The Race to Save Our World

The Race to Save Our World


The Race to Save Our World: by CSA Solarize Inter Julie Settembrino 

Democracy Now protest 2015

clean energy march 2016

Literary based on The Winning of the Carbon War

       The first week of my internship with Sustainable Hudson Valley one of my supervisors, Melissa Everett introduced me to Jeremy Leggett’s book The Winning of the Carbon War and it shifted my world. I knew already that the fight against climate change comes in many forms, shapes and strengths; every facet of the way we live is a component to this global challenge threatening our survival. The Winning of the Carbon War casts that fight as a sharply focused “Civil War” playing out in the energy economy and policies of many nations.  It taught me that the solution isn’t always hard to find, but rather is suppressed by those who benefit from the problem.

       The focus of the book is on the political and economic battle for the future of the energy industry worldwide. Jeremy Leggett, a former oil geologist who is now one of the top executives for Solarcentury, narrates the book with invigorating passion and eye-opening truths. Throughout the book he emphasizes that the key to the future of a system powered off renewable energy, is a synergistic blend of all clean energy we have developed. The technology is here, and the price is dropping. The only thing stopping a revolutionary shift in the energy industry is the entrenchment of the fossil fuel industry within a market that lacks confidence in the possibilities of new technology.


       Leggett chronicles a dramatic shift in these power relations over the year that includes the Paris agreements, showing how the changing economics and politics of the energy industry are connected to thousands of policy efforts, investor choices, street demonstrations, media articles, and other small steps – like the ones we take every day. And he focuses on critical leverage points that will shape the next stages of the war.




             First, there is the what people refer to as the carbon bubble. (This is all of the oil that is still under the ground, yet is still considered viable assets for oil companies.) To have a good chance of staying below two degrees, the IEA says, 60 to 80% of coal will need to stay in the ground. With upcoming climate change policy, and drilling restrictions, much of the oil underground will never be able to be used, creating stranded assets and causing a complete overestimate of the a company’s worth. In the words of Evans Pritchard, “The props beneath the global oil industry are slowly decaying”.




             The second point is control. The fossil fuel industry has the capability of manipulating their investors, who in many cases can be extremely influential people. From those within the media who ignore some of the most astonishing climate change data, to policy makers themselves, investors across the world are swayed in order to create a  push in favor of the fossil fuel industries. In 2005, drillers succeeded in exempting the fracking process from the rules of the US Clean Drinking Water Act: an act of regulatory piracy that became known as the “Halliburton Loophole.”  Today, the locus of control has shifted with the Paris agreements, US Clean Power Plan and policies of more and more countries.



                 The third leverage point is the worldwide energy market itself. In 2012 the chief economist of the International Energy Agency warned that the world had only ten years to turn round its energy policy. They also warned that OPEC might not even have enough oil to provide the projected amount needed, and that even if they did they would need serious investment support in order to be able to extract it and get it to where it need to be. The International Energy Agency projects output falling from 69 million barrels per day (bpd) today to just 28 million bpd in 2035. And oil industries are having to spend more and more to keep their profits up. Between the growing complication and expense of extraction, oil prices are rising, just as renewable prices are dropping. Leggett makes the comparison “The big traded energy companies resemble the telecom giants of the late 1990s, heavily leveraged to a business model already threatened by fast-moving technology.”  In other words, oil is a ticking time bomb and renewables are stepping up, fast.


              Leggett’s chronicle shows how entrenched power is being shaken up, in large part because mind-sets are changing as the possibility of a renewably-based energy system starts to look real.  We are a world built on fossil fuels; our economy, our investments, our political system, our means of production and transportation. The fundamental fight is not against powerful institutions or policies – it’s against the way things have always been.  As a worldwide society of investors, engineers, consumers, travelers, dreamers, we can all step up to protect our future systematically, by making clear the risks of business as usual and the opportunity of a low-carbon economy opening up before us.  




