The reason the world is not making the transition away from the use of fossil fuels at the speed required for human thriving is because of entrenched systems of power. Getting those systems to change will take everything we have. As Frederick Douglass said, “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never has and it never will.” This work can be slow, and it requires us to think strategically about what will make a difference, and to be persistent in working toward our goals. Doing this work may stretch you out of our comfort zone. We need to join with others and use our collective power to get institutions to change from a business-as-usual course.

The first step is to find or create a group to work with. This is hard work and it requires community to build the kinds of power that will make significant changes, and we all need support systems to have the persistence needed to keep up our work when it gets tough.

One organizing slogan I like is “to change everything start anywhere.” Everywhere we turn, there are institutions that are enabling the extractive economy. Everywhere we turn there is work being done to build a just and sustainable world. Find your people and dig in where it seems the most productive and joyful to you.

Much of the exciting climate justice action is happening now is at the level of state and local policies. This is an area that most people don’t know much about and that many people are cynical about because it has rarely been a fruitful place for grassroots activism in the recent past. But we are in a very special moment where this work is crucial and where it is possible to make a real significant difference through legislation at a variety of levels. In every state in the US, and in most countries in the world, there are is local and regional level legislation that needs to be supported, or that needs to be opposed, and there are groups to join to do that work with.

The organizations below are not all climate justice organizations. But you can bring a climate justice perspective to the work you do in any of them by paying attention to the entrenched forms of racial, class, and gender power that are blocking change and causing disproportionate harm. Many organizations have national or transnational structures that allow people to form local hubs, while being part of a larger loosely coordinated strategy.

  • For young people you can join Earth Guardians, Sunrise Movement, or Youth Climate Strike.
  • For those interested in direct action, you can join Extinction Rebellion.
  • 350.org has groups all around the world and they focus a lot on policy shifts.
  • Fridays for the Future does street actions in the US.
  • Stop the Money Pipeline is calling for direct action to confront banks and other financial institutions to get them to end financing for fossil fuels.
  • Third Act is a US based organization targeted to people over 60 that focuses on the pressuring the worst banks to stop funding fossil fuel companies.  
  • An organization that is focused on policy change in the US is The Climate Reality Project.
  • Wherever you live there is probably a public pension system you can help pressure to divest. Please reach out to me directly if you are interest in this, as this is my own main form of organizing.
  • If you are in a union, you can get active in it and work to ensure it is doing all it can for the climate.
  • There are many organizations working on shifting how the places we live function. Many organizations fighting for better biking go under the name Critical Mass The Mayor’s Institute on City Design has great resources on projects to try to make happen where you live.

For more on these issues you can read my book The Sea Is Rising and So Are We: A Climate Justice Handbook (2020 PM Press).

Please write to me if you have suggestions for this sheet. Kaufman.cynthia13@gmail.com

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