Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Green Mountain College Board Approves Divestment of Fossil Fuel Holdings

Re-posting this article from Green Mountain College:

May 14, 2013

The Green Mountain College board of trustees approved divestment from 200 publicly-traded companies which hold most of the world’s known coal, oil and gas reserves at its May 10 meeting. The decision aligns the college with its strategic plan "Sustainability2020,” which commits GMC to socially responsible investments. Following the decision, the college administration will work with its investment advisors to implement the plan.

"We see this as another step in an ongoing effort to connect our investment decisions with our ideals,” said Paul Fonteyn, president of Green Mountain College. "Investing endowment funds on the basis of social, economic and environmental criteria is one of the ways Green Mountain College expresses its values."

GMC has long been committed to reducing its own consumption of fossil fuels on campus. The College built a $5.8 million dollar biomass plant in 2011 which successfully converted the college's main heating source from fuel oil to renewable energy in the form of locally harvested woodchips.

The proposal to divest in fossil fuels resulted from a collaboration between student groups, including Divest GMC, and the college administration. In 2010 the trustees approved an initial investment equal to 15% of the college's endowment in a portfolio of companies that design ecologically superior products, use renewable energy, and develop efficient production methods. Students in Divest GMC hosted a "teach-in" presented by GMC economics professor Paul Hancock and hosted an online interview with author and environmentalist Bill McKibben, whose organization 350.org has urged colleges to purge their investment portfolios in fossil fuel companies.

"We're pleased with the conversation that has occurred this semester between students and administration, resulting in the divestment from 350.org’s list of the most destructive 200 fossil fuel companies," said a statement issued by Divest GMC. "As students of an Environmental Liberal Arts college we look forward to continuing the dialogue of authentic sustainability, both environmentally and socially. In this way we are strengthening student voice in all aspects of institutional education."

“I’m delighted Green Mountain College has taken a leadership role in this important issue,” McKibben said. “GMC has long had a great reputation for environmental studies. Now they've demonstrated that it's a core part of their values. What leadership!"

A special advisory committee made up of students and administrators will continue to meet and review GMC's investment portfolio and provide recommendations regarding socially responsible investment initiatives, guided in part by best practices identified by the Sustainable Endowments Institute and the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education's sustainability tracking and rating system's investment section.

Kudos to GMC for their courageous and forward leadership!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

10 Skills to Hone for a Post-Oil Future (with humor)

Here's a wonderful little article that will put a smile on your face. (I think I'll start with #10, hit #4 this summer, and work my way up to #5 for my 10-year anniversary.)

10 Skills to Hone for a Post-Oil Future


Published in the May/June 2013 issue of Orion magazine


To learn how to live in a post-petroleum world, recall the pre-petroleum world where blacksmiths made everything: tools, nails, hinges, lamps, hooks, gates, and railings. Wheels, even! With a barrel and some fire, a blacksmith could turn rusted car panels into cookware. Think of all the scrap metal we’ll have when the oil’s all gone.


Find a shoelace and a copy of The Shipping News. Knots can weave rugs, fashion snowshoes, repair almost anything. A diamond hitch holds a load on a mule or a sled. A bowline to cinch a tarp, a Prusik to climb a tree. While fighting a forest fire, a friend once fixed a shovel with parachute cord, half-hitches, and pine pitch. And when the parachute cord runs out, there’s plenty of sinew. From knot tying, it’s a short hop to basketry.


Crosscuts are remarkably effective. Not chainsaw fast, not ax slow either. Problem is, since anyone can use one, anyone can ruin one by dragging it through dirt. Good ones haven’t been made for seventy years, so this lost art may be in high demand. Pick up a file, spider set, and how-to manual on eBay for about twenty bucks.


The Homestead Act required settlers to prove-up by planting fruit trees. Nothing symbolized self-sufficiency more. But plant an apple seed and—as anyone who’s read Michael Pollan knows—you get sour apples. To get sizable, recognizable fruit, you graft. Heritage apple guru Tom Burford encourages everyone who knows how to graft to teach five others. My partner started by teaching the kids at the local one-room school. Her advice: bring Band-aids.


If the Polynesians could crisscross the Pacific without a GPS, we can too. Read Thor Heyerdahl’s Kon-Tiki for inspiration and Chet Raymo’s365 Starry Nights for elucidation. Few of us will build a balsa raft, true, but remember: before planes, trains, and automobiles, travel by water was faster and easier than by land. Less light pollution will certainly help us find our way.


In seventh grade the nuns forced me to practice cursive for three weeks straight, which seemed pointless and cruel in the Apple II era. But maybe the nuns were on to something. How will we communicate without LED screens? Smoke signals?


Once my partner and I tried to install a used cast-iron sink in the bathroom only to find we needed an antique hanger and fixtures to boot. An old-timer neighbor kicked his boot toe into some fir needles in his yard and—voilĂ !—Restoration Hardware in the duff. Hoarding gets a bad rap when there’s a Home Depot on every corner, but not reducing might actually be the key to recycling and reusing.


Mechanical advantage doesn’t require fuel. A pulley or block and tackle magnifies force, so you can lift heavier loads with less effort. No crane or excavator needed. A grip hoist or come-along requires no energy source but your own. You’ll appreciate the addictive magic of this fact when you’ve lifted a thousand-pound footbridge all by your 120-pound self. Believe me.


Ask people in the developing world or anyone who travels by foot, and they’ll tell you: if it takes a long time to get somewhere, you’re going to stay a while. So we need to be prepared. Keep clean sheets on hand. Save up on food. And patience.


Early to bed, late to rise, saves on lamp oil and firewood. Plus, sleeping saves energy, mostly your own. It also keeps you healthy. Lack of sleep has been linked to heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, obesity, psychiatric disorders, and poor quality of life. Why wait for the power reserves to run dry? Start now and get a jump on the future.