Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Headed to the Golden Coast

I’m writing this blog in the house of a Green Corps alum within Salt Lake City, Utah. I’ve embarked on my second cross-country road trip for the year, hitting up two more states (Iowa and Nebraska) that I haven’t been to before. This puts my total count to 42 states ever visited, with having been in 40 of them in the last two months.

The last several weeks have been filled with rotations of emotion between shock, anxiety and excitement. I'm still shocked that I am in such an amazing program, with such amazing people whose network is perhaps the best in the environmental movement. I'm also shocked that I got such an amazing campaign, of which I'll get to in a second. I'm anxious about my skill sets and diving into this heavy level of organizing that includes everything from training, leadership development, phone banking, petitioning, rallying, and so on. Finally it is hard not to be excited! To be involved at this level, working on campaigns across the nation creating substantive change is the most empowering idea I've ever experienced.

I’m now headed to Berkeley, California for a few days and then will settle into Santa Monica to rally up the residents for opposing Proposition 23. This proposed proposition will essential kill the previous progressive global warming legislation that was passed in the state several years ago by nullifying it until unemployment in the state gets below 5.5%, something that won’t happen for a long, long time. This is time we don’t have regarding the WORLD’S most advanced climate policy. That’s right, California isn’t just leading the United States but actual the world with this act. If this proposition passes it could significantly impede efforts across the planet to fight climate change at a time in which we are already drastically behind on action. This makes the stakes at an all time high. This campaign, if we are successful, will help save the world as we know it. Really-- it is not a far exaggeration to say that I’m directly working to save the world.

I couldn’t have asked for a better campaign.

This campaign, of course, gets even better. You see, two Texas oil companies are providing the funding for prop 23. Considering all that is happening with the gulf oil disaster there is no wonder in my mind that out-of-state oil interests will see their actions backfire with the public. This makes things very black-and-white and Valero has made itself the perfect villain for this story. I can’t speak on any of our organizing strategies… yet. Stay tuned.

For information on the campaign, click here.

Alas it is midnight (or 2:00am EST, which was just two days ago). I should sleep as we have our final 14 hour driving leg ahead.


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Green Corps 2011 - Day 3 of Training

I’m now in day three of Green Corps training, the ‘school for environmental organizing.’ They have likened it to a master’s degree in environmental organizing and honestly it is hard not to see the success of the program. With around 275 alumni since the early nineties, members have become executive directors across the board in some of the top environmental organizations in America. Just in the last few days we’ve had speakers such as Phil Radford, the executive director of Greenpeace USA. While I’ve always been skeptical of their tactics, Phil seemed to me to have a solid head on his shoulders. He discussed the ‘million dollar megaphone’ we’re up against with corporations willing to spend whatever they can to keep things easy for them. In terms of his organization having a radical public perception, he emphasized that ‘we should be radical and effective.’

Yesterday we had John Rogers, the senior analyst from the Union of Concerned Scientists talk about their report, Climate 2030: A National Footprint for a Clean Energy Economy. This report goes into if a cap-and-trade carbon program in conjunction with implementing local polices toward a clean energy future could not only save the country hundreds of billions of dollars but also can create millions of jobs and save tens of thousands of square miles of space in our country (mining efforts may take upwards of 80,000 square miles). Solutions like this make sense, but unfortunately the steps we need to take to have a just transition to a sustainable economy are blocked by strong corporate interests, that million dollar microphone. This is one of the main reasons why the cap-and-trade bill just fell in the senate.

I must run, but this has been an amazing experience already, meeting a great diversity of organizers (there are 21 of us in the class of 2011) from all over the country. We face extraordinary challenges ahead and we must put forth a tremendous effort to bring about a just and clean future for all.

Of course with the hard deadline of 80% reductions of carbon emissions by 2050 only having a 50/50 chance of being enough to stabilize climate change, we must always continue to push in this movement.

