2020年1月29日 星期三

Climate Fwd: Make smart donations

Also, African climate activists and a popular Berkeley class

Welcome to the Climate Fwd: newsletter. The New York Times climate team emails readers once a week with stories and insights about climate change. Sign up here to get it in your inbox. (And find the website version of this week’s letter here.)

Tyler Varsell

By Susan Shain

Last summer, when we discussed how to make your climate change donations count, our reporting suggested that one of the most effective strategies is donating to political campaigns.

But what if you’re not into politics and would rather help out a nonprofit organization instead? Unless you’re a scientist or policy wonk, figuring out who’s actually making a difference can feel like an impossible task.

A good place to start would be Founders Pledge. That group — inspired by effective altruism, a broad social movement that relies on evidence and analysis to determine where donations will do the most good — helps entrepreneurs navigate the world of giving, in part by examining which charities offer the greatest return on investment.

John Halstead, the group’s head of applied research, spent nine months writing a 152-page report aimed at climate change philanthropists. He ultimately recommended the Coalition for Rainforest Nations and the Clean Air Task Force as the most cost-effective organizations. The report cited the groups’ past successes in fighting global deforestation and supporting clean energy innovation.


Other adherents of the effective altruism movement have backed BURN, a social enterprise that lets donors finance fuel-efficient stoves in Kenya, and The Clean Energy Innovation Program, a subset of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. (Disclosure: Both the Clean Air Task Force and Clean Energy Innovation Program support the expansion of advanced nuclear power.)

If you’d rather plant trees, ImpactMatters, a charity evaluator that says it shares “some methodological commonalities” with effective altruism researchers, highlighted Eden Reforestation Projects as the most cost-effective tree-planting nonprofit of the 56 it reviewed.

The data-based reports of effective altruism and groups that share its philosophy provide a good starting point for donors. But it’s important to recognize that their analyses do not necessarily reflect the entirety of the climate change movement.

With that in mind, we asked two prominent climate change experts to share which charities they deemed worthy of donations (even if they didn’t have a chart to back them up).


Kate Marvel, an associate research scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, recommended Project Drawdown, which identifies global climate solutions; the N.A.A.C.P. Environmental and Climate Justice Program, which addresses the human and civil rights aspect of the issue; and the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund, which combats “the war on science.”

On the policy side, Vicki Arroyo, a law professor and executive director of the Georgetown Climate Center, recommended the Environmental Protection Network, which defends against budget cuts and regulatory rollbacks that could harm public health and the environment.

This is just a sampling of environmental organizations, of course, and you shouldn’t be afraid to forge your own path.

If you go it alone, ClimateWorks Foundation, which helps large foundations “tackle climate change on a global scale,” suggested first pinpointing the impact area (for instance, transportation or renewables), the approach (like mobilization or innovation) and the geographic location that interest you. Once you’ve found organizations that check those boxes, you can assess their backgrounds using tools like Charity Navigator and GuideStar.


You could also look through the recipients of grants from a reputable foundation. Since big foundations are experienced at recognizing the strengths and weaknesses of nonprofits, and since most perform due diligence before awarding funds, their grantee lists can also serve as road maps for individual donors.

Vanessa Nakate, left, in Davos, Switzerland, last week.  She was initially cropped out of the photo.  Markus Schreiber/Associated Press

By Shola Lawal

Young people are at the forefront of climate activism. But the most prominent young people challenging world leaders and corporations are often from the West. We hear and see much less about climate activists from Africa.

That’s why an episode at the World Economic Forum last week in Davos, Switzerland, stung for many Africans. The Associated Press published a photo of youth activists at the meeting. But editors at the agency cropped out Vanessa Nakate, an activist from Uganda. She was the only person of color in the group. The symbolism was not good.

“It was, like, the hardest thing,” she said in a video on her Twitter feed. “What really hurt me the most is that I was just thinking about the people from my country, and the people from Africa, and how much I’ve seen people being affected.”

“Who is going to be able to speak for all those people?” she asked.

The A.P. ultimately replaced the cropped photo with the original version and issued an apology. The agency said a photo editor had removed Ms. Nakate because of composition problems: The building behind her was distracting, a statement said.

Africa will be hard-hit by climate change even though it is a tiny emitter of greenhouse gases. And, while many parts of the world can afford to think of climate disruptions in the future tense, many Africans are already living with them. Worse, many African countries don’t have the resources needed to deal with climate change.

That’s why Ms. Nakate and many others are speaking out for Africa. Youth-led climate and environmental initiatives, from plastic repurposing programs to tree-planting initiatives, are having an impact across the continent. But they get very little attention.

It’s important that those efforts are seen, too.

Sage Lenier leading her class at the University of California, Berkeley.Irene Yi/UC Berkeley

It’s no secret that concerns about climate change and environmental degradation are growing on college campuses. That’s led students and professors alike to explore novel ways to teach the subject in the classroom.

This semester at the University of California, Berkeley, one of the college’s most popular courses is, remarkably, being taught by a 21-year-old senior, Sage Lenier. The class, titled Zero Waste: Solutions for a Sustainable Future, takes a fairly unusual approach — by focusing on practical steps that students can take to shrink their ecological footprints.

Ms. Lenier, a conservation and resource studies major, said she’d been inspired to create the course after becoming dissatisfied with how environmental issues are typically taught. “We’d learn about huge problems like rising greenhouse gas emissions or topsoil collapse, but there wasn’t much focus on what students could actually do about it,” she said. “We’d end up feeling very depressed.”

Berkeley allows students to create and teach their own classes, with approval from professors. Ms. Lenier designed a curriculum that walks through the science of modern waste streams, examining the links between our consumption habits — what we buy, what we throw out, what we eat — and problems like climate change. She focuses on steps that individuals and communities can take, like reducing reliance on single-use plastics, adopting more sustainable diets and shifting to a circular economy that produces less waste and requires fewer resources.

“I wanted to show people that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” Ms. Lenier said.

The course has struck a nerve. When it started in the spring of 2018, 25 students enrolled. But word spread quickly: For the latest iteration of the course, which starts on Wednesday, Ms. Lenier is expecting 300 students. Last summer, her curriculum won an award at the California Higher Education Sustainability Conference.

The class isn’t a substitute for traditional studies of, say, climate science or energy systems. But Kate O’Neill, a professor at Berkeley’s department of environmental science, policy and management who sponsors the course, said that Ms. Lenier offered a valuable advocacy-oriented perspective that academics don’t always emphasize. “It’s a unique model,” Dr. O’Neill said, “and she’s been able to attract a wide audience beyond the core environmental constituency.”


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