Building Political Power

Why am I doing this?

December 11, 2012

I've had a very hard road to get to where I am now, but I can see that what is coming ahead is even harder.

I grew up in a household of social and environmental activists, and I have to admit that I found it very difficult as a child. I was quiet and shy and my mother expected me to be up with her hoisting signs and shouting. She didn't understand why it was difficult for me, and it was her fondest wish that I would grow up to be an activist like her.

She wasn't a very nice person. In fact, I've described her as a 'brass-bound bitch' in the past.

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Written by: Fiona Gettinger, Fiona is a Sophmore at the Univerisity of New Hampshire majoring in Environmental Conservation Studies, she is also a campus coordinator with the Greenpeace Student Network and the President of the Student Environmental Action Coalition.

It’s been a rough week for University of New Hampshire President Mark Huddleston, and the UNH Student Environmental Action Coalition could be to blame for that.  Three months into our campaign to get our institution to divest from fossil fuel companies, we received an official statement from the administration saying that divestment isn’t a “practical or feasible option”. Two weeks ago, we decided it was time for action. So, this past week we've been turning up the heat, starting with this opinion piece released on Tuesday. On Thursday, forty of us marched into the President's office to deliver over a thousand petition signatures from the student body in support of our campaign.

We asked President Huddleston and the UNH Foundation to consider the possibility of divesting our endowment from the fossil fuel companies that are destroying our planet. Thousands of students across the nation support this campaign for socially and environmentally responsible investments. We asked that he and the Foundation look into the research, in particular the Mercer Climate Change Scenarios – Implications for Strategic Asset Allocation Report which we presented with the petitions. This report and many others like it, agree on the huge financial impact global warming will have over the next few decades, though they were obviously not considered before the UNH Foundation rejected the possibility of divestment.

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Jim Rogers, (was the) CEO of Duke Energy, the nation’s largest electric utility, was Wednesday's morning’s keynote speaker at Duke University’s day-long Energy Conference. His talk, “The Future of Energy: How Will Today’s Challenges Shape the Future of the Industry,” focused mostly on natural gas and nuclear, with little attention given to climate or renewable energy -- until we got to Q&A.

N.C. State junior Caroline Hansley asked Rogers a tough question this morning about how he plans to address helping the UNC System meet their climate neutrality goals if Duke isn’t seriously investing in renewable energy.

Rogers of course evaded the question, urging universities to take measures into their own hands, telling campuses they need to become more energy efficient. We agree, this is something universities should prioritize, but no matter how energy efficient a campus becomes, they still have to purchase energy. From there Roger’s began to brag about all of Duke Energy’s risky nuclear power plants. Sorry Jim, but North Carolina is not interested in potential Fukushima situations. Of course, Rogers made sure to avoid the fact that Duke Energy is also turning on coal plants.

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Written by: Fiona Gettinger, Fiona is a Sophmore at the Univerisity of New Hampshire majoring in Environmental Conservation Studies, she is also a campus coordinator with the Greenpeace Student Network and the President of the Student Environmental Action Coalition. This post was originally published as an Op-Ed in the "The New Hampshire"

Charles Dickens once described a future of contradictions, writing that, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us...” More than any other era, that time is now. We are off balance at a precipice of inevitable change; we have an ever expanding technological horizon, rapidly diminishing natural resources, an out of control global population and a planet at capacity.

Two months ago, five UNH students met with some of the most senior level administrators of our university to discuss the possibility of divesting the endowment from fossil fuel corporations, and reinvesting in socially and environmentally responsible companies. As we found out, investments are actually made by an external company, Prime Buchholz, and major decisions go through the Foundation’s Board of Directors, and the Investment and Finance Committee. They declined to provide a position or opinion on divestment at the time, however, last week the Student Environmental Action Coalition received the official statement of the UNH Foundation regarding its stance on divestment from fossil fuel companies.

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Election season is over, and organizers are finally seeing some blank spaces on their calendars. Even beyond the presidential race, the climate movement has made some real progress. Going forward, how can we convert our momentum into meaningful change? This is a great forum to generate new ideas, and I've got some thoughts to get us started.

First, let's look at where we stand now. As a group, young voters reasserted our power in this election. Despite some predictions, youth turnout was even higher than in 2008, swinging at least eighty electoral votes . Meanwhile, several states chose climate-friendly congresspeople over their anti-environmental opponents.

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