Interview conducted by Martha van Gelder, associate editor of the Green American magazine. Climate Divestment Interview #8 “We want to make sure the solution is robust and encapsulates a lot of alternatives.” Lauren Ressler is a National Organizer for the Responsible Endowments Coalition, which helps students encourage their colleges and universities to invest their endowments responsibly. She’s been especially active in using endowment activism to fight climate change during the past year and a half. Green America/Martha van Gelder: It seems like the fossil-fuel divestment campaign is taking off. Is that your impression as well? Lauren Ressler: Definitely. By the beginning of January this last year, there were still only between ten and 20 campuses that were working on the campaign to varying degrees. However, since the coalition of organizations that were working on divestment in conjunction with the students at Swarthmore began working with 350.org, we have gone from about 40 campuses in September to more than 234 campuses that have started petitions online and are beginning the divestment campaign on their campuses. I would definitely say that it’s taking off.
Interview conducted by Martha van Gelder, associate editor of the Green American magazine. Climate Divestment Interview #7 “Institutions of higher education should have been leading the way and they haven’t. They’ve been complacent, and they’ve been mired in the status quo. And yet, there’s incredible opportunity in this crisis.” Dr. Stephen Mulkey is a climate scientist and the president of Unity College in Unity, ME. Last November, he proposed to the school’s board of trustees that they divest their endowment from fossil fuels. After a lively discussion, the board voted unanimously in favor of the proposal. Green America/Martha van Gelder: Why do you believe that universities need to take action on climate change? Dr. Stephen Mulkey: I absolutely think that universities and colleges across the board have a special responsibility to take action. Our charge is to renew civilization. That being the case, it is ethically inconsistent to invest in its destruction. My own personal perspective is very simple: This generation of college students is facing an incredible series of sustainability challenges that will force them to live on a very different planet from the one that I grew up on. Unavoidably, the warming and the climate change that’s in the pipeline will create a dangerously disruptive climate for the second half of their lives, and increasingly so. The real question in play right now is whether my grandchildren and their children will have a civilization. Because warming of 6°C […]
Interview conducted by Martha van Gelder, associate editor of the Green American magazine. Climate Divestment Interview #6 “Your investment philosophy should reflect the values you have in governing.” Seattle mayor, Mike McGinn made history last November when he became the first mayor to divest his city from fossil fuels. His office has already divested the $1.4 million in their direct control, and it’s working to encourage the Seattle pension fund to divest its $1.9 billion from fossil fuels. Green America/Martha van Gelder: Why is it important for Seattle’s pension fund to divest from fossil fuels? Mike McGinn. Mayor Mike McGinn: It’s important when you’re a public entity that when you spend your dollars, you do so in a way that is consistent with the values of the people that live in the place. And Seattle has been, and I hope will continue to be, a leader in trying to build an environmentally sustainable economy, one that’s fair and economically vibrant. If you’re taking actions on the one hand to make buildings more efficient and make it easier for people to walk, use transit, or ride a bicycle, your investment philosophy should reflect the values you have in governing as well. Green America/Martha: Do you anticipate other cities following suit and divesting? McGinn: I do think it’s something that other cities should look at. Not every city manages its own pension fund; I know that many of the cities in the […]
Interview conducted by Martha van Gelder, associate editor of the Green American magazine. Climate Divestment Interview #5 “There are very big forces that need to be challenged.” Chloe Maxmin is a sophomore at Harvard University, and co-coordinator for the student-led movement to get Harvard to divest from fossil fuels. Green America/Martha van Gelder: How has the divestment effort at Harvard been going? Chloe Maxmin. Chloe Maxmin: We spent the whole first semester reaching out to different student groups, making pamphlets, and having educational events where students could learn about climate change and the role that divestment plays in the climate movement. One of the really good things about the divestment movement is that while there is a lot of economic jargon behind it, and while it is helpful to know a little bit about socially responsible investing, all you really have to know is that this is a moral movement, so anyone can get involved. Green America/Martha: Why do you think that divestment is a powerful tool in this fight? Maxmin: It’s powerful for a few reasons. One is that it’s a very clear moral argument: we don’t want our universities investing in companies that are threatening our future. It’s counterproductive to everything they’re teaching us, and it is not in line with the values on our campus. So there’s this very clear moral disparity, and we’re calling Harvard out on that and trying to change it. Another reason it’s […]
