Leaders, Allies, and other Readers,

I feel like right now, many of us are lacking the sense of urgency we felt last semester in the lead-up to Copenhagen, the grand event where the leaders of the world were meeting to decide our fate.  This fall, we have no clear-cut external deadline, but the earth is still warming, and each day that the level of carbon in the atmosphere  stays above 350 parts per million brings us one day closer to disaster.

So here’s my shot at some urgency and hope:


  • World leaders failed to lead.
    • The leaders who met in Copenhagen to decide our fate basically decided that we weren’t worth saving.
  • President Obama failed to lead.
    • President Obama had the chance at Copenhagen to announce that he would commit the EPA to reduce emissions along the weak lines of the climate bill, but declined to do so.
  • Congress failed to lead.
    • The efforts in Congress to pass comprehensive legislation – legislation that we all know was insufficient to solve the problem in the first place – have stalled, and experts think it is almost impossible to expect a climate bill from congress this session.
  • The Massachusetts governor and legislature failed to lead.
    • Here in Massachusetts, our state government just announced that their existing climate policies would result in an 18% reduction in emissions by 2020 (below 1990 levels).
    • This is better than any other state in the country, far better than the country as a whole, and even better than several of our ambitious European allies.
    • By every objective measure but one, this is true leadership.
    • Unfortunately, the one objective measure that counts is the science, and these efforts will get us nowhere near 350ppm, even if all other industrialized nations followed suit.
  • Our allies – the national environmental non-profits – tried, but failed to lead.
    • Environmental groups across the country are dispirited.
    • The movement had focused for the past three years (if not longer) on passing a federal bill.
    • They elected a huge majority of democrats in congress; they elected a president who seemed to really get it.
    • But, lined up against an incredibly powerful set of interests dedicated to preserving the status quo, they neglected to mobilize a constituency capable of making the necessary demands of these leaders, and they themselves failed to make the needed demands for science-based policy (i.e. 350ppm – a result of their own strategic evaluation of what was politically possible for them to achieve).
  • In short, NO ONE is leading (at least not to the extent needed).


    • We are calling for actions that are equal in scale to the challenges we face.  We are mobilized, we are organized.
    • Last week, our bill was moved out of the Senate Ethics and Rules Committee — a committee where most late-filed bills go to die.
    • This February, The Leadership Campaign has moved from becoming a project of SJSF to becoming a Coalition of groups in support of 100% Clean Electricity by 2020.
      • Already, 3 community partners have joined SJSF in the Steering Committee, ready to dedicate serious resources:
        • The Mass Council of Churches
        • Somerville Climate Action Network
        • The Unitarian Universalist Mass Action Network
        • More will be joining them.
    • The first week of March, over a dozen organizations – including many new partners and allies – will join in the Commonwealth Challenge, and commit to reduce their emissions in return for the passage of our bill.
    • We are getting more campuses on board.  Already this semester we have added to our ranks:
      • Assumption College
      • Ana Maria College
      • College of the Holy Cross
      • Emerson College
      • Mass College of the Liberal Arts
    • We are moving into New England to grow our efforts beyond our state
      • New England Climate Summer will create a strong pool of leaders who are well connected with each other and us to get our fellow New England students up and running.
      • We are also planning a New England Climate Summit to attract and empower more of our peers.

But we haven’t won yet.  We can’t slow down yet.  Our bill hasn’t been passed yet, and THE WORLD IS STILL BURNING.


  • Lead
    • If you have a role, do it, and do it well.
    • If you have questions about your role and responsibilities, ask someone for advice.
      • If you don’t know who to ask, ask me.
    • If you don’t yet have a role, STEP INTO ONE.
      • If you know of other people on your campus who should be leaders, get them to step into a leadership role.
  • Support Others
    • If you are in a state or regional role, you should still be participating in the campus level.  Support those who have stepped up to lead your campus.  Be there with them and for them at every meeting. Make sure they know what you know, and make sure they have the resources and support they need to do heir jobs well.  Lead by example, and be at every single SJSF Campus Meeting and Event.
  • Come to the Amherst Sleep-out
    • Don’t know how you’re getting there? – contact your Regional or Campus Coordinator.
  • Bring people to the Amherst Sleep-out
    • Sleep-outs are an important part of building the movement.  We aren’t just passing a bill, we are building the power we need to built a movement capable of making real demands on our leaders that will actually solve the problem.
    • When people come to sleep-outs, they get inspired by our numbers, they build relationships with us and with each other, and they recognize that we are in a movement.
    • We are only having THREE sleep-outs this entire semester.  So we need to MOBILIZE, MOBILIZE, MOBILIZE to turn-out for them.


  • We are looking to pass this bill by Earth Day, and incorporate the recommendations of this task force the bill will create into a new, truly revolutionary bill we will need to pass during the next legislative session.
  • But we aren’t just passing a bill, we are building the power we need to built a movement capable of making real demands on our leaders that will actually solve the problem.
  • We need to expand to new places, and we need to be building leaders in places we already have people.
  • We are going to start working on barn-raisings, getting in the community and working to achieve real reductions in real-time.
  • We need to educate more and more people about the climate crisis, and bring more community partners into the fold.

Let’s do this.

Onwards & Upwards,


Craig S. Altemose
Coordinator, Students for a Just and Stable Future
M.P.P./J.D. Candidate, Class of 2010
Harvard Kennedy School of Government/Harvard Law School

Nothing Less than 100%, Nothing More than 350.