“50/50 shot for our kids’ future? I don’t think so!” said Phil Radford.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Returned Home, Green Corps in two weeks

I'll admit, I'm not the best blogger. I have my spurts of blogging energy and then find myself too engaged with life to take a moment to sit down and reflect (something I should be doing more of nowadays). I am always shocked to see that it has been a month or more since my last post!

We concluded our wonderful road trip adventure a few weeks ago in Blacksburg and as of last week I moved out of town back to my parents in Northern Virginia. I'm definitely going to miss all Blacksburg had to offer, but there are definitely exciting opportunities coming down the pipe.

Here are the pictures from the rest of our trip!

I spent a good 28 hours on a really awesome ~30 minute video putting the entire trip together. Unfortunately there are several copyrighted songs in it so I cannot upload it to sites like Vimeo or YouTube. I threw a version of it on my website (don’t sue me!), but expect it to take a long while to load at 2.2 GB. The quality is regretfully lower than I would have liked, but I ran out of time to compress it appropriately.

A new chapter in my life will start in two weeks with the bound-to-be-quite-crazy adventures of Green Corps, a national non-profit environmental organizing training school. Out of thousands applying across the nation, only 25-30 get accepted... I guess running for town council didn't hurt my chances.

My training starts August 1st up in Boston. Halfway through training I’ll find out where in the nation I’ll end up for my first of several 3-month assignments. I’ve been pushing for Hawaii but I don’t think that’s likely, so I’ll settle (if I can) for something on the west coast. Either way after experiencing the U.S. through our road trip I’m pretty excited to be anyplace new!

Another exciting tidbit- our guest trainers for August include the Executive Directors / Presidents of the Center for Health, Environment, and Justice, Greenpeace, Environment America, and the Union of Concerned Scientists. Quite a lineup!

My goal is to blog a bit more regularly over the next year, so keep your fingers crossed and / or yell at me!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Facebook Woes

Unfortunately the privacy settings with Facebook won't let me share videos unless you are an account holder. Once I get a chance I'll upload the videos I have on YouTube (likely after the roadtrip).

In the mean time you can check out the third album I've put up. If you really want to stay up-to-date with the roadtrip, follow me on Twitter.

We're headed to Yosemite tomorrow, then Vegas, Bryce Canyon, Grand Canyon and eventually Austin, Texas.

That's all for now!

From San Francisco,


Monday, May 31, 2010

Pictures and a Bear Story

It has been brought to my attention that the privacy settings on Facebook haven't allowed for everyone to view my photos. I believe I fixed the problem now and anyone should be able to see my photos from the trip.

Album 1
Album 2

If not, please let me know and I'll work on the settings. Either way, once I get a chance to really sit down (most likely after the trip) I'll upload all the photos and video directly to my website to download. I'll also geotag the real cool ones so you can see exactly where we were (it takes way too much time to upload them when you only have 15-30 minutes of internet every few days).

To keep to blogging I'll say a brief few words (it is now 1am West Coast time where I'm in Portland, Oregon now and I need to get to bed because we have a long day in the city tomorrow!). This trip already has been quite an amazing journey. We've just about crossed the 5,000 mile mark on how far we've traveled. We already slept under the stars in the desert-like landscape of the Badlands, scaled numerous mountains, camped in snowfall, heard wolves howl and coyotes yelp in the distance, seen numerous wildlife numbering aplenty and of those nearly extinct, journeyed to the tops of skyscrapers in Chicago and Seattle, eating delicious cuisine both at the campfire and at mom & pops across the country. On this trip alone I've already camped more than I have ever done before in my life put together.

I haven't found myself able to sleep in the car at all because I've been too excited to see what is around the next bend; afraid that I might miss something. There are similarities across America in the way we live our lives, but there are also subtle differences in design. The green neighborhoods of Portland are vastly different than the sprawling suburbs of Chicago compared to the shanty town in the Indian Reservation we journeyed through-- all of which is in the same country we call home. Often there are McDonalds, Wal-Marts, Safeways, Home Depots, Starbucks, and countless other stores cookie-cut across the landscape-- I was rather startled to see a Safeway layout exactly the same as the one down the street from my house 2,300 miles away in Canada.

