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How cities can lead on climate change solutions

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This story was originally published by CityLab and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

This week, diplomats from about 130 countries are gathered in Katowice, Poland, for COP24, the latest in the annual series of climate change meetings convened under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. At the heart of the discussions this year is a grim report released in October by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — the Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 degrees C (SR1.5).

The product of more than 90 scientists working from thousands of peer-reviewed studies, SR1.5 laid out the catastrophic effects of exceeding 1.5 degrees C warming over the coming decades. Much of the global news coverage that followed the report’s release focused on a chilling projection in the form of a 12-year deadline the IPCC established to limit the most disastrous impacts of planetary warming. “It’s a line in the sand,” said Debra Roberts, a co-chair of Working Group II of SR1.5.

But the report wasn’t just a grave warning: It was also a roadmap to solutions. These solutions were organized around four areas, or systems — energy, land use and ecosystems, cities and infrastructure, and industry. And while urban issues comprise one of those four areas, actions in cities are integral to each system transformation. Put another way: There is no way to save the planet without serious changes in how city-dwellers live, work, and move. That’s a point stressed in this summary of the IPCC report aimed at urban policymakers, which was released at COP24. (I was one of the 21 co-authors of this report.) The necessary changes to limit warming must be made not only by national governments and the private sector, but also by city leaders and the residents of urban areas.

As a co-chair of the working group on impacts, Roberts led the world’s top climate scientists through the assessment, drafting, and approval process. A scientist herself, Roberts is the head of the Sustainable and Resilient City Initiatives Unit, eThekwini Municipality, Durban, South Africa. In other words, she is a rare climate expert who’s familiar with the scientific, diplomatic, and urban policy issues that this unparalleled global challenge represents.

CityLab asked Roberts to talk about the role city residents can play in delivering climate action, the critical importance of local political decisions, and the responsibility we all have to talk about — and act on — climate change with our neighbors.

Q. What should city residents, far removed from these diplomatic processes, take away from the current climate negotiations and SR1.5 in particular?

A. There are two really important sets of messages. First, we are probably facing a serious existential threat as a species. Along with that very serious message is a second key message about the need for rapid and ambitious action. We are probably living in the most important period of our species’ history. But when you face such a big call to action, such an historic moment, the individual can really feel lost.

What is profoundly important to me about the 1.5 report is that it points to lines of response to this big challenge that we face as a species by identifying four systems that need to go through rapid, unprecedented transformations: energy, land use and ecosystems, urban, and industry. While the public and private sectors certainly have input, the report also calls out that the individual has a role to play, too.

If you think about the energy system, the report tells me is that every element of action is important — all the way from the international to the national, to what I do in my life. Think about energy systems. I should be able to make choices about what energy I use in my home. Am I able to go off-grid, generate my own electricity, and if I generate excess, put it back in the grid? And if those choices aren’t there, then I need to reflect on why I don’t have those options. If I don’t have leadership which is making it easy for me to make these choices, then I need to change leadership. It’s a real call to action on personal choices, and that we need to be more cognizant of the leaders we put in place at all spheres of government.

Q. The possible impacts outlined in SR1.5 can make the individual feel irrelevant. But there’s this line that I found really striking: “Humans are at the center of global climate change: Their actions cause anthropogenic climate change, and social change is key to effectively respond to climate change.” How do you put the human back in a story that was once so focused on nation-states and climate regimes?

A. The scientific literature puts people back. That’s why those four systems transitions are so important. When it comes to urban systems, yes we can choose what kind of transport we use. When it comes to land systems, by changing our diets we change the pressures on land. When you think about industry, we are consumers. We are very powerful in terms of our ability to purchase, and we can be more critical of the things we choose to consume. Those four systems are in the real world. They define many of the ways we live our lives, and they give us the power to influence the outcome.

Every level of activity counts, all the way from changing your lightbulbs to the other end of the spectrum at the climate negotiations. So it’s empowering but it also involves a strong responsibility. The science is very clearThere is no physical or chemical law which will stop us from limiting warming to 1.5 degrees C. There is nothing that stands in our way. In fact, the key element is the political and societal will to make these changes.

Q. In the U.S. recently, there’s been talk about a “Green New Deal” for climate change. Huge, society-spanning transformation is needed, in other words. But when you look through SR1.5 at the things that every individual in a city can do, they’re things like riding a bike or line-drying laundry. It all sounds so far from this sweeping historical mission.

