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Can OffShore Wind Blow Out California's Fires?

Christine Heinrichs
News Feed
Thursday, September 30, 2021

Floating wind projects take advantage of steady winds that blow offshore. Those faster, steadier winds can produce more energy. Wind power increases with the cube of wind speed. Bigger turbines with longer blades capture more wind and are more aerodynamically efficient. How they overcome obstacles such as interference with fisheries, environmental damage, and high cost will influence how many, and which ones, get built.

California jump-started the offshore wind industry when Governor Gavin Newsom signed  AB525 on September 23, https://www.gov.ca.gov/2021/09/23/governor-newsom-signs-climate-action-bills-outlines-historic-15-billion-package-to-tackle-the-climate-crisis-and-protect-vulnerable-communities/ . Now the state and industry are grappling with the implications for wildlife, the environment and energy demands as they weigh the costs and benefits. Possibilities were reviewed at a conference held in Scotland September 15-16 with dozens of international players attending virtually. 

In late May the Biden administration opened two areas off the California coast to floating wind projects: a 399-square-mile area off Morro Bay in the Central Coast and another off the North Coast’s Humboldt County. The permitting process may take a decade or longer before either is constructed.

Eliminating fossil fuels and replacing them with renewables to reduce greenhouse gases are imperative to mitigate the climate crisis. However, floating wind farms will impact local wildlife and local economies. All the impacts need to be evaluated and weighed before choosing the renewable path forward. Energy systems and policy, migratory birds and mammals, and other marine life need to be studied to estimate the effects of floating offshore wind energy production. The amount of energy anticipated from floating wind farms and how it fits into the country’s energy portfolio have to be weighed along with its effects on people and wildlife.

The bill requires that the state’s energy supply be 100 percent zero carbon by 2045. Offshore wind will be needed to make up the 145 Gigawatts of new energy from renewables needed to meet that goal. 

“This means great things for offshore wind, after four years of stagnation,” said Jim Lanard, CEO of Magellan Wind, https://mieibc.org/company/magellan-wind/, at an industry conference in Aberdeen, Scotland September 15-16. 

Floating wind projects take advantage of steady winds that blow offshore. Those faster, steadier winds can produce more energy. Wind power increases with the cube of wind speed. Bigger turbines with longer blades capture more wind and are more aerodynamically efficient. How they overcome obstacles such as interference with fisheries, environmental damage, and high cost will influence how many, and which ones, get built.

Politics

National programs are leading the way. The Covid stimulus, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, helped by extending the investment tax credit to 2025, reducing expenses. The Biden administration’s Build Back Better package and the Green Jobs Plan also contain economic incentives to develop offshore wind that “have energized lawmakers,” said Jamie McDonald, director of operations for Xodus, https://www.xodusgroup.com/, now at the Boston office.

The political climate is changing. Climate change is becoming a bipartisan issue, with red and blue state governors competing for the jobs, development and supply chain for renewable energy projects, Lanard said. 

“The consensus is that climate change is an existential threat,” he said from his office in Houston. “The words I’m hearing out of California are, ‘Doing nothing is doing harm’.”

California site issues

California is the focus, but Oregon and Washington coasts are also in the sights for floating wind farm locations. Floating offshore wind farms are proposed for California, 30 miles off Morro Bay on the Central Coast, and off the northern coast near the Oregon state line. Construction on the up to 200-turbine Central Coast wind farm could begin in 2025-2027, pending environmental review and regulatory permitting.

The military uses the airspace over the Central Coast for training. That snarled consideration temporarily in 2020, but discussions have resolved the conflict. 

“The area has important military uses, but we know we can be compatible,” Lanard, a veteran of the Obama administration, said. “Now we are working together cooperatively. There are a lot of Obama alums in the Department of the Interior and the Department of Defense, directly advising president.” 

Business

Business leaders are looking for certainty to commit investments, McDonald said. The permitting and regulatory process requires the lease areas to be defined, so that environmental assessments can be done preparatory to the lease auction and sale with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, https://www.boem.gov/. Baseline environmental surveys will be required, taking 18 months to two years to complete, on which to write an environmental statement. A federal permit as well as approval of state agencies such as the Department of Fish & Wildlife and the California Public Utility Commission (PUC) could push construction four to six years past that 2025 construction date.   

Cost is a significant factor, but these industry leaders expect it to decrease significantly as projects advance. Onshore wind costs have declined, and solar costs declined by 90 percent as the technology improved. 

Jonah Margulis, senior vice president of US Operations for Aker Offshore Wind, https://akeroffshorewind.com/, expects the Levelized Cost of Energy, the standard measure of cost of energy production, for floating wind to decline from $110 to $60 by 2032. 

Transmission is another factor influencing the success of floating wind. Central California has facilities in place that could serve that function. The Morro Bay Power Plant has been vacant for several years. A 600 MW lithium-ion battery storage project is proposed for part of the site. It would be the largest in the US. Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant will be closed, one reactor in 2024 and the second in 2025, opening that site for electrical transmission. 

The north coast site lacks that advantage, but Humboldt State University, slated to become the state’s next polytechnic university, is studying prospective transmission solutions.

“The future is floating on the west coast,” Margulis said. “The US is back on track for a booming era on east and west coasts.”

Fishing conflicts

Morro Bay is home to active commercial fishing. The Morro Bay Commercial Fishermen’s Organization and the Port San Luis Commercial Fishermen’s Association have signed a Mutual Benefit Agreement with Castle Wind, https://castlewind.com/, the company actively pursuing development of the site. The agreement provides for a fund to assist the associations with support for members.  

Such financial arrangements are made for good relationships, but are not legally required, Adam Payne, Senior Offshore Consenter, Flotation Energy https://www.flotationenergy.com/what-we-do, said. Funds can be directed to projects that benefit the community, such as the Thanet Fishermen’s Association Fuel Depot in the UK, which provides round-the-clock fuel support to fishermen.

Each site requires detailed knowledge of that fishery to develop a unique solution.

“Floating is going to be a more difficult discussion,” said Payne. “Certain gear is not compatible with floating wind equipment.”

Commercial fishing can coexist with floating wind, said Signe Nielsen, senior products management development at RWE, https://www.rwe.com/en. The industry’s experience with fixed wind projects in Europe will help floating wind projects adapt to the fishermen’s needs by siting the projects with their concerns about potential overlap with fisheries, navigation and site design in mind, she said. 