There are also differences in how communities find their identity and values and how they want to be known. From tourist destinations such as Wall Drug Store in South Dakota to a rusting 1927 Model-T with a fake skeleton in it parked on the shoulder in a backwoods community in Washington State. This is only a hint of what we've seen.

We're only two weeks into the journey now, and have around 25 days to go. I'm excited to see what else we're going to learn!


So far the most interesting story was that we were stalked most likely by a Grizzly Bear in Glacier Park. After going on a 6+ hike up the mountain to Glacier Lake, we noticed huge fresh bear prints over our foot prints that had been following us for at least a mile (you can see the bear prints on the left, I guess grizzly judging by their huge size; bigger than our biggest shoe prints).

Highly nervous by finding this out, we started to hurry down the mountain path only to come face-to-face with another bear:

This is what ensued:
*Note: "Everyone" is supposed to be able to see the videos but apparently Facebook doesn't publicly publish them unless you have an account?

Friday, May 21, 2010


We're just outside Yellowstone National Park in a public library at Cody, Wyoming. You can already smell a hint of sulfur in the air.

Unfortunately time has been drastically short in terms of being able to connect to the internet on the trip. I've been able to continue uploading pictures to facebook, but haven't had the time to fill in details or geotag the photos on Panoramio.

We're going to be juggling where we are in the next couple of days, but we'll be hitting up Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Glacier National Park (U.S.), Glacier National Park (Canada), Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Quick Update!

We're just west of Madison, Wisconsin today! We've now gone through Charleston, West Virginia; Frankfort, Kentucky; Louisville, Kentucky; Indianapolis, Indiana; Bloomington, Illinois; Chicago, Illinois within the last two days.

Now we're in a straight stretch for Badlands National Park in South Dakota!

Can't talk long because we have to get on the road, but you can check out the latest pictures on Facebook here:

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Fit is Go!

Despite the late night rain, we're in high spirits to begin our grand cross-country journey early tomorrow morning! Honda's slogan, "The Fit is Go," is holding true as all of our stuff has been fit in the Fit.

Here Matt and Graham are proud of their packing accomplishment.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Graduation, Wise County Project and Roadtrip

I am now officially an alum of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. After four years of devoted work as an organizer and student, I've somehow managed to graduate Cum Laude.

Also after three years of video work, and one month of intensive video editing, I finished the Wise County Project. You can view the 40-minute documentary at

On Monday four of us will be embarking on a nearly 40-day, 10,000 mile long road trip across the country. As shown with the map in my last post, we'll be making a large counter-clockwise circle across the country. We intend to blog regularly and also hopefully utilize a really cool way to show where we've been with GPS enabled photos.

You can see the geotagged photos I've already uploaded, such as those from graduation, here. I hope to have a similar map on the main page of the website but I'm having some issues making it only show my photos.

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The 2010 Cross-Country Road Trip

Below is a map of our planned 40 day, ~10,000+ mile cross-country road trip. I just got a new netbook and a GPS-enabled camera, so you'll be able to follow our adventure closely!

(click on picture for full resolution)

View Cross Country Road Trip 2010 in a larger map

Friday, April 16, 2010

Free Hugs and Living for 32

I arrived on the Drillfield just after 9am and watched the thick mist of morning slowly give way to hints of blue above, soon washed away by a tidal wave of radiance with the rising sun. The day showed all the signs of spring with trees budding, birds cheerfully chirping, squirrels searching for their breakfast and students trudging to classes which are regrettably indoors. I walked straight to where the paths cross on the Drillfield where thousands of Hokies walk across campus every day. I put down my backpack and took out my sign with “Free Hugs” written in an orange and maroon and stood there for the next six hours.

