Butts on the Floor

What does institutional power really look like? As student divestment activists we lobby our colleges to get them to activate their institutional leverage on behalf of people and planet, but when do we get a glimpse of this force?

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I believe I caught a peak last Friday. On that day at noon, 272 Whitman College students, faculty, and alums took seats on the well-carpeted floor of Memorial Hall. On the mezzanine outside of conference room 321 where the Trustees had been seated in leather office chairs, the group settled in for their hour-long occupation. These 272 of all different sizes persuasions, sitting close together in this gilded hall (right beneath our campus’s ivory-white clock tower I kid you not) were to me a breathing portrait of an institution mobilized, and a constituency ready to act together.

Behind the doors of room 321 were also three members of student government lead by senior and President Tatiana Kaehler. Tatiana would have 15 minutes to present two pieces of divestment legislation on behalf of the Divest Whitman campaign and their legion of supporters ensconced outside, and ask the trustees for a timely response to the demands of those documents. As usual, the board’s functioning was kept pretty opaque in the lead up to this action and there was no way to know whether or not we would have a response by the end of the hour. But that didn’t dampen the spirits of our sitters in the least. 23 boxes of pizza provided by a generous alumni supporter fed the crowd, and 3 different student photographers captured the scene from all angles. About twenty minutes in, it became clear that those taking part in the sit-in weren’t there just to see the trustees emerge from their room and address the crowd. Instead, those sitting in were there to say that this characteristic unresponsiveness would be no longer acceptable. Their presence marked the beginning of a new wave of campus action that will make itself heard, felt, and seen until it is met with commensurate attention from higher-ups.

We might not hear from our board in response to our legislation until fall 2015, and they will most likely decline to take the serious action that the campus they supposedly steward is demanding. But they also won’t be able to huddle in inaction forever. The Whitman College community has been mobilized, and we will sit, stand, shout, and speak for however long it takes to get our school on the right side of history. This is what our record-breaking action showed me. That is why I know what institutional power looks like—it’s not the ominous ivory tower; it’s the sea of people crowded beneath it who put their butts on the floor for climate justice.


Three days ago, 33 Tufts students and alumni of Tufts Climate Action began a sit-in in President Monaco’s office.

After three years of campaigning, we are here to demand that Tufts divest its 80 million dollars in fossil fuels, an industry that will cause 100 million deaths worldwide by 2030 from climate devastation and pollution. These casualties are and will continue to be in predominantly low-income areas and communities of color that are already fighting for their lives.

For those who are just joining us: we are not sitting in because it’s fun. We are doing this because we have been left no other option for meaningful dialogue on divestment. We started this campaign back in September of 2012, and have attempted to work through every possible administrative channel. First, we showed popular support with a student referendum in which 74% of voters favored divestment. In tandem, the Tufts student senate passed a divestment resolution 24 to 1. We then tried contacting President Monaco and the Tufts Board of Trustees to discuss divestment, but we were met with closed doors, and unanswered emails and phone calls. After continuing this pressure, President Monaco finally established a working group to “examine divestment”. But the administration set this committee up to fail. They staffed it with financial advisers whose inflexible, profit-over-everything investment plan refuses to weigh moral costs of fossil fuel investments.  They did not allow us to bring in unbiased financial experts, nor did they allow us to make public the findings of the committee. Instead of honestly investigating the feasibility of divestment, the administrators on the Investment Committee went into the process trying to disprove divestment from the beginning and set up their findings to do just that.

So here we sit, a year later, in President Monaco’s office, refusing to let the administration stonewall us yet again. By investing in fossil fuels, Tufts continues to profit from the exploitation and devastation of the people who did the least to cause the climate crisis — mostly low-income communities of color around the world, who are already struggling for survival. As the climate crisis worsens each day, whose side will Tufts be on? That of the fossil fuel industry, or that of climate justice and the renewable energy future that we need? We vote with our 1.6 billion dollar endowment . We cannot claim to stand for global “active citizenship” with one hand, while profiting off global climate chaos with the other.

We know we are on the right side of history, and that Board Chairman Peter Dolan, President Monaco and the Tufts administration can never justify profiting off of climate injustice. Yet, instead of facing the realities of their immoral investments, the administration is refusing our ask for a public dialogue with Chairman Peter Dolan and the Board, and our request to continue negotiations on divestment. President Monaco has refused to come back to his own office and meet with us, despite being on campus. Our administration has told us that if we are to have any form of communication with the Board, it won’t happen until next semester; yet every day that goes by, the urgency and suffering caused by climate change increases. They told us yesterday they would not be allowing any food into the building. The administration’s response to students who are simply asking for an endowment that doesn’t destroy communities, our future and our planet, is unjustified and shameful.

