A whole lot of moving and shaking was going on in 2017! Previous years’ movers and shakers stepped it up and new people and organizations emerged with innovative strategies to take on environmental issues. Many of 2017’s activities were prompted by the unprecedented attacks on science and environmental protection by the Trump administration. However, the efforts to counteract the anti-environmental agenda and generally work towards a more sustainable society have been unprecedented as well. Here is the 2017 list of the top 10 movers and shakers in sustainability (in no particular order):
1. Rogue U.S. federal employees. Employees of several U.S. federal agencies stood up for science this year, and in particular, climate science. The official account of Badlands National Park made their stance clear by tweeting climate change statistics. As the new administration’s efforts to suppress climate-related information continued, some of the park’s employees created an alternative Twitter profile to share climate change facts. Soon after, other national parks and federal agencies joined the resistance by creating “alt” profiles including altNatParkService, altNASA, altEPA and altNOAA. Other federal employees downloaded valuable climate data before it was deleted from federal websites and have been outspoken about the administration’s anti-environmental efforts.
2. Xiuhtezcatl Martinez and Earth Guardians. From speaking at U.N. events to taking on local issues, this teenager has already been protecting the environment for over a decade. Xiuhtezcatl Martinez is a leader of Earth Guardians,”a tribe of young activists, artists, and musicians from across the globe stepping up as leaders to co-create the future we know is possible.” He is also one of the young people suing the U.S. government due to inaction on climate change. In 2017, Martinez published his first book We Rise and received mainstream attention, such as being interviewed by Trevor Noah on the Daily Show. This mover and shaker is inspiring us and the next generation of environmentally-minded individuals to step it up.
3. 1 Million Women. Their “about us” statement says it all: “we are women and girls from every corner of the planet building a lifestyle revolution to fight the climate crisis. Join the movement.” Started in Australia by Natalie Isaacs, 1 Million Women gets to the core of how everyone (and women in particular) makes decisions every day that creates greenhouse gas emissions. The group leverages this impact for good by organizing targeted campaigns calling on members to take on issues such as food waste, plastic packaging, and protection of the Great Barrier Reef. They also provide guidance for a low-carbon lifestyle and a dashboard to track impact. With over 300,000 members the aggregated impact is huge and growing.
4. Anthony Bourdain. With the movie “Wasted!“, Anthony Bourdain and his team illustrated how problematic current food systems are and brought the battle against food waste to the mainstream. The film shows how wasteful each step of a system is, from production to consumption at home or a restaurant, and calls on chefs, cities, and everyone to innovate and work together to fix these antiquated systems. A number of food waste movers and shakers from around the world are featured in the film, such as The Daily Table, which is reducing waste and making healthy food more accessible, and the Japan Food Ecology Center, transforming food scraps into nutritious feed for pigs at scale.
5. Sub-national actors committed to the Paris Agreement. Sub-national actors (e.g., cities, states, universities, and businesses) responded immediately when the Trump administration announced it would be removing the U.S. from the Paris Agreement. Through the “We are Still In” initiative, these sub-national actors committed to meeting the greenhouse gas reduction targets the U.S. had previously submitted as part of the Paris Agreement. America’s Pledge quantifies the progress made by these actors. This alternative coalition was also in Bonn, Germany for the U.N. climate talks (COP 23), showing the rest of the world that despite being the only country to not commit on a national level, the people of the U.S. are ready and willing to act on climate change.
6. Volvo Cars. Volvo Cars announced that all their car models launched after 2019 will be electric or hybrids, making it the first major traditional automaker to set a date for phasing out vehicles powered by internal combustion engine which relies on fossil fuels and emits greenhouse gases and air pollutants. It will launch three fully electric Volvo models by 2021 and seems like a smart move as Norway, France, and the U.K. already have plans in place to eliminate the sale of fossil fuel-based cars in their countries in the next 20-30 years.
7. Lonely Whale. Taking on the plastic waste that pollutes our oceans is not an easy task but the team at Lonely Whale is using specific calls to action and social media to do just that. For example, the Strawless Ocean Movement prompts all of us to commit to not using plastic straws, which are unnecessary and often make their way into the ocean. Part of this movement was Strawless in Seattle, a partnership with the city of Seattle, Washington that got approximately 200 businesses and restaurants to stop offering straws to their customers. Building on the campaign, the city passed a ban on plastic straws and utensils from all businesses that sell food or drinks which will be enacted in 2018.
8. Bears Ears Tribes. A coalition of five Native American tribes around the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah is standing up against the president’s proclamation to reduce its size by 80%. Reducing the size of the monument means opening culturally and environmentally-significant and protected land to mining. However, the coalition of tribes has sued the president for this move with a lawsuit that hinges on whether a current president has the legal authority to change monuments created by past presidents. The lawsuit has been joined by the company Patagonia, who strongly supports efforts to protect the monument.
9. Mexico. In 2017, Mexico emerged as a leader in marine protection by setting aside the largest ocean reserve in North America. The new reserve is located southwest of the Baja California peninsula and protects 57,000 sq. miles of diverse marine ecosystems. The protected status includes a ban on fishing in the reserve and bans on mining and construction of new hotels on the Revillagigedo islands. The fishing ban will be policed by the Mexican navy and is expected to help the area rebound from overfishing. We hope other countries follow suit and this is the beginning of more protection for marine ecosystems.
10. Climate Optimists. Right when we needed inspiration the most, the Climate Optimist initiative launched reminding us that “hope beats fear…it’s the attitude that inspires progress.” Backed by big companies like Mars and VF Corp (e.g., North Face) and the NGO, The Climate Group, the initiative includes a Climate Optimist Manifesto, case studies illustrating the reasons to be optimistic, and prompts to take action. From the manifesto: “We choose belief in a better future. We choose action. We choose hope. Solving climate change starts with the belief that we can. We are climate optimists. Opt In.”
As you may have noticed, many of 2017’s top movers and shakers provide an opportunity to join their sustainability efforts and we encourage you to do so! This is only a snapshot of 2017’s many movers and shakers in sustainability and we’re excited to see who will make the top 10 in 2018.