Lynne Nittler: Youth Mentor & Former English Teacher Wants Teacher Retirement Fund to Divest
Retired secondary English teacher and life-long environmentalist committed to a low-carbon lifestyle, Lynne Nittler advocates for a society freed from its dependence on burning fossil fuels.
Lynne: Why are we in this extreme trouble now worldwide? What’s behind the climate change that we’re facing? It traces back to just one thing, it is not a whole number of things, it’s one thing: it’s the burning of fossil fuels…. We built a society based on it, it’s infiltrated everything, but we have lots of alternatives, we don’t have to be hooked to it, we can decouple from it, so let’s get going on that.” – 18:20
Rather than despair in the awareness of human-induced climate change, Lynne encourages people to work on decoupling society from fossil fuels on many levels: individual, communal, and systemic.
Lynne: “When you really wake up to climate change, then at least for me, the next question is: what can I do? I’m not ready to give up. So I always look at it many ways: my own personal life, am I all aligned? Have I done everything I can do? My own community – have I done everything I can do there? And then is there something bigger I can do? Is there advocacy? Where can I turn?… For me, Fossil Free CA was the advocacy, it was close enough, that I could be part of it. So that’s where I could be.” – 17:07
With teacher retirement savings in California’s largest teacher-only pension fund, CalSTRS, (California Teachers Retirement System), and healthcare savings with CalPERS (California Public Employees’ Retirement System), Lynne volunteers with the nonprofit Fossil Free CA (FFCA) that targets both funds, which together invest $50 billion in fossil fuel companies.
On how it feels to have so much of her teacher retirement funds in fossil fuels:
Lynne: “My own pension, my teacher pension? Well, what is teaching about? It’s about taking the young generation, our young people, who we love the most of anyone on the planet, and then you want my money invested in fossil fuels? The very thing that’s dooming their future? It brings me to tears, I can hardly bear that thought, so I have to fight that.” – 19:08
Among the many actions taken by Lynne and her teammates on the CalSTRS team at Fossil Free CA, one action is to attend CalSTRS investment meetings and present the case for divestment as an adequate response to the climate emergency.
Lynne: “Every two months, the CalSTRS board meets, so every two months we think – how might we reach them? Is there a fresh way that we could get them to hear our concerns? Get them to respond to our concerns? So we’re always trying to think of a fresh approach, something that might finally touch them because they seem so unresponsive.” – 8:47
While the CalSTRS and CalPERS boards have yet to seriously consider divestment, Lynne is upbeat and hopeful about how funds invested in fossil fuels today could be funds invested in accelerating the clean energy transition.
Lynne: We’re incredibly fortunate that at the same time, new technologies are emerging that amazingly can give us other kinds of solutions for our energy needs, which wasn’t apparent even ten, fifteen years ago, it wasn’t clear that we could actually make a pretty clean transition, but we can! – 5:14