Tufts has said it “will not divest at this time.”  If not now, then when? How many extreme weather events and deaths that we are endorsing with our investments will it take for us to take a stand against the fossil fuel industry? Divestment can be done – we know dozens of other institutions and corporations that have commingled endowment funds similar to Tufts that have begun the process of divestment, such as University of Syracuse, the city of Seattle, the University of Maine system, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Meanwhile, the one million dollar Sustainability Fund that Tufts set up last year to appease us is a meager 0.05% of our endowment. In short, Tufts is not doing what it has the power and responsibility to do to address the greatest threat our world has ever faced.

That is why we are sitting in President Monaco’s office, refusing to leave until our food runs out and we are forced to go. We invite all those who share our wonderful city of Boston, along with those across the world, to join this growing movement. Join us in solidarity with those resisting at the front-lines of climate injustice and help make sure that Tufts ends up on the right side of history.

We will continue this fight, only growing stronger, to demand divestment of our school, and that Tufts lives up to its values and stops actively supporting the devastation of the earth and its inhabitants.

Alumni Divestment Network Principles

 What we believe, how we organize, why we unite:

These principles build off those established by the DSN in order to further clarify the specific intentions and beliefs guiding the ADN organizing community as we build a network of long haul organizers.

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  1. Organizing for climate justice is a life-long commitment. Building a just transition to the non-extractive economy means creating a movement that is sustainable far beyond college graduation. We are committed to building a strong community of young organizers to support each other in bringing our whole selves to this work for the rest of our lives.

  2. Post-college organizers have a unique role to play in strengthening the existing fossil fuel divestment movement, building the movement for climate justice, and fighting for system change beyond divestment. We amplify student voices and support campus organizing, while also advancing off-campus action for climate justice.

  3. We value strong relationships as central to powerful movements and essential to supporting a lifelong commitment to organizing.  Building political community is at the foundation of our work, so that we can maximize our power together.

  4. We are dedicated to overcoming barriers inhibiting folks from organizing post college, including student debt, job insecurity, mental health, isolation, and structural racism and sexism, by developing pathways to financial, mental, and emotional stability in organizing

  5. Fighting for collective liberation and an end to white supremacy is integral in the creation of a powerful and sustainable movement for the long-haul. We aim to advance projects and campaigns in line with the principles of climate and environmental justice and guided by an intersectional racial justice politic.

  6. We are committed to deepening our political analyses, organizing skills, and understandings of the world.  We are committed to learning and growing together, as organizers and as whole people.

  7. We welcome everyone who is looking for political community beyond their campus experience. We use “alum” and “alumni” as broad and inclusive terms for folks no longer organizing on campus. While the ADN is a unique space for recent alums, we are committed to building an intergenerational movement.

Organizing Pledge Project


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One of the most powerful things about the Fossil Fuel Divestment Movement is how it has mobilized and trained thousands of students and young people to organize in the fight against the climate crisis. Our targets expect us to stop organizing after graduation. They are waiting for our leaders to graduate so our campaigns will weaken, but we refuse to graduate out of the movement. The state of the crisis demands that we continue organizing for climate and social justice long after we leave campus. Through the Organizing Pledge Project, we are sharing stories about what brings us to this work, and why we are committed to organizing for the long-term.

Click on a name to see the full image!

Alyssa Lee, UCLA ’14

Dear classmates, fellow students, and fellow organizers,

My name is Alyssa Lee and I graduated from UCLA in Spring 2014. During my college years ,I was involved in countless groups that served to represent UCLA. I was a dedicated member of the Solid Gold Sound Marching Band and played the UCLA Fight Song more times than I can reasonably count.  I was an active sister of Tau Beta Sigma, the honorary band sorority that worked with Girl Scout troops in LA and promoted women in leadership. I was a grantwriter with the Mobile Clinic Project at UCLA and helped to raise over $19,500 for a free clinic that served the homeless in the Greater Los Angeles area. I was an active member of over nine campus organizations. I have cheered for our athletics teams through the heat and the rain. I know how to sing all of our many fight songs (and the harmonies!). If you needed to know where to go on campus to book a room, get some funding, hold an event, I was the person who you asked. I knew the ins and outs of campus and I was proud of it.

