Will divestment put my pension at risk?

by Andrea Loken and Kevin Bowers – both teachers in Limestone OSSTF District 27 and ECA co-founders

This is the first in a series of posts that will answer several of the questions we are being asked regarding the divestment strategy.

Increasingly, the experts are saying that there is a great risk to keeping fossil fuels in investment portfolios, including pensions. Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England, along with the World Bank has stated this, admitting that the writing is on the wall for fossil fuel investments since 80% of known reserves are unburnable if humans are to deal with climate change.

The findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) supports our immediate and grave concerns. The IPCC is not a bunch of radicals. The viewpoint the IPCC states is a conservative one as it represents the consensus of hundreds of scientists and politicians. The IPCC says that if we hold to the status quo we are headed for a 4oC – 6oC warmer world by the end of the century. Humanity has not existed on a planet so warm.

If 80% of the fossil fuels must remain in the ground, it gives us 15 years before we blow our “carbon budget”. Here is a video illustrating this. If we decide to put the brakes on fossil fuels right now, we MIGHT not go over the cliff. Educators and their unions can help apply the pressure needed to make the necessary change.

Pensions are long-term investments, and fossil fuels are not a good long-term investment. Eventually citizens, governments and banks will decide to act to avert sure disaster. Let’s show courage and leadership and divest now before the planet is cooked.

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p.s. Please consider sharing our blog/posts and petition on your social media platform or share with friends and colleagues via email. If we are to affect change as quickly as is necessary, we really need everyone to become involved. All of us have a stake in our pensions and care about a planet that is livable in the future. The urgency is only going to become more and more apparent. No one is coming to save us. The power is within ourselves – each individual – to change the current system. We hope you can join the growing chorus!

MUST watch: Crystal Greene on Bill C-51: corporate greed, land, water + climate change

Bill C-51 is really about corporate greed for land, water and resources. Watch indigenous activist, Crystal Greene make the connections between indigenous rights, Bill C-51, water and climate change.


The Most Talked About Motions at AMPA: Climate Action + Divestment

by Andrea Loken, science Teacher and ECA co-founder

(You can sign our petition here.)

Of the four motions that Educators Climate Alliance submitted to last weekend’s Annual Meeting of the Provincial Assembly of OSSTF (AMPA), only one “hit the floor.” The motion was not passed, but the Education Climate Alliance can be proud that we pushed the conversation to the front of people’s minds. One campaign insider told me that the ECA motions were the most talked about motions at AMPA. The climate change conversations have started, and I am proud and happy that both our members and leadership are seriously contemplating climate change.

The Provincial Executive (PE) responded to our motions by tabling alternative motions that passed resoundingly. Although the Educators Climate Alliance is thrilled to have started this conversation, the alternative motions are not nearly ambitious enough in relation to the size and importance of the climate issue. It remains clear that our members and our leadership need to internalize just how urgent this matter is. As Naomi Klein puts it regarding the climate emergency, “We need to stop looking away.”

The ECA knows that teachers and educational workers care deeply about their students and will not stand by as our carbon investments directly undermine their future. Educators and their unions need to demonstrate moral leadership on this issue. The fact that the alternative motions passed resoundingly suggests that there is momentum and a hunger for greater change. The three motions that passed fall far short of our goal for a divestment work group and divestment of our internal funds, but we recognize them as important first steps:

The three resolutions were:

  • Moved that Account 4147 be increased by $5 000 to fund membership in the Climate Action Network Canada.
  • Moved that AMPA direct the Communications and Political Action Committee and Environmental Advisory Work Group to provide recommendations to the Provincial Executive on a comprehensive strategy to achieve a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Recommendations for the strategy will focus on how to educate members about the issue and how to mobilize members toward political action to achieve legislation and regulatory changes that will reduce emissions. The Provincial Executive will submit a report to AMPA 2016 on how to best educate and mobilize members.
  • Moved that AMPA direct the Communications and Political Action Committee and Environmental Advisory Work Group to provide recommendations to the Provincial Executive for a submission to the ministry of the Environment and Climate Change 2015 Climate Change Discussion consultation process.

