Category Archives: Blog

Fanning the Flames

By Jon Doyle

Welcome to Cascadia Climate Action’s weekly intern blog! If you’re just joining us, please take a moment to check out Eden’s post (here) on her introduction and personal motivations for pursuing a career as an environmentalist before continuing on to read about mine.

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Jon Doyle, and I’m currently an undergraduate senior at the University of Washington’s Program on the Environment along with Eden and Gabriella, who you’ll hear from next week. Like Eden and Gabriella, I’m interning with CCA as a part of my Environmental Studies capstone, which I’m coupling with research on the environmental movement.

I didn’t always expect that I would study the environment before moving up to Seattle from Elkhorn, Nebraska four years ago. Up until the end of my freshman year at UW, I expected to pursue a career in law, yet, I was always engaged with environmentalism in large part due to my parents and the household I was raised in.

A picture of my hometown, Elkhorn, just west of Omaha, Nebraska.

Both of my parents were devout Catholics who worked professional jobs in the city’s small downtown. Growing up, they taught me and my siblings that discipline, determination, and service were the keys to success. Discipline in our chores, determination in our school work, and service to the community through our church and school. Additionally, they made a point of keeping us informed about the world outside our hometown through our regular family dinners, the only time of the day that all of us could sit down together as an entire family. These dinners were my first exposure to the idea that humans were already stewards of the planet regardless of our choice to be so or not, a theme familiar to many Catholics.

You see, my siblings and I were very blessed that our mother would take the time to make our family dinners as international as the local grocery store would allow. “I won’t have you leave my household as an adult knowing nothing outside of your own traditional American cuisine,” my mom would say. Having grown up in Seattle with immigrant parents, my mother was very conscious of the seclusion the rurality Nebraska would bring to our childhoods and was determined to counteract as much. Always hand-made, some of my favorite meals my mom would prepare included Indian, Thai, Japanese, Swedish, and Spanish dishes.

“And don’t you dare think about wasting it.” my dad would add. “You children are so blessed by God with everything you are given, many children like you across the world and here in America go without.” He would often defend his claims citing a recent NPR story he’d heard that morning on the radio news about a drought or global warming. “In 25 years, when you are all adults, the world will be facing extreme resource scarcity, and it’ll be up to you to use what you have wisely.” Even in rural, red Nebraska, my siblings and I grew up with the understanding that humans have already impacted the Earth, and that not only was it our moral charge to be conscious and conservative, but that it was also an existential one.

That’s a lot to take on as an eight-year-old. Indeed, it’s a feeling I have no doubt that many of you reading this post, if not most, hate to relate with but still can nonetheless. In fact, some social scholars now describe the bombardment of harrowing news stories about the climate catastrophe -premier amongst others- as contributing to a new phenomenon called climate anxiety. In a book called, No Impact Man, Colin Beavan’s wife, Michelle Conlin, describes another relevant term, stasis through obfuscation, in which people are so overwhelmed with catastrophic climate rhetoric that we’re paralyzed into inaction. And that’s exactly what happened to me.

After every dinner, I’d go to my room worrying about the state of the world and my inability to do anything about it other than bury myself in my school work or extracurriculars to prepare myself for a career in a professional, corporate world. And that’s how I coped, by not taking anything my parents ever said too seriously. Perhaps that came directly from the extreme privilege of my childhood, which I do not deny, but even the privileged can’t escape a phenomenon as global as anthropogenic climate change.

As I prepared for high school, I remember playing for my hometown’s baseball team. One afternoon, our whole team was grabbing a bite of pizza after practice and I noticed a clip of blazing fire in my peripheral. I turned to catch one of the TV screens overhanging the restaurant countertop, showing footage of a column of black smoke like one would see coming out of a volcanic underwater ocean vent, except it was billowing from the surface waters of the Gulf of Mexico. I was mesmerized, shocked, and anxious. But even deeper still, I was disgusted. It was the first time I remember reflecting to myself, “How could we have let this happen? Why were people filming it instead of doing something!?” I watched and rewatched that same footage for weeks thereafter. Today it’s one of the few flashbulb memories I’ve acquired. A distinct remembrance of the time I woke up from my stasis, turning my attention to what was actually happening right in front of my very eyes.