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Varshini Prakash, UMass ’15

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Hayden Higgins, Davidson ’12

Dear Davidson,

My name is Hayden Higgins and I am an alumni of Davidson College. I graduated in 2012 and currently live in Washington, DC, where—in my scant free time—I volunteer with a grassroots citizen’s group called DC Divest. As a member of DC Divest, I have given speeches, lobbied councilmembers, and asked for signatures in the freezing cold, all as a part of the divestment movement for climate justice.

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Franky Navarrette, CU Boulder ’16

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Christian O’Rourke, Boston College ’12

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Emily Williams, UCSB ’13

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Sarah Ponticello, Northern Arizona University ’14

With so much emphasis being put on the “Green” movement, the mentality around what being Green is has been lost. It seems no longer to be a personal moral decision to live sustainably, but a corporate logo to instill confidence in a brand. Greenwashing is a serious issue as more and more people are seeking out the morally responsible product. There are no larger corporations that are abusing this than the oil industry. Companies that are determined to pollute our atmosphere and destroy our environment are now targeting the climate movement.

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Sara Blazevic, Swarthmore ’15

Dear fellow youth organizers,

My name is Sara Blazevic and I am a senior at Swarthmore College.

I am an organizer with Swarthmore Mountain Justice, a part of the movement for fossil fuel divestment and climate justice. The fossil fuel industry and college administrators are waiting for student organizing to subside as we graduate, but I am writing to pledge my commitment to this movement for the long haul.

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Caitlin Piserchia, UMontana ’15

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Morgan Curtis, Dartmouth ’14

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Victoria Fernandez, UC Berkeley ’15

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Marcie Smith, Transylvania University

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Nina Macapinlac, Rutgers ’14

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KC Alvey, Cornell ’12

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Silver Hannon, UC Berkeley ’14

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Doug Miller, NYU ’14

Dear Southeastern Seniors,

My name is Doug Miller. I am now 25, and was born in Tallahassee Florida where I now live. I graduated from New York University in May of 2012, and became an organizer with the Fossil Fuel Divestment Student Network in May of 2014. The fossil fuel industry and college administrators are waiting for student organizing to subside as you graduate, but I am writing to affirm my commitment to you and to our movement for the long haul. I’d like to ask you to do the same.

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PD Gantert, CU Boulder ’16

My Fellow Climate Activists and Justice Organizers,

I am an organizer with Fossil Free CU, a campaign in the movement for fossil fuel divestment and climate justice. I began organizing for divestment two years ago, and know that the fossil fuel industry and my college administrators are waiting for student organizing to subside as we graduate; I am writing to pledge my commitment to this movement for the long haul. Through this, I speak not only to the great challenge that lies ahead, but to the revitalization that comes through movement building. Our movement has a lot of work to do if we are to overcome current and future global destitution, but I believe in the soulful healing that can happen along the way.

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Miles Goodrich, Bowdoin College ’15

Dear student climate justice organizers everywhere,

My name is Miles Goodrich and come May, I will graduate from Bowdoin College. The turning of the tassels at commencement will mark the end of one chapter in my life. It will not, however, mark the end of my organizing for a just and sustainable future through fossil fuel divestment. I am graduating from Bowdoin; I am not graduating from the climate justice movement.

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Michaela Steiner, Northern Arizona University ’16

Dear Fellow Climate Justice Organizers,

My name is Michaela Steiner and I am a student at Northern Arizona University, class of 2016.

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Lina Blount, Bryn Mawr ’13

Dear friends, family, and fellow youth organizers and fighters,

My name is Lina Blount and I’m a Bryn Mawr Graduate from 2013.  I studied Growth and Structure of Cities, with a minor in Environmental Studies.  And in the Spring of 2011 I helped found a divestment campaign at my campus.

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Nathan Malachowski, Allegheny College ’14

Dear Fellow Climate Justice Organizers,

My name is Nathan Malachowski, and I am an alum of Allegheny College Class of 2014. Now I am a community organizer with Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement working to block the construction of the proposed Bakken Pipeline, which would threaten Iowa communities and the health and well-being of current and future generations.

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Jake Soiffer, UC Berkeley ’17

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Lauren Ressler, Seattle U ’11

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Ian Trupin, Brown ‘13.5

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Sonny Lawrence D. Alea, SFSU ’14

My name is Sonny Lawrence D. Alea, I am an alumni of San Francisco State University (SFSU), class of 2014. I began my organizing journey helping with the Fossil Free SFSU campaign, which is part of the growing movement calling for institutions around the world to divest from the fossil fuel industry and stop profiting from climate change. The fossil fuel industry and many of our schools’ administrators are hoping that the movement loses momentum as student organizers graduate from college, move on, and eventually forget about the campaign. I however, will not graduate from this movement; I pledge to only grow as an organizer and do what I can to help strengthen this movement towards victory.