A. What you and I do, literally in our day-to-day boring lives, is an important element in saving the world. This is a global project. Everybody has to be in on it. You cannot leave a single person out. Before, as you indicated, the scientific debate tended to alienate the person on the street with formulas and graphs and international negotiations that no one really understood. This report is clear: Hanging out your laundry counts. This change is possible, and we can all contribute to that change.

Q. How do you encourage the tougher choices that are tied to larger, structural issues — what are frequently referred to in climate science as enabling conditions — that are often determined at the regional and national levels?

A. We need multi-level governance structures that enable us to make choices well beyond the laundry. When I go to work, I must be able to take a public transport system or access a shared car. And if I’m driving that car, that car must be electrified. Those are the important things. Those are choices I do not have control over. I have control over the laundry I put out on the line. I don’t have a choice around bigger systems of transport, energy production systems, and so on. But the onus is still on me in terms of how democracies work — in calls to action, at the voting booth, in talking to my neighbors and talking to local leadership about this.

That requires more of you than the hanging of the washing. Those enabling conditions — which involve changing policies, promoting effective governance, deployment of technologies in the right kinds of spaces — require us to be active.

Q. In a previous conversation I did here with Michael Ignatieff, we talked about the roles that neighbors must play in making cities work. It’s an interesting frame in the climate space, when people sometimes feel helpless: Have they spoken with their neighbors?

A. Everyone has to be in, but it’s hard for me to imagine how I’m in a process with somebody sitting in Thailand. I’ve got a much better sense of the community I live in. I can say to my neighbors, “OK, where are your solar geysers [a kind of solar water heater]?” That puts it at a scale that is about human action, and I think that’s what this report does. It humanizes not only the impacts — look at how we are already impacted, and how the poor and vulnerable are already disadvantaged — but it put the humans back in the solution space again.

Q. You work in a city and in the international diplomatic arena. What is the status of urban expertise when you’re starting to develop a report like this?

A. The IPCC started out largely focused on the natural and physical sciences. But as it became clear that you weren’t going to be able to solve climate change through some mysterious new technology, or entirely mitigate your way out of it because of lack of political ambition, the social sciences have become a more prominent voice in the process. We have drawn in as many practitioners as we could as authors of the report, who have the ability to assess knowledge so that the report speaks to things that are important in the real world.

I, as a local government practitioner, can pick up the report and can see they’ve looked at the literature on things that are important to me. If you look to chapter 4, you’ll see a huge amount of work on the feasibility assessment. That’s what I need to know as a practitioner. I need to know if an action is likely to work, and what its enabling conditions are. There’s a drive to use the science to fulfill the original IPCC mandate of providing objective information on the causes of climate change, but we’re also becoming clearer and smarter around the solutions. The moment you talk about solutions, people must be in that space.

Q.The document has a unique place in diplomatic history, but is also part of a developing story where practitioners and urban perspectives are gaining prominence. But of course, if nation-states don’t step up, cities won’t have the enabling conditions they need to take action. You operate at both the municipal and international levels. How do you think about that landscape?

A. The practitioner community is a particularly important community. What do I do in my day job as a local government practitioner? I speak to local leadership and local communities about these issues. But I am sometimes limited by national laws and policies, then I have to go talk to the national government. Local government can become a force for change. We’ve experienced that throughout our own work at the city level. Often cities will lead best. People don’t phone the president if their house washes away. They phone the mayor. We’re most aware of where the challenges lie. Local government has an important role to knock on national government’s door and say, “Those policies work; those do not,” and explain how you might enable us to do our work better.

To me, the nation-state is not a hallowed thing. It must be in service of the people. And where it disconnects, we as local government bear that responsibility for refocusing their attention and resources where they need to be. The report underscores the importance of local government. It’s really where a lot of this action is going to happen.

Q. Local government possesses expertise, and, depending on the tax structure where you are, some resources. But you’re really talking about local government as advocate. A bit like the individual with his or her neighbor, the city must advocate with the nation-state.

A. I suppose that’s what we’re saying as a principle. To the individual, deal with your neighbor. As a local government, the national government is a neighbor of sorts. We need to pop our heads over the wall and say, look, we need things to change. This is not a time for complacency.

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How cities can lead on climate change solutions

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Bad news for the Amazon as Brazil backs out of hosting UN climate talks

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Brazil was set to be the host country for COP25, next year’s crucial United Nation talks to address climate change, but just two months after offering to do so, the country’s officials have reversed their stance.