Three years have passed since our tragedy when 33 lives were lost on our campus and many more were injured. I was an ignorant freshman before it all happened, rowdy and careless. I was then unaware of the hidden beauty of our community, and will always be saddened by the heartbreak it took for us to fully appreciate what we have.

I’ll never forget the emergency vehicles racing across campus, the snipers on the library and officers storming the dorm next to ours with guns drawn. I’ll never forget the endless sirens droning on in my head as I tried to sleep the first night. I’ll never forget the fierce and hurt eyes of the girl who glared at me as I walked by with the MTV News crew, which made me ask them to put their camera away. I’ll never forget the girl who worked in West End and always smiled at me, who lost her life during that horrid day. I’ll never forget seeing each friend before the list was known, the relief each hug brought and the significance of the strong embrace of life and appreciation to be there with each other that very second.

This is why I have stood there, on the Drillfield, for the last three years with a Free Hugs sign every April 15th. Why do we need a tragedy to share the love and spirit of our community? Why can’t we just embrace what makes us special—each other—on day like any other?

I have always had the heart of a community organizer which has blossomed at my time here at Virginia Tech, but nothing has made me appreciate what I work for greater than the tragedy that befell our community. To unite and make better a community such as ours is perhaps the greatest motivation I have. In this spirit, I’ve devoted literally every month of the last four years to the next event or activity for those in our community, whether it was hosting a statewide conference or running for town council with the pillars of community and sustainability (issues I feel are eternally interlinked).

As our class who was just finishing our freshman year in 2007 graduates and leaves our community, our campus will have nothing but new faces fortunate enough not to have experienced what we did. Don’t let that be an excuse to not know what happened here or to fail to appreciate what we do have. We’re all Hokies, forever and always. This is our community and it is up to each of you to make the most of it. To me, this is what we should neVer forgeT and why we must live on for 32.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Logistical Point

Just a for-your-information posting that the location of this blog needs to be moved due to Blogger no longer being able to provide FTP uploading to my website. After doing some fidgeting on the site, should direct you to it soon.

Expect a couple major updates and more regular updates regarding a cross-country road trip I'll be going on starting May 17th. Stay tuned.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Busy busy

Life, as usual, has ended up pretty busy. Since my last post I was accepted into Green Corps and will be starting my 13 month journey in August training and doing campaigns across the country. The shock is just beginning to wear off and I'm tremendously excited for this opportunity.

Since I am on the run, I'll keep it brief with some things to look forward to:

-March 26th: The Issue of Coal Debate (7pm, I think)
Basically it'll be a two sided discussion between members associated with the mining industry and the environmental movement. We're looking at two students, a professor and an expert in the field on each side. It looks like I'll be one of the students. Should prove to be a very engaging debate.

-March 27th: Panel on Solutions for the Future (3pm) & Earth Hour (8:30pm)
The panel is a working title... We'll be inviting Governor McDonnell, Representative Boucher, Dominion Power, Appalachian Voices and many others to sit down and talk about the future of various subjects including solving the climate crisis, the topic of coal, and the future of renewables in Virginia.

I'm currently outreaching to the Town of Blacksburg and Virginia Tech to participate in Earth Hour, this international event where communities turn off their lights to make a statement on climate change. I've talked with Virginia Tech electric and they said that they'll be able to keep track of how much energy we save. Ideally we'll be able to use the Drillfield or Market Square Park in downtown Blacksburg as a community gathering place and turn off the lights at Burruss Hall or Downtown.

-March 28th: Field trip to Larry Gibson's Kayford Mountain
I've met Larry Gibson on several occasions and he is truly a hero in the environmental movement and for standing up for what he believes in. He refused to give up his land to the destructive practice of mountain top removal and uses it to educate others about its process. Logistics are still being figured out, but I hope we can get several administrators and town officials out there to see the process firsthand.

