BOSTON/Downtown Crossing - “Burning carbon is the whole point of digging it out,” said Naomi Klein, during the advocacy group 350.org’s "Do the Math" tour stop at the Orpheum Theater in Boston on Thursday night. The five top global oil companies made a profit of 137 billion dollars in the past year, according to visuals on 350.org’s slideshow. Bold words on the screen continued by reading, “The fossil fuel industry cheats,” winning nods of approval from the audience.
Klein, an author and outspoken critic of corporate globalization, was in Boston to present her views on attacking the fossil fuel industry at 350.orgs newest campaign- a national tour called “Do The Math. “ The focus on the tour is to promote divestment of funds from fossil fuel industries, and to promote awareness about the seriousness of climate change with “simple math.”
This math is: One, we can burn 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide. Two, this would allow us to stay below two degrees Celsius of warming- but anything more than that risks catastrophe for life on Earth. Three, this is a problem, because fossil fuel corporations have 2,795 gigatons of carbon dioxide left in their reserves. Humans have already increased the average global temperature by .8 degrees Celsius. As a result, hurricanes have hit cities formerly out of storm regions, droughts have left fertile soil dry, and one third of the summer sea ice of the Arctic has disappeared.
Klein stressed the importance of the movement with anecdotes of her time visiting parts of Red Hook and the Rockaways in New York City- areas notoriously hit hard by Hurricane Sandy. Klein said, “I met a woman on the 14th floor of a project. She said that while she wants her lights back on, and heat, what she wants more is for the government to find a way for the project to run on solar energy.” Klein claimed that this was a widespread reaction in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which many overwhelmingly credit to an increase in global warming.
Environmentalist Bill McKibben talked about the environmental communities’ conclusion that divestment was a viable solution. “Oil companies can’t stop digging without starring at their own demise. So we need to take something that gets their attention. Their money. I believe with the help of colleges and companies, we can do that.” McKibben mentioned his last tour stop in Portland, Maine, where Unity College announced that its trustees had voted to divest all funds from fossil fuel companies.”I don’t think this is going to be the last time we hear about something like this,” he said hopefully. He and Klein cited the apartheid divestments of billions of dollars the 1908s by universities as effective in the eventual end of apartheid.
John Kassel, President of the Conservation Law Foundation, a supporting organization of the event,was a graduate student during the apartheid divestment protests and sit-ins. He said, “Universities and students are going to be on the leading edge of this..” His organization helped the Do Math Tour book the Orpheum space to accommodate the sold-out show.
350.org’s short term goal is to put a halt to White House approval of the KeyStone Pipeline. McKibben said, “(The Alberta tar sands is the) second biggest pool of carbon on Earth. It would be unbelievably foolish to tap more heavily into it. The International Energy Agency released a report last week that vindicates our math and the crazy thing is fossil fuel companies have not pushed back or claimed it to be untrue. We need to leave 80% of the fossil fuels currently available in the ground.”