Unlike the temperate West Coast of the United States, Nebraska and the neighboring lands of the Great Plains are seasonal, and dramatically so without any major body of water to buffer temperature extremes from the Gulf of Mexico to the south or the Canadian tundra to the north. Consequently, summers can be hotter than 100 degrees Fahrenheit and winters regularly reaching below the freezing point, sometimes below 0. This aspect of the weather in Nebraska filled my childhood with green summers and weeks’ worth of snow days, due to drifts of snow blocking people in sometimes up to ten feet. But it also served as a climate baseline for me.

Throughout high school, I would notice odd changes in the climate, all associated with warmer weather. Droughts and brown patches became a more frequent sight over summers, and winter snow days whittled down to 0 during years when it was too warm for snow to even ever stick to the ground longer than an hour or so. And the seasons started to blend into one another. The very stories my parents warned me about at our dinners were starting to become more visible to me in my everyday life. But what could I do about it? All this time I had been preparing for college applications, I hadn’t really thought about what ways I could help other than watching my own habits.

When it came time to head off to college, I intended to study political science at the University of Washington, known for many famous political scientists. And in one of my classes, we discussed what at the time was a current event, the Paris Climate Accords, formally known as COP 21. That day in my Food Politics class, I learned that there were people working to make a difference, and urgently so. I remember sitting there and feeling goosebump inspiration and focus. I began to reconsider the vision of my horizon and greater incorporate an aspect of service to my studies. And I’ve been on this path ever since.

I recently flew back home to Nebraska over the winter holidays to celebrate Christmas and a few family birthdays. Just like when I was a kid, our whole family sat down again every night and had many a wonderful meal over talk about the news. Perhaps being my last Christmas visit home as a student, I took the opportunity to ask my dad why he always would talk to us about our responsibilities, specifically as stewards of the environment.

“Because I see climate change this way, Jon. The house is on fire, and the adults downstairs are fanning the flames, with their children all locked in the attic.” He said with such sangfroid. I can’t forget it.

For those of us tempted to believe that we aren’t implicated in this analogy, you are misguided. We all are. The question now is, who are we in this analogy. Who are you? Who am I? Are we the parents fanning the flames, or the children locked in the attic?

As for me, I’m still working on being neither. Denial accrues interest, and inaction is defeatist. We need to put out the flames, for it’s all there is time left to do before the house burns down.

My Goodbye to CCA

By Mary Cappelletti

Today, I write my tenth and final blog post for Cascadia Climate Action. I’m writing this a couple days after the big Climate Science on Tap event that signified the end of my internship and work with CCA. To wrap it all up, I was asked to write some final thoughts on the blog to summarize the summer. Working with Cascadia Climate Action has been a rewarding experience that taught me a lot, both about myself and about nonprofits. 

Watching my boss, Mary, balance almost all of the work for CCA has made me realize how much goes into running a small organization and how difficult it can be with a small team. It often means people have their individual tasks to be completed independently and then reviewed jointly. Which can create differing ideas and various visions for the organization itself or aspects of it. But, more importantly I saw people overcome this and use teamwork and dedication to be efficient advocates for the environment. Things may not have always gone smoothly or quickly, but ultimately everyone was always eager to work hard to get the job done. I will always admire the amount of energy, time, commitment, and enthusiasm that the people I encountered bring to climate action. But, most of all, I will admire Mary Manous for her incredible dedication. 

I also learned how lucky I am to be surrounded by such an amazing community here at UW and in Seattle. A few days before the recent Climate Science on Tap event my father was kind enough to fly out to Seattle to assist me in moving. Luckily, this meant he could attend the event and see a bit of what I’d been working on the past few months. One of his biggest takeaways was the community that had gathered at Lagunitas. The amount of people there dedicating their time to both learning about climate change and teaching about it was exciting to him. He also continuously expressed how impressed he was with the amount of PhDs and educated individuals at the event. This was a good reminder for me. I am so fortunate to be surrounded by such dedicated, inspiring individuals that push me to be the best student, advocate, and person that I can be.

Lastly, this internship constantly reminded me of the urgent situation we humans have put ourselves and the other life that exists around us in. It’s sometimes difficult to find the right words to summarize what climate change is and all that it will mean for the world, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep trying. This experience reminded me how important it is for each and every one of us to be doing our part to reduce the impact we have. It reminded me of the sometimes intangible effects small actions can have and also the big changes we can make when we work together. 

