Portlanders – Come celebrate Earth Day with us!

If you are in the Portland area, join us to celebrate on Earth Day! Migration Brewing will be donating 10% of all proceeds to the NW Earth Institute on Earth Day from 5pm-9pm. Join us to eat & drink for a good cause! We’d love to see you at Migration and will be buying drinks for some lucky folks who RSVP on our Facebook event and then join us at Migration on 4/22. So head over here to RSVP (and invite your friends and family too!).


 *Looking for ideas for taking action on Earth Day? Find four ways you can make an impact here

4 Ways to Take Action for Earth Day

EarthDay2015-Ad-SkyscraperEarth Day is just around the corner and here are four ways you can take action for Earth!

1. Organize a NW Earth Institute discussion course! First, pick which topic area inspires you. Second, begin to consider where you’d like to engage with others. At work with colleagues? At school? With friends or neighbors? You can make a positive difference while connecting with others, reflecting on personal values and habits, and committing to action with the support of your group.

2. Participate in a Live, Online Earth Day Summit - hosted by The Shift Network. NW Earth Institute will be participating in this free, online Earth Day Summit on April 22nd – and we’ll be kicking off a Spring of Sustainability action! We are honored to be among 30+ of the planet’s top experts, visionaries and wisdom-keepers who are presenting in this summit. During this event, we will join with people around the world to explore sustainability and consider action. To join us for the Summit, sign up here.

3. Sign up for our first ever open-to-the-public online discussion course. The course is 3 sessions, based on our Seeing Systems: Peace, Justice & Sustainability course, and the perfect opportunity if you’ve been wanting to participate in an NWEI course, but haven’t had time to organize one yet.

3. Sign a petition or make a pledge as part of the Earth Day Network’s Billion Acts of Green Campaign. As you know, the environment faces a multitude of challenges. The Earth Day Network is a great place to lend your voice to a campaign, and commit to taking an action in honor of Earth Day’s 45th Anniversary – and in honor of our planet.


“Everybody Needs a Climate Thing” – How to Make Climate Change Personal

Birds are one author's "climate thing" - what is your's?
Birds are one author’s “climate thing” – what is your’s?

This week Grist.org‘s David Roberts discussed the importance of having a “Climate Thing” – one angle where climate intersects with your personal interests. He suggests that we need “a lens through which to view the entire issue.” Roberts points to Jonathan Frazen’s piece in the New Yorker on his desire to protect birds as Franzen’s “climate thing” – and goes on to talk about the importance of each of us finding our own “climate things.” As Roberts says, “Climate is everything, which means everyone touches only a tiny piece of it.” The important thing is that we each find our niche and contribute to larger change. 

Climate groups are forever in search of the right “framing,” the communications strategy, the magical set of words, that will induce people to adopt climate as a top concern. But that assumes that climate’s “wicked” character, its resistance to all our most common cognitive and emotional tools, can be overcome with language.

Maybe it can’t.

Maybe climate is so abstract and nonlinear, spread over such huge geographical and temporal distances, that the intellectual and emotional work required to fully apprehend it is simply out of reach for most ordinary people, living lives in the present, surrounded by people and problems that affect them directly. Maybe there just isn’t enough to climate, enough emotional calories, to sustain a broad social movement focused directly on it…There is simply no way to take on climate change as such. It is too comprehensive. It is necessarily approached via proxy, via a Climate Thing, whether it’s renewables or nuclear energy or localism or pipelines or … birds.

…That’s what a powerful social response to climate change would look like: as many people as possible working on their passions in a way that is oriented in the direction of climate mitigation or adaptation. Because climate is so broad and comprehensive, it is likely to capture few people’s top-of-mind attention, as polls have consistently shown (and psychologists keep explaining). But for the same reason, it can play a supporting role in almost any socially conscious change. It can exert a tidal pull…

Climate is everything, which means everyone touches only a tiny piece of it. Let people care about their birds or their pipelines or their mountains or their tech startups or their research clusters or their permaculture farms. Everybody needs a Climate Thing, a close-by proxy through which they can express their climate concern in a way that has local effects and tangible rewards. It is these proxies, these rich anchors in our lived experience of nature and culture, that inspire us. The important thing is that we’re all moving our pieces in the right direction.

*For the full Grist.org article click here. And, stay tuned — next month we’re launching a new discussion course focused on how you can find your “climate thing” and take action on it. We’ll be taking pre-orders beginning on Earth Day and will share more about the course soon!

