Until next time!
First I just want to say thank you!
After publishing the “CS is Ending” newsletter, I heard from well over 200 people.
Thank you all for your outpouring of gratitude, well wishes, and for sharing your stories of what Crowdsourcing Sustainability has meant to you.
I’ve really been feeling the love since writing that and it means a lot to me 🙂
A farewell note from Rachel
To the Crowdsourcing Sustainability Community – it has been my absolute pleasure to serve you as Community Weaver this past year. I am sad to not get to continue our journey together in this context, but I hope to stay connected with you and continue to be a resource for you on your climate journeys in whatever ways I can!
I’d like to thank Ryan for choosing me for this role and letting me into the CS world. As I look forward to finding new ways to heal the roots of the intersecting crises we face, I’ll carry this community with me. I hope you all continue seeking connection, resources, support, inspiration, imagination, and aligned action to co-create a just, vibrant, and regenerative world for all beings. I’ll be walking alongside you!
(I should mention that Rachel is now on the lookout for a new and awesome climate job. So if you have any ideas, leads, or openings in program/project/community management or consulting definitely let her know!)
As CS comes to a close, I thought it may be interesting to reflect a bit on what’s changed in the world and climate space over the last 5+ years. There has been SO much change.
Reflecting on the last 5 years & looking ahead
Right now, it feels like we’re so far from where we need to be. And that’s 100% true. We have a very long way to go to get to zero emissions and build a world that is safe, healthy, and just.
But if you asked me in February 2018 (when I started working on CS full time and things felt extremely bleak) if I’d take society being in the position we are in now in 2023, I think I may have taken it.
That’s because SO many more people have begun prioritizing climate and are stepping up to invest more time and energy into solving it. The money is finally starting to show some signs of beginning to flow in the right direction. There have been some major wins politically. Pockets of the print media have started to ramp up their coverage.
And, ultimately, I believe we are closing in on a social tipping point/paradigm shift toward accelerated climate action that is still hard for us to imagine being possible right now – but that felt much closer to impossible just 5 years ago.
Like I said we are still very far from where we need to be. But we’ve had some big wins and I believe we’re moving faster than most people think.
Here are some of the major developments over the last five years that stick out to me. Since early 2018:
- The IPCC published two major reports that set off alarm bells around the world by speaking more clearly than ever about the direness of our situation and the need to cut emissions in half by 2030 to have a chance of limiting warming to 1.5C. A lot of people cite the 2018 report as a wake-up call that spurred their action.
- There has been an explosion of climate activism. From the emergence of the Sunrise Movement to Greta Thunberg and Friday’s For Future, Extinction Rebellion, and so many more – millions of people have taken to the streets to demand systemic change – as quickly as possible. Say what you will about strategies and tactics, but non-violent climate activist organizations like these have done a hell of a lot to move the needle in the right direction politically and in the media. I can’t imagine where we’d be without these, largely youth-led, organizations.
- With the help of said activists, the idea of a Green New Deal came onto the scene in a big way at the end of 2018. And, despite right-wing blowback and disinformation, it remained quite popular and caught on around the world. Cities, states, countries, and even a continent have passed versions of a Green New Deal over the last five years. These are programs and policies that invest in clean energy, sustainable infrastructure, job creation, and environmental, social, and economic justice on science-based timelines.
- In 2019, the European Green Deal was first introduced and described as Europe’s “man on the moon moment”. It aims to reduce emissions by 55% by 2030, achieve climate neutrality by 2050, and invest at least €1 trillion over the next decade.
- Covid showed us that society can transform rapidly if and when we choose to. The pandemic was a really hard time but we may be a bit better now than we were before at imagining different ways of living and believing that big changes can happen quickly.
- In 2020 there was an attempted coup that, if successful, would have ended democracy in the US. The threat is still alive. But it’s quite significant that this initial attack on democracy didn’t succeed because democracy (and preferably a better functioning one) is crucial for the US to take climate action at the scale and scope that it needs to. Similarly, there was an attempted coup in Brazil. Hopefully, these authoritarian strains will be beaten and actions will be taken to hold the leaders accountable and to increase the health of democracy so it doesn’t happen again.