I am far from a fully informed and educated individual when it comes to most topics, including climate change. But, through my time with Cascadia Climate Action I’ve made leaps and bounds toward the type of advocator and person I want to be in life. I don’t know what I want to do with my life or how I will make a difference, but I learned that it is possible to make a difference and that there’s an entire community waiting to embrace me as I embark on a journey of fighting for this beautiful planet. I hope all of you will consider joining me and this inspiring community as we continue in this battle.

A Holistic Approach

By Mary Cappelletti

Throughout my college experience, my study abroad trips, this internship, the interviews I’ve participated in, and my evolution as a person and an environmentalist, I’ve continually been introduced to new ideas, outlooks, approaches, and attitudes. At times I am met with desperation and despair, other times I am met with hope and optimism. Some want to change the tide in politics to create policy changes that benefit the climate and all life on earth. Some want to change the way people consume to promote ethical, sustainable relationships with the things we consume and the natural world. At times, this becomes overwhelming and confusing. How do I find the best, the right way to combat climate change? I’ll probably never find the one best way to solve the problem of climate change, likely because there is no one solution. But, if there was it would likely be exactly what David Perk described in our recent interview.

David Perk is just a normal parent and citizen, but somewhere along the line he realized, “something had to be done.” David says it’s possible that we’re past the tipping point, but he joined the fight after the Bush administration and hasn’t stopped since. He has been involved in stopping coal and oil trains in Washington through participation in a variety of organizations, and is currently a board member for 350 Seattle. David isn’t sure how to persuade people to get involved, but he believes some major changes need to be made. In particular, capitalism needs a makeover or a complete disposal. He notes that capitalism is an expression of human nature, and therefore it will be difficult to change. However, it is critical that humans develop a more holistic way of living and thinking. We must realize the consequences of our actions on future generations and the planet. We need to change the way we consume to start living in a way that benefits all of society, rather than our individual selves. 

David wants to see the system change, and he thinks it will likely have to happen bottom up. Theoretically, most of the world gets it (Paris agreement), the US is just behind. To him, it seems the crazy has all risen to the top in our government, but he sees hope in the young people of the next generations. David says that although the changes he speaks of have to happen from the bottom up, simply increasing awareness will not do the trick. People can be educated, but they have to feel something if they’re going to be inspired to make changes. There’s a difference between understanding and feeling, and David thinks that might just be the key. Rather than just making people to “get it,” we need them to “feel it.” An interesting thing to consider for yourself. Do you simply understand climate change, or do you believe in it and feel something about it?

Conscious Consumer: Why is food important?

By Mary Cappelletti

In the past, I have mentioned my passion for personal choices and sustainability. In particular, I am very interested in the things that we as humans consume on a daily basis, like food. Food is fascinating to me for many reasons. For one thing, it is very closely tied to culture and often defines what most people know about foreign places and people. Your average person may not know anything about Thai culture, but they’ve tasted the delicious, savory pad thai and pad see ew that comes from the far off country. This can of course be problematic at times, but food does allow us a glimpse into exotic places and unfamiliar cultures. It is also directly tied to our wellness as it dictates the health of our gut microbiome and overall body. Not eating the right foods can result in fatigue, disease, obesity, mental disorders, and so on. So, it’s not only necessary for our survival, but it can also determine our quality of life and define the cultures we exist within. And now, we are discovering that it heavily influences the health of the planet. Needless to say, food is valuable, fascinating, delicious, and of monumental importance.

This past December I completed a research project on food culture and food choices in the city of Arusha, Tanzania. I interviewed 100 locals from a town just outside the city limits. Each day I would take an hour long commute of dala dala (a “bus” that was actually a van with the occupancy of a bus) and piki piki (motorcycle taxi) to the town where I would then enter the homes of various community members to hear a bit about why they ate the food they ate. I asked them about health concerns, the environment, money, transportation, and so on. I learned that the majority of the residents made their food choices largely based on monetary concerns. However, eating cheaply looks different there than it does here in America. A low-income Tanzanian living in the town of Bangata eats meat about once a week and buys their food from relatives or neighbors. Meaning that they buy primarily fresh produce and a few animal products, as well as rice and other basics, from local sources. This does not ensure that they prepare healthy, nutritious meals, however the average Tanzanian has a very direct relationship with the foods they consume. 