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Sean Estelle, UCSD ’13

My name is Sean Estelle and I am an alumnus of the University of California, San Diego (Class of 2013).  I am the National Divestment Campaigner for Energy Action Coalition, and I’m building a long-term movement for student power to transform our institutions of higher education until they are as truly committed to issues of climate justice and social justice.

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Jess Grady-Benson, Pitzer ’14

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Will Lawrence, Swarthmore ’13

To my fellow young activists, artists and organizers:

I’m a recent alumnus of Swarthmore College, where I co-founded the fossil fuel divestment campaign and worked on it for three years.

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Hannah Jones, Swarthmore ’12

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Zein Nakhoda, Swarthmore ’12

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Priya Mulgaontar, NYU ’15

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Kourtney Dillavou, Ball State ’14

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Dinah Dewald, Swarthmore College ’13

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Leland Wright, Knox College ’16

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Jason Schwartz, San Francisco State University ’15

Dear Fellow Fossil Fuel Divestment Organizers,

My name is Jason Schwartz and I am a student at San Francisco State University. I am a fifth-year senior and will be graduating soon. I am also an organizer with Fossil Free SFSU and the Divestment Student Network, both part of the movement for climate justice. The fossil fuel industry and college administrators are waiting for student organizing to subside as we graduate, but I am writing to pledge my commitment to this movement for the long haul.

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Becca Rast, Brown University ’13

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Emily Kirkland, Brown University ’13

Dear fellow organizers for climate justice,

My name is Emily Kirkland, and I am an alumna of Brown University, Class of 2013.  As a student, I organized with Fossil Free Brown, and I continue to support the campaign as much as I can. The fossil fuel industry and college administrators are waiting for student organizing to subside as we graduate, but I am writing to pledge my commitment to this movement for the long haul.

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Ben Ishibashi, Whitman College ’14

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Brunswick, ME — Early Wednesday morning, 28 Bowdoin students entered President Barry Mill’s office for a “Sit-In for Climate Justice,” refusing to leave until the College committed to collaborating with them on fossil fuel divestment.

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“We proposed divestment to the trustees back in October and were ignored.  They haven’t taken the calls of our community seriously,” said Bowdoin senior Matthew Miles Goodrich. “Because the Board has refused to work with us, we’re taking action for climate justice.”

The sit-in is the culmination of three years of campus organizing. Last April, Bowdoin Climate Action presented 1000 student signatures–representing the majority of campus–for divestment to President  Mills.  With 70 faculty members expressing support, the group formally proposed divestment to the Board of Trustees last October, but student presenters were cut off when inquiring about next steps.

“We’re sitting in because we have to ask our trustees whose side they are on,” said first-year Shinhee Kang.  “Do they side with their students, which the endowment is invested for, or an industry whose practices are antithetical to our values and the common good?”

In addition, Bowdoin Climate Action published a letter endorsing the sit-in, signed by 38 alums, including Director of Spiritual Life Bob Ives ‘69, and 16 parents including Harvard historian of science Naomi Oreskes and former chairs of the Bowdoin parents donation fund Stuart Shapiro and Janice Lee. “We commend these students for continuing to push despite the College’s refusal to productively engage with this issue,” it reads. “These students, as part of a growing worldwide movement, have demonstrated to our community that fossil fuel divestment is necessary, both morally and financially.”

“Just yesterday, Syracuse University, where President Mills received his PhD, announced the divestment of its billion dollar endowment from fossil fuels after students sat in,” said junior Allyson Gross. “Momentum is growing, and Bowdoin, as the college of the Common Good, needs to be a leader.”

This marks the third campus sit-in for fossil fuel divestment in three weeks, following occupations at Swarthmore College and the University of Mary Washington.


Read the demand of Bowdoin Climate Action’s Sit-In for Climate Justice

This article was originally published on Bowdoin Climate Action’s website.

Alumni Divestment Network

Who We Are:

The fossil fuel industry is hoping our movement will lose power as our student organizers graduate. With the Alumni Divestment Network, we’re proving them wrong. The ADN is committed to uniting and supporting movement alums (graduates and college seniors in the divestment movement) to continue organizing post-graduation.  Rather than diminishing in power as student organizers graduate, our movement will grow exponentially stronger as student leaders become movement organizers for the long-haul.