“There will be lessons to be learned along the way,” she said, citing cooperation, building communication and transparency as factors to resolve conflicts.

Local opposition can doom a project. Shell encountered opposition to a natural gas pipeline that caused local turmoil and tension, eventually resulting in local activists being jailed. The experience is recounted in the documentary The Pipe, available online, https://guidedoc.tv/documentary/the-pipe-documentary-film/ 

Environmental protection

California’s coastline is subject to various levels of protection. The Central Coast site is just outside the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. The corridor is known as the Blue Serengeti, for the many large marine mammals that migrate through the area, several kinds of seals and whales, including Blue Whales. Seabirds also fly through the area. The turbines could be over 700 feet tall. Species that live far at sea are not studied well with respect to disturbance by floating wind turbines. That research remains to be done. 

In the respect of environmental disruption, floating wind turbines compare favorably with fixed wind turbines onshore, Nielsen said. Installation is less noisy than pounding pilings into the seabed, and less seabed is disturbed by the floating platform moorings than fixed bottom turbines. The moorings, giant chain cables, are too big for marine mammals to become entangled, but they might snag ghost fishing gear that would endanger seals and whales. Marine mammals might not be diving to the 3,000-foot depths, which remains to be established by research.

The floating platforms could act as fish aggregators and fish nurseries, she said, although it’s unclear whether the fish taking refuge under the platforms represent an increase in fish or relocation of fish from other places. 

The platforms could act as artificial reefs to increase biodiversity, Monica Fundingsland, sustainability advisor at Equinor, https://www.equinor.com/en/what-we-do/wind.html, said. Three studies are underway at Hywind in Scotland.

A study of the effect of operational noise on seabirds at Hywind in Scotland is expected by the end of 2021. Whether operational noise could be a barrier to marine mammals is not known.

Hywind Scotland is the pilot project, producing electric power since 2017. Its five 830-foot turbines, with rotors 500 feet in diameter, produce enough power to serve the equivalent of 36,000 homes, from about 19 miles offshore in water 300 to over 400 feet deep. The site off the California coast is about 3,000 feet deep.

Centralizing the research could help streamline the process by making information more easily available to all stakeholders, and addressing information gaps. Studies buried in industry information silos may conceal data already collected and result in duplicated effort. 

Port

The port where the turbines will be either manufactured or assembled needs to be able to accommodate the huge equipment. Ports also need to be free of obstructions such as bridges and electrical wires to allow the equipment to be brought in. 

Morro Bay is not deep enough, so other facilities will have to be developed to assemble the turbines, which will then be towed out to the site. Morro Bay harbor will then become a staging area for maintenance and operations. 

Another restriction is the Jones Act, which requires port-to-port cargo movement on ships that are U.S.-owned, U.S.-crewed, U.S.-registered, and U.S.-built. One Jones Act-compliant vessel is now being built, but the industry plans to bring vessels over from Europe and then transfer the unassembled pieces to feeder vessels that comply with the Jones Act sent out to collect them. That raises a point of risk to the equipment, which could be damaged in the transition from one ship to another. 

Great Lakes

The industry is also evaluating the Great Lakes as floating wind farm sites. A major difference is that the states that border the lakes own the lake bed, so they have more flexibility in leasing them. 

The fresh water lakes form ice during the cold months. Floating turbines can be adapted to floating ice, but the pressure of ice on the foundations is another challenge. The Great Lakes Wind Assessment is due in draft form by the end of 2021

Building an industry

“It’s challenging to build an industry, but we’ve got to start somewhere,” said Aker’s Margulis. “The ambitions we’ve all had for a number of years are being released.”

RenewableUK, https://events.renewableuk.com/fow21, with 25 industry sponsors and partners, hosted the Floating Offshore Wind conference in Aberdeen Scotland September 15-16, 2021. Over 500 attended, in person and virtually. Twenty-eight exhibitors pitched their products and 56 speakers presented information and took questions. Hopefully together they can work out the issues of concern and successfully create new renewable energy options for California and the nation.

Read the full story here.
Photos courtesy of
Christine Heinrichs
Christine Heinrichs

Christine Heinrichs writes from her home on California’s Central Coast. She keeps a backyard flock of about a dozen hens. She follows coastal issues, writing a regular column on the Piedras Blancas elephant seal rookery for the San Luis Obispo Tribune. Her narrative on the Central Coast condor flock will appear in Ten Spurs 2021 edition.

Her book, How to Raise Chickens, was first published in 2007, just as the local food movement was starting to focus attention on the industrial food system. Backyard chickens became the mascot of local food. The third edition of How to Raise Chickens was published in January 2019. The Backyard Field Guide to Chickens was published in 2016. Look for them in Tractor Supply stores and online.

She has a B.S. in Journalism from the University of Oregon and belongs to several professional journalism and poultry organizations.

New MIT-LUMA Lab created to address climate challenges in the Mediterranean region

Collaborative scholarship and research will draw on conservation, design, and technology.

