SHIFTING CULTURAL VALUES ON FOSSIL FUELS

Fundamentally, the task is to articulate not just an alternative set of policy proposals but an alternative worldview to rival the one at the heart of the ecological crisis…. This is required not only to create a political context to dramatically lower emissions, but also to help us cope with the disasters we can no longer avoid. — Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything

Last weekend was my first in-person board of directors meeting as the new CEO of the Institute of Cultural Affairs [ICA]-USA. It was a full agenda over 48+ hours.

ICA’s GreenRise, located at 4750 N. Sheridan Road in Chicago’s Uptown community, was designated as a Chicago landmark building in 2013 and was the first building owned by a nonprofit to join “RetroFit Chicago’s Commercial Buildings Initiative.”

ICA’s GreenRise, located at 4750 N. Sheridan Road in Chicago’s Uptown community, was designated as a Chicago landmark building in 2013 and was the first building owned by a nonprofit to join “RetroFit Chicago’s Commercial Buildings Initiative.”

The quote above was picked by one of our directors for Sunday morning’s opening reflection. It resonated with me and the other directors for the urgency of its message, since we began Saturday morning with a discussion of Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything including viewing a poignant less than 10-minute video from her webpage.

As followers of my blog know, this book has been significant for me in this new chapter of my community development career, including a book review for SHELTERFORCEThis Changes Everything resonates with ICA-USA’s mission to “build a just and equitable society in harmony with planet earth.” Klein stresses a strategy that is at the heart of ICA’s method:

“This is another lesson from the transformative movements of the past: all of them understood that the process of shifting cultural values – though somewhat ephemeral and difficult to quantify – was central to their work.”

In September 2014, ICA-USA activated the second largest solar array in the city of Chicago (only the Shedd Aquarium is larger). The array consists of 485 solar panels deployed over 35,000 square feet of roof space on two separate roofs consisting of three distinct arrays. They are producing 150Kw and reducing our building’s dependency on external electricity by 25%.

In September 2014, ICA-USA activated the second largest solar array in the city of Chicago (only the Shedd Aquarium is larger). The array consists of 485 solar panels deployed over 35,000 square feet of roof space consisting of three distinct arrays. They are producing 150Kw and reducing our building’s dependency on external electricity by 25%.

As ICA-USA begins to explore how and where to best deploy our methods for action on climate change, our board of directors took another step to investing for a sustainable future by voting to divest from fossil fuels and re-allocating our modest capital into fossil fuel free portfolios.

The movement for fossil fuel divestment exploded in early 2013, and socially conscious investors have increasingly been requesting fossil fuel free investment strategies. 350.org (founded by Bill McKibben) is calling for divestment especially by colleges from the stocks and bonds of the 200 publicly-traded fossil fuel companies with the most proven reserves of coal, oil, and gas.

ICA-USA invests with socially responsible firms of First Affirmative Financial Network. Their briefing paper on Fossil Fuel Free notes that the global atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) increased to 400ppm (parts per million) in 2013 from a pre-industrial value of approximately 280ppm.

“We need to reduce and limit our use of fossil fuels in order to reduce the level of atmospheric CO2 if we want to live on a planet similar to what has supported life to date. Scientific evidence states that we have a 50% chance of staying under the 2⁰C warming ceiling at 450ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere. If we want a greater than 50% likelihood of staying below a 2⁰C increase, we must reduce CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere to 350ppm – 400ppm…. The growing evidence of climate change, and the likelihood of increasing financial risks of investing in fossil fuel extracting companies, has become a significant motivating force around fossil fuel free investing.”

Climate change is personal for me. It’s only May and we are already having multiple days of temperatures in the 80s here in Chicago. Four times in past summers, my body has over-reacted to heat in excess of 90 degrees; twice resulting in trips to the emergency rooms, the last by ambulance.

Action now is paramount. If you haven’t yet read Naomi’s book, move it to the top of your list. If you have, recommend it to others. If you have personal investments or serve on an organization’s board or can influence your company’s policy, divest from fossil fuels. It’s past time for the market to speak in the best interest of our own survival. It’s time for us all to act now.

“Because in the hot and stormy future we have already made inevitable through our past emissions, an unshakable belief in the equal rights of all people and a capacity for deep compassion will be the only things standing between civilization and barbarism.” — Naomi Klein

This is my 39th weekly blog. I have yet to repeat lyrics for the U2Cando playlist. But it’s appropriate to do so now in case you missed it back in February. If you didn’t check out the music video then, be sure to do so now. We started off our discussion on climate change at the ICA-USA board meeting by singing along:

We’re on a planet
That has a problem
Time to solve it, get involved and do it
NOW, NOW, NOW
We’re out to build a better future
And we need to start right now.

SING FOR THE CLIMATE

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