A Summer of Action

Better Future Project had an exciting and busy summer, with our two summer programs, the huge growth of 350 Massachusetts, and two major mobilizations.

CS 2103Our two summer programs, Ride for the Future and Climate Summer, have both graduated new classes of movement leaders. For the second year, Ride for the Future interns biked from New Orleans to Houston to draw attention to climate change and its effects on the Gulf Coast. Along the way, the seven riders highlighted the stories of local communities affected by the fossil fuel industry. Over the two months, they volunteered on community gardens and farms, worked with local Environmental Justice organizations, partnered with the Tar Sands Blockade around a community festival for the Latino community of Manchester at the end of the Keystone XL Pipeline, folded 1,000 paper cranes for a better future, and attracted much media attention–both local and national. You can learn about the riders’ journey in The Nation, as well as many other newspapers, radio, and television stations here.

The 23 Climate Summer made their way to Cape Cod for the debrief and wrap-up session after a long and successful month and a half on the road. At the end of June, the riders divided into teams and spread out around New England–one team to Vermont/New Hampshire (to fight the proposed redirect of the Enbridge Tar Sands Pipeline), one to Maine (to stop the same project), and two to Massachusetts (one in Eastern Mass to stop the expansion of Spectra’ Algonquin Natural Gas Pipeline, and one to Western Massachusetts to prevent fracking). They bicycled through their respective state(s), supporting local efforts to transition away from fossil fuels while advancing their campaign goals and growing as leaders. To find out what they were up to, read their blog, or read some of their media hits.

Organizers in Massachusetts have been hard at work this summer, strengthening the movement and putting our network, 350 Massachusetts, to work. On June 30th, activists from across the state gathered in Worcester for the People’s Action Assembly. The assembly was a celebration of 350MA’s 1-year anniversary, as well as a place to discuss the future of the climate movement. Both in breakout groups and altogether, 350MA members came up with a vision and an 18-month strategic plan for a stronger statewide climate movement. The conference was an inspiring way to begin the summer and gear up for the actions ahead.

At the end of July–the weekend of the 27th–hundreds of people gathered in Somerset, Massachusetts at the site of Brayton Point, the largest coal and gas Summer Heatpower plant in New England. Participants urged Governor Patrick to close the plant without undue burden on the local community. “I am here to push for real long-term solutions for Somerset residents, solutions that will create a stable economy, not a dying and dirty industry,” said Camilo Viveros, a Somerset native. Job retraining and state financial support to replace lost tax revenues could be part of what organizers referred to as a “just transition” for Somerset. They emphasized that Somerset residents should lead the way in determining the specifics of this transition. 45 of the protesters were arrested in an act of nonviolent civil disobedience, placing model wind turbines at the gates of the power station. Check out great media coverage and photos of the action.

Aug-28-kick-off1At the end of August, Better Future Project, 350MA, and Students for a Just and Stable Future returned to the region for the Energy Exodus. Over the course of 6 days, participants marched over 60 miles across Eastern Massachusetts, from Fall River (near Brayton Point) to Barnstable, from one of the largest coal and oil plants in the region to right nearby the future site of Cape Wind, the nation’s first off-shore wind project. The action was well-covered on tv, radio, and newspapers, and again called on Governor Patrick to use his authority to end coal in Massachusetts and called on the Barnstable Town Council to drop their lawsuit in opposition to Cape Wind. Read more about the Energy Exodus here.

A busy summer for sure – on to a busy fall!

How we have grown!

Better Future Project was founded just shy of two years ago. At the time there was only one full-time staff member (Craig Altemose) with two talented, dedicated people volunteering the majority of their time (Vanessa Rule and Marla Marcum) and the main focus was our flagship summer leadership development program, Climate Summer. Since then, our network and initiatives have expanded greatly. This January, February, and March have been particularly busy, as we have launched new campaigns and hired multiple staff members. We are pleased to share the exciting growth of the organization.