I don’t bring this up in an attempt to persuade my readers to adopt a Tanzanian diet, but I do ask them to reconsider their own. We have so many options at our fingertips and very few constraints in comparison to many around the world. Within a five mile radius from each of our homes there is likely a Safeway/Fred Meijer/Trader Joe’s, a local market, a gas station, a dozen restaurants, and maybe even a bulk store, like Costco. Within each of these stores there are veggies, fruits, meats, frozen foods, premade foods, fresh deli foods, organic foods, local foods, etc. We are surrounded by a multitude of food choices. Many of which have traveled across the country, or even world. They’re also likely covered in plastic and possibly pesticides. It’s also probable that they are a part of some larger political scandal that we’re all unaware of (watch the Netflix docuseries Rotten). This means that very few of us Americans have any sort of direct relationship with the food we consume. We often don’t know where it was produced, how it was produced, who produced it, and the impacts it had. 

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I consume a plant based diet. I do this for a variety of reasons, one of which is environmental. According to Drawdown by Paul Hawken, “The most conservative estimates suggest that raising livestock accounts for nearly 15 percent of global greenhouse gases emitted each year; the most comprehensive assessments of direct and indirect emissions say more than 50 percent.” He then goes on to say, “If cattle were their own nation, they would be the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases.” This is due to the methane cows directly produce, the carbon dioxide that is produced through the land use and related energy consumption to grow feed for the livestock, and the nitrous oxide that is released from manure and fertilizer. This doesn’t even dive into the amount of water and feed that goes into raising the cattle, rather than feeding hungry people or solving droughts around the world. So, why does food matter? That is just one reason why. 

Eating a plant based diet is one of the best things an individual can do for the environment. This is primarily due to lessening the demand and consumption of harmful products such as beef. However, I’m aware that regardless of how convincing I am in this post, all of my pleading and begging will likely not convert many, if any, to a vegan diet right away. Of course, I would love for each and every environmentalist and climate change fighter to abandon all animal products, but using my realistic outlook, I’m instead going to use this opportunity to implore that we simply take whatever steps we can towards becoming conscious consumers. If that means adopting a plant based diet for some people, that’s awesome. If it means buying local at farmers markets for others, that’s also awesome. We don’t live in Tanzania. We live in a country where we have pretty much everything we could want at our fingertips at all times. This means we have to force ourselves to be aware of the choices we make. Being a conscious consumer can expand past food, and it must if we are to build a sustainable future. But, for now we can begin to focus on the relationships we have with the food we consume. Read the label on the products you buy. Take note of whether the products you consume are organic, local, vegan, and how many ingredients they have. Go to the farmers market. Buy in-season produce. Find alternatives to animal products. Eat food that doesn’t cause harm to the world around us. Cattle production is not the only part of the food industry that has negative impacts on the climate and the natural environment, so try to educate yourself on the other things you consume. Food is incredibly influential in many ways as its production can lead to numerous negative impacts, including clear cutting, dead zones in the ocean, soil erosion, degradation, pesticide contamination, and so much more.

Ultimately, I want to urge you all to educate yourselves so that you can become conscious consumers. Be aware of how your food was produced and the impacts it has. I understand that food is part of culture and that is so important. My hope is that food culture is not too damaged by climate motivated lifestyle changes. However, culture can change and perhaps it must. As we know, many large cultural changes have occurred in the past when pieces of it have been deemed unethical. It’s time that we stop finding excuses and to the best of our abilities we make the necessary changes to become conscious consumers of sustainable, ethical products. Because, food matters not only for our health and our cultures, but also for the other people, beings, plants, and ecosystems in this world. 

P.S. There are so many things that need to be discussed on the topic of food. I’ve barely scratched the surface, and I’ve left important pieces out. I want to say that I fully understand that things like soybeans can also be detrimental to the environment, however fun fact – soybeans are sometimes fed to cattle! Ultimately, I urge everyone to educate themselves on food and start discourse with people in their lives. One source, is the book I cited above Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, edited by Paul Hawken. There is so much to learn and so many changes to make. Why not start today?!

Finding the Happy Medium

By Mary Cappelletti

Deejah and her husband Ron 

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to sit down with another interesting climate advocate to learn a bit about how she got involved in climate action. Deejah Sherman-Peterson and her husband Ron are two more passionate individuals that had an unconventional start to their fight in climate action. She is now co-chair of the Climate Action Team at the University Unitarian Church, but her introduction to climate change problems started a while back. Her participation in advancing women’s rights through her time with NARAL and NOW led her to learn about overpopulation and the problems associated with it. This was her first introduction to human caused climate problems. Then, in 2005 she and her husband joined the green committee at the Unitarian church. Through the committee she and the team began altering the waste disposal available to the congregation to include recycling and compost. In 2014 she co-founded the climate action team at the church, which has hosted talks and fairs to increase awareness of climate change topics. The group plans to continue hosting a variety of events to educate the community. 

