Students Disrupt David Swensen Talk and Occupy Investments Office

(contributed photo)

NEW HAVEN, CT – Student demonstrators interrupted a public talk given by Yale Chief Investments Officer David Swensen and NPR correspondent Chris Arnold on Tuesday, calling on Swensen to meet the demands of students who were occupying the Yale Investments Office for the third time in the past five months. For more information visit https://www.facebook.com/FossilFreeYale.

Half an hour into the financial advice presentation described as “teaching students to invest like Yale does”,” more than 40 members of the Yale Endowment Justice coalition stood up, holding banners reading “Yale is Complicit” and “Inaction is not an option.”Lorna Chitty YC’20, a member of the Yale Democratic Socialists, interrupted Swensen to inform him that earlier that afternoon, 20 students and community members had begun a third sit-in in the Investments Office. She asked when Swensen would respond to the years of student activism calling for fossil fuel divestment and cancelling Puerto Rico’s debt.

As Swensen sat without replying, Arnold urged the protestors to bring their complaints at another time.. Chitty responded: “We have gone through all of your administrative channels, we have written countless reports, we have delivered our demands to your door, and you remain invested in the climate crisis that threatens all our futures and is already impacting the people of Puerto Rico.” The student organizers marched out of the lecture hall, chanting “Cancel the Debt,” leaving only about half of the original attendees. .

This isn’t the first confrontation between Swensen and student organizers. In March 2018, Yale’s legendary investments manager faced backlash following an email exchange with the Yale Daily News, in which Swensen called the editor-in-chief a “coward” and wrote, “Don’t you understand simple English?”

Students point to Yale’s holdings in the Puerto Rican debt crisis as an example of investments that aren’t consistent with Yale’s stated commitment to climate change. “As Puerto Rico struggles to recover from a climate change-fueled hurricane and a massive debt crisis, Yale’s fifth largest fund manager Baupost is suing the island to be repaid first. Our demands for bold moral action from Yale have been met with silence. That’s why we’re continuing to take direct action to hold our university accountable to principles of climate justice” said Adriana Colón-Adorno YC’20, a member of Despierta Boricua, the Yale Puerto Rican students association. Yale’s CIO David Swensen sits on the board of Baupost.

Fossil Free Yale has been working with the Yale administration for six years to divest the university’s $29 billion endowment from fossil fuels, but students’ frustration with administrative stalling and inaction has led them to take more drastic actions like disrupting an event. “Nonviolent direct action is a necessary and just response to a rigged and fraudulent democratic system of representation,” says Ross Pennock, DIV ’21, a member of the Endowment Justice Coalition.

While the students were walking out of the lecture hall, the Yale Police Department was issuing citations to 20 more students and community members for refusing to leave the Investments Office until Yale agreed to meet their demands. This sit-in follows a December action at which 48 students were arrested, the largest university fossil fuel divestment direct action in history, as well as a March sit-in at which 17 students were arrested. The activists promised they would continue to hold Yale accountable to principles of climate justice.

Students Occupy Yale Investments Office, Demanding Action on Climate Injustice in Puerto Rico

[Below are excerpts from the press release PAR received on March 4 regarding the action at Yale]

Yale University police arrested and issued citations to 17 Yale students who held an occupation of the Investments Office [March 4] demanding that Yale direct its fund managers to cancel their holdings in Puerto Rico’s debt and divest the endowment from fossil fuel companies. A total of 30 students and New Haven community members participated in the sit-in lasting the entire afternoon. They have emphasized that they will continue returning to the Investments Office until the University takes action on their demands.

In the face of hurricanes, devastating California wildfires and the latest UN climate report, bold and comprehensive action is needed to address climate change. Climate change exacerbates existing economic inequity, as seen in Puerto Rico, where several “vulture funds” that hold Puerto Rico’s considerable debt are demanding to be repaid before the island can rebuild and support its poorest residents. Research has shown that the intensity of hurricanes like Maria, which struck the island in September last year, is being exacerbated by climate change.

“As Puerto Rico struggles to recover from a climate change-fueled hurricane and a massive debt crisis, Yale’s fifth largest fund manager Baupost is suing the island to be repaid first. Our demands for bold moral action from Yale have been met with silence. That’s why we’re continuing to take direct action to hold our university accountable to principles of climate justice,” said Adriana Colón, a member of Des-pierta Boricua, the Yale Puerto Rican students association. Yale’s CIO David Swensen sits on the board of Baupost.

