From April 4th to 6th, 300 students from over 75 colleges and universities from across the United States and Canada gathered at San Francisco State University for the 2nd annual student-led Fossil Fuel Divestment Convergence. In February 2013, 150 students gathered at Swarthmore College to discuss and strategize about the role of the campus fossil fuel divestment campaign in moving forward for climate justice. Out of that convergence, students created the Fossil Fuel Divestment Student Network, and numerous regional networks were created or strengthened out of the gathering.
This year’s convergence was an important step in strengthening the power of students through national and regional networks, while also growing the network’s geographic and institutional reach across public and private schools across the nation. While 10 campuses have committed to full or partial fossil fuel divestment, including the hosts at SFSU, many college administrations have largely been resistant to the ask. In 2013, over a dozen schools received an official “no” from their administrations. Though far from giving up, students stand strong in the face of administrative resistance. Students have already taken first steps towards escalation by coalition-building and direct action, gaining attention nationwide with sit-ins, petitions, rallies, public art displays, referenda, and growing alumni and faculty support.
At one year old, this was a crucial moment for the divestment campaign; it helped regain the explosive momentum that drove it in 2013 by coordinating student efforts to spark a coordinated wave of bold escalated action. This convergence was designed to be that spark. In order to confront the overwhelming crisis of climate change we must not only build our organizing skills and leadership, but also build relationships and coalitions with others fighting the same forces; all of which are part of the founding principles of the convergence. Fossil fuel divestment is just one piece of taking on the fossil fuel industry, and will ground our conversations in the role of the divestment campaign in the larger Climate Justice movement.
Click Here for a copy of the 2014 Fossil Fuel Divestment Convergence program!
Brooke Anderson is a Labor Fellow at the Movement Generation Justice & Ecology Project where she is working to build a worker-led, grassroots labor movement for climate justice. Brooke got her start in the environmental justice movement, organizing against medical waste incinerators, but then spent over a decade in the labor movement both as an elected leader and staff organizer. She most recently spent 7 years at the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE), where she waged campaigns for hotel workers and port truck drivers, eventually serving as Deputy Director. In collaboration with 350.org last summer, she organized a Labor Contingent for Climate Justice, with over 30+ unions marching against the Keystone XL pipeline and the Richmond Chevron refinery. She also recently coordinated the release of a letter from 60+ environmental and climate justice organizations to the AFL-CIO urging them to join the struggle for climate justice.
John Avalos represents San Francisco’s District 11. He is a third generation Mexican-American, and one of seven children. John is among the first generation of his family to attend a four-year university, graduating with honors from UC Santa Barbara. He earned a Master’s Degree in Social Work from SF State and worked as a counselor at the San Francisco Conservation Corps and the Columbia Park Boys and Girls Club. John was an organizer with Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth and with the Justice for Janitors Campaign of the Service Employees International Union and won family-supporting wages and affordable health care. As a legislative aide to Supervisor Chris Daly, he helped craft the City’s budget, streamlining government and expanding funding for affordable housing, childcare, health and mental services, park restorations, and senior programs.
In 2008, John was elected to the Board of Supervisors. He has served as the Chair of the Budget and Finance Committee, leading the City’s efforts to close a $1 billion shortfall while preserving jobs and services, protecting essential senior and children’s services, and saving vital health programs. John has a strong and substantive legislative record. He passed the nation’s strongest local hiring legislation, providing thousands of living wage jobs for San Francisco residents. He has passed protections for tenants in foreclosed properties and need-based rental assistance to low-income families. He also increased the real estate transfer tax on high-end commercial buildings, which has brought in $50 million in new revenue annually. Most recently, his resolution urging the San Francisco Retirement Board to divest from fossil fuel companies was unanimously approved by the Board of Supervisors. He also serves as Chair of the Climate Protection Committee on the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) where he passed a resolution to reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.
Henia Belalia: “A French-Algerian native, a brown woman born between two very distinct worlds, I carry in my flesh the ancestral trauma and wisdom of those that have come before me. Early on, I felt the harsh realities of colonization, systemic oppression and segregation. For years, I turned to theatre as a means to call out and confront the injustices that plague our society. Experimental theatre gave me a vessel to break traditional artistic conventions and to play with different mediums to tell stories. But my art came up short, when I realized that I knew nothing about resistance, building power, or healing communal traumas. So I dove into grassroots organizing, with a short stop along the way within the mainstream environmental movement.
I believe in systemic change, in an analysis that addresses the intersections of systems of oppression, and in a process that elevates and centers historically marginalized voices. I’m inspired by communities that reclaim their narrative, their spaces and their sovereignty. A wise woman once told me that there are two times to organizing, the urgency of the struggle which often compromises the slow time of relationship-building. I’m committed to this slow time, to cross-movement building, to the practice of allysip, and to the process of walking on while asking questions (the Zapatistas’ caminar preguntando).
I’m a theatre director, a climate justice organizer, a land and rights defender, a facilitator, and a day dreamer of collective liberation. I’m an organizer with and the former director of Peaceful Uprising, and also currently with the collective Deep Roots United Front.”