Learning about Deejah’s involvement in climate action was engaging, but the most captivating parts of our conversation were the portions that strayed from the planned questions. Deejah was overflowing with interesting stories about both herself and others in the climate change fight. She recounted stories of individuals that stood in front of coal trains and turned off oil pumps in their mission to create change. Deejah’s strategy for creating change is less focused on physical action, but more derived from a desire to create discourse and motivate change on a community level. Her philosophy for creating this change is rooted in the idea that we must find a happy medium between scaring people too much and not scaring them enough. Her grandchildren’s future is a big reason she works to educate people on the topic, but a different approach is necessary for every individual. Connecting the dots between actions and impacts can be very powerful in creating a more conscious community. 

Deejah believes that in today’s political climate it doesn’t do much good to work on politicians currently in office. Rather, she thinks the best strategy is to elect people that are going to be advocates for the environment. Educating individuals and fostering a conscious community is one of the best ways to do this because it creates awareness. It’s vital that the importance of electing officials that are proponents of environmental policy is common knowledge in order to build a sustainable future. Deejah showed me once again that the fight for climate change comes in many shapes and sizes. It was not only interesting to hear about her experiences, but also a pleasure to be in her company. She is a positive, spirited individual who filled me with hope for a sustainable future built by many different groups of people. 

An Organizer’s Thoughts

By Mary Cappelletti

I recently had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with Victoria Leistman, staff organizer with Sierra Club in Seattle. Victoria is an energetic, young woman with enthusiasm for climate action and abundant suggestions for not only mitigating climate change, but also the best way to get involved, and even make a living in the field. Needless to say, it was a fruitful meeting and I’m going to share some of the biggest takeaways. 

Victoria is pictured above with her colleagues at Sierra Club. She is in the woman in a blue long sleeve shirt.

Victoria did not originally set out to be a warrior for the environment, rather she majored in journalism. During her time as a journalist she found herself taking on many environmental stories and ultimately decided she wanted to take action, rather than just write about the problems. So, she put down the pencil, interned for an organization, and then joined Green Corps where she became a trained organizer. Her time with Green Corps eventually landed her the job with Sierra Club, which she has thoroughly enjoyed.

How Victoria became professionally involved in climate action is interesting and inspiring in part due to her lack of a college education in the environment. This is important to note because it highlights the possibility for anyone and everyone to become involved in the fight against climate change. An advocate of grassroots efforts spurring top down change, she herself says the best way to make a difference is to work with local environmental and social justice groups to contact officials and advocate for policy changes, none of which requires special training or education. Getting involved with these groups is a possibility for people of all ages, backgrounds, education, and experience, making it easy for anyone to take up arms

During the interview we talked about the biggest problems we are currently facing and what the best ways to address them are. Victoria believes the biggest problem is the lack of political will to implement the solutions we already have. When discussing the topic she asked, “How can we motivate the human race to be proactive instead of reactive?” I found this question intriguing and intensely truthful. As a whole, we humans tend to be better at reacting to a problem after it happens, rather than preventing it from happening in the first place. Victoria believes it’s time for us to start holding people in office accountable and responsible for making the necessary changes if we’re going to make a proactive effort. 

One of the most enjoyable aspects of my encounter with Victoria was her narrative of hope, rather than scare tactics to get people involved. Meeting people that haven’t been discouraged by their fight for the environment is always encouraging and motivating. There’s still hope for a sustainable future, and we still have time to be proactive and get involved on all levels, regardless of our education and background.

Top Sustainable Lifestyle Changes, Discussed and Simplified

By Mary Cappelletti

Hello, Mary the intern here. In a recent post I talked about whether top down or bottom up actions are more important and effective. Ultimately, I concluded that both were vital in the fight to end climate change. Now, I want to address how you can make some of these changes in your day to day life. In this post I’ll be talking about lifestyle changes, but in the future I will address how you can influence policy. 

