Fasting for the Climate: Building Grassroots Power From Warsaw to California

By: Katie Hoffman, with contributions from Emily Williams and Ophir Bruck

Just days after super-typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines, nine students addressed the Regents of the University of California for the fifth time demanding UC officials, particularly newly appointed president Janet Napolitano, take swift and meaningful action to address the climate crisis by divesting the UC’s endowment from the 194 publicly traded coal, oil, and gas companies fueling it. Today, UC students are joining with youth around the world in a day of solidarity with the people of the Philippines and their lead UN climate negotiator, Naderev Saño, who is on his 11th day hunger-striking for the duration of the 19th UN climate talks or until meaningful international action is taken. Moved to action by Naderev’s fast and the devastation in the Philippines, students are fasting and holding vigils across California and the nation today to highlight the connections between climate change, inequality, and the need for bold institutional leadership.

Yolanda_FFUCSolidarity

For the Fossil Free UC campaign, the statewide #WeStandWithYou day of action comes just after a key meeting with high ranking financial administrators within the UC Office of the President (UCOP) in Oakland Tuesday, November 19. At their second meeting with UCOP, student representatives were joined by shareholder advocacy and socially responsible investment experts from As You Sow and Trillium Asset Management. Both off campus organizations worked alongside students in the meeting, lending their expertise to Fossil Free UC’s call for the Regents to swiftly adopt a five year plan to stop investing in new fossil fuel assets, drop all existing assets in the industry, and roll out proactive climate investment strategies over the next five years.

UC Berkeley Solidarity.

UC Berkeley Solidarity.

UD Davis Solidarity

UD Davis Solidarity

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In the unnamed3meeting, the students and their allies argued there is no statistical evidence that illustrates investing away from fossil fuels into various sustainable solutions will hurt returns on investments for shareholders. In fact, as articles by HSBC Global and the Carbon Tracker Initiative have suggested, the risks of remaining invested in fossil fuels might be greater than what traditional financial experts are factoring into their current models and investment strategies. Since 2012 there has been a flood of publications addressing the finite nature of the carbon industries’ business model and the need to set limits on fossil fuel extraction so that 80% of their proven carbon reserves remain underground. This mounting evidence suggests that if the current overvaluation of fossil fuel stocks proves correct, the potential economic tidal waves could parallel or exceed those during the sub-prime crisis that hit in 2008.

While UC officials showed elements of sympathy toward Fossil Free UC in the meeting last Tuesday, students were told ultimately that no decisions about UC investment policies could be made until the administration hires a new Chief Investment Officer in January 2014. As evidenced by costly and tragic disasters from Superstorm Sandy to Typhoon Haiyan, the devastation wrought by climate change will not wait for inefficient negotiations to address much needed investment in mitigation and adaptation efforts. As the most prestigious public academic institution in the world,  the University has both an opportunity and an obligation to take bold and meaningful action on climate change by removing its implicit support from the companies fueling it and reallocating funds towards local and global climate solutions. As such, Fossil Free UC will continue pressing the administration to expedite the process of divestment, with the goal of adopting a fossil free investment policy by the end of the academic year.

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In an ideal world, student led campaigns targeting portfolios would not exist, nor would fasts to honor preventable deaths and unnecessary destruction. Haiyan is a tragic and timely reminder that we do not live in an ideal world when it comes to addressing and rapidly correcting the systematic destruction of our only home. Grassroots campaigns like Fossil Free grew in response to the ineffective state of international and national policy making, which is utterly skewed in service of international climate change profiteers, like the extractive industries and the nations most reliant on them. According to recent UCSB graduate Emily Williams who attended the 19th Conference of the Parties in Warsaw, the conference “is not going to produce the binding treaties we need because of the disproportionate influence of those industries with a vested interest in preserving the status quo.” She continued, “it’s up to us, as individuals and institutions, to really spur the change we want to see; we need to stop the corporate influence and free ourselves from the industry whose business model is at the expense of our species’ survival.” Divestment campaigns, particularly at public institutions like those in California, are a critical front in the larger struggle to spur the change needed to weather the coming ecological and economic storms.

While many question the tactic of divestment given the complex nature of the climate problem, the coordinated efforts of youth across the globe today in solidarity with the victims of Haiyan illustrate just how powerful youth climate networks have gotten. Fossil Free UC joins more than 300 student-led campaigns across the country, some of which have seen recent divestment victories like De Anza Community College and San Francisco State University. Many campaigns, like those at Brown and Harvard, have recently come up against what may seem like insurmountable hurdles with administrators who refuse to adopt fossil free investment policies. Ultimately however, like the people of the Philippines and all others facing the devastating causes and effects of climate degradation, the Fossil Free campaign and climate justice movement will only adapt and grow more powerful.

