What’s Next for Climate? Carbon Emissions Likely to be Priced

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Today, hot on the heels of the Senate’s vote on Keystone XL, Grist blogger David Roberts shared the following post: Within two years, a quarter of the world’s carbon emissions are likely to be priced. While the Keystone XL vote is critical to the green lobby, and all eyes have been on this issue – Roberts reminds us that change is underway, and often not discussed in the headlines. 

It often surprises people to hear that big companies like Exxon use a “shadow carbon price” when assessing future investment opportunities (in other words, they assume a price on carbon even where/when there isn’t one). After all, if you only pay attention to the headlines, it sounds like the big story on climate change is that nobody’s doing anything and we’re all doomed. Why would Exxon think carbon will be priced any time soon?

Well, it turns out that carbon is getting priced, not in the big, dramatic, simple way climate hawks would prefer, but incrementally, piecemeal, country-by-country, region-by-region, still inadequately but in a way that’s starting to add up.

The always-excellent folks at the Sightline Institute have done the world a favor by pulling all the world’s carbon pricing systems into one place… (See their map). As you can see, the big story (as usual) is China, which is planning on rolling out a nationwide cap-and-trade system in 2016. That system will instantly become the largest in the world, covering some 5,000 million metric tons worth of emissions, about 13 percent of the the world’s total. Once that’s in place, about a quarter of the world’s total carbon emissions will be priced. Not bad!

The next biggest systems after China’s are the EU’s and Japan’s. America’s — RGGI on the East Coast and California’s on the West Coast — are comparatively small, especially relative to total emissions in those areas.

How high are the prices on carbon? Sightline explains:

Prices range from $1 to $168 per ton, but most cluster between $10 and $30 per ton. For example, California’s price is currently around $13 per ton, and British Columbia’s price is currently around $28. The price outlier at $168 per ton is Sweden, where a high and persistent price has helped reduce pollution 13 percent in a decade. A carbon tax of $28 plus other policies have helped Ireland slash pollution more than 15 percent since 2008…

For David’s full post, click here. 

Another Reason to Reuse Your Bags

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We here at NWEI think it is important to reuse and recycle as often as possible: including clothing! That’s why we’ve partnered with Buffalo Exchange on Burnside Ave as part of their ‘Tokens for Bags’ program. You can help us by getting any needed clothing items there before December 1st, when our partnership for this year ends. And, don’t forget to bring your own bag and donate that nickel to NWEI! Thanks to Director of Membership and Engagement Liz Zavodsky for today’s blog post.

Here in Portland, we have what seems to be an endless option of consignment stores and access to perfectly good, gently used items. Through December 1st, NWEI has partnered with one of these consignment clothing stores — the Buffalo Exchange on 1036 W. Burnside in Portland. Every time someone shops at this Buffalo Exchange location and either brings their own bag or does not use one at all, they will be given a wooden nickel to place in a box of their nonprofit of choice. NWEI is one of these organizations and will get a nickel for each wooden nickel placed in our box.

For those of you in the Portland area, it’s easy to participate. If you have gently used items to give away, you can take your men’s or women’s clothing (in good condition, of course!) into Buffalo Exchange and shop while you wait for them to go through your items. You can take store credit or cash for the clothes, shoes, belts, and bags you bring in, and if they do not take all that you have, you can leave it with them to donate. Just remember, take your own bag, and please place your wooden nickel in the NWEI donation box.

If you are not in Portland but still want to support NWEI, there are many ways to do so: become a member, give a gift membership, or organize a discussion course. If you like the concept of consignment stores, explore what options you have in your own city. Are there consignment options for furniture, clothing, books, or shoes? Find out how they support local programs and organizations in your area. These community-oriented businesses usually embrace the opportunity to support others, so if they do not have a wooden nickel system or something else set up, talk with them about the possibility.

Reusing your bags can be better for the planet, and can help your community, too!

*Through their Tokens for Bags® program, Buffalo Exchange has raised nearly $550,000 for thousands of local nonprofit organizations since 1994, saving 10.9 million bags from polluting the environment.

