People's Climate March September 21st Largest Climate March In History

This is an invitation to change everything.

In September, world leaders are coming to New York City for a UN summit on the climate crisis. UN Secretary- General Ban Ki--moon is urging governments to support an ambitious global agreement to dramatically reduce global warming pollution.

With our future on the line and the whole world watching, we’ll take a stand to bend the course of history. We’ll take to the streets to demand the world we know is within our reach: a world with an economy that works for people and the planet; a world safe from the ravages of climate change; a world with good jobs, clean air and water, and healthy communities.

To change everything, we need everyone on board.
Sunday, September 21 in New York City.

And for those of you who won’t be able to make it to New York, we’ll be marching here in Portland too

Sunday, September 21 in Portland
1:00 pm at Shemanski Park  
South Park Blocks between SW Salmon & SW Main.
More details to come

Join us.

My View: Reed Trustees Must Divest from Fossil Fuels

 

Reed College’s Board of Trustees recently published its official rejection of Fossil Free Reed’s petition to divest the college endowment of fossil fuels (Reed College won’t divest fossil fuel holdings, web story, July 17).

Divestment, the act of selling financial holdings in a company or group of companies, historically has been used as a powerful tool — such as in the case of ending South African apartheid — to affect major systemic change.

We, the students and alumni that form the group Fossil Free Reed, are disappointed that the trustees’ formal response seems to ignore the months of discussion that have taken place, fails to meaningfully respond to many of the issues raised in our original letter demanding divestment (published in early February; see reedquest.org) and does not engage with our counterpoints to trustee concerns raised in two meetings between Fossil Free Reed and the trustees.

In the statement from Roger Perlmutter, chairman of the Reed College Board of Trustees, Reed made clear its recognition of the threats of climate change, stating, “climate change poses quite possibly the biggest challenge in human history.” Yet instead of taking commensurate action, Reed instead uses stale arguments to defend its cowardly decision not to take meaningful action.

The first reason given by the trustees against divestiture is that the board’s primary investment objective is fiduciary, and so should act on a proposed divestiture only “where the action taken reflects widely held, perhaps almost universally held, social or moral positions,” as stated in Reed’s Investment Responsibility Policy.

We have two main problems with this argument. First, climate change, which is supported by overwhelming scientific consensus and was described by Perlmutter as “possibly the biggest challenge in human history,” merits primary consideration over financial returns under the college’s Investment Responsibility Policy, if Perlmutter stands by these words.

Second, as the executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change points out, divesting from the fossil-fuel industry acknowledges the fact that the majority of known fossil-fuel reserves must be left unburned if we are to avoid catastrophic climate disruption. The possibility for assets to never become monetized has been recognized by the International Energy Agency, insurance companies and big banks. Therefore, a comprehensive approach to fiduciary responsibility must consider the increasing risks of fossil-fuel investments.

Incredibly, the trustees acknowledge having made their decision without yet providing even a shred of financial evidence substantiating their position. Fossil Free Reed has twice been denied the offer to bring an expert in sustainable finance to the discussions with the trustees. In addition, we have repeatedly detailed and made available a growing body of financial research that highlights the financial comparability of fossil-free portfolios while warning against the increasing risk of holding carbon assets in long-term investments, risks established in research by the University of Oxford, and backed by the large financial firms.

The second reason given by the trustees for their decision is their “responsibility to sustain Reed’s intense commitment to academic freedom,” which they deem to “require limiting the political role of the institution or the enlistment of the institution’s name in political causes.”

We reject the implied conclusion that investing in the fossil-fuel industry is politically neutral while canceling these investments is politically charged. Acting on scientific consensus, while often including politicized action, is a human — not bipartisan — concern.

In the words of Pitzer College Trustee Donald P. Gould, “At its heart, climate science has nothing to do with politics; CO2 has no political leanings. On issues of great moral consequence — and climate change is surely one — the academy has a duty to educate not only its students, but also society at large. Divestment is an educational statement, not a political one.”

While other institutions like Pitzer College and Stanford University demonstrate leadership on this issue, Reed has decided to avoid engaging in the intellectually challenging conversation around divestment. We are frustrated by the college’s sluggish and meek approach to addressing the biggest challenge in human history. We believe a comprehensive environmental policy requires that we divest our endowment.

There are a lot of students and alumni who aren’t satisfied by the trustee response, and we will keep pushing Reed to display a fiduciary and moral backbone by divesting from the fossil-fuel industry that is degrading, if not destroying, our future and our children’s futures.

Maya Jarrad and Austin Weisgrau are leaders of Fossil Free Reed. Jarrad is a 2014 Reed graduate in environmental studies economics. Weisgrauisaseniorineconomics.