The 350 Massachusetts network (350MA), a volunteer-led, campaign-focused initiative convened and staffed by Better Future Project, has exploded in size. There are currently about 60-70 people at every meeting in Cambridge (which are held once every two weeks) and hundreds at actions. New 350MA nodes are popping up across the state–350MA JP/Boston had a kickoff meeting on March 28th and 350MA Worcester and 350MA Lowell are in the planning stages. We just hired a designated 350MA coordinator, Malcolm Bliss, who has been a part of the group since the very beginning, as a leader in divestment. He will now be working full-time to strengthen the network in partnership with our Operations Coordinator, Sophie Robinson. Current 350MA campaigns include divestment, no gas mass, carbon tax, coal, and solutions.

Better Future Project has been working on divestment in a few capacities. Since September, we have been collaborating with college campuses in the Northeast to support their movements to divest endowment holdings from fossil fuel companies and reinvest in environmentally and socially responsible funds. In partnership with 350.org, we just hired a second New England Divestment coordinator, Katie McDonald to support Shea Riester’s efforts, because the movement is spreading to so many college campuses in the area (and the country). 350MA also has a working group dedicated to government, pension, and faith divestment efforts.

We have recently hired a Natural Gas Campaign Organizer, Dorian Williams, who has worked with Better Future Project as an intern, been a leader within Students for a Just and Stable Future, and served as a member of the Initiating Committee of 350MA. Dorian will be working closely with the volunteer No Gas Mass 350MA working group but also be organizing against fracking and natural gas in other ways. She will be providing support for Climate Summer, focusing on the Algonquin Pipeline, which runs through Massachusetts,  and communities in Pioneer Valley that are being threatened by fracking.

Better Future Project’s Director of Community Engagement Vanessa Rule has turned her focus to developing a new part of the climate movement. A group, titled Mothers Out Front — Mobilizing for a Livable Climate, was officially launched a few weeks ago. Mothers in the greater Boston area are coming together to seed a mothers’ climate group, under the umbrella of Better Future Project, to draw a line in the sand, build power, and demand that elected and business leaders act now to ensure a livable future for all children. If you are interested in getting involved or know a mother that would be, please contact Vanessa Rule at vanessa@betterfutureproject.org.

We also now have a (temporary) tar sands organizer, Eli Gerzon, who will be working in a variety of ways to mobilize the people of Massachusetts against tar sands. He is currently gathering comments to send to the State Department and President Obama urging them to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Contribute a comment here.

We have not forgotten the summer programs that we started with two years ago. Climate Summer will take place for the fifth time this June to August, with teams of young people biking around New England. For the second year, bikers will also be down in the Gulf Coast, riding from New Orleans to Exxon Mobil’s headquarters in Irving, TX with the support of our Gulf Coast Coordinator, Tara Escudero. We also have some exciting plans for this summer that we are currently working to finalize.

With two years down, we have accomplished much. We are very excited to see where our organization and the movement will be two years from now!


Better Future Project in the News!

kidvigilersBetter Future Project has been in the news a lot recently, with our Vigil to End Climate Silence, our last report, and of course further back, our summer programs.

Most recently, here’s a piece in the Boston Phoenix where BFP Board Member Wen Stephenson calls on his colleagues in the mainstream media to give climate change the “Crisis-Level” reporting we need.

And some coverage it received from The Atlantic.

Here’s some coverage of our Vigil to End Climate Silence that was made possible by over 200 people who joined with us, from WBUR, the Boston Globe, the Boston Globe again, MSNBC, and WBUR again (approximately last 8 minutes of the show).

Our vigil also got a shout-out from Bill McKibben on Democracy Now.

Our last two reports also made some news.  Here’s a sampling of news on our report, Politicians and Their Professors (MA edition):

And our report on the Economic Impacts of Climate Change on Massachusetts was featured on WWLP-22 News and WAMC Northeast Public Radio.
We’ll be posting a media page soon to track our successes, but that should give everyone a taste!

