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To stop funding for fossil fuels, 350MA rallies at State House

Despite the cold weather and potential for snow Wednesday, over 100 activists from 350 Massachusetts rallied at the Massachusetts State House to gain support from legislators and the public for a future of divesting from fossil fuel use.

A volunteer-led initiative that confronts climate change issues and urges divestment, 350MA began in June 2012 through Better Future Project, a program that aids other grassroots movements in bringing about change and seeing a future beyond fossil fuel. The fight for fossil fuel divestment began on Sept. 7, 2012, said Malcolm Bliss, the campaign’s statewide coordinator.

“It’s going to take a lot to do this, but we need to,” he said. “Fossil fuels are a huge cause for concern and threatening the way of life. We are working toward a just and stable future beyond fossil fuels.”

The state Pension Reserves Investment Trust  invests approximately 2.5 percent of its funds in fossil companies. Wednesday’s rally was held in support of S-1225, a piece of state legislation that would demand the removal of that stock and prohibit future investments in those companies, Bliss said.

Eli Gerzon, the state division organizer of the Better Future Project, said the supporters of this legislation are choosing to invest in the environment.

“Divestment is when we’re so invested in an industry that we realize that we do not want to support that and we take the money that we are investing in that industry and invest in something else,” he said. “[Today] we are hoping to show the support that there is for divestment … that gives us the opportunity … to become the first state to divest from fossil fuels.”

Massachusetts was the first state to pull its pension fund from apartheid South Africa 30 years ago, and the Commonwealth has the ability to do it again, said speaker Chuck Collins, a researcher for the Institute for Policy Studies.

In May, the atmosphere’s carbon dioxide reached 400 parts per million, a level that has not been seen in more than 300 million years, said Devyn Powell, a student representative from Tufts Divest Group and one of the event speakers.

“[Fossil fuels are] a generational theft,” she said. “That’s human lives. Right now [there are] people in Peru who are already running out of water because their glaciers are melting because of climate change.”

Katy Allen, another speaker, said the divestment of fossil fuels is a necessary step toward improving the environment because profits made from the destruction of life are immoral.

“I invite you to feel the soil beneath your feet, the personal connection between the Earth in which we live,” she said. “We are just travelers in the moment. What we are doing is sucking the life out of it and destroying it.”

Speaker Israel Pierre, treasurer of the Service Employees International Union Local 509 division, said the states and the people will be ones to pay for not taking steps toward protecting the environment.

“Climate change raises basic costs of survival,” he said. “Weather influenced by climate change has caused significant damage to infrastructure and financial losses. Different temperature patterns will raise the cost of food and will increase housing and insurance costs.”

Several event attendees said the climate change provides the planet with a grim future, but they are hopeful they will gain more support on the road to full fossil fuel divestment.

Carol Walker, 55, of Winthrop, said fossil fuel use is no longer a minor issue, and many people consider it to be a crisis.

“This is an environmental, moral and financial problem,” she said. “The fossil fuels are destroying our planet. Other countries are suffering the worst. Peru is running out of water.”

Dottie Berman, 70, of Brookline, said almost all forms of energy, especially fossil fuels, seem to hurt the environment in some way, and she would like to see a source of energy that is beneficial for people and for the planet.

“I’d like to see a different way to get energy,” she said. “It just seems like everything has a price of some kind. I’d like to see a different solution.”

Susan Redlich, 67, of Cambridge, said Massachusetts should continue to serve as a leader in fossil fuel divestment, and 350MA is taking steps toward making that dream a reality.

“Today especially we want to highlight the urgency of doing something at a state level to send a message to other states that they have the power to divest from fossil fuels,” she said. “350MA is a great way for people to learn about the climate emergency and to find positive ways of avoiding the worst of that.”

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One Comment

  1. Good coverage. Another quote to add from Bill McKibben that was read at the rally: “Massachusetts is where the nation began; it’s remarkably vulnerable to a rising sea; it’s where much of the best climate science on earth has been carried out; it’s the planet’s education center. And for all those reasons it needs to be the first state to fully embrace fossil fuel divestment.

    I grew up in the Bay State, and I know it’s the most progressive state in the union. I can’t wait for the party the night after Massachusetts fully divests!”