What We Do:

1) Building Political Community:

  • Providing support and resources for alums organizing post-college
  • Furthering political education through a reading group
  • Mentoring college seniors in their transition into post-college organizing
  • Building deep relationships among divestment movement alums to continue expanding the power and breadth of the divestment network

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2) Leveraging Alumni Power for Student Divestment:

  • Assess the needs of student campaigns and determining strategic ways to leverage young alumni organizing capacity to support the student movement
  • Goal of building self-sufficient alumni organizing team to leverage power for the student movement

3) Organizing Beyond Divestment:

  • Over the next two years, the ADN is bridging the gap between campus divestment campaigns and off-campus climate justice organizing.  We envision establishing local hubs of action across the country, led by alums, students, and local frontline community organizations to fight the fossil fuel industry and build a just transition to an economy for people and the planet.

How To Get Involved:

We invite all movement alumni and college seniors who have been involved in student divestment to join the alumni divestment network.  Contact alumnidivestnetwork@gmail.com to get involved.  Current possibilities for engagement include the political education reading group and the student divestment support team. Look out for upcoming opportunities and feel free to contact us with any questions!

Check out our Organizing Pledge Project 

Through the Organizing Pledge Project, we are sharing stories about what brings us to this work, and why we are committed to organizing for the long-term. We encourage you to check out and participate in our project as we work toward a just and sustainable world.

DSN People of Color Caucus


The POC Caucus is open to students, alumni, and staff in the fossil fuel divestment movement who identity as people of color. We believe in the power of centering our identities and knowing our histories. We create spaces for people of color in our movement to network, share skills, and build alignment. The POC Caucus is:

  • A political home for divestment organizers of color. A space for relationship building, peer-mentorship, skill-sharing, and political education. We center the intersections of race and ecology in our relationships and commitment to climate justice.
  • A voice of the Divestment Student Network and broader divestment movement. 
  • A bridge between fossil fuel divestment networks, other student/youth movements, and grassroots climate justice groups.

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This semester we’re doing a collective study on #BlackLivesMatter & Ecology. As diverse folks of color – including Black, Asian American, Desi, Latina, first and second generation immigrants, mixed-race and mixed-heritage folks – we reflect together on a core principle of #BlackLivesMatter, ‘when Black people in this country get free, we all get free’ and the relationship between Black liberation and climate justice.

Read along and follow our #BlackLivesMatter & Ecology study through tumblr!
To get involved, email Sachie Hopkins-Hayakawa (sachiehh [at] gmail.com) or Zein Nakhoda (zein.nakhoda [at] gmail.com).

#BlackLivesMatter & Ecology Study

 The global liberation of Black people is fundamental to the preservation of life on this Earth in the presence of climate chaos

Quinton Sankofa in Black Liberation and Ecology

Delegates to the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit held on October 24-27, 1991, in Washington DC, drafted and adopted 17 principles of Environmental Justice.  Since then, The Principles have served as a defining document for the growing grassroots movement for environmental justice.

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Panelists from Black Liberation and Ecologyevent we watched for our second study give a shout out to this song by Marvin Gaye.


March 23, 2015

Black Liberation and Ecology” (event hosted by Wose (Wō-say) Community of Oakland, Ile Omode (E-lay O-mo-day) School, Sponsored by Movement Generation, The Brotherhood of Elders)

Principles of Environmental JusticeDelegates to the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit held on October 24-27, 1991, in Washington DC, drafted and adopted 17 principles of Environmental Justice. Since then, The Principles have served as a defining document for the growing grassroots movement for environmental justice.

Why #BlackLivesMatter Should Transform the Climate Debate (Naomi Klein)

Robert Bullard – The Genesis of Environmental Justice” (very brief introduction to EJ movement history); archival Material from Warren County PCB protests: Newsreel Footage + Photos

1 note

Sonny Lawrence Alea ‘14

Reflecting on Reclaiming Abuelita Knowledge: “Pursuing environmental studies and trying to be “green” has, instead of bringing me closer to the earth and to my roots, taken me in a direction of separating me from my Filipino culture…When I came back from the retreat this weekend, the first thing I did was ask my mom to make me a Filipino breakfast. It was something I craved after being surrounded by people who affirmed that I have a place in the DSN.” – Sonny, Fossil Free SFSU Alumnus