New Report: Politicians and Their Professors

Better Future Project is proud to announce the release of its 4th report: Politicians and Their Professors: The Discrepancy between Science and Policy (MA Edition), which details the discrepancy that exists between politicians and their alma mater universities on the issue of climate change. The report evaluates the climate stance of 16 current and aspiring members of congress from Massachusetts, along with President Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

The report evaluated the relevant faculty at 24 higher education institutions that were attended by the 18 current and aspiring politicians. Altogether, 2,086 professors from relevant fields were researched to discern which professors published in peer-reviewed journals on climate change. Collectively, 203 professors were found to have published on topics related to climate change. Of those, 202 – over 99.5% of them – agreed with the climate consensus.

Yet of the 18 politicians surveyed, only ten of them (55.5%) have publicly and unambiguously backed the scientific consensus that climate change is happening and people are responsible. Of the other eight, six – representing both Democrats and Republicans – have not taken a clear public position and two (Senator Brown and former Governor Romney) have varied their public statements on whether or not climate change is happening and people are responsible.

Report author and Executive Director of Better Future Project Craig Altemose explained that the report was released to push politicians to recognize the consensus. “We believed that politicians would find it harder to disregard the experts at the universities that they trusted enough, valued enough to invested tens of thousands of dollars and spent four years of their life at to gain knowledge. If they aren’t convinced by the experts at their own alma maters, then who will they trust?”

The one scientist found to disagree with the scientific consensus on man-made climate change works at Brigham Young University, former Governor Mitt Romney’s undergraduate alma mater. But the other six scientists at Brigham Young, or 86% of them, agreed with the consensus, as did 100% of the scientists at both Stanford and Harvard where Governor Romney spent his first year of college and four years of graduate school, respectively.

Romney’s Harvard Business School Classmate, small business owner, and military veteran Roger Shamel remarked: “Harvard Business School prides itself in educating leaders who will change the world.  As an alum, and someone with close ties to the school, I can assure you that HBS also tries to teach its future leaders, be they executives, administrators or politicians, to pay attention to facts and moral issues when making decisions.  In my opinion, knowing what I know, and what I believe Mitt Romney to know, he is doing neither.  In this sense, he is bringing disgrace to Harvard.”

Harvard Professor and former Chair of the American Association for the Advancement of Science James McCarthy said: “Massachusetts has an abundance of scientific and technical expertise in its colleges and universities.  This is major asset in the economy of the Commonwealth, and many of our elected officials and candidates for office have degrees from these local schools. It is unfortunate for the people of Massachusetts and the nation that some of our public servants do not take stands on important local and national issues relating to science and technology. But it is downright disturbing when others take positions that are the opposite of scientific findings that the faculty of these schools consistently report in their scholarly published work. Few of those who represent the people of Massachusetts in either our State House or the US Congress actually studied science in college.  However, many if not most faculty in our local schools readily make themselves available when public servants request information and advice on scientific and technical matters.  It is never too late to go back to school.”

Harvard students called upon Senator Scott Brown and Governor Romney (the two politicians in the report whose views have gone back and forth on climate change) to explain why their views on climate change have wavered over time. “The science supporting the consensus has only increased, but politicians continue to hem and haw while my future is at stake.” said Kristen Wraith, a third year environmental science student at Harvard College. “

New Report: Massachusetts’ Rising Economic Risk from Climate Change

Massachusetts’ Rising Economic Risk from Climate Change is authored by Robert Repetto, author of the 2011 book America’s Climate Problem: The Way Forward. He is a Senior Fellow in the United Nations Foundation’s climate and energy program. It lays out how Massachusetts residents’ health, economy, and environment are already suffering from the effects of climate change and how prolonged inaction will guarantee dire consequences in the coming decades.  Download the full report or a one-page synopsis.

350 Massachusetts Launches!

Cambridge, MA: With over 150 people and much enthusiasm, 350 Massachusetts was officially launched on June 28th. 350 Massachusetts is a volunteer-led, campaign-focused initiative convened and staffed by Better Future Project, connecting and organizing a strong grassroots coalition to address climate change and build a just and secure future beyond fossil fuels. 350MA aims to connect the many people and organizations in Massachusetts that have organized and been involved in 350.org events and that support 350.org’s mission of building a movement to solve the climate crisis.

