Originally published at Huffington Post
October 2, 2019 by Adam Weymouth
Rachel Heaton understands better than most the power banks have to shape our world. Heaton, a member of the Muckleshoot tribe, started to make the connection between money and climate change as an activist against the oil pipeline at Standing Rock, North Dakota.
She was one of a group of activists who identified Wells Fargo as the principal bank investing in the controversial pipeline that passes under the Missouri River, the source of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s water supply. Their 2016 campaign, organizing pickets outside dozens of the bank’s branches in their home city of Seattle, ultimately persuaded the city to close its account with Wells Fargo in February 2017. (Although Seattle did eventually go back to the bank, for lack of other options.)
Following this campaign, Heaton co-founded Mazaska Talks — mazaska is the Lakota word for “money” — in January 2017, an indigenous-led alliance aiming to bring people together across the country to demand cities pull their money away from the Wall Street banks that finance fossil fuels.
“What we’re pushing to get back to are those values of respecting Mother Earth, and understanding that if we allow these banks and these fossil fuel companies to continue exploring and taking these resources, we are no longer going to have a Mother Earth,” Heaton said.
Universities have often been at the forefront of pushing for social change. They’ve led divestment campaigns against tobacco and apartheid in the past. As long-term investors with a social mission, they are obvious institutions to take up the current divestment movement, said Alyssa Lee, the director of campus programs at Divest Ed, an organization supporting over 75 U.S. college divestment campaigns.
Now, the divestment campaign has moved far beyond college campuses. Climate strikes took place around the world last month, involving more than 6 million people across 185 countries, demanding the end of fossil fuels and a move to renewable energy. Lee sees that the role of divestment as key. “If you want to see the climate strike demands being met, one of the necessary steps is to call out the role of the financing and the investment in the fossil fuel industry,” said Lee.
Originally published at The Harvard Crimson
September 27, 2019 by By Alexandra A. Chaidez and Aidan F. Ryan
The Ad Hoc Committee for Harvard Divest — a group of Harvard alumni advocating for the University to divest its endowment from fossil fuels— raised $60,000 to hire two coordinators for alumni activities through the Cambridge climate group Better Future Project.
The committee raised money for Better Future Project to hire former College students and divestment organizers Canyon S. Woodward ’15 and Chloe S. Maxmin ’15, who is also a Maine State Representative, according to former United States Senator and Ad Hoc Committee member Timothy E. Wirth ’61.
Wirth said the group is continuing to push the University to divest from fossil fuels through the creation of these new positions.
Both Woodward and Maxmin officially work for the Better Future Project — headed by Executive Director Craig S. Altemose — but focus their efforts specifically on Harvard. The pair is involved with the group’s Divest Ed project, which works to expand the fossil fuel divestment campaign on college campuses.
Originally published at Waging Nonviolence
September 19, 2019 by Nick Engelfried
It began as a call to action from a group of youth activists scattered across the globe, and soon became what is shaping up to be the largest planet-wide protest for the climate the world has ever seen.
The Global Climate Strike, which kicks off on Sept. 20, will not be the first time people all over the world have taken action for the climate on a single day. But if things play out the way organizers hope, it could mark a turning point for the grassroots resistance to fossil fuels.
“Strikes are happening almost everywhere you can think of,” said Jamie Margolin, a high school student from Seattle who played a role in initiating this global movement. “People are participating in literally every place in the world.”
Activists are also planning for how to carry momentum from the strike forward into other youth-led movements. “Dismay at government inaction has led people to get involved in the climate strikes,” said Gracie Brett of Divest Ed, which works with over 70 campus-based fossil fuel divestment campaigns. “This same urgency has led to the divestment movement getting a second wind recently. It offers an opportunity to be involved beyond the strike.”
Op Ed originally published at Newscoop
July 2019 by Katie Collier, a student at University of Pennsylvania
Universities have long been seen as the face of progress, innovation, and a general sense of moving the world into the future. However, many of these academic institutions do not reflect those same values when it comes to the industries in which they choose to invest. The fossil fuel industry is one of the most significant contributors to the climate crisis. Many of our universities support that industry’s explicit destruction of the earth by investing our university endowments in it.
To put it simply, our universities are funding climate change — the very crisis that affects not only the livelihood and future of their students, but also those of billions of innocent people.
Campus fossil fuel divestment still has progress to make. However, through organizations like Divest Ed in the United States, greater coordination is occurring across campus groups to mount bigger actions and garner greater public attention.
Op Ed originally published at The Johns Hopkins Newsletter
April 25, 2019 by Elly Ren
On Earth Day, University President Ronald J. Daniels made a few exciting announcements. The University has purchased solar offsets for two-thirds of our energy consumption, created the Sustainability Leadership Council and appointed a new director for our small and underfunded Office of Sustainability.
Overall this is a huge victory for the thousands of Hopkins students that have demanded that the University take climate action, especially since Daniels signed the White House Act on Climate Pledge in 2015. Administrators themselves have acknowledged that these changes were a direct response to pressure from Refuel Our Future, the climate action and fossil fuel divestment group on campus.
Since last fall we have been receiving guidance from the national organization Divest Ed, which is “a training and strategy hub working to resource, vitalize, and broaden the fossil fuel divestment movement.” As a result we are connected with fossil fuel divestment campaigns all around the nation and constantly sharing advice, strategies and tactics in order to be the most effective we can be.
