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Regrounding Ourselves in the Movement

Hale, Isabella, Owen, and Cassie join forces for a regrounding episode where we talk about what we are doing as a Movement here in Tennessee and what the larger fight looks like within the context of the Biden Administration. We also preview our next episode which will be on the fight against the Byhalia Pipeline in Memphis. (+ some ridiculous outtakes on the big dumb boat and the Kentucky Creation Museum)

Check out Memphis Community Against the Pipeline to get a preview of what is going down before the next episode

Sunrise Tennessee Interest Form

Find out what Native Land you are living on

Follow Sunrise Tennessee on Twitter and Facebook.

FULL PODCAST available on Apple Podcasts and wherever else you like to listen.

Students at Vanderbilt University hold Protest to Divest from Fossil Fuels

By Connor Warmuth, DivestVU Executive | (connor.n.warmuth@vanderbilt.edu)

“Hey, hey! Ho, ho! Fossil fuels have got to go!”

Over thirty student protesters chanted these words as they marched from the campus Central Library to Kirkland Hall at Vanderbilt University. The protest was designed to get the administration to seriously consider divestment of the university’s endowment from fossil fuels.

Fossil fuels are significant drivers of climate change. The release of carbon dioxide and methane from fossil fuel combustion, exacerbates the Greenhouse Effect, resulting in increased absorption of heat and higher average temperatures globally. Warmer temperatures will mean more extreme weather events, a climate refugee crisis, increased likelihood of famine, reduced water capacity, mass extinction of ecosystems, and exacerbated global inequities.

Furthermore, particulates and chemicals released at all stages of fossil fuel extraction and consumption pollute the Earth’s atmosphere, water, ecosystems. Pollution from fossil fuels directly results in a variety of serious health issues from asthma to cancer, particularly in minority communities. Pollution causes nearly 400,000 deaths per year.

So how much of the endowment is actually invested in fossil fuels? According to the 2020 Financial Report, four percent of Vanderbilt’s 6.9 billion dollar endowment is invested in “natural resources.” These investments are in “timber, oil and gas production, mining, energy, and related services businesses.” While the endowment supports a large portion of the students attending Vanderbilt, many question the idea of receiving financial aid from fossil fuel investments. As environmental justice advocate Luis Martínez puts it,

I feel morally opposed to having any monetary assistance I received for my education be sourced from fossil fuel investments, particularly in light of the education my own school gives me to clearly know the urgency of climate change in our lives. Our university education is a gift to effect change.”

The university has ignored support for divestment, despite the passage of resolutions favoring divestment in the Graduate Student Council (GSC) and the Vanderbilt Student Government (VSG), and the accumulation of 1100 student signatures in an online petition.  According to Emily Irigoyen, leader of DivestVU, a coalition of students advocating for divestment of the endowment of fossil fuels,

“The administration has not engaged with our divestment campaign and has ignored our attempts to reach out to high ranking officials in the endowment office.”

As a result, DivestVU, DoresDivest (a separate coalition of students advocating for divestment), and several other student-run university organizations agreed to host a protest.

“Unfortunately, climate change is too pressing of an issue to sit out on the sidelines–so we took action.” said Miguel Moravec of DoresDivest.

At the protest, students marched while holding up posters with messages reading “Divest Vandy Now,” “Anchor Down DivestVU,” and “You are on Native Land.” The protest even featured a giant fourteen-foot unicorn with the words “Divest Fossil Fuels” written on the side.

Finally, the protesters arrived at the steps of Kirkland Hall, the tall, brown building with a clock at the top, where many of the leaders in the Vanderbilt administration work. Each protester wore a mask and stood six feet apart to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Representatives from multiple campus organizations delivered speeches in favor of divestment. 

Speaker Luis Martínez urged the Vanderbilt community to join him in calling for the university to divest from fossil fuels. Born and raised in Miami, Florida by a Cuban father and a Venezuelan mother, he has witnessed firsthand the disproportionate effects of climate change from tropical cyclones, rising sea levels, and heatwaves on Black and brown communities.

“There is no place I love more in the world and I will do the best I can in this life to protect the communities it holds from the worst impacts of Anthropogenic climate change.”

Next, Emily Irigoyen acknowledged that Vanderbilt occupies the traditional lands of the Cherokee, Shawnee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Creek peoples.

“By offering this Land Acknowledgement, we affirm indigenous sovereignty and will work to hold Vanderbilt University more accountable to the needs of American Indian and indigenous peoples.”

Ana Fonongava’inga and Gabby Guarna of Vanderbilt’s Indigenous Scholars Organization added that:

“By continuing to invest in fossil fuels, the university is complicit in the destruction of our ancestral lands in the South Pacific, the destruction of Native lands here on Turtle Island due to toxic pipelines, the perpetuation of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls crisis, the displacement of our relatives, and the attack on Indigenous futures and wellbeing globally.”

Emma Tharpe, co-president of Hidden Dores, spoke out about white supremacy at Vanderbilt:

Despite the fact that climate change is already disproportionately impacting communities of color, the refusal [to divest] from institutions [like Vanderbilt] who claim to value their “minority” populations, and who have things like “perspectives” requirements to graduate, and more Instagram posts and pamphlet photos of Black and brown students than I could count is persistent. This is absolutely hypocritical.”

