The Skidmore College Divestment Movement

Written by David Katz, student organizer at Skidmore College; Re-posted from WeArePowerShift.org

Skidmore Meme

The Environmental Action Club(EAC) at Skidmore College has always been a hotbed for activism and change at the school, a gathering place for the most committed students. For the past 2 years students involved with the Environmental Action Club have tried to shrink Skidmore’s carbon footprint. Several efforts were made to get the President of the College to sign a Campus Climate Commitment that would do just that, reduce the schools carbon footprint. After nearly a year of meeting after meeting no agreement was reached as the administration perceived the goals to be unrealistic.

With the establishment of a new Student Government Association(SGA) Sustainability Committee(SuCo) the political climate at Skidmore changed. For the last year EAC and SuCo have created a strong student alliance to institutionalize Skidmore College. This semester students have used this alliance to push for divestment at Skidmore.

After initial efforts to call on the school’s Chief Financial Officer to begin the divestment process were rebuffed, students got political. A joint group of students from EAC and SuCo drafted a divestment resolution in hopes that the Student Government Association would adopt it. After a long revision process, and a petition with over 500 signatures, the resolution was passed unanimously on Tuesday, April 30th.

The passage of the resolution is particularly exciting because it represents a unified movement of students committed to protecting our future from climate disaster. Furthermore, by passing the resolution SGA and EAC are both calling on the administration to make an institutional shift. The passage of the resolution gives student activists a lot of clout as the divestment movement move ahead. Supplementary to the passage of the resolution Skidmore has a storied history of divestment.

There is of course at least one example, the divestment from companies involved in the South African Apartheid regime. Skidmore students discovered the use of South African mined steel in one of the academic buildings on campus and began a divestment campaign that is now enshrined on a plaque in the aforementioned building.

Many people, including the administration at Skidmore College, find the goal of divestment to be unrealistic or lofty- but not the students. On May 2nd, a group of student activists delivered the divestment petition containing over 500 signatures to the President Glotzbach’s office, sending a clear message to the administration that students will see divestment through to the end. As a part of the ever-growing national divestment movement there is a growing sense on the Skidmore campus that anything is possible.

Onwards!

Syracuse University and SUNY-ESF Undergraduate Student Association Passes Divestment Resolution

Written by Nicole Harbordt, student organizer with Divest SU and ESF; Re-posted from WeArePowerShift.org

 

Ending the semester strong. The SU/ESF Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign had a huge victory Tuesday evening as the ESF Undergraduate Student Association (USA) unanimously passed in favor of our resolution to divest the ESF campus endowments from fossil fuels.

Standing in front of the USA as they discussed the key points of our final resolution was daunting. The voting began and the room quickly filled with the voices of those in favor. When asked for all opposed, a feeling of pure excitement and overwhelming relief swept over our group as the room fell completely silent. The vote was unanimous. The resolution had passed.

The SU/ESF campaign has been pushing hard on both campuses these past two semesters to make students, faculty, and administration understand the importance of divesting our campuses’ endowments from fossil fuels.

Whether it was getting roughly 1,000 petition signatures combined, the support from 57 SU faculty and five ESF/SU clubs, organizing a teach-in and two campus marches, meeting with administration, or simply just spreading the word to everyone and anyone – our campaign has been persistent.

It has been such a privilege to work with all those involved in this campaign. Everyone has a reason for this fight and have all shown great passion and determination for the cause. Working jointly with the two campuses has allowed for greater collaboration, helping to give us a stronger presence in the Syracuse community.

The SU Student Association resolution is scheduled to be voted on next week. We are hoping for another grand victory there as well. Even with summer fast approaching and the semester coming to a close, our campaign is not finished just yet. We are looking forward to continuing to push even harder in the Fall.

UPDATE: The Syracuse University Student Association passed their resolution with a 28-2 vote on Monday 4/29!

Members of our campaign at the ESF Activities Fair during Earth Week.

Speaking at our Divestment Teach-In.

Marching around the ESF Quad during Earth Week.