A formalized 350MA network will provide Massachusetts individuals, organizations, and businesses easy pathways to get involved in the climate movement, quickly and effectively mobilize Massachusetts in local, regional, national, and international actions and events, provide communication pathways and co-creative opportunities between 350 groups across the Commonwealth and in the New England region, and give visibility to the 350 movement in Massachusetts.

The event, held in First Church Cambridge, officially introduced the network to Massachusetts. The meeting began with a sharing activity, in which people paired off and discussed their previous organizing experiences and reasons for getting involved with 350MA. After a few minutes, the group collected together and heard from some pairs, learning about people pioneering scientific technology to take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, veteran organizers, and young people who are just beginning to get involved. Phil Aroneanu, the current 350.org US Campaign Director, then shared his own experiences and advice on how to organize a successful campaign.

Though 350MA is very new, there are already many emerging campaigns. End Fossil Fuel Subsidies aims to stop federal subsidies to fossil fuel companies and is organizing an End Fossil Fuel Subsidies Day of Action on August 4th. Tar Sands Free New England will work with the existing 350.org New England network to prevent the use of an existing pipeline to carry Canadian tar sands from Quebec to Portland, ME. No More Fracked Gas to Massachusetts will focus on preventing the widening of an existing pipeline that carries natural gas extracted by hydraulic fracturing to New England. No Coal by 2020 has set the goal to eliminate all coal plants in Massachusetts by 2020. There was much energy and excitement to work on these initiatives, and it is great to know that there are so many people in Massachusetts ready to take action and tackle climate change.

For more information and to join the mailing list, visit http://350ma.org.

Climate Summer 2012 Launches!

New England: Climate Summer 2012 is now in session! The riders have already met presidents, organized actions, and biked hundreds of miles.

On June 25th, after a successful two-week training in Wilmot, New Hampshire and Lowell, Massachusetts, the riders, 28 in total, broke up into their teams and pedaled in diverging directions. Despite rainy weather, the teams successfully made it to Biddeford, ME, Providence, RI, Lexington, MA, Peterborough, NH, and Royalton, VT. Each team—Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island/Connecticut, and Maine—has many exciting events and actions planned for the next seven weeks.

Throughout their journey, each team will visit between five and seven towns. They will remain in each community for about a week, working with community groups and individuals to highlight and support local movements to move beyond fossil fuels. They will also co-organize new initiatives to spread their message: that New England needs to stop the use of deadly energy. Though they have only been on the road for a week, the riders have accomplished a lot. The Massachusetts Team attended a showing of The Island President and met the subject of the movie, former Maldives President Mohammed Nasheed, organized a Climate Cafe in Lexington, and participated in 350 Massachusetts’ official kick off event. The Vermont team hosted a potluck in Royalton, VT and saw firsthand the destruction that Hurricane Irene caused in Royalton and surrounding towns. The riders in in New Hampshire have worked on a farm, visited a recycling plant, and spread their message through local media outlets. The team visiting Rhode Island and Connecticut organized a photo petition against fossil fuel subsidies, met up with the Sierra Club, and volunteered in a community garden. In Maine, the riders have visited a farmers market, a natural foods store, and met many inspiring people.

To find out what the riders are up to over the next month, like them on facebook, follow them on twitter, and read their blog.

Climate Summer is organized by the Better Future Project, a non-profit organization based in Massachusetts focused on building a future free from the harms of consuming fossil fuels, and full of stronger and more resilient communities.

Ride for the Future Launches from New Orleans!

“Ride for the Future” Begins in New Orleans

11 Cyclists will travel to Exxon’s HQ in Dallas to End Oil Subsidies

New Orleans, LA: This week, 11 young adults from around the United States began Ride For the Future, a 1,000-mile journey from New Orleans to Dallas aiming to eliminate the billions of taxpayer dollars wasted annually on subsidies for energy companies and to highlight communities transitioning to a secure energy source and a more resilient lifestyle beyond fossil fuels. They believe that government subsidies should be redirected to address the problems caused by the disproportionately high presence of the fossil fuel industry in the Gulf.

