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Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins' Posts

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We should add climate change to the civil rights agenda

green jobs marchers
Green for All

This week, tens of thousands of people from across America streamed into the nation’s capital to observe the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington — and Green for All was among them.

We marched against the recent attack on voting rights. We demanded justice in the face of Stand Your Ground laws and racial profiling. We marched to raise awareness on unemployment, poverty, gun violence, immigration, and gay rights. And we called for action on climate change.

Chances are, when you think about civil rights, environmental issues aren’t on the radar screen. But stop and think about it. Remember Hurricane Katrina?

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Fight poverty. End fossil fuel subsidies

As world leaders meet in Rio this week, they’ve promised to talk about how they can work together to eradicate poverty. Nothing could be more urgent.

Poverty is not a problem that will just go away. Over the past few decades, we’ve seen science and technology advance beyond anything our grandparents could ever have imagined. Medicine is getting better. Computers are getting faster. Phones are getting smarter. But one thing is getting worse -- the number of our fellow humans who struggle each day just to meet their most basic needs.

By the last count, a staggering 1.4 billion people around the globe are living in extreme poverty. And while the U.S. may be a wealthy nation, we aren’t immune to poverty. Too many of our friends and neighbors are fighting just to get by. One in five American children live in homes that struggle to put food on the table -- we’re talking about 16.2 million American kids [PDF] who can’t count on a meal every day. That’s not right.

And the shocking truth is that most of us in this country will live in poverty at some point during our lives. This is not somebody else’s problem.

We need our leaders to create long-term solutions that will wipe out hunger and poverty for good -- here in the U.S., and across the globe.

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It’s summertime, and energy is on our minds

As the days get longer, more and more Americans are cranking up their air conditioners and turning on their fans. Meanwhile, their energy costs continue to climb—and they’re feeling it. In a poll last week, nearly 8 out of 10 people said saving on energy costs was deeply important to them—more important than issues like the federal deficit.

This isn’t news to the millions of low-income families who worry every single day about their utility bills—the families who are struggling to stay cool as temperatures climb. But it is a good reminder to our nation’s leaders that energy policies hit folks at home, and in their wallets. By making it a priority to help Americans achieve energy savings, our leaders can provide real help to struggling families.

Government has a big role to play in bringing energy savings to consumers. In fact, existing federal efficiency standards for appliances alone will have saved consumers a net $1.1 trillion by 2035, according to a recent report.

Cutting electricity use is also one of the best ways we can create good jobs for Americans. Upgrading and constructing buildings is labor-intensive, and the work has to be performed on-site, which creates lots of jobs—jobs that stay in local communities.

There are a number of simple solutions that will create energy savings for more Americans-- including tax credits and innovative financing. And we can do it through efforts like MPower, our new program that brings efficiency upgrades to affordable housing and cuts utility costs for the people who need it most—our elderly, disabled, and low-income families.

But this isn’t just about reducing costs and keeping homes comfortable. Using less energy helps fight global warming—something that is becoming harder to ignore with each passing day. The U.S. just recorded the hottest spring in our history. The average number of heat-related deaths is expected to triple by the end of the century, according to a new report. Meanwhile, we’re seeing tornadoes, wildfires, and other natural disasters become more frequent and more destructive.

Energy efficiency may seem like a drop in the bucket. But it is one of our most powerful weapons for fighting climate change. In fact, buildings account for a whopping 39 percent of global warming pollution produced in the United States. The only way to change that is to make them use less electricity.

Americans care deeply about saving energy because it affects our pocketbooks. It affects our lungs. Our livelihoods. Our safety. If our leaders fail to invest in energy efficiency now, we can expect to see more and more extreme temperatures. We can look forward to more tornadoes, hurricanes, and wildfires—along with drought, famine, and disease.

If our leaders instead pause and listen to what Americans are saying—if they make it a priority to help families cut their energy use—we can steer away from these frightening weather extremes. We can steer towards a healthier, more prosperous and peaceful world—and a brighter future for our kids and grandkids.