Brazilian leaders communicated the decision on Monday to Patrícia Espinosa, executive secretary of the UN Convention on Climate Change, just days before the start of COP24, this year’s annual climate conference being held in Katowice, Poland. The Brazilian government blames the change on budget constraints and the ongoing presidential transition process. But others are interpreting the move as yet another sign of President-elect Jair Bolsonaro’s impending war on the environment.

“This decision is not surprising considering it comes from a leader with proven skepticism towards the reality of climate change, and open animosity towards those working to preserve our climate,” Christian Poirier, program director at Amazon Watch, told Grist. Poirier also says he doesn’t buy Brazil’s budget excuse for reversing on hosting the conference. “It is clear that Mr. Bolsonaro’s reactionary political agenda was the decisive factor in this decision.”

Bolsonaro confirmed that he participated in the decision, saying “I recommended to our future minister that we avoid the realization of this event here in Brazil.”

(The United Nations did not immediately reply to Grist’s request for comment.)

Before Bolsonaro’s election, the country seemed eager to host the next round of international climate talks. According to Brazilian news site O Globo, the foreign ministry had said Brazil’s offer reflected “the consensus of Brazilian society on the importance and the urgency of actions that contribute to the fight against climate change.”

But in some ways, the current reversal comes as no surprise. During his campaign, Bolsonaro (a.k.a. The Trump of the Tropics) vowed to jettison from the Paris Climate Agreement — though he’s since backtracked from that promise. Still, he’s been steadfast in his desire to open up the Amazon, the world’s largest rainforest, to mining, farming and dam building. He’s said he wants to open up the country’s existing indigenous reserves to commercial exploitation. And earlier this month, he chose a new foreign minister that has said he believes climate change is a Marxist plot to help China.

A recent report issued by the Brazilian government found the Amazon has reached its highest levels of deforestation in a decade, thanks to illegal logging and the expansion of agriculture in the area. And there are major concerns that Bolsonaro’s lax environmental policies could push the Amazon past its tipping point as one of the world’s most important carbon sinks.

Brazil withdrawing its offer to host COP25 also carries symbolic weight when you consider the country is the birthplace of global climate talks. The milestone Rio Earth Summit of 1992 set the green agenda for decades to come.

“The image of Brazil is at risk,” said Carlos Rittl, executive secretary of the Brazilian Climate Observatory, a coalition of environmental non-governmental organizations, in an interview with the New York Times. “Climate and the environment are the only issues where Brazil is a leader in global terms. We are not leaders in world trade, we are not leaders in a geopolitical sense on security issues. But on climate and environment we are leaders, and we are giving that up.”

The South American country’s decision has left the United Nations scrambling to find a new site for the summit. A new venue for the summit has not yet been determined.

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Bad news for the Amazon as Brazil backs out of hosting UN climate talks

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A puzzling promo video earns the UN new criticism over its support of carbon offsets

The international organization coordinating the world’s effort to stop global warming posted a strange video to social media on Wednesday morning.

The 52-second video from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is a bizarre promotion to call attention to the organization’s newly redesigned online platform for purchasing carbon offsets. It’s been deleted from Twitter and Facebook but you can still find it on YouTube and in an official press release.

It’s hard to know what the UNFCCC was thinking in producing this video, which makes fun of well-established ways to cut carbon emissions — like limiting driving, air travel, and meat consumption — in favor of purchasing controversial offset credits. Offsets are an accounting method favored by high-polluting industries as a way of evading real-world change.

The video was swiftly attacked by climate campaigners — a Swiss environmental lawyer called it “shameful” — and no justification has yet been given for its removal. (The UNFCCC did not immediately respond to an inquiry from Grist about the video’s production and its removal from social media.)

The problem with carbon offsets is clear. They’re designed to avoid immediate changes in behavior in favor of less verifiable and less reliable ways of reducing emissions by relying on someone else. You could, say, pay to plant some trees, which then must be tended and kept alive for decades, to atone for a single airline flight.

Sometimes offsetting is worse than doing nothing: It perpetuates high-carbon activities and shifts responsibility from the people and organizations most responsible for climate change. After a brief moment of popularity a decade ago, the credits faded from favor, in part because of these concerns.

