Honor the Syrians

Look at this comic about what’s going on in Syria, and why.

How outrageously lucky are we, still with food, water, governmental and emotional security, relative to the Syrias of our present and future? We have the precious option to act with vision rather than be resigned to survival. How can we honor this gift? How can we answer the pleading call of the suffering other, who is us, tomorrow?

Preventing this humanitarian nightmare from being the only story means saving a modicum of environmental stability. Without that, people war.

It is time to untie the knot from fossil fuel profits.

But breaking free of dirty energy–in a timeframe and scale that matters–will be expensive. That truth is why a lot of people, Republicans and greens alike, deny the reality of problem in the first place. It’s called “solution aversion.” Quitting pollution will mean giving up a lot of the surplus we all enjoy from cheap, powerful energy. Conservation is the name of the game. Technology will help, but really dealing with climate is way more than solar panels or electric cars. We cannot replace US-style, four-planet consumption with ‘clean’ energy. (For one thing, most of our calories come from fossil fuel based agriculture.)

Luckily, we know that carbon pricing, which can be done well with a strong upstream cap or tax/fee, is the cheapest possible option for society. Cheap is good when weighing the path to zero pollution, because political resistance grows when people lose money, and we don’t need to make this any harder on ourselves than it already is.

How does carbon pricing work?

First, the government says ‘no more!’ to unlimited free climate pollution. This will happen when people organize to support a strong and moral democratic government, and its laws will best endure if we strive to bridge ideological divides in the lawmaking process. (Or I guess we could have a benevolent dictator, but then there’d be a coup).

Then, once the people say ‘no more!’ with a real carbon price, a new market geared for sustainability grows out of every person and company’s search to save energy as they best can–because nobody will want to pay to pollute.

Then the creative magic starts. As long as there’s a carbon price prompting us to be ingenious, everyone will find the least costly ways to conserve, which saves money for society at large. It’s impossible to know how we’ll all respond, and all the solutions that we’ll invent, which is exciting!

Most people who’ve studied the issues agree on carbon pricing. The fight over the money that changes hands is where unity breaks down. Usually the fight is along the lines of identity politics and debates about the proper size of government.

Wait, what money?

Under a carbon price, the government collects money from polluters by taxing pollution, or selling permits to pollute. Basically, a carbon pricing policy means money changes hands: the government takes “fossil fuel profits” for companies and calls it “carbon revenue.” A real carbon price will yield billions of dollars for the state and trillions for the country. Revenue has a more innocuous ring to it, but it’s the same blood money that comes from extracting hydrocarbons, erasing biodiversity, and killing people.

The whole point of a carbon pricing policy is to get rid of the carbon revenue, by making it cost-prohibitive to use fossil fuels. No fossil fuel use, no revenue. That’s the goal.

But along the way to zero revenue, as the cap lowers or the tax rises, people are going to pay more for carbon (until we reach “peak revenue,” when we begin to decouple the economy from fossil fuels, and revenue starts to decrease because we’re not using carbon anymore–again, the goal). Remember, we want dirty energy prices to rise because that’s what drives conservation and the proliferation of cheap, innovative fossil alternatives.

It is vital that we protect the carbon pricing policy as it starts to really work. But whom at the helm cares about longevity as much as they do victory–about their successors as much as themselves?

For what it’s worth, in a world that privileges power far above ideas:

People will most likely support paying more if they also benefit from the spoils. This is the obvious reason for the carbon price and dividend plan. We already know what happens when gas prices go up and people don’t share in the profits–like Tony Abbot’s carbon tax repeal election in Australia, and the Tea Party uprising in the US. The power of social security or the kicker is the same power promised by the carbon dividend; power we’d be foolish to leave on the table in a mission so serious, urgent, and difficult as climate.

This is more than a cynical calculation to leverage the electorate’s self-interest for the sake of the future, though I do think a climate campaign staked on economic altruism is naive. The carbon dividend is also fair. Pricing is regressive. Equally returning the money is progressive and provides the beginnings of a basic income. Goodness knows, we are all owed that income–for it has been robbed from us. The disasters we’re facing touch everyone. They are the socialized losses of the carbon economy in which only the concentrated few hoard the privatized profits. Polluters owe everyone a share of that money for damages.