Why Transformative Learning is Critical

NWEI's Director of Learning and Engagement, Lacy Cagle
NWEI’s Director of Learning and Engagement, Lacy Cagle

We here at NWEI believe that creative solutions are required to solve the problems facing humanity and our planet. And we know that the way we learn and engage is critical to fostering the skills and motivation needed to rise to each challenge. We believe a systems perspective is key. We also know that gathering together to connect, reflect and take action is a perfect starting point.

We’ve worked hard for the past 21 years offering transformative learning resources and experiences. But what exactly does that mean? Our Director of Learning and Engagement, Lacy Cagle, recently published a white paper on the topic – offering an easy-to-digest primer on what transformative learning is and why it is so important. Below is an excerpt. You can download the full paper here.

In our society, education has historically functioned to reproduce society and societal systems. Sustainability education aims to follow a new path: to re-create society and shape human systems and approaches to the rest of nature that are just, equitable, and regenerative. Instead of continuing to educate for the current environmentally- and socially-degrading global marketplace, education can transform and renew society by helping citizens discover new ways of thinking and being and by modeling collaboration and critical thinking. In so doing, educational institutions can shift our current destructive and unsustainable societal paradigm to one that is creative and life-sustaining. In essence, sustainability education aims to transform students into leaders who are critical thinkers and active doers…

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So what does transformative education look like? Transformative learning is centered on “the notion of recreating underlying thoughts and assumptions about the systems, structures, and societies that we are part of” (Moore, 2005, p. 86). Through critical reflection, participants make visible their invisible assumptions about the way the world works and their places in it. In short, “transformative learning develops autonomous thinking (Mezirow 1997, p.5).” The goal of transformative education is to empower individuals to change their perspectives, and the educator’s role is to create an environment that is supportive and open to critical self-reflection.

Transformative learning requires practitioners to take risks, be willing to be vulnerable, and possess openness to having their attitudes and assumptions challenged. Within this paradigm of learning as change (as opposed to learning for acquisition), learning is understood as a creative, participatory, and reflexive process.

NW Earth Institute offers programs that encourage systems thinking and inspire participants to make positive change in their own lives. All of NW Earth Institute’s programs are centered around three important elements of transformative learning: collaborative discovery, personal reflection, and opportunity for action.

*To read Lacy’s full paper, click here. To learn about NWEI’s discussion course books, click here. We offer 9 discussion courses that help you create your own community of change. We give you the tools to talk through big issues with your peers – at work, at school, in your neighborhood or center of faith. We also offer customized courses and online facilitation options. We’d love to hear from you if you are looking for ways to bring transformative learning into your classroom, workplace or community!

Why Engaging Community Members In Conversations is Critical to Change

changemakerAs you know, the NWEI community is full of incredible changemakers – those people who have stepped up in their communities to make a difference and take responsibility for Earth. Today we are excited to share inspiration from Judy Alexander, of Local 20/20, a Transition Initiative in Jefferson County, Washington. Judy, a long-time NWEI course organizer, shared this piece about her experience using NWEI courses to engage community members in critically important conversations. For the full interview from our partner Transition US, click here

Back in 2002, I was among a handful of people who felt compelled to organize the Port Townsend Peace Movement in response to George W. Bush’s commitment to wage not one, but two wars. It was a tumultuous angst driven time – to watch our country move so quickly from the natural compassion people felt in New York City after 911, to the polarizing perspective Bush promoted saying “You’re either with us, or against us!” I was just 2 years into my association with the NW Earth Institute, having taken a few of the courses at that point, the first of which was one called Choices for Sustainable Living

local_2020_open_space - CopyI started to realize that until Americans learned how to truly LIVE, putting sustaining life on our precious planet as the central organizing principle of our consciousness, no amount of working for Peace on Earth was going to succeed. I longed for the integration of my passions, for both Peace, and Sustainability. I began to see that, along with Justice, they were virtually interdependent issues…

Personally, I found I wanted to grow my own food, stay out of my car, use less energy in my home, and, in general, become a more conscious and responsible citizen. It became increasingly clear just how utterly unsustainable the American Dream was. The challenge, though, clearly became one of finding ways to bring the collective community on board with such initiatives for change.

