Paul: “So we care about each other, we care about the world, there is a chance to turn this around, and now is the time to do it, I think everybody wants to have good challenges and a meaningful life and we won the raffle on that one, we get to be involved in one of the most challenging and meaningful times and movements in human history, and now is the time to jump in.”
Environmental activist and volunteer on the CalSTRS team at Fossil Free CA (FFCA), Paul Trudeau challenges climate despair by framing climate action, the direct actions of the collective to transition our energy systems, as purpose, meaning, a good kind of challenge, in which everyone must be engaged.
Paul: “This change is coming and the sooner we do it the better. It’s not easy to do now, it’s terribly difficult to do now, it’s messy and it’s probably the best time to do it. It’s only going to get worse if we don’t do it later.“
One way Paul focuses his climate activism in this historic moment, is with his team at Fossil Free California, a group of concerned citizens pressuring the California State Teacher’s Retirement System (CalSTRS) to remove oil, gas, and coal companies’ social license to operate by divesting from fossil fuels.
Paul: “Oil companies are all about money and you have to hit them where it hurts. So I think withdrawing investment from fossil fuel companies is pretty significant.”
An ongoing effort to convince CalSTRS’ investment advisors that fossil fuel financing does not insure teachers’ futures, Paul describes his team’s two-pronged approach:
Paul: “We have an inside game and an outside game. There are plenty of people researching the issues, the technical issues of oil companies and divestment and the pension funds as well as the particular politics of the individuals on the board, that’s sort of the inside game, but the outside game is getting the 300,000 teachers in this state to say give us our damn money back and don’t put it in fossil fuels.”
An advocate for educators, Paul reflects on what it is like to work with his team at FFCA:
Paul: “[FFCA is] a small group, working on people who have positions of power, and trying to get them to change their opinion, as well as organizing the broader public to try to make those changes. It’s kind of a conversation organization in that way, I would say.”
In addition to working on CalSTRS investors, Paul and his team at FFCA also organizes public protests alongside local environmental groups to fight fossil fuel investment and promote divestment. When asked about a favorite experience volunteering with FFCA, Paul replies:
Paul: “We did organize a big march through Sacramento ending at CalSTRS a few months ago with young people… We had local indigenous leaders there and Sunrise chapter was there in force, it was a good showing from the local community as well as people from around the state. The kids came up with this idea of running an oil tanker through downtown Sacramento, which we did and they wanted to cover themselves with oil – fake oil – and they did, and it caught tons of media attention which was awesome.”