- The movement for racial justice made a big push forward, led by Black Lives Matter. The climate movement simultaneously had a bit of a reckoning, leading to a bit more inclusion and collaboration which should strengthen both movements and pay dividends.
- In 2020, the (historically conservative) International Energy Agency, announced that solar was “the cheapest source of electricity in history”.
- In 2021, the International Energy Agency also made clear what researchers and activists had been saying for years: to have any chance of limiting warming to 1.5C, there cannot be any more new exploration or development of fossil fuel resources.
- However, governments, fossil fuel companies, insurance companies, and banks around the world have ignored climate scientists and the IEA and continue to develop new, unnecessary, and deadly fossil fuel resources at a frightening clip. All this new oil and gas extraction that is planned would dump more pollution into the atmosphere by 2050 than the lifetime operations of 1,100 coal plants (the US is the biggest offender). This is happening at a time when to limit heating to 1.5°C, we need to not only stop developing new fossil fuel extraction sites but we have to also close down some existing sites early.
- The Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative is a growing alliance demanding the world create a complementary treaty to the Paris Agreement. This treaty would end the expansion and exploration of fossil fuels and justly phase out current fossil fuel production. Focusing on the supply side is extremely important and this campaign is gaining steam.
- By the end of 2022, around 6,000 corporations representing 34% of the global economy have set (or are in the process of setting) science-based emission reduction targets.
- Globally, at least 12,819 cities or local governments representing over 1 billion people have a climate action plan or are working on one. Similarly, 2,346 jurisdictions around the world representing over 1 billion people have declared a climate emergency.
- Over 1,500 investors and institutions around the world with $40 trillion of assets under management have divested or pledged to divest from fossil fuels.
- Research on planetary boundaries and climate tipping points is increasing. It is clear that we need to do everything we can to safely and equitably minimize global heating as “A significant likelihood of passing multiple climate tipping points exists above ~1.5°C”.
- The Inflation Reduction Act was passed in the US in 2022 (after being somewhat gutted by a coal baron senator). This was a huge win and could turn out to be a $1 trillion investment over ten years if citizens, towns, and states step up to take advantage of it. This will help spur the recent acceleration we’ve seen in heat pumps, electric vehicles, solar panels, electric stoves, and more.
- The truth of the fossil fuel industry spending billions of dollars on the biggest disinformation campaign in the last 100 years to lie to the public, capture politicians, and delay action on climate is beginning to seep into the public consciousness. Citizens, cities, and states are now bringing thousands of lawsuits against these companies (and governments that are still favoring them) around the world. There will be many, many more to come and about half are being won.
- But the fossil fuel industry is still powerful. They were able to rake in $1.3 trillion in direct subsidies in 2022 ($7 trillion indirect), which is an all-time high. There were also more oil reps than any country at the COP climate conference in 2022. And an oil CEO was picked to lead COP 2023.
- Since 2018, global clean energy investments have grown by 53% to $1.7 trillion, whereas fossil fuel investments have decreased by 5% to $1 trillion.
- There has been a noticeable increase in, and intensity of, extreme weather events. Records have been smashed consistently with 2023 being particularly brutal.
- In part due to the activism and extreme weather, there has been a rise in climate coverage. Newspapers around the world have increased their coverage by 2 to 3 times. There has also been a boom of newsletters, podcasts, videos, books, and more by experts, journalists, and activists to help make up for mainstream media’s shortcomings.
- Finally, sustainability leaders around the world have created new organizations, research, actions, blueprints, and campaigns to make it easier for people to act on climate within our spheres of influence (e.g. new sustainable banking and investing options, employee advocacy guides, guides to electrifying everything, blueprints for creating local climate action plans, etc.)
Phew – that was a lot!
But I think it’s important to not only look at how far we have to go but, every so often, to look back and see how far we’ve come – and to be grateful for and get energy from that.
