Kevin O’Connor is a senior at the University of Vermont double-majoring in environmental studies and economics. Prior to joining the Put A Price On It movement in August of 2016, Kevin was an intern for Vermont House Representative Mollie Burke. Kevin had the opportunity to testify his own carbon pollution tax policy prospectus in front of Vermont’s House Transportation Committee. Kevin views effective carbon pricing policies as the top solution to combat climate change. Kevin is from Albany, NY. Connect with Kevin at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kevinoconnor11.
Green Mountain College President Endorses Energy Independence Vermont and Put A Price On It Campaigns
Yaz is a student organizer at Green Mountain College in Poultney, Vermont studying Environmental Policy in the College Honors Program. After co-coordinating Power Shift Northeast in 2016, Yaz founded Vermont Student Power Network, a statewide network of college activists that leverages students' unified power in order to impact environmental and social justice issues throughout the state of Vermont. Their main campaign is the fracked gas Vermont Gas Systems Pipeline. Yaz now sit on the Board of Directors for the DC-based Power Shift Network. They recently began collaborating with Our Climate's #PutAPriceOnIt Campaign after securing their college's endorsement of Energy Independent Vermont's proposed carbon pollution tax in the fall of 2016. Yaz also works in the College's Sustainability Office, running projects around everything from waste reduction and diversion to the student-written College Anti-Oppression Action Plan. In their spare time, Yaz loves to play ultimate frisbee, tune into NPR, and listen to fire tracks by Drake.
“The control of nature is won; not given.”
That inscription guards the doors to the University of Wyoming’s Engineering building. It reflects the dams, canals, and pipelines that made possible a comfortable life in the dry, cold West. As students put our heads down and cross the ice to class, those words are glaring over our shoulders, admonishing us not to be complacent. They tell us to keep striving to shelter ourselves from chaos. The building came up in the eighteen nineties, and now many people roll their eyes at its thunderous claim that we should “control nature” at all. I can’t help but be in awe of what we humans are ready to construct to make ourselves feel secure.
Last Friday, walking home, I turned onto my street just as a long-expected blizzard was breaking over town. Within fifteen minutes, the temperature had plunged below zero, but I was already inside, facing the furnace as if its rattling could tell me something.
I am lucky to live in a place where winter has a bite, but I only have to feel it if I want to. Weather in Laramie is a controlled adventure, like a horror movie or an amusement park ride. Except when it is beyond the scope of what people can control – when it reminds us that nature is uncontainable.
Thanks to Wyoming’s energy industry, I do not have to work very hard to be comfortable during all twelve months of the year. After millions of years of carbon cooking underground, I am well provided for. Oil, gas, and coal companies have also paid for most of my education, from second grade through college, due to the mineral taxes the state collects and then channels into schools. This system has cushioned me and many others from economic and environmental vulnerability, and now we are reaching its limits.
Now that oil prices are low and the coal industry is hurting, Wyoming has no choice but to cut millions of dollars from its education budget. Thousands of workers have lost their jobs in the energy sector, and many are looking at regulations as the cause. The Wyoming Mining Association, along with our national senators and representative, are calling for the next administration to shed new the rules immediately. But where was the outcry when companies like Alpha Natural Resources and Arch Coal gave their CEOs maximum bonuses as they filed for bankruptcy, laying off hundreds? What about when Alpha asked to back out of labor agreements and drop retirement benefits just weeks after their executives got 12 million? Despite these wrongs and a flurry of reports that have shown it was natural gas, not the federal government that pulled the belt around the coal industry, our state has decided that the answer to our problems is to shut out any policies that would limit extraction.
What is most confusing about this is that there are regulations we can all agree on – rules that were once controversial are now celebrated. Most people are okay with asking a company to fill in a mine, to treat its effluents so that contaminants don’t crawl into our drinking water, or to plant native seeds so that the land is not degraded to dust and cheat grass. Most industry people seem okay with these requirements, too. Last week, the U.S. Forest Service withdrew forty thousand acres of mineral leases in the Wyoming range, with overwhelming public support. The group that spoke out in favor of preserving the area included people who had spent their entire lives working in the energy industry, who believe that some limits on extraction are necessary and that some places should be protected for future generations.
Climate change warrants action, because it will threaten many of the places and creatures people value. Beyond that, it is already peeling off our guise of security, changing storm patterns and sending agricultural regions into a new era of uncertainty. It is not just scientists seeing these things happen. The crisis is not contained within models on computer screens. Farmers are looking into desiccated fields and remembering the Dust Bowl; families are standing outside collapsed houses and wondering how they’ll build a future. Floridians are seeing increasing salt levels in their drinking water, and people in Louisiana have already had to move as rising seas encroached on their homes.