 

 

 

Those with pictures from the #WeStandWithYou day of Action can send them to Emily(at)sustainabilitycoalition.org

We also ask that you please consider donating to relief efforts: http://nafconusa.org/

Meatless Monday at UCSB

The Associated Students Environmental Affairs Board of UCSB is proud to announce its partnership with The Monday Campaigns, a non-profit organization that runs the Meatless Monday initiative with the Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health. This national campaign aims to improve the health of both citizens and our planet by helping Americans reduce their meat consumption in a healthful and conscientious manner. During World War II, Americans went meatless on Monday to reduce pressure on the economy and to save money. Now, as our nation and world once again face difficult times, we hope to educate our fellow citizens about how foregoing meat once a week benefits public health, protects our environment, and fights climate change.

Considering that meat production is one of the worst causes of global warming, a reduction in meat consumption is the best thing you can do for the environment. Whether it is eliminating meat only on Mondays or more often, you will have a tremendous impact every time you enjoy a meat-free meal. Other groups have tried to ask students to become completely vegetarian, but we recognize that not everyone is willing to make that commitment right off the bat. We also believe that it’s more important for a lot of people to make a small change than for only a few people to cut out meat altogether.

When students “pay” for meat they are not paying for the external costs associated with its production, such as water pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, pesticide pollution from feed crops, rain forest degradation and destruction, and above all health care costs. At a university where students are supposed to have a broad-based education, it seems only fair that they should learn that they aren’t paying for the true cost of meat when they pay for the dining commons, go grocery shopping, or eat out. A good lesson would be for the dining commons to go without meat every once and a while so that they can (1) *learn *about the external costs of meat and about the healthy, delicious alternatives to meat, and (2) *reduce *the external costs that they actually place on the environment and their health. We hope the dining commons considers doing this more.

What UCSB has done

So far we have worked with the Real Foods Challenge chapter here to implement a couple Meatless Mondays in our dining commons. We have also been doing campus outreach–which includes signs with facts about meat’s impact on the environment and tabling with food samples and literature. We recently worked with the residence halls to hold a film screening of the movie “Fresh” in one of the dorms. At that event we had a panel discussion about sustainable food issues and Meatless Mondays. We’ve also attracted the attention of local media and have made it into one newspaper with another pending.

Our plan for next quarter is to approach local restaurants about the possibility of offering discounts, deals, or special vegetarian items on Mondays, as an incentive for students to cut out meat on that day. We are currently working on an informational packet that we will present to the business owners.

We are also in the process of implementing a regular meatless schedule for the UCSB Dining Commons starting for the freshman in Fall 2010. We are doing this by presenting facts from local research done on campus, which revealed that reducing meat and dairy consumption one day a week reduces the same amount of greenhouse gasses as going 100% local. The benefits from supporting local farms are still very important, but this research just puts the severity of meat into perspective.

To support our chefs going local we are also inviting a vegan culinary chef to come and lead a training/ workshop for the UCSB chefs and staff to further educate us about vegan/vegetarian nutrition and the variety of foods that can be used that are not traditionally used.

Best Practices

The Dining Commons set a new precedent when they used the saved money from EAB’s trayless campaign (25% reduction in food costs from reduced waste) towards more local and sustainable food. The vast majority of the top 50 most expensive items dining services purchases are meat and cheese products (keep in mind that they still do not include the external costs). Any decrease in meat consumption has the potential to free up more money to go towards the 20% local food mandate by 2020. This would make UCSB’s dining services a model for every other UC and institutional entity as we evolve to a more sustainable and conscious world. Other UC’s such as Davis and LA have limited their beef consumption as well.

For more information contact the Environmental Affairs Board at ucsbeab (at) gmail (dot) com
or the Co-coordinators Corie Radka corieradka (at) umail.ucsb.edu, Andrew Dunn andrewdunn09 (at) gmail (dot) com

Environmental Education for the Next Generation (EENG) at UCSB

Environmental Education for the Next Generation (EENG) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded by undergraduate students at the University of California, Santa Barbara. We train and place teams of college-aged volunteers into 1st and 2nd grade classrooms for weekly lessons that spread environmental awareness to our youth. Our program features:

  • Interactive activities and experiments that foster critical thinking about the world we live in.
  • Youth-to-youth mentorship and encouragement that bring education to life and empower young people to make a positive impact on their surroundings.
  • Unique curriculum that aligns closely with California’s Education Standards, serving to enhance existing classroom activities.
  • Dynamic structure designed to meet the diverse scheduling and curricular needs of our teachers. We are happy to adjust lessons as needed, ensuring our program is as enriching as possible in any class setting.

For more information visit http://www.eengonline.org/ or join us on Facebook.

For more information contact the EENG Team at info@eengonline.org