Sharing the spoils/profits/revenue equally with everyone is also powerfully simple and transparent medicine for a country, and generation, disengaged from politics as usual. Straight talk about structural power dynamics, when combined with an inspiring vision of the future and authentic invitation to participate, sparks a virtuous cycle of civic action. Obscure policies and vague assertions to “trust the process” fall on deaf ears of new generations for whom the public trust has been so broken. Running the world on sun begins by welcoming its light into our governance processes.

We’re all part of this mess. We all participate. We all suffer. Some vastly more than others–like the devastated Syrians–but ultimately, at this rate, all equally. All is central to a real solution.


We Will Be Proud

My first memories are of these beaches, running after crabs and from sneaker waves. I never imagined I’d be back to keep sand on the shore, fog on the banks, alkalinity in the ocean, and pipelines from the rivers.
Bandon Beach
Last night, Bill and Katy’s Oregon Climate house party in Bandon was packed with folks who’ve been protecting the world for twice my lifetime–one feisty woman was 90! They reminded me….Victory is never assured, but that’s not why we fight.Political feasibility and physical necessity do not magically align–especially now.

There will never be an easier or more important time to risk present loss for future benefit.

So, what would Tom McCall do?

Gratefully standing on hard-earned public land, I challenge this climate changed generation to free our future from the shackles of polls, political profiteers, and cynicism.

We honor the gift of choice–we persuade change, and are open to it. We put in the work. We invite everybody in.

We will be proud of what we leave.

VIDEO: How I Fell for the Carbon Tax

Intro from Bobby Hayden, Solutions Stories & Media Manager for Climate Solutions:

What do an executive, a student, a tribal leader, an activist and a veteran have in common? They were all talking climate action back in February at Fortified! – a climate change storytelling event hosted by the Portland State University’s Institute for Sustainable Solutions and in partnership with the City of Portland, Climate Solutions, Ecotrust, Oregon Environmental Council, Renewable Northwest, and the VOIS Alliance.

One of the evenings’ storytellers was Camila Thorndike, an intrepid young climate activist who has mobilized communities in Oregon, Washington and California. Now she’s working on COAL: the Musical. COAL is a scalable, mythical, upbeat musical fable and grassroots engagement campaign for creative local action for carbon pricing to transition our energy paradigm. Camila also founded and directs Oregon Climate, a new statewide organization working to pass a carbon tax-and-dividend in Oregon. Learn more at oregonclimate.org


Storytelling for a Healthy Movement

A True Story: Love the Solution


Fortified: True Stories of Climate Action” @ Portland State University, February 20th 2014

Hosted by the PSU Institute for Sustainable Solutions in partnership with the City of Portland, Climate Solutions, Ecotrust, Oregon Environmental Council, Renewable Northwest Project, and the VOIS Alliance
L to R: Al Jubitz, Camila Thorndike,  Micah McCarty,  Paul Rummell, Virginia Luka, Greg Wolley.  Photo courtesy of Climate Solutions.

L to R: Al Jubitz, yours truly, Micah McCarty, Paul Rummell, Virginia Luka, Greg Wolley.
Photo courtesy of Climate Solutions.

In college, I was a caricature of the overextended environmental activist. Climate disruption was a threat everywhere so I had to be, too. I organized for clean energy, green jobs, a better farm bill, you name it, dashing around campus from cause to cause with a fickleness that made Speedy Gonzales look like Regular Gonzales.

The week I was passionately organizing in opposition to a proposed coal-fired power plant near the Columbia River, the Republican at Whitman, Kurt, cornered me to ask about the editorial I’d written in the school newspaper.

“Camila, what’s the endgame here?” he asked me… conservatively. “You can block this plant, but I can guarantee they’re gonna build it somewhere else.”

No, because everyone everywhere will stand up to block all coal-fired power plants, so that we can live in a world without climate change, with crystal clear waters and smiling fish and peace for all the innocent children in the world, free from the tyranny of fossil fuels now and always!”  I patiently explained, in plain English, definitively ending all debate on the topic, forever.

