We’re Asking Charlottesville to Divest from Weapons and Fossil Fuels

Charlottesville, Virginia, has yet to take down its racist statues (the ones all the fuss has been about or any of the other ones). Charlottesville has yet to ban guns from public events. It blames the state legislature in both of those and many other topics. But the City of Charlottesville has our public dollars invested in weapons, and it is perfectly capable of changing that.

In this case, excuses may prove hard to come by. Charlottesville has divested in the past from Sudan and from South Africa.

The City has passed resolutions in the past opposing wars and urging Congress to move money from militarism to human and environmental needs. Yet the City has our money invested in weapons companies whose weapons are used in environmentally destructive wars in which most of the victims don’t look “white” — and often used on both sides of those wars.

And the City has our money invested in fossil fuel companies — exactly the entities National Security Advisor John Bolton says will benefit from overthrowing the government of Venezuela.

The City is perfectly capable of establishing a policy of not investing in weapons companies — a policy that would cover whatever companies produced the guns people brought here in August 2017. It is perfectly capable of divesting from fossil fuel companies.

Other cities are passing similar measures. The U.S. Congress has rules for the acceptance of petitions from local and state governments. The rules were written by a guy named Thomas Jefferson, local Charlottesville deity. It is absolutely appropriate for our City Council to represent us to a higher and less representative level of government or to take action on a national or global issue. But this is a local issue. Climate chaos happens here in Charlottesville as everywhere else. Gun violence happens here. The impacts of war culture happen here. And this is our money we’re talking about.

At least two companies that Charlottesville has money invested in are big suppliers of Saudi Arabia and its war on Yemen, the worst humanitarian disaster seen in many years. This is not something the people of Charlottesville would vote for, but we’ve never been asked. So, we’re volunteering our opinion.

Charlottesville should set an example for other cities to follow. This is our planet at stake. Here’s local TV coverage of our effort to ask the City to divest. We plan to bring the matter to the City Council on March 4th. Three candidates for City Council this year, and numerous organizations have endorsed. The list of endorsers is at DivestCville.org as is this draft resolution:

WHEREAS, U.S. weapons companies supply deadly weapons to numerous brutal dictatorships around the globe[1], and companies Charlottesville currently has public funds invested in include Boeing and Honeywell, which are major suppliers of Saudi Arabia’s horrific war on the people of Yemen;

WHEREAS, the current federal administration has labeled climate change a hoax, moved to withdraw the U.S. from the global climate accord, attempted to suppress climate science, and worked to intensify the production and use of warming-causing fossil fuels, with the burden therefore falling on city, county, and state governments to assume climate leadership for the sake of their citizens’ wellbeing and the health of local and regional environments;

WHEREAS, militarism is a major contributor to climate change[2], and the City of Charlottesville has urged the U.S. Congress to invest less in militarism and more in protecting human and environmental needs[3];

WHEREAS, the City of Charlottesville’s own investments ought to model the changes it has urged on the Congress;

WHEREAS, continuing on the current course of climate change will cause a global average temperature rise of 4.5ºF by 2050, and cost the global economy $32 trillion dollars[4];

WHEREAS, five-year averages of temperature in Virginia began a significant and steady increase in the early 1970s, rising from 54.6 degrees Fahrenheit then to 56.2 degrees F in 2012, and the Piedmont area has seen the temperature rise at a rate of 0.53 degrees F per decade, at which rate Virginia will be as hot as South Carolina by 2050 and as northern Florida by 2100[5];

WHEREAS, economists at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst have documented that military spending is an economic drain rather than a jobs-creation program, and that investment in other sectors is economically beneficial[6];

WHEREAS, satellite readings show water tables dropping worldwide, and more than one in three counties in the United States could face a “high” or “extreme” risk of water shortages due to climate change by the middle of the 21st century, while seven in ten of the more than 3,100 counties could face “some” risk of shortages of fresh water[7];

WHEREAS, wars are often fought with U.S.-made weapons used by both sides[8];

WHEREAS, heat waves now cause more deaths in the United States than all other weather events (hurricanes, floods, lightning, blizzards, tornados, etc.) combined and dramatically more than all deaths from terrorism, and an estimated 150 people in the United States will die from extreme heat every summer day by 2040, with almost 30,000 heat-related deaths annually[9];

WHEREAS, local government investing in companies producing weapons of war implicitly supports federal war spending on those same companies, many of which depend on the federal government as their primary customer;

WHEREAS, between 1948 and 2006 “extreme precipitation events” increased 25% in Virginia, with negative impacts on agriculture, a trend predicted to continue[10], and global sea level is projected to rise an average of at least two feet by the end of the century, with rising along the Virginia coast among the most rapid in the world[11];