This isn’t the first time the UN has come under fire for promoting carbon offsets. During the Paris climate conference in 2015, the UN set up a booth where attendees could supposedly neutralize the impact of their travel to the summit for as little as $1.  Some observers found that difficult to believe. On a much larger scale, in 2016, the UN organization tasked with overseeing the global airline industry was strongly criticized for favoring offsets in an attempt to avoid more radical (and expensive) changes in aircraft design that could reduce emissions.

More recently, at the World Cup in Russia this summer, the UN again promoted its carbon offset scheme; again it came under fire for “greenwashing” and relying on questionable math that meant only a small fraction of the promised offsets were actually reducing emissions.

Admittedly, the video is pretty funny as a piece of satire. But I’m not sure that’s what the UN was going for.

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A puzzling promo video earns the UN new criticism over its support of carbon offsets

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Don’t tell Trump, but meeting with North Korea could help environment

You might have heard that Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un had a strange, historic meeting this weekend in Singapore, leading pundits to furiously analyze a resulting joint statement for hints about the future of North Korean denuclearization and U.S. sanctions. But there was one overlooked issue that could have surprising consequences: the summit’s potential impact on the environment and climate change.

A thawing of relations between North Korea and the U.S. could open up opportunities for more research and environmental support. North Korea’s participation in the Paris climate agreement is at least partly due to a desire for access to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s agricultural and energy know-how. And the U.S. summit could mark the start of more ecological and technical exchange with the “hermit kingdom.”

“North Korea has a direct existential reason for wanting to address issues of environmental degradation,” says Benjamin Habib, lecturer in international relations at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia. Since the mid-1990s, North Korea has endured decades of drought, flooding, and deforestation, at times pushing people in the famine-vulnerable nation to starvation.

Due to poor agricultural techniques and limited sources of fuel — some trucks in the country actually run on wood — North Korea has lost over 25 percent of its forest cover. And in 2016 alone, flooding from Typhoon Lionrock displaced tens of thousands of its citizens.

After Syria’s entry into the Paris agreement in late 2017, the U.S. remains the only country on Earth not in the climate accord. Even North Korea — with its prison camps, rogue nuclear testing, and authoritarian propaganda — has pledged to reduce its CO2 emissions to support global climate goals. Last June, North Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs critiqued Trump for backing out of the agreement, calling it a “silly decision.”

Habib argues that the fight against deforestation can serve as a less-politicized common interest for North Korea, South Korea, and the U.S. to unite behind. “The political window of opportunity is now open for environmental capacity-building in a way that it wasn’t before,” he says.

Of course, the future of U.S./North Korea diplomacy is far from certain, thanks to two wildly unpredictable leaders. And North Korea is sitting on more than 100 billion tons of coal. If sanctions are lifted, those reserves could be sold on the world market, with deleterious effects for the global climate. (China used to buy coal from North Korea but suspended those imports last year over the country’s nuclear testing.)

But still, a meeting between two historically narcissistic world leaders might net a positive effect on environmental outcomes? We’ll take what we can get, 2018.

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Don’t tell Trump, but meeting with North Korea could help environment

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The Pay Gap Costs Women $840 Billion Every Year

Mother Jones

Each year, Equal Pay Day is a grim reminder that working women still don’t earn as much as their male counterparts. In fact, the persistent wage gap means that, on average, women lose a combined $840 billion every year, according to a new report from the National Partnership for Women & Families.

Using Census Bureau data from all 50 states and D.C., the report concluded that the average woman takes home 80 cents for every dollar earned by a man. And the gap is even worse for women of color: black women earn only 63 cents for each dollar picked up by a white male, while Latina women take home a mere 54 cents. Meanwhile, white women bring home 75 cents per dollar earned by a man, and Asian women earn 85 cents, though some Asian subgroups earn considerably less.

Wyoming, where women earn just 64.4 cents for every dollar brought home by a man, is the worst place in the country to earn a paycheck as a woman. New York and Delaware, where women earn 88.7 and 88.5 cents, respectively, are the two states leading the path to wage equity. The map below, created by the National Women’s Law Center, breaks down the gender wage disparities across the country.

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The annual losses amount to almost $10,500 for each working woman, according to the National Partnership report. And with over 15 million homes headed by women, the pay gap is hard on families. The money lost from the gap could pay for 1.5 years of food for every working woman and her family, 11 months of rent, or 15 months of child care.

