Harvard Heat Week is turning up the heat on fossil fuel divestment. Starting on April 12th, students, faculty, alumni, and members of the Harvard community are coming together in Cambridge to speak out for climate justice, learn from one another, and take action. Learn more and join in here.
If you’re nearby, join us on Friday for the final Harvard Heat Week rally. Here are the details:
Final Harvard Heat Week Rally for Fossil Fuel Divestment
Friday, April 17th, 6:00 PM
Harvard Science Center Plaza, Cambridge
Students at the University of Edinburgh have learned from sources inside yesterday’s meeting that the university’s Central Management Group (CMG) received a recommendation for the university to divest from companies involved in the coal and tar sands extraction.
The recommendation would require Edinburgh University to divest from most large oil majors like BP, Shell and Total who all operate in the tar sands. It will be passed forward to the next meeting of the University Court in May where the recommendation is expected to be approved.
This is a significant step forward for the long-running Edinburgh People & Planet campaign for Edinburgh University to invest ethically – the university has the third largest endowment of all UK universities, worth £292 million or $430million (US).
Student campaigners from the People & Planet netework, who have been pushing for ethical investment for over 10 year, have said the recommendation does not go far enough.Kirsty Haigh, Vice President Communities at NUS Scotland, said:
“It’s absolutely crucial that the university do no give into big fossil fuel companies and flout their moral obligations. Full divestment from fossil fuels is the only responsible action. The University shying away from this and choosing to not divest fully is continuing to fund climate chaos. Our futures are too important to be gambled away for university profit.”
A Fossil Fuels Review Group was established in response to the university’s public consultation on responsible investment which concluded in March 2014, in which the majority of respondents supported divestment from fossil fuels and arms.
Edinburgh students yesterday staged an oil spill and ‘die-in’ outside the CMG meeting, as students, staff and alumni at Harvard University in the United States are taking part in acts of civil disobedience for ‘Harvard Heat Week‘. Students across dozens of US campuses are escalating their campaigns and many are willing to risk arrest at Harvard this week to increase pressure on the university to cuts its ties with fossil fuel companies.
In the UK, decisions on fossil fuel divestment are now expected from UCL, University of London SOAS, Edinburgh, London School of Hygeine and Tropical Medicine, Oxford and Warwick over the coming months. Since October 2013, students in the People & Planet network have launched over 60 Fossil Free campaigns across the UK, engaging over 25,000 students. Last month, students at LSE and King’s College London included demands for fossil fuel divestment in their occupations of their universities.
Last summer, the University of London SOAS became the first UK university to take action, freezing new investments in the fossil fuel industry. In October 2014, the Universities of Glasgow became the first university in Europe to divest, committing to remove £18 million worth of investments from the fossil fuel industry, and in January this year the University of Bedfordshire formalised a ban on fossil fuel investments as university policy, making a total of 21 universities that have divested internationally to date.Miriam Wilson, Fossil Free Campaign Coordinator at People & Planet, said:
“If the university does actually divest from tar sands, they will be excluding every major oil company from their portfolio, including BP and Shell. Rejecting the dirtiest fossil fuels like coal and tar sands should just be the start. Oil and gas can’t be side-stepped. With divestment decisions expected from a number of presitigious universities over the coming months, the University of Edinburgh risks lagging behind if it does not divest from all fossil fuel companies.”
We’re in the middle of a worldwide struggle to keep as much coal, oil and other fossil fuels in the ground as possible. Some of us urge institutions to divest from fossil fuels – some of us make street art visualising what a world driven by renewable energy could look like – some of us push petitions to stop building destructive pipelines and other infrastructure – and some of us climb oil rigs to stop dangerous oil drilling in the Arctic.
We are many doing all we can to enable the transition to a more just society, powered by renewable energy sources.
In this moment, we turn our eyes towards the Pacific ocean and the 6 brave activists who recently boarded Shell’s oil rig on its way to drill in the Arctic, and stayed there for 123 hours. Not all of us could be on the spot helping out – but we support your every step and we are grateful to these 6 people and everyone doing fantastic work behind the scenes.
From the global fossil fuel divestment movement, voices are raised every day against investments made in companies like Shell. These companies are drilling for oil in incredibly sensitive parts of the world, and putting our entire society at stake in their hunt for more dirty fuels and more high-risk profit. For Shell to continue exploiting resources that must be left in the ground, and for investors to continue to profit from this business, is unacceptable.
Karl Andreasson, fossil fuel divestment campaigner at Uppsala University, Sweden, highlights the climate science:
From a purely scientific standpoint, drilling for oil in the Arctic is inconsistent with the physical restraints of global 2C warming targets that require 80% of already proven CO2 reserves to remain in the ground. Further exploration by Shell in highly sensitive ecosystems is both locally devastating and globally counterproductive.
There are divestment campaigns in over 500 places all over the world – and many of them are targeting Shell investors. Karl’s university is one of those investors.
Uppsala University has the potential to continue to lead in sustainable development by divesting the 1,6 million SEK worth of bonds they own in Shell and help stigmatise these sorts of unscientific and short-sighted ventures.
Another Swedish divestment campaigner is Ruben Brundell at Stockholm University. He calls the rig climers of the Esperanza “true heroes”, sending them a message of solidarity: “There are no words to express my gratitude for your courageous actions.” Like many other citizens calling for fossil fuel divestment, Ruben emphasizes the link to the funding of and investments in companies like Shell:
The fact that Stockholm University won’t divest is outrageous. It is their moral and economical obligation to stop funding the destruction of our common future, and to start funding renewable energy sources. Shell should not be invested in by anyone, because they are ruining the world for everyone. We will not stop until every single krona is divested from fossil fuels.
Another climate campaigner is Ellie Roberts from Operation Noah’s “Bright Now” campaign, campaigning for churches in the UK to divest from fossil fuel companies. In 2013, the Church of England Church Commissioners alone had over £50 million invested in Shell. Ellie and Operation Noah say divestment from fossil fuel companies should happen as a matter of faith:
We believe it makes no sense for the Church to call for a solution to climate change while continuing to finance, and profit from, companies that base their business strategies on ever increasing fossil fuel exploration and extraction. By continuing with Arctic drilling at a time when we need to be working towards leaving the majority of the world’s fossil fuel reserves underground, Shell is endangering the future of our planet and its people, and needlessly despoiling one of the world’s few remaining pristine ecosystems. How much more could we achieve by directing the technical expertise and financial resources towards developing clean energy alternatives to fossil fuels?
