Universities Across The Country Launch A Multi-School Fossil Free Divestment Fund


Main Contact:     Sarah Vukelich, Williams, sarah.m.vukelich@gmail.com619-609-3458

Secondary:     Becky Romatoski, MIT, rrromatoski@gmail.com651-587-7172;

    Bobby Wengronowitz, BC, bobbywego@gmail.com630-464-5875

Website:     http://divestfund.org/

Donate Here.

Cambridge, MA – Alumni, parents, and students from universities across the country have launched a bold new Multi-School Fossil Free Divestment Fund. The Fund facilitates tax-deductible donations for those who would like to give to an educational institution but are hesitant because the institution invests in the environmentally, financially, and morally hazardous fossil fuel industry. The Fund will hold and invest donations until a school’s endowment:

  1. Immediately freezes any new investment in fossil fuel companies and

  2. Divests within five years from current holdings of fossil fuel companies.

For participating schools unable to stand up to fossil fuel companies by the end of 2017, their funds will go to participating schools that have divested. Morgan Curtis, a Dartmouth student, explains the timeline: “Back in 2011, the IEA [International Energy Agency], hardly a radical organization, found that 2017 was the cutoff for building any new fossil fuel infrastructure if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change. We haven’t even hit 1° C yet, and it’s already been disastrous and lethal, especially for those least responsible.”

The Fund allows parents, alumni, faculty, staff, students, and others to leverage their donations to help universities do the right thing. As Brandeis alumnus Naveh Halperin explains, “I want to give to Brandeis because I had an amazing experience there, but I can’t donate knowing they’re investing in morally unjust industries that undercut their mission to strive for social justice.” Since donations will go to other universities if a given university has not divested, the Fund creates a friendly competition to push for action at a level commensurate with the urgency and magnitude of the deepening climate crisis. “Money donated acts as a financial carrot, but if universities continue to support the rogue fossil fuel industry, those donations turn into a stick” says Chris Nidel, an MIT alumnus.

While financial contributions are important, the number of donors is equally powerful. College rankings are important for many institutions. Five percent of those rankings are derived from alumni giving, meaning even small donations matter. Boston College student David Corbie says he is “working on getting others to use their ‘senior gift’ as a way to encourage our school to stand up for climate justice.”

Fossil fuel divestment campaigns have been underway for years. Their aim is to stigmatize the fossil fuel industry and loosen the iron grip they have on our political and economic system. Hundreds of institutions–from schools and churches to public pensions and philanthropic foundations–participate in divestment. Many have already divested. The Fund, carefully designed over 18 months, adds one more arrow to the quiver in the fight for climate justice.

A sample tweet (with the right number of characters to allow for the image) is this:

Donate to @DivestFund Your Alma Mater receives the $ only when they stand up to #FossilFuels #divestfund.org

Thanks so much for your donation, spreading the word, and all the good work you do.

Peace and Justice,

The DivestFund team


#Rights on the Heights – Alyssa Florack Speaks for CJ@BC

If anyone missed out on the energizing and inspiring rally held at BC on Friday (Dec 5, 2014), then you can catch some of the great speeches here!

Alyssa Florack speaks below about the challenges students have had with the administration over simply forming a student group to address climate change. My favorite moment in her speech is at minute 2:00.

More videos on the way, keep you eye out!



Republican Congressman Intentionally Distorts Facts on Climate Change

Back in September the head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, John P. Holdren, testified to the Congressional Committee on Science, Space, and Technology about the issue of climate change. He was affronted with my criticisms of the science behind climate change by the congressmen.

As you can see in the video below (Daily Show coverage of the meeting begins at minute 2:45 in the video), this started out with Representative Steve Stockman (R. Texas) recounting his visit to NASA where he learned that global wobble is what caused ice ages. He also learned that this effect isn’t included in climate models, but that it is ignored because it is very slow and thus negligible. 

Apparently Rep. Stockman is having some memory problems, because he forgot the last part and tried to use this tidbit to suggest climate science is not well understood (see video for exchange).

Below is a wonderful letter from the scientist at NASA who actually met with Rep. Stockman setting the record straight.

Lets start getting ready for the election in 2016. Lets get anyone who denies climate change out!

In the meantime, lets make waves in MA and get a real renewable economy off the ground.