Originally published at Energy News Network
February 19, 2019 by Sarah Shemkus
Middlebury College, in Middlebury, Vermont, announced in January that it would divest from fossil fuels after facing pressure from student activists aided by the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Better Future Project.
The Massachusetts program will offer training and other services to student activists across the country.
A Massachusetts nonprofit has launched an initiative it hopes will help reinvigorate the campus fossil fuel divestment movement by providing training, coaching, and community to student activists.
“The movement still has a lot of work to do,” said Alyssa Lee, director of campus programs for the Cambridge-based Better Future Project, which runs the program. “It is still really, really important to keep going.”
The program, called Divest Ed, is an outgrowth and expansion of work the Better Future Project has been doing for several years. Campus divestment efforts — campaigns aimed at convincing colleges and universities to pull out of their investments in fossil fuel companies — have been around since the 1990s.
The movement gained momentum in 2012 and 2013, as national groups like 350.org and the Divestment Student Network began training, connecting, and supporting campus groups across the country. The Better Future Project did the same on a regional scale, working with initiatives in New England.
In 2017, however, these national groups stepped back from this work, Lee said. As national support scaled back and many of the original student organizers graduated and moved on, many campus initiatives began to flag. With its background in divestment education, the Better Future Project decided it was well-positioned to step into the gap.
“There was a hole around the climate justice demands,” Lee said.
The group spent much of 2018 planning and preparing, and, in October, Divest Ed was born.
The centerpiece of Divest Ed’s work is the intensive, one-year organizing fellowship. A cohort of about 40 campus activists — generally teams of two per school — is selected to spend a year learning all the ins and outs of successful organizing, from the economics of endowments to the logistics of planning an action.
“By the time they graduate out, they’ve learned the whole A-to-Z of how to plan a campaign,” Lee said.
This year’s fellows attend 20 different schools, from the University of Puget Sound to Boston College. Divest Ed likes to work with younger students, often freshmen and sophomores, so the activists they train have more time on campus to make an impact.
Fellows participate in two conference calls each month and gather for two in-person retreats during the year.
“We got to gather 40 super-passionate college divestment activists in one room and all learn from each other’s experiences,” said fellow Ilana Cohen, a Harvard College freshman.
Cohen is helping spearhead the second iteration of fossil fuel divestment activism at Harvard. The first campaign, she said, fizzled out in 2017. Connecting with a national network, she said, is particularly helpful as the revitalized campaign tries to learn lessons from previous efforts and plot a new way forward.
“Making those connections — the fellowship is invaluable in that regard,” she said.
Divest Ed also offers a range of coaching services and collaboration opportunities for schools not represented in the fellowship program. The organization hosts regular webinars, open to all campus activists, on topics such as negotiation and campaign strategy. It also holds frequent discussion calls, letting students share challenges, get advice, and hear about other schools’ successes.
The divestment campaign at Middlebury College worked with Lee in this informal way in advance of the college’s Board of Trustees divestment vote in January. When the students were given a list of the actions the board might take, Lee helped them understand the nuances and the financial terms. On other calls, they discussed campaign strategy. Lee also visited Middlebury to speak on a panel about the divestment movement.
“They were a really great resource for an as-needed consultant,” said Zoe Grodsky, one of the leaders of Middlebury’s divestment campaign.
Elise Leise / Divest Middlebury
The college announced in January that it would, indeed, divest from fossil fuels. And working with Divest Ed will help the Middlebury group amplify the impact of its victory, by allowing the students to share lessons and inspiration with a national network of campaigns, Grodsky said.
“When you keep being told ‘no’ over and over again, it’s hard to keep faith that it’s going to turn into a ‘yes,’” she said. “It can be really encouraging to hear our story.”
The approach Divest Ed is taking — combining education, communication, and collaboration — is a promising one for the fossil fuel divestment movement, said Sean Estelle, network director for the Power Shift Network, a coalition of youth-driven activist groups of which Divest Ed is a member.
“It fits in with a lot of other tactics and strategies that are going on right now,” they said. “I’m super excited about the way this new iteration of fossil fuel divestment work has been being very intentional about identifying relationships with other struggles.”
There are those who question whether divestment works. Academic research has questioned whether cause-related divestment campaigns cause any meaningful financial impact. Advocates of fossil fuel divestment, however, say the approach works largely by strengthening social stigma against the industry, changing society’s ethical judgments in order to eventually change its behaviors.
“It’s about uniting people behind the idea that it is morally indefensible to invest in companies that perpetuate the climate crisis and perpetuate environmental injustice,” Cohen said.
Correction: A previous version of this story referred to Sean Estelle of the Power Shift Network using an incorrect pronoun.
Originally published at The Daily Free Press, The Independent Student Newspaper at Boston University
October 13, 2018 by Susannah Sudborough
The Better Future Project, a Massachusetts-based climate action group, unveiled Divest Ed, a website with resources designed to support student fossil fuel divestment campaigns at universities nationwide Wednesday.
The group announced in April that they would expand their efforts nationwide and have been working to develop Divest Ed ever since, said Rachel Schlueter, a Boston University alumna and campus organizer for the Better Future Project.
Better Future Project Executive Director Craig Altemose said Divest Ed is meant to be a central hub for students seeking information and guidance as they begin and run campus fossil fuel divestment campaigns across the country. It is primarily organized by Better Future Project Director of Campus Programs Alyssa Lee, Altemose and other campus organizers such as Schlueter.Read more