The MIT School of Architecture and Planning (SA+P) and the LUMA Foundation announced today the establishment of the MIT-LUMA Lab to advance paradigm-shifting innovations at the nexus of art, science, technology, conservation, and design. The aim is to empower innovative thinkers to realize their ambitions, support local communities as they seek to address climate-related issues, and scale solutions to pressing challenges facing the Mediterranean region.  The main programmatic pillars of the lab will be collaborative scholarship and research around design, new materials, and sustainability; scholar exchange and education collaborations between the two organizations; innovation and entrepreneurship activities to transfer new ideas into practical applications; and co-production of exhibitions and events. The hope is that this engagement will create a novel model for other institutions to follow to craft innovative solutions to the leading challenge of our time.The MIT-LUMA Lab draws on an establishing gift from the LUMA Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Zurich formed by Maja Hoffmann in 2004 to support contemporary artistic production. The foundation supports a range of multidisciplinary projects that increase understanding of the environment, human rights, education, and culture.These themes are explored through programs organized by LUMA Arles, a project begun in 2013 and housed on a 27-acre interdisciplinary campus known as the Parc des Ateliers in Arles, France, an experimental site of exhibitions, artists’ residencies, research laboratories, and educational programs.“The Luma Foundation is committed to finding ways to address the current climate emergencies we are facing, focusing on exploring the potentials that can be found in diversity and engagement in every possible form,” says Maja Hoffmann, founder and president of the LUMA Foundation. “Cultural diversity, pluralism, and biodiversity feature at the top of our mission and our work is informed by these concepts.” A focus on the Mediterranean region“The culturally rich area of the Mediterranean, which has produced some of the most remarkable civilizational paradigms across geographies and historical periods, plays an important role in our thinking. Focusing the efforts of the MIT-LUMA Lab on the Mediterranean means extending the possibilities for positive change throughout other global ecosystems,” says Hoffmann. “Our projects of LUMA Arles and its research laboratory on materials and natural resources, the Atelier Luma, our position in one of Europe’s most important natural reserves, in conjunction with the expertise and forward-thinking approach of MIT, define the perfect framework that will allow us to explore new frontiers and devise novel ways to tackle our most significant civilizational risks,” she adds. “Supporting the production of new forms of knowledge and practices, and with locations in Cambridge and in Arles, our collaboration and partnership with MIT will generate solutions and models for the future, for the generations to come, in order to provide them the same and even better opportunities that what we have experienced.”“We know we do not have all the answers at MIT, but we do know how to ask the right questions, how to design effective experiments, and how to build meaningful collaborations,” says Hashim Sarkis, dean of SA+P, which will host the lab. “I am grateful to the LUMA Foundation for offering support for faculty research deployment designed to engage local communities and create jobs, for course development to empower our faculty to teach classes centered on these issues, and for students who seek to dedicate their lives and careers to sustainability. We also look forward to hosting fellows and researchers from the foundation to strengthen our collaboration,” he adds.The Mediterranean region, the MIT-LUMA Lab’s focus, is one of the world’s most vital and fragile global commons. The future of climate relies on the sustainability of the region’s forests, oceans, and deserts that have for millennia created the environmental conditions and system-regulating functions necessary for life on Earth. Those who live in these areas are often the most severely affected by even relatively modest changes in the climate. Climate research and action: A priority at MITTo reverse negative trends and provide a new approach to addressing the climate crisis in these vast areas, SA+P is establishing international collaborations that bring know-how to the field, and in turn to learn from the communities and groups most challenged by climate impacts.The MIT-LUMA Lab is the first in what is envisioned as a series of regionally focused labs at SA+P under the conceptual aegis of a collaborative platform called Our Global Commons. This project will support progress on today’s climate challenges by focusing on community empowerment, long-term local collaborations around research and education, and job creation. Faculty-led fieldwork, engagements with local stakeholders, and student involvement will be the key elements.The creation of Our Global Commons comes as MIT works to dramatically expand its efforts to address climate change. In February 2024, President Sally Kornbluth announced the Climate Project at MIT, a major new initiative to mobilize the Institute’s resources and capabilities to research, develop, deploy, and scale-up new climate solutions. The Institute will hire its first-ever vice president for climate to oversee the new effort. “With the Climate Project at MIT, we aim to help make a decisive difference, at scale, on crucial global climate challenges — and we can only do that by engaging with outstanding colleagues around the globe,” says Kornbluth. “By connecting us to creative thinkers steeped in the cultural and environmental history and emerging challenges of the Mediterranean region, the MIT-LUMA Lab promises to spark important new ideas and collaborations.”“We are excited that the LUMA team will be joining in MIT’s engagement with climate issues, especially given their expertise in advancing vital work at the intersection of art and science, and their long-standing commitment to expanding the frontiers of sustainability and biodiversity,” says Sarkis. “With climate change upending many aspects of our society, the time is now for us to reaffirm and strengthen our SA+P tradition of on-the-ground work with and for communities around the world. Shared efforts among local communities, governments and corporations, and academia are necessary to bring about real change.”

Photos help tell climate stories. This media library lets conservation orgs access them for free.

A new project connects scientists and storytellers with high-quality footage, giving a second life to images that would otherwise sit around on hard drives.

