Class 4 climate – organizing

Class 4 – Monday, March 14, 2022

  • Organizing successful climate advocacy campaigns
  • Overview of different forms of advocacy; review of how-to on various advocacy techniques; and student engagement in climate advocacy efforts.
  • Steps that local community advocates can take to impact on climate change (model ordinances, purchasing renewable energy, public power)
  • Overview on key nonprofits and community groups and their tactics in the climate movement – 350 / divestment; Extinction Rebellion; Student Climate Strike; Sunrise Movement
  • Environmental justice
  • Building relationships and connections with other issues and constituencies – BLM (Black Lives Matter), peace, immigration
  • Art and climate

Required Readings:

  1. How New York Activists Banned Fracking – In These Times
  2.   Eric Weltman
  4. – in files
  6. NASW, MA, how to pass a bill –
  8. Elections and climate

Optional Readings

  4. Peoples Climate March Art Builds – in files
  7. Why the Climate Crisis Demands Democracy Reform | Brennan Center for Justice


3:40 intro

3:45 News – developing countries
– US Supreme Court case
– state budget – not much on climate

3:55 elections

4:05 successful campaigns

– fracking
– divestment
– Keystone pipeline or SHARE (maybe some

4:20   EJ / local models

4:30 break

4:35 Update on turnout for Sunshine
4:50 Review of class work, letters to the editor, advocacy

5:10  Earth Day – have signup sheet

– norlite at Governor’s Mansion

5:25 wrap up

3:45 News

Developing Countries

Energy leaders from some developing countries in Africa and Asia, many of which have economies that heavily rely on fossil fuel extraction, are once again asking that their nations be left out of the push to transition the world to renewable energy. It’s a situation that raises questions over what a “just transition” should look like and whether wealthy countries, which are historically responsible for the majority of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, are pulling their fair share of weight in that effort.

At CERAWeek—the annual global energy conference hosted in Houston this week—leaders from Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea and Malaysia reiterated that their countries are least responsible for climate change, and that expecting them to transition to clean energy at this point would be unfair and detrimental to their economies’ development.

“We are still in transition from firewood to gas,” Timipre Sylva, Nigeria’s oil minister, said at the conference. “Please allow us to continue with our own transition.”

Nigeria, like a handful of other developing nations in Africa, Asia and South America, is highly dependent on fossil fuels for revenue. But there’s another issue that affects more countries: Some 900 million people in the world, most of them in Africa, still have no access to energy for basic needs, Sylva said. Many leaders don’t want to be constrained in their ability to supply power to their populations from the cheapest, most reliable options, including in cases where that option would be natural gas.

Supreme Court and climate change

Supreme Court Will Hear Biggest Climate Change Case in a Decade

The court could handcuff President Biden’s climate change agenda — and restrict federal agencies from enacting new regulations governing health, workplace safety and more.

The court could restrict or even eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to control the pollution that is heating the planet. A decision by the high court, with its conservative supermajority, could shred President Biden’s plans to halve the nation’s greenhouse emissions by the end of the decade

“Trying to figure out the contours of E.P.A.’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases when there’s no regulation being defended is just kind of a weird thing for the court to consider,” said Jonathan Adler, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University. “I was surprised when they took the case.”

The plaintiffs in the case, West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency, want the high court to block the kind of sweeping changes to the electricity sector that defined the Obama Clean Power Plan. Instead, Republican attorneys general in 18 states and some of the nation’s largest coal companies will argue that the 1970 Clean Air Act limits the E.P.A. to dictate changes only at individual power plants, not across the entire power sector.

State budget

Not much of the $15 billion budget request for EJ = Senate is proposing an extra $2 billion in the present $4 billion environmental bond for climate mitigation – Senate did support the speed up of the transition to all electric new buildings from 2027 to 2024

Role of elections

Fundamental flaws – winner take all, centrist, moves to right to chase money, Clinton opened up Democrats to corporate bankrolling

How elections operate – gerrymander – in congress perhaps 10% contestable in general election

Incumbents are primaril Scared of primaries – Democrats just keep moving to the right they don’t care about leftists who are they going to vote for – Democrats play to the marginals, Blue dogs

Essential need for Campaign finance reform


US Senate – filibuster, a fundamentally anti-democractic institution – gerrymandering, voter suppression – decades of partisan gridlock prevents climate action

Political action committees, DSA / WFP, GOTV operation, mobilization – experts focus on the 5 to 10% swing voters

Organizing successful climate advocacy campaigns


  fracking campaign – 2010 to 2015


The corporations that hype fracking — short for hydraulic fracturing, a method that uses high pressure water and chemical cocktails to break up deep shale formations in order to extract gas — are trying to lock us into a dirty future powered by fossil fuels. It’s a future that leads to more gas plants, more leaky pipelines, more compressor stations, more processing plants, more dangerous storage facilities, and more public health crises.