Published in the Portland Tribune, August 7, 2014

 

People's Climate March September 21st Largest Climate March In History

In September, heads of state are going to New York City for a historic summit on climate change. You may have already received Bill McKibben’s invitation to the People’s Climate March in NYC: This is an invitation to “anyone who’d like to prove to themselves, and to their children, that they give a damn about the biggest crisis our civilization has ever faced.”
 
Are you ready to go (or thinking of going) to NYC September 21st and interested in helping organize and/or march with a 350 Oregon contingent in NYC?

Yes, I want to go!

Wish you could go, but cannot make it to NYC this September? If so, are you interested in helping organize a solidarity march or event here in Oregon?

I’ll help organize an event in Oregon

As our friend Bill points out: “This is dead-serious business, a signal moment in the gathering fight of human beings to do something about global warming before it's too late to do anything but watch.”
 
This is the time to take a weekend to bend the course of history.

‘Jobs vs. the Environment’: How to Counter This Divisive Big Lie

[by Jeremy Brecher, original posted at the Nation.com]

In an era in which our political system is dominated by plutocracy, grassroots social movements are essential for progressive change. But too often our movements find themselves at loggerheads over the seemingly conflicting need to preserve our environment and the need for jobs and economic development. How can we find common ground?

The problem is illustrated by the current proposal of the Dominion corporation to build a Liquefied Natural Gas export facility at Cove Point, Maryland, right on the Chesapeake Bay. Seven hundred people demonstrated against the proposal and many were arrested in three civil disobedience actions.  But an open letter on Dominion letterhead endorsing the project—maintaining it will “create more than 3,000 construction jobs” most of which will go “to local union members”—was signed not only by business leaders, but by twenty local and national trade union leaders.

In the struggle over the Keystone XL pipeline, which has been described as the “Birmingham of the climate movement,” pipeline proponents have been quick to seize on the “jobs issue” and tout support from building trades unions and eventually the AFL-CIO. In a press release titled “U.S. Chamber Calls Politically-Charged Decision to Deny Keystone a Job Killer,” the Chamber of Commerce said President Obama’s denial of the KXL permit was “sacrificing tens of thousands of good-paying American jobs in the short term, and many more than that in the long term.” The media repeat the jobs vs. environment frame again and again: NPR’s headline on KXL was typical of many: “Pipeline Decision Pits Jobs Against Environment.” A similar dynamic has marked the “beyond coal” campaign, the fracking battle and EPA regulation of greenhouse gasses under the Clean Air Act. Those who want to overcome this division must tell a different story.

One starting point for that story is to recognize the common interest both in human survival and in sustainable livelihoods. To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, if God had intended some people to fight just for the environment and others to fight just for the economy, he would have made some people who could live without money and others who could live without water and air. There are not two groups of people, environmentalists and workers. We all need a livelihood and we all need a livable planet to live on. If we don’t address both, we’ll starve together while we’re waiting to fry together.

Such a frame is illustrated by a two-year-old coalition that includes the Connecticut AFL-CIO and a variety of labor unions, community organizations, religious groups and environmentalists called the Connecticut Roundtable on Climate and Jobs. Its starting point is “the need to build a sustainable economy with good-paying jobs here in Connecticut while reducing the threat of climate disruption here and around the world.” It rejects the “false choice” of “jobs vs. the environment.” It seeks to build “a worker-oriented environmental movement that supports a fair and just transition program to protect not only the environment, but also the livelihoods of working people.” There is an initiative in Maryland to start a Sustainability Roundtable that would bring similar players together around their common long-term interest in a sustainable Maryland.

Within such a common frame it becomes easier to build alliances around specific issues in the real world. For example, through the Roundtable on Climate and Jobs, Connecticut unions joined with environmental, religious and community groups to fight for renewable energy standards that create local jobs and reduce pollution by shifting from fossil fuels to renewables, energy efficiency, and conservation. Elsewhere, workers in the transportation industry have joined with environmentalists to advocate shifting from private to public transportation—something that would create large numbers of skilled jobs, greatly reduce greenhouse gasses and local pollution, and save money for consumers.

But what about areas of conflict like the Dominion Cove Point LNG plant or the Keystone XL pipeline? A crucial strategy here is to seek win-win solutions before conflicting positions become irredeemably entrenched. A study by the Labor Network for Sustainability calledJobs Beyond Coal: A Manual for Communities, Workers, and Environmentalists found that in a number of cases unions representing workers in coal-fired power plants have actually supported the planned closing of their highly-polluting workplaces—because environmentalists and government officials worked with them to ensure a “just transition” in which workers livelihoods and the needs of their communities were addressed. Another studyThe Keystone Pipeline Debate: An Alternative Job Creation Strategy by LNS and Economics for Equity and Environment, showed that far more jobs for pipeline workers could result from fixing failing water and sewer pipelines than from the Keystone XL project.

Similarly, climate protection activists pressing colleges and municipalities to divest from fossil fuels are starting to advocate that the funds divested from fossil fuel companies be invested in local job-creating climate protection. Indeed, every environmental campaign should have a jobs program and every jobs program should be designed to address our climate catastrophe.

