Each year, the

Puffin Foundation


The Nation Institute

recognize an individual who has challenged the status quo through distinctive, courageous, imaginative and socially responsible work. The previous recipients were environmental activist

Van Jones

, human rights lawyer

Michael Ratner

, Democracy Now! host

Amy Goodman

, educator and author

Jonathan Kozol

, journalist and author

Barbara Ehrenreich

, professor and anti-death penalty advocate

David Protess

, labor activist

Dolores Huerta

and civil rights pioneer

Robert Parris Moses


Jim Hightower

is the ninth winner of the prestigious award. An advocate for everyday people whose voices are seldom heard in Washington or on Wall Street, Hightower believes that “politics isn’t about left versus right; it’s about top versus bottom.” He broadcasts daily radio commentaries, which are on more than 150 stations across the country, on subjects ranging from public healthcare to

Hamid Karzai

. Each month, Hightower publishes a populist political newsletter, the

Hightower Lowdown

, exposing hypocrisy in Congress and targeting the abuses of corporations. With more than 135,000 subscribers, the Lowdown has received both the

Alternative Press Award

and the

Independent Press Association Award

for best national newsletter.

Twice elected Texas agriculture commissioner, Hightower was praised for nurturing organic production, promoting alternative crops, regulating pesticides and monitoring groundwater. A New York Times bestselling author, he has written seven books, including his most recent, written with longtime partner

Susan DeMarco

, Swim Against the Current.

Perry Rosenstein

, president of the Puffin Foundation, hails Jim Hightower as “a frontline defender of our civil liberties. Swimming against the current is a challenge he welcomes at all times.”


The surge of 17,000 troops

Barack Obama

sent to Afghanistan earlier this year–and the prospect that he might further expand the occupation–has unsettled a lot of Democrats. Those concerns were formally expressed November 15, when the

California Democratic Party

‘s 300-member executive board overwhelmingly endorsed a resolution calling for “a time-table for withdrawal of our military personnel” and “an end to the use of mercenary contractors, as well as an end to air strikes that cause heavy civilian casualties.” In place of a continuing US military presence, the California party urged Obama “to oversee a redirection of our funding and resources to include an increase in humanitarian and developmental aid.”

Party activists worked with

Progressive Democrats of America

‘s Healthcare Not Warfare campaign to secure support for the resolution by highlighting clips from

Robert Greenwald

‘s Rethink Afghanistan, as well as testimony from former Marine Cpl.

Rick Reyes

, an Afghanistan vet, who says, “There is no military solution…. The problems in Afghanistan are social problems that a military cannot fix.”

Backers of the plan are urging other state parties to join what they see as a movement to influence Obama’s priorities. “Yes, this is about Afghanistan–but it’s also about our role in the world at large,” says California Congressional candidate

Marcy Winograd

. “Do we want to be global occupiers seizing scarce resources, or global partners in shared prosperity? I would argue a partnership is not only the humane choice but also the choice that grants us the greatest security.”   JOHN NICHOLS


As we approach the December 7-18

UN Climate Change Conference

in Copenhagen–the world’s last chance to secure an emissions reduction agreement that will replace the

Kyoto Protocol

before it expires–activists are channeling their energies at the UN talks and beyond.

According to scientists, 350 parts per million represents the maximum amount of CO2 that can safely exist in the atmosphere. Any more than that, and we’re screwed. At

, founded by

Bill McKibben

, you can find out more about the science behind the number, sign up for action alerts, help plan upcoming actions and add your name to the 350 pledge, which will be delivered at Copenhagen.

Rising Tide North America

is also a good resource for direct-action organizing–something scientists like

James Hansen

and politicians like

Al Gore

now see as necessary–providing speakers, training and workshops. The group also educates on the root causes of climate change and debunks the fallacies behind proposed market-based solutions.

Gear up for November 30, the tenth anniversary of the WTO Seattle shutdown, with

Mobilization for Climate Justice

. Putting social justice at the center of the debate, it highlights the need for real, non-market based solutions that protect those most vulnerable to the effects of climate change: people of color, low-income and indigenous communities. The group will be staging a nationwide series of nonviolent direct actions targeting “corporate climate criminals.” See


Energy Action Coalition

is a US-based online community of young environmental organizers striving to leverage collective power and create change for clean, efficient, just and renewable energy. Its regional PowerShift conferences have become important annual gathering places for activists to share ideas and strategies.


Campus Climate Challenge

pushes colleges and universities to become models for the clean energy revolution. One tactic is to get university presidents to sign the Presidents’ Climate Commitment. So far, more than 600 schools have signed on. For resources for students seeking to push the challenge at their schools, check out

Long-running international environmental giants

Friends of the Earth

(FOE) and


continue to work around the issue of global warming. Greenpeace offers a robust climate change action center, and FOE’s implores Obama and other heads of state to take bold action at Copenhagen.


‘s Copenhagen campaign at offers ways to get involved in demanding “an ambitious, fair and binding” climate deal. For an expanded version of this article, including links and video, go to   PETER ROTHBERG and ANDREA D’CRUZ