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The seasons change, the ice builds and breaks.
PRESENTED BY WEST RIVER FLOES
In a long and deeply reported story, Politico’s Zack Colman tells of the recent years of turmoil at 350.org, the global climate-action powerhouse founded by Bill McKibben and a septet of Middlebury College students in 2008. After years of rapid growth, the past three years have seen a significant retrenchment, with the U.S. headcount collapsing from 50 to seven, amid both a retracted union fight and a struggle to racially diversify its U.S. staff.
McKibben began stepping away from active involvement with 350 in 2014. Co-founder and executive director May Boeve has remained at the helm as four of the other co-founders have moved on.1 Colman reports that Boeve announced a $25 million budget with rapid hiring in the spring of 2019, but a budget shortfall of many millions of dollars led to similarly rapid layoffs by the end of the year. Conflict, restructurings, and layoffs have continued through the following years of the pandemic and the transition from the Trump to the Biden presidency.
Tamara Toles O’Laughlin, who was hired in March 2019 as the North America director but left at the end of 2020, told Colman:
I hired just about every one of the Black and brown people on that staff and I do not believe any except for one are still there. They don’t have any new problems. I wish they were as woke as the movement needs it to be.
Ninety-five percent of 350’s staff are now outside of the United States and the finances of the organization have stabilized. Speaking for myself, the loss of 350’s vision and dynamic leadership for the U.S. climate movement remains an unfilled hole, and it’s been hard to read about the conflict that has engulfed so many people I love and admire.
I think it’s also critical to point out that Politico doesn’t have any of the concerns that 350 does—it’s an outlet that gleefully works with the fossil-fuel industry to manipulate public opinion and policy makers away from climate action, and one almost expressly uninterested in racial diversity or equity among its white-male-dominated ranks. It’s certainly much easier to be wildly financially successful when your business model is that of defending fossil-fueled white supremacy than that of challenging it.
Here’s a good way to continue the conversation: tomorrow, Green 2.0 and the Hip Hop Caucus is holding an online panel on Black leadership in the environmental movement. And I hear that the New Yorker is working on a big profile of the Sunrise Movement, the spiritual heirs of 350’s youthful energy.
Also: Emily Atkin, the inspirational creator of the HEATED climate-politics newsletter, officially put it on hiatus after a year of burnout. Emily, who is a far far better writer and climate journalist than I, very much inspired my own decision to start this newsletter. Her ability to share her personality with her incisive reporting helped me dig myself out of my own time of burnout after leaving the helm of Climate Hawks Vote.
NO FRACKING WAY: The oft-repeated claim that the United States has significantly reduced its greenhouse pollution since 2005 by switching from coal to gas depends on the EPA’s official accounting that methane pollution has declined during the fracking boom, which has always seemed unlikely to me.
Today, the International Energy Agency reveals in a major report that methane pollution from the fossil-fuel industry is 70 percent higher than official figures globally. Their Global Methane Tracker finds that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been seriously undercounting methane pollution. The IEA estimate of 2021 methane pollution is 77 percent higher than the EPA’s inventory:
Right now, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) is holding a field hearing on sea-level rise and flooding, and this afternoon is Climate XChange’s State Climate Policy Network monthly call. On Friday morning, the EPA is holding a public meeting on its soot and smog regulations.
Even with the greenhouse pollution rising, winter is still here, the seasons change, the ice builds and breaks.
Today, February 23
10 AM: Senate Environment and Public Works
Examining Shoreline and Riverbank Restoration in the face of Climate Change
3 PM: Climate Xchange
State Climate Policy Network national call
Tomorrow, February 24
1 PM: Hip Hop Caucus and Green 2.0
Black Leaders on Environmental Justice and Beyond
Friday, February 25
11 AM: Environmental Protection Agency
Public Meeting of the Chartered CASAC and the CASAC PM Panel
Thanks for letting me stop in on this vacation week. —@climatebrad
Co-founders Will Bates and Jeremy Osborn are 350’s global campaigns director (based in Spain) and risk and compliance director respectively.