The vision “When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.” Photographer and environmentalist Ansel Adams The spotlight As a writer, I obviously have a fondness for words. I believe in their power — while also recognizing their limitations. Much as we try to “show, not tell” through the written word, an article can’t quite approximate letting someone see or experience something for themselves. Photos and videos, on the other hand, come pretty darn close. Visual storytellers have to be immersed in the scenes they capture, up close to the people, animals, plants, and landscapes they create images of. They document things that many people otherwise wouldn’t get to see with their own eyes. It’s a powerful medium, with a well-established history of stirring viewers to care about climate change and conservation. But high-quality, thought-provoking photography and film is also time-consuming and expensive to create, putting it out of reach for many would-be climate communicators and storytelling organizations. It’s a problem that Kogia, a nonprofit media library, is attempting to solve. The library offers photos and video clips, free of charge, to scientists, conservation organizations, artists, activists, and others. “Our mission has been to democratize access to this media in a way, and to elevate the voices of those who are on the front line of conservation and just give them the best tools possible for them to tell their stories,” said Nessim Stevenson, a filmmaker and photographer who founded the project along with his cousin, and fellow photographer, Karim Iliya. They saw a great need to make high-quality images more readily available to conservationists and mission-driven organizations as an essential communication tool. “I had a lot of nonprofits that were asking me for photos and videos to use as I was photographing underwater worlds — whales and turtles and manta rays and coral reefs, from the big animals to the little tiny creatures,” Iliya said. He knew other environmental photographers must be getting the same types of requests, and wanted to create a platform that would enable these organizations to get the resources they needed to further their work, while easing some of the strain on individual creators fielding these requests. The pair published a beta form of the project in the spring of 2023, which Stevenson describes as a “clunky version that we made ourselves in Squarespace.” Still, they quickly garnered more than 100 members, from over 40 countries. This year, on Earth Day, they launched Kogia 2.0 — a more robust library that they built out with the help of a volunteer web developer, featuring the work of over a dozen creators. The library also creates an opportunity to divert a certain type of waste. Only a tiny fraction of the images a photographer creates in the field will actually get licensed for prints or articles or other uses. The rest tend to sit on hard drives, essentially becoming “digital trash,” as Iliya put it. “It’s difficult to make money off of it, because it’s like the 10th best photo of a clam or a whale or a clownfish, and not the best one.” But these excess images are still good quality, and can be a gold mine for small organizations and individuals that don’t have the budget to license or commission original photos or film. “So we’re trying to reuse and recycle — basically put to use this stuff that would’ve just sat and rotted away,” Iliya said. Kogia is ocean-focused right now, but Iliya and Stevenson ultimately plan to expand the library to include land ecosystems as well. They’re also starting a fellowship program that will involve sending out camera kits to young photographers and videographers all over the world who want to document conservation stories from a local perspective. “The way we’ve been seeing some of the media used, from the anti-whaling movement in Iceland to student-led groups educating young kids about nature and their environment in South Asia, it’s been really surprising and exciting,” Iliya said. Stevenson and Iliya shared a selection of their favorite images from the gallery, gathered below. These come from some of the most threatened ecosystems on Earth — like Palau, part of a coalition of small island states that have banded together to hold large nations accountable for climate impacts (and recently won a major victory from the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea). Although some of the images in Kogia’s library offer a look at the impacts of climate change, industry, and pollution on ocean ecosystems, the majority, including these, focus instead on their beauty and how much there is to protect. — Claire Elise Thompson A freediver in a cave in Vava’u, Tonga. Blacktip reef sharks in Palau. Golden jellyfish in Palau. A green turtle swimming over seagrass in Puerto Rico. A humpback whale tail in Antarctica. A paddle boarder on an expedition in Greenland. A shrimp in North Sulawesi, Indonesia. A polar bear near Churchill, Canada. An aerial view of the coastline of Maui, Hawaiʻi. More exposure Read: about the famous “Earthrise” photo that galvanized the environmental movement in the late 1960s (BBC) Read: about some of the pitfalls that environmental photography has historically fallen into — including an overreliance on charismatic megafauna, like the polar bear (Grist) Read: about efforts to document and preserve some of the world’s most threatened ecosystems through the use of 3D mapping, VR, and other tools (Grist) Browse: Kogia’s Instagram, for more photos and video of marine wonders (and if you’re a storyteller, consider signing up for access to the library) A parting shot While showing the vibrance and beauty of marine wildlife and ecosystems, visual storytelling can also introduce a harsh juxtaposition with the threats those ecosystems face. This photo, for instance, shows an overhead view of an oil refinery off the coast of Long Beach, California. At first glance it looks peaceful, almost pretty. But a closer look reveals its sheer scale, and its nearness to the shoreline — where residents face some of the worst pollution in the country. IMAGE CREDITS Vision: Grist Spotlight: Karim Iliya; Nessim Stevenson; Pier Nirandara, Sophie Hart, Kieth Ladzinski, Cedric Dageville, Michel Zoghzoghi, Raja Iliya Parting shot: Karim Iliya This story was originally published by Grist with the headline Photos help tell climate stories. This media library lets conservation orgs access them for free. on May 29, 2024.

The Ignoble Effort to Unseat Jamaal Bowman

Climate is a winning issue for Democrats, so much so that even Joe Biden, who won’t win any awards for best campaigner, knows it. That’s probably why this year, the president has finally paused new permits for the export of liquefied natural gas, sped up the permitting process for clean energy projects, and deployed the American Climate Corps, a climate-centered youth jobs program modeled on Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps. Yet much of the New York Democratic establishment is going in the opposite direction, lining up against an incumbent congressman who is one of the Green New Deal’s most passionate and pragmatic champions. They’re making a huge mistake. The primary is next month, and it’s not too late to change course. That incumbent is Jamaal Bowman, a Democratic Socialist who was elected in 2020 with strong support from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Justice Democrats. While leftists have previously criticized him for not being critical enough of Israel (he voted to fund Israel’s Iron Dome for defense, for example), the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, sees it differently. Because Bowman has supported a cease-fire in the present conflict and called Israel’s ongoing massacre of Palestinians a “genocide,” Israel’s most prominent lobbying group is spending millions to unseat him. AIPAC’s Super PAC recently announced an ad buy of $2 million, which the group said it planned to spend all in one week. Bowman’s opponent, George Latimer, is an unremarkable Westchester County executive prone to racist gaffes. Without AIPAC’s and its allies’ interference, he would certainly not be poised to defeat a congressman of Bowman’s accomplishments. Much of the local Democratic establishment—including the county Democratic committees and the more conservative wing of the labor movement—has lined up behind Latimer, despite the long-standing norm in New York City Democratic politics of supporting incumbents. For many reasons, it’s disgraceful for New York Democrats to be so cowed by a lobby that works on behalf of a foreign country committing mass murder of civilians. But it’s especially deplorable considering how central climate should be for Democrats in this election cycle. Faced with an urgent climate crisis and a Democratic base hungry for climate action, Latimer has said, “There is not going to be a George Latimer climate change bill.”Bowman’s climate record stands in sharp contrast to that complacent attitude. What’s more, in a political moment when environmental measures are so often vulnerable to populist critique—conservatives like to highlight how anything associated with climate brings inconvenience and expense to ordinary Americans—Bowman has consistently focused on climate policy that makes working-class people’s lives better. Shortly after his election in 2020, Bowman launched a campaign to pass a Green New Deal for Public Schools, to address dangerously dilapidated public school infrastructure while also using public money to build green buildings and green energy. That campaign built important coalitions between parents, environmentalists, and unionized workers. Much of the GND for Public Schools language made it into the Build Back Better Act, Biden’s climate and infrastructure legislation, which passed the House in late 2021 but was eventually tanked by Joe Manchin. Even after all the standoffs and machinations, some of it made it into the Inflation Reduction Act. Bowman even played a significant role in passing the IRA itself; after Joe Manchin walked away from the Build Back Better discussions, Bowman joined with centrist Democrats Sean Casten and Nikema Williams in writing a letter to President Biden—signed by 89 members of Congress—calling upon him to restart negotiations with Manchin using climate as an area of common ground. Shortly thereafter Biden did reopen talks with Manchin, and the IRA eventually passed, including some of the climate provisions of Build Back Better. Despite flaws, the IRA was the most significant climate legislation the United States has ever passed. Unusually for a congressman, Bowman was also critical to the passage of New York state’s biggest climate legislation last year: The Build Public Renewables Act, or BPRA, mandates that the state’s power authority build publicly funded renewable energy in the inevitable event that the private sector is not on track to reach decarbonization goals. (These state-level decarbonization goals were set in 2019, but until BPRA, New York had no plan in place to address the market’s more than likely failure to move beyond fossil fuels on its own.) Bowman used his powerful position as a congressman to lobby state legislators, especially the Assembly and Senate leadership, to pass the bill. After the passage of the IRA, he also made practical arguments to the governor about how BPRA’s passage would allow New York to access crucial federal funds.As a member of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee and then-chair of the House Energy Subcommittee, Bowman was also instrumental in greening the CHIPS and Science Act. His work helped secure billions for regional tech hubs, including clean energy hubs, in areas that currently lack tech opportunities and training, with incentives for institutions like schools and universities to use federal money for low-carbon energy research. The funding that Bowman got into CHIPS also included extensive language on keeping wealth in underserved communities, incentives for worker cooperatives, addressing inequity in STEM fields, and creating more opportunities for people in marginalized groups.He’s also brought millions into his district, as a congressperson should, including more than $10 million on climate priorities alone, for green space, water resilience, sewage rehabilitation, road upgrades, clean buses, flood mitigation, and more. Bowman has also influenced discussions of global climate justice, working with House colleague Ilhan Omar to pressure the White House to drop its opposition to “loss and damage.” Loss and damage is the principle that the rich countries that have polluted the most should pay to help poor countries, who have polluted the least, mitigate and survive the climate crisis. The Biden administration, in a shocking reversal of several decades of U.S. policy, ultimately did embrace the concept of “fair share” at the 2022 United Nations climate conference known as COP27.Bowman’s 2024 platform includes more ambitious climate policy. If reelected, he says, he’d fight to pass the Rebuild America’s Schools Act, older legislation that has now incorporated many of the ideas from the GND for Public Schools. He’ll also keep working to pass the Heating and Cooling Relief Act (introduced with AOC’s Green New Deal co-author, Senator Ed Markey), and a Superfund-style proposal—with Senator Chris Van Hollen—to make fossil fuel companies pay for climate damage. These arguments might not sway the labor and Democratic leaders choosing to back Latimer over Bowman in this race. Perhaps it’s not surprising that people willing to take direction from AIPAC, an organization whose entire purpose right now is to politically legitimate a genocide, would also be indifferent to the climate crisis, which, if unaddressed, is expected to cause a quarter of a million deaths per year between 2030 and 2050 via undernourishment, malaria, diarrhea, and heat stress. That’s not even counting drowning, fires, and other serious dangers. While Palestine and the climate crisis are separate issues, it’s fair to call this primary a race between one side defending or downplaying mass death and another committed to fighting it. It’s critical to pick the right side in such a contest.

