Fighting Climate Change in the Courts


US Marshalls like Wyatt Earp helped clean up the lawless old West—can Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) lawyers help clean up the chaos of climate change? Can a small group of kids (Our Children’s Trust) and their lawyers demand their, and our, right to a livable planet?

We can meet, we can march, we can lobby, write letters, sign petitions, and put up solar panels. But when it comes right down to it, we live in a nation governed by the rule of law, “of the people, for the people, by the people,” and when laws are unjust, or when just laws are attacked by special interests, we also have recourse through the courts.
The “SELC believes that everyone in this region deserves to breathe clean air, drink clean water, and live in a healthy environment. This nonprofit organization gets consistently impressive results because we know how to work effectively in all three branches of government—and at the national, regional, state, and local levels—to create, strengthen, and enforce the laws and policies that determine the beauty and health of our environment.“

Speaker Will Cleveland has worked on Virginia’s Clean Power Plan, uranium mining, solar power, retiring outdated coal burning plants, biomass energy, and the power of energy efficiency among other issues, in his years at SELC so he can address almost any problem you’d like to bring up.

Our Children’s Trust elevates the voice of youth to secure the legal right to a stable climate and healthy atmosphere for the benefit of all present and future generations …”
Recently U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken declared “Exercising my ‘reasoned judgment,’ I have no doubt that the right to a climate system capable of sustaining human life is fundamental to a free and ordered society.”

“The decision means that the youth, age 9-20 and from all over the U.S., now have standing because their rights are at stake, and now their case (Juliana vs U.S.) is headed to trial.”

See short films about the case and some of the youth involved and learn the background and current status of this groundbreaking lawsuit.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017
6:30 – 8:00PM
Massanutten Regional Library
174 S. Main St., Harrisonburg

Hosted by the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley

What a Wonderful World Earth Day Celebration


Despite the gloomy forecasts for life on Earth, we have much to celebrate! Join the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley for a program of live music, dance, readings, poetry, song, images of beautiful places, and a walk in Court Square for Tree identification.

All to honor our planet home and the lovely habitat it provides for all living things.
Free and for all ages.

Saturday, April 22, 2017
1:00-2:30pm at Massanutten Regional Library, 174 S. Main Street, Downtown Harrisonburg

Hosted by the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley with support from the Shenandoah Group of the Virginia Sierra Club

Adventures in Advocacy

door-1574304_960_720Do you know that Representative Bob Goodlatte’s local staff has regular “open door meetings” for area constituents in several communities?  Here’s a link to the schedule:  Here’s what happened when I went to one of these meetings recently.

I dropped by the Grottoes Town Hall and spent an hour speaking to Debbie Garrett, District Director for the Congressman, who works in the Staunton office.  I gave her a one-pager of talking points and then covered the gist of them through a very cordial conversation.  Because there was no one else there, she and I had plenty of time to “just chat”.

I began with a “Thank you” for the Congressman’s recent support of federal legislation to provide funding for the mental ill (one of my personal interests).  After that, I mentioned that I had looked at the web site, seeking to understand Mr. Goodlatte’s position on environmental matters.  I pointed out that, despite specific items touting his support of and actions about fossil fuel energy matters, I found nothing about renewable energy (RE) or energy efficiency (EE), even though the web site says he belongs to the RE and EE Caucus.  And I commented specifically on the absence of his positions on the importance of conserving natural resources or of addressing the realities of climate change.  I added that, while I don’t know whether he believes that climate disruption is at least partly the result of human activities, I do believe that, as a representative in a state whose coastline and other areas are experiencing negative effects from the changing climate, he should at the very least understand and promote ways to mitigate their risks to VA, which I see as matters of fact and not conjecture.

Because our discussion was not very time-constrained, I was also able to tell Debbie about the Congressman’s constituents’ interest in solar energy, as evidenced by the many solar co-ops that have happened in the 6th District since spring 2014.  I also noted the economic benefits to VA that can result from greater use of solar power.  I made the point that the interest in and desire for RE options is NOT partisan.  Neither is the desire for clean air, access to clean, safe drinking water, and protection of land and its resources, property rights, and the freedom to choose one’s energy sources.

Finally, I shared with Debbie the gist of what I wanted and expected the Congressman to do (my “asks”).  I list them below.