Maybe Kurt wanted me to think bigger, I thought he was a troll, trying to get attention out of me, and I didn’t want to play. But if I were to engage him, it would have been a threat. You see, to fight was my identity. I wasn’t looking for an end to the fight.


So anyway, Kurt asks me silly questions, but I continue to rock my game, winning activist medals and landing cool jobs.

But it wasn’t until one morning in July 2012 that my whole identity came into question, and I realized I wanted to do my work differently. That morning in July, I caught a glimpse of the top of my scalp in the mirror.  I peered closer, not believing what I saw, and as I parted my hair, a clump of it fell into the sink.

At first I hid behind scarves, but my bald spot began to grow and multiply. Showers became terrifying–even washing my face became an ordeal. I saw nests of hair in my shampooey hands, then eyebrows, eyelashes too, and I was looking at part of me, how people saw me, my identity as a pretty girl, slipping down the drain. That was it. I was suddenly limited, suddenly mortal.


What I have is an inflammatory disorder called alopecia where you can unpredictably and permanently lose your hair. There is no known cure, because the cause is not well understood.

Yes, with the help of a good doctor and a lot of luck you can see that I look and feel fine now, but it took almost two years to recover, and I don’t know how long it’ll last.

But in those first few months I was so scared. Everything about my life came into question.

You see, to lose my hair was to lose my power.

It’s difficult to describe the panic I felt watching my youth melting away in a matter of weeks. I’d never realized how my confidence as a professional hinged on my cute, peppy persona. I know, please, I’m the cutest organizer out there. But seriously – all I had been was a cheerleader, rallying for the most popular fight at the moment, never behind the scenes at the chalkboard considering strategy.

Now, what kind of organizer could I be without hair?

How soon before a younger, healthier climateer would usurp my pom-poms?

What could I accomplish in the time I had left?

And really, how was my story different from anyone else’s?  I was only on a slightly accelerated timeline.


I found myself revisiting my conversation with Kurt. I wasn’t concerned with his endgame, because it wasn’t in my interest for the problems in the world to end. Problems did for me the same thing my hair did: they made me important, wanted, needed. They made me a hero.

Alopecia freed me from that delusion. A single flash of insight that youth is so ephemeral transformed my priorities.  I had been trapped by what a lot of us do, getting obsessed by the problem — because it served me so well.  I’ve heard this called the pathology of problem-worship.  And as it rinsed down the shower drain I found myself back where I started: with deep love for a natural world, a world that demands a satisfactory endgame.

Now I found myself exclusively interested in healing the root cause of nature’s symptoms.


True love refuses to manage symptoms.

When I learned my prognosis, I quickly resigned myself to wigs and eyebrow paint for the rest of my life. But the people who loved me never gave up looking for a cure. My dad quizzed doctors he met on planes, my mom urged me to pursue meditation, my sister reached out to alternative medicine practitioners, and my boyfriend juiced me anti-inflammatory root vegetables.

The people in my life wouldn’t settle for symptom management—because they loved me.  The planet needs that kind of love, and you are the ones to give it.


Buckminster Fuller once said that a problem adequately stated is a problem very nearly solved.  Our wigs and eyebrow pencils for climate have not healed it because we never adequately stated the problem—we haven’t diagnosed the real disease.

Climate change is not itself the problem, but one of the hidden costs we pay for cheap fossil fuels–it is one of the hidden costs of carbon energy.  Climate change is a symptom.  Other symptoms include disease, ocean acidification, refugees, water scarcity and pipelines.

We will address the cause of these symptoms exactly when the most profitable industry on earth pays the full price for their commodity, at the moment they extract it from the ground—not by fighting every pipeline or putting bricks in the back of our toilets.

A true price on carbon will make the health we hope for finally affordable.


The reason I’m so inspired to be here is that I see amazing climate doctors in the audience:  I see Christina and Fletcher doing critical work here at PSU for an Oregon carbon tax, and Tamara and Laura organizing for a national carbon tax with the Citizens Climate Lobby. And there are so many of you in the room I don’t know yet, but I know what you have to give is essential to a movement that can win climate stability.

The International Energy Agency reports that we have two years, till 2017, to pull out of our massive fossil fuel investments if we are to avert a catastrophic 2*C global temperature increase.