Climate is a winning issue for Democrats, so much so that even Joe Biden, who won’t win any awards for best campaigner, knows it. That’s probably why this year, the president has finally paused new permits for the export of liquefied natural gas, sped up the permitting process for clean energy projects, and deployed the American Climate Corps, a climate-centered youth jobs program modeled on Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps. Yet much of the New York Democratic establishment is going in the opposite direction, lining up against an incumbent congressman who is one of the Green New Deal’s most passionate and pragmatic champions. They’re making a huge mistake. The primary is next month, and it’s not too late to change course. That incumbent is Jamaal Bowman, a Democratic Socialist who was elected in 2020 with strong support from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Justice Democrats. While leftists have previously criticized him for not being critical enough of Israel (he voted to fund Israel’s Iron Dome for defense, for example), the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, sees it differently. Because Bowman has supported a cease-fire in the present conflict and called Israel’s ongoing massacre of Palestinians a “genocide,” Israel’s most prominent lobbying group is spending millions to unseat him. AIPAC’s Super PAC recently announced an ad buy of $2 million, which the group said it planned to spend all in one week. Bowman’s opponent, George Latimer, is an unremarkable Westchester County executive prone to racist gaffes. Without AIPAC’s and its allies’ interference, he would certainly not be poised to defeat a congressman of Bowman’s accomplishments. Much of the local Democratic establishment—including the county Democratic committees and the more conservative wing of the labor movement—has lined up behind Latimer, despite the long-standing norm in New York City Democratic politics of supporting incumbents. For many reasons, it’s disgraceful for New York Democrats to be so cowed by a lobby that works on behalf of a foreign country committing mass murder of civilians. But it’s especially deplorable considering how central climate should be for Democrats in this election cycle. Faced with an urgent climate crisis and a Democratic base hungry for climate action, Latimer has said, “There is not going to be a George Latimer climate change bill.”Bowman’s climate record stands in sharp contrast to that complacent attitude. What’s more, in a political moment when environmental measures are so often vulnerable to populist critique—conservatives like to highlight how anything associated with climate brings inconvenience and expense to ordinary Americans—Bowman has consistently focused on climate policy that makes working-class people’s lives better. Shortly after his election in 2020, Bowman launched a campaign to pass a Green New Deal for Public Schools, to address dangerously dilapidated public school infrastructure while also using public money to build green buildings and green energy. That campaign built important coalitions between parents, environmentalists, and unionized workers. Much of the GND for Public Schools language made it into the Build Back Better Act, Biden’s climate and infrastructure legislation, which passed the House in late 2021 but was eventually tanked by Joe Manchin. Even after all the standoffs and machinations, some of it made it into the Inflation Reduction Act. Bowman even played a significant role in passing the IRA itself; after Joe Manchin walked away from the Build Back Better discussions, Bowman joined with centrist Democrats Sean Casten and Nikema Williams in writing a letter to President Biden—signed by 89 members of Congress—calling upon him to restart negotiations with Manchin using climate as an area of common ground. Shortly thereafter Biden did reopen talks with Manchin, and the IRA eventually passed, including some of the climate provisions of Build Back Better. Despite flaws, the IRA was the most significant climate legislation the United States has ever passed. Unusually for a congressman, Bowman was also critical to the passage of New York state’s biggest climate legislation last year: The Build Public Renewables Act, or BPRA, mandates that the state’s power authority build publicly funded renewable energy in the inevitable event that the private sector is not on track to reach decarbonization goals. (These state-level decarbonization goals were set in 2019, but until BPRA, New York had no plan in place to address the market’s more than likely failure to move beyond fossil fuels on its own.) Bowman used his powerful position as a congressman to lobby state legislators, especially the Assembly and Senate leadership, to pass the bill. After the passage of the IRA, he also made practical arguments to the governor about how BPRA’s passage would allow New York to access crucial federal funds.As a member of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee and then-chair of the House Energy Subcommittee, Bowman was also instrumental in greening the CHIPS and Science Act. His work helped secure billions for regional tech hubs, including clean energy hubs, in areas that currently lack tech opportunities and training, with incentives for institutions like schools and universities to use federal money for low-carbon energy research. The funding that Bowman got into CHIPS also included extensive language on keeping wealth in underserved communities, incentives for worker cooperatives, addressing inequity in STEM fields, and creating more opportunities for people in marginalized groups.He’s also brought millions into his district, as a congressperson should, including more than $10 million on climate priorities alone, for green space, water resilience, sewage rehabilitation, road upgrades, clean buses, flood mitigation, and more. Bowman has also influenced discussions of global climate justice, working with House colleague Ilhan Omar to pressure the White House to drop its opposition to “loss and damage.” Loss and damage is the principle that the rich countries that have polluted the most should pay to help poor countries, who have polluted the least, mitigate and survive the climate crisis. The Biden administration, in a shocking reversal of several decades of U.S. policy, ultimately did embrace the concept of “fair share” at the 2022 United Nations climate conference known as COP27.Bowman’s 2024 platform includes more ambitious climate policy. If reelected, he says, he’d fight to pass the Rebuild America’s Schools Act, older legislation that has now incorporated many of the ideas from the GND for Public Schools. He’ll also keep working to pass the Heating and Cooling Relief Act (introduced with AOC’s Green New Deal co-author, Senator Ed Markey), and a Superfund-style proposal—with Senator Chris Van Hollen—to make fossil fuel companies pay for climate damage. These arguments might not sway the labor and Democratic leaders choosing to back Latimer over Bowman in this race. Perhaps it’s not surprising that people willing to take direction from AIPAC, an organization whose entire purpose right now is to politically legitimate a genocide, would also be indifferent to the climate crisis, which, if unaddressed, is expected to cause a quarter of a million deaths per year between 2030 and 2050 via undernourishment, malaria, diarrhea, and heat stress. That’s not even counting drowning, fires, and other serious dangers. While Palestine and the climate crisis are separate issues, it’s fair to call this primary a race between one side defending or downplaying mass death and another committed to fighting it. It’s critical to pick the right side in such a contest.