“This analysis shows just how damaging that lost income can be for women and their families, as well as the economy and the businesses that depend on women’s purchasing power,” says National Partnership’s President Debra L. Ness. “Entire communities, states and our country suffer because lawmakers have not done nearly enough to end wage discrimination or advance the fair and family friendly workplace policies that would help erase the wage gap.”

During the 2016 Republican National Convention, Ivanka Trump famously championed President Trump’s support of women’s equal paychecks: “He will fight for equal pay for equal work, and I will fight for this, too, right alongside of him.” Despite Ivanka’s inclusion of women’s equality in the workplace as a key message of her platform, the Trump administration has not actually adopted any of her pledges. Instead, last month President Trump reduced paycheck transparency and rescinded other Obama-era workplace protections enshrined in the 2014 Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces order, imperiling women’s overall ability to track the widening gap between men and women’s paychecks.

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The Pay Gap Costs Women $840 Billion Every Year

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Leading Climate Experts Have Some Advice for Donald Trump

Mother Jones

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This story was originally published by the Guardian and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

To fulfill his campaign slogan of “Make America great again,” Donald Trump must back the boom in green technology—that was the message from the leading climate figures ahead of his inauguration as president on Friday.

Unleashing US innovation on the trillion-dollar clean technology market will create good US jobs, stimulate its economy, maintain the US’ political leadership around the globe and, not least, make the world a safer place by tackling climate change, the experts told the Guardian.

The omens are not encouraging. Trump has called global warming a hoax and is filling his administration with climate change deniers and oil barons. But reversing action on climate change and championing fossil fuels will only “make China great again,” said one top adviser.

Here are the messages to Trump from some of the key figures the Guardian contacted.

Michael Liebreich, founder of analyst firm Bloomberg New Energy Finance who has advised the UN and World Economic Forum on energy: “If I had one minute with president elect Trump my message would be that the best way to ‘Make America great again’ is by owning the clean energy, transportation and infrastructure technologies of the future. Not only will this create countless well-paid, fulfilling jobs for Americans, but will also lock in the US’ geopolitical leadership for another generation.”

John Schellnhuber of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, who has advised Angela Merkel, the Pope and the EU: “Mr. President, if you want to make China great again, you have to stay the course you have promised. I think it would be the end of US domination in innovation, in economics. If you try to take the US backwards to the days of mountain top removal for coal in West Virginia and all those things, then you will just make sure China becomes No. 1 in all respects. In the end, you would produce precisely what you promised to avoid to your electorate.”

Dame Julia King, an eminent engineer and one of the UK government’s official advisers at the Committee on Climate Change: “If President Trump wants to deliver greater job security for Americans, he should focus on clean and sustainable industries where the US has a competitive advantage. Those are the sectors that are set to prosper. He needs to build an economy for 2050, not one for 1950.”

Lord Nicholas Stern, a leading climate change economist at the London School of Economics: “If you want to make America great again, building modern, clean and smart infrastructure makes tremendous commercial and national sense. In the longer term, the low carbon growth story is the only growth story on offer. There is no long-term, high-carbon growth story, because destruction of the environment would reverse growth.”

Mark Campanale, founder of the Carbon Tracker Initiative think tank: “If you’re interested in quality, high paying and skilled jobs for the American middle classes, then renewable energy has to absolutely be the place to look. It’s a sector with more employees now than in the US coal industry and with a long way to grow.”

James Hansen, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University: “If Trump wants to achieve the things that he claimed he would: improving the situation of the common man, the best way he could do this would be a program of a rising carbon fee with the money distributed to the public.”

Jennifer Morgan, co-executive director of Greenpeace International: “Mr. Trump, you might not realize it yet, but your action, or inaction, on climate will define your legacy as president. The renewable energy transformation is unstoppable and, if the US chooses to turn its back on the future, it will miss out on all the opportunities it brings in terms of jobs, investment and technology advances. China, India and others are racing ahead to be the global clean energy superpowers and surely the US, led by a businessman, does not want to be left behind.”

Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists in the US: “Trump’s stance threatens to diminish America’s standing in the world and to weaken the ability of US companies and workers to compete in the rapidly growing global market for clean energy technologies.”

May Boeve, head of climate campaign group 350.org: “Quit. But if you have to stick around, realize that the clean energy economy is the greatest, biggest job creator in history.”

Some leading figures, who will have to deal directly with the Trump administration, chose more diplomatic messages to the new president, while emphasizing the vital need to act on global warming:

Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change—the UN’s climate chief: “I look forward to working with your new administration to make the world a better place for the people of the US and for peoples everywhere in this very special world.”

