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Dear Friend,

To say the least, I have had a busy few weeks. Three weekends ago (February 22nd-24th) Melinda and I headed up to Swarthmore College in PA for the Power UP! Student Convergence to discuss, learn, plan, and get energized by the student-led, national movement to divest from fossil fuels. Melinda and I are working with the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, to start a divestment campaign here at EMU, and the convergence was an amazing way to get us excited. We arrived late Friday night where, before going to sleep in the meeting house, we met a few people from as far away as California, and as close to home as William and Mary here in VA. On Saturday we spent our time in workshops (4 different sessions), listening to a panel of people who are directly impacted by fossil fuel extraction and refining processes (part of what we call “front-line communities”), in small groups discussing how we wanted the campaign to look, and hearing from our three keynote speakers: Crystal Lameman (Beaver Lake Cree Nation, Canada), Aura Bogado (The Nation, NY), and Ellen Dorsey (Wallace Global Fund, Washington DC). (Beware, any minute now, I will be shouting from my soap box, I just ask that you bear with me for a bit…)

The Workshops I attended were:

  • Racism, Classissm, and the Climate: How We Build a Strong Inclusive Climate Movement
  • New Economies: Building Strong Local Economies Through the Grassroots
  • Changing the Conversation: An Introduction to Negotiation for Divestment Campaigners
  • Narrative Messaging: Using Story Telling to Win Your Campaign

The people who spoke at the panel are people who have friends and family members dying and becoming sick from oil extraction in Canada, fracking in Pennsylvania, Mountaintop removal in West Virginia, and oil refineries in Texas. They know and understand the importance of this movement better than most, including me. They live the consequences of  fossil fuels everyday and are asking for people to stand with them.

One of the most important pieces of the convergence was when we stopped to discuss the type of movement we wanted. The reason I think it was so vital to the convergence is that not only did we find that many of us were thinking along the same lines, but the primary goals we named, beyond divestment, are justice and equality. We want an inclusive movement that isn’t purely “straight, white, climate hippies” but a movement of all races, immigration status’, sexual orientations, gender identities, income levels, ages, religions, denominations, etc. For me I could see doors being opened, this means that rather than just talking to groups on campus like Earthkeepers, I should also be talking to groups that appear to be completely unrelated like the LSA, or Safe Space… A movement with such a broad base means empowering the powerless and to me, that more than anything, makes the fight worth it.

So, as soon as I can, I will be pinning a small orange piece of felt to my clothing to show my support of the fossil fuel divestment campaign, and I hope to have you asking questions, and joining the movement…

Love, Mandi Jo

P.S. The more I get into this, the more I realize that many people do not know what “divestment” even is… so here is my simplified explanation.

Divestment is the opposite of Investment, where rather than invest your money in a company/business, etc., you are removing the investments you already have to reinvest that money elsewhere, in this case, for a specific social cause. The word “divestment” was first used in the 1980’s with the South African Apartheid Divestment Movement across the United States. The point of have colleges, universities, and other entities with investments to sell their stocks in fossil fuels is that (A) It give presence to the anti-fossil fuel movement in the media and in mainstream awareness, too many people are unaware of what is going on around them. and (B) It will eventually drive down the worth of the stocks themselves, if everyone wants to sell, and no one wants to buy, the prices naturally begin to fall.

To see some of the sources I’ve been reading and some of the divestment specific resources visit my portaportal at: http://www.portaportal.com when you get there just type “askmandijo” into the guest access box and hit “visit”!