Just as the world’s climatologists have reached a consensus on the effects of burning fossil fuels, the world’s energy economists have reached the same consensus that the only way we can keep fossil fuels underground is when the people extracting it—for huge profits—pay for the full cost of carbon that we and our planet are bearing instead.

No amount of wind turbines and solar panels and recycling programs will convince the Koch brothers to let up on tar sands.  It will not be possible to simultaneously save the planet and serve the dogma that this crisis demands many solutions. It is time to muster the goodwill we need to focus, with discipline, on the root of our symptoms.

I discovered that goodwill—that love like my family showed in my hour of need—through art activism.


A year ago, I helped to organize hundreds of students, teachers, retirees and otherwise concerned Oregonians to construct a 120-foot mosaic of a salmon from 1,500 works of art, each expressing someone’s love for the Rogue valley.  A few months later in May, the salmon migrated upstream to Salem, where we trained 100 people from around the state to lobby for a revenue-neutral carbon tax. Our state representative would later tell us that our efforts were instrumental to passing an appropriations bill to study an Oregonian carbon tax.

The salmon was literally and metaphorically larger than the sum of its parts.  Like a sand mandala, it spawned stronger activists and perished in the Oregon rain.

It empowered us to build a community on a foundation of shared concern, bypassing the pathology of problem-worship, and strengthening our resolve to work together for a solution.

The salmon opened my eyes to the ancient power of art. Making art together about what we love is critical to inspiring our insistence on real solutions.


It will not be easy to win a fair and effective price on carbon. Luckily, our movement is enormous. Instead of despairing about the successes of the fossil fuel industry, let’s take the first tip from their playbook: one goal.

I believe it was my ego, my self importance, that made me reluctant to focus on a solution so much larger than myself.  Alopecia helped me to move beyond my shortcomings, but we no longer have the luxury of recruiting more soldiers by allowing them to fight any battle.

I want to recruit you all to love the solution with the power of art.


The first project I’m so stoked about is a national arts and culture initiative called COAL. It’s a scalable musical about a family facing the paradox of fossil fuels that anyone can put on, anywhere, to spark conversations about solutions. We want Portland to do COAL in a big way and we’re looking for hosts, sponsors and audiences.

The second is a new volunteer network called Oregon Climate that is bringing communities together to pass a carbon tax here in 2015. We’re looking for support and organizers so please find me after.

There’s a sign up sheet outside for both projects so let’s please put your name down so we can stay in touch.


Thoreau wrote that “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.”

I believe that our love for each other and this amazing world compels us to dig deep find the root cause of climate change, and cure it.  We are fortunate to already know that the first, sharpest, and best tool for this operation of health is a carbon tax.

To be in love means to never give up. I’m not giving up and I know you’re not either.  Let’s love this planet to health.

Creativity + Focused Activism in 2013

An excerpt from my annual letter to friends and family:

My organizing philosophy has changed radically this year, from try-everything to an exclusionary focus on the root of climate change. (Hold onto your ‘silver bullet’ critique for a minute).

"It's a Rogue Thing" on February 17 in Medford drew 400 attendees and 1,500 project participants.

“It’s a Rogue Thing” on February 17 in Medford drew 400 attendees and 1,500 project participants.

This shift began in January when I helped my friend Hannah Sohl in creating a big expression of climate love from 1,500 cardboard pieces individually decorated by southern Oregonians with their love for home and a stable world. The project culminated in February when over 400 smiling people gathered in Medford to assemble the pieces into a 120-foot long salmon. The success of the project—and the joy of doing it—stunned me. Art has a unique power to invite newcomers into the climate movement and build the goodwill we need to build support for real solutions.

The trouble is that just getting people to show up for big happy events doesn’t keep fossil fuels underground. Hannah and I were struck speechless by a woman in the crowd shouting “what do you want us to do now?” What should we have said? Recycle more?  Our focus on awareness had precluded practical action.  We’d punted the responsibility to our speakers—who were great, but together presented no coherent vision for change. So our ragtag band of ten lovable misfits gathered to answer her question: friends between jobs or school, parents, local nonprofit staff, and retirees. We decided on two things: 1. It’s time the climate movement focus exclusively on the root of the problem, and 2. Oregon can lead the way with a state-wide carbon tax. Your generous donations and support made the resulting event a big win.