While concrete, on-the-ground solutions are essential for knitting together labor and environmental concerns, our movements also need to evolve toward a common program and a common vision.

We can present such initiatives as exemplars of a broad public agenda for creating full employment by converting to a climate-safe economy. There are historical precedents for such programs. Just as the New Deal in the Great Depression of the 1930s put millions of unemployed people to work doing the jobs America’s communities needed, so today we need a “Green New Deal” to rebuild our energy, transportation, building, and other systems to drastically reduce the climate-destroying greenhouse gas pollution they pour into the air. Mobilization for World War II provides an even more dramatic illustration of rapid economic transformation that created massive employment while halting production for some purposes and radically expanding it for others.

Such a shared program would end the “jobs versus environment” conflict because environmental protection would produce millions of new jobs and expansion of jobs would protect the environment.  Such a program provides common ground on which both labor and environmentalists can stand.

Such a program can also be the centerpiece of a larger shared vision of a new economy. After all, just expanding the kind of economy we have will just expand the problems of inequality and environmental catastrophe our current economy is already creating. The ultimate solution to the “jobs vs. environment” dilemma is to build a new economy where we all have secure livelihoods based on work that creates the kind of sustainable world we all need.

350PDX Organizes Hearing on Fossil Fuel Divestment Before House Committee

The House Energy & Environmental Committee held an informational hearing on Climate Responsible Investment organized by 350PDX on February 25, 2014. Testifying before the committee were Sandy Polishuk, Divestment Coordinator, 350PDX; Emily Letherstrom, Senior Investment Analyst, Portfolio 21; Christy Splitt, External Affairs Director, Oregon League of Conservation Voters; Walt Eager, 350.org Corvallis, retired supervisory engineer, Oregon Department of Transportation.

Sandy Polishuk explained the math of climate change, making the case that 80% of fossil-fuel companies reserves need to be left “in the ground” in order to limit climate warming to a liveable level. She then explained 350.org’s strategy of fossil fuel divestment to highlight the destructive practices of the fossil fuel companies. She said, “Divestment would weaken the fossil fuel industry’s political standing and increase the chances of retiring its special breaks by taking away their social license to continue unchecked extraction.”

Emily Letherstrom testified that her company, Portfolio 21, has had “a long-held rational for not investing in fossil fuel companies....our research has found unacceptable risks in the fossil fuel exploration and production industry and therefore we do not invest in companies in this sector.  Approximately 8% of the global equity market is off limits to those who choose to divest, leaving 92% of the market available to a portfolio manager to meet their fiduciary responsibility.” She went on to detail the numerous factors that influenced this decision.

Christy Splitt from the Oregon League of Conservation Voters talked about her work with conservation groups across the state. "Climate is the issue that unites us all, across a variety of issues and from places as diverse as the canyons of Eastern Oregon and the coast." She also noted that 350.org plays a unique role in Oregon. "An all-volunteer, grassroots group coming to the Capitol means a lot. I am here every day, but this sort of advocacy on this all-important issue makes a real difference."

Testimony closed with Walt Eager, a PERS retiree, stating that PERS must divest from fossil fuel holdings. He said, “It is incomprehensible that funds, belonging to Oregon retirees, are being used to destroy the natural environment and economy of the State in which we live and for so many years dutifully served.”

Read what Emily Letherstrom wrote for Portfolio 21's blog

Download a transcript of Polishuk, Letherstrom & Eager’s testimony

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Portland Third-Grader Organizes "Climb-A-Thon for Climate Change" on April 4

Dylan Beckett, a third grade student at the ACCESS Academy, has organized a climbing fundraiser at the Portland Rock Gym to benefit organizations that promote awareness of climate change. “I was hearing scary things on the news that made me worry about the planet,” Dylan said. “Even if you do something small, it can have a big effect. Now it’s gotten even bigger than I ever thought it would!”

Dylan enlisted his parents, the school principal and other students at ACCESS Academy, and the staff at Portland Rock Gym, to organize a 3-hour Climb-A-Thon on April 4. Participating students who climb will earn pledge money for every ascent that they complete. All pledges will support the local nonprofit 350 PDX and the national organization 350.org.

“I want to show people that even if you’re a kid, if you’re worried, you can do something. You can help,” said Dylan.

Sponsor a climber through our site!

Reed students meets with Board of Trustees for consideration of divestment

On February 7th, students from the group Fossil Free Reed met with the Board of Trustees, presenting the case that fossil fuel investments run counter to the values that Reed espouses. In reply, the Board promised to give consideration to their proposal, as reported in the Portland Tribune.

Climb-A-Thon Fundraiser

“We need to not wait until we are the grownups, because I’m scared it will be too late.”
- Dylan, 3rd grader

While the news about climate change can be really unsettling, working together to make a difference can be inspiring, and even fun.

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