Fossil Free RI recently kicked
off its campaign to push the University of Rhode Island to divest from fossil
fuels with a screening of Do
the Math, a new documentary from 350.org about the climate movement.
"We stood…and we sat in the aisles to see Do the Math and to celebrate that fossil fuel divestment will come to URI," said Peter Nightingale, a URI physics professor.
Tommy Viscione, President of the URI Rotaract Club, hosted the Oct. 14 event that took place in Weaver Auditorium on the Kingston campus. Representatives from other sponsoring organizations including Student Action for Sustainability (SAS), Environmental and Natural Resource Economics Student Association (ENRESA) and Green Task Force of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of South County – were also in attendance to present the mission of their groups.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, who was unable to attend due to the government shutdown, sent a personal message of support to the group:
"Thank you to the Sierra Club and to all the students participating in this event for taking action on climate change. Every week, I give a speech in the Senate urging my colleagues to wake up to the effects of climate change. The effects are all around us, and they’re only getting worse: sea-level rise, ocean warming and acidification, temperature records and heat waves. Mother Nature is giving us some pretty strong signals, and we ignore them at our peril. I’ll keep fighting to get Congress to wake up, and your actions on campus are also critical. We need to spread awareness and encourage everyone to make their voices heard. Again, thank you for organizing this event, for pressing for divestment, and for joining the fight against climate change. I hope you enjoy the film.”
“The audience sat in rapt silence as the film laid out the ‘terrifying math’ of global warming: the fact that, barring drastic action, we will blow through our ‘carbon budget’ - the amount of fossil fuels we can burn without utterly destroying the climate--within the next 15 years; and, still more frightening, that the fossil fuel companies already have on their books over five times that amount,” said Abel Collins of the RI Sierra Club.
A lively discussion followed, with numerous and wide-ranging questions adeptly handled by the panel.
Larry Kelland of Wakefield raised the issue of the growing influence of fossil fuel companies on public policy due to the Citizens United Supreme Court decision; Collins reinforced this concern, noting that he is actively involved in the fight to overturn Citizens United and encouraging others to join in.
Rachel Bishop highlighted the connection between the environment and social justice, noting that power plants are usually located in low-income and minority neighborhoods.
Nick Katkevich expanded on this theme, noting that "we need to move outside our silos and see the connections between the crises we face. Climate change will unleash a wave of migration such as the world has never seen, making immigration reform more urgent than ever. In addition, the same banks that are financing mountaintop removal mining are also forcing families out of their homes."
"The movie made me feel hopeful about the possibility of ending the use of fossil fuels and saving the earth and all its inhabitants!" said Jan Creamer of Wakefield.
"I am going to bed tonight with a deep sense of gratitude,” said Collins after the viewing. “Thanks to the great work of URI student volunteers and the member/volunteers of Fossil Free RI, 350.org, and Rhode Island Sierra Club, we had standing room only in the auditorium. The film was inspiring, but it was the community that came together to experience it and the great discussion that we had afterward that made it meaningful."
Abel Collins, Program Manager of Sierra Club Rhode Island Chapter may be contacted at abel.collins@sierraclub.