As the Greenpeace climbers have now left the oil rig due to severe weather conditions, the fight continues in other forms.
In a press release from Greenpeace, one of the six climbers Aliyah Field said:
I might be climbing off this oil rig, but this is merely a transition into the next step of saving the Arctic. (…) My voice cannot be silenced, and neither can the millions of others taking a stand against Shell.
Make sure you’ve signed the Save the Arctic petition, and join the climate movement to build momentum around this issue where you live. Aliyah says the movement is growing stronger by the day:
This has been the single most proud, humbling, and inspiring experience of my life. I am truly in awe of all the support and passion from around the world. A global movement has grown even stronger over the last days.
As Ruben, divestment campaigner at Stockholm University, said; “you are nothing less than heroes in the very truest sense of the word”. Now let us all make the most out of the inspiration and courage that many of us have found from the climbers’ actions this last week.
If February was big in the divestment world, this month the movement didn’t bother catching a breath. Nope — the movement is growing bigger, bolder, and MARCH-ing ahead full steam (ha, see what we did there?). And not only are the ranks growing within the movement, we’re also gaining widespread acknowledgement from some actors you might not have expected — the Bank of England, the United Nations, and Peabody Coal, for starters.
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again — fossil fuels are on their way out, and the industry knows it. Financial actors are coming to recognize it too. So what the heck is everyone else waiting for? It’s time to divest.
And with climate negotiations in Paris on the calendar for December, the world is watching. Until then, we’ve got to organize like crazy.
First, let’s take a few moments to celebrate some of the amazing victories we’ve roped in this month!GLOBAL CAMPUS UPDATES
USA: Syracuse University divests
This school has a whopping $1.18 billion endowment that it has committed to divest from direct fossil fuel investments — thanks to the hard work of Divest SU and ESF! This commitment came after an 18 day sit-in last November that students held at their administrative building. That’s a clear lesson that pressure works. Campus activists have pledged to keep fighting until the university is fully divested from all fossil fuels, but this is still a big win. Read more here.
UK: Oxford alumni occupy university building
Enough pandering, Oxford. When the university announced it was deferring its decision on whether to dump its shares in fossil fuels, Oxford alumni stepped it up big time by occupying a university building and demanding divestment. Oxford’s former Director of Finance even joined the action! On top of that, alumni vowed to “hand back degrees” if it doesn’t divest. Read more here.
USA: Students go big and bold with direct action
On March 19th, a group of 43 students and alumni with Swarthmore Mountain Justice sat down in the Swarthmore investment office and refused to leave. Their extended sit-in launched a wave of escalated action on campuses around the country this spring, urging universities to divest and reinvest in just solutions. Next, students from Divest UMW joined the action — check out their video here. Then Bowdoin Climate Action sat in — read more here. But that’s not all — there’s more in the works this spring, including Harvard Heat Week April 12th – 17th. Stay tuned and follow the ongoing action at #whoseside.
USA: Minneapolis shows MN how it’s done
On March 20th, the City of Minneapolis passed a fossil fuel divestment resolution, banning any future investments in the companies driving the climate crisis. They’re also leading the way by calling on over 30 other Minnesota institutions to divest. Major props to all the folks that organized to make this happen, including MN350!
France: Paris passes a crucial motion — add your voice to make it a reality!
The city that’s hosting the crucial climate talks later this year passed a motion to divest from fossil fuels. Naomi Klein, Bill McKibben and over 1200 others have signed an open letter to Paris’ Mayor calling for Paris to turn the motion into a reality quickly and set a good example ahead of the COP talks. Sign the letter (English). Click here to sign the French version.
UK/USA: 350.org & The Guardian team up
The Guardian, one of the world’s most respected and influential newspapers, joined the fight to keep fossil fuels in the ground this month. In a watershed moment for our growing movement, The Guardian set its sights on the contradictory fossil fuel investments of two of the largest philanthropic health and development organizations: the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in the U.S. and the U.K.’s Wellcome Trust. Both are heavily invested in the industry wreaking havoc on our climate — a position that’s completely at odds with their missions to create a better world. So far, the petition has landed more than 175K signatures. On top of that, The Guardian Media Group itself decided to put its money where its mouth (and front page) is at, and divested its $800M fund from fossil fuels! Read more about the partnership here.
Vietnam: Indochina goes renewable
The Indochina Capital committed to invest in renewable energy — a big win for our friends in Vietnam, organizers with 350.org East Asia, and a crucial step toward reinvesting in a healthier, more sustainable future.
Australia: Cities in New South Wales ride the wave
Within just a week, two New South Wales city councils voted to divest from fossil fuels. Lismore City Council in some of Australia’s best cattle grazing countryside, and Leichhardt Municipal Council located along the edge of the Sydney harbor, both divested within just a week of each other. Read more here.
Netherlands: 10,000+ strong petition to world’s 5th largest pension fund
Dutch campaigners met with ABP — the Netherlands’ largest pension fund and the world’s 5th largest — to deliver more than 10,000 signatures demanding divestment. What you got on that ABP? Read more here.
That’s a wrap, folks!
La increíble pero cierta historia de unos valientes que arriesgan sus vidas en una región olvidada de África para construir un futuro mejor
Mónica Davies – 23 de marzo de 2015
“En el parque de Virunga se esconde una historia de guerra y conflicto. El Congo oriental es el escenario de un conflicto armado que dura ya 20 años y cuya causa es la increíble riqueza en recursos naturales de estas tierras y la explotación ilegal de estos.” – Emmanuel de Merode, director del Parque Nacional de Virunga
La pantalla muestra una escena conmovedora con personas velando en silencio, lágrimas de dolor y un ataúd cubierto con la bandera de la República Democrática del Congo. El féretro contiene el cuerpo de un guardia del parque de Virunga “muerto mientras trataba de reconstruir este país”. Es uno de los 130 guardabosques muertos desde 1996.
