Russell Kilday-Hicks wrapped up the Sacramento launch of Fossil Free California, speaking for union members. He is statewide vice president of the California State Employees Association, an active member of the CSU Employees Union, and a staff employee at San Francisco State University. His speech:
I am statewide VP for the organization that started CalPERS way back in 1931. But today I’m here speaking for myself, and a small group of committed visionaries called Fossil Free California. I would like to be speaking for the 150,000 members I represent in the California State Employees Association but I do not have that authority—yet.
We need to build that consensus and we are starting that effort today. I’m confident we will get there.
One reason is the rapidly growing awareness of the effect our way of life is having on the planet. One perceived obstruction to full fossil fuel divestment would be the idea that the members of the CalPERS board have a duty to maximize the return on investment so that my retirement, and all of California’s public servants’, is secure.
Of course, I’m not against a secure retirement on the surface, but I have a right to question at what social cost? We can’t continue to pretend that a state pension fund can sit there all by itself in the world. Where we put our money, and where our money is put in our names, does have consequences. The successful divestment movements in tobacco and apartheid South Africa knew this.
Actually, there are two falsehoods at work here. The one is the idea of “profit” that doesn’t account for all the costs. Externalizing costs, making someone else pay, may be a successful business model but it’s not so great for running a planet.
For me, it’s just not acceptable to have a secure retirement while my grandchildren, or the neighbor’s children, or the children in the Central Valley all have asthma. We are counting profit today on their futures.
The second is the idea that fossil fuels will continue to be profitable. I believe their current returns are a falsehood already (they’ve been externalizing like crazy), not to mention the fallacious projections they make on future so-called profits.
In the near future I want to see two things: First, 100,000 CSEA members signing the petition asking that CalPERS stop encouraging the fossil fuel industry’s irresponsible behavior by removing our money. And secondly, leave it in the ground. Let’s all work to create the transition plan to sustainable energy that doesn’t steal from the future.
California’s state employees were there at the beginning of gaining respect for state workers. I hope they can be there in gaining new respect for the planet.
This movement is just beginning, and the message is the same for CalPERS members and the fossil fuel industry—join us or step aside! We got a planet to save and nothing is going to turn us back!