The riders will expose the impacts of the production, refining, and consumption of fossil fuels on Gulf Coast communities. Local pollution and the broader, less predictable consequences of climate change including extreme weather events harm the health, economy, and environment of the communities that power America. “We have learned a lot from New Orleans residents. People wounded by fossil fuels and the external costs of this industry want their sacrifices to be included in the companies’ ledgers,” Skye Kelty, a cancer researcher at Rice University, shared about the team’s experiences with Louisiana residents.

When asked why she decided to participate in this program, Lisa Purdy, a rising junior at Brandeis University, replied that after learning about the challenges facing the Gulf Coast, and the “global implications of burning fossil fuels, [she] couldn’t go about [her] life as if everything was fine and just the way things should be.”

The team is hosted by houses of worship, with a food budget of $5 per person per day. They stayed at All Soul’s Episcopal Church, in the Lower Ninth Ward, for a week while training. The group spent their second week in New Orleans at the Carrollton United Methodist Church, working with groups such as Project Greenlight, the Gulf Restoration Network, Nola to Angola, the 9th Ward Guerilla Garden, and the Louisianna Bucket Brigade.

The Ride for the Future riders view fossil fuel companies as energy companies, believing they should invest in renewable energy and help address the twin challenges of pollution and extreme weather events. In Dallas, the team plans to meet with an executive at the headquarters of Exxon-Mobil, the most profitable energy corporation in the world, to demand a dedication to investment in renewable energy and communities suffering the effects of severe weather and pollution. Their other main stops in Louisiana include Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Lake Charles, and Mossville.

Ride for the Future is organized by the Better Future Project, a non-profit organization based in Massachusetts focused on building a future free from the harms of consuming fossil fuels and full of stronger and more resilient communities. For more information, like them on facebook and follow them on twitter and tumblr.

BFP Releases State of the Movement Report

Report Highlights New England’s Emerging Move Beyond Fossil Fuels

As a reminder that sustainability is not an annual event, Better Future Project today released The State of the Movement: New England’s Transition Beyond Fossil Fuels, which catalogues sustainability efforts throughout the region. The report details dozens of local projects that are not simply about recycling or solar panels; rather, people investing time and energy to transform their community one garden, one street, or one building at a time. It demonstrates that the movement beyond fossil fuels is diverse and thriving.

The report is the result of Better Future Project’s Climate Summer program. In 2011, 31 Climate Summer interns toured New England exclusively by bicycle, spreading a simple message: New England needs to move beyond fossil fuels. The riders collaborated with local organizations and individuals in the towns they visited. They lent hands to their projects, co-organized events, and connected them to other efforts in the area, while sharing earned local media with their partners. These Climate Riders will return to towns throughout New England for the program’s fourth year this June, July, and August.

The report focuses on the following categories: sustainable economies, sustainable food systems, waste and materials management, transportation, green spaces, building efficiency, renewable energy, environmental justice, and community resilience. In addition, it includes town profiles that provide information of what specific towns are doing to rely less on fossil fuels, and what organizations people can get involved in.

Better Future Project, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is a new, grassroots organization dedicated to moving America and the world beyond energy sources that harm human health, human dignity, and human life. With a focus on leadership development, network-building, and engagement platforms, Better Future Project’s main programs include Climate Summer, Ride for the Future (which will launch in New Orleans in May), and 350 Massachusetts.

To download the report, please visit our Resources page.

BFP Releases New Report on Energy Casualties

Better Future Project is proud to release its first report, Energy Casualties: How People are Dying for our Energy.

This meticulously researched report cites the Pentagon, the CIA, the American Health Association, the Center for Naval Analysis, the World Health Organization and other respected institutions regarding the effects of fossil fuels on society. The report lays the philosphical groundwork for the many security, health, and justice reasons to move beyond fossil fuels.

Later this spring, Better Future Project will release its second report detailing the efforts of residents across New England to transition their communities beyond fossil fuels.

To download this report, please visit our Resources page.

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