Tras este baño de realidad, el documental Virunga se detiene en la labor de conservación que los guardabosques llevan a cabo para proteger este parque natural– declarado patrimonio de la humanidad por la UNESCO– de las milicias armadas, los cazadores furtivos y las oscuras fuerzas que luchan por el control de los recursos naturales del Congo. El audiovisual centra particularmente su atención en la actividad de la compañía británica SOCO International; la cual comenzó a realizar sondeos, en abril de 2014, para la futura explotación del petróleo que atesora el subsuelo del parque.
¿Por qué son tan importantes entonces tanto el documental Virunga como el parque nacional de mismo nombre? Por dos razones:
¡Debes ver este parque!
Las increíbles vistas que muestra la película son lo que más me gusta de mi continente. Son demasiado inmensas, demasiado bellas para que la pantalla pueda capturar su belleza en su totalidad. Logran que el corazón se acelere de la emoción. Los espacios naturales como éste deben ser protegidos por el bien de la biodiversidad y la capacidad de recuperación de nuestro planeta (la cuenca del Congo es la segunda selva tropical del mundo en tamaño y uno de sus pulmones verdes), por el bien de su incomparable belleza y por el bien de personajes como éste:
Hay que poner fin al extraccionismo
Existe una maraña de opiniones contrarias a la presencia de SOCO International en el Parque Nacional de Virunga (este resumen puede darte una idea de ella) y unas relaciones demostradas aún más complejas entre los combatientes rebeldes, que financian su lucha mediante la venta de los recursos naturales del territorio, y la compañía SOCO que requerirían de más espacio del que aquí dispongo para ser aclaradas, pero el caso es que, según, las legislaciones del Congo y las internacionales, las perforaciones para explotar el petróleo del parque que planea SOCO serían ilegales.
El año pasado la compañía anunció su retirada de Virunga. La decisión se produjo después de sufrir una gran presión, desde los niveles más altos de poder hasta los ámbitos más diversos. Fue vivida como un importante triunfo por el lobby medioambiental. Sin embargo, SOCO sólo comunicó su retirada una vez hubo terminado sus sondeos en el área.
Los temores de que las operaciones en el parque puedan reanudarse aún persisten, pero el documental Virunga ha ayudado a aumentar la visibilidad de esta causa y la presión internacional para lograr que SOCO y todos sus contratistas y enlaces con las milicias rebeldes abandonen el parque para siempre. En un reciente y alarmante comunicado, el gobierno de la República Democrática del Congo anunció su intención de trabajar con la UNESCO para encontrar el modo de extraer petróleo del parque de forma legal, lo que podría conducir a significativas modificaciones en la delimitación de sus fronteras.
Hay dos escenas de la película que han quedado profundamente grabadas en mi mente. Una de ellas es la filmación encubierta de un periodista a un contratista de SOCO en el que este último afirma que las personas que trabajan en el parque no podrían estar haciendo lo que hacen por el simple amor a los animales y que los gorilas de montaña deben, obviamente, “mear diamantes” para que los guardabosques muestren tanto afán en protegerlos. Algunos minutos más tarde, cuando los rebeldes del Movimiento 23 de Marzo se aproximan al orfanato para gorilas que existe en el parque, podemos ver a André Bauma, un guardabosques que cuida de los gorilas huérfanos como si fueran sus propios hijos, ponerse el uniforme de combate y agarrar las correas de su arma para proteger la zona al tiempo que declara: “Si he de hacerlo, moriré por estos gorilas”.
SOCO ha acusado a la película de “infundada e inexacta”, pero quizás sus contratistas deban comprender que la noción de riqueza puede tener un sentido muy diferente según las personas.
El extraccionismo tiene la costumbre de pasar por encima de cualquier cosa que se interponga en su camino con tal de hacerse con posibles combustibles fósiles. Pero existen en el mundo personas como estos guardabosques que trabajan incansable y desinteresadamente para que, tomando palabras de Rodrigue Katembo, jefe de los guardabosques, la generación de nuestros hijos “no herede un mundo o un país tan devastado como éste”. El mismo Katembo asegura no sentirse “alguien especial” a pesar de arriesgar su vida cada día por defender el parque.
La gente como André, Rodrigue y todos los guardabosques pasados y presentes de Virunga me hacen sentirme orgullosa de África y me otorgan la esperanza de un futuro sin la sombra del extraccionismo, en el que vivamos en armonía con el planeta y con los demás seres. ¡Larga vida a Virunga!
Da click aquí para ver Virunga en Netflix o consulta aquí la información sobre futuras proyecciones del documental si Netflix no está disponible en tu país.
Descubre cómo puedes pasar a la acción y ayudar a mantener a SOCO lejos de Virunga.
This post was written by 350.org’s Energy East Organizer Aurore Fauret
Yesterday, TransCanada announced it is abandoning its plans of a marine export port in Cacouna, Quebec – a launching terminal for its massive 1.1 million barrels-per-day Energy East tar sands pipeline. Not only that, but the company is delaying the entire pipeline project by two years, changing its target date for service from 2018 to 2020. For a project that aims to pump 1.1 million barrels of tar sands oil per day to Canada’s east coast, that means a lot of carbon will stay in the ground – about 803,000,000 barrels of tar sands oil.
Make no mistake: this major delay is a significant victory for the movement and it deserves to be celebrated.
TransCanada would like everyone to believe that the decision to abandon the Cacouna oil port was because of its concern about impacts on beluga whales, and “was certainly not made because of opposition from some well-funded groups.”
Putting aside the question of funding – TransCanada is worth $60 billion, which dwarfs not only grassroots environmental groups but even other companies – it’s clear that Big Oil doesn’t want you to think that people power works. But it does.
Local citizens had started protesting the port because it would have threatened endangered beluga whales – a threat that TransCanada was fine with ignoring when it dreamed up the project. Resistance elsewhere in Quebec grew more fierce over the last year, with groups burgeoning all along the pipeline route. Some groups launched legal challenges, others marched 700km across the province, and landowners and municipalities in record numbers officially rejected the project.
