One University of Massachusetts Amherst student’s work to get her campus to commit to 100% renewable energy

Kaitlyn Mitchell said no to being an activist before she said yes. In fact, even after she said yes, she quit a couple of times.

But each time she came back.

Why? Perhaps, it was her political and community-minded upbringing. As a kid she would go to speeches made by her union president mom. She was also inspired by her dad, who ran youth sports programs at the YMCA. It might have been self-interest. Asthma attacks, made worse by bad air pollution, had plagued her since she was two years old. …


Five pivotal moments to keep an eye on in 2021

Thanks largely to state action, renewable energy, like solar, powered nearly 10% of America’s electricity needs in 2019.

What does the combination of the Biden presidency, a Republican-controlled Senate and a Democratic-controlled House mean for the future of America’s energy policy?

The short answer is there will be openings at the federal level, but that largely the movement for comprehensive and enduring clean energy progress is likely to take place in our nation’s laboratories of democracy — our states and cities.

This has long been the case. …


Yes, there has been some good news on planet Earth in 2020

In August, we received our first holiday card of 2020. It came from our brilliant and goofy friends who took pictures of themselves, their kids and their dog wearing elf hats in their summer garden cheerfully wishing this abysmal year would end already.

Photo credit: Brian Yellen

There’s no denying 2020 that has been tough. A global pandemic. Hundreds of thousands of Americans dead from COVID-19, many of them unnecessarily. Inspirational leaders of both the civil rights movement (Rep. John Lewis) and women’s movement (Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg) passing on.

Finding good…


Revisiting our nation’s worst energy law

The Sammis coal plant in Stratton, Ohio had been slated for closure, until legislative action fueled by bribes resuscitated it last year. (Photo credit: FirstEnergy)

Given the urgency of acting on climate change, we have to take advantage of every opportunity to change how we produce and consume energy. Each decision we make, positive and negative, will reverberate through the remainder of our lives and the lives of those who come after us.

Last year, the Ohio Legislature was presented with one of those opportunities, and it failed. Lawmakers decided, when they enacted House Bill 6 (HB 6), to keep Ohio tethered to polluting and dangerous fuels rather than embrace a cleaner energy future.

At the time, some clean energy advocates called HB 6 “the…


And why options such as “net zero by 2050” misses the mark

In a time when Massachusetts faces new challenges presented by COVID-19, one big challenge hasn’t changed: Burning fossil fuels, such as oil and gas, still pollutes our air and water, makes us sick and warms our climate. Given what we know about the impacts of using these dirty fuels on our health and our environment, state lawmakers should commit to a goal of rapidly shifting the commonwealth away from fossil fuels.

My son and a long-time family friend joining tens of thousands of others calling for a clean energy future at a demonstration in November 2019 (photo credit: Johanna Neumann)

Lawmakers in the commonwealth are currently weighing two competing approaches to long-term clean energy and climate action: 100 percent renewable energy or “net zero by 2050.”

What’s the difference?


Why Massachusetts should re-elect its senior senator

In the absence of baseball for most of this summer, I’m grateful that politics has at least some aspects of America’s pastime. In baseball, like in politics, some players are clutch. They come through in big moments. Big Papi did this time and again for Red Sox nation.

There are clutch players in politics too, and when voters across the Pioneer Valley cast their votes in the Democratic primary on September 1st, I hope they join me in casting their votes for a true ace — Ed Markey.

Enough said: Markey’s twitter profile shows him wearing a mask… but not just any mask. A Red Sox Nation mask. (photo credit: Twitter)

This year’s national election is…


A 19th century cholera outbreak offers direction for today’s issues

After a cholera outbreak in London in the 1800s, researchers traced the outbreak back to a contaminated well on Broad Street (replica pump shown above) and lobbied to have the pump handle removed. Legend has it that cholera cases in the area plummeted after the intervention. Photo Credit: Matt Brown via Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Browsing the bookshelves of the home I’m quarantining in for COVID-19 has become part of my social isolation experience. Recently I pulled a young-readers guide to Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” off the shelf and discovered an “Extra! Extra!” section after the novel that gives readers a glimpse of events that took place during Shelley’s life. The notice below jumped out at me because it underscored a universal truth that arose from the time of another pandemic: When society defines a problem and sets great minds to solving them, we can improve our collective destiny.


Nature-themed crafts and activities to celebrate Mother’s Day

With Mother’s Day right around the corner (May 10), many of us are making plans to celebrate our moms. Here are 12 ideas that you can use celebrate both your mom and nature this Mother’s Day:

  1. Make your mom a card and decorate it with leaf rubbings.
  2. Draw pictures of your favorite animals to decorate a card.
  3. Create a portrait of your mom out of leaves, sticks, flowers and other foraged materials.
  4. Spend time together reading one of these nature-themed books.
  5. Make her a reusable bag from old t-shirts. BONUS: If you…


My Earth Week 2020 diary

Confession: I’ve never really paid attention to Earth Week.

Sure, in years past, I would read the pro-environment editorials in the newspaper and skim the letters to the editor about saving the planet. Maybe I’d pass some well-intentioned “Respect Your Mother” signs that kids put up at intersections, and see images of the “Blue Marble” (what astronauts called this planet when they first viewed it from space) just a bit more frequently.

But 2020 was different. Earth Week 2020 — which happens to be the 50th Anniversary of the first Earth Day — found me holed up against a pandemic…


How historical maps serve as inspiration for telling the state-by-state clean energy story

One small side benefit of isolating from society in a home other than my own is that I’ve gotten access to a whole new set of bookshelves and, therefore, a whole new set of ideas.

Scanning my sister and brother-in-law’s bookshelves, I recently came across Susan Schulten’s “A History of America in 100 Maps” and soon buried myself in historic images that told the story of our country. I learned that maps played a key role in military strategy (like the ones Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman used to plan his march through Georgia). Maps were used for planning logistics (like…

Johanna Neumann

Senior Director for Campaigns for 100% Renewable Energy for Environment America, ultimate player, amateur dahlia grower, mom of boys.

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