Teachers – Why CalSTRS should divest from Fossil Fuels

What are the financial reasons for CalSTRS to divest from fossil fuels?

When it comes to fossil fuel divestment, which may come off as radical to some, you may be asking yourself, is it plausible for this money to be divested from such a large and powerful industry? The answer is yes! More than 1,000 institutions around the world have committed to divest, including universities, faith-based organizations, non-profits, municipalities, philanthropic organizations, and national and state pension funds, controlling $14.48 trillion in assets. It’s not a stretch to think that CalSTRS could be the next to do so. In California, cities like Berkley, San Luis Obispo, San Jose, Santa Monica, and San Francisco have already fully divested from fossil fuels. The City of San Francisco, for example, had the Board of Supervisors unanimously pass a nonbinding resolution urging the managers of the San Francisco Employees’ Retirement System to divest their funds in 2018; and the Board of Supervisors divested from five major oil companies. They have even approved a plan to work with CalSTRS. San Francisco’s goal is remarkably similar to ours and proves that it is not an overly ambitious endeavor. Not to mention that the University of California has also fully divested from all fossil fuels, making it the nation’s largest educational institution to do so. Keep in mind that these examples are only from California, but the extent of divestment efforts are much more widespread than that. So please, choose to be on the right side of the climate change fight and the right side of history. Teachers – let CalSTRS know that you want them to divest your money from fossil fuels.

Teachers contribute about 10 percent of their salary and other creditable compensation toward their pension. These funds, along with payroll contributions from employers and from the State of California, are invested by CalSTRS to provide the pension benefit upon retirement. CalSTRS lost over $1.63B in its Fossil Fuel holdings between July 2019 and June 2020. Furthermore, according to a Corporate Knights report done before the COVID-19 crash, CalSTRS would have made $5.5 billion more if they had divested ten years ago. They currently continue to lose money. CalSTRS should be divesting their money from fossil fuels and redirecting that money towards renewable energy. It has been proven that funds that exclude fossil fuels are increasingly outperforming those that still invest in fossil fuels.

In lieu of investing in nonrenewable energy sources, CalSTRS should invest in clean, renewable energy. Investment in clean energy is less likely to fluctuate and, in the long term, will yield better profits. According to Forbes Magazine, renewable energy stocks were “less volatile across the board than fossil fuels, with such portfolios holding up well during the turmoil caused by the pandemic, while oil and gas collapsed.” The website Renewable Energy World also stated that the fossil fuel industry management over the last decade has made the energy sector the worst-performing part of the S&P500. Even UC’s chief investment officers, Sherman and Jagdeep Singh Bachher said that they’re “betting” they can make money for the University of California without fossil fuel investment. All of this then means that in the future, if CalSTRS divests from fossil fuels, it definitely possible for them to keep incrementing their portfolio value without relying on fossil fuels, especially as Bachher notes that they pose an “unacceptable financial risk,” particularly with “geopolitical tensions and likely, a bumpy and slow global financial recovery in a post-pandemic world.”

What are the ethical reasons for CalSTRS to divest from fossil fuels?

Approximately 49% of the U.S. greenhouse gases come from fossil fuels, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency – targeting fossil fuels would make the most impact overall. Fossil fuels are destroying our environment. They pollute at every step, from production to disposal of plastics and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change and global warming. Climate change is responsible for various natural disruptions and disasters, including our most current and impactful wildfires in our beloved California forests. As SoCal residents, we have witnessed first hand just how destructive these fires are and their worsening severity over time. Ultimately, fossil fuels are destroying the world around us. According to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the world is facing “a direct existential threat” and must rapidly shift from dependence on fossil fuels by 2020 to prevent “runaway climate change.”

Burning fewer fossil fuels is not only the primary solution to climate change, but it is also the most impactful way to tackle air pollution. According to an article by Yale University, in the U.S., air pollution takes the lives of about 100,000 people every year. It’s the cause of 3% of all U.S. deaths, which is more deaths than traffic accidents and homicides combined, and air pollution costs the American economy up to $1 trillion per year. The geographic distribution of health problems varies with the specific source of pollution. Industrial pollution such as oil refineries occurs in hotspots throughout Texas and the Southeast. The types of chemicals released through the fossil fuel extraction, refining, and release into the atmosphere also vary, but those involved include mercury, benzene, fine air particulate matter such as PM2.5, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen oxides. Many of these are ranked in the top ten chemicals of major public health concern by the World Health Organization. Not to mention, according to a Harvard study, an increase of 1 μg/m3 in PM2.5 is associated with an 8% increase in the COVID-19 death rate.

As is the case for many environmental problems, those who deal with air pollution consequences are not the ones who cause the damage. In the U.S., high poverty areas endure disproportionally higher health and economic impacts of air pollution. Furthermore, according to this same article by Yale University, a recent study found that non-Hispanic whites breathe in around 17% less air pollution than they cause by their own consumption, while black and Hispanic people inhale more than 50% more pollution than is generated by their actions.