The first Oregon Climate Action Day, May 22: nearly 200 Oregonians rallying for the carbon tax in the Capitol.  Credit: West Turn Picture Co.

The first Oregon Climate Action Day, May 22: nearly 200 Oregonians rallying for the carbon tax in the Capitol. Credit: West Turn Picture Co.

Oregon Climate Action Day was the most meaningful project of my life. On May 22nd, we towed the salmon up north to Salem. In the true spirit of a sand mandala, it spawned under the rain in front of the capitol building as 200 folks from across the state rallied for a revenue-neutral tax on carbon. (My speech is here.) Our team trained about 60 volunteers to lobby legislators for the carbon tax that day. We were thrilled to learn from our state representative that our work was instrumental in passing appropriations to finance a study on the effect a carbon tax might have in Oregon.

Top quote of 2013 is an utterance from Buckminster Fuller long ago that a problem adequately stated is a problem very nearly solved.  I have come to see that our bandaids for climate change have so failed to heal our climate because we never adequately stated the problem. Climate change is merely a symptom.  Other symptoms include hydraulic fracturing and ocean acidification.  Coal trains and pipelines like Keystone XL, or the LNG project slated to bisect Oregon, are also symptoms. The uphill battles facing local agriculture or bike commuting are symptoms.

The TEAM! L to R: Dan Thorndike, .. , Christine Haynie, Winston Friedman, Camila Thorndike, Rob Schlapfer, Erica Franks, Dan Golden, Whitney Brown, Muuqi Maxwell, Malaika Libera, ., and Hannah Sohl.

The OCAD TEAM! L to R: Dan Thorndike, Hans West, Christine Haynie, Winston Friedman, Camila Thorndike, Rob Schlapfer, Erica Franks, Dan Golden, Whitney Brown, Muuqi Maxwell, Malaika Libera, ., Hannah Sohl, and Jana Gastellum.

The source of our problem is underpriced carbon. We all pay the hidden costs of carbon for the benefit of the few. The list of symptoms is never-ending and so long as we each run off with an item on this list of “things you can do,” we will be divided and conquered—indeed, divide and conquer is pretty much the only game our enemies got. Instead, we can together pull on the highest lever of change with simple carbon pricing, shifting the whole playing field in favor of sustainability.

A climate activist must be an ER doctor, focusing on the source of the threat to our patient’s life, and a carbon tax is the simplest way to do it. One of the best ways to help is to join the Citizens Climate Lobby. The CCL’s Ghandian model helps anyone learn how to build citizen muscle. I attended the annual conference this summer to lobby Congress and ended up in their video, frizzy hair and all. Shi-Ling Hsu, author of “The Case for the Carbon Tax,” spoke to us and I think the précis of his excellent book is worth a skim. This book review includes helpful quotes from the text.

Staged reading of COAL: Fable of the Firerock at The Lensic, February 2013

Staged reading of COAL: Fable of the Firerock at The Lensic, February 2013

Currently I have the honor of applying the alchemy of community art and efficacious policy as a director on COAL, a national climate project created by New Mexican social change artist Molly Sturges. The musical tale of COAL: Fable of the Firerock is about a family coming together around the paradox of extractive energy. The story invites us to consider our own agency in the tradeoff of consumption or interconnectedness. Our vision is to inspire and train grassroots “Spark” groups to imaginatively build support for a price on pollution. We’re about to launch in Orange County. Want to host COAL where you live?

To conclude 2013, here are a couple favorite life hacks (pardon the dated phrase). My favorite books, shows, and articles are listed here.

Vipassana meditation is probably the most unadulterated technique of meditation as taught by Gotima the Buddha. Simply stated, you sit down for 10 days to observe the impermanence of sensations in your own body and develop the faculty of equanimity. Striving for enlightenment, no matter how distant, inevitably delivers guidance and energy for a proactive life. Everyone benefits. The people and centers are lovely. Oh, and it’s free.