April 15th: Free Hug Day
Purposely the day before the anniversary of the shootings at Virginia Tech, every year since then I've helped host Free Hug Day on campus as a way to show appreciation for our community and each other. In the hours and days after the shooting I can say that a hug from a friend, even strangers I just met, meant everything to me and gave hope in a hopeless situation. We don't need tragedy to have this appreciation for one another, so in utilizing facebook as an outreach tool I hope we can get 1,000,000 signed up by April 15th. If each person hugs 30 other people we would have hugged 10% of the American population in one day. I think we can do even more than that around the world. Stay tuned for this one.

Those are just a couple events I'm working on right now. This semester is quite an adventure already!

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Movement and Beyond Coal

In an hour I’m going to be on the road to Washington D.C. to have an interview with Green Corps. In the half decade I’ve been an active environmentalist I’ve learned that this essential movement is terribly complicated. You have differences in strategies from direct collaboration with community leaders to aggressive direct action. Within these strategies you have the idea of utilizing a step-by-step approach of outreach and cooperation which, if unyielding, may lead to aggressive direct action protests against leadership. Others idealize a tool-box method in which cooperation and aggressive direct action can be employed at the same time.

Then you have the movement itself producing friction between grassroot approaches and top-down induction of campaigns. Professional organizers, as we’ve been known to call them, come in with regional or national efforts and resources to get people involved locally with their issues. I’ve had experience in which professional organizing has been done what I would consider a right way, and a wrong way.

Last fall Green Corps partnered with the Sierra Club to kick off the Beyond Coal Campaign where dozens of universities across the nation with coal power plants are being asked to commit to transitioning away from coal to cleaner resources. Here at Virginia Tech a Green Corps member came in and helped seed a campaign that we’ve long been interested in. We’ve asked our administration to stop using mountain top removal coal within one year, commission a study of how we can do it (how about we actually start living up to our slogan "Invent the Future" for a change?) and be off coal by the year 2020. Between biofuels and natural gas for short term and as it becomes more feasible wind, solar and geothermal technologies, we aren’t having to reinvent the wheel here.

So far all of my experiences with Green Corps have related to it being done the right way of top-down organizing by empowering a local movement. The two organizers who I have worked with are nothing short of inspirational to me and motivated me to apply to Green Corps. Between my experiences of years of organizing and even a bid for Town Council, I’m cautiously optimistic for this interview.

I’ll leave this conversation here for now. Below is my letter to the editor to the Collegiate Times, with the original article here.

This is OUR challenge

Two years ago I had the opportunity to be a part of a student delegation that met with President Steger that led to the creation and passage of the Virginia Tech Climate Action Commitment and Sustainability Plan (VTCACSP). Since that meeting then, I’ve seen countless community members have a devoted part in the research and planning associated with establishing that commitment, and I am extremely proud of our university taking a step in the right direction towards a sustainable future.

Last week I had the honor to be present at another meeting with members of the university administration with Virginia Tech Beyond Coal; a campus group with a campaign that asks for our university to 1) stop burning coal from mountain top removal sites within one year, 2) begin co-firing as much sustainably sourced biomass without major retooling of our power plant’s boilers by 2015, and 3) to end our use of coal in the central steam plant by 2020, five years ahead of the planned boiler replacement. While administrators acknowledged that “[the university does] want to work towards that ultimate goal”, they said that this plan “aggressively evolves” the VTCACSP and goes against the work of those that were involved with it. Administrators claimed they would only continue this conversation if we, as students, work on changing our behavior regarding energy consumption.

Now, not only do I respectfully disagree with what was said of working against those involved with the planning of the VTCACSP, I also am disappointed with the fact that our administration, with the defined motto of Ut Prosim and slogan “Invent the Future,” have to rely on the students themselves to put forth such a challenge to our university community. Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

We’re currently faced with enormous challenges in the world, and as a leading research institution I feel it is our duty to step up to these challenges and take them head on. West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd, a long advocate for the coal industry, said in a recent speech: “To be part of any solution, one must first acknowledge a problem. To deny the mounting science of climate change is to stick our heads in the sand and say ‘deal me out’… The greatest threats to the future of coal do not come from possible constraints on mountaintop removal mining or other environmental regulations, but rather from rigid mindsets, depleting coal reserves, and the declining demand for coal…”