  • Demonstrate Commitment to and Leadership for increased RE and EE to promote jobs that are stable, non‑outsourceable, and well-paying.
  • Join the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus.
  • Work with groups such as RepublicEn, headed by former South Carolina Congressman Bob Inglis.
  • Hold Town Hall Meetings allowing real dialogue between the Congressman and his constituents (Last minute telephone conference calls do not accomplish this.).
  • Support Fee and Dividend legislation that provides a market-driven way to reduce US dependence on fossil fuels and is revenue-neutral.

joyincircle-250My visit with Debbie was a good experience and I found her to be a good listener.  I plan to go again.

– Joy Loving, February 2017

Joy is member of the CAAV steering committee and leader of Solarize efforts in the valley.

Please note that Congressman Goodlatte’s Harrisonburg office is open most weekdays if you don’t want to wait for an “open door” meeting:
Harrisonburg Office
70 North Mason Street
Harrisonburg, VA 22802
Phone: (540) 432-2391

Retreat 2017


The Climate Action Alliance of the Valley’s Steering Committee and other committee members held their annual retreat on Saturday, February 4, to review the past year’s work and to strategize and re-energize for the coming year.

Diana Tovar Rojas, Peacebuilding Network Coordinator for Eastern Mennonite University’s Center for Justice & Peacebuilding, facilitated the afternoon discussions on goals and strategies.

Thanks to CAAV Steering Committee Chair Joni Grady for her great work in organizing the productive day, Steering Committee member Lynn Smith for the use of her home despite her inability to attend and CAAV Recording Secretary Rickie Wertz for the photos.



climatenewsFeeling apocalyptic but want to have hope and be optimistic?
You are not alone.
Come for coffee and cookies, conversation and support.

Meeting for being heard without agenda. The last Tuesday of each month. Next meeting:

Tuesday, May 30, 7PM
Harrisonburg Mennonite Church
Room A-3, the first right, down the hall
1552 S. High St., Harrisonburg

Access the church NOT from S. High St. (42), but from Central Ave. that runs between Pleasant Hill Rd. and South Ave. parallel to S. High. Go up Emery St. to the top, then follow the detour around to parking and to the east door, which is what you’ll see when you get to the top of Emery St.

Come in front (east) door marked “SANCTUARY”

Hosted by the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley (CAAV)

Co-sponsored by the Creation Care Group of Harrisonburg Mennonite Church and Pastor Mark Keller

* Just what is an Apocaloptimist?

Apocaloptimist: one who knows it’s all going to hell, but still has hope that somehow, some way, everything will be just fine. Apocalypse + Optimist = Apocaloptimist

The Spirit: The Apocaloptimists’ Club is part social club, part support group for all those Apocaloptimists out there trying to make a difference in the world. The club aims to create an inviting, attentive space to connect with other folks who might find themselves feeling weary, isolated, or just plain bogged down with the world’s ills. The AC won’t necessarily be a place to follow an agenda or make plans. It will be a place to share laughter, tears, ideas, and–fingers crossed–hope. Because, if we’re really going to hell in a handbasket, we may as well try to get a little fun out of it along the way.

The Details: Sometimes it feels as though none of us needs one more thing to do or one more place to be. In honor of all of those filled-to-the-brim hours, here’s how the Apocaloptimists’ Club proposes to go: we’ll set a parameter of several months, say January to June, in which we’ll meet once a month. Meetings will last around one-and-a half hours (unless the crowd clamors for more!) and can be anything from a group conversation to a movie viewing, to a guest speaker, to sitting in silence. Perhaps food and drink will be involved. Perhaps not. The point is, this will be an evolving entity as we go along. Not totally free-wheeling (the meetings will have some structure), but evolving. Attendees can come to as few or as many gatherings as they like. Come June, we can all evaluate what direction the Apocaloptimists’ Club should take: do we all shake hands and say “thank you very much, it was lovely”, or do we carry on?

The Seed: The Apocaloptimists’ Club grew out of a CAAV-sponsored discussion of the film “How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change.” At that discussion, there was a palpable need for those present to share personal emotions raised by the film and what it means to live under the ongoing threat of climate change. It was then that CAAV realized folks could use an ongoing time and space to both express AND take a break from their woes.

