Foglio's Field Notes

Leif Utne's random rants, musings and meditations

Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

I’m Going to the Tällberg Forum!

with 5 comments

TF09I am thrilled to say that in just two weeks I’ll be in Sweden attending this year’s Tällberg Forum, a prestigious conference on sustainability that takes place in Sweden every summer. This invitational gathering brings together 450 leaders in government, business and civil society from around the globe, from Rwandan president Paul Kagame to human rights activist Bianca Jagger, NASA climate scientist Jim Hansen to former Norwegian prime minister Gro Harlem Brundtland to InterfaceFlor CEO Ray Anderson, among many others. This year’s theme — “How on Earth can with live together, within the planetary boundaries?” — asks us to “search for the underlying causes of the global crisis, and start the process of envisioning ways out of it.” As the conference website says:

Five dimensions of this challenge will guide our work: the planet, the economy, technology, learning and security/governance/diplomacy. These five dimensions represent inroads into understanding and addressing the global crisis. While strongly inter-related, there is great potential for better understanding and innovation within each. A range of sessions will be available for each dimension during the Forum, where groups of different sizes can engage in prototyping work or open conversation. Many of these sessions are organized in partnership with selected institutions, projects and initiatives who choose to bring their concerns and ideas to the Forum…

The conference asks us to take “the essential but difficult step from ‘systems thinking’ to ‘systems doing’.”

New Leaders Program
Perhaps even more exciting than attending the four-day Tällberg Forum, June 24-29, I’ll also be participating in the Tällberg Foundation’s New Leaders Program (NLP), a three-day intensive just before the Forum, with 40 emerging young leaders between ages 30 and 40. The NLP is a course on looking at global problems from a systems perspective, as well as an opportunity for mentorship and networking. On the third day, when the other attendees show up, the NLP participants get to faciliate the first set of breakout session of the Forum, titled “What We Want to Talk About.”

I’m deeply grateful to the 20 people who have donated more than US$1,500 so that I can attend the NLP. You know who you are.

Reporting from Tällberg — Stay Tuned…
I will be reporting on the proceedings in Tällberg via this blog, as well as posting photos to my Facebook page and shorter updates to my Twitter feed. Please stay tuned, and let me know if there’s anything in particular you want me to look into while I’m there.

Written by leifutne

June 9, 2009 at 1:05 am

Van Jones for Green Jobs Czar?

leave a comment »

powershift-09-van-jonesI’ve been sitting on this story for two weeks, but the green blogs are suddenly abuzz with the rumor that Van Jones may be appointed the White House’s new “Green Jobs Czar.” (See here, there, there, and elsewhere.) So I guess I’ll add what I know.

A close mutual friend, who wishes to remain anonymous, tells me that Jones has passed the requisite FBI background check, and is set to assume the new post of “White House Special Adviser for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation” on March 16. Jones would be in charge of doling out the half-billion dollars in the recent economic stimulus package that is destined for areas like conservation, energy efficiency and clean tech development. He would also be an influential voice in the debate over how the $80 billion for clean energy in the stimulus package is spent.

[UPDATE: Kate Sheppard at Grist quotes an anonymous source close to Jones who says that “‘green jobs czar’ is an overstatement.”]

I can’t imagine a more appropriate pick for this job than the author of the recent book The Green Collar Economy and president of the Oakland-based group Green for All, whose slogan, “building a green economy strong enough to lift people out of poverty,” should be adopted by Obama himself. And it’s a fitting trajectory for someone who has been beating the green jobs drum for four years. (I interviewed Van for Utne Reader in June 2005 during the UN Green Cities Summit, when he was taking the “green-collar jobs” meme out for an early road-test.)

Hopefully government work won’t require Jones to tone down his fiery rhetorical style. His ability to cast his environmental justice mission in stark moral terms — “do we want eco-apartheid or eco-equity?” — should be seen as an asset by the White House, even if it makes some of the suits on Capitol Hill squirm. And he has an amazing gift for connecting with audiences that might not agree with him on everything. He reportedly had a crowd of evangelical Christians in L.A. so fired up about their religious duty to protect God’s creation they were practically writhing on the floor speaking in green tongues.

Some cynics are questioning whether Jones should take the job, suggesting that he might be more effective on the outside than in government. That thought had crossed my mind, too. But despite his rock-star status among progressive enviros, he’s not yet a household name like Al Gore, who I honestly believe really is more effective where he sits now than he would be in the White House. (An Oscar and a Nobel Peace Prize wouldn’t hurt, either.) Would conservative leaders like Paul Wolfowitz or John Bolton have been more effective at advancing their agendas during the Bush years if they had stayed on the sidelines, speaking at conferences and pumping out policy papers for think-tanks? I think not. Government is exactly where Van Jones should be.

