Protect the Clean Power Plan - a mother's story

Today I joined hundreds of people in publicly testifying at an Environmental Protection Agency hearing. The EPA, under the leadership of fossil fuel industry shill Scott Pruitt, is proposing to repeal the Clean Power Plan - without a replacement. As one woman put it, "repealing the CPP without a replacement is like moving out of your house without having a new place to move into." 

I was invited to testify by Moms Clean Air Force - who advised me to tell a personal story about how climate change and air quality affected me. So I shared a story about how Elliot was trapped by the Sonoma fires last fall. Even the former Charles Koch Institute guy seemed moved. Here is my three minute testimony:

Vanessa Warheit testifies at the 2/28/18 EPA Listening Session in San Francisco, on EPA's proposed repeal of the Clean Power Plan.

Lisa Hoyos' 12-year old son was the last to speak in the afternoon's session. “I shouldn’t be here," he said, "I should be in school, or studying for my math test. I’m here because I’m afraid of what my future is going to be. The fact that the EPA, who are supposed to protect our environment, are talking about repealing a rule to protect our air - I can’t wrap my brain around it. I want to have a future where I don’t have to worry about this. Where my kids - if I have kids - don’t have to worry about this."

He spoke without notes, looking all three EPA administrators in the eye. He told them about his fears for the future. "When you think about all this testimony later," he concluded, "I want you to remember my face: the face of the future generation.”

12-year old citizen testifying to the EPA on proposed repeal of the Clean Power Plan.

12-year old citizen testifying to the EPA on proposed repeal of the Clean Power Plan.

Transport Decarbonization Alliance launched at One Planet Summit

Very good news - last week’s One Planet Summit in Paris included the announcement of a new international alliance aimed at decarbonizing transportation globally. 

 “The attention that transport received and the commitments for climate action in transport that were made during the One Planet Summit are unprecedented. After the One Planet Summit, the transport sector is better positioned in climate change mitigation and adaptation than ever before.”

http://www.ppmc-transport.org/transport-at-one-planet-summit-countries-cities-and-non-governmental-actors-actively-support-the-ppmc-transport-decarbonization-alliance/

Cologne: Multi-Modal Transport

Our next stop was Cologne, to visit my old friend Claudia and her mom. Cologne, too, had gotten a new underground metro since my last visit. Plus a whole lot of other ways to get around.

Elliot loved Cologne - and its protected bike lanes

Elliot loved Cologne - and its protected bike lanes

Subway in Cologne

Subway in Cologne

Signs in the Cologne metro, showing the Cologne "Dom" cathedral overwhelmed by climate chaos. The signs say: "What are you doing for the climate? Riding the bus & train more!"

Signs in the Cologne metro, showing the Cologne "Dom" cathedral overwhelmed by climate chaos. The signs say: "What are you doing for the climate? Riding the bus & train more!"

Europe, part 2: Climate Optimism & the London Transport Museum

Elliot with Malachi Chadwick, Britain's cheeriest climate activist, in the 10:10 offices

Elliot with Malachi Chadwick, Britain's cheeriest climate activist, in the 10:10 offices

One of our many reasons for visiting London was to meet up with Malachi Chadwick, the Director of "Communications and Climate Optimism" for an NGO called 10:10. If you're not familiar with this cheeky band of earth-saving activists, you're in for a treat. Founded as a spin-off from the riveting docu-drama "The Age of Stupid", their tagline is "Climate Change Sucks - Do Something About It." They're all about solutions, and about engaging people through hope and empowerment, rather than fear. They rock.

We had a great time with Malachi, although we were both sad to have so little time and so much to talk about. Still, it's good to know that there are smart people like him working on the same issues, half a world away. And we'll always have the internet...

The London Transport Museum - a mecca for transit enthusiasts.

The London Transport Museum - a mecca for transit enthusiasts.

We also visited the amazing London Transport Museum. Housed in the city's former flower market, the museum is a goldmine for transit junkies, packed with information and media materials, and dozens of the actual vehicles used to transport Londoners over the past 150 years. 

The original omnibus - complete with horse poop!

The original omnibus - complete with horse poop!

We were particularly delighted at this display, which engages kids in figuring out how much horse poop was left on the streets of London before the days of internal combustion and electrification. (Answer: 1000 pounds of dung per day!)

What they didn't include was an assessment of how that relates to the amount of CO2 poop generated by car traffic today. I actually ran the calculations (for San Francisco, not for London), and the answers are pretty shocking. Look for those in a future blog post...

 

The museum did, however, include a plaque with this quotation:

From the London Transport Museum

From the London Transport Museum


Marching for the Climate... with 400,000 of My Closest Friends

Caffeinated and ready to march!

Caffeinated and ready to march!

