As we celebrate the re-introduction of the Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill, SB252, I invite you to join me in looking back and honoring the day eight years ago that Fossil Free California got its start as a statewide divestment campaign. On Friday, February 13, 2015, Fossil Free California launched as part of the “Global Divestment Day” organized by 350.org. We rallied 60 climate activists at the CalPERS Sacramento headquarters, with leadership from 350’s California divestment campaign organizer, Jay Carmona.
Two years earlier, in January 2013, the seeds for building a statewide divestment campaign were planted when Judy Pope organized the first 350 Bay Area divestment meeting at our house in Berkeley. Inspired by a former UC Berkeley activist from the anti-apartheid divestment movement, many of us at that meeting committed ourselves to the challenge of divesting institutions from fossil fuels. Linda Rudolph, public health advisor on climate and health, was there that night, and went on to speak at our launch. Martha Turner, who traveled by train from Sacramento to Berkeley to join us that evening, became one of our early leaders and board members.
What has kept us so committed to Fossil Free California since these early years? A sense of the urgency of climate change propelled our growth, even while we were a small, wholly volunteer organization. We also had early success that increased our sense of purpose. In 2015 we built a bigger base of California supporters that helped pass Senate Bill 185, legislation that mandated divestment by both CalPERS and CalSTRS from thermal coal companies. As Fossil Free California grew, we built a sense of community and resilience by acting together and with other committed climate activists. By 2018, FFCA was able to hire full-time staff, helping us become more organized and effective.
In 2020, we joined many other climate activists in facing how much an organization like ours needed to learn about racial, climate, and environmental injustice. We recognized past mistakes and we made a commitment to organize more inclusively and equitably with frontline communities going forward. Under the direction of Miriam Eide, we have strengthened our coalition relationships with other powerful groups, like Youth vs. Apocalypse, Last Chance Alliance, the California Faculty Association, and STAND.earth.
In 2022, these powerful coalition relationships propelled our fossil fuel divestment bill through the California Senate. In 2023, we are building an even bigger, stronger coalition that will allow us to pass a new divestment bill, authored by Senator Lena Gonzalez: SB 252. After eight years of focused effort, we will succeed in accomplishing total divestment by CalPERS and CalSTRS, led by our community, including frontline, youth, and union leaders.
If you’re new, we invite you to learn more and join our coalition today, whether as an organization, a union member, or an individual.
We need you in this movement.