CITY OF ITHACA JOINS NATIONAL DIVESTMENT MOVEMENT, BECOMES FIRST EAST COAST CITY TO DIVEST

For Immediate Release

April 22, 2013

CITY OF ITHACA JOINS NATIONAL DIVESTMENT MOVEMENT, BECOMES FIRST EAST COAST CITY TO DIVEST 

Mayor Myrick joins forces with a coalition of high school and college students on Earth Day

Ithaca, NY -Earth Day – Mayor Svante L. Myrick of the City of Ithaca, NY has agreed to make Ithaca the second city in world to divest its financial holdings in fossil fuels. The action follows the requests issued by the Youth Power Summit 2013, a coalition of Tompkins County high school and college students–ages 16 to 23–for the City to take action for climate justice.

 Fossil fuel divestment campaigns are taking place at over 250 college campuses in the U.S. and the City of Seattle has already agreed to divest. The City of Ithaca’s campaign is the first in the country led by high school and college students, and Ithaca is the first city on the east coast to make the commitment.

On Friday, April 19, 2013, Mayor Myrick met with students to discuss divestment, and agreed to issue a statement from the City on Earth Day, April 22, 2013.

Today, Mayor Myrick remarked, “The City of Ithaca does not invest in fossil fuels and I can certainly commit, as long as I am Mayor, to not investing City funds in fossil fuels.”  Mayor Myrick has also agreed to write a letter urging the New York State Comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli, who manages the New York State employee pensions, including the City of Ithaca’s, to divest the NYS Pension Fund from fossil fuels and re-invest in socially responsible alternatives.

 Gabriel Shapiro, a Junior at Lehman Alternative High School, responded to the City’s statement. “We’re proud that our Mayor is not only willing to listen to young people’s demands, but to actively support our work. Our generation will disproportionately experience the impacts of climate change–as systematically marginalized communities already are–and we’re excited that Mayor Myrick is willing to give us a seat at the table around decisions that affect us.”

 “I believe that young people have the creativity, energy, and moral authority that is needed in many of our public debates.  A perfect example is the work this group has done.  The commitment these young people have shown to safeguarding our environment should serve as an inspiration to us all” said Mayor Svante Myrick.

Over 100 students from Tompkins County high schools and colleges joined the Youth Power Summit 2013 at Ithaca College on April 20-21, 2013 to develop local strategies for youth climate justice leadership. Summit Organizer Jane Whiting, Senior at New Roots Charter School, explained, “We took two days to deeply explore the social roots and social impacts of climate change, and to collaborate with our community to re-center our environmental work around social justice. Divestment is one step toward creating a future that puts equity and justice at the center of our solutions to the climate crisis.” 

For additional information contact:

Julie Conley Holcomb, City Clerk julieh@cityofithaca.org / (607) 274-6570 or Anna Kucher, Ithaca High School  anna.kucher8@gmail.com /(607) 342-3564

Where will you be Earth Day Weekend?

WHEN: Saturday, April 20th 9:30 AM – 7:30 PM and Sunday, April 21st 9:00 AM – 2:30 PM

WHERE: Ithaca College Center for Business and Sustainable Enterprise.

The Youth Power Summit is the Youth Track of the Climate Smart & Climate Ready Conference, a major multi-sector regional initiative under the leadership of Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton aimed at making our communities more climate friendly and climate resilient.

The YPS has partnered with the internationally recognized New Economics Institute to bring in keynotes Juliet Schor, author of Plenitude: The New Economics of True Wealth; Lilian Molina, inaugural director of the Environmental Justice Program at the Energy Action Coalition, the hub of the US Youth Climate Justice Movement; and Esteban Kelly, co-founder of the national worker co-op, the Anti-Oppression Resource and Training Alliance (AORTA).

The summit will explore millennials’ leadership in the growing field of “New Economics” and in locally focused, sustainable and anti-oppressive projects in Ithaca and Upstate New York.