I don't think I will ever forget September 21, 2014. I hope I never forget the feeling of being there - the feeling of being surrounded by almost half a million people, with love in their hearts, standing up and demanding a new course for humanity. 

Recently, and ever more frequently, I've felt this deep disconnection from the people around me - like I’m surrounded by sleepwalkers, all of us blindly headed for a cliff. Like I'm the only one awake to the danger we're heading toward, and I’m powerless to stop it. It's a kind of waking nightmare. At best, I might be in the company of a few others who feel the same - but sharing a common nightmare is, in some ways, even less reassuring.

But in New York, it was different. 

A fellow-traveler in the Peoples Climate March

A fellow-traveler in the Peoples Climate March

My dear friend Sharon's 14-year-old son, Sam, at the Peoples Climate March

My dear friend Sharon's 14-year-old son, Sam, at the Peoples Climate March

NYC Subway car, covered in signs encouraging people to attend the march

NYC Subway car, covered in signs encouraging people to attend the march

Volunteering for the Peoples Climate March at Columbus Circle in Manhattan.

Volunteering for the Peoples Climate March at Columbus Circle in Manhattan.

In New York, I was part of a tide of people pushing in the opposite direction - so strong a tide that it was pushing me in the RIGHT direction. (And pushing a lot of other people too.) It's like the whole city - labor unions, families, senior citizens, everyone, even the police - just rose up and said WE HAVE TO CHANGE. When I learned on Monday night that the Rockefeller brothers had decided to divest from fossil fuels, I could feel the world shifting beneath me. I felt like I was at the center of a giant upswell of righteousness, and that maybe, finally, things were going to get better.

Waiting (and waiting and waiting!) with the Interfaith contingent on 58th St. for the march to begin.

Waiting (and waiting and waiting!) with the Interfaith contingent on 58th St. for the march to begin.

People as far as I could see, up and down 6th Avenue

People as far as I could see, up and down 6th Avenue

It took some getting used to - to no longer being the crazy 'eco-active' mom on the block, and instead being just one of 400,000 people, all asking for the same thing. And it was strange to be engaged in an issue that is so personal to me, with so many strangers and so far from home. But if I felt solidarity from those strangers around me, I also felt that in a very small way, my being there was a source of strength and encouragement to others. Many times during the day, I would hear someone exclaim with pride and delight “Palo Alto - wow! you came all the way from California! That's so great!” And I was so grateful to be able to say, “Yes, my congregation sent me,” and to show them the photos I was carrying, and to let them know that others back home were marching too.

Ribbons from the Climate Ribbon project

Ribbons from the Climate Ribbon project

People choosing climate ribbons to take home, Peoples Climate March, NYC

People choosing climate ribbons to take home, Peoples Climate March, NYC

Projects like the Climate Ribbon campaign also showed me that my grief and fear and hope are not mine alone - that we are ALL fighting, and praying, for the better world we know we must build for our children.

Quite possibly my favorite marcher...

Quite possibly my favorite marcher...

I guess that the best thing about being at the march was that it gave me a taste of hope. For the first time, I believe we might actually win this. It’s going to take a lot of love, and a lot of hard work, to achieve any kind of climate safe future. And when I get back to California, I know it's going to feel weird all over again, and I'll go back to being the crazy eco-mom on the block. It's going to be hard, too, to hang on to this hopeful feeling, and to share it with my eco-active friends - who are increasingly terrified by the news coming in every day about the crazy-short amount of time we have to turn things around.

But I'm going to remember - and remind them - that half a million people marched with me through the streets of New York. And together, we can move mountains. 

New York, Here I Come

I'm on board a tiny airplane headed for LA, where I'll be boarding a much bigger (I hope) airplane for New York. I'm going to volunteer for - and represent my UU congregation at - the biggest climate action in history.
It was a tough decision, whether or not to bring Elliot with me - but ultimately I decided that it wasn't worth the money, and the carbon, to bring him along. I can also be more effective on my own as a volunteer - and this way Elliot will get to participate in the Bay Area's bid this weekend to break the Guinness World Record for most EVs in one place. He's particularly excited because he'll get to see Stella there - the world's first family solar car.

For more on my reasons for flying to a climate march, visit my personal blog: http://vmarksthespot.blogspot.com/

 

Transient

Bill McKibben Likes Us! (and the Ethics of Flying to a Climate Rally)

With ten days to go in our Kickstarter campaign - and $5,000 still left to raise - I've started feeling a bit desperate. So I wrote to Bill McKibben this morning about our project, hoping he might help to spread the word. It felt like a vain hope - I mean, I've written to plenty of bloggers and journalists already about this project, and most of them don't respond. Plus, I decided to write to the leader of the climate movement two days after some really, truly bad news about the state of the climate came out, and a few hours after his most recent article in Rolling Stone hit the Internet. Getting any kind of a response seemed highly unlikely at best.

So imagine my joyful disbelief this afternoon, when I saw this tweet:

Yes, this is from THE Bill McKibben. And yes, I did tell him we were thinking of attending the climate rally in NYC.

Yes, this is from THE Bill McKibben. And yes, I did tell him we were thinking of attending the climate rally in NYC.

I wrote him back and thanked him, profusely - but what I didn't ask (I hate to bug the guy, he's so busy trying to save the world) was whether or not he thinks that flying across the country to attend a climate rally - ok, THE climate rally - is actually a responsible use of fossil fuels. I have a feeling he would argue that it is. (Read his article - I think you'll see why.) Especially since we would (of course) offset all that carbon. But still. I'm curious.

What do you think? Is it ethical? Are YOU going to be in New York? Why (or why not)?

Bike to Work Day!

Today was the SF Bay Area Bike to Work Day. Elliot and I got up an hour early, to greet people at the CalTrain station.

Kathy Durham, Palo Alto's Safe Routes to School/Commute coordinator, gives Elliot goodie bags to hand out.

Kathy Durham, Palo Alto's Safe Routes to School/Commute coordinator, gives Elliot goodie bags to hand out.

We made a giant poster and handed out flyers - along with free bagels, coffee, and goodie bags. Elliot even dressed up in his professor costume. Crowd funding has made us shameless.

Vanessa and Elliot, in between waves of cycle commuters.

Vanessa and Elliot, in between waves of cycle commuters.

 

Sven Thesen at 7am, waiting for commuters and chanting "Worse Than Poop!"

Sven Thesen at 7am, waiting for commuters and chanting "Worse Than Poop!"

Towards 8am, more people started  arriving - including the Mayor and the City Manager.

Elliot & Vanessa with team Bike Palo Alto - including Kathy Durham, Mayor Nancy Shepherd, Chief Transportation Official Jaime Rodriguez, and City Manager Jim Keene.

Elliot & Vanessa with team Bike Palo Alto - including Kathy Durham, Mayor Nancy Shepherd, Chief Transportation Official Jaime Rodriguez, and City Manager Jim Keene.

One cyclist, when he heard about Worse Than Poop!, asked Elliot to sign his flyer.

The lucky recipient of Elliot's very first autograph.

The lucky recipient of Elliot's very first autograph.

Carbon-free Transportation: Part 1

As a thank-you to our Kickstarter supporters, we're creating a series of videos featuring Professor Elliot looking at alternatives to pooping cars. In each episode, Elliot and his camera-toting mom will visit a different expert to learn about a new form of carbon-free transportation.

Our first episode features Nissan Leaf expert Maddi Hausmann:

Earth Day, here we come...

It's Sunday night, and we launch our Kickstarter campaign on Tuesday. Less than 48 hours to go! I'm nervous, and exhausted. Tonight at dinner, we asked Elliot if he remembered when he first heard about the project and agreed to do it. "I remember you came to pick me up after school, at Kids Club," he said. "And I remember, you said, 'I've got an idea!...'"

The rest, as they say, is history. Or soon will be.

Yikes! We launch in less than 48 hours! (From our first "Professor Elliot" photo shoot, June, 2013) 

Yikes! We launch in less than 48 hours! (From our first "Professor Elliot" photo shoot, June, 2013) 

As we prepare for the intensity of the campaign, a few people have pointed out to me that not everyone knows what a "Kickstarter campaign" is. So, in a nutshell: it's a way of crowdfunding a project - in this case, by using the Kickstarter web platform.

Crowdfunding is a way of gathering financial support through many individual donors, most of whom donate small amounts. Running a campaign is supposed to be by turns grueling, mortifying, and exhilarating. Missy Laney, of the Sundance Institute, told me it's like having a newborn baby in the house. You spend every waking moment on it - and you don't sleep much. (You can see why I'm feeling nervous!)

In our case, we are also running an "all or nothing" campaign - meaning we won't get a penny unless we raise at least our goal: $21,000. This is the bare minimum it will take to make Worse Than Poop! the film we know it needs to be. In reality, it will take more than this - but $21k will get us far enough to make it happen. And as with all crowdfunded projects, the more people who find out about it, the more likely we are to meet our goal. 

This is why you, dear reader, are so important. You have the power to forward this post to your friends, to like us on FaceBook, to follow us on Twitter, and to tell everyone you know about Worse Than Poop!  Starting on Tuesday, for as little as $5, you can become part of the solution, part of a movement that will change our world for the better, one pooping car at a time. We'll also have many awesome and fun rewards for you - fabulous tokens of our affection that you won't find anywhere else. So stay tuned... and if you haven't already, please take the Poopie Pledge to support us on Tuesday!