Getting on the Biofuel bus with Veterans for Clean Energy

Something's different about the latest climate action road trip barnstorming the country in a biodiesel bus, holding clean energy rallies in...

Something's different about the latest climate action road trip barnstorming the country in a biodiesel bus, holding clean energy rallies in cities and towns along the way. Camouflage has replaced the polar bear costumes. There's less "Save Gaia" and more "Semper Fi." Less dreadlocks and more buzzcuts. That's because the volunteers in Operation Free are all veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and have since deployed on this tour to teach Americans how climate change and our dependence on foreign oil are serious threats to our national security…The goal of Operation Free is laid out plainly in military terms. Mission: Secure America with Clean Energy. A two-and-a-half month bus tour with over 70 stops at VFWs, American Legion halls, and veterans memorials across 17 states is the first leg of this mission. (There's also a commercial airing nationally to complement the tour.) Campaign director Jonathan Murray, who served four years in the Marines before going to college and getting involved with veterans campaigns, explained that while the tour was "concentrating on states with Senators that can be persuaded to vote for a climate change bill," this tour was more about education. "It's not a political message at all," Murray says. "It comes straight from the Pentagon. Nobody knows that the Pentagon has officially said that climate change is a destabilizing force."Murray highlights the Pentagon's Quadrennial Review, released earlier this month, that warned of climate change acting as an "accerlerant of instability" by weakening states, causing droughts and famine, increasing the spread of disease, spurring mass migration, and creating breeding grounds for terrorism. He also points to the CIA's recent creation of a climate change center and the National Intelligence Estimate officially finding climate change to be a national security threat.The messengers of Operation Free offer a three-prong argument for clean energy security. First, climate change makes the world a more dangerous place. Second, America is depending on geopolitical rivals for a resource–oil–that we need to both defend our country and run our economy, and this makes us vulnerable. And third, we're sending $1 billion every day to these countries that don't like us very much, and a lot of that money winds up in the hands of terrorists or forces fighting our troops abroad.[youtube] Free's David Solimini expanded on this last point. "The single largest funder for the Taliban is not poppy, as many would like us to believe," he says. "It's donations from wealthy people in Saudi Arabia. How did they get wealthy? It wasn't because they were selling sand. When we fill up our tanks, we end up putting bullets in the guns of people firing at our guys in the mountains of Afghanistan."The message has resonated well in the VFWs and Legion halls, as well as on Main Street. Former Army 1st Armored Division's Robin Eckstein says the people they meet tend to be more open minded because they're talking to veterans. "Most people just need some help putting this puzzle together," she says. "They see this isn't just a dirty hippie thing, that this is a national security issue, that it doesn't matter if you're left or right, and that it's the future of the U.S. we're talking about."Eckstein served for seven years, mostly driving a truck to deliver fuel and water to bases around Baghdad. Every time she left the secured gates of Baghdad International Airport was a "roll of the dice," and while risking her life daily, it became all too clear just how dangerous this dependence on one resource was for the military, and in a larger sense, for her country."Just because I've taken off my uniform and am no longer actually in the service, I feel like I'm still serving my country," she says. "I know I'm doing good."CORRECTION: This story reported that Operation Free is staffed with veterans of the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. While most are War on Terror vets, some are peace time vets, and Vietnam era vets. Operation Free even has a participating Korean war vet. The title was updated to reflect the correction.This post originally appeared on, as part of GOOD's collaboration with the Pepsi Refresh Project, a catalyst for world-changing ideas. Find out more about the Refresh campaign, or to submit your own idea today.

This article was produced in partnership with the United Nations to launch the biggest-ever global conversation on the role of cooperation in building the future we want.

When half of the world's population doesn't share the same opportunity or rights as the other half, the whole world suffers. Like a bird whose wings require equal strength to fly, humanity will never soar to its full potential until we achieve gender equality.

That's why the United Nations made one of its Sustainable Development Goals to "Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls." That goal includes providing women and girls equal access to education and health care, as well as addressing gender-based discrimination and violence against women and girls.

While there is still much work to be done, history shows us that we are capable of making big leaps forward on this issue. Check out some of the milestones humanity has already reached on the path to true equality.

Historic Leaps Toward Gender Equality

1848 The Seneca Falls Convention in New York, organized by Elizabeth Lady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, is the first U.S. women's convention to discuss the oppression of women in sociopolitical, economic, and religious life.

1893 New Zealand becomes the first self-governing nation to grant national voting rights to women.

1903 Marie Curie becomes the first woman to win a Nobel Prize. She is also the only woman to win multiple Nobel Prizes, for Physics in 1903 and Chemistry in 1911.

1920 The 19th Amendment is passed in the U.S. giving women the right to vote in all 50 U.S. states.

1973 The U.S. Open becomes the first major sports tournament of its kind to offer equal pay to women, after tennis star Billie Jean King threatened to boycott.

1975 The first World Conference on Women is held in Mexico, where a 10-year World Plan of Action for the Advancement of Women is formed. The first International Women's Day is commemorated by the UN in the same year.

1979 The UN General Assembly adopts the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), also known as the "Women's Bill of Rights." It is the most comprehensive international document protecting the rights of women, and the second most ratified UN human rights treaty after the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

1980 Vigdis Finnbogadottir of Iceland becomes the first woman to be elected head of state in a national election.

1993 The UN General Assembly adopts the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, the first international instrument to explicitly define forms of violence against women and lay out a framework for global action.

2010 The UN General Assembly creates the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) to speed progress on meeting the needs of women and girls around the world.

2018 The UN and European Union join forces on the Spotlight Initiative, a global, multi-year initiative focused on eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls.

As the UN celebrates its 75th anniversary, it is redoubling its commitment to reach all 17 Sustainable Development Goals, including gender equality. But it will take action and effort from everyone to ensure that women and girls are free from discrimination and violence. Learn more about what is being done to address gender equality and see how you can get involved here.

And join the global conversation about the role of international cooperation in building the future by taking the UN75 survey here.

Let's make sure we all have a say in the future we want to see.

via WFMZ / YouTube

John Perez was acquitted on Friday, February 21, for charges stemming from an altercation with Allentown, Pennsylvania police that was caught on video.

Footage from September 2018 shows an officer pushing Perez to the ground. After Perez got to his feet, multiple officers kicked and punched him in an attempt to get him back on the ground.

Perez claims he was responding to insults hurled at him by the officers. The police say that Perez was picking a fight. The altercation left Perez with a broken nose, scrapes, swelling, and bruises from his hips to his shoulder.

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