For six years, student and community organizers have worked with the Yale administration to advocate for the divestment of Yale’s $29.4 billion endowment from fossil fuel corporations. Yale would join 998 institutions that have committed to divesting $7.2 trillion from the fossil fuel industry worldwide. Most recently, Middlebury College announced it will divest its $1 billion endowment from fossil fuel companies. For more information, please contact Martin Man at martinmi5@hotmail.com or call (845) 505-9281.

Stand Up for Climate Action, Energy Equity April 14

by Efficiency For All

Come to the State Capitol in Hartford on Sunday, April 14, 1-4 p.m. We are standing up for climate & energy equity! This is part of our collaborative call for policy which supports responsible energy policies as they relate to our economy, environment, health, climate, public transportation, and local jobs.

We want to reduce energy waste and increase clean energy production.

We are calling on our elected leaders to:

Stop the diversion of the Energy Efficiency (EE) and Clean Energy (CE) programs.
Lower energy waste, lower pollution, close the affordability gap and invest in our clean energy future. Expand all programs that reduce waste and lower carbon emissions including: efficiency, conservation, renewable energy, and clean public transportation.

We call on community leaders & advocates to join us in the fight for our future.

Desired actions:

  • Restore & expand our efficiency programs and renewable energy programs and create a path for increased energy equity!
  • Ensure programs have an equity lens, including transportation.
  • Include underrepresented communities at the table and empower them with information.

Efficiency. Environment. Economy. Employment. Equity. Education. Reliable, Resilient, & Safe Energy for All!

“There is room for everyone at the table and everyone should get a plate.”

Educate. Motivate. Unite. Take Action. The Time is Now!

www.facebook.com/events/1635681326534913

Sponsored by Efficiency For All, Connecticut League of Conservation Voters, Clean Water Action Connecticut, 350 Connecticut, Chispa Connecticut, Connecticut Chapter Sierra Club.

Update on Offshore Wind

From our friends at the CT Roundtable on Climate & Jobs

Last week, the Energy & Technology Committee passed two bills that would strengthen CT’s commitment to offshore wind. As they were taking that critical step, legislators spoke out about the need for further improvements to the language before a bill moves to the floor of the House or Senate for a vote.

We were pleased that legislators specifically called out two of our priorities: (1) establishing a commitment to 2000 MW of offshore wind, and (2) making that commitment a “mandate” rather than just providing CT DEEP with procurement “authority.”

The revised committee bill (HB 7156) also includes strong labor provisions to ensure in-state jobs with good wages and safety standards, along with environmental protections designed to mitigate any negative impacts on wildlife and ecosystems, as well as the commercial fishing industry.

CT Green Energy News

News and events for advocates of clean energy, energy efficiency, and climate action at the state and local levels, focusing on Connecticut. Brought to you by People’s Action for Clean Energy (PACE) and Eastern CT Green Action (ECGA).

*Editorial: Pipelines not a part of state’s future
New Haven Register. “…the state must eliminate a law that would put all citizens on the hook to pay for a new pipeline importing natural gas. There is not currently a plan for a pipeline, but according to legislation passed several years ago, the state can make such a move and charge the people for it.”

*Lawmakers want to amend 2018 energy bill
CT Post. “The Energy & Technology Committee overwhelmingly approved a compromise with Gov. Ned Lamont that solar supporters said will continue to foster the commercial and residential solar-energy markets…”

*Millstone deal reached, set to run for another 10 years CT Mirror. “The shutdown of the plant would have exposed the New England region to a nearly 25 percent increase in carbon emissions, increased risk of rolling blackouts, billions of dollars in power replacement costs, and the loss of more than 1,500 well-paying jobs.”

*Lowering your energy bills Fox News 61. Video interview of energy-conservation expert Leticia Colon de Mejias giving quick tips on how to lower your energy bills.

*Future of the gas tax? Running on empty.
CT Mirror. “The gas tax is at the core of the argument about whether to bring tolls back to Connecticut highways. But this story is not about tolls – it’s about the tax, its nexus with climate change, and what that means for the state.”

*The costs and benefits of shared solar are tough to calculate
CT Public Radio. “One big policy behind shared solar, especially looking at the low income community, is to limit barriers to participation.”