Linda Capato is the Fracking Campaign Coordinator with 350.org who focuses elevating the connection of climate change and fracking across the US. Most recently, Linda has worked as a steering committee member of Californians Against Fracking, lead coordination of the mass rally Don’t Frack California, and has been working to coordinate direct action campaigns against the Keystone XL Pipeline. Before coming to 350.org full time, Linda was the Outreach Coordinator and National Organizer for the Tar Sands Action, recruiting over 1,200 people to risk arrest in front of the White House to fight Keystone XL. Having worked within the environmental movement for the last 7 years with Greenpeace and Rainforest Action Network, Linda also has ties to their local community in San Francisco training and mobilizing folks around LGBTQ, occupy, and environmental justice campaigns.
Anirvan Chatterjee and Barnali Ghosh: Anirvan (@anirvan) is a former dot.com CEO, radical walking tour guide, and climate activist from Berkeley, California. Don’t get him started on the climate impacts of dirty aviation. Barnali (@design4walking) works at the intersection of cities and climate. She is a landscape architect, public transit, walking, and biking advocate, and radical walking tour guide.
Carlos Davidson is a professor of Environmental Studies at San Francisco State University. Davidson has a Ph.D. in ecology from U.C. Davis and a masters degree in economics from U.C. Berkeley. Davidson co-authored the first greenhouse gas inventory for San Francisco State University, helped develop the campus Climate Action Plan, and has been active in campus sustainability and divestment issues. He chaired the Climate Action Plan Task Force for the city of Pacifica.
Gopal Dayaneni has worked for social, economic, and environmental justice through organizing & campaigning, teaching, writing, and speaking since the late 1980′s. He has been a campaigner for Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition on human rights and environmental justice in the high-tech industry and the Oil Campaigner for Project Underground, a human rights and environmental rights organizations which supported communities resisting oil and mining exploitation around the world. Gopal has also provided progressive organizations with support in Strategic Communications and Campaign Planning through the Design Action Collective and is an active trainer and organizer with the Ruckus Society and a member of the Progressive Communicators Network. Gopal is also an elementary and early childhood educator, working formerly as a teacher and as the co-director of the Tenderloin Childcare Center, a community based childcare center supporting children and families forced into homelessness.
“In December 2008, Tim DeChristopher engaged in civil disobedience at a fraudulent Bureau of Land Management auction, which was selling off parcels of pristine Utah wilderness to the oil and gas industry without any assessment of the environmental impacts. Initially joining protestors outside the auction, Tim felt he must engage in direct action, and entered the building. Once inside, he was asked if he was there to bid; surprised, Tim made a quick decision to register for the auction, and as Bidder number 70, went inside the auction room. Recognizing the power his paddle wielded, he began driving up the cost of each land parcel, and eventually bid on and won over 22,000 acres ($1.8 million) of land with no intention or ability to pay for them-this shut the auction down. Tim was escorted out, but because the BLM had violated its own rules, the land up for auction ultimately stayed out of the hands of the oil and gas industry. While waiting to go to trial, Tim’s story galvanized the local community, and he founded Peaceful Uprising to bring together those willing to take principled action to defend a livable future. After 9 postponements of his trial, Tim was convicted of two felonies in March 2011, sentenced to two years in prison on July 26th of that year, and taken to prison the same day. He was released from federal custody last April, and is now a student at the Harvard Divinity School, where he continues to inspire people to construct collective, direct, and innovative solutions to the climate crisis, and to the broader oppression that results from our profit-driven paradigm.
Tim’s story was documented in Bidder 70. You can watch the trailer here.”
Christine Muehlman Gyovai is the Principal of Dialogue + Design Associates and an Affiliated Associate at the Institute for Environmental Negotiation at the University of Virginia. She coordinates and co-facilitates the Clinch River Valley Initiative and Central Appalachia Food Heritage project with IEN. She holds certificates in mediation and permaculture design, and she consults and lectures regionally about permaculture with the Blue Ridge Permaculture Network. She holds a M.U.E.P. in Urban and Environmental Planning from the University of Virginia and a B.S. in Environmental Studies from Burlington College. She lives at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains with her husband and two young children.
Wahleah Johns comes from the Navajo (Dine) Nation and the community of Forest Lake, one of several communities atop Black Mesa. She is a founding member of Black Mesa Water Coalition as well as its longest lasting employee. In her several years at BMWC she has played various roles, all which have led to groundbreaking legislative victories for groundwater protection, green jobs, and environmental justice. In her most recent position as BMWC’s Black Mesa Solar Project Coordinator, Wahleah is working out of the bay area in California to gain organizational expertise and support for transitioning Black Mesa’s reclaimed mining lands to solar farms.
Marcel Jones is the Chair of the Black Student Union at UC Berkeley and resident of Afro House (part of the Berkeley Student Cooperative), Marcel Jones is a student organizer dedicated to communal resistance and cross-cultural coalition building. Marcel has experience participating in multiple organizing spaces including the UC Berkeley divestment campaigns from Israeli occupation and the Prison Industrial Complex. Current efforts that Marcel is working on include the No2Napolitano campaign, UC Prison Divestment, increasing resources for Black students, chairing a conference addressing the school-to-prison pipeline, and increasing people of color cooperatives. Coming from a power to the people mentality and an intersectional framework, Marcel believes in leading with dreams rooted in a critical analysis of our realities.