Quitting Facebook. On day three of the retreat, I realized that the only way to wrestle down my monkey mind is to starve it. Leaving FB was the obvious first step. There are serious tradeoffs, but oh man am I happier! I always knew that letters, calls and visits are the stuff of friendship, but didn’t realize how much the Newsfeed was underlining my SoCal isolation. The best part about quitting has been recouping all the energy spent denying myself hits while working solo. Plus, FB is rolling out video ads soon. Laaame. Google+, anyone?  In the meanwhile, connect with me Twitter-wise @camilathorndike.

Wishing you all beautiful epiphanies and evolutions this New Year.

Favorites of 2013

Hope you enjoy these 2013 finds as much as I did.


If Your House is On Fire,” in which OSU philosophy professor Kathleen Dean-Moore illuminates the moral root of climate. Page 3 shows who’s the oppressor (hint: not us) and why stories matter for great change.

The Meaning of Death – Stephen Jenkinson” of the Orphan Wisdom School.  His reflections on depression, our culture, and these times of decline are staggeringly deep.  “Grief is the willingness to be claimed by a story bigger than the one you wish for.”

TV: “Bully” – Season 1, Episode 9 of Louis CK’s addictive show of hilarious stand-up and profound social commentary. This episode shows how women are also to blame for male violence.  (No, I haven’t watched Breaking Bad; too scary and I don’t mind admitting it.)


In a couple sittings you will devour The Kentucky Cycle, an epic play by Robert Schenkkan. The story spans 200 years of family dramas revealing  how the legacies of land stewardship, violence, and poverty intertwine.

Thank goodness my friend Lisa recommended to me Letters to a Young Contrarian by Christopher Hitchens. Better late than never.

“…In place of honest disputation we are offered platitudes about “healing.” The idea of “unity” is granted privileges over any notion of “division” or, worse, “divisiveness.” I cringe every time I hear denunciations of “the polities of division”–as if politics was not division by definition. Semi-educated people join cults whose whole purpose is to dull the pain of thought, or take medications that claim to abolish anxiety.”

Eulogy: “Are you strong? Remembering Randy Udall” – an inspiring eulogy for the great activist, adventurer, and member of the Udall clan whose scholarship program has so shaped my life.

Parable:  The Sinking Ship, by Daniel Quinn (author of Ishmael). This is why it’s not only OK but eminently rational to prioritize the planet above the noble but never-ending human projects of justice.

Onion Article“Why Are All The Good Guys Always Taken, Gay, Dead, Or Available?”  Seriously.

Graph: Thanks to The Guardian, you can find out: “How hot will it get in my lifetime?

Cookbook: Nom Nom Paleo. Sweet potato fries – so easy and delicious.

Condiment: Coconut aminos, which is like a milder version of soy sauce, but without the unfortunate aspects of soy. Nice brown sweet-salt flavor to put on everything.

A Root Solution to Climate Change: PRICE CARBON

{This is my draft theory of change for COAL’s engagement focus of putting a price on pollution. Please comment: what works, what doesn’t?}

“A problem adequately stated is a problem well on its way to being solved.” – Buckminster Fuller

We are the last generation living in the couple years [1] left to alter the runaway course of climate chaos. Thankfully, our response doesn’t need to start from scratch. Together we can achieve climate stability by blending the diverse and personal power of the arts with the proven approach experts agree can turn around our predicament—and transform our paradigm [2].

The quote above helps clarify our situation. The corollary to Buckminster Fuller’s insight is that a problem difficult to solve has not been stated adequately—more likely, we have stated a symptom of the problem. A patient with a stomach ache knows the symptom—he visits the doctor for adequate statement of the problem. The problem is only adequately stated when the proper course of treatment has become uncontroversial—whether that be an antibiotic, probiotic, or lime in the coconut.  I submit to you that we have not “solved” climate change because we have wrongly identified it as a problem.  It’s not, it’s a symptom.  The problem, stated adequately, is that carbon contains in it a hidden cost.  And the preponderance of subject matter experts agree, we can best address the climate crisis by exposing the true cost of carbon.

