By Ellen Friedman, Compton Foundation
Climate change received top billing at an unlikely venue last month, the 2016 Academy Awards. Accepting his first Oscar after six nominations, Leonardo DiCaprio used the moment to deliver a wake-up call for climate action:
Making 'The Revenant' was about man's relationship to the natural world, a world that we collectively felt in 2015 as the hottest year in recorded history. Our production needed to move to the southern tip of this planet just to find snow. Climate change is real, it's happening right now. It is the most urgent threat facing our entire species.
.@LeoDiCaprio doesn't just talk about climate change — he's really trying to save the planet https://t.co/WepnUYAZmD https://t.co/DU7ZBJzm9e— Climate Reality (@Climate Reality)1457392320.0
Last year, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation joined the Compton Foundation, along with 500 other institutions and 50,000 individuals, in a global pledge to move their money out of planet-heating fossil fuels. This global “divestment" movement draws on a core innovation of the anti-Apartheid era, when American universities and nonprofit organizations pulled their investments out of companies doing business with the Apartheid government that treated blacks as inferior to whites. That campaign was later credited by Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu as pivotal to the downfall of Apartheid.
The fossil fuel divestment and clean energy reinvestment movement follows this proud tradition. In less than five years, it has united a diverse and global coalition, moving capital away from the industries that produce climate change and into industries that promote climate resilience and clean energy. Today, faith groups, universities, pension funds, sovereign wealth funds, global insurance companies, people, cities, and health organizations—controlling over $3.5 trillion in assets—are divesting from the past and investing in the future.
Leonardo DiCaprio Pledges to Divest From Fossil Fuels as Movement Grows 50-Fold in One Year http://t.co/JQGypq0zkk @GoFossilFree @350Mass— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1443042631.0
Our common cause is rooted in the belief that our investments must not undercut a future for our children: It is immoral to invest in companies whose current business model is predicated on destroying our only home. It is also bad business. With coal stocks in terminal decline and oil teetering between $30 and $50 a barrel, the forecast for fossil fuel investments is bleak and volatile. Committing to do what is right has never been so easy.
The Divest-Invest movement is the most potent climate campaign of all time. Its power derives from its democracy and its hope: Everyone has something to divest, or is part of an institution he or she can pressure to divest. Students succeeded in moving both Stanford and the University of California system to divest from coal; workers looking after the value of their pensions were integral to the success of California legislation SB 185 requiring the California public pension funds to divest.
Reinvestment in a clean, just and renewable energy future is just as important—it is the solution to the problem. That is why members of Divest-Invest commit to investing part of our portfolios into the climate solutions needed to put humanity back on course. With this investment comes enormous opportunity, to not only align investments with values but to profit from the growth industries of the future. Our members report their financial performance is only improving, as renewable energies are increasingly cheap and fossil fuels are increasingly costly.
The Paris agreement ratified in December 2015 gave the world a new mandate to pursue climate mitigation with all deliberate speed. Enshrining a target of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the agreement recognizes that the world must be almost entirely carbon-free by 2050. Governments cannot go it alone. Businesses, civil society and individuals must rally together to accelerate the transition already underway.
“Let us not take this planet for granted," DiCaprio said in closing his Oscar speech. Each of us can heed his call by joining the global movement to divest and invest.
Ellen Friedman is the executive director of the Compton Foundation, a San Francisco-based philanthropy focused on the intersection of human rights and the arts. Compton was a founding member of Divest-Invest Philanthropy, the foundation arm of a global movement spanning universities, pension funds, faith groups, health organizations, sovereign wealth funds, insurers, individuals and more.
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By Sarah Steffen
A stretch of coastline in the Philippine capital, Manila has received backlash from environmentalists. The heavily polluted Manila Bay area, which had been slated for cleanup, has become the site of a controversial 500-meter (1,600-foot) stretch of white sand beach.