This two year delay is a direct result of the strong grassroots opposition to the Energy East project – and Cacouna was just one point of resistance along the entire 4,600 km pipeline route. Stopping this port was step one; step two is stopping the entire project.
There are many Cacounas across Canada, and this growing movement is getting ready to tackle many of them at once. In the community of Red Head, where the Energy East line ends and where tar sands by supertankers could now depart, the community is mobilizing. In Winnipeg, in Treaty 3 territory, in Thunder Bay, in Kanehsatà:ke, in Fredericton, and so many other – all key points along the pipeline route – opposition is getting organized and growing.
Now that this victory has signalled the strength of the movement, we are looking ahead to July for the next massive pan-Canadian mobilization to stand up to this carbon bomb of a pipeline. If you want to be part of the first group to hear about these plans, you can join the Energy East Action Network: Click here to sign up
Proposals by the German government to reduce emissions from coal power plants are under threat despite new analysis showing that German lignite coal plants make up 4 out of 5 largest emitters in Europe.
The proposals to limit emissions from coal, which were leaked last month, are coming under intense pressure from local politicians and utility companies who are playing on exaggerated concerns over job losses.
In fact, a recent study by the International Trade Union Confederation shows that climate change is already putting thousands of jobs at risk and that a just transition away from fossil fuels will create new quality jobs.
Grassroots climate groups and NGOs alike are urging ministers to protect the plans and are mobilising people en masse to take part in actions in April and August to demand a complete phase out of coal in Germany. On 25th April, a giant Human Chain will stretch across the length of the Garzweiler II open-pit mine — one of the largest sources of carbon emissions in Europe, let alone Germany.
A recent opinion poll showed that most Germans are against new coal mining areas and that many would like all surface mines and lignite power plants to be shut down immediately. What’s also clear is that that 89% of Europe’s coal needs to be kept underground in order to keep below 2°C of global warming and avoid the devastating impacts of climate change.
If agreed, the German government’s leaked proposals could be a “huge step forward” towards the country’s aim to slash emissions by 40 per cent by 2020. Indeed, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been a key advocate for ambitious climate action at an international level and so it is all the more important that she backs strong domestic measures to cut emissions.
However, whilst Germany has been leading the way in its Energiewende (renewable energy transition away from fossil fuels), it is still hugely reliant on dirty coal, which is responsible for over a third of Germany’s CO2 emissions. Analysis out yesterday revealed for the first time that, 4 out of 5 of the largest EU emitters are German lignite coal power stations.
Without a clear commitment to a coal phase out, Germany would not only be signalling the end of its commitment to a 40% reduction in CO2 by 2020. It would also be sending a dangerous signal and put Germany’s international credibility at risk in an absolutely critical year for climate action with the G7 meeting, presided over by Germany, in June and the UN negotiations in December.Take action to #endcoal
- Join the Human Chain action at Garzweiler II open-pit mine on 25 April.
- Sign the petition calling on Angela Merkel to phase-out of coal in Germany and stand up for a just energy transition.
At the recent World Social Forum in Tunisia, activists from 4 continents gathered for a workshop about divestment and had some frank conversations about what divestment needs to do in order to become a truly global movement. Divestment can be so much more than a tool – it can be a part of building a just transition.
Just one month after Global Divestment Day took place spanning 6 continents, the workshop further emphasized the global reach of the divestment movement and its escalating strength as communities worldwide collectively withdraw the social license of the fossil fuel industry exposing their financial, political and environmental corruption.
We wish everyone could have been a part of this conversation – here are some great quotes and highlightsGrowing Globally. Thinking Locally.
Divestment has quickly grown from a tool that began at U.S. universities. In order for divestment to be effective, we have to be aware of local realities as well as local solutions. At its core, divestment is about distributed actions that provides people a meaningful way to take action.
350’s Arab World Coordinator Sarah Rifaat discussed how divestment has shifted in the various new areas its growing in. In lots of places, universities don’t have the same endowments as U.S. colleges and so instead activists in Europe, Australia, Asia and Africa have decided to target banks and municipalities.
“Even though divestment was inspired by the apartheid movement in South Africa, there was no divestment campaign in Africa until October of last year. In the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu: Divestment has come home to Africa.”
For example, 350 Africa has hijacked the advertisements of Nedbank, a key local bank, to push them to stop ‘greenwashing’ and to divest from coal. Check out their video here.
In order for divestment to spread, it has to keep on evolving to fit various local needs.
Tadzio Mueller from Rosa Luxembourg Foundation brought up some great points about how divestment needs to be carefully reworked in Germany if it’s going to support the transition away from coal. In west Germany, cities and people are so tightly connected with coal companies after centuries of production that we can’t just pull investments or shut down mines. These deep and long term relationships make ending coal a whole different struggle.
“This is our ask from the anti-coal movement in Germany of divestment – to work out strategies with which these municipalities can get out of RWE stock - If we don’t do that then we will be fighting an entire region and not just a bunch of cops when we are shutting down coal mines”
Divestment is a powerful tool, and what is also crucial is stopping the investments before they even start.
A Tunisian activist shared the example of how in Tunisia since the 2011 revolution, people have worked hard to ensure investment mistakes weren’t repeated. The elites of the old regime deeply controlled industries, and so with the new constitution there was an article added where all new extractive contracts have to be be approved by the parliament. Tunisia is beginning again and they want to start right. The Tunisian constitution is one of 3 in the world that has climate issues incorporated into it.
“So to influence and fight oil companies… you can attack them by other means.”
It’s not enough to just divest, but we also have to think about reinvesting in people and in a better system. Alvina Wong from Asian Pacific Environmental Network talked about the work her organization and the Climate Justice Alliance are doing in the U.S. with communities to create a just transition away from fossil fuels.
“We don’t want to just see the divestment of big institutions and banks and cities taking their money out of fossil fuels – we want to see that money going into the power of the people.”
“What we need to do is organize the people and liberate this mentality that there is no other way. And say actually – your creative solutions, your ideas to come together with your neighbors or families across the city to start your own co-op, your own solar energy co-op is viable.”