Join us on Saturday April 20st from 9:30am – 7:30pm and Sunday April 21st from 9:30am -2:30pm for the Youth Power Summit at the Park Center at Ithaca College! People of all ages interested in the program and/or local youth empowerment are encouraged to attend!

Our Mission:

The Youth Power Summit 2013 is a youth-led project to create a space where young people, students, community members, faculty, and community business leaders will converge to explore the intersectionality of economic, social, and climate justice issues and develop the tools, organizing strategies, and collective frameworks to actively pursue a vision for a just, sustainable, and prosperous community.

We believe that realizing this vision demands genuine systematic transformation that puts freedom from discrimination and equal access to decision-making at the center of equitable and resilient social, economic, and cultural institutions. At the Youth Power Summit, we’re investigating the strategies we need to build this vision in practice through open dialogue, cultivating new connections in our community, and empowering young people to reframe the conversation around climate change so that climate justice is one strategy among many that seek broader and deeper justice in the creation of a sustainable and peaceful world.

Alternative activism: SU, ESF groups advocate for schools to stop investing in fossil fuels

Written by Kerry Wolfe; Re-posted from The Daily Orange

To many, carbon-based energy feeds this country, pumping through the land through a network of pipeline veins. It brings with it high levels of greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to climate change and causing detrimental environmental effects.

(FROM LEFT) Ross Mazur and Connor Deroin speak with other students to discuss the best ways to urge SUNY-ESF and SU to stop investing in fossil fuels.

But students at both Syracuse University and the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry are saying, “No more.” They’ve decided to tackle the issue of climate change by severing ties with the fossil fuel industry— the heart of the beast.

Students from SU and ESF have asked their respective universities to divest from the fossil fuel industry. Activists want the university to abstain from any new investments in fossil fuels and to set a plan in motion to become completely divested in five years.

SU currently has $50 million invested in the energy sector, comprising about 5 percent of its endowment, said Ben Kuebrich, a doctoral student in SU’s composition and cultural rhetoric program.

ESF has $1.9 million invested in the energy sector, said Mike Smith, a junior chemistry major at ESF.

“What the divestment movement does is target the fossil fuel industry, which is spending its money and corrupting our system,” Kuebrich said.

Asking the universities to pull funding from fossil fuel companies sends a social message, said Chiara Klein, who is involved in the SU divestment group.

Those involved modeled the campaign after a movement from the 1980s, in which students across the country demanded that their universities divest from South Africa in protest of apartheid.

“It’s very much akin to stirring up trouble in a good way,” said Klein, a sophomore English and textual studies major.

The idea sparked on campus after renowned environmentalist Bill McKibben spoke last fall as a part of the University Lectures series. In his lecture, he urged members of the SU community to take action against climate change by standing up to the fossil fuel industry.

Students at SU and ESF, along with others from more than 250 colleges and universities across the country, have answered his call to action.

“The most important component of the divestment campaign is the argument that if you’re going to take sustainability seriously on your campus, you extend that focus beyond the buildings to the portfolio,” McKibben said in an email.

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Can you help take our movement in NYS to the next level?

Hey team!

From our founding at Power Shift 2011, to the first Non-Violent Direct Action camp against fracking in NYS, to organizing a Youth

Students at Power Shift NY, April 2012

Students at Power Shift NY, April 2012

Day of Action at the original Tar Sands Action, to showing Gov. Cuomo that NY youth will not accept fracking in our future at Power Shift NY, to playing a key role in organizing the historic 3,000-person rally at Don’t Frack New York, to kicking off a dozen powerful campaigns for fossil fuel divestment in NYS, to turning out hundreds of comments from young people on the flawed fracking regs, to the game-changing Marcellus Spring Break action on Seneca Lake — we’ve come a long way in the movement for climate justice in NYS.  

And we can do even more with your help.

It’s time to take our movement to the next level. We’d love to hear your ideas about ways to strengthen our support network and ways to build a broader movement for climate justice off-campus in New York State.  This feedback form will be anonymous but we will share the results with our network.

