prohibiting new compressor stations and asserting residents’ rights to clean air and self-governance. Our organizing strategy will involve door-to-door canvassing, local events highlighting the compressor station’s impacts, and a comprehensive outreach strategy to recruit outside activists to join the fight. If successful, we will set a precedent for halting a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)-approved project through direct citizen pressure.
We will also organize to stop the Atlantic Sunrise & Constitution Pipelines. The Atlantic Sunrise pipeline, which will deliver gas to the Cove Point LNG terminal, is planned to begin in Susquehanna County and carve a north-south right of way through eastern Pennsylvania. In coalition with the Shalefield Organizing Committee, Clean Air Council, and Lancaster Against Pipelines, we have immersed ourselves in a canvass of every property owner in the path. The Constitution Pipeline, which stretches from the same origin to Albany NY, then to the Boston area, is further along in the permitting process and will likely commence construction during the grant period, making our geographic location in the most densely drilled region very strategic. We are building landowner resistance to resist eminent domain condemnation.
Main Outcome from the Action Coordination track: Stopping construction of the proposed Milford compressor station expansion, delaying and potentially stopping the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline
Overall Impact of Energy Justice Initiative and Climate Action Lab
The fight to stop fossil fuels and transition to clean energy will not be won in a single location and will take many years. However, Energy Justice Initiative will have significant immediate benefits for the impacted communities of Pennsylvania shalefields and build capacity for the long-term effort needed to push for a just transition. Energy Justice Initiative will also cultivate lasting relationships between students and those on the frontlines of the fracking struggle, creating opportunities for long-term solidarity campaigns and collaborative efforts between universities and citizen activists. We see similar opportunities for Action Labs located around the world.
From the frontlines of fracking in Pennsylvania to the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, people are suffering because of continued fossil fuel extraction. We need to show that the expansion of fossil fuels is unacceptable and that young people stand in solidarity with impacted communities. We need Climate Action Lab.
Who will take these actions?
Energy Justice Initiative will be coordinated by the young people who are currently organizing Energy Justice Summer:
Alex Lotorto (Energy Justice Network) – Campaigns
Alex has been organizing against shalegas extraction in Northeast Pennsylvania for the past six years, serving as the “Anti-fracking Community Organizer” for Energy Justice Network. For Energy Justice Summer, Alex is in charge of facilitating collaborative work with local anti-fracking organizations in Pennsylvania and New York State.
Sarita Farnelli (Energy Justice Initiative fellow) – Trainings
Sarita Farnelli grew up in Dimock, Pennsylvania, in the midst of the local natural gas extraction industry. For the past six years, Sarita and her family have worked hard locally to improve conditions for affected residents of the Marcellus shale area.
Spencer Johnson (Energy Justice Initiative fellow) - Creative Media
Spencer has been writing about the climate movement and fossil fuel extraction since he first learned about fracking in 2011. Recently, he is freelancing with Inhabitat.com and working on "Stories From The Shale," a series of testimonials from Pennsylvania citizens impacted by fracking.
Climate Action Lab will grow and expand through the work of leaders in SustainUS:
Adam Hasz (SustainUS) - Chair
Adam has been working with SustainUS to develop new initiatives and strategies to confront the climate crisis for the past two years, serving as the group’s Campaign Strategy Coordinator. For Climate Action Lab, Adam is in charge of bottom-lining fundraising efforts for new projects.
Collin Rees (SustainUS) – Partnerships Coordinator Media Director
Collin has been active with climate movement organizing for the past three years and joined SustainUS for its COP19 delegation in the fall of 2013, where he focused on social media. For Climate Action Lab, Collin is in charge of social media campaigning and promotion of the program’s work.
What are other key benefits?
The fight to stop fracking and transition to clean energy will not be won in a single location and will take many years; however, Energy Justice Initiative will have significant immediate benefits for the impacted communities of Pennsylvania shalefields and build capacity for the long-term effort needed to push for a just transition. Energy Justice Summer will also cultivate lasting relationships between students and those on the frontlines of the fracking struggle. We anticipate these relationships will last far beyond the summer, and we will continue to support students when they return to their campus campaigns this fall.
What are the proposal’s costs?
Below we present the budget for the next three months of Energy Justice Initiative:
Budget for Energy Justice Initiative, Sept. 2014 – Nov. 2014 (3 months)
Energy Justice Initiative Staff Organizer: $2,000/month * 3 months = $6,000
Eight youth fellows at $500/month living stipend: $4000/month * 3 months = $12,000
House rental at $1000/month: $1000/month * 3 months = $3000
Common food for the Action Lab at $1000/month: $1000/month * 3 months = $3000
Office expenses (printing of organizing materials, etc.): $1000
Travel to meetings, canvassing, events, etc., at $0.50/mile for 3000 miles: $1,500
Administrative fee (5%): $1,325
Total: $27,825 for three months of operation
We expect each Action Lab will cost a similar amount. Therefore, the total amount of funding needed will depend on the number of Action Labs and the amount of time they operate. For example, five Action Labs operating for one year would cost $27,825 * 5 action labs * 4 three month intervals = $556,500.
While we acknowledge the desire to facilitate long-term thinking in this process, we do not believe that this proposal will matter in 50-100 years if we are not successful in slowing and then halting fossil fuel extraction in the next few decades. Our understanding of climate change, and in particular the carbon budget required to stay below 2 degrees C, means that the world must reach carbon neutrality by 2050. This means an absolute peak in global emissions by 2020, with sharp declines across the board thereafter. Since the United States has already contributed far more than its fair share of carbon dioxide and other GHGs over the past 200 years, we believe that the United States must take even larger steps to quickly curb and then reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.
With this preface, here is our modified timeline for Climate Action Lab Justice:
SHORT TERM (1 year): Fundraise and develop the Climate Action Lab model so that it can be replicated elsewhere in the United States.
MEDIUM TERM (2 – 5 years): Establish new Action Labs, win over a majority of public opinion that expanding fossil fuel production is not in the US national interest.
EXTENDED TERM (5 – 15 years): Ban fracking internationally, commit to carbon neutrality, and work with frontline communities around the world on a just transition to locally-controlled renewable energy.
LONG TERM (15 – 50 years): Continue the complete transformation of American society, particularly in rural frontline communities, to be entirely powered by renewable energy.
VERY LONG TERM (50 – 100 years): Respond to climate crises and disruptions as they occur, with the solidarity and relationships developed through Climate Action Lab as a powerful source of social capital that can help to weather the various storms.
Tim Damon's proposal is somewhat related to this proposal because changing the social discount rate would make fracking appear much less economically appealing.
Overview of the global carbon budget and the need to quickly transition off of fossil fuels to stay below 2 degrees C:
Paper by James Hansen arguing for even greater reductions in carbon emissions than needed for 2 degrees C:
Public Health impacts of fracking:
Climate risks of fracking: