There’s a certain amount of comfort to be taken from living in an American city during the Trump era—that is, if you're not thrilled with where the nation at large has lately been headed. I suspect a lot of people were very encouraged when their cities refused to use local resources for ICE enforcement, or more than 300 mayors said they would remain committed to the Paris Agreement. Mike Bloomberg helped rally those mayors and others, and even agreed to pay $15 million toward UN operating costs when the U.S. withdrew. You sometimes get this sense that just maybe, with the help of some kindly billionaires, cities can rally together and take a crack at a more progressive America.Read More
The response to Donald Trump’s announcement that the U.S. will withdraw from the Paris Agreement was swift and encouraging. Hundreds of mayors, at least 10 states, and scores of businesses and universities issued statements or signed pledges to continue progress on climate change, with or without the federal government.
On the philanthropic front, Mike Bloomberg (who also serves as U.N. special envoy for cities and climate change) took a lead role in committing many of these parties to maintaining U.S. climate leadership. Bloomberg Philanthropies also pledged up to $15 million to the U.N. body that oversees implementation of the agreement to cover a portion of the operations costs the U.S. would have paid. Foundations like MacArthur, Hewlett, Rockefeller, McKnight, and Goldman foundations all made statements with varying degrees of disappointment, regret and condemnation.
We should celebrate their actions and draw hope from the fact that so many are willing to defy such a reckless decision by the president and the GOP. But Trump’s decision, and the political landscape that allowed it, reveal a larger problem—the American public is just not all that concerned about climate change. For example, a recent Gallup poll on the "Most Important Problems" facing the country found that environmental issues ranked 15th among non-economic concerns. Other polling has found the same thing, even as Americans report supporting the Paris Agreement. If the mass public doesn't care urgently about climate change, why should we expect our political leaders to care?
Read the full article at Inside Philanthropy.
To create a new institute focused on society’s pressing energy problems, Dartmouth has accepted $80 million from a powerful oil family surrounded by controversy. Such a gift seriously undermines the credibility of such an institute. When a really good school like Dartmouth College decides to take on the future of energy as a priority for its faculty and students, you would want it to be rigorous and independent—a beacon guiding the way as we grapple with climate change, sustainable development and environmental justice.
And you know what? Dartmouth’s new Arthur L. Irving Institute for Energy and Society may very well turn out to do some great work.
But that $80 million, half of the institute’s funding, comes from Irving Oil and the powerful family behind it, which is surrounded by controversies environmental and otherwise. This casts serious doubt over the initiative’s credibility before it has even started.
Read the full article at Inside Philanthropy.
Originally published in Inside Philanthropy, December 4, 2015. Bill Gates has rounded up a squad of billionaires to save the day when it comes to climate change, using their investment wisdom and bank accounts to further energy tech. Too bad they aren’t putting their money where it would really help — advancing policy and grassroots efforts.
Not long ago, we issued a challenge to a set of mega-donors to pour billions of their collective wealth into the problem of climate change. Now, it seems that Bill Gates, one of our biggest targets, has rallied 28 investors behind a two-pronged plan to devote a pool of private funding to clean energy breakthroughs, and to convince governments to do the same.
I’m not quite self-aggrandizing enough to think Gates read our post and decided to start such a coalition, but this is great news, right?
Yes and no. While Gates deserves praise for moving money on the issue, banking on a tech breakthrough to save us is not where we really need the world’s billionaires to focus at this exact moment...
Originally published in Inside Philanthropy on October 12, 2015. Billionaires, we’d like just a moment of your time.
No, not you David Koch or John Paulson, this probably isn’t your kind of thing. We’re talking to a specific set of business titans, here—you guys who have more than a billion in the bank, have pledged to give most of it away, and are deeply concerned about climate change.
Namely, we’re talking to Mike Bloomberg, Eric Schmidt, Tom Steyer, Jeff Skoll, and Paul Allen. Here’s our idea. Sorry, we don’t have a slide deck.
The Elevator Pitch
You five have made it clear that you know climate change is a serious and imminent threat. We’re at a pivotal moment for action and curbing the worst effects, but things aren’t happening fast enough. Collectively, you have unique access to many billions of dollars, plus you’ve publicly committed to giving most of it away before you die. Some of you are already funding climate change efforts in a big way. But you all need to go bigger. We want you to give at least 10 percent of your wealth to fight climate change in the next five years, start a historic movement, and help save the world.
We recognize that is a big ask. For Mike Bloomberg alone, that’s a $3.8 billion check. But this is a big problem, an existential threat the likes of which neither philanthropy nor industry have ever encountered before...
And the first post in this series on Climate Change and Philanthropy: Dear Climate Funders: The Clock is Ticking. Use Your Endowments
Originally published April 22, 2015 on Inside Philanthropy. A growing mountain of research suggests that climate change is likely to aggravate every problem now confronting humanity: hunger, gender inequality, ethnic conflict, unemployment—you name it. So you'd think, by now, that this existential threat would be a top priority of philanthropy.
You'd be wrong. Less than 2 percent of all philanthropic dollars go to the cause, and much of it comes from just a handful of funders. Where is all the money?Read More
Originally published on Futures Exchange. | Imaginative minds are exploring some strange and audacious solutions to our worst environmental problems. They are not, however, for the faint of heart, particularly if you have a strong attachment to the human body as it currently exists.
Biologists have already been toying with the idea of engineering endangered species to make them more resilient, or even resurrecting certain extinct species. But there’s a set of artists and scholars taking the concept of green bioengineering much further, imagining new species of synthetic, beneficial creatures and even biologically modified humans that leave a lighter footprint on the planet.Read More
| Essay originally published on Futures Exchange, via Medium, on October 22, 2013.
Bill McKibben was firing up a rally of climate activists in Cambridge, Mass., this past summer in preparation for a protest and mass arrest at one of the state’s coal-fired power plants:
“The message we need to keep sending all the time is, there is nothing radical about what we’re asking,” he said. “All we’re asking for is a world that works the way the one we were born into worked. That’s not radical. That’s actually kind of conservative.”
This is a shrewd point, and just one part of a pretty powerful overall talk, but as an environmentalist, I found the sentiment troubling. If the green movement’s rallying cry is to keep the world the way it was when we were born, isn’t it fairly doomed? Sounds like a stodgy, if not pointless cause. I would argue that, for environmentalism to stay vital in decades to come, it’s going to have to stop being so resistant to change, and dive into a far more imaginative conversation of what our future might hold.Read More
Originally published in Open Media Boston. by Tate Williams (Staff), Jul-24-13
Cambridge, Mass. - The climate movement is a unique one, longtime activist Bill McKibben told an audience in Cambridge Sunday night, because it doesn’t gain its strength from a few powerful advocacy groups or high-profile leaders.
“What we are getting are thousands of nodes of people all around the world, groups in the community, fighting particular things—particular power plants, or fighting for wind on Cape Cod, fighting on all those fronts, but also realizing that they are connected and part of something much larger,” he said to the crowd at a rally and fundraiser.
And that’s why, McKibben would conclude, he wants you to get arrested in Somerset this weekend.Read More
Originally published in Open Media Boston by Tate Williams (Staff), Dec-21-12
Cambridge, Mass. - With climate change policy deadlocked, there’s a rapidly growing movement on campuses nationwide to convince universities to yank their investments in fossil fuel companies.
And at Harvard—where the nation’s largest, $30.7 billion endowment makes it the top target—student activists are seeing what they hope are signs that the administration might budge on the issue.Read More