The optimist in me has to wonder, too, if Jones’s appointment isn’t a sign that president Obama may be backing away from his support for so-called “clean” coal. In his keynote speech at the PowerShift ’09 conference (see video below), which brought 12,000 young climate activists to DC to lobby Congress for green jobs and clean energy, Jones said: “There is no such thing as the tooth fairy. There is no such thing as unicorns. And there is no such thing as ‘clean’ coal.” (download audio)

Van, the world’s been waiting a long time for you.

Written by leifutne

March 9, 2009 at 3:20 pm

Social Media 201: Blogging and Social Networking for Social Change

with 2 comments

Here are the slides from a presentation I gave recently on how activists can use social media tools for organizing and advocacy, including case studies on PowerVote.org and TheUpTake.org. I gave this talk at the Western Organizers Summit in Seattle Nov. 17, 2008, sponsored by Democracy in Action and the New Organizing Institute.

It leaves a little to be desired without any audio. Plus, this is my first time using SlideShare, and the formatting of the bullets on some slides got a little messed up in the translation from PowerPoint to whatever format they use. If anyone has tips on how to fix that, I’m all ears.

Written by leifutne

November 27, 2008 at 3:34 am

Hope Conquers Fear

leave a comment »

Ever since the polls closed last night, I’ve been trying to put into words what Obama’s victory means, for me, for the country, for the world. Well, Sarah Van Gelder, editor of YES! Magazine, seems to have read my mind. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Sarah van Gelder: What We Won on Election Day

President-elect Barack Obama was right when he said in his election night speech that the victory was not all about him, but his leadership was extraordinary. He ran a campaign of high integrity, focusing on issues that really mattered, showing he could lead the whole country forward–not pandering, but speaking to our higher selves. He brought authenticity, telling his own story and sharing his own hardships and hopes. And he showed wisdom, maturity, compassion, and humanity, assuring voters that he would work for us all.

But this was also a victory for the kind of citizen involvement that makes democracy a living reality.

It was a victory for the movement that has been battling across the country to keep elections fair and prevent the suppression of votes.

It was a victory for the internet, which allowed ordinary people, rather than just the wealthy, to fund and participate fully in a candidacy.

It was a victory for young people, who poured their love into this campaign and inspired so many others.

It was, as Rep. John Lewis said on election night, the triumph of a nonviolent revolution, launched by the Freedom Riders, the marchers in Selma, by Fannie Lou Hamer, Ella Baker, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and so many others.

It was a victory for a new progressive majority made up of people of color, youth, women, well-educated people, working-class people, and the poor, but inviting all to join in.

It was a victory of hope—the centerpiece of the Obama campaign—over fear.

These are extraordinarily challenging times, with climate change passing various tipping points, wars in the Middle East, and an economic meltdown, just to name a few of the crises facing President-Elect Obama and all of us. It will take a combination of leadership from the Obama administration and leadership from all the rest of us if we are to rise to these daunting challenges.

But now we know: Yes, we can.

Written by leifutne

November 5, 2008 at 1:51 pm

Posted in politics

Singing my favorite song

leave a comment »

What’s your favorite song? That was the topic this morning on the first hour of Weekday, the AM talk show on KUOW, one of Seattle’s NPR affiliates. It was interesting how many people’s favorites were positive, uplifting tunes. I hope they post a complete song list on the website. Not so surprising, considering it’s election day, was how many songs had a political edge — Cat Stevens’ “Peace Train,” The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” Curtis Mayfield’s “There’s a Change A-Comin’.”

I called in and sang a few bars of my (and our son Mateo’s) current favorite, Michael Franti’s latest single “Say Hey.” You can listen to today’s show here (I start at 00:31:35).

Written by leifutne

November 4, 2008 at 2:40 pm

Posted in Me, music, politics, radio

Lost Votes

leave a comment »


Jason Osgood, Washington State’s Democratic candidate for Secretary of State, has created a clever spoof of Apple’s Mac v. PC commercials, highlighting the problems with electronic touch-screen voting machines. (Via The Brad Blog)

Written by leifutne

September 28, 2008 at 10:34 pm

Sarah Palin: The Russia Question

leave a comment »


A heartbeat away from the Oval Office? I shudder to think.

Written by leifutne

September 25, 2008 at 6:37 pm

Posted in politics