Sustainable Putnam

Calling All (New York State) Teachers!

Teachers rule. I know because I retired from teaching earlier this year after 29 years in the classroom. There are few professions in which an individual is this responsible for the future of our society. So I also know that it’s hard to imagine asking a teacher to give any more, but I’m going to share an opportunity that’s not just about your students’ future. It’s about the future of our planet.

I’m asking you to sign a petition to demand that our retirement system, NYSTRS, “divest” itself from the fossil fuel industry. Essentially, that means we are demanding that over a period of a few years, NYSTRS sell those stocks and profitably reinvest the cash elsewhere. That’s essential for the retirement system’s solvency and for our planet. Here’s why.

Financials first. In February, NYSTRS had $4.5 billion (out of $123 billion) invested in fossil fuel stocks. At this writing, those stocks have lost about half their value. Overall, these investments will continue to lose value and eventually (but nobody knows when) become “stranded”, that is, worthless. As Europe, NY, California, and many other U.S. states quickly shift to renewable energy sources, demand for fossil fuels will continue to fall. The impact is already being felt as drilling operations and pipelines are being abandoned one after another. Oil and gas — not to mention coal — stock prices have been falling. That impacts the ability of NYSTRS to remain fully funded for your retirement.

Most importantly, divestment is an ecological no-brainer. Global warming is on track to hit an AVERAGE 2º temperature increase, enough to make the super storms and wildfires we’re seeing with a 1º increase seem like a walk in the park. If this occurs, life will be unlivable on many parts of the planet. Those victims will not stay put. Wars and mass migrations will escalate, resulting in mass death and utter chaos. NO ONE will be “OK” with these results. No one.

The only way to prevent this fate is to keep the remaining fossil fuels in the ground. The good news is that is achievable and affordable today, with existing knowledge and technologies. We simply need to compel our union, business, and government leaders to make it happen now, before it’s too late.

The climate crisis is upon us, with out-of-control wildfires, unprecedented hurricanes, and droughts causing crop destruction and mass migrations. We owe it to young people to create a sustainable future that offers more than mere survival. Let’s tell NYSTRS to stop funding climate destruction. Find out what you can do to help. And please help spread the word. Share this post with friends, teachers, and students that you know. Sign the petition. For more information, check out Divest NY Teachers.