Interview conducted by Martha van Gelder, associate editor of the Green American magazine. Climate Divestment Interview #4 “Having students at historically black colleges and universities, and minority- serving institutions involved in a climate justice movement is crucial for that movement to succeed. The issue of climate change is too important to leave to a small segment of our population.” Known as the “father of environmental justice,” Dr. Robert Bullard is the dean of the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University. Green America/Martha van Gelder: Why is climate change an environmental justice issue? Dr. Robert Bullard. Dr. Robert Bullard: Climate change as an environmental issue is often presented in a way that glosses over the disparate impact on populations. Oftentimes, there are vulnerable populations that are hit the hardest and the worst and the longest by extreme weather. The science presented oftentimes overshadows the vulnerability of people. This is not just unique to climate change; it also present in the dominant paradigm that was put forth in the conservation and environmental movement. And so we merge the social justice and the social equity part with the environmental part to get an environmental justice movement. If you do the same for global warming, you get a climate justice movement. The justice part is emphasized, because it’s the same communities that oftentimes are hit hardest by industrial pollution, by dirty coal-fired power plants, and by all kinds of […]
The Faith Leader: The Rev. Dr. Jim Antal (Interview conducted by Martha van Gelder, associate editor of the Green American magazine) “They’re making profit because we’re letting them destroy God’s Creation.” The Reverend Dr. Jim Antal is a conference minister in the United Church of Christ, responsible for the 375 UCC congregations in Massachusetts. The Massachusetts conference board of directors recently approved his proposal to divest their funds from fossil fuels and became the first major religious body to divest. Green America/Martha van Gelder: How did your conference end up voting to divest from fossil fuels? Rev. Jim Antal Rev. Dr. Jim Antal: I’m the conference minister, responsible for 375 congregations, which are all the United Church of Christ churches in Massachusetts. I brought this proposal to our board of directors for the conference, which is a relatively small board of about 20, and we had a very lively conversation. In the end, they approved the resolution unanimously. As one of 38 UCC conferences in the country, we will bring this resolution to our national gathering. The UCC gets together once every other year in what we call a synod, and that gathering happens in late June this year. We will bring it to the Synod as a resolution, and my expectation is that it will be the dominant focus of our five-day synod gathering. Green America/Martha: What kind of action can you take without the synod? Antal: It’s […]
The University Alumnus: Kyuwon Kim (Interview conducted by Martha van Gelder, associate editor of the Green American magazine) “Universities are very sensitive to how they are portrayed.” Kyuwon Kim and two recent university graduates, Elysia Petrone and Yasmin Parodi, are attempting a unique method of pressuring universities to divest from fossil fuels. The three friends are asking Maclean’s Magazine, a current affairs publication that annually ranks Canadian universities, to add an “ethical investment” ranking to its report. Green America/Martha van Gelder: How did you get involved with the divestment movement? Kyuwon Kim: I met Elysia and Yasmin at a workshop in Toronto that was run by the Sierra Youth Coalition back in October. The three of us had a big interest in the divestment campaign because we came from different 350.org chapters, which inspired us to take action. Green America/Martha: How did you get the idea to use the universities’ rankings as a way to encourage them to take action? It is such a unique approach! Kim: At the end of each year, Maclean’s publish a universities issue in which it ranks Canadian universities based on class size, funding, reputation, student support, etc. Most Canadian high school students use it when they search for universities. I used it myself!
The Hip-Hop Activist: Rev. Lennox Yearwood (Interview conducted by Martha van Gelder, associate editor of the Green American magazine) “This year is the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, and we’re celebrating that from the standpoint that slavery was an institution, just like Big Oil, that we were able to get rid of. It took a lot, but we were able to get rid of that.” The Reverend Lennox Yearwood is the president of the Hip Hop Caucus, and works to empower young people to become active in elections and policy. He regularly speaks about the history of the apartheid battle and the strength of the moral argument against fossil fuel companies. Green America/Martha van Gelder: You recently called on historically black colleges and universities to lead the fight against climate change. What kind of response have you gotten since then? Rev. Lennox Yearwood. The Rev. Lennox Yearwood:We have begun to get a good response. The most important thing is that the climate movement has moved from playing defense to playing offense. We are really making a number of black colleges aware of this campaign so that they understand the importance of the role that communities of color have played in the world of divestment, and also in regards to the climate movement. It’s a process, though. Communities of color have a number of issues that they’re dealing with—education, healthcare, poverty. So the problem is that sometimes the climate component, […]
On Friday, the State Department released its Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) on the proposed Keystone XL (KXL) pipeline, making the claim that KXL will not “likely result in significant adverse environmental effects.” The report makes this claim, in part, by relying on the assumption that tar sands will be mined and burned anyway, regardless of whether the US allows […]
What’s a fair amount of interest to pay on a loan? Think of your answer, and then ask yourself another question: Could you do business with a bank that you know is charging some customers as much as 365 percent interest on a loan? That’s exactly what is happening at some corporate mega-banks offering new loan products with names like […]