The science is clear: global warming is happening faster than ever and humans are responsible. Global warming is caused by releasing what are called greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The most common greenhouse gas is carbon dioxide. Many of the activities we do every day like turn the lights on, cook food, or heat or cool our homes rely on the combustion of fossil fuels like coal and oil, which emit carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases when burned. This is a major problem because global warming destabilizes the delicate balance that makes life on this planet possible. Just a few degrees in temperature can completely change the world as we know it, and threaten the lives of millions of people around the world.
It's time to take a stand. Extreme weather events around the world-the floods, droughts, and wildfires that are ravaging our planet-make it clear that climate change is no longer a future threat: it's clear and present danger. We have the solutions to solve this crisis, but so far, our politicians have refused the rise to the challenge.
The reason is clear. Every year, the fossil fuel industry spends millions of dollars to corrupt our democracy and maintain a stranglehold over our economy. Three simple numbers make it clear why. If we're going to limit warming to 2°C, a goal that even the most conservative governments in the world have agreed to meet, then we can only burn 565 gigatons more of carbon dioxide. But the fossil fuel industry has 2,765 gigatons of carbon in their reserves-nearly five times the safe amount-and every day they're searching for more.
A global movement is coming together to challenge the fossil fuel industry in a fight for the planet and our future on it. This film documents the stories, ideas and actions behind groups like Fossil Free SFSU,
350.org, 350 Bay Area, Fossil Free SF and other divestment campaigns, uncovering the truth about climate change and revealing the case for divestment.
The purpose, goals, and objectives
Ultimately, we want College and University Presidents and Boards (as well as religious institutions, city and state governments, and other institutions that serve the public good) to divest their funds from 200 publicly-traded companies that hold the vast majority of the world's proven coal, oil and gas reserves.
But we can't do that with one 15-minute movie. We need your help. That is why we made this film.
We want to remind students and citizens that climate change is a very real and urgent threat that should not continue to be overlooked by our society. We want people to realize that climate change is not just a scientific issue, it is a health and social justice issue. We want to educate people about fossil fuel divestment, and show how divestment has been used successfully in the past. We want people to understand that divesting from fossil fuel companies is the morally and fiscally responsible thing to do. We want to share the voices of those that are in this fight, in hopes that their stories, ideas and actions will inspire you to help lead the movement.
When you invest your money, you might buy stocks, bonds or other investments that generate income for you. Universities and Colleges, like religious institutions and pension funds, put billions of dollars in these same kinds of investments to generate income to help run their institutions. Divestment is the opposite of an investment-it simply means getting rid of stocks, bonds or investment funds that are unethical or morally ambiguous. Fossil Fuel investments are a risk for investors and the planet-that's why we're calling on institutions to divest from these companies.
Divestment is a really important way to shake up the financial markets, and show the big finance firms on Wall Street that fossil fuels are risky investments. The more we can reveal just how irresponsible these companies are-and how irresponsible it is to invest in them-the better.
There have been a handful of successful divestment campaigns in recent history, including Darfur, Tobacco and others, but the largest and most impactful one came to a head around the issue of South African Apartheid. By the mid-1980s, 155 campuses-including some of the most famous in the country-had divested from companies doing business in South Africa. 26 state governments, 22 counties, and 90 cities, including some of the nation's biggest, took their money from multinationals that did business in the country. The South African divestment campaign helped break the back of the Apartheid government, and usher in an era of democracy and equality.
Divestment isn't primarily an economic strategy, but a moral and political one. Just like in the struggle for Civil Rights here in America or the fight to end Apartheid in South Africa, the more we can make climate change a deeply moral issue, the more we will push society towards action. We need to make it clear that if it's wrong to wreck the planet, than it's also wrong to profit from that wreckage. At the same time, divestment builds political power by forcing our nation's most prominent institutions and individuals (many of whom sit on college boards) to choose which side of the issue they are on. Divestment sparks a big discussion and-as we're already seeing in this campaign-gets prominent media attention, moving the case for action forward.
Imagine this: you wake up one morning, walk down to the student center or store on campus and see a copy of TIME Magazine. The cover story is all about a new, fossil fuel divestment movement that has swept the nation. It started with just a small group of campuses, but quickly spread like wildfire. Now, dozens of campuses are freezing new investments in fossil fuels and committing to draw down their holdings over the coming years. At dozens more campuses, students are mounting big, creative campaigns to pressure their board of trustees to make the commitment. And across the country alumni, economists, activists, artists, and community members are chipping in to help the cause.
This moment is right around the corner.
We are spreading this movement to hundreds of colleges and universities across the country. Whether you're an economist or an artist, there's a place for you in this campaign. This film documents the creation of our story.
- The simple math about climate change
- Climate change from a social justice perspective
- Divestment in action
- Social responsibility
- Environmental ethics
- Fiscal responsibility
- Community empowerment
- Systemic change
Deirdre discusses the math of fossil fuel company reserves in relation to climate change: that 2 degrees celsius is the limit we can allow the Earth's temperature to raise before we face catastrophic consequences. Burning 595 gigatons of carbon will get us to the 2 degree limit, however, fossil fuel companies currently have 2795 known gigatons of coal, oil, and gas reserves that they ultimately plan to burn.
- What are the implications and consequences if we allow our planet to burn all of those fossil fuel reserves?
- What are some ways that climate change is a health and social justice issue?
- What is divestment?
- What are divestment campaigners asking for, and what institutions are they asking?