Hudson Valley Environmental Groups Gather to Discuss Climate Change

Hudson Valley Environmental Groups Gather to Discuss Climate Change

Rosendale Theatre

On Wednesday June 15th, theatres all across the country issued a call to action in the form of a documentary titled ‘Time to Choose’.  Environmental organizations from the Hudson Valley gathered together at the Rosendale Theatre for a showing of the film and a post screening discussion.  Directed by documentary filmmaker Charles Ferguson, Time to Choose was a startling reminder of the havoc that greenhouse-gas-emitting activity is wreaking on human life and on our natural systems.  Stunning visual shots of Earth’s landscapes reminded us all of the unspeakable green and blue beauty of the planet we inhabit.

To balance the painfully graphic account of disaster (mountaintop removal, deforestation, tragic human health consequences like black lung, cancer and brain tumors) the film also spoke of solutions; the quickening pace of wind and solar energy deployment, the promisingly high yields of agroecological food production, the potential for cities to be haven’s of sustainable innovation and certainly not the least important; the power of people united together.   As my fellow Solarize intern Frank put it, ”The film was an excellent introduction for those who are not familiar with climate issues and a great refresher for those who were familiar.”  We agreed: the film spoke to a greater audience than just ‘the choir’.

How to Solve the Climate Crisis In One Million Easy Steps:

A lively discussion followed the film. How do we communicate the urgency of the global climate crisis and breakthrough to a sustainable future on Earth? The crowd pop-corned answers. We must engage and educate our children from an early age, many concurred.  We’re gonna have to persist in the face of apathy and stubborn barriers to change.  We will have to deepen the solidarity between our various movements.  We’ll have to get creative with our messaging strategies; give concrete examples of climate change, tell tangible stories, appeal to emotion and the inherent motive within humans to protect their people and their place.

We seemed to all be on the same page that the solution to the global climate crisis will not be a silver bullet, but rather a silver buckshot.  The people who engaged in the discussion spoke of not one, but many solutions.  The answer lies in developing a climate change curriculum for kids while
reforming our electoral system while stopping the next invasive pipeline while advocating for local organic food on our college campuses, all at once.

Solidarity for the Sake of a Habitable Planet

All in all, the screening and discussion was a huge success.  “Seeing different people from environmental organizations all over the Hudson Valley was truly an inspiring moment.  I feel like I have a better awareness of just how many people care, and a bit more hope for the future,” reflected Solarize intern, Julie Settembrino.  I felt the same way.  It is a realization we have been searching for.
TTC solutionsAs we packed up and left the Theatre I felt slightly more confident that perhaps, against formidable odds, humanity would overcome the global climate crisis.  Although it is too soon to tell if we will succeed at taming the destabilization of Earth’s climate, one thing is for sure; the more we collaborate on a regional level, the more likely our collective success will be.

In the spirit of collaboration, a list of ally organizations will be posted shortly.  Check out their work.  Check out their solutions.  The Hudson Valley is up to some amazing things.

Place Matters


Place Matters

By Melissa Everett

Cities, towns and villages have always been at the forefront of climate and environmental innovation. They’re where the challenges of buildings, traffic, and electricity play out in some of the most concentrated and complex ways. They embody the challenges at a human scale – and the opportunities.


Over the decades of efforts that finally led to the Paris agreement, local communities have been testing out the solutions, from micro-grids to ecodistricts.


Political leadership of local elected officials has even been a force in galvanizing national and global action. At the beginning of this century – when climate politics was much more stagnant than today – Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels thought up the US Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement and got hundreds of mayors to declare their commitment to local footprint reductions.


Today we have Paris. We have the Clean Power Plan if it survives court challenges. But the concerted, local support of communities that stand behind aggressive national and state action is as important as ever. Consider Fort-ZED, the zero net energy district being developed in Fort Collins, CO, or Oberlin, Ohio where the college is leading a sustainable redevelopment initiative, communities are flashpoints of political will, as well as test beds for technical innovation.


And they matter for another reason that is growing clearer and clearer. Psychologically, local action keeps the issue alive and vibrant in a way that policy discussions simply can’t. It’s human nature to look around, see nobody taking action on a huge issue such as climate change, and say to ourselves, “Well, it can’t be so bad or other people would be doing something.” The commitment and involvement of people we know, in reshaping our community, is a powerful reminder of both the need and the opportunity.