It remains to be seen if the emerging green economy will be more equitable and inclusive than the brown economy, which often concentrates pollution in poor communities of color. Will low income and immigrant families be left behind in the move to solar panels, electric cars and organic strawberries? Will poor neighborhoods be the first to be abandoned when rising seas start flooding various streets more frequently?
Vien Truong, National Director for Green for All, says that tapping into that demographic can only add strength to the movement. "They are a political power that is under understood. So when we talk about the importance of engaging communities of color, it's about, how do we win more climate policies, more climate solutions?"
Recently, the Los Angeles Times and Inside Climate News reported that scientists at Exxon Mobil had studied global warming as far back as the 1970s. At the same time that it was planning a business strategy to take advantage of a warmer world, the company waged a public relations campaign denying that burning fossil fuels was heating the planet.
Stanton Glantz of UCSF's Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education relates. In the 1950's "they realized that they couldn't really contest the evidence linking cancer and smoking, so they came up with the idea of creating doubt." In the words of the tobacco companies, Glantz says, "Doubt is our product."
"Because all they had to do was get people confused about it. And by claiming that the issue wasn't proven, that provided cover for politicians to leave them alone and it helps smokers rationalize their continued smoking."
Bill Reilly, who served as EPA Administrator under the first President Bush, sees yet another correlation between tobacco and oil - which, he says, was unwittingly pointed out by George W. Bush.
"He referred to oil as an "addiction" at one point. How do you deal with an addiction? I'm not aware that we've ever stanched addiction by cutting off supply.
"You've really got to go to demand. You've got to do the things that change that whole attractiveness of it to someone who's buying."
In 2008, college student Tim DeChristopher heard Stanford professor Terry Root deliver a chilling lecture on the irreversible impacts of global warming. "After her talk, Terry sort of was honest with me in a way that she wasn't honest with the audience," he remembers. After sharing with him the worst-case consequences of climate change, "she literally put her hand on my shoulder and said, 'I'm so sorry my generation failed yours.'"
Those words haunted DeChristopher, setting him on a path first to despair, and then to activism. "It really motivated me to a new level of commitment and willingness to make sacrifices."
Last summer, Greenpeace's Georgia Hirsty and twelve other activists suspended themselves off of a Portland bridge on ropes for over 24 hours to protest an oil rig bound for the Arctic.
"Knowing that Shell couldn't drill as long as we could prevent the Fennica from leaving Portland was a pretty inspiring moment," she told the Climate One audience. "And fortunately it was dark and I couldn't see how far away the water was."
As the ship steamed towards them, Hirsty hailed it by radio, ordering it to stop. There were long moments of tension as the activists waited to see what the captain would do.
"Eternity passed," she recalls, "and then the Fennica slowly started to turn around...you could hear the uproars of cheering from the quayside and from the water.
"And then it turned all the way around and went back to its port."
Former Mobil Oil Executive VP Lou Allstadt said recently that such protests "upped the ante" on Shell's decision to pull the plug on drilling in the Arctic, although Shell denies that the Portland protests factored into their decision.
Lowell Bergman, Director of the Investigative Reporting Program, is also a producer and correspondent for the PBS documentary series Frontline, and the Reva and David Logan Distinguished Chair in Investigative Journalism at the Graduate School of Journalism.
Gregory Dalton is chief operating officer at the Commonwealth Club of California and Director of The Club's Climate 1 Initiative. He previously was international editor at The Industry Standard magazine, an editor for the Associated Press in New York, and a correspondent in China and Canada for the South China Morning Post, a Hong Kong newspaper.
Proficient in both Mandarin and Cantonese, he is a former term member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Founder, Climate Disobedience Center
Director, Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, UCSF
National Warehouse Program Manager, Greenpeace
President, Union of Concerned Scientists
Dr. Manuel Pastor is Professor of Geography and American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California. Founding director of the Center for Justice, Tolerance, and Community at the University of California, Santa Cruz, Pastor currently directs the Program for Environmental and Regional Equity at USC's Center for Sustainable Cities and is co-director of USC's Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration.
An economist by training, he works closely with community organizations, and is widely recognized for bridging the divide between academia and activism. He speaks and writes frequently on issues of demographic change, economic inequality, and community empowerment. He served as a member of the Commission on Regions appointed by California's Speaker of the State Assembly, and in 2002 was awarded a Civic Entrepreneur of the Year award from the California Center for Regional Leadership.
Pastor has received fellowships and grants from many major foundations, including Guggenheim, Kellogg, Ford, and the National Science Foundation.
William K Reilly
Senior Advisor, TPG
Director of Stakeholder Engagement, Future 500
National Director, Green for All
Executive Director, Asian Pacific Environmental Network