Why divestment if, arguably, it won’t hurt fossil fuel companies?

by Andrea Loken, science Teacher and ECA co-founder

It always seems impossible until it’s done.” – Nelson Mandela

Divestment is working – for what we want to achieve.

Divestment is not about hurting the fossil fuel companies in the short term. It may be true that within our current economic model, to sell off stocks in fossil fuel companies just means that someone else will buy them, causing no net harm and the industry will chug along.

Divestment is about exposing fossil fuel companies and the elites who run them as morally reprehensible; it is about choosing alternative, sustainable energy sources; and it is about creating a new model for our economic system that works for more than just the 1%.

On the first point: In one of the articles in the grounding breaking series about climate change published by the Guardian newspaper, an excellent analogy was made to slavery. Slavery was and is profitable. But as society has shifted its ideas, slavery is now considered by most to be an offensive practice. The human suffering and cost is simply not acceptable. Fossil fuel companies should be seen in this way. They should not be allowed to operate, let alone profit, at the cost of wrecking our life support systems.

Secondly, we already know how to produce energy sustainably. A new energy grid could be de-centralized, diverse and reliable. We can also become massively more efficient with local consumption and co-generation of energy. Communities around the world are already doing this. In addition, we need to stop viewing the planet as our smorgasbord – gluttonously consuming everything we can and treating the earth as our trash can. This mentality is fruitfully broken down by the good folks at the Story of Stuff Project.

Thirdly, as mentioned in our last post, our economic system isn’t working. It has worked wonderfully in the last 30 years to transfer wealth from the public sphere to a few elite. No one organism is more entitled to the earth’s resources than any other. But somehow we have become conditioned to believe that a certain amount of greed is okay; some people must work harder than others and therefore must deserve more. Here is an article (and the abridged version), written by a member of this super-elite who explains the folly in this type of thinking.

The same forces that have decimated indigenous people all over the world, have oppressed minorities of every kind, and fostered violence against women, are now attacking labour. The point is to divide and conquer – to have us fighting each other rather than working together to reject the corporate enslavement and build a better model. “Another world is possible,” is a common chant of youth at climate rallies and other protests all around the world. Make no mistake; we WILL build a better world and it may need to break the current system first. As climate activist, Tim DeChristopher, puts it in this speech, “maybe we are trying to ruin the economy.” We want nothing less than a world where everyone can thrive and prosper. It is entirely possible. Watch this profoundly moving video by spoken word artist Shane Koyczan. “We can do this.”

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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!

Everything you wanted to ask about the Guardian’s #keepitintheground divestment campaign


The Educators Climate Alliance is calling on Ontario Educators to be leaders on climate action, too!

We hope you have joined 100,000+ to sign the Guardian’s petition. Please sign ours too! [here]

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?‎

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.


Top 200 fossil fuel companies

On the “Fossil Free Indexes: The Carbon Underground 2015” website, it states:

“The Carbon Underground 200 identifies the top 100 public coal companies globally and the top 100 public oil and gas companies globally, ranked by the potential carbon emissions content of their reported reserves. The reserves of these companies total 555 gigatons (Gt) of potential CO2 emissions, almost five times more than can be burned for the world to have an 80% chance of limiting global temperature rise to 2°C (3.6° F).”

Find ‘The Carbon Underground 200’ here under the tab ‘Rankings’: