This past weekend Bill McKibben from 350.org and Naomi Klein, Nation columnist and author of The Shock Doctrine, came to New York as part of the Do the Math tour. This is a tour making stops all across the United States to draw attention to climate change and to spur a movement to action around it. I was lucky enough to somehow get front row seats at a student friendly price ($0). There was a sold out crowd at the Hammerstein Ballroom in Midtown Manhattan. From the young child who sat next to us eating sandwiches wrapped in lettuce with boiled eggs to older folks who probably won’t be there to see the world as it deals with the full effects of climate change – there was a lively crowd hanging onto the words both McKibben and Klein doled out.
The Climate change movement is interesting, often critiqued for its overwhelming whiteness (which was definitely palpable at this event), Hurricane Sandy has shown that this is a very real issue affecting more than just middle class liberals who want solar panels on their sustainable yet heavily Ikea-d homes. The event itself was really energizing. Gone was the depressing tone about how our planet is screwed and we’re all gonna die. This was more about finally digging in and fighting back. McKibben spoke of how it was time for the Left to stop expecting change to come through simply educating other on the dangers. It does not work to only inform people of impending doom when Exxon and Shell are still making money and will keep on polluting our planet until it becomes economically unviable for them to do so.
Which is why Naomi Klein spoke a lot about divestment. From her days as a student activist occupying the president of her college’s office (which I’ve totally tried to do so major props to her for that) in order to stop apartheid in South Africa , to our current climate predicament , it was clear by the end of the event that the next steps include more than just actions like the one that occurred the next day after the tour moved on to Washington, DC. It’s time to call for divestment from oil companies by both individuals and institutions such as universities and instead support sustainable energy.
“In short: it just doesn’t make sense for universities to invest in a system that will leave their students no livable planet to use their degrees on, or for pension funds to invest in corporations that will ruin the world we plan to retire in. The one thing we know the fossil fuel industry cares about is money. Universities, pension funds, and churches invest a lot of it. If we start with these local institutions and hit the industry where it hurts — their bottom line — we can get their attention and force them to change. This was a key part of how the world ended the apartheid system in South Africa, and we hope it can have the same effect on the climate crisis.” (from http://math.350.org/)
My hope? That we can also end the NIMBYism (Not In My Backyard) that has kept the climate change movement in it’s very rigid demographic. At the end of the day the folks who can afford the “If you care” brand of coffee filters are not the ones who will deal with higher rates of asthma in their neighborhood due to the waste transfer station nearby.
It’s about people, why else would this fight be important if we did not want to make sure that WE had a planet to live on. Therefore it’s important to address the needs and struggles of those most heavily affected by climate change. Especially globally. The political climate we’re in now is very much due to changes in food prices. The Arab spring was about food prices, a spike in which was caused by changes in food production caused by climate change. It’s going to hurt nation’s not responsible for this climate epidemic worse, and this is a fact that must be made more prominent when we talk about climate change.