Upon the announcement from National Grid and NStar (now EverSource) that they would not honor their contracts to purchase electricity from Cape Wind – effectively sabotaging the project – Massachusetts residents rose up under the banner Save Cape Wind. BC students joined a rally at the Boston Commons calling on National Grid MA President Marcy Reed to Save Cape Wind.
On February 13th, 2015, undergraduates, graduate students, and alumni gathered outside O’Neill Library and marched to President Fr. Dr. Leahy’s main office, as part of a call for Boston College to withdraw its investments from fossil fuel companies. Organized by the group Climate Justice at Boston College (CJ@BC), this action was carried out in coordination with climate justice organizers for Global Divestment Day, calling for a Valentine’s Day “breakup” between BC and the fossil fuel industry. The day of action follows Thursday’s at the Massachusetts State House and at Harvard. This global coordination of action displays the growth of divestment campaigns and their increasing pressure on decision-makers to stand for a stable climate and a just economic system. CJ@BC joins thousands of students across the country who are calling for their respective universities to divest from fossil fuel companies that have polluted the scientific process, our democracy, and our communities.
Before the vigil, students gathered in front of O’Neill library for a kick-off call and response. Alyssa Florack (‘17) described the destructive relationship Boston College maintains with the fossil fuel industry, and called for a breakup, “A long time ago, BC began its investment relationship with fossil fuel companies. They were making tons of money, and BC was happy. Or so it thought. Eventually, the affair started to heat up, and that’s when BC found out about global warming. Despite institutional pressures to maintain the status quo, many are realizing the dangerous consequences of this relationship. And the relationship doesn’t just hurt BC; it hurts all of humanity.” BC’s investments in the fossil fuel industry are not only unethical, but also risk the futures of the students the college claims to be educating to “shape the future”.
After the rallying speech, students marched to McElroy and down College Road to Botolph House. During the march, students sang rewritten verses from Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone” and Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance,” playing on Valentine’s Day and repeating the call for BC to “break up” with fossil fuel companies that perpetuate climate chaos. The group of 45 were respectful, peaceful, and in high spirits, reflecting hopes for a better future. Students held signs with phrases like “It’s not me, it’s you,” “Pick a side” (with Boston College pictured on one side of a broken heart, and the Koch Brothers on the other), “This is an intervention,” and many more.
During the vigil outside Fr. Leahy’s office, a somber and solemn mood took over. Students shared their hopes for Boston College to be the best that it can be. Bobby Wengronowitz said, “BC claims ‘to exercise careful stewardship of its resources’ but what about the land on which the college sits? How is investment in fossil fuels, which contribute to rising sea levels, which may soon threaten to submerge the college, ‘careful stewardship?’”
Delia Ridge Creamer (‘16) said, “I have been working on this campaign since my freshman year at BC, and it’s inspiring to see how much momentum we have gained in the past year alone.” Erin Sutton (‘16) said: “As a student who relies on financial aid that Boston College provides for me, I feel ashamed accepting money that’s supposed to be building my future when it comes from the very corporations that are destroying it. I want to go to a Boston College that I can be proud of.”
CJ@BC has been organizing for over two years, calling on Boston College to stand for climate justice. In addition to divesting from fossil fuels, CJ@BC has been calling for more investments in renewables and efficiency, as well as more climate-related programs that would generate student-faculty collaboration and prepare students for work in burgeoning fields.
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:
Immediately freezes any new investment in fossil fuel companies and
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.
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.
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
By PIERS J. SELLERS
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.
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.
Read Nikki’s account of why students may want to question whether they are truly part of BC, or if the administration & the board of trustees reserves that title for themselves by refusing to register student organizations.
World Leaders prefer photo ops with community members rather than real talk
New York City — Two days before today’s UN Climate Summit 400,000 people made history on the streets of New York City – joining together to take part in the largest march ever on climate change. But world leaders continue not to listen. They’ll take their photo opportunities in the street, but refuse entrance into the actual halls of power.
Today, the Climate Justice Alliance attempted to bring a statement from the people to world leaders, but were refused entry. Community voices were silenced, even while frontline climate-devastated communities and the 400,000 others who marched on Sunday called for climate action that works for Main Street, not just Wall Street.