Scientist Derek Arndt, at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, presenting the temperature data showing 2016 was the hottest year on record: “We present this assessment for the benefit of the American people.”

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Leading Climate Experts Have Some Advice for Donald Trump

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How the LGBT Community Can Fight Back Against Trump

Mother Jones

After every major LGBT rights group in America campaigned in support of Donald Trump’s opponent Hillary Clinton, it came as little surprise that Trump won just 14 percent of the LGBT vote on November 8. Yet, one of Trump’s most vocal and controversial cheerleaders has been a gay man, political provocateur and Breibart News writer Milo Yiannopolous. Yiannopolous—who has penned columns such as “Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy” and “The Conservative Father’s Guide to Cutting Off Activist Children”—repeatedly made headlines last year for his inflammatory rhetoric. At his gays-for-Trump event at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last summer, Yiannopolous argued the Democratic Party was “nannying us about transgender pronouns” while “pandering to an ideology that wants me dead”—his take on Islam as an anti-gay religion. He declared Trump “the most pro-gay candidate in American electoral history,” arguing Trump would be great for gay people.

Last July, Yiannopolous was banned from Twitter after inciting his followers to make racist attacks against black actress Leslie Jones. More recently, he mocked a transgender student at a college campus where he was giving a speech. Stops on Yiannopolous’ campus tour have regularly been met with protests and calls for university administrations to cancel his appearances.

When gay magazine Out put Yiannopolous on its cover last summer, the backlash was fierce and swift—especially from LGBT people of color, who recognized all too well the dangers of “normalizing” champions of bigotry.

So how should queer folk react to Yiannopolous’ hatred, and what can we do to combat it? I talked to Preston Mitchum, an LGBT rights and racial justice advocate, to find out. Mitchum—whose writing has appeared in The Atlantic, the Huffington Post, Ebony, and more—is also a policy analyst at the Center for Health and Gender Equity and a legal research professor at Georgetown University.

What follows is our conversation about racism and sexism in the LGBT community, and what queer solidarity looks like in the face of hatred.

Mother Jones: Milo is an admitted troll, and his rhetoric is over-the-top. Should we even take him seriously?

Preston Mitchum: Queer people of color have always taken those kinds of hateful ideas—and the actions that flow therefrom—seriously. Bias is not new to the LGBT community. Our community is racist, sexist, and transphobic. But Milo feels different because of the extreme nature of his statements. His views aren’t common. But he is setting the stage for what vitriol can look like in the community if left unchecked.

Preston Mitchum

MJ: Queer folk—even white ones—are marginalized too. Why would some be receptive to ideas like Milo’s?

PM: Racism, sexism, and transphobia are foundational to this country. Queer people didn’t invent them, but we can’t separate them from the LGBT community. We internalize what we see every day. I think about people like Ben Carson, who pushes ideas that have been popularized by racists. We also learn from our experiences. So Milo being a gay man does not mean that he’s going to believe everything that I believe, because I am a black man who experiences racism and homophobia at the same time. Milo doesn’t have that experience. Part of fixing this is to first recognize that we are predisposed to discrimination and then intentionally work to undo what we have been taught about racism and misogyny.

MJ: A lot of people don’t get that.

PM: They don’t. They might understand what their own oppression looks like as a white gay man, but systemically that looks different for someone who is a woman and black and gay. People who are part of multiple marginalized communities face harsher treatment just because of their intersections. Many people don’t understand privilege. What’s worse is they don’t recognize that they contribute to other queer people’s oppression, either. The same goes for a lot of mainstream white-led LGBT organizations.

MJ: Talk about that.

PM: Mainstream white individuals and white-led organizations are oftentimes the ones who sweep statements like Milo’s under the rug. A lot of it has to do with responding to donors’ demands. If your donors are sending you money to advocate for marriage equality, that’s what you’re going to do. But there are other communities who also need the support of those groups but who have been made invisible because they don’t have the money to give them to focus on their needs. It’s incumbent on those organizations who say they care about all LGBT people to find it within their capacity to still do work on behalf of black and brown LGBT people even if they’re not paying for it. That’s what solidarity looks like.

In the past few years, I’ve noticed a more concerted effort to address certain racism, certain violence against black trans people—mainly black trans women. But I’m ready to see what that can look like big picture. What does it look like to have a black trans person on your board? What does it look like when you are actually starting something separate for black trans people in your organization? That is what I have yet to see.