If times feel bleak, remember, humor helps. If nothing else, you’ll be able to spell “Apocaloptimist” after all is said and done.

Global Warming, Global Perspectives

Thanks to Marites Cortes, Francis Lopaka and Diana Tovar for their perspectives on changes in their countries due to global warming! We hope to keep the conversation going.


Personal Stories of Climate Change

The Climate Action Alliance of the Valley presents speakers from the Philippines, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Colombia on Monday, November 28th at 7:00pm, Simms Center Auditorium, to share their experiences of climate change with us.

People around the world are being affected right now by extreme weather events, ocean acidification and droughts made much worse by climate change.  All but the richest countries are struggling to improve the lives of their citizens with more electricity, better transportation, and greater industrialization. All of these increase CO2 emissions if done with fossil fuels.  It is even more important now with the Paris accord under attack that you join us so that we can all begin to understand the immensity of the problem and the necessity for working together to solve it.

Marites Cortes, Francis Lopaka, and Diana Tovar will be speaking.

Facebook event page here.

1 on 1: CAAV Events and Education Committee Chair Joni Grady with Bob Corso on WHSV Monday, November 21 discussing this upcoming event:


Letter to Goodlatte



Wednesday, Oct. 19th, (heavy rain date the 20th)  4-6 PM at Rep. Goodlatte’s office, 70 N. Mason St., Harrisonburg

Our U.S. Congressional Representative does not represent us on environmental issues.  His career scorecard is 7 % as researched by the League of Conservation Voters.  His 2015 score was 0%!  That score was based on over 30 bills that were important to protecting us from dirty water, dirty energy and dirty air.

Over the last month, the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley has gotten over 130 signatures on a letter that states our deep disappointment in this record and how we deserve and expect representation that reflects the importance of our children’s health and the beauty of our Shenandoah Valley.


Click here to read our letter to Goodlatte.

We will read our letter aloud at 4:30 on the steps of Rep. Goodlatte’s office and hand deliver it afterwards.   Come out and help us hold the big banner to show passing motorists on their way home that WE CARE AND WE ACT!

Let YOUR voice be heard.  Hope to see you there.

Talkin’ Trash on Oct. 27


Talkin’ Trash: Harrisonburg garbage updates and options

Thursday, October 27 | 6-7:30PM

The Gathering Place
Common Good Marketplace
841 Mt. Clinton Pike
(behind Everence and Bowl of Good)

It’s been over a year since the City of Harrisonburg switched from single stream recycling to an all-in-one trash stream sent to a sorting facility east of Charlottesville. With the closing of the incinerator at JMU and rising local landfill tipping fees, this alternative promised an improved recycling rate at an affordable cost.

How’s it going? The Climate Action Alliance of the Valley (CAAV) is hosting a public forum to find out.

On Thursday, October 27 at 6PM at The Gathering Place in Harrisonburg, some of our local waste managers will be on hand to address solid waste management issues for Harrisonburg. All are welcome to attend and hear from:

• Harsit Patel, Business Services Manager with Harrisonburg Public Works who oversees the city’s solid waste management;
Linda Zirkle with Rockingham County recycling;
Eric Walter of Black Bear Composting;
• and a representative from van der Linde Recycling where most of Harrisonburg’s household trash is currently being sent.

Some questions.

What kind of recycling rates are being achieved with Harrisonburg’s new trash collection method over the past year? Is the quality of recyclables an issue?

Rockingham County offers separated recycling. How effective is this process?

The local landfill has a limited life. Can recycling and composting be maximized to extend its life? What are the options for future local landfills, if any?

Anaerobic breakdown of organic waste in landfills is a significant source of atmospheric methane, a potent greenhouse gas contributing to climate change. Currently, Harrisonburg’s organic wastes end up in a Richmond-area landfill. There has been a commercial-scale composting facility in the valley for five years where almost 30% of our waste stream could be converted into valuable soil amendments. It is now scheduled to close due to lack of demand for organics recycling. Why has it been underutilized?

What can we do to create more robust recycling streams and landfill diversion for Harrisonburg’s garbage?

Attend the forum, bring your questions and hear from our local waste managers on updates and options for our trash!

CAAV is pleased to have JMU political science professor Rob Alexander to moderate the forum. He brings with him extensive facilitating skills and experience from numerous environment-related arenas.