“We’re being exploited, assaulted on an everyday basis, by industry that surrounds our community,” said Yuditha Nieto of T.E.J.A.S., an environmental justice organization in Houston, Texas. “We don’t get any support from our representatives. We have to put our two cents in and let them know that we are here.”
The exclusion of community members who live on the frontlines of the climate crisis show that today’s climate decision-making arenas have been taken over by a corporate agenda that prioritizes destructive profit driven policies over the wellbeing of families, workers and communities.
“Those within the UN Climate Summit need to start thinking about ways to change people’s relationship to the earth, ways to change the definition of prosperity and well-being to something that’s not about money for a few people, but for a good livelihood for everybody,” said Jihan Gearon of Black Mesa Water Coalition on the Navajo Nation.
For decades, frontline communities have been cultivating real solutions that move away from an economy of endless growth that exploits people and nature to one that links climate change and human rights, recognizes the rights of Indigenous peoples, and the self-determination of frontline communities.
“We demand that world leaders support and move money to our community-led priorities and local infrastructure needs to build sustainable community economies, energy democracy, zero waste, food justice, public transit and affordable housing – pathways that can create millions of long-term jobs and put our communities back to work,” the Climate Justice Alliance said in the statement they attempted to deliver to world leaders.
“We support Indigenous peoples, our brothers and sisters of the North and the Global South, in their climate justice struggles linking land and water rights, land title and the full implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”
Climate Justice Alliance: Statement to World Leaders and President Obama at the United Nations Climate Summit
This Sunday, over 400,000 people marched on the streets of New York City in solidarity with communities around the world living on the frontlines of both climate change and the exploitative systems driving this planetary crisis. Thousands more took direct action yesterday by “Flooding Wall Street” to target the polluting corporations and their financiers profiteering from such global harm.
Today, as world leaders gather at the United Nations Climate Summit 2014, we – members and affiliates of the Climate Justice Alliance—duly note that these climate arenas are taken over by a corporate agenda that continues the onslaught of business-as-usual, the global expansion of fossil fuel development rather than action to cut greenhouse gases at source.
In place of genuine climate action, the UN Climate Summit 2014 is little more than a pep rally pushing carbon trading offsets and weak voluntary or limited pledges for emission cuts leading up to the global climate treaty negotiations in Paris next year. Today, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon stated a goal to achieve carbon neutrality by 2020. On the surface this appears good. In reality, it is thinly veiled language for the promotion of market-based and destructive public-private partnership initiatives such as REDD+,Climate-Smart Agriculture and the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative – which will further exploit human and natural resources to expand the profits of the world’s most wealthy.
As communities first and most impacted by the storms, floods and droughts, we are also at the forefront of the fight against the pollution, the poverty, the police violence, the land grabs, the water shutoffs, the forced migration and the human rights violations symptomatic of the climate crises. Which is why our communities are uniting for a Just Transition away from the “dig, burn, dump” economy and towards local, living economies that meet the material needs of people and where communities and workers are in charge.
For decades we have been cultivating real solutions where we live, work, play and pray. Our solutions define a new system that moves us away from an economy of endless growth that exploits people and nature to one that seeks harmony between humans and nature. We need a system that links climate change and human rights; that recognizes the rights of Indigenous peoples and the self-determination of frontline communities. Our planet, Mother Earth, and her natural resources cannot sustain the increasing greed, consumption, extraction, pollution and waste associated with the 1%. We require a new system that addresses the needs of the majority and not of the few. To move in this direction, we need a redistribution of resources and a new definition of wellbeing and prosperity for all life on the planet in recognition of the limits and the rights of our Mother Earth and Nature.
We demand that world leaders support and move money to our community-led priorities and local infrastructure needs to build sustainable community economies, energy democracy, zero waste, food justice, public transit and affordable housing – pathways that can create millions of long-term jobs and put our communities back to work. We support Indigenous peoples, our brothers and sisters of the North and the Gobal South, in their climate justice struggles linking land and water rights, land title and the full implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Sunflowers serve to remove harmful toxics from the soil, while providing nutrients and shelter for animal life above ground. We present these sunflowers to the global leaders at the UN Climate Summit as a symbol of the community-led solutions we are growing.