– grassroots ban vs NGO moratorium – big groups to push for moratorium bill at state level – Judith Enck saved the day in NY by getting a short term moratorium that lasted for years –- birddogging Cuomo, going national with protests, passing local ordinances to make it illegal, massive demos at the annual State of the State, frequent large rallies – Pete Seeger, Mark Ruffalo, Natalie merchant


GP = we oppose natural gas as a fossil fuel, plus had local grassroots activists


Ling Tsou, co-founder of United for Action, a New York City-based grassroots group that fought for a ban, noted, ​“The mainstream environmental organizations thought the best we could get were good regulations and thought we were crazy.”


New Yorkers Against Fracking (NYAF), a coalition that helped unify the national, state and grassroots organizations calling for a statewide ban, ultimately comprising more than 250 organizations. It amplified a base of anti-fracking voices that included local groups formed to fight fracking in their communities — 180 municipal bans and moratoria were passed across the state.


NYAF strengthened that base in several ways. First, we put organizers on the ground in regions from Long Island to Buffalo. These organizers were essential to growing our grassroots power as well as mobilizing people for actions, such as bus trips to Albany for rallies at the Capitol.

Second, NYAF helped create and promoted numerous networks of key fracking opponents. These included networks of health professionals, businesses, local elected officials, chefs and faith leaders. Third, NYAF enabled collaboration and coordination of tactics and messaging among the numerous strands of the movement that spanned the state.

Noise and water contamination

– role of elections – 2014 5% for Howie Hawkins, strong show for Zephyr Teachout in primary pushed Cuomo after election to ban fracking

– stopped it in NY but continued to import it into the state



Divestment campaign – NYC vs NYS


Conscious effort to replicate the anti-apartheid campaign against South Africa – gave people a way to localize and focus the climate movement – college students (training of young activists)


Do the math Tour (Bill McKibben, Rolling Stones, keep 80% in the ground)


Lobby days – how to do, keep spreadsheet so have everyone keep track on who talked to and when – they always want more time to think about it, have a follow up


– Board of Trustees – union leaders (DC37), city council, Public Advocate, NYCC (former ACORN, they brought in other groups, WFP), Mayoral race, Cuomo – counting votes on trustees

– city council was largely a waste of time

– lots of public events

– timeline – Fossil Free New York – Timeline of the #DivestNY Campaign (


State level – get 50 sponsors, hearings, rallies, petitions, state comptroller race, union relations, NY Youth Climate Leaders






We stopped fracking but we were still getting imported fracked gas


Keystone – since it crossed the border, President had unusual power to stop it without Congressional oversight – people got arrested at the White House – first large scale, systemic CDs – some fights over the route of the pipeline – others have had indigenous which have down encampments like at DAPL




Paris – developing countries fought for a 1.5 degree target while the US, including key climate groups, push 2 – US fought against mandatory reductions




be persistent – it will take years so need to have ways to keep people involved – will do planning meetings every six months or so to develop new ideas, keep focused – regular monthly or biweekly meetings for coordination – need to keep both core organizers and grassroots supporters informed and connected


– legislation can have a role but is often secondary in the end and invariably gets amended in the end


– find ways to make it easy for people to get involved, think about participation


– importance of media (including role of social media),  celebrities help bring attention, be clear about the demands, role of public education (fact sheets, talking points) – visuals, photo ops


broader political forces – 400000 PCM, Pope Frances visit to NYC pushed Mayor DiBlasio


electoral – Cuomo’s poor showing in 2014 election in both primary with Zephyr Teachout and Hawkins (5%) as Green Party candidate – NYC Comptroller worrying tht public advocate Tish James, who held major public hearing on divestment, would grab the issue in the upcoming Mayoral race


Importance of symbols – burning gas in faucets, Josh Fox – Sheridan Hollow as an EJ community and tying it into prior fight over



4:20 Environmental justice – Indigenous – April 18 class


  • Building relationships and connections with other issues and constituencies – BLM (Black Lives Matter), peace, immigration



  • Overview of different forms of advocacy; review of how-to on various advocacy techniques; and student engagement in climate advocacy efforts.