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On its 39th anniversary, the Clean Water Act needs defenders

This post originally appeared on Treehugger. In 1969, a river caught fire. People of a certain age probably remember when it happened. The Cuyahoga, which runs through northeastern Ohio and outlets into Lake Erie in Cleveland, was heavily contaminated -- so much so that stretches of the waterway contained no life at all. It was thick with pollutants; Time called it the river that "oozes rather than flows." The ooze ignited on June 22. That fire wasn't the river's first. It was approximately the 13th time the river's surface had burned. But the conflagration in 1969 was the last time. …

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Oil Executive to Young People: 'As Long I Make Money, I Don't Care What Happens to You'

Cross-posted from Jack & Jill Politics Quick question: Do you think that tax subsidies for the "big five" oil companies -- which earned $32 billion in profit during the first quarter of the year -- are more important than the financial aid we give to low-income college students? My answer: Of course not. Investing in our young people is a far better use of taxpayer dollars than giving handouts to some of the world's most profitable corporations. My guess is that you agree. How does the oil industry feel? Well, they aren't sure. When asked this question by Senator Schumer …

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Let’s Face It: Some Members of Congress Like Oil Executives Better Than You

"We're only talking about four billion dollars." That's how former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin defended the tax breaks going to the some of the world's richest corporations: oil companies. It may "only" be four billion dollars to these entities; after all, they are reaping windfall profits from rising gas prices. The "big five" oil companies -- ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron, Shell and ConocoPhillips -- made $32 billion dollars in profit in the first quarter. In fact, Exxon is the most profitable company in the world, raking in $30 billion dollars in 2010 -- nearly double that of Walmart. Oil companies seem …

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Obama Has His First Opponent To Campaign Against: Extremism

In 2008, Americans were fed up. Wars, a terrible economy, dishonesty, a drift from our core beliefs. That November, Barack Obama said, "Change," which may basically have meant, "Not that." Not that direction for America. Not that economic policy. And it worked. America didn't want that. America wanted something different. Now, reasonable people can debate the extent to which America got something different. It's certainly the case that the driving motivations of Presidents Bush and Obama are quite distinct. But as next year's election looms, Obama's problem is that wars and the economy and the vision for how America should …

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One Year After BP Oil Spill: Communities Lead While Congress Fails

An urban garden in New Orleans.One year ago today, British Petroleum’s Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling unit exploded in the Gulf of Mexico — a catastrophe that most Americans will never forget. 11 people lost their lives. According to Good, roughly 5 million barrels of oil gushed uncontrollably into the Gulf – eventually covering more than 60 miles of shoreline. Areas of the shore remain oil-soaked to this day. The tragedy highlighted the need for new regulations to strengthen oversight of offshore drilling. In response, Congress held more than 60 hearings related to the BP disaster; more than 100 oil spill-related …

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This Earth Week: Taking America Back From the Polluters

Last weekend, I was proud to join the likes of former Vice President Al Gore and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson as a keynote speaker at Power Shift 2011. There was an incredible energy; more than 10,000 young leaders gathered in Washington, D.C., to work towards two common goals - a cleaner future and a just America. It was a sight to see.  When I stood at the podium, and looked out at all these talented and energized organizers - standing in solidarity - I was filled with incredible hope that this was a turning point for the green movement. In …

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Keep It Fresh: On the Campus Consciousness Tour with Wiz Khalifa

While you were brushing your teeth this morning, did you ever, for a moment, think that the water coming out of your faucet would make you nauseous or damage your kidneys? Probably not. But, unfortunately, not everyone has that luxury. One in three people lack access to quality water. At least fourteen states are currently experiencing crisis-level water shortages and contamination. And, the nation's water infrastructure is outdated and crumbling, putting our fresh water supply at risk. Clearly, there is a need for action; every child deserves to grow up with access to clean water. That's why, on this World …

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