Moving Towards a Healthier Future: Cut Your Transportation Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 20%

Chris Schweitzer, goNewHavengo

While the climate action movement is gaining momentum, carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. still rose a startling 3.4 percent in 2018. This increase exemplifies the need for immediate mitigation of climate change. As part of our mission to create a healthier future via sustainable transportation, goNewHavengo is starting off 2019 with the launch of our 2020 Campaign.

2020 is a two-year effort to reduce transportation green-house gas emissions in the New Haven area 20 percent by the end of 2020. The campaign emphasizes the use of alternative transportation, such as walking, biking, public transit, and carpooling. The benefits of these options are numerous; more exercise, cleaner air, and saving money are just a few. Participants can even earn rewards by tracking their greener trips in the NuRide app. Join goNewHavengo in our 2020 Campaign as we move towards a healthier future for ourselves and our planet; for more information, see www.gonhgo.org/2020.

Yale Arrests 48 Students Demanding Climate Justice for Puerto Rico

by Nora Heaphy, Fossil Free Yale

On the last day of Yale’s 2018 Fall semester [Dec. 7], 48 students, professors, and New Haven community members were arrested after a 5-hour occupation of the Yale Investments Office.

We were sitting in to demand that Yale direct its fund managers to cancel their holdings in Puerto Rico’s debt and divest from the fossil fuel industry. After 6 years of trying to engage with the Yale administration, the few channels available had failed us, and our only alternative was direct action.

As Puerto Rico struggles to recover from a climate change-fueled hurricane and a massive debt crisis, Yale’s fifth largest fund manager Baupost is suing to have its debt repaid before the island can rebuild, and renowned Yale Chief Investment Officer David Swensen sits on the board of Baupost. Our university’s investments in injustice don’t surprise us. We also know that Yale invests at least $678 million in fossil fuel companies, including ExxonMobil and Antero. These corporations intend to extract and burn as much coal, oil, and natural gas as possible, regardless of the consequences to islands like Puerto Rico. And they’ve spent billions funding climate denial and paying off politicians to lobby against climate policies like a Green New Deal.

In the Investments Office lobby, members of our coalition presented on Puerto Rico’s debt and the roots of Yale’s endowment in slavery, held trainings, sang songs, and read statements of support from around the world. Meanwhile, 450 students marched to the Investments Office and rallied in support, as those inside were arrested. The Yale administration—who had recently published a statement blaming climate change on everyday consumers rather than fossil fuel corporations—chose to arrest its students rather than have a conversation with us. A few days later, at the Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility’s public meeting, we again confronted the administration’s failure to act in the face of climate injustice. Our calls for moral leadership from Yale have been met with stalling, inaction, and a willful naiveté that amounts to gross negligence. But students, New Haven, and Puerto Rico are powerful, and we will hold this university accountable.

Email fossilfreeyale@gmail.com to get involved.

Help Bring Solar Power to Columbus House

by Matthew Moroney, New Haven Community Solar

New Haven Community Solar is a new kind of company. Our mission is to give community members an opportunity to invest directly in locally created environmental and social works projects. We present an alternative economic model using crowdfunding to form energy cooperatives that benefit nonprofits and build wealth in communities. Lack of corporate and political accountability led us to create a new form of active corporate ownership from the community. This empowers local leaders with alternative pathways to reduce inequality. We expand economic opportunities for vulnerable groups and accelerate a just clean energy transition by not waiting for corporations to act.

Our first project supplies clean, affordable energy to the formerly homeless with our community non-profit partner, Columbus House. Connecticut has the third-highest energy costs in the country (average of 17.3 cents per kilowatt hour). Installing solar panels for Columbus House steadies their electricity costs and frees up money to support their mission of providing services for homeless and at-risk individuals and families.

(The average residential electricity rate of 17.34¢/kWh in CT is 45.96% greater than the national average residential rate of 11.88¢/kWh. The approximate range of residential electricity rates in the U.S. is 8.37¢/kWh to 37.34¢/kWh. https://www.electricitylocal.com/states/connecticut.)

By investing instead of donating to renewable energy projects, funders have the potential to make a return from the sale of energy back to the grid. This return can be kept, donated to Columbus House, or invested back into building more community solar in New Haven. The investment period is almost over, so we invite the greater New Haven community to review our investment materials today to consider supporting the project at www.startengine.com/new-haven-community-solar.

Our initiative is ultimately a test to determine if crowd-sourced cooperatives can thrive as an alternative to current systems. We envision a future where community finance enables us to own our own futures. If the project succeeds, we will also be providing copies of our project and program documents to help guide other local leaders in creating their own crowdfunded community-owned projects.