In the coming days we will blog answers to the following questions raised at AMPA:

  1. I don’t want to do anything that will put our pensions at risk. Will divestment from fossil fuels put our pensions at risk?
  2. I agree that we need to do something to address climate change, but why did you choose the divestment strategy which arguably won’t hurt the fossil fuels companies?
  3. Why did you choose to target only the corporations on The Carbon Underground 200 list and not all fossil fuel companies?
  4. Is adopting a divestment plan even possible when our pension board has a fiduciary duty to its members?‎

Great Documentaries for March Break

By Andrea Loken, science teacher and ECA co-founder

Here is a short list of some of my favourite documentaries related to climate change and the fossil fuel industry. Enjoy!

  1. Chasing Ice – 75 min – 2012 [on Netflix] – A visually stunning and totally inspiring chronicle of nature photographer James Balog’s epic “Extreme Ice Survey”. A gorgeous fusion of art and science.
  2. Disruption – 52 min – 2014 [watch and download for free or watch on YouTube] – Totally inspiring, but also challenging. From the website: “Through a relentless investigation to find the answer, Disruption takes an unflinching look at the devastating consequences of our inaction.”
  3. Do The Math – 42 min – 2013 [free] – The trailer is found at the link.  Also found here. This is a perfect primer for the “Three Scary Numbers” of climate science. It’s great for the SNC2D unit on Climate Change.
  4. Green World Rising – new series – From the website: “Green World Rising is a series of short films on solutions to climate change. The series is narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio, directed by Leila Conners, presented by Thom Hartmann and produced by Mathew Schmid, George DiCaprio, Earl Katz and Roee Sharon Peled.”
  5. Years of Living Dangerously – 2014 – 9 part series [Ep 1 is free] – Produced for Showtime by James Cameron, Jerry Weintraub and Arnold Schwarzenegger, this tells many stories about the devastating impacts of climate change on people right now.
  6. Gasland – 103 min – 2010 – Isn’t natural gas better than coal and oil? This documentary might blow your mind if you don’t know about “fracking”. Josh Fox exposes the many secrets and lies required for this industry to exist as he travels across the USA to get some answers. Very eye-opening. Also, watch it here. Or here.
  7. White Water, Black Gold – 57 min – 2012 – Canadian – Also, watch on TVO. I use this in my science curriculum all the time. From the website: “an investigative point-of-view documentary that follows David Lavallee on his three-year journey across western Canada in search of answers about the activities of the world’s thirstiest oil industry: the Tarsands. As a mountaineer and hiking guide, David is on the front lines of climate change. Over the past 15 years he has worked in the Columbia Icefields of the Canadian Rockies, and has noticed profound changes in the mountains: climate change is rendering these landscapes unrecognizable.”
  8. Mission Blue – 94 min – 2014 [on Netflix] – This is a gorgeous and compelling story documenting the work of trailblazer and oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle. The oceans are dying. She is on at mission to save them. “No ocean, no life. No ocean, no us.” Just watching the trailer gives me a lump in my throat.
  9. Occupy Love – 85 min – 2014 – I haven’t seen this film, but it’s on the top of my list! From the website: “Join acclaimed director Velcrow Ripper (Scared Sacred, Fierce Light) on a journey deep inside the revolution of the heart that is erupting around the planet, as he asks the question, “How could the crisis we are facing become a love story?””

Three Scary Numbers: A Lesson Plan

“Every now and then an article comes along that takes such a novel approach to an issue, I feel like I’m seeing something with new eyes. Such was the case when I read Bill McKibben’s 2012 Rolling Stone article, “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math.” It made me see our climate predicament with such clarity that I knew immediately I had to figure out how to turn this article into curriculum.”

Here is a 3 min video summarizing the three numbers.