Climate change is a symptom of the root problem that fossil fuels are powerful and cheap. We overconsume fossil fuels because we don’t have to foot the entire bill—the Filipino people, the victims of Sandy and Katrina, and the sufferers of droughts and floods pick up the back end. Because they do so much work for pennies on the dollar, we use fossil fuels to the exclusion of other energy sources, thereby destabilizing our planet and growing the richest industry in human history—one highly adept at retaining its spot at the top.

Here’s the main thing to know: Fossil fuels have hidden costs that are not included in their price. Economists call hidden costs “externalities” because they are left out of the price signal that helps each of us as consumers, and society as a whole, make good decisions. At $4/gallon at the pump, we may pay for getting from point A to B, but not for superstorms, poor health, ecosystem loss, ocean acidification, and the multitude of present and future consequences of burning coal, gas, and oil.

But wait! This doesn’t make us guilty wrongdoers. The artificially low price of fossil fuels is just a signal that the market is broken, and it is our job to fix it. Only collective action is up to the task. Hard as it is to admit, even if all of us rode bikes and planted gardens, we couldn’t keep all the toxins safeguarded under the earth from being dug, pumped, fracked, piped, shipped, driven, liquefied, and burned. (Even if individual action could do the trick, it wouldn’t be in time.) [3] [4]

The exciting truth is that if we first tax carbon, all our valiant efforts pushing up like dandelions through concrete will find themselves in fertile soil to shoot up and interlace like a tall forest canopy, giving us shade for years to come. This is the most elegant and efficacious solution out there. We are lucky to live in a country that can and must lead the way.

We are strong together. If even a fraction of the 70% of Americans concerned about climate change band together to sing for this solution, we will change the tune of the future. After all, we have much more at stake in stabilizing the climate than the few companies that have prevented people who care from achieving efficacious solutions. And even they are starting to come around! [5] We have no time to lose in this mother of all transitions. National climate legislation is inevitable, and we have only one shot to get it right. Will we?

We invite you to help us un-hide the hidden costs of carbon.  What beautiful, magical, wacky, unheard-of and never-unseen thing will you create?  Join COAL and become a Spark for change.


[1] International Energy Agency (IEA) report summary in the Guardian – we have from now until 2017 at the latest to reverse the accelerating global trend of fossil fuel investments or else be “locked in” to 2*C+ warming.

[2] “Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System” by Donella Meadows

[3] “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math” by Bill McKibbon, August 2012, Rolling Stone

[4] Forget Shorter Showers | Derrick Jensen | Orion Magazine

[5] NYT, companies prepared to pay $60 carbon tax and Exxon’s Complete Statement stating their preference for a revenue-neutral carbon tax


Why I Believe in Art Activism

{This is my intro to the COAL December 2013 Newsletter}


My name is Camila and I’m a director for COAL, a new approach to the climate movement. In eight years of climate activism I’ve never been so elated as to help launch COAL. First, I want to share why this project gives me hope.

Three years ago, social change artist Molly Sturges began searching for ways to nurture insight in the face of climate disruption. Finding an opening in storytelling and music, she founded COAL: a scalable theatrical production designed to inspire a culture of action.

Through a tale of young friends facing either a future condemned by addiction to a corrosive dark power–or one of interconnectedness, COAL offers us a lens to navigate our own predicament. It invites us into today’s epic struggle by awakening the creativity, courage, and camaraderie of those fantastic childhood stories. Above all, COAL ignites faith that even against the most daunting odds, we can prevail.

 70% of Americans share my alarm that our elected leaders have idled for decades while our unchecked voracity for fossil fuels has changed life as we know it. However, united as we are by our passion for a livable future, our struggle to find solutions continues to estrange us. For all our faith in climate consensus, many of us remain skeptical of the economic and political consensus about tools that could stabilize our climate by century’s end.

This is why I love COAL: it is an on-ramp for anyone to join the climate saga, no experience needed. Here is the space to celebrate the values we share and team up without prejudice for solutions. The forces destroying our natural world are in the wrong morally, scientifically, and economically, but they manage to sustain the status quo by dividing us. Keeping us fragmented is the only game they’ve got. Art is the oldest tool available to unite behind our passions, and we believe it remains the best. Together we’ll build our movement by singing our story of love for home.

For the latest on COAL check out the December 2013 newsletter here!