While some continue to debate the greenhouse effect, few can deny the importance of saving American lives – and lungs. Therefore, our teachers should keep Californian families safe by making sure their retirement pension in companies that promote the welfare of its people and future generations.

The petition for students is https://www.change.org/p/california-students-convince-calstrs-to-divest-from-fossil-fuels?source_location=topic_page

The petition for teachers is https://www.change.org/p/smmcta-have-calstrs-divest-from-fossil-fuels?recruiter=1143027451&recruited_by_id=d4fe8930-e33e-11ea-a81a-917f861995ed&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=copylink&utm_campaign=petition_dashboard

Team Marine Advocates for SB 54 and AB 1080

One of Team Marine’s biggest focus is combating plastic pollution. To take action in previous years, Team Marine has made many efforts in plastic pollution activism, advocacy, and community engagement. One of their projects consisted of constructing and displaying a giant plastic water bottle at Third Street Promenade to bring attention to the issue with the City of Santa Monica’s support. During their showcases, they also collected hundreds of signature from the community walking by to support SB 54 and AB 1080. Although SB 54 and AB 1080 were rejected in the 2019 legislative session, they have come back and have limited time to be revived in 2020. Some of the team’s members have come together to contact assemblymembers to vote YES on SB 54 and AB 1080. This revision is happening right now. Click here to see a part of their advocacy work. 

Team Marine Wins the Bow Seat Marine Debris Creative Advocacy Competition

A group of Team Marine students, Siri Storstein-Norgaard, Ansel Garcia-Langley, Isabel Homberg Reissmeier, Anastasia Shakhidzhanova, Nikita Bahadur, Jay Cho, Kian Taheri, Lilly Chertock, Catherine Todd, Karina Wisen and Daniel Thurmond,  won the Gold Award in the International Bow Seat Marine Debris Creative Advocacy Competition. Team Marine was given a prize of $5000 from our work on the giant plastic bottle, advocacy in our community and our efforts to educate high school freshmen on environmental issues. Watch our video here. Read more in our press release.

Climate Action Fair and Assembly

 

On September 20th, 2019 Team Marine hosted an assembly during 4th-period classes to educate students about the climate crisis. The event was aimed towards getting those who weren’t striking downtown to be involved in combating the effects of climate change. During the assembly, students heard from 6 Team Marine student speakers, Ansel Garcia-Langely, Isabel Homberg-Reissmeier, Daniel Thurmond, Anastasia Shakhidzhanova, Areianaz Eghbali, and Karina Wisen. They also heard speeches from Santa Monica Mayor Gleam Davis, SMMUSD Sustainability Coordinator Caroline Coster, and a video message from State Senator Ben Allen.

Following the assembly, a Climate Action Fair was held in the Centennial Quad to allow students to get more involved in environmental organizations. The organizations represented were Heal the Bay, Surfrider, Algalita, Sunrise, Treepeople, Friends of the LA River, Team Marine, One Swap at a Time, Climate Action Santa Monica, and Power California.

 

Team Marine is Interviewed by KCRW

On September 5th, four members of Team Marine, Lilly Chertock, Ansel Garcia-Langely, Anastasia Shakhidzhanova, and Isabel Homberg Reissmeier, met with KCRW. They spoke with DnA (Design and Architecture), a show on KCRW, to discuss Greta Thunberg and the climate crisis around the would in general. We are very grateful for this wonderful opportunity to further educate our community on the environment. Listen to the interview here.

Plastic Ocean Film Premiere

On January 17th, Team Marine attended the premiere of Plastic Ocean, a documentary about plastic pollution and its effects on human and environmental health. Before the screening we were able to talk to community members about the effects of plastic on the environment. We were also able to show our eco-costumes made up of things like plastic forks, straws, plastic water bottles and bottle caps. The movie itself highlighted the health and environmental concerns of plastic, especially on the ocean. After the movie we listened to the panel discussion which featured a wide range of environmentalists, one of which was actually Benjamin Kay, our club advisor. We would like to say thank you to the production team behind the movie, to everyone who attended and to those who spoke in the panel.

 

 

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Bernie Sanders Rally

By Amanda Samimi

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On Monday, May 23, presidential candidate Bernie Sanders held a rally at our school, Santa Monica High School. Many Sanders supporters, including some Team Marine members, were overjoyed to have a presidential candidate speak at their very own school. Bernie talked enthusiastically for little over an hour about the platform of his candidacy, which includes policies such as providing universal healthcare, raising the federal minimum wage, and perhaps most importantly, combating climate change.

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In previous debates and speeches, Sanders noted that climate change is the most important issue facing Americans today, and Team Marine could not agree more. On Monday, he dedicated a few minutes of his speech to addressing the grave issue of global climate change, which happened to be one of the segments in which he received the most applause. We would like to thank everyone who helped plan and set up such a successful rally and would like to remind everyone in California to vote in the Tuesday, June 7th primary.