Please fill this out and share with your campuses by Mon. 4/8, so that we can review results together!

Thanks so much y’all!

Love and Solidarity,
The Green Umbrella

P.S. During the NYS Break-out at the Power Up: Divest Fossil Fuels Convergence, we had some great discussion about ways for the Green Umbrella NY youth network to support and connect students around the state who are working on fossil fuel divestment campaigns. (Check out these notes from the NYS Break-out.)

Cornell Students advocate for sustainable investments to trustees

Written by Krishna Ramanujan; Re-posted from The Cornell Chronicle

Two student members of the campus environmental organization Kyoto Now! made their case for Cornell to divest from investments in fossil fuel companies at an open session of the Cornell Board of Trustees meeting on campus March 28.

The trustees, university administrators and student groups have been in ongoing dialogues about divestment for the past year.

“Our financial support of climate polluters creates a discrepancy between the ideals and trajectory of the university and its investment policy,” said Dennis Fox ’15.

students address board of trustees

Representing Kyoto Now!, Fox and Rebecca Macies ’14 asked the university “to fully withdraw its investments in the fossil fuel industry by 2020, and reinvest 30 percent of those divested funds” in responsible sustainable investments.

More than 300 campuses nationwide are running divestment campaigns, including all the other Ivy League schools, Fox said. “American endowments add up to more than $400 billion, and we have the power to influence the impacts that money will have on our future,” he said.

President David Skorton had yielded his time during the meeting’s open session to Kyoto Now!

Adam Gitlin ’13, president of the Student Assembly (SA), presented a report to the board. Regarding divestment, Gitlin said that while the SA recognizes that immediate divestments could lead to cuts for vital student services, responsible endowment could “align the goals of Kyoto Now! and the investment committee.”

Continue reading

College students in fossil fuel fight

Written by Jeremy Moule; Re-posted from Rochester City Newspaper

cover_magnum.jpg

Colleges in the Rochester area and across the country have gone to great lengths to build up their sustainability cred.

The efforts vary from campus to campus, but include changes that greatly reduce waste from dining halls and retrofits that slash energy use in campus buildings. And some campuses have signed on to climate change commitments, pledging to reduce their carbon footprints.

Yet many schools, from Ivy League universities to small liberal arts colleges, still have

Jennifer Benson, a SUNY Geneseo student, says that divesting from fossil fuels would benefit her school, as well as the environment and people's health. - PHOTO BY JEREMY MOULE

Jennifer Benson, a SUNY Geneseo student, says that divesting from fossil fuels would benefit her school, as well as the environment and people’s health.

money invested in oil, coal, and natural gas companies. The contradiction is not lost on students, some of whom are now trying to convince campus administrators to change their approach to investing. Students at University of Rochester and SUNY Geneseo are among those pushing their schools to stop investing in fossil fuel companies.

The students leading the UR and Geneseo campaigns say that

by pulling their investments, their schools would be taking a stand against the fossil fuel industry and its role in one of the biggest environmental and social issues of their generation: climate change.

“If you are coming out and publicly saying, ‘We value sustainability, we value the environment, we believe that climate change is real [and] we need to do things about it if we don’t want it to become literally a global disaster,’ then it’s time to not just say those things and actually do things about them,” says Allison Hoppe, a SUNY Geneseo senior who helped start a divestment campaign at her school.

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12 Arrested Blockading Controversial Fracking Infrastructure

Reposted from EcoWatch.com

Sandra Steingraber PhD., biologist, author and Trumansburg, NY resident, was arrested alongside residents of Seneca Lake and local college students to oppose Kansas City, MO based Inergy, natural gas and liquid petroleum gas storage facility, which would lock in natural gas development in the Marcellus Shale region. Protesters have linked arms and deployed a banner reading “Our Future is Unfractured, We Are Greater Than Dirty Inergy” across the entrance to the facility on NY State Route 14.

The blockade precedes a 250+ person rally opposing the Inergy facility scheduled to begin at the Watkins Glen Village Marina at 5 p.m. today.