Alvina described her work as three-fold once we end the bad (our current extractive economy), we need to build the new and this entails:
1- Strengthening our democracy, specifically breaking the current funding of politicians by the fossil fuel industry
2- Change the narrative by exposing the truth behind the mainstream media
3- Move the money: global capital currently controlled by the 1% and shifting the power to the people essential as part of empowerment of local communities to implement their own alternative projects
(To learn more about the solutions already being implemented by Climate Justice Alliance, check out their website)
Tadzio also mentioned how in Germany, in their transition to renewables – 30% of they electricity comes from renewables (on a good day it’s 100%). Only 7% of that is contributed by 4 big companies, 60% is produced by individuals and community owned project.
Finally, Brazilian activist Moema Miranda from the Instituto Brasileiro de Analises Sociais e Economicas spoke about the need to have a collective long term vision.
“It’s not just the exploitation of the environment and the exploitation of people. No it’s not that — it’s that we are one. We are nature…The dispute is not where the wealth will be…it’s about rethinking our way of life. our way of being together. Our way of connecting. It’s not just rethinking our economy”
To see some of our other World Social Forum coverage – go here.
On Friday 17th October 2014, 30 Pacific Warriors from 12 countries across the Pacific went to Australia to stand up for their homes in the face of the fossil fuel industry.
They were equipped with the traditional, hand made canoes which they used to barricade the world’s largest coal port in Newcastle Australia. Together, they stopped eight ships scheduled to leave the port that day.
Their story inspired thousands of people across Australia, and even more around the world to step up the fight against fossil fuels.
The organising team behind the Pacific Climate Warriors project was a unique mixture of Pacific Islanders, Australians and New Zealanders. One of those involved, 350.org’s Oceania Region Coordinator, Aaron Packard in this video tells the story of how the Newcastle flotilla went from a crazy idea to an inspiring reality. In coming months, we will be releasing videos and telling the stories of leaders from the Pacific Climate Warrior movement across the Pacific Islands.
This seven-minute documentary dives head first into the larger social and political issues behind climate change. In the third and final instalment of Canoes Vs. Coal, we hear from 350.org’s Oceania Region Coordinator, Aaron Packard and the birth of the idea that became the Newcastle Flotilla.
Combined with his quirky sense of humour and his very real passion for climate justice, 350.org’s Oceania Region Coordinator, Aaron Packard, talks about the conception of the Newcastle Blockade, sheds light on how inequality and climate change are related and how the Pacific Climate Warriors are leading the fight for climate justice.
The Canoe Vs. Coal series of videos were made by Melbourne Producer, Peter Yacono, with support from Mark Doyle and John Davis who were the videographers in Newcastle and were able to catch amazing footage on the day.
To read more about The Pacific Climate Warriors and their story visit 350pacific.org
One of the things that comes with being a communications director at any organization, including here at 350.org, is a requirement that you complain about the media. Almost all “comms” people, myself included, are excessive news junkies. We can’t go much more than a few minutes without checking some medium: twitter, TV, the New York Times website, Vox, or just wandering the office annoying colleagues with questions like, “anything happen today? like anything of interest?”
And in all that coverage, we find plenty of things to complain about. This outlet misquoted us. This radio station is downplaying the emissions of Keystone XL again. This newspaper has cut their environment desk. This TV station (ok, mostly Fox) has a climate denier on again.
To be fair, the mainstream media has overall done a rather awful job of covering climate change, especially here in the United States. With its long time frame, complicated science, and distinct lack of celebrities, climate doesn’t fit into the “if it bleeds, it leads” culture that still dominates most newsrooms.
Which is why it is so refreshing, and rather extraordinary, to be part of our new “Keep it in the ground” partnership with the Guardian, a UK paper which has been making serious inroads here in the US. The Guardian was already one of the most respected news outlets and the world, and had a tremendous environmental, but over the last month, they’ve gone above and beyond the responsibilities of a regular media outlet and partnered with 350.org to support the growing fossil fuel divestment movement. Today, the Guardian Media Group took an additional step and divested its £800m fund from fossil fuels (the paper’s editorial coverage is separate from their business operations, so this took some internal convincing).
Not surprisingly, the Guardian has done an excellent job explaining why it is getting involved in the divestment fight and how it is working to make climate coverage a priority. It’s also explored, in podcasts and editorials, how its advocacy and journalism go together, a topic that other outlets, like Mashable, have explored as well. It makes for fascinating reading (or listening).
The Guardian’s involvement in the divestment campaign is certainly unique, but it’s not completely unprecedented. As Ellen Dorsey, the executive director of the Wallace Global Fund, who has been leading an effort to get foundations to divest and invest in sustainable alternatives, pointed out in today’s paper, “I think at pivotal moments in history we have seen editors and media outlets stand up and take unprecedented action. One could think of the abolition of slavery and the civil rights movement in the US and I liken the Guardian’s campaign to that kind of courageous action.”
There will surely be much more debate (and complaining) to come about the role that the media must play in the fight against climate change. By taking such bold leadership, the Guardian has helped raise the bar, or at least a series of questions, for other media outlets. How can advocacy and journalism mix? What responsibility does the media have to take up difficult issues like climate change? Is balanced coverage actually fair when the vast majority of scientists are demanding action and only a handful of fossil fuel companies stand in the way of progress?
At 350.org, the partnership has also raised interesting questions for us. How can we better use storytelling to supercharge our campaigns? Is media coverage a goal unto itself or just a strategy to influence policy makers? How can we make sure that we get new voices into the media? How do we balance the desire to get “mainstream” coverage with the need to create new platforms where people can tell their own stories? What are the stories that need to be told?
We’re excited to explore all these topics and more over the months and years ahead. In the meantime, we’ll be sprinting ahead with the Guardian and a whole host of other partners to push the fossil fuel divestment movement forward…and keep making headlines.
If there’s one thing that can be said for CEOs of companies like ExxonMobil and Shell, it’s that they’re extremely good at playing the fool when it comes to the impacts of their business on people and the planet. The Big Oil of the world are more than happy to go on denying climate change until it significantly impacts their bottom lines – that’s why we’re running a fossil fuel divestment campaign rather than a Big Oil persuasion campaign.