At the start of the Black Lives Matter movement, which was led immediately by black queer and trans folk, you didn’t hear much from many white-led LGBT organizations, which was frustrating because a lot of the immediate leaders of the movement were black queer and trans people. And earlier than that, when there was a campaign to repeal DOMA and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, many white-led orgs sought the support of the NAACP. But when the crux of the Voting Rights Act was struck down by the Supreme Court that same year, there was silence from those same groups. I talked to people in LGBT organizations who were immediately defensive when that critique was brought to their attention. We have to be willing to have these conversations about racism that require us to be critiqued.

MJ: Why are those conversations difficult to have?

PM: Part of the problem is that progressives are so focused on unifying against conservatives. Unity is good, but it often silences more marginalized groups. We have to be honest about what’s happening within our own community if we want to push back against Trump. It’s easy to point out people who don’t identify as you and say, “You’re the bad person here.” It’s more difficult to look within our own community and say, “We identify and have some common ground, but there’s something about you that I know is vehemently opposed to me.”

MJ: How has this bias been manifest within the LGBT community historically?

PM: It’s hard to say. LGBT people have vocally been discussed only for the past 40 years. But even in that, the way we talk about our history is racist. Only in the past couple years have we started to mention some of the black and Puerto Rican trans women who were really at the start of Stonewall. Or acknowledge people like Bayard Rustin, who was the architect of the 1963 March on Washington. We know that is the whitewashing of history. LGBT history is no different.

MJ: How are queer people of color pushing back on that exclusion—and how can the larger community root out the bias that drives that exclusion?

PM: Black Youth Project 100—which I’m a part of—has been challenging that erasure of black queer and trans folk for the past two and a half to three years, and making sure that people who are marginalized within the LGBT community are centered and that work is done to organize around their needs. There are others doing this work. But there are things that everyone can do—and that many people have been doing. One is to come prepared with information to push back on racist and sexist rhetoric. Social media is a huge way people have been doing that. Black and brown people also need to be very blunt about how oppression treats us as queer and trans folk.

One of the things that I always want to discuss is believing the experiences of people of color. We often aren’t believed until a white person confirms our stories. I would also encourage people to donate money to organizations that do this work. That’s what people can do to help fix the problem.

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How the LGBT Community Can Fight Back Against Trump

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Did Putin Swing the Election to Trump? Of Course He Did.

Mother Jones

Did Russian hacking during the 2016 campaign tip the election to Donald Trump? In the LA Times today, Noah Bierman and Brian Bennett have this to say:

The truth is no one knows for sure because the election was so close in so many states that no one factor can be credited or blamed, especially in last year’s highly combustible campaign.

This is exactly backward. The fact that the election was so close means that lots of things might have tipped the election all by themselves. The Russian hacking is one of them. Consider Bierman and Bennett’s own case:

Extensive news coverage of the how the leaked emails showed political machinations by Democratic Party operatives often drowned out Clinton’s agenda….English-language news channel Russia Today…posted a video on YouTube in early November, for example. Called “Trump Will Not Be Permitted to Win,” it featured Julian Assange, the fugitive founder of WikiLeaks, and was watched 2.2 million times….U.S. intelligence officials say anti-Clinton stories and posts flooded social media from the Internet Research Agency near St. Petersburg, which the report described as a network of “professional trolls” led by a Putin ally.

Putin’s most tangible victory may have come last summer. On the eve of the Democratic National Convention in July, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) was forced to quit her post as Democratic National Committee chairwoman after emails posted on Wikileaks showed that supposedly neutral DNC officials had backed Clinton over her rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, in the primaries.

….In October, Trump similarly seized on leaked emails from Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta. They showed that Donna Brazile, a former CNN commentator who replaced Wasserman Schultz at the DNC, had shared a pair of questions with Clinton’s team before a televised candidates’ forum and debate….The leak showed nothing illegal. But it bolstered the idea that Clinton was a Washington insider who benefited from fellow elites.

….The most damaging leaks for Clinton may have been transcripts of excerpts of her highly paid speeches to Wall Street bankers, released in October….There were no smoking guns in the leaks. But they included her admission that her growing wealth since she and Bill Clinton left the White House in 2001 had made her “kind of far removed” from the anger and frustration many Americans felt after the 2008 recession. She also called for “a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders, some time in the future, with energy that is as green and sustainable as we can get it.”