So far I have only been talking about the United States. The impact on global agriculture and infrastructure will only be more severe, with the heaviest blows on some of the world’s most populated, least developed areas. Those communities will have less capital to make up for a wounded economy, scarce food and water, and health problems. Low standing water and the decline of predators that would kill disease-carrying insects are likely to cause spikes in human illness.
Even the business sector is tuned into what emissions mean for the future - Exxon Mobil has been considering climate change in its business decisions since 1981. Now, they and other companies would benefit from an economic system that set the industry on a course they can predict.
We don’t have the option to treat climate change as we have other global tragedies. We can tut at infomercials and gasp, “how terrible”. We can leave it to charity to absorb the pain of the millions of people displaced by storms, famine, and sea-level rise. We can watch it gain traction and die as a celebrity cause. We can point fingers. That would be a failure to draw from the situation its essential lesson – that the air and the oceans connect us all. Every action – especially no action – will yield results that are far-reaching and personal. The United States will never be a vacuum, and if the war in Syria and the latest refugee crisis have not been enough to teach us that, then maybe we will never learn. Global problems are our problems, especially when we have power to mitigate the cause. We owe it to the rest of the world to recognize that we can only win together, and to lead in that effort.
It would be different if there was already nothing we can do. But climate projects have shown enormous differences between the worst and best case scenarios, between business-as-usual and profound emissions reduction. What we decide right now matters. We should be doing everything we can to find a policy that could transition our energy markets in ways that will not rupture the economy, while easing the burden on low-income and unemployed people. This is not a partisan mission. Lawmakers and activists from both parties are interested in creating a system that would recognize the true cost of emissions, and cities around the world have successfully developed their own carbon pricing schemes. This is an opportunity to work together to prove that we have values that are greater than comfort and convenience. I do not want to look my grandchildren in the eye and tell them that I saw one last chance to give them a better future, but chose to do nothing.
In Wyoming, people raise up qualities like honesty, stamina, and resilience. But instead of taking action when it matters most, we are wasting time with blame and denial. I want to believe that we are better than that. It’s time to show grit on climate change, to move into the space of possibilities that will define our ability to adapt. The safety of our children, our grandchildren, and our fellow humans depends on what we do today. Shifting course on climate change will hurt – it will cost money, time, and emotional energy. The only thing more draining would be continuing to pretend this isn’t happening. As some of the world’s most prolific emitters of greenhouse gases, we have enormous power to determine how many communities bounce back, and how many lives are destroyed. I refuse to tunnel my way into the future without facing the truth. And I am begging my state and national representatives, as well as the private industry leaders who supply the energy I use - to look at it with me. Let’s be courageous and show that we value life over the status quo. I believe in the best case scenario, but it can only happen if we put a price on greenhouse gas pollution.
My name is Terezie Cizkova, and I am a 17 year old girl from Czech Republic. I want to share with you my story about why I think we need to put a price on carbon, and why I think we need to care about climate change.
My story started roughly one year ago, when I first heard about climate change, thanks to the Ian Somerhalder Foundation. I have been a part of this extraordinary organization for a year and four months. I remember watching the Paris Agreement online, I was very confused but also very interested at once in knowing more about this issue. I was learning every single day, and every new day brought me something new into my mind. I live in a country that doesn’t really have any huge effects of climate change, but that doesn't mean that it doesn’t exist. It's real. Climate change is not a thing that’s used in our daily conversations. What we truly need to do is empower and educate each other about what is happening globally, but we need to act locally. No matter where we live, climate change will impact the whole world if we will don't act.
I heard about carbon pricing from the very first story Nikki Reed posted on her social media account. Putting a price on carbon? “What does that mean?” I asked myself. How we can achieve that? It's also happening in Europe? I searched for answers. I discovered a lot of European countries such as Germany, Spain, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Netherlands, Switzerland and more are very well known for their work in clean energy. This is what we need to do all over the world, but if we want to truly leave the fossil fuel industry behind us for good, we must put a price on carbon.
Polluters are sending too much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and the biggest problem is that our planet has to pay for the damage that the fossil fuel industry created. But why is this dirty energy the most cheap and affordable kind of power? Why are people so afraid to accept the truth that the human race is the main reason of why is climate change happening? How we can make fossil fuels unaffordable? Putting a price on carbon is a very viable answer to those questions. If we increase the cost of fossil fuels, we level the playing field for renewable energy.