Can carbon offsets actually work? The Biden administration thinks so.

New guidelines aim to restore confidence in the controversial climate solution.

On Tuesday, the Biden administration unveiled new guidelines on “responsible participation” in the voluntary carbon market, or VCM — the system that allows companies to say they’ve canceled out their greenhouse gas emissions through the purchase of carbon credits. Theoretically, every carbon credit a company buys represents one metric ton of CO2 that has been reduced or avoided through projects that wouldn’t have happened without the funding — like tree-planting or the installation of wind turbines. The guidelines, signed by President Joe Biden’s top climate and economic advisers, as well as the secretaries of Treasury, Energy, and Agriculture, are intended to boost the market’s credibility following a series of investigations that revealed numerous credits to be ineffective.  One guideline calls for credits to meet “credible atmospheric integrity standards,” and another says companies should complement offsetting with the reduction of their own carbon footprints. The guidelines also call for environmental justice safeguards to ensure that credit-generating activities — many of which are in the Global South — do not harm local communities. For the most part, the 12-page document reflects existing guidance from informal overseers of the voluntary carbon market, including the Integrity Council for the Voluntary Carbon Market and the Voluntary Carbon Markets Integrity initiative. In this way, the guidance is a sort of endorsement of the work those nonprofit governance bodies have already been doing — and of carbon markets themselves. The new guidelines are intended to help address a crisis of confidence in carbon credits, many of which have been found by recent studies and investigations to be ineffective. Some credits come from renewable energy projects that would have been built anyway, even without funding from the VCM. Others are generated by protecting natural ecosystems that were never under threat. Still others are based on projects that store carbon in ways that are unlikely to last more than a few years. Last year, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission — a federal regulator — created a new task force to address potentially widespread fraud and market manipulation within the VCM. Read Next As the UN designs a new carbon market, experts call for a different approach Joseph Winters According to a 2022 analysis from the World Economic Forum, less than one-fourth of 137 global companies surveyed planned to use carbon credits to achieve their emissions reduction targets; 40 percent of them cited the risk of reputational damage. Some environmental groups hailed the Biden Administration’s guidance as a way to add legitimacy to the voluntary carbon market. Amanda Leland, executive director of the nonprofit Environmental Defense Fund, said in a statement that the Biden administration’s “vote of confidence” could help the VCM reach $1 trillion by 2050, implying that this growth would funnel money into green jobs and climate resilience in the developing world.  The global VCM is currently valued at around $2 billion. It grew rapidly in 2021 before declining in 2022 and 2023. Critics said the new rules fail to address more fundamental concerns about the effectiveness of carbon credits. Some VCM offset projects send only a small fraction of the funds they generate to the communities they’re supposed to benefit, while the rest of the money gets gobbled up by traders, registries, investors, and other middlemen. And for a number of reasons, scientists say it’s inaccurate to equate a ton of carbon stored in biological systems with a ton of carbon released from the burning of fossil fuels — yet this assumption undergirds the VCM. Proponents of carbon markets are still trying to “fit the circle of climate science into the square of carbon accounting,” Steve Suppan, a policy analyst for the nonprofit Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, told Grist. Peter Riggs, director of the nonprofit Pivot Point and a co-coordinator of the Climate Land Ambition and Rights Alliance, said the federal guidelines are more concerned with creating a smooth market environment than with the integrity of carbon credits.  “Generating rules for secondary markets and the clearing of credits may help with carbon market liquidity,” he told Grist. “But if the underlying accounting is still flawed, these moves just create systemic risk — in much the same way that credit default swaps did during the financial crisis.” Instead of carbon markets, Riggs and others have advocated for a system of climate finance that allows countries, companies, and other polluters to support conservation and carbon-sequestering activities without claiming them as offsets. This story was originally published by Grist with the headline Can carbon offsets actually work? The Biden administration thinks so. on May 29, 2024.

