Can local action change the climate? Sure, but only if we get started

Satellite image showing entry of the Polar Vortex into the northern US. Flickr/NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Whew! How about this crazy weather?

The scientists tell us that extreme weather is one of the consequences of climate change, and we’ve sure seen plenty of that around here the last several months.

That’s one reason we’ve been pushing for local action address climate change. Local action is critical to global progress on climate pollution — because cities like Ann Arbor are at the forefront of the causes and effects of climate risks that will become more frequent and severe over time.

In particular, we’ve spent the last several months organizing a plan to implement Ann Arbor’s Climate Action Plan (CAP). The CAP is an ambitious plan with 87 different steps we can take to address climate change at the community level.

Given the lack of momentum at the state and federal levels, cities can’t wait to take action. That’s why we’re launching a Community Climate Partnership to get started fixing the world, right here at home.

We look forward to keeping you posted on the progress — and on ways you can engage to help us get to our goal.

Happy 2014!

This Saturday: Forest Heroes Halloween Party!

The Michigan Forest Heroes campaign has hit the ground running and are continuing to put pressure on Kellogg’s cereal company, which buys palm oil from Wilmar International (the company that controls almost half of the palm oil industry worldwide).

This weekend, Ann Arbor’s Forest Heroes — Eva and Katie — would like to invite you and your family to their Halloween Party:

All ages welcome for games, tiger-friendly goodies, and action! 

Forest Heroes hit downtown Grand Rapids! Photo: mlive

Saturday, October 26th, 10am – 1 pm
Gallup Park
3000 Fuller Road, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105

It’s almost Halloween, and the Forest Heroes of Ann Arbor invite you to join us for a family-fun Halloween celebration! There will be games, tiger-friendly candy giveaways, fun tiger costumes, kids craft activities and tables set up to take immediate actions like calling John Bryant and taking pictures to urge Kellogg’s to be a Forest Hero too! It should be a lot of fun, and we need as many people there as possible to make sure Kellogg’s hears us loud and clear! Can you and your friends or family make it to the party on Saturday? It’s a free event, but please take 30 seconds to RSVP here today!

Kellogg’s is a Michigan institution and Tony the Tiger is an American icon, but they’ve recently partnered with Wilmar International, ranked the least sustainable corporation in the entire world. Wilmar’spalm oil production destroys the homes of endangered species like Sumatran tigers, elephants, orangutans and other wildlife, and is a top driver of climate change.

We envision a world where rainforests are protected and cherished; not destroyed for profit. The good news is that Kellogg’s has the power to influence Wilmar to change its practices to preserve the rainforest, but they will only act if they see that their neighbors here in Michigan want them to do the right thing. This Saturday, we have an amazing opportunity to make a real impact on this critical global effort – and to have some fun while doing it!

Join us with your family and friends this Saturday for the Forest Heroes Halloween Party to help us protect our precious rainforests! Please take 30 seconds to RSVP here today!

Detroit Draws the Line this Saturday — Let’s coordinate rides!

This Saturday, September 21st, we’ll be joining with allies in Detroit to draw a line against tar sands and dirty energy. Across the country, 200 cities are participating in this national day of action called “Draw the Line.”

draw the lineDetails –> Detroit Draws the Line:
Folks will gather at 1pm at Kemeny Parkat 2260 S. Fort Street to connect with each other, hear from some local artists. The group will then march a few blocks to the Marathon refinery to deliver our demands — drawing a line (by lining up) on the public sidewalk in front of the oil refinery. Individuals will be invited to share their stories and vision for a future that works for all of us.If you’re able to make it, let’s coordinate! Saturday is also the Tour DeTroit and parking could be difficult so carpooling is optimal. If you’re interested in carpooling, you can enter your information here OR let me know – email works well and you can call/text 734-707-1350.

The event starts at 1pm so we would like to leave Ann Arbor by 11:45am in case we need to find parking.

Saturday morning Farmers Market activism:
If you’re interested in participating in some local activism on Saturday morning:

Rainforest Action Network at Ann Arbor Farmers Market

Saturday, September 21st, 7am-12pm

315 Detroit St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104

Come to the Ann Arbor Farmers Market on Saturday morning, where Rainforest Action Network (RAN) and Forest Heroes are raising awareness about the problem with palm oil and collecting photo petitions. Rainforest Action Network staff will then be joining Ann Arbor 350 for the big Draw the Line Action in Detroit!

Last week Rainforest Action Network launched an ambitious new campaign called The Last Stand of the Orangutan which aims to remove “Conflict Palm Oil” from America’s snack foods by convincing major food companies to implement responsible palm oil policies that do not contribute to rainforest destruction, climate change, species extinction, and human rights abuses. RAN is traveling across the US with our The Power Is In Your Palm Tour, visiting the hometowns of many of the “Snack Food 20” companies to spread the word about our exciting new campaign. The Snack Food 20, as we’re calling them, use conflict palm oil in their snack food products and control some of America’s most well known household brands including Pepsi, Heinz, Hershey’s, Kraft and  Smuckers.


