May Boeve: How Sonomans can get involved in climate change action on a grass roots level
Environmental advocacy is a surprisingly male-dominated profession.
Suzanne Goldberg, a former Guardian environmental correspondent, summed it up as such: “The very top of ‘Big Green’ is as white and male as a Tea Party meet-up.”
That’s what makes 33-year-old May Boeve’s career all the more impressive. She has served as the executive director of climate change dynamo 350.org since she was 27 and was one of the organization’s founders.
On Tuesday, Boeve, who grew up in Sonoma, will be in town to give a presentation on climate change, addressing what can be done at the local level and sharing information on how Sonomans can get involved with a new climate change coalition.
She will also talk about the state of climate change under the Trump administration.
Hosted by the Earth Care Committee of First Congregational Church, the free event will be held at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 13, in Burlingame Hall, 252 W. Spain St.
“With Trump trying to block action on climate change at the national level, we have to focus our efforts locally,” said Boeve. “My talk will be action-oriented. What can be done in Sonoma, and how can we get people here connected to ongoing action elsewhere.”
350.org was founded in 2007 by Middlebury College scholar-in-residence Bill McKibben along with six Middlebury students – among them Boeve, who by then was a recent graduate of the Vermont liberal arts institution.
350.org was, and still is, a decentralized body aimed at fostering grassroots campaigns “to oppose new coal, oil and gas projects, take money out of the companies that are heating up the planet, and build 100 percent clean energy solutions that work for all.”
The name represent its goal: to reduce levels of carbon dioxide from 400 parts per million to 350 parts per million, which some scientists believe is the ceiling for a safe level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
In the years since its inception, 350.org has transformed into a global organizing body at the forefront of mass mobilization of action to prevent climate change. In 2009, for instance, 350.org led 5,200 simultaneous demonstrations in 181 countries. The next year, for a different campaign, the organization upped that number to 7,000 events in 188 countries.
Boeve – winner of the 2006 David Brower Youth Award for Environmental Leadership as well as the 2017 New Frontier Award from the John F. Kennedy Library – has played a large role in spearheading these movements.
As a Sonoma native, Boeve was inspired toward activism as early as middle school. “The peace movement people in Sonoma made a real impression on me growing up,” she said. “The fact that they would stand on the Plaza every Friday afternoon with their signs really got me thinking about what it means to be civic minded.”
She also wrote a column for the Index-Tribune as part of its rotating student columnist program.
“I wrote about land use and the experience was an early way that I learned about the importance of telling the story on key issues and finding like-minded people interested in a cause,” Boeve said.
Having attended Sassarini Elementary School and St. Francis, and graduating from Justin-Siena High School in 2002, Boeve went on to receive her bachelor’s degree in political science from Middlebury College in Vermont and later moved to Brooklyn.
Earlier this year, she made the move back to California, wanting to be closer to Sonoma and 350.org’s Oakland office. “The timing is good as this year California is especially a focus for us,” said Boeve. “We are working with Governor Brown on a Climate Summit in San Francisco in September.”
On top of her work for 350.org, Boeve co-founded the Step It Up 2007 campaign, “the first open source, web-based day of action dedicated to stopping climate change” that brought together more than 1,400 communities. Their goal was to get Congress to cut carbon by 80 percent by 2050. She also co-wrote the book “Fight Global Warming Now: The Handbook for Taking Action in Your Community,” published in 2007.
Attendees of the event will have the chance to ask Boeve questions after her presentation and learn how to get involved in Sonoma.
“The fires really brought the subject of climate change to the forefront again,” said Boeve.