Is it ethical to have children as climate change heats up our world?

Jade Sasser’s research explores one of the biggest questions facing the climate-conscious. Her new book focuses on the racial dimensions of eco-anxiety and reproduction decisions.

This article originally appeared on Inside Climate News, a nonprofit, independent news organization that covers climate, energy and the environment. It is republished with permission. Sign up for their newsletter here.Jade S. Sasser has been studying reproductive choices in the context of climate change for a quarter century. Her 2018 book, “Infertile Ground,” explored how population growth in the Global South has been misguidedly framed as a crisis—a perspective that Sasser argues had its roots in long-standing racial stereotypes about sexuality and promiscuity.But during the COVID-19 pandemic, Sasser, an environmental scientist who teaches at the University of California, Riverside, started asking different questions, this time about reproductive choices in the Global North. In an era in which the planet is getting hotter by the day, she wondered, is it morally, ethically or practically sound to bring children into the world? And do such factors as climate anxiety, race and socio-economic status shape who decides to have kids and who doesn’t?The result is her latest book, “Climate Anxiety and the Kid Question,” which was published last month by the University of California Press and centers on a range of issues that are part of a broader conversation among those who try to practice climate-conscious decision-making.From the outset, Sasser cautions that her work does not attempt to draw any conclusions about what the future might hold or how concerns about global warming might affect population growth going forward.“This book is not predictive,” Sasser said in a recent interview with Inside Climate News. “It’s too soon to be able to say, ‘OK, these are going to be the trends. These people are not going to have children, or are going to have fewer children or this many, that many.’ We’re at the beginning of witnessing what could be a significant trend.”Sasser said that one of the most compelling findings of her research was how survey results showed that women of color were the demographic cohort that reported that they were most likely to have at least one child fewer than what they actually want because of climate change. “No other group in that survey responded that way,” Sasser said.Those survey results, Sasser said, underscore the prevalence of climate anxiety among communities of color. A Yale study published last year found that Hispanic Americans were five times as likely to experience feelings of climate change anxiety when compared to their white counterparts; Black Americans were twice as likely to have those feelings.“There is a really large assumption that we don’t experience climate anxiety,” said Sasser, who is African American. “And we do. How could we not? We experience most of the climate impacts first and worst. And the few surveys that have been done around people of color and climate emotions showed that Black and Latinx people feel more worry and more concerned about climate change than other groups.”Sasser, who also produced a seven-episode podcast as part of the project, said that she hopes her work can help fill what she sees as a void in the public’s awareness of climate anxiety in communities of color.“Every single thing I was reading just didn’t include us in the discussion at all,” Sasser said. “I found myself in conversations with people who were not people of color and they were saying, ‘Well, I think people of color are just more resilient and don’t feel climate anxiety. And this doesn’t factor into their reproductive lives.’ That’s just simply not true. But how would we know that without the research to tell us? But now I’ve started down that road, and I really, really hope that other researchers will take up the mantle and continue studying these questions in the context of race in the future.”Sasser recently sat down with Inside Climate News to talk about the book and how she uses her research to show how climate emotions land hardest on marginalized groups, people of color and low-income groups.This interview has been edited for clarity and length.How did you come to write “Climate and the Kid Question”?This is a book that I was not expecting to write. It was my pandemic pivot project. I was working on something very different, focused on household energy in the Global South. And then COVID happened and I could no longer travel. And so I had to turn to the things that I had been compiling as part of a project that I saw as being on the back burner.And what I had been compiling was articles about young women climate activists who were talking about not having children in response to climate change. And when I had first encountered these articles, I misunderstood them. I thought that these women were motivated by erroneous ideas about overpopulation, or that they weren’t having children because they thought there were too many people on the earth, things like that.But when I delved more deeply into what I was reading, I began to become aware of the whole world of eco-emotions and climate emotions. And that’s when I was introduced to the terms eco-anxiety and climate anxiety. And then I began to understand where these young people were coming from on a much, much deeper level. And so this book is my response to three years of research delving into climate emotions, distressing emotions, in particular, how those emotions are impacting how young people feel morally and ethically about having children, about raising children, about the future. And also what race and inequality have to do with it all.You’ve been studying issues of population growth for a while now, right? That was the focus of your first book, “On Infertile Ground.”I’ve been having those conversations for, I guess, 25 years now. And in those conversations, I’ve always been curious about what motivates young women to want or not want children, to have or not have them at any particular moment in time. And in the first book those questions centered around “how do these really large scale ideas and policies that are informed by ideas about overpopulation, overconsumption of resources, who should or should not have children?” I, at that time, was curious about how that was informing activism, and how everyday experience in places like Madagascar was shaped by that.This book is very different. What is different is that I focus on the United States. I also look at movements in Canada and in England, but I’m not looking at the Global South at all, intentionally. And the reason why is because people in the Global North—specifically the U.S. and Canada and Britain—have really different perspectives on personal reproductive behavior and environmental issues. And what is different is here you have a lot of young people who are very climate aware and climate literate.They’re reading the science. They’re taking environmental studies classes. They’re asking questions about what this means for their personal lives, and they’re making decisions about their personal lives based on what they anticipate is coming in the future. And to see the racial inequality and socio-economic inequality as it shapes those questions—it’s very context specific.And I wanted to get into that context specific stuff here in the United States, because I think it’s really easy for some people to skim over that. I’ve read articles and op-eds in the past saying things like, well, “people in the United States are worried about having children in the context of climate change.” And it makes sense because people in the U.S. over-consume resources. So people in the U.S. are not all the same. We’re not all having the same experiences. We don’t occupy the same social location. We are not impacted by climate change in the same ways.And so I wanted to really shine a light on how social inequality right here makes the experience of climate change and climate injustice very, very difficult for people of color. And how those climate inequalities and climate impacts land on the mental health and emotional health of people of color. And how people of color feel differently about bringing children into the world as a result.Are you a mother? Do you have children? The decision of having a child is such a personal one.I’m not a mother. I think actually that it’s a personal decision that has been made political for so long. And I think that the way that most people talk and write about this issue is that they are actively saying do or don’t. Unfortunately, most environmentalists throughout the history of environmentalism have fallen on the side of saying don’t have children. And I think that has been a very dangerous thing to say in particular, because those that they’ve been telling not to have children have tended to be low-income people and people of color.I think