Wynne Furth: Climate Activist & Former City Attorney Calls for Fossil Fuel Divestment
Retired city attorney and long-time activist, Wynne Furth is also a direct beneficiary of CalPERS, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, which invests approximately $30 billion of its $400 billion, in oil, gas, and coal producers.
Wynne: “I’m a CalPERS retiree, and my husband was at the University of California where they have divested from fossil fuels in both their endowment and their retirement fund and they had a lot of serious intelligence and scholarship behind that, and the notion that CalPERS wouldn’t follow that very good example, distresses me.” – 2:20
On her team at Fossil Free California (FFCA), Wynne and fellow activists urge CalPERS’ investment decision-makers to divest from fossil fuel holdings in an ongoing attempt to enlighten the financial sector about their significant role in funding the climate crisis.
Wynne: “They have a lot of unsuccessful investments in fossil fuels and we’re trying to open their minds to the possibility that they ought to change this as part of their fiduciary responsibility to all of us.” 2:20
Highlighting the gulf between the worldviews of financial (business) professionals and public (government) employees, Wynne acknowledges that CalPERS considers the advice of technical and financial advisors over the needs of the fund’s direct beneficiaries, public employees like Wynne.
Wynne: “One of the problems is that California has adopted pension formula that it has never adequately funded… and the way that we try to get out of that dilemma is proposing investment returns that are so high as to be quite unlikely and if you’re doing that, it just makes you anxious about everything and very dependent upon your technical advisors.”
With her team at FFCA, Wynne urges the CalPERS’ investment board to consider divestment as an appropriate response to the climate crisis, and frames divestment as a fiduciary responsibility and financially, socially, and environmentally smart.
Wynne: “Until recently, the folkloric wisdom was – it’s expensive and dangerous to invest in an environmentally and socially responsible way. Now there’s lots of good information that says that’s not true.”
When asked about her favorite aspect of volunteering with Fossil Free California, Wynne explains:
Wynne: “I spent years as a city attorney in which you have to be very neutral, though no legal advice is completely neutral, its always shaped by your values and understanding, but it’s fun to not have to be neutral anymore.” – 11:30
For community members who care about the climate crisis, Wynne offers inspiring advice for how to get involved:
Wynne: “You do what you enjoy doing with people you enjoy. Anything else is not going to work in the long run and we all have skills, you can make a phone call, you can talk to a stranger, you can cook dinner, you can run a spreadsheet, you can write letters, you’re not afraid to testify at a public hearing. So you figure out – what do you like to do and who do you like to do it with? And that’s what you do.” – 16:48