Learn more and RSVP for the event at

Other Draw the Line events:
You can also find other “Draw the Line” events by searching here:

You’ll want to add these events to your calendar

Erb Speaker Series:  Peter Sinclair ‘Communicating Climate Science in the Disinformation Era’

peter-sinclairWednesday, Sept. 11, 5 p.m.-7 p.m.

University of Michigan Stephen M. Ross School of Business
Room 2230
701 Tappan Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Free and open to the public.

A primary obstacle climate scientists face in educating the public and decision makers on the realities of global warming, is the well-funded, well-organized and coordinated effort of climate denialists on the internet. One of the most effective social media initiatives to push back against climate denialism has been Peter Sinclair’s “Climate Denial Crock of the Week,” the YouTube series that confronts and calls out climate deniers, deftly dissecting fossil funded disinformation and propaganda.

Sinclair will be receive the Ecology Center’s Herbert L. Munzel Award for Environmental Activism next month at the Fall Dinner featuring James Hansen.

Peter Sinclair is now producing a companion series, “This is Not Cool,” through the Yale Forum on Climate Change and the Media.

Click here for full event listing

Climate Meet-up featuring Partners for Transit – Sept. 25 at 6pm


At this month’s climate meet-up, we’ll learn about Partners for Transit, a coalition of folks working to improve transit in the county.

We’ll also have updates on issues we’ve been working on — divestment, fracking,’s Draw the Line event, and more. RSVP here.

Other agenda items? Let us know!

draw the’s ‘Draw the Line’ day of action Sept. 21

For this month’s day of action, “Draw the Line”, we’re helping Detroit draw the line against tar sands. Our partners in this effort, D-CATS (Detroit Coalition Against Tar Sands), are coordinating logistics and we’re organizing carpools.

The details are still being figured out, but will be posted here once they become final.

If you’re able to drive, please post your ride here to give us a head start on coordinating carpools. Know a better carpool-coordinating tool? Let us know!

Renowned climate scientist James Hansen will headline Ecology Center’s annual dinner


James Hansen, the scientist whose testimony before Congress in 1988 first raised the threat of global warming to national and international attention, will be the keynote speaker at the Ecology Center’s fall dinner on Thursday, Oct. 3 at the Michigan League in Ann Arbor. Tickets are available online.

Read more about James Hansen at >>

‘I Will #ActOnClimate’ Bus Tour: Coming to Michigan on Aug. 5th

When President Obama introduced his plan to address climate change, he said, “The question now is whether we will have the courage to act before it’s too late.  And how we answer will have a profound impact on the world that we leave behind not just to you, but to your children and to your grandchildren.”

The President has pledged to take action to combat climate change if Congress won’t act. And, in honor of this pledge, the “I Will #ActonClimate” campaign has launched a 21-state bus tour aimed at highlighting local support for the president’s proposals to reduce pollution in our air and water and promote more clean, renewable energy.

Nearly two-thirds of voters (65 percent) support “the President taking significant steps to address climate change now,” according to a February 2013 poll for the League of Conservation Voters.

The “I Will” Act on Climate bus tour (#ActOnClimate) is supported by a diverse set of local, state-based, and national public business, health, and environmental organizations. Organizations across the country are joining in this effort by bringing the ‘I Will’ bus to their local community, highlighting impacts of climate change and opportunities created by climate action, and calling for local action. Local spokespeople will be available for interviews.

Good news: The bus will arrive in Michigan on Monday, August 5! You can show your support for climate action by attending — and spreading the word about — events in Muskegon and Detroit.

The entire journey is being chronicled in podcasts and blogs throughout the trip and can be viewed at

The bus at a stop in North Carolina

Pledging resistance in the fight to protect the planet from climate change

pledge-of-resistanceWill you sign a Pledge of Resistance?

Rainforest Action NetworkCREDO and The Other 98% are asking folks to commit - should it be necessary to stop Keystone XL — to engage in serious, dignified, peaceful civil disobedience that could get you arrested. So far more than 68,000 people have pledged to engage in civil disobedience and risk arrest if President Obama’s administration issues a draft approval of Keystone XL. It is a huge and complex undertaking (mass civil disobedience) that many believe is a necessary next step in our movement.

Since the pledge launched, the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide broke 400 ppm and President Obama shared his plan to address climate change.