Much like fossil fuel executives, their counterparts at behemoth companies like WalMart are happy to go on denying that growing income inequality across the country is their responsibility. Like ExxonMobil, WalMart is in a race to the bottom. While fossil fuel companies go on digging up every last hydrocarbon, retailers keep digging into the pockets of their poorest employees. By all sane measures, this kind of dig-it-up, burn-it-down economy is unsustainable.
There’s no way that our civilization can survive in a 6 degree future — one that we’re all but assured if fossil fuel companies dig up and burn all the fossil fuels they have on the books. And there’s no way our country can thrive if the wages we pay 3.3 million of our workers means they can’t afford decent housing, food or education. A society that is unequal is one that leaves the already marginalized more vulnerable to the kinds of impacts from extreme weather events like Hurricane Sandy or the ongoing California drought, and more prone to the kinds of violent outbreaks that have plagued climate-impacted countries like Syria.
Prioritizing profits is warming our planet and growing economic inequality. That’s why 350.org is supporting the Fight for 15, a new effort calling for an increase in the minimum wage to $15 per hour. We believe that a new, prosperous clean energy economy should be one that protects the planet, protects the people who live on it, and generates millions of good jobs that pay livable wages. We can help jumpstart that economy on April 15.
Please join 350.org and our friends at rallies around the country this April 15 as we show support for a $15 minimum wage – find an event near you at april15.org.
Earth Hour has become an expression of unanimity and solidarity for a more sustainable path to progress, with millions of people across the globe taking part in the initiative every year.
As good as it is though, we must never forget that responding proportionately to the challenge posed by climate change it must not begin and end in an hour.
The 60-minute lights-off comes as a reminder that we should take it as a first step towards a long journey to a near future, where Earth Hour would no longer be needed to remind us to take action and seize opportunities to turn the world upside-down by changing the way we live and for paving the way for systems that prioritizes sustainability and meaningful change for a world that badly needs climate action.
The switch-off is a call for a sustained and conscious effort to become real agents of change in this struggle to switch on a fossil-free world by pursuing: energy efficiency, renewable energy, fossil-fuel divestment and climate justice as concrete steps that we can take for ushering in a sustainable and just future.
Of course we cannot do this alone that’s why we are counting on you to stand with us. Together, let us show move beyond the hour expressing our personal commitment to climate action. Switching off is a good start. But it is only insurmountable if the inspiring feeling that we all had last night would be translated into daily actions that would be our individual contribution to the global movement that’s dedicated to combating the climate threat.
This week, for the second time in a row, the World Social Forum (WSF) gathered in Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab spring. During the five-day event, 70,000 delegates from more than 4,000 organisations representing 120 countries discussed a wide range of issues and topics including, climate justice, immigration, media freedom, women’s rights, refugees and energy.
A group from 350.org was in attendance to talk about climate justice, the growing divestment movement and the inter-sectionality between environmental, social, economic and political issues.
The WSF’s 10th global meeting is seen as the critics’ answer to the Davos World Economic Forum bringing together social movements from around the world to discuss grassroots struggles for political change.
The forum offers an arena beyond formal politics, a space where activists and civil society groups can explore alternative pathways to social, economic and climate justice. The bi-annual WSF, described by organisers as more a process than a conference, is the largest global gathering of activists and social movements.
The WSF grew out of anti-globalisation protest movements in the late 1990s. Since it first met in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in 2001, it has served as a space of reflection for groups and movements that oppose neo-liberalism and strive for social and economic justice.
Powerful social and environmental movements which claim alternative policies seeking social and environmental justice have erupted around the world. This year people have come together from around the world to consolidate efforts to reverse the global rush to oligarchic rule and environmental catastrophe.
Global efforts to defend the environment, end poverty and marginalisation, advance women’s rights, protect human rights, and promote fair and dignified employment are all being undermined as a consequence of the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a few. The current clampdown on civil society taking place in many parts of the world is precisely because it represents a challenge to the nexus of money and power.
Activists at the WSF are clear that the different issues that have brought us into activism–whether social justice or climate justice, economic rights or civil rights–are all part of a common struggle for a world in which everyone matters and in which the power of ordinary people can challenge the people with power.
This is precisely why the WSF is so urgent and necessary.
350.org Vanuatu sent us a report of their response to Tropical Cyclone Pam — and we feel there is much to learn and be inspired by in how they responded, so we’ve put together a timeline based on their report. As Tropical Cyclone Pam approached, they began mobilising their volunteer base to help communities get prepared and in the aftermath 350 Vanuatu has been helping lead the relief and recovery efforts. They’ve done this with minimal money, but massive amounts of passion, care and amazing grassroots leadership.
This is their story.
By Mikhail Matveev, 350.org Communication Coordinator on East Europe, Causasus, Central Asia -March 18, 2015
Climate change is happening in our region 2.5 times faster than the global average. It brings droughts, floods, fires and smog. But there is encouraging news as well: more and more people are implementing up-to-date green solutions and creating an alternative, literally with their own hands, to the climate-wrecking fossil fuel economy and ruthless exploitation of the Earth’s resources.
To avoid a global climate change disaster, humanity must bring about a real revolution in the coming decades: reject fossil fuels, put an end to deforestation, and learn to create “green” cities with modern electric transport, a comfortable urban environment, energy-efficient houses and 100% recycling. Hardly any doubts about this are ever expressed by the majority of scientists, climatologists and economists, including the UN experts who published the Fifth Assessment Report on climate change.
But where does the revolution begin? In the climate experts’ report? At a summit in Paris scheduled for the end of this year? In the first ever solar energy-driven flight around the globe? At a half a million-strong march that flooded the streets in fall 2014?
All of these are of course very important. But the real changes will only take place when average people feel that the new green lifestyle is a real change for the better around us rather than just another load of fancy talk from another leader. Real change that can be looked at, touched and enjoyed here and now. Change we can grow used to and begin to see as an integral part of our everyday lives.