Go back and look at campaign analysis


4;25 Local models


Steps that local community advocates can take to impact on climate change (model ordinances, purchasing renewable energy, public power)

Community Choice Aggregation – Home (


4:27 Art and climate

Create slide show

People’s Climate March | Creative Resistance | Activist art, Activism art, Protest art ( apri 2 – 10, 2022


4:30 break

4:35 Update on turnout for Sunshine

bennington Bulletin
CAPA weekly bulletin
student life – communications officer

4:50 Review of class work, letters to the editor, advocacy

set up a one on one meeting next week or by zoom

5:10  Earth Day – have signup sheet

– norlite at Governor’s Mansion

5:25 wrap up



You can both raise awareness of your cause and also catch the attention of decision-makers or corporate targets with a well-crafted, well-placed letter to the editor.

Why letters to the editor are important:

  • The pen is mightier than the sword! The editorials page is one of the most-read pages of any paper making LTEs an effective way to reach a large audience including your Members of Congress and other elected officials who tend to read the editorials pages religiously.
  • Even if your letter does not get published, you are still helping to educate the editors on these issues and increasing the chances that they will publish letters on this topic in the future.

How to get your letter published and make it count:

  1. Make your letter relevant to their paper! Editors are more likely to print letters that are responding directly either to breaking news or an article or commentary published in the previous two days (for dailies) or the previous issue of a weekly paper. The typical format is to open your letter with something like: “Re: your article “Bag Ban Bagged?” (city news, June 13)…”
  2. Stay focused. Don’t try to address more than one issue in your letter – it’s much more effective to focus on just one important point (these letters have to be pretty short, after all).
  3. Do drop any and all relevant names! Whether you’re trying to catch the attention of a member of Congress or local decision-maker or a corporation or local business, putting their names in your letter helps ensure that they’ll see it. Elected officials scan news clips with a vengeance and chances are that any self-respecting business or individual will have a google news alert set up.
  4. Play by their rules. Make sure to follow all the guidelines and stay within the word count limit of the target publication (usually 200 words or less).
  5. Do a ruthless edit before you submit. Remove every non-essential word. For example, don’t say, “I think…” – as that’s implied. Avoid using jargon or acronyms without first spelling them out. Cleaning up your language also minimizes the chance that the editor will make significant changes to your letter.
  6. Just the facts, ma’am. Back up your argument using only verified facts and take the time to check original sources rather than repeating “facts” cited in another media outlet. You should footnote your letter to help ensure that the editor trusts your facts.
  7. Draw the connection. Explain how readers will be affected by the issue you address and don’t be afraid to share your own reaction, informed by your place in your local community, profession, age, gender, race, etc.
  8. Make a call to action. Ask your readers for action, including your elected representatives. You can also point people to more information or explain how to get involved whenever possible.
  9. Don’t let your letter get lost in the shuffle. Put your letter right in the body of your email as most papers do NOT accept attachments. If the paper does not include specific instructions about what to include in your subject line, something like “Letter re: TOPIC or ARTICLE YOU ARE RESPONDING TO” is a good default option. And you MUST include your contact information, including a phone number where you can be reached.
  10. Follow up if your letter gets printed. If your letter does make it into print, send a clip of it to your elected officials to make sure they’re aware of it – this can provide particularly useful leverage if you’ve had trouble getting them to agree to a meeting… Don’t forget to tag them if you share it on social media, too.
  11. Let us know your good news, too! Email us the link or a scanned copy of your printed letter at And share it with the world via social media if you’re active on any platforms.



On Monday, March 21, at 3:40 PM, an organizing meeting to set up a student climate group at Bennington College will be held in the CAPA Symposium Room. All Bennington students are invited

Emily Thompson of the Sunrise Movement at Middlebury College will talk about how to set up a Sunrise hub.

Pizza will be provided.

The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has declared a Code Red for the planet, saying that the present actions by the world’s governments to stop greenhouse gas emissions fall far short of what is needed to prevent climate collapse and that the window for effective action is rapidly closing. Climate action must embrace environmental justice and a rapid transition to clean, renewable energy.

The Sunrise Movement is a youth movement to stop climate change and create millions of good jobs in the process. We’re building an army of young people to make climate change an urgent priority across America, end the corrupting influence of fossil fuel executives on our politics, and elect leaders who stand up for the health and wellbeing of all people. Sunrise received national attention for its call for a Green New Deal when newly elected Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) joined them in an occupation of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office.

The meeting is being sponsored by the Climate Change and Advocacy class with Mark Dunlea and the Environmental Fellowship program with Judith Enck.

The meeting will also discuss the upcoming annual Earth Day on April 22.

Please let us know if you are coming so we can have enough food.