For questions, contact Matthew Moroney at greenisagoodcolor@gmail.com.

Climate Change and the Urgency to Act

by Chris Schweitzer, New Haven Climate Movement

New Haven Climate Movement has launched a campaign to have the City of New Haven pass The Emergency Resolution to Restore a Safe Climate. The Resolution states, “New Haven declares that we face an existential climate emergency that threatens our city, region, state, nation, civilization, the natural world, and humanity.” The Resolution also states that: “New Haven officially commits to leading an emergency mobilization effort that, with appropriate financial and regulatory assistance from state and federal authorities, ends community-wide greenhouse gas emissions by or before Dec. 31, 2030, and immediately initiates an effort to safely draw down carbon from the atmosphere.” Please sign the petition at newhavenclimatemovement.org.

This Resolution is part of a growing national movement declaring that we are in a climate emergency and commit-ting cities to addressing it in time to avoid the worst outcomes. Local governments have become leaders of the climate emergency movement and are inspiring others to do the same. Los Angeles, Berkeley, Richmond, CA, and Hoboken, NJ, have passed emergency resolutions organized by the national organization The Climate Mobilization.  New Haven passed a Climate Framework in 2018 so it has a guide to follow. Beyond this, there are significant jobs and public health benefits of taking action now.

From The Climate Mobilization A Call for Safe Climate: To protect humanity, we need a massive transformation of our economy and society in a matter of years, not decades. We must rapidly direct our resources toward a singular national purpose: restoring a safe climate for our world.

From the Connecticut Governor’s Council on Climate Change: “With over 600 miles of coastline and 2.2 million people living in shoreline communities in Connecticut, the state’s residents and communities are extremely vulnerable to the impacts of weather and climate events. Connecticut residents are already beginning to experience such effects as climate change ramps up. For instance, in Connecticut alone, Hurricane Irene (2011) caused power outages affecting 754,000 customers and over $1 billion in damage, and Hurricane Sandy (2012) caused power outages affecting more than 600,000 customers and inflicted almost $2 billion in statewide damages. The latter forced thousands of Connecticut residents to evacuate, saw thousands apply for FEMA assistance, damaged roads and infrastructure, and took nine days for utilities to restore power. Many of Connecticut’s coastal communities and assets face an escalating risk of storm events exacerbated by climate change.”

For more information on the Resolution, or to get involved, contact Chris at nh@newhavenleon.org or call (203) 562-1607.

Working Together for 100% Renewable Energy in Connecticut Nov. 8

by Mark Scully, President, PACE

People’s Action for Clean Energy (PACE) invites you to a hands-on workshop to accelerate Connecticut’s transition to 100% clean, renewable energy. The event features a keynote address from Mark Z. Jacobson, Director of the Atmosphere and Energy Program at Stanford University. Mark’s career has focused on better understanding air pollution and global warming problems and developing large-scale clean, renew- able energy solutions to them.

After Prof. Jacobson’s address, the focus turns to CT’s transition to 100% with a panel of local experts to discuss the state’s progress to date, potential of offshore wind, grid modernization and legislative perspective. This panel comprises:

  • Claire Coleman, Climate and Energy Attorney for CT Fund for the Environment
  • Katie Dykes, Chair of the Public Utility Regulatory Authority (PURA)
  • John Humphries, Founder of CT Roundtable on Climate & Jobs
  • Mary Sotos, Deputy Commissioner of CT Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP).

The meeting will take place on Thursday, Nov. 8 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 224 EcoSpace, 224 Farmington Ave. in Hartford. Reserve your ticket today online at www.pace-cleanenergy.org. Tickets: $25; students $10. Ticket price includes a catered lunch and parking.

Lawsuit to Return the Clean Energy and Efficiency Funds

by Paula Panzarella, Fight the Hike

On Thursday, Sept. 13, I attended the hearing at the Federal Courthouse in New Haven regarding the legislature’s seizure last session of $155 million that was collected from United Illuminating and Eversource customers. The intention of the funds was to (as noted on the back of our electric bills) “promote energy conservation and efficiency” and to pay for programs that “promote the use of renewable (or environmentally friendly) fuel sources, such as solar power, wind, fuel cells, methane gas from landfills, biofuels, trash-to-energy, and water.”

The legislators voted to use these funds instead to put money into the State’s General Fund.