- What makes divestment a socially responsible action?
- Is divestment fiscally practical?
Professor Glenn Fieldman, Raquel Pinderhughes, and Judy Pope discuss the well-known case of divestment in action when institutions divested from corporations doing business with South Africa's Apartheid regime. How can looking at the South Africa Apartheid Divestment Campaign help us make the case for divesting from fossil fuels?
- Why is it important to divest from fossil fuels?
- How is divestment a unifying movement?
- What are students doing to campaign for divestment?
- How can you make a first step in joining a divestment campaign near you?
In the section about how much money the fossil fuel industry spends on preventing legislative climate action, Professor Glenn Fieldman says, "The interests of organized money are drowning out the interests of the general public."
- What actions has the fossil fuel industry taken to make sure we keep burning fossil fuels?
350.org is an international environmental organization, headed by author Bill McKibben, with the goal of building a global grassroots movement to raise awareness of anthropogenic climate change, to confront climate change denial, and to cut emissions of one of the greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide, in order to slow the rate of global warming. 350.org works to unite the world around solutions to the climate crisis-the solutions that science & justice demand.
350.org is you, and the thousands of people like you who take it upon themselves to inspire your communities to action.
- The amount of sea level rise expected to occur as a result of climate change will increase the risk of coastal flooding for millions to hundreds of millions of people around the world, many of whom would have to permanently leave their homes.
- The San Francisco Bay is expected to see sea level rise more than four feet this century.
- Climate change is linked to an increase in disease-carrying pests that lead to the increased spread of diseases such as dengue fever, malaria, lyme disease and West Nile virus.
- Children-in particular, children living in poor countries-are among the most vulnerable to the resulting health risks and will be exposed longer to the health consequences.
- Scientists and even the most conservative governments all over the world agree that we must not raise the Earth's temperature over 2°C to sustain an inhabitable planet.
- Scientists project that Earth's average temperatures will rise between 2 and 12 degrees by 2100, depending on how much more carbon we emit into the atmosphere now.
- The United States contains only 5 percent of the world's population, but contributes 22 percent of the world's carbon emissions.
- For every $1 the fossil fuel industry spends on campaign contributions and lobbying in DC, it gets back $59 in subsidies
- Fossil fuel companies spent $265.9 million during the 2012 presidential campaign.
- Around 350 colleges in the US have initiated divestment campaigns, 11 cities (including San Francisco, Berkeley, Richmond, Seattle and Eugene) and a handful of colleges have committed to divestment, and these numbers are growing.
Go Fossil Free
350 Bay Area
350 San Francisco
Fossil Free SF
The Fossil Fuel Resistance - Bill McKibben [Rolling Stone]
Global Warming's Terrifying New Math - Bill McKibben [Rolling Stone]
A Campus Guide to Fossil Fuel Divestment [pdf]
Fossil Fuel Divestment 101 - Swarthmore Mountain Justice [pdf]
The Economic Case for Divesting from Fossil Fuels: 10 Keys
Unburnable Carbon - Carbon Tracker Initiative [pdf]
Do the Investment Math: Building a Carbon-Free Portfolio - Aperio Group [pdf]
A Complete Guide to Reinvestment
NICOLE BLUNT is currently a student at San Francisco State University studying Health Education with a community emphasis and minoring in Woman's Health. Growing up in one of the worse cities in the country and going to college helped her to realize that anything in life is achievable with hard work, dedication and patience.
JENNIFER FONG is a climate activist and new graduate of the interdisciplinary Humanities and the Environment program at San Francisco State University. She is a member of Fossil Free SFSU, Fossil Free SF and 350 San Francisco. The focus of her studies has been guided by three questions: 1) how do people perceive the environment, 2) how does that affect the environment and 3) how should we communicate about the environment? With passions for art, communication and justice, Jen is thrilled to participate in the creation of “$hift”, viewing it is as her culminating senior project. Jen looks forward to spending her 30th birthday two months deep into the Sierras with her amazing Boob, Nolan. Upon her return, Jen anticipates lifelong organizing to cool the planet.
SETH HAHN is a Cinema lover and aspiring filmmaker. Beginning early on, his mother, bless her soul, supplemented his homeschool education with excessive hours of public television programming. The warm TV glow and reassuring messages from the likes of Mr. Rogers and Jim Henson would forever shape both Seth's perception of the world and his love for the medium itself. Fast forward 15 years, Seth is keenly aware of the role images and stories play and the tremendous power they wield to mediate nearly every aspect of society. With great power comes great responsibility and that is why Seth remains committed to “truthful” storytelling and media literacy. Seth also loathes writing bios in the third person ;)
JAMIE OLIVEIRA is a Cinema student at San Francisco State University with an emphasis in documentary film production, as well as an intern for Plus M Productions, a documentary production company based in San Francisco that produces socially-minded documentary films. Weaving together the pursuits of truth, knowledge, and love of the interconnectedness of nature and the human experience, Jamie aims to use film to encapsulate multiple facets of our social, environmental, intellectual, and cosmic reality. She hopes to create a positive impact on our world on the macro and micro levels through this compelling medium, as a drop of water ripples throughout the entire pond. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, yoga, pure foods, holistic healing, exploring a multitude of creative endeavors, and taking cat naps.
Learn about Documentary for Health & Social Justice and how to get involved.
The information on these pages is provided by the student film makers and does not represent an endorsement or verification of statements from the Health Equity Institute