Finally, DoresDivest’s Ben Hayden and Miguel Moravec, DivestVU’s Hannah Bruns, and VSG’s Vice President Shun Ahmed shamed the Vanderbilt administration for their complete lack of morality:

“Investment decisions [made by Vanderbilt], like all other decisions, are moral decisions. And divorcing the two, and putting on blinders to all other effects of your decision making, is both a categorical mistake and a moral blunder,” Hayden said.

Bruns added,

“It’s embarrassing that we have to ask our own university to invest in our futures by divesting from fossil fuels.”

Ahmed said,

“Vanderbilt [needs] to realize that their students will not be quiet and sit in a meeting room and just watch these issues continue on.”

Looking to the future, Irigoyen hopes the university will be more engaged in the movement to divest from fossil fuels:

“The administration has to show a good faith effort in discussing fossil fuel divestment and the creation of an ethical divestment committee with student representatives. If they don’t we will be forced to escalate our disruptions until they listen to us. The University relies heavily on alumni donations and targeting alumni who care about climate change to withhold donations is a potential next step.”

 

 

How the Left Can Change Tennessee

Matthew Park, Co-Executive Director of Change TN, joins Cassie and Owen to talk about how the Left should be engaging with the upcoming race for the Chair of the Democratic Party and all the local races across the state in 2021. As Matthew says, local municipalities are the true labs of democracy – that’s where we need to be building the bench so that we can truly change Tennessee for the better.

Get involved with Change TN

Follow Change TN on Twitter and Facebook

Find out what Native Land you are living on

Sunrise Tennessee Interest Form

Follow Sunrise Tennessee on Twitter and Facebook.

FULL PODCAST available on Apple Podcasts and wherever else you like to listen.

As Georgia Goes, So Goes the South

Erica Darragh, Communications Lead for Sunrise Atlanta, joins Hale and Cassie to talk about the upcoming Senate runoff elections in Georgia and how crucial they are to us winning a Green New Deal. There’s so much we can learn from the incredible organizing that led to Georgia’s turnaround, and it gives us a lot of hope for Tennessee and the rest of the South. Be sure to do whatever you can to support Warnock and Ossoff in Georgia with your time, money, or both. Let’s bring this home.

Volunteer for and donate to Reverend Raphael Warnock.

Volunteer for and donate to Jon Ossoff.

Support Stacey Abrams’ Fair Fight.

Find out what Native Land you are living on.

Sunrise Tennessee Interest Form

Follow Sunrise Tennessee on Twitter and Facebook.

FULL PODCAST available on Apple Podcasts and wherever else you like to listen.

Why The Way You Talk About Climate Change Matters

Hosts Owen and Cassie talk about how to talk about climate change and why it matters. The media often frames human-caused climate change as a “belief” instead of asserting it as truth and attempts to provide balance to an issue in which only one side is based in fact. We cut through the bullshit and talk about how to frame climate change in ways that will actually bring solutions.

Find out what Native Land you are living on.

Phonebank for Marquita Bradshaw with us!

Sunrise Tennessee Interest Form

Follow Sunrise Tennessee on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook.

FULL PODCAST available on Apple Podcasts and wherever else you like to listen.

LAMAR ALEXANDER: “I Believe Climate Change Is Real, Caused By Humans”

With so much going on right now, we almost missed Lamar Alexander saying something few Republicans will these days: That climate change is real, and caused by humans.

This is not something you hear Republicans say every day.

Donald Trump hasn’t admitted it. Most Republicans have spent their time recently mocking and misrepresenting Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal, which attempts to address the realities of Climate Change in ambitious ways, but without offering ideas of their own.

Meanwhile President Trump has appointed a former coal lobbyist as the head of the EPA.

As a reminder, much of the dark money that funds these climate change denial efforts can be traced back to the Koch Brothers, who have a strong presence here in Tennessee.

In a Politico article today Alexander seems to be attempting to address that:

“I believe climate change is real. I believe humans are a major cause of it, and I think a new ‘Manhattan Project for Clean Energy’ is something that most Republicans could support, and I would hope most Democrats could too.”

The article also points out that more and more Americans see climate change as a major issue:

“Polls back up the importance of the issue for 2020. Likely Democratic caucus-goers in Iowa, home of the nation’s first presidential caucus, now rank climate change as the second-most important topic facing the nation.”

Just last week high school kids across the globe walked out in an attempt to highlight the problem – a problem even Exxon’s own scientists have been warning them about for decades. Children seem to be really understanding the negative impact of climate change, whilst some adults refuse to accept that climate change is happening. There are so many ways that humans can add to the existing climate change. It could be as simple as driving your car. If you’ve recently taken a long car journey, it might be worth visiting https://www.cooleffect.org/content/travel-offset to pay the travel offset of the journey. That goes towards companies that are trying to slow down climate change by reducing carbon emissions. It might be a nice way to help the environment. The more people who start accepting climate change, the quicker things can be done to prevent it.

It remains to be seen how far Alexander is willing to go, and since his time is almost at an end it seems unlikely he’ll be able to see anything through, but it’s nice to see the ice around climate change denial begin to thaw even a little. Especially since the warnings lately have been extremely dire.

If you agree, holler at Lamar HERE.