There are so many lifestyle changes we can make to benefit the environment, but these vary in how influential they are, as well as how easy they are to maintain. Recycling and using reusable bags are great actions to take, but as we discussed earlier, they have a very small impact, particularly on their own. However, the most influential actions demand a lot from us, and are perhaps unlikely for some people. I want to introduce the most influential actions and draw attention to them, but also discuss how we can simplify them if they aren’t a feasible option. 

Many studies show that the number one lifestyle change people can make to help mitigate climate change is not have a child. This is a tall call, and likely one we quickly skim over. However, I’d like us to pause and consider it. Having a child is an incredibly personal choice, and I understand the lack of consideration for the environment when making this decision. I don’t want to use this space to ask people to not have children, yet I would like us to recognize the impact adding another human to the planet can have. What I would like to ask us to do, is to raise our children to be conscious consumers. Raise our children to respect the natural world and the other beings that reside in it. Raise our children to love the things we can’t understand and protect the things that differ from us. Raise our children to be warriors for a better future. Perhaps then having a child will have a greater positive, rather than negative, influence in many ways. 

The next biggest lifestyle change people can make is to not own a car. This is another tough one that may be unrealistic for many. However, for those of us living in a large metropolitan area such as Seattle, it is doable. In fact, it might even be more pleasant after the increase in traffic over the last few years. Yet, I know that asking people to not own a car is probably unreasonable and somewhat hopeless, so perhaps simply consider driving it less often or converting to an electric car. Make small changes in your life like walking to work or to the gym. Car pool when it’s possible. Take public transportation on the days you have a little extra time. Maybe instead of always treating your car as an everyday tool, use it as a treat to only be used when necessary. 

Another tough, but influential action individuals can make is to fly less often. Specifically, avoid long, international flights. Personally, I have always struggled with this one. One of the reasons I have such a desire to save the world is because of its beauty and abundance of life. All of which I want to witness first hand. This may sound fairly selfish, and maybe it is, but I think it’s a common trend among those invested in the environment. We tend to also be the ones who want to travel the world to see all the natural wonders and everything in between. But, that doesn’t mean we can’t control that desire or give it up once in a while. Furthermore, there are constantly new and improved ways to travel the world. So next time you go on vacation, perhaps you can put a little more effort into finding the most sustainable ways of travel, or maybe stay local. 

Perhaps one of the most doable, yet tough actions is eating a plant based diet. Now, I might not be the one to speak on this because I am a vegan and I find it achievable, so maybe I’m biased. However, maybe that’s what makes me the perfect advocate. I made the switch from vegetarian to vegan about two years ago and found it extremely difficult. So, I can speak from experience that it is painful, and it is sad. But, if you believe in it strongly enough, that will all wither away and you will eventually be invigorated by this change. Although I can’t make any promises to you, I can tell you is that I felt healthier, happier, and more proud of the lifestyle I chose when I made the switch. Eating a plant based diet is almost always listed in the top 5 things we can individually do for the planet, sometimes it’s even listed first. Grist recently published an article about plant based diets making more of a difference for the environment than cutting down on flying and driving an electric car. I understand that a completely plant based diet isn’t for everyone, but I think we can all be more conscious of the food we consume. Perhaps we can start eating meat only a couple days of the week. Cut out red meat. Buy local produce when possible. The products we purchase have an immense impact on the world and it’s important we be aware of these impacts. 

These are just a few of the lifestyle changes we can make to help mitigate climate change, but they are among the largest. Maybe you aren’t in a place to make any of these changes, and that is completely understandable. But, perhaps you can start considering them and start creating discourse on them. Sometimes one of the biggest changes we can make is to simply talk. You never know whose eyes you may open, or who may open yours. 

Some of these topics will be explored more thoroughly in future posts, others will not. Let us know if there is something in particular you’d like me to write more about. Thanks for reading! 


Organizations for a Sustainable, Healthy Future

By Mary Cappelletti

Seattle is an amazing city with a deep respect for the environment and a population of people driven to preserve and protect. These values were one of the biggest reasons I moved here three years ago, and the city has never disappointed on that front. I am constantly amazed by the amount of people that not only care about the natural world, but that strive to prioritize it in their day to day lives. One of the ways this presents itself is in the multitude of organizations here. There are groups that do everything from protecting salmon to educating the next generation to promoting environmental justice. Cascadia Climate Action is, of course, a climate action organization, however every organization is fighting for a different piece of the puzzle that holds importance. CCA has a history of working with other organizations in the area, and greatly values the relationships we’ve built through collaborations and publicizing events. Each organization holds unique opportunities to get involved in helping mitigate climate change and protect the environment. Here is a little information on some of these organizations. 