Enabling people to touch the future green world is the principal task of the projects completed within the framework of the Climate Workroom program last year by activists from the region’s countries with the support of 350.org.
Some detail on what has been done so far:
Thanks to the Climate Workroom and The Little Earth organization from Tajikistan, dwellers in the alpine Pamir discovered that there is no need to cut trees for heating; a solar thermal collector will provide free energy and the trees can keep growing and helping to preserve the climate from warming and the highlanders from deadly mudflows.
The Life without Sockets project participants proved that green energy helps survival, even in the Siberian taiga.
But the Climate Workroom is not just about remote areas. In Kutaisi (Georgia), the Workroom’s participants helped an orphanage to become energy efficient by using up-to date LED bulbs. It turned out that the new lighting not only saves energy, but also helps grow greenery and vegetables that are richer in vitamins, even during the winter. And they are now looking forward to switching to clean solar panel energy.
The people of Dnipropetrovsk (Ukraine) found inspiration in a similar idea but they decided to build an entire energy-efficient house that would receive a maximum of its necessary energy from the sun. The activist-driven Ecoloft is planned to become the home of the city’s entire environmentalist movement.
The Ecoloft project is nearing completion (courtesy EcoDnepr)
In Lviv (Ukraine), local activists decided to combine a street exercise bike and a cell phone charging point. It is healthy while your phone feeds from your energy rather literally.
This is how the Climate Workroom was judged by its participants:
“The workroom activities are interesting. For me personally, it was a good incentive to research and write in the field of alternative energy. I collected more material than expected. And I want to continue sharing all this stuff”
- -Aleksandr Ivanov, Life without Sockets project, Russia
“Don’t listen to skeptics, don’t wonder if you’ve done enough, just do it! Even your insignificant green projects can become an essential link in a large-scale change and inspire others! The first stage of the Climate Workroom is a proper foundation, so let’s keep building a solid and steady common home on it!”
- -Natalya Idrisova, The Little Earth, Tajikistan
“The Project had an important role … first of all, it helped form a team, involve new interesting folks in the work of 350.org and make this project happen. During the course of the project, the teams wrote blog posts, which allowed us to tell our stories to a wide audience, while the teams could delve into the ideas they generated. The project must be continued, because only through its systematic implementation can a great effect be achieved.
At this stage, the Climate Workroom did what it had to do; it attracted interesting people and raised interest in 350.org, and the continuing work will enable us not only to solidify these achievements but also to have an impact on the environmental situation towards improvement”
- -Nugzar Kokhreidze, Academic and intellectual club Dialogue of Generations (RICDOG), Kutaisi, Georgia
“Moving towards a new, eco-friendly society model is not just perfectly possible. It is already happening everywhere. We can ensure it by ourselves and demand the same from the authorities”
-Yuliya Makliuk, the Climate Workroom coordinator on behalf of 350.org, Kyiv, Ukraine
The past year’s experience has shown that, in spite of the limited resources and restive politics in the region, we can bring the world of green ideas and green technologies a little closer to the people. This means that the work of the Climate Workroom will be continued this year. And there is much good news in this. First of all, the support program for the best practical projects will be extended. Secondly, it will be supplemented by thematic blog post contest on climate problems and suggested solutions. And, thirdly, the Workroom participants will be able to join an international campaign against climate change, while the most active will be able to attend the UN climate talks in Paris.
“The Climate Workroom-2015” is launched on 28 March with a contest for the projects to participate in the support program.
So please follow our updates on the web (in Russian):
Mikhail Matveyev and the entire 350.org team
The Guardian, one of the world’s most respected and influential news organisations, has joined the fight to keep fossil fuels underground by launching its own divestment campaign in partnership with 350.org.
In just 24 hours, more than 75,000 people have joined the campaign on the Guardian’s website asking the world’s largest charitable foundations – the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust – to divest their endowments from fossil fuels.
In a watershed moment for the growing divestment movement, The Guardian outgoing editor-in-chief has decided to set the Guardian’s editorial sights on keeping the majority of fossil fuels underground and achieving significant progress on climate change before he steps down in June, after 20 years at the helm.
Both the Wellcome Trust and Gates Foundation are full of good people who recognise the huge threat that climate change poses to the health of millions — but their significant investments in fossil fuels are completely out of step with their mission and actively undermining their own good work.
Join the campaign to end this dangerous double standard now:
Together, we can convince these charitable organisations to lead by example and stop profiting from the industry wrecking our chances of a safe, healthy future. If the Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust divest from fossil fuels, it will send a powerful signal that tackling climate change and promoting global health and development are two sides of the same coin.
We know this can work – it already is! The fossil fuel divestment movement is winning new victories every week – from the City of Oslo to the Rockefeller Foundation – and each act of divestment helps build an even stronger case for keeping fossil fuels underground.
With enough of us on board – and working with The Guardian newspaper – we know we can convince huge health and development charities like Wellcome and Gates to divest and create the watershed moment needed for climate action.
Sign the petition now – and then please share it widely with friends and family
It’s completely counter-productive to help those affected by climate change using money made from the fossil fuel industry. And it’s increasingly clear that fossil fuels are a bad long term investment. To avoid climate crisis, we’re going to have to leave 80% fossil fuels in the ground — which means current fossil fuel shares are massively overvalued and investors could lose billions.
This is a battle we must win, and together we will. Over the coming months we’ll be working with The Guardian, Avaaz and other partners to help us secure some major divestment wins around the world – please do join us.
If you want to know more about the partnership between 350.org and The Guardian, click below to listen to a fascinating podcast by the editor-in-chief of The Guardian on why he decided it was time to use their influence to make an impact on climate change.
Today 350 Pacific’s Coordinator, Koreti Tiumalu sent this message to 350.org supporters to update them about the situation in Vanuatu.
“In the next days people will not have enough food anymore”
Isso Nihmei, 350 Vanuatu Coordinator.
By now you’ve probably heard about Tropical Cyclone Pam — the category 5 cyclone that brought devastation upon the Pacific Island nation of Vanuatu. Cyclone Pam was the strongest storm to ever hit Vanuatu with some estimates suggesting that up to 42,000 homes being damaged and 150,000 people affected.