Okay, let's be honest - we all have some carbon footprint, I have a carbon footprint. We all are contributing in some way to the changes in our climate by sending more and more pollution into the air. If we stop for a moment and think about our own actions: Do I really want to damage the climate and whole planet? All the actions that we are doing every single day - driving by a car to our work or school, flying by plane, building all the new buildings in our country, lighting our lights, fracking and polluting our water - all these things will be damaging our planet more and more, until we will don't switch to the another form of energy - clean energy. Our planet can't pay for our mistakes and for our comfort anymore. The polluters needs to pay for it. And this is what the carbon pricing campaign is about.
Tom Erb is the National Field Organizer for the Put A Price On It Campaign and is based out of Claremont, Ca. He is a junior at Pomona College and studies Public Policy Analysis. Prior to the campaign, Erb was the Congressional Liaison for the #4Billion4Us campaign, a climate intern for United States Senator Brian Schatz and a communications intern for Congressman Eric Swalwell. His work began as President of a carbon pricing campaign at the Claremont Colleges and he continues to work to address climate change and lift up the youth voice outside of the campaign. He is from San Diego, CA. Tom can be reached at email@example.com.
Licia is the current Board of Directors President and former Program Director for Our Climate. After relocating to Portland from the Chicago area in 2015, Licia joined our staff as the Program Director, leading efforts in our Salmon on the Square and Youth Lobby Day events. She has since started at Lewis and Clark Law School where she is receiving a Masters of Environmental, Natural Resources, and Energy Law and remaining involved with Our Climate at the Board level.
A lifelong environmentalist, Licia received her bachelor’s degree in International Studies with a concentration in Environmentally Sustainable Development. Post-college, she became a writer at Groupon where she co-founded a Green Committee and worked with department heads to create and/or enhance the company’s environmental initiatives. She then worked as a start-up consultant for a B-corp in India, Mana Organics, which sells organic tea and produce and uses profits to train rural farmers on organic farming methods. Just prior to her work with Our Climate, Licia was the executive director for an after-school program and resource center for low-income, Latino families in the Chicago area. She brings her experiences in international development, social justice, and environmental policy to Our Climate and is most passionate about engaging other young people in the process!
Sam is a sophomore at Claremont McKenna College (CMC) dual majoring in EEP (Environment, Economics, Politics) and Philosophy. He’s passionate environmental sustainability because he wants to provide future generations with an earth that has the economic viability and natural beauty that characterizes it today. He believes that to mitigate climate change, decrease reliance on dirty energy, and increase competition in the green energy market, it is necessary to organize around carbon pricing legislation, like a Fee and Dividend. At CMC, he’s a fellow with the Put A Price On it Campaign, fellow with Strategic Energy Innovations, member of Model United Nations, president of CCL Claremont Colleges, co-lead of Food Recovery Network, Chair of the Senate's Environmental Concerns Committee, and student baker at the Motley. In his free time, Sam likes walking around to find fresh fruit, hiking, working out, brewing kombucha, discussing current events, and spending time with family and friends. Connect with him at https://www.linkedin.com/in/samhbecker
Leyana is a senior at Sarah Lawrence College in New York State, where she studies Spanish and environmental science/policy, among other eclectic topics. She was active in the anti-hydrofracking movement in NY as a high school student, and continues to be involved in environmental and social justice organizing in college. She is excited about using public policy to fight climate change.
Grace Galletti is a sophomore at Brown University, majoring in Environmental Engineering. She grew up in Paris, France and is passionate about environmental sustainability. As an international student, she realizes the global extent of climate change. She believe's this is the biggest and most pressing issue that humankind is facing. As an environmental engineer, she hopes to create solutions to environmental problems. However, technology can only bring us so far, which is why she is very excited to work on the campaign to put a price on carbon. In her free time, she loves to do gymnastics, go rock climbing and be a part of the Brown Outing Club.
Shana Gallagher believes that climate change is the most urgent and pressing problem that faces every single one of us, no matter our backgrounds or personalities or location on the globe, and that environmental organizing needs to become more mainstream. To address this crisis, we're all going to need to get behind bold and effective policies, like a price on carbon. More importantly, she understands that the biggest obstacle to a clean energy future is the power of the fossil fuel industry, and that a price on carbon is one of the few remedies to this reality. Shana's drive to protect the planet comes from a lifelong awe and admiration for the oceans, but she now focuses on making general environmental organizing accessible for everyone. She is a rising senior at Tufts University, studying Biology and Environmental Studies.