1. Spark Northwest, or what used to be known as Northwest SEED, aims to expand clean energy in the region that is both affordable and locally controlled. Their goal is to have the Pacific Northwest run 100% on clean energy, while increasing access for 

middle and lower income families and reducing the cost of renewable energy technologies. Their programs currently promote solar energy, wind energy, rural renewables, and energy conservation and efficiency. By conducting these programs locally and sourcing the energies locally they hope that communities will become increasingly more strong and durable. Overall they aim to reduce the use of high-carbon fuels and engage the community through their leadership in energy projects, outreach and education, and advocacy for policy change. To attend an event and get involved with Spark Northwest, click here to visit their calendar.

2. Puget Soundkeeper Alliance is a group founded in 1984 that is composed of both staff and volunteers that work to protect the waterways of the Puget Sound through first hand monitoring of the waters. Furthermore, the organization frequently engages 

with government agencies and businesses, and has taken on 170 cases with a near 100% success rate. Most of these settlements result in the implementation of systems that do less damage on the waterways through greater control of stormwater and wastewater treatment. The organization does not accept settlement money, but instead redirects it to third parties also invested in improving the Sound. Overall Soundkeeper does its best to enforce the Clean Water Act of 1972 and keep the Sound and its tributaries as clean as possible. To attend an event and get involved with Soundkeeper Alliance, click here to visit their calendar.

3. Islandwood is a learning center located on a 250 acre campus on Bainbridge Island. The center works to integrate education with the natural environment by immersing students in engaging, nature-based teaching styles and experiences. However, their goal is to do more 

than simply educate their students. They hope their work extends to help create a sustainable future that contains ecological wellbeing for all and greater environmental health. Islandwood also engages with students in Seattle and at its King County Brightwater Center through helping to develop a science curriculum for public schools, providing teacher training, producing their Nature Passport app, and presenting two Master’s level graduate programs. Ultimately, the center aims to educate the youth, and also the community, in a holistic way that fosters respect for the environment through nature-based learning and encourages a sustainable future. To attend an event and get involved with Islandwood, click here to visit their calendar. 

4. Tilth is the merging of Seattle Tilth, Tilth Producers, and Cascade Harvest Coalition into one alliance that promotes foods that are both nutritious and sustainable. They state that their mission is for “everyone to eat well everyday.” The alliance is targeting the way that 

food is grown, distributed, and eaten in the region to make it healthier for both the environment and people. Through both outdoor and indoor teaching strategies they are educating the community on better ways to produce and prepare foods. Their goal is to shift food culture in the region to prioritize food that is sustainable and beneficial for the planet, but also healthy and appetizing for those that consume it. To attend an event and get involved, click here to visit their calendar. 

Seattle is home to many other wonderful organizations that the CCA team would love to learn more about. Cascadia Climate Action is always looking to add more organizations’ events to the calendar and get involved with new partnerships. Feel free to contact us if you would like to have an organization featured on a future post, in our calendar, or simply open a line of communication. Thanks for reading! 

Top Down or Bottom Up Climate Action?

By Mary Cappelletti

Climate change is a complicated topic, as we all know, and this can mean it is a difficult problem to tackle. As people are becoming increasingly more aware of the topic, they also strive to get involved in the issue. However, the more people that get involved in the issue, the more differing opinions are developing on the best way to combat it. As part of my senior project with Program on the Environment at UW, I am not only completing an internship, but I am also conducting research. My research was initially on whether top down or bottom up climate action was more effective, but it is quickly evolving into more of an exploration of the differences between the two. I’m only in the preliminary stages of this research, but over the past few weeks I’ve been learning a bit more about the contention between the two approaches. Through reading articles, interviewing leaders in climate action, discussing with peers, and listening to podcasts I have learned a bit about the various opinions and the pros and cons of each. It’s been incredibly fascinating to hear such differing opinions on the best approach to climate change, and for me it is beginning to shed light on the need for both approaches. 

