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  • El gran diseño - Stephen Hawking & Leonard Mlodinow June 23, 2017
    Aun antes de aparecer, este libro ha venido precedido, en todos los medios de comunicación, de una extraordinaria polémica sobre  sus conclusiones: que tanto nuestro universo como los otros muchos universos posibles surgieron de la nada, porque su creación no requiere de la intervención de ningún Dios o ser sobrenatural, sino que todos los universos pro […]
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  • La tabla rasa - Steven Pinker June 23, 2017
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  • Ask the Brains, Part 1 - Scientific American Editors June 23, 2017
    Why do we do the things we do? The human brain is a marvelous, mysterious piece of evolution that on one hand empowers us to be rational, self-aware and innovative. On the other, the disciplines of psychiatry and psychology are a testament to our attempts to understand the human brain and behavior. Why do we persist in believing opinions despite scientific e […]
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  • Ágilmente - Estanislao Bachrach June 23, 2017
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  • Réussir sa mort - Fabrice Hadjadj June 23, 2017
    Ce n'est pas nous qui réussissons notre mort, c'est elle qui ne nous rate pas. À nous toutefois de ne pas la rater non plus. Que signifie dès lors réussir sa mort ? Avec verve, humour, espièglerie, mais vérité et sincérité, Fabrice Hadjadj nous invite à passer du confort au combat, à choisir la vie alors même que nous mourons et que nous mourrons. […]
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  • Inteligencia emocional para niños. Guía práctica para padres y educadores - Mireia Golobardes Subirana & Sandra Celeiro González June 23, 2017
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  • La teoría del todo - Stephen W. Hawking June 23, 2017
    Una manera clara y amena de acercarse a los misterios del universo. En esta esclarecedora obra, el gran físico británico Stephen Hawking nos ofrece una historia del universo, del big bang a los agujeros negros. En siete pasos, Hawking logra explicar la historia del universo, desde las primeras teorías del mundo griego y de la época medieval hasta las más com […]
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  • La física del futuro - Michio Kaku June 23, 2017
    Un recorrido asombroso a través de los próximos cien años de revolución científica. El futuro ya se está inventando en los laboratorios de los científicos más punteros de todo el mundo. Con toda probabilidad, en 2100 controlaremos los ordenadores a través de diminutos sensores cerebrales y podremos mover objetos con el poder de nuestras mentes, la inteligenc […]
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  • EnCambio - Estanislao Bachrach June 23, 2017
    EnCambio te va a permitir alumbrar los procesos por los cuales te comportás de determinada manera con el fin de dejar atrás aquellos hábitos y conductas que ya no te sirven. El objetivo es que aprendas del potencial que tiene tu cerebro para cambiar y la capacidad que tenés vos para modificarlo. Este año cambio de trabajo, empiezo el gimnasio, bajo esos kili […]
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  • Breve historia de mi vida - Stephen Hawking June 23, 2017
    La mente maravillosa de Stephen Hawking ha deslumbrado al mundo entero revelando los misterios del universo. Ahora, por primera vez, el cosmólogo más brillante de nuestra era explora, con una mirada reveladora, su propia vida y evolución intelectual. Breve historia de mi vida cuenta el sorprendente viaje de Stephen Hawking desde su niñez […]
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Event Day 2013 Vender Introduction

Our Customer Appreciation Day is almost here, and we just wanted to touch base to let you know some highlights about the vendors attending. We will be providing free food + drink from 12pm-3pm and hosting a raffle at 5pm … Continue reading → […]

Tucson Street Fair Sale : March 22, 23, 24

It is that time again in Tucson for the annual Spring 4th Avenue Street Fair. Sea of Green will have a booth again offering a wide assortment of unique herbs including popular kitchen varieties such as chocolate mint, cilantro, heirloom … Continue reading → […]

How the environmental movement can save the environment

How the environmental movement can save the environment

The environmental movement’s challenge isn’t energy, it’s power.

Power is what prompts political change. Shifts in power, application of power. Not necessarily power on Capitol Hill, but at least enough power to force Capitol Hill to act. Environmentalists lack the power necessary to effect any major change because there are only a few environmental champions in positions of power in the United States: a few in the private sector, a few in Congress, a very few in the administration, almost no one in the media.

In order to make change, the movement needs to build political power. But instead it’s consumed with building energy in an already-energetic base.

Young people protest during Powershift 2011.

As David Roberts notes here and as I’ve noted before, passion and energy are critical to change. Without passion and a desire to make the status quo snap, nothing happens. But that passion has to exist within the powerful. And right now it doesn’t.

