by Jared Naimark, ’14
Last Monday March 4th, student activists from Fossil Free Stanford, Students for a Sustainable Stanford, and a host of other environmental groups gathered in White Plaza in a day of solidarity with hundreds of campuses all over the country, to show their support for the movement to divest from fossil fuels. This day of action, punnily dubbed “March Forth on Climate Justice” was the kick-off of our first ever Environmental Justice Week, a series of events aimed at raising awareness about the ways environmental issues intersect with issues of social justice and human rights. Below is a version of a speech I gave at the rally, explaining three reasons why I support divestment from fossil fuels.
Reason #1 – it’s good for the environment.
Like a lot of people out there, I’m an environmentalist – someone who is concerned for the health of our earth’s ecosystems. We know that we have reached over 390 parts per million of Carbon in the atmosphere, but fossil fuel companies continue to spew insane amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. We know that the consequences are coming: mass extinctions, lower crop yields, more frequent storms, ocean acidification, dangerous sea-level rise, and the spread of disease. These consequences affect not only plants and animals but also humanity. Our economies, governments, health, and prospects for peace all depend on healthy ecosystems, and they will likely suffer if nothing is done soon. Sure, there are other viable strategies for reducing emissions: Clean technology, sequestration, behavior change, and cap and trade (California is experimenting with that one right now). These are all good strategies, but none of them puts any pressure on the fossil fuel industry. Divestment does – it’s about showing them we care and aren’t afraid to put push back with all our might. Oil companies might have their money and lobbyists but we have our conviction. So I support the fossil free movement because I’m an environmentalist, and I believe that divestment will help stop global warming.
Reason #2 – it’s a step towards justice.
Environmental justice means protecting not only plant and animal communities, but also our own communities – regardless of race class gender or anything else. We know that coal plants spew harmful pollutants into the air that cause cancer and asthma. And we know that these plants are located disproportionately in poor and minority communities. The fossil fuel industry has never paid for this injustice. Instead, big companies continue take advantage of these same communities. Right now, plans continue for the Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport toxic tar sands through the middle of our county, through people’s backyards. We know that these types of pipelines inevitably leak, and we know that the companies that build them are rarely held accountable. It’s time to hold them accountable. So I support the movement not just as an environmentalist, but also as an activist for environmental justice, and I believe that divestment will help bring us one step closer to justice.
Reason #3– it promotes international human rights.
You may have a general impression that the oil industry does bad things, but the extent of its abuse is often swept under the rug. Yet these little known abuses are horrific and numerous. Let me name a few. In Sudan, profits from oil have fueled the genocide in Darfur, which to date has left over 300,000 dead and over 2 million displaced. Oil companies were complicit in the violence, forcefully displacing people from their ancestral homes atop the oil fields. And disputes over oil revenues continue to undermine the peace process between North and South Sudan today. In Burma, foreign multinationals eager to exploit the country’s rich natural gas fields have violently displaced thousands of people from their traditional homes, while simultaneously funneling profits into the coffers of the abusive military regime. Because of fossil fuel companies, The home of indigenous groups in Ecuador’s Amazon is riddled with puddles of crude oil, and peaceful protesters against pollution were executed in Nigeria, – but nobody does anything about it. It’s time to do something, to stop investing our money in this awful, abusive industry. So I support the movement not just as an environmentalist and as an activist for environmental justice, but also because I’m an advocate for international human rights, and I believe that divestment will help save lives.
Sign the petition and call for a fossil free Stanford.
Jared Naimark is a Junior majoring in Earth Systems. He is a human rights activist with STAND, and an environmental activist with SSS, but the views here are his own.