I have always been very invested in bottom up action. I’ve never been of the opinion that top down wasn’t equally as important, but to me it seemed there was something especially crucial about the foundation of bottom up change. If we think about the United States as a business, we can think about top down change as executive driven and bottom up change as employee driven. Of course, sometimes executive changes are necessary and very important. However, these changes can also cause resentment as well as defensive, self-justifying behavior from the employees that worsens the problem and ultimately creates an unproductive work environment. Employee driven change does more to alter the culture of a business and drive change in a more holistic way that allows it to last longer and be more effective. For a long time I’ve felt that the latter was the better way to approach most problems, including climate change. However, more and more as I explore this topic, my stubborn attitude toward the subject is being chipped away. Although, top down change isn’t always the most holistic approach, it is a necessity in order to stop climate change. 

I was recently listening to a podcast that Mary Manous shared with me about the straw ban in which two individuals argued about the pros and cons of removing straws from the market. One of the speakers discussed the problems the ban has, including the creation of a new sippy cup by starbucks that actually uses more plastic than the straws had. Ultimately, she points out how little good the ban will actually do, and she therefore believes it is “random” and derives from motivations other than environmental concerns. On the other hand, another speaker points out what the ban symbolizes. Environmentalists and everyday people are demanding a change. Seattle’s general public is widely in favor of the ban and eager to see the products disappear from the market. The ban signifies a shifting culture that is beginning to demand policies that favor the environment. 

The straw ban is in some ways an example of both top down and bottom up action. It is a ban, therefore a policy change, but it was pushed for by the public as well as environmentalists. It may not be the answer to climate change as it does little to actually reduce plastic production, but it seems to me that it is a step in the right direction. It shows that if people start changing the demand, the supply will change. Plastic is just one product that is harming the environment and there are so many other products we need to reduce or abolish. Pooling our efforts to not only limit our consumption of these products, but also to demand they are made more sustainably or eliminated altogether seems like it might be the best route. I don’t think anyone knows for sure what the best way to end climate change is, especially in this political climate, but if we can all make an effort hopefully change is on the horizon. 

Notes. There will likely be future posts that explore this topic further as my research advances. I wanted to introduce the topic with novice thoughts on the subject first. I would also love to hear anyone’s thoughts on the topic. Thanks for reading!

Link to the Podcast- Culture Gabfest: Grasping at Straws Edition from Slate Daily Feed in Podcasts.

Why is it Important to Get Involved in Climate Action?

By Mary Cappelletti

Climate change is one of the most pressing, complex problems facing humanity today. It wreaks havoc on the world as it causes damage to natural environments, endangers human prosperity, and disrupts many of the natural functions of the environment, such as weather. Few Seattleites would argue that climate change isn’t a scientific fact, however there are still many that don’t engage in climate action. This lack of action is often rooted in the idea that individual involvement “doesn’t matter.” It’s true that ditching plastic bags as an individual is not going to prevent the production of plastic or end the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Alone, your actions have a mostly intangible influence on the massive problem of climate change. However, this is all the more reason to make these small changes. Every independent action combines with the actions of others to make a joint impact. So, the more people that make a change, the greater the change. Each person that stops using plastic bags is helping to shift the demand away from these unsustainable products and redirect the demand for sustainable alternatives. The more people that don’t buy plastic, the greater the demand for another option. 

Ending your personal demand for plastic bags, as well as refraining from using air conditioning, not flying internationally, using public transportation, and eating a plant based diet, are all examples of actions that can join with others to make a difference. However, even when joined with others, these actions unfortunately are not going to end climate change alone. They are an important piece of the puzzle because they create a shift in the market as the public demands more sustainable products and infrastructure. However, it is also important that individuals start to pressure the government, both locally and nationally. It’s vital that the public start holding politicians responsible for the promises they make and the damages they cause. In future posts we will explore this further to discover the best ways to motivate politicians to act in the best interest of the environment.

Making lifestyle changes and pressuring the government are important measures that need to be taken, and they need to be taken now. As I stated above, climate change is already wreaking havoc on the natural world, however the worst effects are yet to come. If we wait until these effects worsen, it may be too late. Furthermore, getting involved in climate action can be a really fun experience. Attending events such as rallies, meetings, marches, and our very own Climate Science on Tap can allow you to meet new, interesting people. 

Winning the battle against climate change requires a group effort in order for us to be successful. It also requires that we maintain a positive attitude about winning the battle. It can sometimes be easy to let the current climate situation leave you discouraged, but there is a lot of good being done around the world, as well as in our own backyard. Becoming disheartened about the issue, doesn’t solve the problem. However, making lifestyle adjustments, advocating for policy changes, pressuring politicians, and starting conversations within your community might do the trick if we all pitch in.