Tesla Model 3

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By Amanda Samimi
Tesla Motors released the design of their 3rd generation electric vehicle on March 31st, 2016. The Model 3 has revolutionized electric vehicles forever. It is the first affordable luxury electric vehicle. The car starts at just $35,000, before tax incentives. The intention of Tesla is to make electric cars widespread to the masses. Tesla envisions a world where most of the vehicles on the road are electric and that vision is only possible if the cars are affordable to the common person. Surely other motor companies will be releasing their own electric vehicles to compete with the Model 3’s design and performance. The Model 3 goes from 0 to 60 in 6 seconds. Elon musk, the CEO and co-founder of Tesla Motors said that he will never make a car that slow again. The Model 3 can go 215 miles on one charge, and with Superchargers all around the country, it makes roadtripping almost free.Tesla is currently accepting pre-orders. The company plans to ship the cars out in late 2017. More than 150,000 people reserved their Model 3’s on the very first day it was announced. A bright future is in place for Tesla and for the environmental cause.

Ocean Friendly Restaurants

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Team Marine is proud to partner with Surfrider’s Ocean Friendly Restaurants (OFR) program! The goal of Ocean Friendly Restaurants is to reward restaurants for their beneficial practices.

Team Marine members have begun contacting local restaurants to inform them of this great opportunity. Perks of being an Ocean Friendly Restaurant include decals, informational materials, social media promotion, training of staff, and much more! Many restaurants already qualify for most, if not all, OFR requirements.

The three mandatory requirements include:
1. No expanded polystyrene use (aka Styrofoam).
2. Proper recycling practices are followed.
3. Water conservation efforts such as saving water in a drought, no hosing down outside without capturing the water to reduce urban runoff, and/or proper disposal of FOG (fats, oil and grease) to conserve water and help reduce sewage spills.

Restaurants also choose three of the following to implement:
4. Plastic straws are provided only upon request.
5. Only reusable tableware is used for onsite dining and utensils for to-go food are provided only upon request.
6. No beverages sold in plastic bottles.
7. Discount offered for customers with reusable cup, mug, bag, etc.
8. No plastic bags offered for takeout or to-go orders.
9. Organic, local, and/or vegetarian/vegan food options are offered on a regular basis. All seafood must be a ‘Best Choice’ or ‘Good Alternative’ as defined by Seafood Watch.
10. Energy efficiency efforts are implemented where possible

If a restaurant implements all 10 of the qualifications, they are designated as a Platinum Level Ocean Friendly Restaurant!

Yesterday, Team Marine attended an OFR training session at the TOMS flagship store in Abbot Kinney. We met with Josephine Miller from the Santa Monica Office of Sustainability, who gave a great presentation on recyclable food containers. Team Marine was educated on new nationwide OFR criteria and proper recycling practices for restaurants in Santa Monica.

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Some information gleaned from Josephine’s presentation included examples of transitions from plastic packaging to paper packaging, even in franchise restaurants! Additionally, we learned that bioplastics (under #7) are not able to be composted with Santa Monica’s current program — as of now, they need to be composted in a special process. Interestingly, plastics with no number are actually the banned polystyrene (#6).

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We were happy to learn that Santa Monica aims to be a zero-waste community by 2030, with 95% landfill diversion! Restaurant patrons: you are also allowed to bring your own reusable takeout containers and pack your leftovers yourself — no intervention from the kitchen needed.

The link to the City of Santa Monica’s Non-Recyclable Food Service Container Ban website is http://www.sustainablesm.org/container

For more information regarding Ocean Friendly Restaurants, contact a Team Marine member or Surfrider-WLAM chair Emily Swallow at eswallow@wlam.surfrider.org.

World Water Day: March 22

We’d like to give a shoutout to our friends at WAVE club at Marina High School in Huntington Beach for their work for World Water Day! World Water Day is today, March 22! In order to initiate a conversation about water at their high school, WAVE created a large poster to inform students of the status of the drought. WAVE members then invited students to write their pledge to conserve water not only today, but every day.
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Marina High School student Austin Hwang founded WAVE in response to a lack on environmentally focused clubs on their campus. “I started WAVE in order to raise awareness about things from global climate change to ways to conserve water. Our main goal is to raise funds to provide access to clean water in places like Africa and Asia and it has been definitely both fun and rewarding!”
Here are some more resources for World Water Day.
How can you help?
» https://tap.unicefusa.org/mobile: Every 5 minutes away from your phone = 1 day of clean water for children in need!
» https://thewaterproject.org/: Donate to increase access to water in sub-Saharan Africa!
» Conserve water:
  • Turn off your faucet when brushing your teeth
  • Water your grass only when you step on it and it doesn’t spring back up
  • Wash your car only early in the morning or late at night

» Change your Facebook cover photo to raise awareness!

 Why is this day important?
» 1 in 9 people worldwide do not have access to safe and clean drinking water.
» Half of the world’s hospital beds are filled with people suffering from a water-related disease.
» Nearly 1 out of every 5 deaths under the age of 5 worldwide is due to a water-related disease.
» By investing in clean water alone, young children around the world can gain more than 413 million days of health!
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Thank you Austin and Marina High School WAVE for your work! We hope to implement a similar activism project here in Santa Monica!
Visit WAVE at http://mhswave.org/ and follow WAVE on Instagram @mhswave!