WHEREAS, weapons companies that Charlottesville can commit to not investing in produced the weapons brought to Charlottesville in August 2017;

WHEREAS, fossil fuel emissions must be cut by 45% by 2030 and to zero by 2050 in order to hold warming to the 2.7 ºF (1.5 ºC) goal targeted in the Paris Accord[12];

WHEREAS, climate change is a serious threat to the health, safety and welfare of the people of Charlottesville, and the American Academy of Pediatrics has warned that climate change poses a threat to human health and safety, with children being uniquely vulnerable, and calls failure to take “prompt, substantive action” an “act of injustice to all children”[13];

WHEREAS, the rate of mass shootings in the United States is the highest anywhere in the developed world, as civilian gun manufacturers continue to reap enormous profits off bloodshed that we do not need to invest our public dollars in;

WHEREAS, the City’s investment practices may be in conflict with the City’s commitment to equality and justice;

AND WHEREAS, hundreds of people have petitioned the City to take the following action[14];

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the City Council formally declares its opposition to investing City funds in any entities that are involved in the production of fossil fuels or the production or upgrading of weapons and weapons systems, whether conventional or nuclear, and including the manufacture of civilian arms, and decides that it shall be City policy to divest from such entities; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the City Council directs any and all persons acting on behalf of City investment activity to enforce the provisions of this Resolution; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that this Resolution shall be binding City policy and shall be in full force and effect after adoption by the City Council.

1. Rich Whitney, Truthout, Sept. 23, 2017, “US Provides Military Assistance to 73 Percent of World’s Dictatorships” https://truthout.org/articles/us-provides-military-assistance-to-73-percent-of-world-s-dictatorships/

2. World BEYOND War, “War Threatens Our Environment,” https://worldbeyondwar.org/environment

3. World BEYOND War, “City of Charlottesville Passes Resolution Asking Congress to Fund Human and Environmental Needs, Not Military Expansion,” March 20, 2017, https://worldbeyondwar.org/city-charlottesville-passes-resolution-asking-congress-fund-human-environmental-needs-not-military-expansion

4. “Pursuing the 1.5°C Limit: Benefits and Opportunities,” by the

United Nations Development Programme, Nov 16, 2016. http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/librarypage/climate-and-disaster-resilience-/pursuing-the-1-5c-limit—benefits-and-opportunities.html

5. Stephen Nash, Virginia Climate Fever: How Global Warming Will Transform Our Cities, Shorelines, and Forests, University of Virginia Press, 2017. https://www.upress.virginia.edu/title/4501

6. Political Economy Research Institute, “The U.S. Employment Effects of Military and Domestic Spending Priorities: 2011 Update,” https://www.peri.umass.edu/publication/item/449-the-u-s-employment-effects-of-military-and-domestic-spending-priorities-2011-update

7. “Climate change may increase risk of water shortages in hundreds of US counties by 2050,” https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120215143003.htm

8. Examples include U.S. wars in Syria (https://www.latimes.com/world/middleeast/la-fg-cia-pentagon-isis-20160327-story.html ), Iraq (https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/isis-weapons-arsenal-included-some-purchased-u-s-government-n829201 ), Libya (https://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/06/world/africa/weapons-sent-to-libyan-rebels-with-us-approval-fell-into-islamist-hands.html ), the Iran-Iraq war (http://articles.latimes.com/1987-06-18/news/mn-8000_1_gulf-war ), the Mexican drug war (https://fas.org/asmp/library/publications/us-mexico.htm ), World War II (https://www.amazon.com/Trading-Enemy-Charles-Higham/dp/0760700095/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1463760561&sr=1-1&keywords=Trading+with+the+enemy ) and many others.

9. “Our cities are getting hotter—and its killing people,” by Alissa Walker, https://www.curbed.com/2018/7/6/17539904/heat-wave-extreme-heat-cities-deadly

10. Nash, op. cit.

11. “Climate-change–driven accelerated sea-level rise detected in the altimeter era,” by R. S. Nerem, B. D. Beckley, J. T. Fasullo, B. D. Hamlington, D. Masters, and G. T. Mitchum. PNAS February 27, 2018, 115 (9) 2022-2025; published ahead of print February 12, 2018 https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1717312115. https://www.pnas.org/content/115/9/2022

12. “Global Warming of 1.5°C, An IPCC Special Report; Summary for Policymakers.” October 2018. https://report.ipcc.ch/sr15/pdf/sr15_spm_final.pdf

13. “Global Climate Change and Children’s Health,” by Samantha Ahdoot, Susan E. Pacheco, and The Council on Environmental Health. Pediatrics, Nov 2015, Vol 136 / Issue 5, a Technical Report from the American Academy of Pediatrics. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/136/5/e1468

14. https://diy.rootsaction.org/p/cvilledivest

 

 

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