Twenty-five demonstrators blockaded the Inergy facility, which they say is one example of numerous fracking infrastructure projects that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission have allowed to “slip in the back door” while New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo debates allowing the controversial and extreme process of horizontal hydraulic fracturing.

Steingraber, who lives in neighboring Tompkins County said, “It is wrong to bury explosive, toxic petroleum gases in underground chambers next to a source of drinking water for 100,000 people. It is wrong to build out the infrastructure for fracking at a time of climate emergency. It is right for me come to the shores of Seneca Lake, where my 11-year-old son was born, and say, with my voice and with my body, as a mother and biologist, that this facility is a threat to life and health.”

The blockade joins a growing national movement to call attention to environmental injustices caused by unconventional and extreme fossil fuel extraction techniques, including Inergy’s hotly debated salt cavern gas storage facility proposed for Reading, NY.

Dennis Fox, a Cornell University Sophomore said, “This isn’t just a local issue—when students stand shoulder to shoulder with communities on the frontlines of the fight against extreme projects like Inergy’s, we’re one step closer to stopping fracking, and one step closer to protecting my generation’s future from poisoned water and devastating climate change.”

Inergy’s facility has generated widespread concerns for its proximity to Seneca Lake, New York State’s largest fresh water body and the source of drinking water for 100,000 people.

Michael Dineen, a resident of Seneca County, which contains a portion of Seneca Lake, said, “The priorities of Inergy’s project are all wrong. Drinking water and people’s health are more valuable than gas. The Finger Lakes region holds one of the largest pool of fresh water in the United States and needs our protection—we don’t need to lock in investments in dirty fracking infrastructure that will deepen our dependence on an inherently contaminating industry.”

Melisa Chipman, a resident of Schuyler County, where the facility is located said, “Not only do salt cavern gas storage facilities like Inergy’s have a very high probability of ‘catastrophic equipment failure,’ but I do not want more truck traffic polluting our air, destroying our roads, and scaring tourists away.”

The DEC has received increasingly vocal criticism from local wineries and tourist businesses for refusing to conduct a comprehensive review of the potential environmental and economic impacts of Inergy’s plans to expand gas storage capacity of the current facility from 1.5 to 10.0 billion cubic feet.

For live updates on this action, click here.

Watch video of the protest below:

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/watkin-s-glen

Divest Now! Vassar rallies in front of Board of Trustees

Written by Gabe Dunsmith, Vassar College Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign; Re-posted from WeArePowerShift.org

On Friday, March 1st, 60 Vassar students rallied outside the Board of Trustees’ gathering to encourage the trustees to divest from fossil fuels.

For several hours on Friday night, Vassar students cheered the trustees and welcomed them into the Alumnae House, where their gathering was being held. We passed out an Open Letter to the trustees, welcomed them with smiles, and chanted “Divest please, Vassar trustees!” as the trustees entered the building. We held up signs with slogans such as, “It’s best to divest,” “Fossil free! Yes divest!”, “We trust our trustees! (to divest),” and “Invest in our future.”

The demonstration was a follow-up to a meeting on Thursday, February 28th, in which members of Divest VC met with two trustees, including Chair of the Board William Plapinger. As a result of the overwhelming 23-1 vote in support of divestment from the Vassar Student Association (VSA), it was time to take our cause to the trustees. Last Thursday’s meeting was an attempt to get speaking time at the full meeting of the Board. Though we were received cordially, our request was denied–so we decided to step up the pressure on the Board.

It was important to show that we can be professional in one setting and display our collective power in other settings, gathering massive student support for a public demonstration to the trustees.

The weekend was encouraging on many fronts, combining our campaign’s research and momentum in a powerful call to divest. For the most part, the trustees were receptive and willing to listen to our concerns. As shown in the above video several trustees came out and spoke to us, reciprocating the positive attitude that we projected.

Moving forward, our demonstration showed that the trustees have no choice but to divest.

You can visit us on facebook here, or on our webpage here.

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