US Commits to Nearly 30% Emissions Cuts as Part of Global Deal

imagesOn May 26 the NW Earth Institute will launch a new 5 session discussion course on climate change that will replace our current Change By Degrees curriculum. This course will draw from the latest climate science and most current thinking on the issues to inspire participants to take action in their lives and communities. We are excited to offer tangible action possibilities for individuals in conjunction with the US’s efforts to cut emissions by 26-28% over the next 10 years. Just yesterday The White House introduced President Obama’s blueprint for cutting greenhouse gas emissions in the United States by nearly a third over the next decade. For the full story, click here. 

Mr. Obama’s plan, part of a formal written submission to the United Nations ahead of efforts to forge a global climate change accord in Paris in December, detailed the United States’ part of an ambitious joint pledge made by Mr. Obama and President Xi Jinping of China in November. The United States and China are the world’s two largest greenhouse gas polluters. Mr. Obama said the United States would cut its emissions by 26 to 28 percent by 2025, while Mr. Xi said that China’s emissions would drop after 2030.

Mr. Obama’s new blueprint brings together several domestic initiatives that were already in the works, including freezing construction of new coal-fired power plants, increasing the fuel economy of vehicles and plugging methane leaks from oil and gas production. It is meant to describe how the United States will lead by example and meet its pledge for cutting emissions…

At the heart of the plan are ambitious but politically contentious Environmental Protection Agency regulations meant to drastically cut planet-warming carbon dioxide emissions from the nation’s cars and coal-fired power plants. The plan also relies on a speedy timetable, which assumes that Mr. Obama’s administration will issue and begin enacting all such regulations before he leaves office…“The United States’ proposal shows that it is ready to lead by example on the climate crisis,” said Jennifer Morgan, an expert on international climate negotiations at the World Resources Institute, a Washington research organization. The research of Ms. Morgan’s group has concluded that the United States can substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions under existing federal authority. However, environmental groups also said far deeper cuts are necessary beyond 2025 to stave off the most devastating effects of climate change…

For the full article and more coverage on the Clean Power Plan, click here

5 Key Elements of Change-Making

ncsl-conference-logo-with-titleYesterday I had the honor of offering a workshop to student leaders on Engaging the Social Dimensions of Change: Catalyzing Sustainability Through Dialogue and Action at the National Conference on Student Leadership. For the past 37 years, the conference has drawn emergent student leaders from around the country to spend several days diving into fostering values-based leadership skills. The NW Earth Institute was asked to present on the power of small group dialogue as a way to spur and support change-making initiatives. Here are some key takeaways:

1. Collaborative learning and shared discovery are essential. Think: peer to peer learning. Think small groups. Think connection. In working to effect change, we need to engage people in a way that draws forth diverse perspectives. We also need to create space for people to share about what matters most to them. If we can remember to speak from our experiences, and not from a place of being “right” or and “expert,” we can encourage full participation and engagement from everyone involved.

2. Remember to foster opportunities for reflection. When we create a supportive environment where reflection can occur, this is where shifts in perspective are possible. As one student remarked today, “When we slow down in small groups and really listen to one another, this is how we can really tell what is going on with any issue. We can really hear one another and take all experiences into consideration when working to effect a change.”

3. Work ‘deeply’ on problems, which entails new ways of thinking. As Ronald Heifetz reminds us, some problems are adaptive in nature, which means they are highly complex and evolving, often with no immediate solution available. In order to respond, we often need to dig deeper to consider how our values, attitudes, beliefs and habits are playing a role in the ‘problem’ at hand. (Adaptive challenges include climate change and fossil fuel dependence.) When our perspective shifts and broadens, we become more able to explore new possibilities and solutions and to tackle otherwise seemingly unsolvable problems with greater skillfulness.

4. See and act with systems in mind. As I said in my workshop today, “Hold a systems perspective when working to find a solution to any issue you are wanting to tackle.” One fantastic tool that we draw from in several of the NW Earth Institute course books is the Iceberg: A Systems Thinking Model. When holding a systems thinking perspective, we look for patterns and relationships – and we work to make visible the invisible (for example, our assumptions.) We’re seeking out root causes. We’re asking ourselves, and the groups we work with, “What assumptions, beliefs or values do people hold about the system in question?” And, “What beliefs keep the system in place?”

5. Weave in tangible opportunities for action. Finally, make sure to offer tangible ways for people to get involved and work towards effecting change. There is nothing more difficult than a feeling of powerlessness or uncertainty about where to start – especially when tackling big issues and complex systems. Discern a starting point and consider ways that each individual can insert themselves into the systems at work in order to have an impact. There is always a place to begin.


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