The New York Times Op-ed

NOV. 11, 2014

Wobbling on Climate Change


Credit Matt Panuska

GREENBELT, Md. — I’M a climate scientist and a former astronaut. Not surprisingly, I have a deep respect for well-tested theories and facts. In the climate debate, these things have a way of getting blurred in political discussions.

In September, John P. Holdren, the head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, was testifying to a Congressional committee about climate change. Representative Steve Stockman, a Republican from Texas, recounted a visit he had made to NASA, where he asked what had ended the ice age:

“And the lead scientist at NASA said this — he said that what ended the ice age was global wobbling. That’s what I was told. This is a lead scientist down in Maryland; you’re welcome to go down there and ask him the same thing.

“So, and my second question, which I thought it was an intuitive question that should be followed up — is the wobbling of the earth included in any of your modelings? And the answer was no…

“How can you take an element which you give the credit for the collapse of global freezing and into global warming but leave it out of your models?”

That “lead scientist at NASA” was me. In July, Mr. Stockman spent a couple of hours at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center listening to presentations about earth science and climate change. The subject of ice ages came up. Mr. Stockman asked, “How can your models predict the climate when no one can tell me what causes the ice ages?”

I responded that, actually, the science community understood very well what takes the earth into and out of ice ages. A Serbian mathematician, Milutin Milankovitch, worked out the theory during the early years of the 20th century. He calculated by hand that variations in the earth’s tilt and the shape of its orbit around the sun start and end ice ages. I said that you could think of ice ages as resulting from wobbles in the earth’s tilt and orbit.

The time scales involved are on the order of tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of years. I explained that this science has been well tested against the fossil record and is broadly accepted. I added that we don’t normally include these factors in 100-year climate projections because the effects are too tiny to be important on such a short time-scale.

And that, I thought, was that.

So I was bit surprised to read the exchange between Dr. Holdren and Representative Stockman, which suggested that at best we couldn’t explain the science and at worst we scientists are clueless about ice ages.

We aren’t. Nor are we clueless about what is happening to the climate, thanks in part to a small fleet of satellites that fly above our heads, measuring the pulse of the earth. Without them we would have no useful weather forecasts beyond a couple of days.

These satellite data are fed into computer models that use the laws of motion — Sir Isaac Newton’s theories — to figure out where the world’s air currents will flow, where clouds will form and rain will fall. And — voilà — you can plan your weekend, an airline can plan a flight and a city can prepare for a hurricane.

Satellites also keep track of other important variables: polar ice, sea level rise, changes in vegetation, ocean currents, sea surface temperature and ocean salinity (that’s right — you can accurately measure salinity from space), cloudiness and so on.

These data are crucial for assessing and understanding changes in the earth system and determining whether they are natural or connected to human activities. They are also used to challenge and correct climate models, which are mostly based on the same theories used in weather forecast models.

This whole system of observation, theory and prediction is tested daily in forecast models and almost continuously in climate models. So, if you have no faith in the predictive capability of climate models, you should also discard your faith in weather forecasts and any other predictions based on Newtonian mechanics.

The earth has warmed nearly 0.8 degrees Celsius over the last century and we are confident that the biggest factor in this increase is the release of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel burning. It is almost certain that we will see a rise of two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) before 2100, and a three-degree rise (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) or higher is a possibility. The impacts over such a short period would be huge. The longer we put off corrective action, the more disruptive the outcome is likely to be.

It is my pleasure and duty as a scientist and civil servant to discuss the challenge of climate change with elected officials. My colleagues and I do our best to transmit what we know and what we think is likely to happen.

The facts and accepted theories are fundamental to understanding climate change, and they are too important to get wrong or trivialize. Some difficult decisions lie ahead for us humans. We should debate our options armed with the best information and ideas that science can provide.

Piers J. Sellers is the acting director of earth science at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

Necessary Floodplain in Cambridge/Belmont getting replaced by Luxury Condos

Belmont, MA – October 17, 2014, 9am – Four Cambridge residents were arrested this morning for trespassing within the Silver Maple Forest presently being clear-cut. Signs along Acorn Park Drive in Belmont with over 20 supporters read, “No climate change,” “Don’t cut our floodplain silver maple trees,” “Stop the cutting before it’s too late.” The arrests follow years of organizing to defend the Silver Maple Forest, an invaluable floodplain for Cambridge, Belmont, and Arlington.

