San Diegans in LA Action to Break Free from Fossil Fuels

Originally published in the San Diego Free Press, May 26th 2016

Over a two week period earlier this month, a wave of
Break Free from Fossil Fuels mass mobilizations was held around the globe. The first action saw hundreds of people peacefully shut down the UK’s largest open cast coal mine in Wales. In the Philippines, 10,000 marched demanding the cancellation of a proposed 600-Megawatt coal power plant. In Australia, 2,000 people shut down the world’s largest coal port for a day, with kayakers blocking the harbor entrance while others blocked a critical rail crossing. In Anacortes, Washington, over the course of three days, thousands converged by land and water at the site of two oil refineries. They marched, led by indigenous leaders, and held an overnight sit-in on the train tracks that led to over 50 arrests.  

These were but a few of the many Break Free actions in the campaign which was organized by with support and participation from a wide range of international, national and local organizations including the Center for Biological Diversity, National Nurses United and the United Church of Christ.

Figure 9 -BillMcKibbenWithSanDiegans AtBreakFreeLA

San Diegans with Bill McKibben – sporting his SD350 tee-shirt – at the end of the march

Closer to home, Los Angeles was the venue for a Break Free from Fossil Fuels action for people from all over California. Los Angeles is the biggest urban center for oil production in the nation and the Porter Ranch neighborhood was recently the site of the largest methane leak in U.S. history from SoCalGas’  Aliso Canyon gas storage facility.

The LA event started with a rally at City Hall which included high-profile speakers Bill McKibben (co-founder of and businessman, philanthropist and environmentalist Tom Steyer, plus speakers from many local groups, including Save Porter Ranch and STAND LA – a group dedicated to ending neighborhood oil drilling in LA. McKibben reminded us of our “brothers and sisters around the world who right now are standing with you.”  He talked about the worsening climate crisis – recent loss of coral reefs in the Pacific and the heatwave in Southeast Asia. He said it’s important we turn up the heat and demand real leadership from Mayor Garcetti and Governor Brown, saying we don’t need them to do a “pretty good job”, we “need them really out in front treating it [climate change] like the crisis that it is.” [Read more…]

Notes from a Climate Conference Junkie, Part 1

by James Long

Folk singer Pete Seeger, age 94, at his home on the Hudson River, where he was interviewed for Pando Populus.

Folk singer Pete Seeger, age 94, at his home on the Hudson River, where he was interviewed for Pando Populus.

I started my journey singing with Pete Seeger and ended it three weeks later with the fiery intellectual Cornel West! I just got back from Pando Populus in Claremont, California, and the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly in Portland, Oregon. After 25 to 30 lectures — together with great music, stimulating presenters and a lot of new friends — I’m ready to get down to the business of local organizing for climate action.  But first, I’d like to share my notes about these inspiring conferences. I’ll tell you about Pando Populus this time, and the UU Assembly in a second posting.

What is Pando Populus?

"Seizing an alternative" logo from the Pando Populuus conference.

“Seizing an alternative” logo from the Pando Populuus conference.

The name Pando Populus refers to a Utah aspen grove that may be the oldest and largest living organism on Earth.  “Above ground Pando appears to be a grove of many individual trees.  Underground they are interconnected through a single root system — sprouts of the same tree.”  Pando Populus, the environmental organization, has adopted this name as symbolizing the interconnectedness of all living things. [Read more…]

Bill McKibben Visits with

On May 14, 2012, acclaimed author, Bill McKibben, co-founder of, gave the Keeling Memorial Lecture at the Birch Aquarium in La Jolla. For an hour prior to his lecture, he met privately with 36 members of San Diego

Bill noted that  the fossil fuel industry, the richest industry in the history of the world, is the biggest obstacle to climate action. We have a choice: either a healthy fossil fuel industry or a healthy planet. We cannot match the enormous financial resources of the fossil fuel industry, so we need to build a “people movement” at the grassroots level and put it to work politically. This is what is happening. As has spread around the world, the movement is made up mainly of “black, brown, Asian, poor, and young people,” which is what most people in the world are.

In light of the upcoming elections, Bill suggested two approaches to confronting the fossil fuel industry in the U.S.: (1) ending oil subsidies which 80% of voters in all parties support and (2) exposing politicians – their financial connections to the fossil fuel industry and their track records on climate change. Perhaps in the next 5 years, a price on carbon may be possible.

Here are a few additional thoughts that came out of the meeting. As happened in the recent fight over the Keystone Oil Pipeline, the climate movement needs to be nimble and agile–able to mobilize quickly to address issues as they come up. We should think globally but act locally and consider doing things that are small enough to be possible but large enough to matter. We have a great resource locally in Scripps Institute where several top scientists are located. We should cooperate with other like-minded groups in the community.

Overall, Bill was encouraging but realistic. He inspired us to keep working for climate change action.

Additional photos from our meeting with Bill are here.