350.org has a special relationship with Vanuatu. It’s hard to describe the feeling of grief that we felt as news of the destruction on the ground was sent to us by 350 Vanuatu’s Country Coordinator, Isso Nihmeh.
As the storm began to batter the Island and Isso’s updates were coming through, our team was anxiously glued to our computers. Unsure how long the connection would last, there was a shared feeling of helplessness amongst us. Then, in a message sent to the Climate Warriors in a Facebook conversation, Isso writes:
“We have hope that everything will be fine..we’re doing our best to help our people…thank you all for your prayers, peace be with you all..WE FEEL YOU.”
The 350 Vanuatu team were right there throughout pre-storm evacuations, maintaining communications during the storm, and now, working on the ground in the harrowing aftermath of a storm that has completely annihilated their Island. Isso and the team have been tirelessly supporting displaced families, clearing debris, and even recovering bodies of those unable to protect themselves from the storm – all the while, providing updates to our Pacific team.
In the wake of this unimaginable disaster it is easy to feel helpless, but the international community has already rallied around the Pacific and the support has made all the difference. In the last 48 hours, the outpouring of love and support for Vanuatu and the Pacific in messages and posts to the 350 Pacific page has been immense. Isso and the team have asked us to continue to keep them and their people in our prayers – and we will. #PrayForThePacific has been our hashtag, and it has become a way for us to connect, pray and send words of hope to the people of Vanuatu. The people of the Pacific are people of faith, and your prayers and messages mean so much.
Humanitarian organisations are already on the ground providing relief, but with over 80 remote islands and such utter devastation, the scale of the relief effort required is enormous and these organisations will need your support.
The relationship between climate change and more severe tropical storms is well understood, and extreme weather like Cyclone Pam remind us what is on the line in the struggle for climate justice.
In his last update, Isso sent us this message:
“Now that Cyclone Pam has left, it’s like a heat wave has hit us. Climate change is bringing new extremes to Vanuatu. It’s devastating us.”
These are the realities of being on the front lines of climate change and our Pacific people are well aware of this. But this is not what is at the forefront of their minds — right now, the people of Vanuatu are looking to the world for help. Crops have been destroyed, food rations are in short supply, thousands of families have been displaced, essential infrastructure is still down and search and rescue operations are continuing. Our hope is to be able to support these immediate needs.
We thank you for your support and ask that you will continue to keep Vanuatu and the people of the Pacific in your prayers.
Koreti Tiumalu on behalf of the 350 Pacific team
- The massive tropical storm Cyclone Pam is the first category 5 storm to hit landfall since Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines in 2013.>>
- Hit island nation of Vanuatu around 10 pm Feb 13, with winds at 250 km/hr. Also impacted Tuvalu and Kiribati.>>
- Was 1 of 4 tropical storms in the West Pacific>>
- For Pacific Islanders already facing problems from climate change, this is a heavy catastrophe. Follow 350 Pacific to see more about this ongoing problem.
- To learn more about the climate crisis and the response needed for island nations – read this.
Follow our live blog for ongoing updates. 350 Vanuatu Coordinator Isso Nihmei is courageously doing relief work as well as sharing info from the ground.
*All times in local times in Vanuatu.[View the story “Cyclone Pam” on Storify]
On Thursday’s episode of The Daily Show, Jon Stewart rips into New Jersey Governor Christie’s settlement with Exxon, where Christie got the world’s wealthiest oil company off the hook for decades of toxic contamination.
Check out Jon Stewart’s as-always-hilarious coverage of this outrageous deal in the video below — then sign this petition demanding that Christie make Exxon pay for what they’v done.
Made you laugh? You can thank The Daily Show for that.
Overnight in the capital of Vanuatu, Port Vila, Category 5 Tropical Cyclone Pam, one of the strongest storms seen in the South Pacific in years, continues to leave a trail of mass destruction. We received this update from the 350 Vanuatu team, who have been up all night helping locals during the storm. 350 Vanuatu coordinator, Isso Nihmei writes:
“It is now 04:00am in the morning and Tropical cyclone PAM issued warning number 33 for TORBA, SANMA, PENAMA, MALAMPA, SHEFA and TAFEA. Severe tropical cyclone PAM was located at 18.5 degrees south, 168.9 degrees east. This is about 25KM north northwest of Erromango and 115KM south southeast of Efate where the Capital Port Vila is situated. Severe tropical cyclone PAM move in a south direction at 23 KM/HR in the past 3 hours.PAM is position at the left centre of square letter H, number 8 (H,8) of the Vanuatu Tropical cyclone Tracking Map.
Very destructive hurricane force winds of 250KM/HR is affecting SHEFA and TAFEA province. Here in Port Vila (capital), we have experience destructive winds and heavy rains. Flying objects from place to place. Outside the Meteorology office while trying to stay awake/ alert assisting the National Disaster Management office officers with the operations during the cyclone we have witnessed falling objects from the office roof and piles of water running through doors and windows in the office. This is the first time most of us have experienced a category 5 system hit our country, and we know there’s huge impact in the islands and even Port Vila.
Our team has an update meeting with the Director General, Jotham Napat from the Ministry of Climate Change who acknowledged the work of all NDMO staff for the evacuation, but still there is a lot to be done after the cyclone.
I never seen this in my entire life and I know it was a shock to most people in my country. This is the most dangerous storm I have ever experienced, and I can even feel how severe it is on the outside, from inside the Meteorology building.
The National Management office can’t stop receiving calls every second and continues to disseminate warnings to people. At the very start, all communications from all provinces broke down and even our local radio station had to shut down. This has never happened before.
We are now preparing rations for distribution to all 23 evacuation centres, to an estimated 2,000 people in the evacuation centre in Port Vila. To those who are thinking of us in their prayers and following Tropical Cyclone PAM, we take this moment to acknowledge your presence with us. We know it is very hard to keep our emotions and feelings with people who mean a lot to you, but we have to be strong and fight hard. This is our time to face it and we must all try to be safe.
Once again, thank you all for your prayers and thoughts for our people in the republic of Vanuatu.”