In 2009, our local NWEI team decided to educate our community about local food issues by launching a county-wide effort to start simultaneous, multiple Menu for the Future discussion groups. The vision was promoted, initially, at our fall Farmers Market, where several farmers agreed to be course participants if groups were launched in the winter. We wanted a food producer of some kind (farmer, fisherman, cheese maker) in each group to inform the discussion from within as to what it meant to be a part of our food procurement web, and to have one’s income depend on local support for that local food. To succeed at this task, a partnership was forged with a local Grange which meant reaching across a “perceived divide” between the rural and city populations, thereby bringing people of different persuasions into group discussions together. Several group coordinators were identified (recruited) before a community event was staged, and from that, more than 20 Menu for the Future discussion groups were launched. Each group was coordinated with enough participants and each group had one or more food producers in it.

Judy speaks to community members at Finn River Farm
Judy speaks to community members at Finn River Farm

The celebration that NWEI groups suggest at the close to a course became a collective celebration, a potluck held at a local farm where members of those groups announced their intended behavior changes that emanated from the discussions, thereby further inspiring each other. What followed this was nothing short of a consciousness-altering mindset in our community. Our Farmers Market sales jumped. CSA memberships ballooned. Food Co-op memberships increased. And now, 5 years later, local food is definitely central to our public dialogue, our local hospital has the best salad bar in town, and our farmers and food businesses thrive. An entire new store, called the Chimacum Farmstand, was opened in the rural area of Jefferson County, and sports a huge sign saying FOOD FROM HERE. (*To learn more, watch this video detailing the Menu for the Future launch effort in Jefferson County, WA).

…Recall the Margaret Mead quote: Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. Using a systems thinking perspective, many communities can instigate more coordinated efforts to change people’s behavior by bringing multiple discussion circles together at the same time…

Flash forward now, to 2014. With the information available in the latest NWEI course, Seeing Systems: Peace, Justice, and Sustainability, what I struggled with 12 years ago is now so much easier to access and understand. Our current notion is to explore a partnership between Local 2020 and our high school group called Students for Sustainability in a Fall 2014 launch of several groups using the Seeing Systems course, with each group having one or more high school students as members, engaging a cross generational exchange. Dynamic? You bet. NWEI makes it all so simple. Well, it makes the “seeing” part simple. With that clearer vision we still have to learn how to LIVE what we now KNOW…..

Thanks to Judy for sharing these reflections on community organizing. To read more stories of change in our Changemaker interview series, click here. To read Judy’s full account on the Transition US website, click here

EcoChallenge Action Story: Student EcoChallenger Kick-Starts New Recycling Program

LCSC student and ecochallenger Wyatt Manyon set up a new recycling center at Albertsons as part of his EcoChallenge
LCSC student and ecochallenger Wyatt Manyon set up a new recycling center at Albertsons as part of his EcoChallenge

As you know, NWEI just finished up two weeks of EcoChallenge action (and fun!) last week. While there are so many inspiring stories of changemaking, this one really struck us. Lewis-Clark State College student Wyatt Manyon joined the 38-member LCSC EcoChallenge team, committing to a trash reduction EcoChallenge. “I will bring my own water bottles, reusable mug/thermos and grocery bags when I’m on the go. I will set up a recycling center at my college or work if there isn’t one already,” he said at the beginning of the Challenge.

“I work at Albertson’s and all of my fellow employees drink energy drinks and sodas in aluminum cans and plastic bottles everyday. We don’t have anywhere to recycle bottles or cans so I always see them in the garbage and it’s a huge environmental problem. I’ve already set up an appointment with my store director about possibly placing recycling bins in and around our store in order to reduce the amount of waste our store generates,” Wyatt said.

Two weeks later he completed his challenge, putting in recycling bins at his workplace. “I’ve put in one for cans and one for plastic bottles and I’ll either take them home when they’re full or take them to the recycling center. I hope that my co-workers will actually use them!” How inspiring is that?! Way to make it happen, Wyatt!

Thanks to all 2,547 EcoChallengers who stepped up these past few weeks to change for good!

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