Sachie Hopkins-Hayakawa ‘13

“The divestment movement for me has been a series of moments where I could step out and say, I don’t see myself reflected in this movement, so it isn’t the movement for me, or I could step in, and work to make it the movement I want it to be and we need it to be. And part of working in the Caucus for me has been stepping in, and building relationships that give us the courage to do what is hard.” – Sachie, Swarthmore Mountain Justice Alumnus, Maypop Collective

Maya Jenkins ‘18

“I thought about the tendency towards unity without struggle. Because we’ve been torn apart for so long, that we crave this unity. But I remember being pulled into green spaces and everyone rallied around the notion that climate change is the one thing that is going to affect everyone. But just because it’s global, that doesn’t mean we’re all the same. It affects everyone disproportionately, and so we there will be deep struggle as we try to unite around climate issues.” – Maya, Fossil Free Yale

 Social inequities are a key form of ecological erosion.

Movement General Justice & Ecology Project


March 9, 2015

A Herstory of the #BlackLivesMatter Movement (Alicia Garza)

Ecology & Racial Justice: On Ferguson, State Violence, & the Proper Management of Home (Movement Generation)

Reclaiming Abuelita Knowledge As A Brown Ecofeminista (lalobaloca)

We are NOT all Trayvon: Challenging Anti-Black Racism in POC Communities (Asam Ahmad)

Practicing #Asians4BlackLives Solidarity: 5 Lessons from #shutdownOPD (Christine Cordero)

Why the Climate Movement Must Stand with Ferguson (Deirdre Smith)

Open Source Curriculum for our #BlackLivesMatter & Ecology Study (Photo: POC Caucus Members at a DSN retreat with the Wildfire Project)

Detroit does not fight climate change in the abstract.  It’s a daily struggle because the oil refinery and trash incinerator are literally in our backyards. Climate injustice is not just a “one day it will happen” event; we feel it when we bury and mourn our sons and daughters. Detroit’s asthma deaths are three to five times higher than Michigan’s average.

Black Liberation and Ecology Movement Generation Justice & Ecology Project

37 Swarthmore Students and 6 Alumni Begin Sit-in in Finance and Investments Office for Divestment

Early this morning, Swarthmore Mountain Justice launched an extended sit-in for fossil fuel divestment on the campus that birthed the now global divestment campaign, kicking off a historic spring of escalating nonviolent action throughout the student divestment movement. The 37 students and 6 alumni are asking the Swarthmore Board Investment Committee Chair Chris Niemczewski and Board Chair Gil Kemp to return to the negotiating table and agree to end the College’s investments in a rogue industry that violates Swarthmore’s Quaker values and recklessly imperils a just and sustainable future for our generation.

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About the Fossil Fuel Divestment Convergence 2014

From April 4th to 6th, 300 students from over 75 colleges and universities from across the United States and Canada will gather 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.

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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 will be 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 9 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 is a crucial moment for the divestment campaign; it has the potential to regain the explosive momentum that drove it in 2013 by coordinating student efforts to spark a coordinated wave of bold escalated action. This convergence is 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 is 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.

 Why the Convergence?

Mentorship and Training: Preparing Students for the Long Haul

The convergence provides the infrastructure for peer-to-peer mentorship within the divestment campaign. Students can learn from each other’s stories and skills in building power on campus, working with university administrations, collaborating with local grassroots organizations, and escalating to win on divestment. Not only will this lead to a longer-lasting divestment campaign, but it will also train leaders who will continue to organize after graduating.

Strategy and Escalation:

While we have seen some phenomenal successes in the divestment campaign over the past year, it is also clear that we need to start escalating and putting pressure on our administrations and boards. Escalating strategically is a carefully cultivated skill that can be honed through workshops, mentorship, and sharing stories. The convergence will be a space for students to do just that. Campuses that have escalated will share their successes and their lessons learned, students will learn about creative direct actions that will put pressure on their boards and win on-campus support, and each campus will be connected long-term with other campuses who are looking to escalate.

Reinvestment and the Just Transition:

In order for us to truly confront the climate crisis, we need to not confront the fossil fuel industry, but also create community-owned alternatives to a fossil fuel-based economy. At this year’s convergence, we will be connecting students with community organizers who are not only fighting the fossil fuel industry in their backyards, but also working to transition to a local, sustainable, and just economy that empowers and employs members of their community. Students will have the opportunity to learn by volunteering with these groups, learning about social justice as it relates to the environment, and in some cases, by pushing for community reinvestment in local renewable projects. Not only does this sort of collaboration support essential transition work, but also connects students with work that has longevity and is grounded in long-term community-building.