The Leadership Campaign: Citizen Activism on Climate Change

One Monday morning this past fall, a group of young, committed environmental activists came into my office. They were part of the Leadership Campaign, and they’d spent the past night sleeping on the Boston Common as part of a weeks-long event to raise awareness about climate change. My staff and I were impressed with this group’s passion and activism, and I wanted to share some information with you about what they are trying to accomplish.

The Leadership Campaign is a collection of students, environmental organizations, and other interested individuals who are calling for state government to address the effects of global climate change, with their dedication demonstrated by nightly sleep-outs on over twenty college campuses throughout the state and at Boston Common in protest of the dirty electricity used to power their college homes, apartments and dorms. With the UN Climate Change Convention talks starting today in Copenhagan, last night marked the group’s final sleep-out.

Their focus? Reducing carbon dioxide emissions, highlighting NASA climatologist James Hansen’s assertion that the current political consensus to stabilize carbon dioxide levels at 450 parts per million is an inadequate goal, and that the current 390PPM level must be brought down to 350 to prevent global destabilization.

In particular, they are pushing for passage of An Act to Repower Massachusetts, which calls for a complete overhaul of the Commonwealth’s current protocol for electrical generation. I was more than happy to sign on and support this forward-thinking legislation.

The bill would create a new RePower Massachusetts Emergency Task Force, which would be charged with creating a comprehensive plan by June of 2010 to achieve a 100 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emission levels by January 1, 2020.  The recommendations and regulations of the Task Force will reflect careful consideration of the impact of the transition to a clean energy economy on low-income communities and will allow for a complete phase-out of coal-powered electricity by January 1, 2015.  An Advisory Council will periodically review and adjust the legislation in order to ensure that it meet the overarching goal of 100 percent greenhouse gas emission reduction by 2020.

The global warming phenomenon has, in the past decade, become the greatest challenge to environmental security that we face here in Massachusetts, and indeed on a national and global level.  While Massachusetts has proven itself a leader in efforts to diminish the effects of global warming through such legislation as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and the Green Communities Act, more needs to be done to address real threat that global warming poses to our state’s ecological, social, political and economic wellbeing.

There are many issues facing the Commonwealth, but it is clear there is no more important issue for the world than stopping global warming.  It is so inspiring to see dedicated citizens like these young people putting so much effort into making a difference on this issue.  Across the Middlesex & Worcester District, there are environmental activists, municipal officials, and everyday citizens who are doing their part, and I am equally committed to passing legislation to make a difference in stopping global warming as well.

4 thoughts on “The Leadership Campaign: Citizen Activism on Climate Change

  • Okay let’s be honest climate change is a tax on the poor. You see that Al Gore’s house consumes 20 times the electricity that a normal home does in TN? He also flies around in a private Gulf Stream jet. It’s good he got an Oscar for his movie about cutting global emissions. Oh, then President Obama who I also voted for is flying twice on Air Force One to Europe. Once to visit Denmark for the Climate Change Meeting. Second trip to pick-up a Nobel Peace Prize (didn’t he just order 30,000 soldiers into Afghanistan?). We poor people will pay higher taxes so these politicians (that I voted for) can pull the wool over our eyes again. They must think we are really stupid.

  • Thank you for your comment. The carbon emission examples you give are minute compared to the global warming generated by the United States, China, and European countries as a whole, and my focus is on reducing emissions so that global warming is stopped.

    I agree that any carbon taxes should be progressive in nature, so that poor people are not further overburdened, but let’s not forget that if we don’t stop global warming, it is the poor people of the world, in places like Bangladesh, that will suffer the most.

    I think we can do better than that.

  • I am delighted to see your sponsoring this legislation. It is, of course, a monumental challenge, but, as shown by the recent article: A Plan to Power 100 Percent of the Planet with Renewables from the November 2009 Scientific American Magazine, we can get all our power without coal and without nuclear central plants. As for costs, they will be high, but not as high as the business as usual path, where diminishing fossil fuels w and/or prohibitively costly nuclear power will present a real tax on everyone. The cost will be steep at first, but like the stimulus, it will be spent and respent locally, and the cost to do it now will be far lower than the cost of delay, both in terms of future expense to catch up, and environmental degradation costs.

  • Brian, Al Gore, Obama and many, many others are using Carbon Offsets to lessen their carbon footprint. Go online and look up Carbon Offsets and see how concerned people who are, as you say, flying here and there, living in bigger houses, etc, actually doing something to reduce their impact. We’re not going to eliminate rich people in this country or make it fairer, unfortunately. At least these people are doing what they can.
    Jamie, I am thrilled with this entry on your blog. Mark and I slept out on the Common as well. The youth need the encouragement that you and many of your fellow legislators have given–aren’t they great to be waking up other young people as well?! Your steadfast support means so much to them, and all of us aware that the fight against climate change has to go on on all levels. But political leadership is at this time the most important. We’re glad you’re there.

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