We are making progress. And in hindsight, it’s happening pretty rapidly.
This goes back to something I’ve said many times now:
“I believe the effects of global warming will be far worse than most people expect.
But I also believe that we have the capacity to rebuild a better society much faster than most anyone thinks is possible.
We think linearly. But these climatic and social processes move exponentially.”
We’re still not moving fast enough, but we are accelerating the implementation of climate solutions at a pretty good clip now. And it’s only going to get faster with more people power and shifting economics.
No matter what wins or losses happen month to month or year to year though – remember that there’s a vast difference between the best and worst-case scenarios.
And that the path we walk and the future we end up with is still mainly up to us.
We will, collectively, decide, with our actions, what future we end up with.
That means that what you do matters.
Every one of us has something valuable to contribute. We all have different ideas, experiences, resources, skills, connections, and spheres of influence that we can gear toward solving this problem.
And, on that note, here are some resources to help you 🙂
Resources to help with your climate action and journey!
That is of course a lot to parse through, however. So here are a few that you may find particularly useful:
- Your Climate Journey & Climate Action Guide
- What Makes Someone a Sustainability Leader?
- The World That is…and What it Could Be
- Mindset, Self-Care, Community, and Persistence
- Collective Consciousness and Climate: Change the Story
For more, check out the Essential Ideas page on our site which has what I think are some of the most helpful things I’ve written over the last 5+ years.
You can also download the “Climate Journey Paths” resources if you’d like from our community site while it’s still up.
And if you are struggling with the psychological and emotional toll of living amidst multiple intersecting crises and existential threats, I’d encourage you to join Rachel’s Ecopsychology + Climate Action course starting late October! It’s an 8-week group learning journey that gives you support, resources, and community to engage with your internal experience of the climate crisis, build your emotional skill and resilience, and clarify your aligned, sustainable climate action.
Learn more and register: Ecopsychology + Climate Action
Finally, as our current community platform will be shut down in the coming months, here are some other awesome climate communities that you may appreciate checking out!
- Climate Changemakers
- All We Can Save Circles
- Work on Climate
- The Work That Reconnects
- The Bloom
- Women and Climate
- My Climate Journey
- Climate Action Tech
- One Resilient Earth Climate Circles
Final thoughts for now
As I mentioned, this is not goodbye. You’ll hear from me again when I know what my next role in the climate movement is…and you may also receive a random newsletter at some point because there are still so many topics I want to dive into with y’all: the fossil fuel nonproliferation treaty, water and food systems/supplies, insurance, migration, the push to make ecocide a crime, our information ecosystem, resiliency…and some fun ones in my journal like “lessons for the climate movement from Ted Lasso” 😉
After hearing the news that CS was winding down, a partner and community member shared a beautiful and powerful metaphor with me that went something like this quote:
“Sometimes in band or choir, music requires players or singers to hold a note longer than they actually can hold a note. In those cases, we were taught to mindfully stagger when we took a breath so the sound appeared uninterrupted. Everyone got to breathe, and the music stayed strong and vibrant.
So let’s remember the advice of music: Take a breath. The rest of the band will play. The rest of the chorus will sing. Together, we can sustain a very long, beautiful song for a very, very long time. You don’t have to do it all, but you do have to add your voice to the song.”
Aimee Van Ausdall
I’ve always thought of my work similarly to the way climate journalist Emily Atkin thinks of hers. She said that she thinks of her work not as “preaching to the choir”, but as “teaching the choir how to sing”.
I’ve spent the last five years working to help make the climate choir bigger and helping teach people how to sing.
Now I’m tired and need a break.
I trust that many of you will continue to sing while I take a breath.
I trust that others will join back in when you need a breath.
And I trust that, together, we will sustain this beautiful song of climate action for as long as we need.
Thank you again for being a part of this journey with me. I’m proud of our community’s collective action, impact, and spirit.
And I’m looking forward to seeing what we will all do together in the years to come to protect the people we love, the places we call home, and to build a better world where all life thrives.