Last weekend, tens of thousands of protestors met on the Mall in Washington, D.C., to demand that the president reject the Keystone XL pipeline. Organizers celebrated the turnout, hailing it as the largest climate rally in history.

That may be, but it’s certainly not the largest environmental rally in history. On the first Earth Day in 1970, an estimated 1 million people rallied just in New York City, and nearly 20 million across the country. In 2000, a large Earth Day rally in D.C. was mirrored throughout the country. While those were more broadly focused on the environment, they likely matched last weekend’s crowd in energy. And large swaths of every such crowd shared a similar message: Take action to protect the Earth. Only the specifics varied.

The environmental movement has been sparking passion in the U.S. for more than 40 years, and calling on the government to act. At one time the government did: President Nixon created the EPA the same year as those first rallies. Change was effected because that passion occurred among the powerful: A broad swath of voters in the 1970s supported improving the environment, Gallup notes; Congress passed the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. Energy coupled with power made change.

What environmental organizations failed to do was institutionalize that power. Rallies and petitions sparked change, so rallies and petitions remained prominent strategies for decades. That power trickled away as the environment improved and core activists aged and the fossil fuel industry and other polluters increasingly wielded their own power. When the climate crisis burst into national consciousness with An Inconvenient Truth, environmental organizations knew how to file lawsuits against the EPA and hold rallies, but weren’t prepared to deal with the energy of new supporters. 350.org stepped into the vacuum, but without a plan for building political power, it, too, has seen limited success. American voters en masse are a powerful group, but their passion has dissipated.

Rallies like last Sunday’s won’t change that. Consider it from the point of view of a non-activist. Without political power and without powerful champions in the media, rally organizers were able to generate only limited awareness of the event. Democracy Now! covered the rally, but non-activists don’t watch Democracy Now! [Editor’s note: 350.org points out that Sunday’s rally got a fair bit of coverage from the mainstream media.] Had they watched it, they would have seen protestors, mostly young, carrying signs with pictures of the Earth and various slogans. In short: They would have seen little they hadn’t seen before. The rally may have whipped up some passion, but it was almost certainly among the already-passionate.

This is the media’s fault, yes. But the media only covers what it is convinced is important. There are two times the media has given widespread coverage to climate change lately. The first was when Sandy demolished the East Coast; the second, when President Obama raised the topic in his inauguration and State of the Union speeches. In the case of Sandy, we had a (frightening, deadly) aberration from the norm. In the case of Obama, he wields power. The rally last weekend had neither of those qualities. Fifty thousand people from various parts of the country may be a lot of people, but it’s not a lot of political power.

So how can the environmental movement make the passionate powerful — or how can it make the powerful passionate? Sandy prompted Obama to show passion on climate change. As time progresses, other disasters will likely spur other powerful entities to act. But if the goal is to prevent those disasters, there needs to be another strategy.

On Wednesday, Politico outlined political spending by PACs in January. ExxonMobil spent $51,000. BP spent $4,000. A Michigan utility spent $65,500. The National Mining Association spent $26,000. The League of Conservation Voters spent $1,300.

Spending money is not the only way to build political power. But building political power, in the form of building allies in Congress and in statehouses, does require investment. National environmental organizations have massive, inert, largely dispassionate memberships. There’s nascent power in that, but power that is largely uncoupled from energy.

What if environmental organizations pooled resources into a PAC that could target political races? What if those organizations asked their millions of members to get involved in politics? What if the unprecedented shift the Sierra Club took wasn’t its executive director spending an hour at a D.C. police station but was instead an insistence that the time for political apathy had ended? If that happened, if hundreds of thousands of members donated time and money and new bursts of energy to politics? Then we might see change.

Then we might get hard-green members of Congress, holding that body hostage to the demands of the future in the same way that no-tax extremists now hold it hostage to the past. There might be reason for the allies of fossil fuels to fear every other November, as this mega-PAC poured money and local volunteers into primary elections. There might be media coverage of this new entity shaking up American politics, leveraging the assets and passions of Americans to actually effect change.

This is not a quick strategy. It would be a deliberate, forceful tool for establishing a bulwark within the American political infrastructure. It would force the sort of conflict that needs to be forced — not between greens outside the White House gates and the Democratic president within, but between well-funded activists and the favored congressmembers of fossil fuel companies. It would require environmental organizations to put the environment over their own best interests, which is never easy for any institution.

But what activists are doing is what activists have always done, and it isn’t working. The question isn’t whether the Keystone XL pipeline is blocked, it’s whether the established power structure in the United States is willing to combat climate change. Even if the answer to the first is yes, the answer to the second is clearly no. That’s the problem that needs to be fixed.

Philip Bump writes about the news for Gristmill. He also uses Twitter a whole lot.

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