The Clean Energy funds must be returned. People depend on these funds for their jobs in the renewable energy sector. Consumers rely on the efficiency programs to save energy and money. These programs have helped people get low-interest financing for solar installations. Efficiency and clean energy save the state money, and people’s health is at stake because fossil fuels are increasing asthma rates and respiratory illnesses.

As of this printing, Judge Janet Hall has not yet made a decision on the legality of the legislators’ appropriation of the funds that were intended for clean energy and efficiency.

PACE to Host Forum on 100% Renewable Energy Nov. 8

by Mark Scully, President, PACE

On Nov. 8, People’s Action for Clean Energy (PACE) will host a forum on transitioning to 100% renewable energy with the foremost scientific expert in the country on the topic as well as a panel of local experts. Stanford University professor Mark Z. Jacobson has written extensively about transitioning society to 100% renewable energy from wind, water and solar. PACE will honor Prof. Jacobson with the Judi Friedman Lifetime Achievement Award for his ground-breaking research that shows the way to a clean energy future.

Following Mark Jacobson’s keynote address, the focus will turn to Connecticut with a panel of local experts including:

  • Claire Coleman of CT Fund for the Environment;
  • Katie Dykes, Chair of the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA);
  • John Humphries, Founder of CT Roundtable for Climate and Jobs; and
  • Mary Sotos, Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP)

The meeting will take place on Thursday, Nov. 8 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 224 EcoSpace, 224 Farmington Ave. in Hartford. Reserve your ticket today online at www.pace-cleanenergy.org. Tickets: $25, students $10. Each ticket incudes a catered lunch and parking.

PACE is a public health and environmental organization formed in 1973 by a group of concerned Connecticut citizens to promote the development of alternative, renewable sources of energy, encourage the efficient use of energy, develop a spirit of conservation among Connecticut residents and challenge Connecticut’s commitment to nuclear power and nuclear weapons. Through its 100PercentCT project, PACE works with towns across the state to develop plans to transition to 100% renewable energy. For further information on PACE, go to www.pace-cleanenergy.org.

Judi Friedman led PACE for forty-three years and was a passionate and tireless advocate for clean energy. This award is given in her memory.

Download the event flyer here.

Grammar School Students Who Already Challenge and Change The World

by Frank Panzarella, community activist

The Green Wolves, fourth-grade students at Elm City College Preparatory Elementary School, came up with that name for their own wonderful and imaginative adventure in becoming young activists.

Their teacher, Kurt Zimmermann of their Expeditions class, saw the PAR newsletter on-line and invited us to do a training for young people on things to think about when becoming an activist.

While some were still shy, others were bursting with ideas and questions. They surprised us right off by quoting suggestions from our own notes before we even began.

These kids were very interested in environmental issues and showed us their current great campaign. They raised money to replace all the teachers’ disposable coffee cups with lovely ceramic mugs that had the teachers’ names printed on them, so the teachers would reduce their paper waste.

We were thrilled to meet this group of engaging and endearing students and thank Mr. Zimmermann for the opportunity. We thought PAR readers would be interested in the notes we left the students with.

An Activist Guide List – Questions to Ask Yourself

  • “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead
  • “Doing something is better than doing nothing.”
  • “My way is not the only way.”

Passion

  • What are the issues you feel strongly about? What would you like to accomplish or change? What do you need to study and understand?
  • Are there other people you know concerned about these issues? Who can you talk with?

Organize

  • How can you educate people about why your issue is important?
  • What are your short term and long term goals? What would you like to see happen in relation to your cause?
  • Who is it you would like to reach on your cause?
  • Are there people or groups who might be allies in reaching your goals?

Action Plans

  • What kinds of actions are appropriate for your cause?

Educational events

  • Write letters, articles, and petitions.
  • Use social media.

Rallies and demonstrations

  • Picket lines
  • Speak at hearings or local government meetings.

Create a plan to advance your cause and build support

  • Call a meeting to plan your actions if necessary.
  • Figure out a group process.
  • Be aware of your members and their ideas.
  • Promote democracy in action – listen to all and learn to resolve differences.
  • Respect the rights of others to have different views.
  • Struggle for a programmatic unity on issues — in other words, something everyone in your group can agree on to take some action.
  • Have a summation meeting. Meet again after your action to figure out what worked and what didn’t. What do you think could have been better? Decide if you will do something next, and pick a date for another meeting to figure out what it will be.
  • Have fun doing good things for the benefit of everyone.
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