Dr. Philip King received his Ph.D. from Cornell in 1987. His specialty is in Applied Microeconomics and Environmental Economies. He is an Associate Professor in Economics at San Francisco State University and was chair from 2002-2005. His main research involves the economics of coastal resources and sea level rise. He has published numerous papers on the economics of seal level rise in California and on the benefits and costs of various SLR policies. Dr King is currently Chair of the SF State Foundation’s Finance and Investment Committee.
Cynthia Kaufman is the Director of the Institute of Community and Civic Engagement at De Anza College where she also teaches Philosophy. She is the author of two books on social change “Getting Past Capitalism: History, Vision, Hope (Lexington Books 2012) and Ideas for Action: Relevant Theory for Radical Change (South End Press 2003). She is a lifelong social change activist, having worked on issues such as tenants’ rights, police abuse, union organizing, international politics, and most recently climate change. She received her PhD and M.A. in Philosophy from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and her B.A. in Development Studies from University of California, Berkeley.
“Deirdre Lally is an organizer and organic farmer in rural central Pennsylvania. After years spent in campaigns against mountaintop-removal coal financiers, she learned that hydraulic fracturing for natural gas had come to her family’s home on the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania, and began organizing. Since gas drilling’s arrival in PA in the early 2000’s, she has been involved in direct action campaigns to protect state forests from drilling, quick-response community support efforts such as Save Riverdale, and is now involved in a listening project in a heavily fracked county in PA and community outreach and movement base-building work with the Shalefield Organizing Committee.”
Freddy Lozano: “Born in Barranquilla, Colombia and a union leader and social activist since 1990, Freddy studied Industrial Maintenance in Colombia’s main technical institute. He has completed his seventh semester in the Simón Bolívar University Law School in Barranquilla. He has been president of the Puerto Bolívar chapter of the National Union of Workers in the Coal Industry (SINTRACARBÓN). In 2009, he received the first “positive” prize awarded by Public Eye in Davos, Switzerland, for his work supporting the communities affected by the Cerrejón coal complex. He works for the CERREJON company (owned by BHP Billiton, Anglo American, and Xstrata), which operates the largest open-pit coal mine in Latin America.
Nació en Barranquilla, Colombia y dirigente sindical y social desde 1990, Freddy estudió Mantenimiento Industrial en la principal escuela técnica de Colombia, actualmente cursa séptimo semestre de derecho en la Universidad Simón Bolívar de Barranquilla. Ha sido presidente por tres ocasiones de la seccional Puerto Bolívar del Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Industria del Carbón (SINTRACARBÓN). El año 2009 se hace merecedor al primer premio “positivo” que entrega el ‘Public Eye en Davos Suiza por su labor a favor de las comunidades vecinas al complejo Carbonífero “El Cerrejón”. Es trabajador de la empresa CERREJON, multinacional (bhp billiton, Anglo American, Xstrata) que explota la mina de carbón a cielo abierto más grande de América Latina.”
Lyana A. Monterrey is the Co-Founder of Pittsburg Ethics Council & Pittsburg Defense Council. Born and raised in San Francisco, I currently live with my husband (George) of 35 years in Pittsburg, California. I have been in the financial services industry for over 34 years. Our contribution to the community started with organizing youth baseball some 35 years ago. Our involvement in community organizing and work to stop a proposed project called WesPac, a massive crude oil storage & transfer facility in Pittsburg, started in August 2013. We have also been supporting neighboring communities against crude by rail and from becoming a major hub for fossil fuel export.
Saliem Shahadeh studies Middle East/South Asia Studies and Political Science at UC Davis and is a member of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). In the spring of 2013, SJP brought to the table of its associated student body a resolution calling for corporate accountability in Israel/Palestine. The resolution calls for the UC Regents to maintain an investment portfolio free from companies complicit in the occupation of the Palestinian territories.
“Melvin Lee Willis, Jr. is a 23-year-old activist/ community organizer in Richmond, working with groups Like ACCE (Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment), RPA (Richmond Progressive Alliance), and BMOER (Black Mobilization Organization for Education in Richmond). All these groups cover a large variety of community issues, such as racism, environmental justice, holding banks accountable, and making sure that elected officials (from a local to state level) represent the peop;e and not the top 1%.”
Tracy Zhu is the Associate for Ditching Dirty Diesel Collaborative, a regional coalition that fights to reduce diesel air pollution in low-income communities of color. In the past, she did environmental education, youth development, and green building management at Literacy for Environmental Justice in Bayview Hunters Point, SF. She lives in southeast San Francisco, where she continues to build community power of Asian American immigrant families to engage in environmental justice issues. Tracy first learned how to honor and draw strength from the struggles and successes of communities of color while she was earning her BA in Environmental Studies at Mount Holyoke College. She is an active member of the board of LYRIC and holds the environmental justice seat on the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission’s Citizens’ Advisory Committee.