On August 11 & 12, activists around the country will come together to put pressure on President Obama’s Keystone XL decision. On Sunday afternoon, organizers will host a recommended non-violent direct action training from 2 pm to 5 pm on and a required action and legal briefing from 5pm to 6 pm. The sit-in at the State Department begins at 9am on Monday, August 12th.

You can sign up here. If you’re signed up and interested in carpooling click here.

‘Oil and Water Don’t Mix!’ rally opposes expanding oil pipeline at Mackinac

More than 30 climate-change activists from Ann Arbor joined Bill McKibben and hundreds of others for a July 14 rally to bring attention to Enbridge Energy’s plans to expand the oil pipeline that runs under the Straits of Mackinac.rally at Mackinac

“Just like the Keystone XL Pipeline, this pipeline threatens efforts to build a renewable energy economy, especially if they use it to carry tar sands oil from Canada,” according to Monica Patel, policy specialist at the Ecology Center and director of the organization’s Ann Arbor 350 campaign.

“But what’s even more scary is the risk that this 60-year-old pipeline will burst, spilling crude or even tar sands oil into the Great Lakes,” Patel said.

In a recent report, the National Wildlife Federation pointed out that pipelines at the Straits carry 20 million gallons of crude oil and natural gas fluids each day from Wisconsin to Ontario.

The pipelines were in the straits in 1953—the year President Dwight Eisenhower took office and four years before the Mackinac Bridge was opened to traffic.

“If either of those pipelines leaked, the resulting oil slick would likely devastate some of the lakes’ most bountiful fisheries, wildlife refuges, and municipal drinking water supplies,” the NWF report said. “A significant rupture would cause an Exxon-Valdez scale oil spill
spreading through Lakes Huron and Michigan, the heart of the largest freshwater seas in the world.”

Oil and Water Don’t Mix was brought together by Traverse City 350 and
many many allies throughout Michigan; a huge crowd showed up in this fairly remote spot, and stayed for hours,” Bill McKibben, co-founder of, said in an e-mail after the rally.

“And I got to explain how these local battles fit into the global one: even if that oil doesn’t spill in the Great Lakes, it will eventually spill into the atmosphere in the form of carbon, changing the climate,” he wrote. “In fact, the water level on the Great Lakes is already falling fast because they don’t ice over for much of the winter any more, allowing increased evaporation.”

Slideshow from the event:

Oil and Water Don’t Mix! A Rally for the Great Lakes

rally-for-great-lakesOn July 14, climate activists from around Michigan will converge at the Straits of Mackinac to protest the pipeline that runs underneath the Mackinac Bridge. This 60-year old pipeline connects the aging pipeline infrastructure in Michigan with the tar sand fields in Western Canada. The Enbridge Pipeline system pumps crude oil under our lakes and through our communities, to be turned into Petcoke, which is haphazardly piled on the banks of the Detroit River.

Ann Arbor 350 is organizing a bus, to make sure that Southeast Climate activists have the opportunity to participate in this important event. The bus will leave Ann Arbor at 7AM, and will return that evening. Bus tickets are $15 and some limited scholarship opportunities are available, to reserve your seat(s) on the bus, click here or email us. Please invite your friends, and bring along your family.

350 Climate Action Training – And Summer Heat

This past weekend, the Ecology Center and Ann Arbor 350 hosted a leadership training with Justin Haaheim, a climate action training facilitator and coach. All weekend, 25 Southeast Michigan activists worked together to learn about leadership, story-telling, and building effective and inclusive organizations to advance the climate movement.

Justin Haaheim

We thank Justin for sharing his experience, and his insight, and of course everybody who participated. We are beginning to grow deep roots and connections across Southeast Michigan, and now it’s time for this movement to blossom.

Moving forward, we agreed to work together to get people to the closest Summer Heat event – the July 14 Rally for the Great Lakes to protest the use of the dirtiest tar-sand oil, and the pipelines that pump it past our communities and threaten our rivers and lakes.

If you want to participate, please sign up at this link. We are looking for those who can give rides to others, as well as those who need transportation.

Power to the People: Petcoke Resistance in Detroit

People Against Petcoke Protest – Monday, June 24, 2013

When the news of the petroleum coke piles dumped along the Detroit River broke last month, I’m sad to say that my immediate reaction was not surprise. The petcoke piles are just another notch on the continuum of pollution and environmental injustice in Southwest Detroit.  Ever since my mom chose to move back to the city of Detroit two years ago, I’ve become used to the mysterious soot that seems to coat every outdoor surface and to the pungent smells that radiate down the block of my family’s home in Southwest Detroit.

As a brief reminder, the piles of petroleum coke (“petcoke”) have been deposited along the Detroit River, just east of the Ambassador Bridge to Canada, since the fall of 2012. Petcoke is a byproduct of burning crude tar sands, and it is estimated that every barrel of crude imported from Alberta results in an output of 60-130 pounds of petcoke. The petcoke being deposited along the Detroit River is only the beginning. The Marathon Oil Refinery in the 48217 zip code that produces this substance recently went through a $2 billion expansion in order to be able to process more of the tar sands, and thereby produce more of the petcoke.

It pains me to know that my family is suffering the side-effects of such environmental injustice while I live, work, and go to school in Ann Arbor, enjoying the privilege of clean air that is so often taken for granted.  So when I learned that the Detroit Coalition Against Tar Sands (DCATS)-a division of the Michigan Coalition Against Tar Sands (MI CATS)– had been formed and was working on action around the petcoke piles, I was thrilled that people were taking action to combat the injustices my home community have been facing.  On Sunday, June 23, DCATS organized a march, rally, and action called “People Against Petcoke.”  At 3pm, we all met in Clark Park–a hub for community events in Southwest Detroit–where we heard several amazing speakers, from DCATS organizer Jarret Schlaff to the inspiring Charity Hicks.  From Clark Park, we marched the 1.8 miles to the site of the largest of the petcoke piles at the intersection of Rosa Parks and Jefferson Avenue.  Once there, we heard from more speakers, were fed exorbitant amounts of pie and pizza, and got direct action training, in which we practiced making consensus decisions and dealing with police, workers, and our fellow activists.  After the training, we walked down to the riverfront to join in a candlelit vigil at dusk with fellow activists across the river in Windsor, Canada.  It was windy and the candles flickered in and out, but the sense of solidarity emanated from one side of the river to the other nonetheless.

A group of people kept a presence at the site of the action overnight, and at around 8:30 the next morning (July 24), they began a blockade to stop a truck carrying petcoke into the site.  I arrived around 9:15 and linked arms with the brave people who had stood in front of the truck to stop it.  There was a large cardboard padlock tied with string across the drive into the dumping site, behind which stood several police officers and border patrol, the numbers of which increased throughout the day.  In front of the padlock stood about 25-30 activists, about 7 of whom had arms linked directly in front of the truck, and the rest of whom stood in successive rows behind those who were willing to risk arrest for the action.  We held a press conference in which we read a “People’s Eviction Notice,” which ordered Marathon, the Koch Brothers, and Matty Maroun (the property owner) to shut down the docks and the discontinue the illegal dumping of petcoke.  We had incredible press coverage, and our police liaison did a spectacular job of communicating to the police that this blockade wasn’t about just “making a point.” It was about turning the trucks around and not letting anyone dump petcoke in this space anymore.  Therefore, when the police asked us several times to pack up and go, our response was that we wouldn’t leave until the petcoke was moved.

The morning continued on, and the amount of trucks waiting to enter the facility/dumping ground increased.  Several of them turned around, but when the action came to a head, there were 5 trucks piled up waiting to get in.  One of them–the one we stood directly in front of–held petcoke.  We held signs with the Marathon logo that read “Murder” and signs that informed that Koch brothers that Detroit is NOT their dump.  Once in awhile the wind would pick up and we would all be coated in a layer of petcoke. When I returned home I discovered the cap of my water bottle was filled with the substance and the sign I was carrying had a thin layer the black, oily grime on it.  The police were incredibly cooperative, and kept underlining that they didn’t wish to make any arrests that day.  However, as the hours came and went, they began to give us warnings that if we didn’t move, they would be bringing a paddy wagon to arrest us all.

The 7 people standing directly in front of the truck were prepared to be arrested; they had come to a consensus that they were willing to do so, and we had written the phone number of the legal aid on all of their arms and were beginning to prepare for the process of getting them out of jail.  Just before the paddy wagon had appeared, however, a worker from the facility we were blockading the entrance to appeared to negotiate with us.  He explained that it was really important to get the trucks that weren’t carrying petcoke into the facility, and that if we backed up the blockade, he would make the truck carrying petcoke turn around and wouldn’t let any other petcoke trucks return for the day.  When we asked how we could trust him on this promise, he pulled out his wallet and handed it to one of the protesters.  We confirmed that his I.D. and other important information were in the wallet.  The decision was made to back up the blockade to allow the petcoke truck to turn around and let the other trucks through.  As we backed up, the police line backed up, and several people were in tears as the petcoke truck turned around.  It was truly one of the most beautiful and cooperative outcomes I’ve seen at a direct action.  DCATS–the organization responsible for coordinating the action–has vowed to continue its resistance until the petcoke piles are gone.

The illegal dumping of petcoke in the city of Detroit is just a small piece of the destruction created in every step in the process of fossil fuel production and consumption.  I stand with DCATS, MI CATS, the Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance, and everyone else across the country and the world standing up against the fossil fuel industry.  All power to the people!