O’Neill Properties of Pennsylvania has been the major backer of the development, which would include 300 mainly luxury units and 60 affordable units. Belmont has not yet determined final permitting. Cambridge continues with Hearings and Policy Orders concerning the property as well.

Organizers aim to draw attention to the commencement earlier this week of clear-cutting of eight acres of woodlands in Belmont and Cambridge. Earlier this week, five conscientious objectors trespassed to tie pink protection ribbons on many trees to call attention to tree felling in the Upper Alewife Basin’s only regional floodplain forest. Major cutting was seen this morning on the site and prompted the conscientious acts of civil disobedience.

“People are acting out of their own conscience, and many have never before been arrested but consider this a serious environmental crime, especially in this era of climate change,” said Ellen Mass, an organizer who has been drawing attention to the forest for years.

The arrests were peaceful and without incident.  Dana Demetrio, Sylvia Gillman, Ben Beckwith, and Paula Sharaga were escorted by police out of the forest after refusing to leave when asked to do so. They say permits are “up in the air” in Belmont and it is nonsensical to clear-cut before building permits are approved.

A City of Cambridge Climate Vulnerability study has been delayed four times. The study would demonstrate the invaluable services provided by the 15-acre floodplain forest, which has stood for 60 years.

This is a “crime against nature” said protester Lois Solomon. Madeleine Sis, a student at Lesley who was arrested at Silver Maple Forest on Tuesday October 14th, said that “each tree falling is like a human dying because people will pay dearly as more flooding happens.” Another witness of conscience said, “Clear-cutting trees in floodplains, which provide a safety net for tens of thousands of people in the Mystic River watershed, is criminal. Those allowing the Silver Maple Forest to be developed should not be allowed to walk free but should face severe penalties.”

At 7:00 AM this Monday, October 20th, a wide range of groups, organizations, and individuals will hold another rally at the clear-cutting staging ground down the road from 15 Acorn Park Dr. More individuals will be called to take an act of civil disobedience. That same day, the Cambridge City Council will hear a Policy Order that no Cambridge property may be used for the development, which is problematic for the developer whose design plans include land in Cambridge. An injunction has been filed to stop the tree felling in Court.

Trees are falling, but people of conscience are making sure they are heard.


BC Students Discuss Experiences in NYC Climate March and Where to Go Next

Two weeks ago about a dozen BC students attended a march in NYC that filled a 2.2 mile route with about a half million people.

This Thursday a panel of these students will discuss their experiences at the march, and where the movement to stop rapid climate change will go next.

Come join our discussion and have some milk and cookies too! (Stokes S209, Thursday 10/2, 7pm).



End Climate Silence Speaker Series; Accounts from 400,000 strong People's Climate March in NYC - v5

BC Students join over 300,000 protestors in NYC

On Sunday September 21, 2014, BC students jumped on busses or into car-pools with activists from across Boston and headed down to NYC for the largest protest ever to demand global action on mitigating climate change.

At the protest we lined up along the west side of Central Park to prepare for the march, amongst a crowd that turned out to be 10x larger than the NYPD predicted: a solid 300,000+ protestors. There was music, chanting, singing, dancing, and all sorts of creative signs, flags and floats calling on our world leaders for action on climate change. Around mid-afternoon the march came to a halt because our numbers had completely filled the 2.2 mile march route… guess we’ll need a longer route next time!

At 12:58 pm everyone took part in a moment of silence, followed by a cheer crying out for action we all came to demand. I took the video below of this powerful moment:

To read more about the march, check out the articles written by NY Times, BBC, and CNN. (On Sunday evening these were the cover stories on the NY Times and BBC websites).

Taking a Call for Climate Change to the Streets – NY Times

Climate change: Thousands march across the UK – BBC

Marchers sound urgent call for climate change action ahead of U.N. summit – CNN

Here are some photos from the march in NYC:

John Kerry Speaks on Climate Change at BC Commencement

Make real change in your world – fight for climate action. Last spring BC students wrote a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, requesting he speak on climate change at our commencement. Result: Sunday Kerry speaks at Yale, says nothing on climate change. Monday Kerry speaks at Boston College, with climate as his main focus.

Watch below:


Secretary Kerry speaks on climate change at BC Commencement!