6th District Congressional Candidates Survey


The Climate Action Alliance of the Valley sent a survey drafted by the Elders Climate Action to the two candidates running for the U.S. House of Representatives from Virginia’s 6th District.


Candidate Name: Bob Goodlatte,  House District 6
(League of Conservation Voters national environmental lifetime score 7%)

Candidate Name: Kai Degner,   House District 6

  1. I agree that climate change is underway, driven by emissions of greenhouse gases caused by humans:

Strongly Agree Somewhat Agree  Somewhat Disagree Strongly Disagree

Climate change is an urgent threat and a defining challenge of our time: 15 of the 16 hottest years on record occurred this century – and July 2016 was the hottest month ever recorded.  Cities like Norfolk are threatened by rising seas, and we must lead with rapid climate solutions.

  1. I agree that climate change today can take the form of severe weather events, agricultural disruptions, drought, spread of disease; and in the future poses far greater threats to our grandchildren and great grandchildren in the form of catastrophic sea level rise, climate refugees, economic disruption, and large scale disruption of food supplies in our oceans and agricultural areas.

Strongly Agree  Somewhat Agree  Somewhat Disagree  Strongly Disagree

We must respond to military leaders’, businesses’, and scientists’ warning that climate change and carbon are threats to national security, the economy, and the future. 

  1. If elected, I will support legislation and policies to encourage a rapid transition to clean energy and ensure that most fossil fuel reserves stay in the ground.

Strongly Agree Somewhat Agree  Somewhat Disagree  Strongly Disagree

We must make a switch to green energy in a manner that protects jobs and communities reliant on generations of fossil fuel production.  The United States can benefit from wind, solar, and renewable hydro and bio-energy.  With a national emphasis on clean energy and job creation, we can create jobs while reducing pollution.

  1. If elected, I will support legislation to place a revenue neutral, steadily rising fee on carbon, with the proceeds fully refunded to citizens.

Strongly Agree  Somewhat Agree  Somewhat Disagree  Strongly Disagree

While I support limiting carbon, the policy framework may need to include greater detail than a transfer of fees and dividends from one user group to another and must be done with environmental justice, economic opportunity, and carbon emission reduction strategic planning that can achieve real effect. Carbon fee and dividend is just one considered method and there are many other methods that could also be significant steps.  We have an obligation to mitigate the impact of the by-products of chemicals, waste, and carbon from our consumerist society.  Harvesting the Earth’s resources without a view to the future risks community health, long-term jobs, and economic vitality.

More information about the Elders Climate Action and their Candidates Climate Project here.


Let Goodlatte Know That You Care!


Dear CAAV’ers:

Climate Change is a global problem, and Virginia is not exempted.  Virginia’s coastline is second only to the New Orleans area in sea level rise, or, as our Virginia General Assembly prefers to call it “recurrent flooding.” Lyme disease in Virginia has risen by 9% from 2011 to 2012, with Rockingham County in the top 10 counties in per capita occurrence. Ninety-five percent of Virginia’s population is in counties that have been hit by weather related disasters in the past five years. And we’ve just experienced the devastation of 1,000 year floods in Maryland and West Virginia to the east and west of us. To quote Michael Mann, “The impacts of climate change are no longer subtle. They are playing out before us, in real time.”

For over eight years the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley (CAAV) has lobbied in D.C. and Richmond, written letters and editorials in the Daily News-Record and other newspapers, tabled at local and regional events, sponsored movies, taught courses at James Madison University’s Lifelong Learning Institute, participated in peaceful civil disobedience and put on forums with expert speakers to educate ourselves and others on the causes and solutions to climate change.

Bob Goodlatte, our U.S. Representative from the 6th District, has stated that he doesn’t hear much about climate change from his constituents. Please help change that by calling his office in the next few days and let him know that we want comprehensive legislation to address climate change, and, absent that, for support and proper funding of actions by the EPA and other agencies to deal with the issue.

Thanks and we would appreciate a quick note to CAAV’s email – contactcaav [at] gmail [dot] com – to let us know that you’ve reached his office, so that we can have a sense of the impact we are having.  Goodlatte’s office number is 202 225-5431.

Thank you! (Don’t forget to email after you call Goodlatte’s office.)

Climate Action Alliance of the Valley
Steering Committee