That’s a lot of stuff! Does it seem likely that all of this, plus the fact that it kept Clinton’s email woes front and center, made a difference of 1 percent in a few swing states? Sure, I’d say so. Did other things make a difference too? Yes indeed. But given how close the election was, there’s a pretty good chance that Putin’s campaign of cyber-chaos had enough oomph to swing things all by itself.

I’m a little surprised this hasn’t produced more panic. In the United States I understand why it hasn’t: Democrats don’t want to sound like sore losers and Republicans don’t care as long as their guy won. But what about the rest of the world? It’s been common knowledge for a while that Russia does this kind of stuff, but their actions in the US election represent a quantum leap in how far they’re willing to go. And there’s not much doubt that Putin will keep at it.

After all, it worked a treat. And thanks to a gullible press and normal partisan politics, it’ll keep working. The next leak will get as much attention as these did, and the one after that too. We have no societal defense against this stuff.

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Did Putin Swing the Election to Trump? Of Course He Did.

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Paul Ryan Won’t Defend Donald Trump—But Is Still Endorsing Him

Mother Jones

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Over the weekend dozens of Republicans condemned and abandoned Donald Trump, but Paul Ryan still seems to be hedging his bets. The House Speaker convened a conference call with Republicans in his caucus Monday morning to discuss the state of the GOP amidst the turmoil caused by leaked audio of Donald Trump describing how his celebrity status allows him to get away with sexually assaulting women. Per news reports, Ryan is now trying to distance himself from his party’s presidential nominee but is still standing by his plan to vote for Trump.

According to CNN, Ryan gave his blessing to House Republicans to either ditch Trump or to stay behind the GOP candidate, saying “you all need to do what’s best for you and your district.” It sounds as if Ryan has essentially given up hope that Republicans can defeat Hillary Clinton and win back the White House.

Ryan has expressed general discomfort with Trump throughout the campaign. After Trump went off against an Indiana judge, saying the judge’s Mexican heritage made him unfit to oversee a case against Trump University, Ryan called Trump’s statement the “textbook definition of a racist comment.” Yet Trump was Ryan’s racist, and the House Speaker campaigned for the GOP nominee. At the Republican National Convention this summer, Ryan said, “Only with Donald Trump and Mike Pence do we have a chance of a better way.” Even though he disinvited Trump to campaign with him in Wisconsin this weekend, saying he was “sickened” by the leaked video, Ryan is still planning to vote for the candidate he says he won’t campaign for or defend.

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Paul Ryan Won’t Defend Donald Trump—But Is Still Endorsing Him

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Ted Cruz Endorses Trump After Calling Him a "Sniveling Coward"

Mother Jones

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For months, Ted Cruz has refused to endorse Donald Trump, making Cruz a hero to some Republicans who remain opposed to Trump. But that ended on Friday when Cruz announced he would support his former rival.

“After many months of careful consideration, of prayer and searching my own conscience, I have decided that on Election Day, I will vote for the Republican nominee, Donald Trump,” Cruz wrote in a Facebook post.

At the Republican National Convention in July, rather than endorse Trump, Cruz urged Republicans to “vote your conscience,” drawing shouts and boos from the audience. On Friday, he said his own conscience told him to support Trump. “If Clinton wins, we know—with 100% certainty—that she would deliver on her left-wing promises, with devastating results for our country,” he wrote. “My conscience tells me I must do whatever I can to stop that.”

Cruz had some good reasons not to endorse Trump, stemming from the nasty primary battle between them. Trump has repeatedly attacked members of Cruz’s family. In February, Trump went after Cruz’s wife, Heidi, threatening in a tweet to “spill the beans” about her. Trump then retweeted an unflattering photo of Heidi next to a better one of his own wife, Melania.

Cruz’s response: “Donald, you’re a sniveling coward. Leave Heidi the hell alone.”

But Trump wasn’t done going after Cruz’s family. Toward the end of the primary, Trump suggested that Cruz’s father might have been involved in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. When Cruz refused to endorse Trump at the convention this summer, Trump promptly revived this accusation.

Cruz cited these attacks to defend his decision not to endorse Trump at the Republican National Convention in July. “I am not in the habit of supporting people who attack my wife and attack my father,” he said at the time. Now his habits appear to have changed.

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Ted Cruz Endorses Trump After Calling Him a "Sniveling Coward"

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