I have been heavily involved in the environmental movement and have seen it grow exponentially in the last several years. I know solutions aren’t as simple as flicking a switch, but Appalachia has already passed peak coal, meaning regional coal supplies will likely dwindle to nothing in the next few decades as costs continue to skyrocket. As companies begin to abandon already struggling communities, I find it the duty of our university community to advance alternative energies to create new green jobs, preserve the values of our land and work with communities as we pursue a carbon neutral and sustainable future.

President John F. Kennedy challenged our country to reach the moon in a decade, something deemed impossible. We did it. Now we are faced with another challenge with the same deadline, and we don’t have to go to the moon to achieve it. This is our challenge, and as a community let’s have newfound collaboration in our pursuing creative solutions. Let’s Invent the RIGHT Future. Let’s work together and move beyond coal.

Bryce Carter
Class of 2010
Humanities, Science, and Environment

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Revitalizing the Website

Now that it has been a few months after the election I figure I need to stretch out my blogging skills. As you can see, I’ve been working on redeveloping my website to match my life as a community organizer and keep better track of all the activities I’m involved in. Check out the issues page to get an idea of where I'm headed with the design:

I'll do my best to provide regular updates my final semester, especially with Earth Hour, Virginia Tech Move Beyond Coal campaign and the Wise County Project. This week I presented the Virginia Tech Energy and Sustainability Committee and the Blacksburg Town Council with a letter presenting Earth Hour. I've copied my letter to Town Council below:

To the members of Blacksburg Town Council,

As you know, climate change is happening all around us and its pace is accelerating. From melting glaciers to increasingly intense weather patterns, climate change is already impacting life across the globe.

To make a bold symbolic statement of collective concern for our planet, the World Wildlife Fund sponsored an event in 2007 in which active citizens in Sydney, Australia turned off their lights for one hour—Earth Hour. By 2009, Earth Hour became the largest event of its kind in the world with nearly one billion people from 4,100 cities in 87 countries turned out their lights, as well as international landmarks including the Golden Gate Bridge, Empire State Building, Eiffel Tower and Great Pyramids, and the city skylines of Las Vegas, Hong Kong, and Tel Aviv.

Saturday, March 27, 2010 at 8:30p.m. the world will send a powerful message that climate change is a priority that must be dealt with now. By turning off non-essential lighting during Earth Hour, hundreds of millions of people across the globe will show their support for lasting action to protect Earth’s natural resources, environment and climate, now and into the future. Earth Hour reminds us that by working together, we all have a working role to solve one of the most critical issues of our time. Earth Hour also provides an excellent forum for citizens to hold meaningful conversations about the ways in which all of us can act to be part of the solution.

With the Town of Blacksburg already demonstrating extraordinary leadership by signing the Mayor’s Climate Protection Agreement, joining the ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability Program, and establishing the Mayor’s Task Force on Climate Protection and Sustainability, Earth Hour provides a new opportunity for the diverse communities of Blacksburg and Virginia Tech to come together to show support for action to save our planet for future generations. In potential partnership with Virginia Tech, our joint participation will show that we care as a community and send a powerful message to the world that the United States is a leader in the movement to address climate change.

As planning continues, it is our hope to utilize either the Drillfield on Virginia Tech’s campus and turn off the lights at Burruss Hall or utilize the newly renovated Market Square Park as a community gathering place for citizens and students to enjoy each others’ company in candlelight. With the assistance of Virginia Tech Electric, our electricity demand both on and off campus will be monitored during Earth Hour and the savings will be shared with the public.

With the assistance of Town Council, we hope that the Town of Blacksburg will choose to partner with the Student Government Association Sustainability Committee and participate in Earth Hour 2010. We look forward to your response.

For more information about Earth Hour, check out or watch the video below.