that the other thing is one of the arguments I make in the book that you’ll see is that I personally don’t actually think that this is private. And what I mean by that is the conditions of climate change, which are the conditions that young people today are living in as they make their reproductive decisions. Those aren’t private. Those aren’t personal. Those are public. Those are big public actions that these big actors, corporations and governments and militaries are taking. And we are all living in this big collective shared experience of climate change. And if that’s the social circumstance in which you have to think about whether to have kids or not, it’s really not a private decision.You have to respond to the big social conditions you’re living in. And when people take it on as a private issue or a personal matter, that tends to lead to more feelings of guilt or stigma or like they’re doing something wrong or like there’s something wrong with them for perhaps not wanting to have kids. And so I actually advocate for having this conversation more in public. And really placing responsibility on those who deserve it. And that is the big corporate actors, the fossil fuel companies, the military and governments, government actors, elected officials, who are not creating and supporting climate-forward legislation.In terms of research, the study of climate emotions is still fairly new, right?So, climate emotions have really only been studied in the last 20 years. And as they’re being studied, they are ramping up in real time. So climate emotions are any kind of emotional changes or emotional impact that results from how people experience—either learning about, or living through, or anticipating—the impacts of climate change. So those who don’t necessarily ever experience evacuation from a wildfire or hurricane or flood might still be deeply distressed by climate impacts.If they’re reading the science, they’re looking at the reports or, you know, they’re watching TV, or engrossed in social media and hearing about other people who are experiencing those things. And what climate emotions researchers have been uncovering is that this emotional distress lands hardest on younger people, especially Generation Z.What those researchers have studied less of, and what I do in this book, is understand how other groups, particularly socially marginalized groups, people of color and low-income groups are also people on whom those climate emotions land hardest. And when I say climate emotions, distressing emotions, include things like anxiety, depression, grief, sadness, fear and other emotions like that.How does race play a factor in how we all process those emotions?What I found in a survey that I conducted, doing this research is that for people of color, the most distressing emotions were reported by people of color, who in a statistically significant way, most identified feeling traumatized by the impact of climate change. They also reported feeling fear more so than white respondents.And they also reported feeling overwhelmed. And that came out a lot in interviews, too. What I was not anticipating—but this is also significant—is that when it came to parenting in the midst of climate change, people of color in my study were most likely to report positive or action-oriented emotions, including feeling motivated, feeling determined, feeling a sense of happiness or optimism. Because that was a quantitative survey, I wasn’t able to ask questions about why those positive emotions were there.But I can only imagine that it’s because people of color really have long histories of facing existential threat. Black and Indigenous people, in particular, have had to develop tools to become resilient, to become resilient within community, within family and within social movements. And so I can only imagine that those responses of motivation, joy, determination and happiness come from that sense of “we will survive, we will endure and whatever future is ahead we will be—and we will find a way to thrive.”So, does your work really underscore the importance of African Americans and communities of color—in the face of these threats—drawing strength from family?Not just family. We can trace a long history in the United States of Black people, literally, facing threats to our existence, from literally the earliest days of being in this country through slavery. And so one of the things that has always been a really important institution to protect us from the harms of the outside world is family, and not just family, but multigenerational family. And for us, that often includes chosen family.We all have “play cousins,” “play aunties,” “play uncles”—people who are not biological kin. But the lack of biological relationship does not matter at all. They are members of the family. Building and sustaining those multi-generational ties has always been important to strengthen us, not just against big existential threats, but to strengthen us in a society in which we often don’t have the necessary resources and social supports that we need.We often have the absence of a social safety net to provide for us in the ways that we need to be provided for. Other institutions provide those supports, as well. The church, for example. Say what you want about the Black church—there are challenges, there have always been challenges, but the Black church has been a really important institution in the lives of African Americans, not just for religious reasons, but for social reasons. It was a very important institution throughout the civil rights movement.And it provides a space of safety, solace and community as a buffer against a lot of the challenges of the outside world. How does all of this come back to climate anxiety and the kid question? Well, when you don’t have research that includes African Americans, for example, then you tend to assume that we don’t experience climate anxiety or that, if we do, it doesn’t have any impact on kid questions for us. And that’s not true.We can’t make that assumption, [but] people do make that assumption in the absence of research. And this research is the first and only of its kind that asks these questions and puts race at the center. And why did I want to do that? I wanted to establish an evidence base so that we are not left out of the discussion when it comes to climate, mental health and the kinds of resources that will be provided to communities to respond to the negative mental health impacts of climate change. And I also don’t want us to be left out of the discussion of how climate mental health impacts do, or potentially, will impact reproductive changes. I just want us to be in the discussion, and we can’t be if we’re left out of the research.What was the most surprising finding in your research? And what does all of this mean for the future?The thing that surprised me most, this came out in interviews, is that among some young people—especially those who have taken environmental studies classes in college or were environmental studies majors—there is more and more peer pressure to not have kids, and I was not expecting that. I was expecting to hear things along the lines of, “I really want kids, but I feel like I can’t have them. The world is a scary place, you know, climate change is getting worse.”And I did hear that a lot. But I expected that to be the overwhelming sentiment and what I heard, a number of times and was always surprised, was that, some people I interviewed said, “Well, when I talk to my friends and I say that I want children or that I want a large family, their response is ‘Eww, why would you want that? That’s awful.’” I was not expecting anti-child peer pressure among Gen Z. I did not anticipate that. Those are people who are planning to have one less child. Planning and behavior are not the same thing.So, you know, no one can predict what they will actually do. What does this mean for the future? I think that’s exactly the right question to ask, and none of us can predict. But what we need for the future is for our young people to feel excited and hopeful about the future that’s ahead of them, and to feel empowered to make the decisions that would make them happy in their lives, whether that is having children, adopting children, step-parenting or not being in children’s lives at all.So, for me and for people I interviewed, it’s not fundamentally about babies or about children. That is a way, a high stakes way of getting us to what it fundamentally is about, which is how can we aggressively fight climate change right now and combat lackadaisical attitudes or profit-driven attitudes that really just favor business as usual, because ultimately the problem that needs to be solved is not climate anxiety, it’s climate change. Climate anxiety is a normal, natural response to climate change. Let’s fight and solve climate change, and then you won’t have the thing to be anxious about.

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