Sand Makeup Crucial for Ecosystems<p>While UNEP/GRID-Geneva generally supports finding <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/not-enough-sand-for-construction-industry-despite-abundance/a-49342942" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">alternative sources of sand</a> so as not to disrupt ecosystems in rivers and oceans when extracting them, Vander Velpen stressed it was vital to use sand which closely matches the makeup of the native sand to protect beach fauna.</p><p>"If you change the core characteristics of the native sand, the original sand, you need to do an environmental impact assessment (EIA) to find out how it's going to impact the ecosystem and nearby ecosystems," he told DW.</p><p>But according to Torres, such an assessment was not done in Manila.</p>
Beautification Stunt Instead of Proper Cleanup?<p>Manila Bay's waters are heavily polluted by oil and trash from nearby residential areas and ports. A huge "No swimming" sign warns visitors to stay away from the ocean.</p><p>Philippines' <a href="https://denr.gov.ph/index.php/priority-programs/manila-bay-clean-up/25-priority-programs/1825-frequently-ask-questions-faqs-on-the-dolomite-and-the-beach-nourishment-project" target="_blank">Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)</a> has denied dolomite sand poses any risk to human health and the ecosystem.</p><p>However, scientists of the University of the Philippines have come forward disputing the DENR's claims. A <a href="https://biology.science.upd.edu.ph/index.php/ib-statement-regarding-dolomite-in-manila-bay/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">statement by the Institute of Biology</a> said that using crushed dolomite did not address any of the rehabilitation phases and instead was "even more detrimental to the existing biodiversity as well as the communities in the area," pointing to the case of water birds. "The dumping of dolomite in Manila Bay has effectively covered part of the intertidal area used by the birds thereby reducing their habitat."</p><p>At peak migration season, Manila Bay is home to 90 aquatic bird species, including species of international conservation concern that are facing a very high extinction risk in the wild. </p><p>Authorities should focus on protecting and conserving biodiversity, the Institute of Biology added. "Rehabilitating mangroves is an example of a nature-based solution that is cheaper and more cost-effective than the dolomite dumping project," the scientists said.</p><p>Moreover, <a href="http://www.msi.upd.edu.ph/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the Marine Science Institute</a> has warned that prolonged inhalation of finer dust particles of dolomite could "cause chronic health effects," leading to discomfort in the chest, shortness of breath and coughing.</p><p>They also warned dolomite sand grains would erode during storms and be carried out to sea, essentially being washed away.</p>
Rehabilitation vs. Reclamation<p>Environmentalists say covering up the beach doesn't address the real issues of the bay. Torres and others believe the best way to clean up Manila Bay is not to add anything, but rather remove trash and pollution.</p><p>"There have been studies saying much of the waste comes from already collected waste — so these are open dump sites along the coast that get washed up because of the rain," Torres said.</p><p>She criticized the authorities for continuing to push reclamation projects she says are at odds with each other. These projects will affect large areas of mangrove forests, she said, and experts warn that this, in turn, exacerbates coastal erosion.</p><p>"If you've removed the areas that helped trap the sand, like mangrove forests, then the likelihood increases that you will have to nourish a beach. Same as building right up to the waterfront," said Vander Velpen of UNEP/GRID-Geneva.</p>
Plenty of Sand in the Sea?<p>The question of Manila's contentious white beach echoes larger questions about sand mining worldwide. <a href="https://unepgrid.ch/storage/app/media/documents/Sand_and_sustainability_UNEP_2019.pdf" target="_blank">Global sand consumption has tripled</a> over the past two decades, UNEP/GRID-Geneva has found. A huge chunk of it is now taken up by construction.</p><p>"Many operate on the assumption that natural sand is endless in its supply," said Vander Velpen.</p><p>Sand scarcity is a concern shared by Stefan Schimmels of <a href="https://www.fzk.uni-hannover.de/fzk_start.html?&L=1" target="_blank">Forschungszentrum Küste</a> who's done extensive research on shore nourishment to stop coastal erosion. And as climate change and rising sea levels are threatening coasts, demand for sand will grow even more.</p><p>A large study, the <a href="http://www.stencil-project.de/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/STENCIL_SWOT_Analyse_191026.pdf" target="_blank">Strategies and Tools for Environment-Friendly Shore Nourishments as Climate Change Impact Low-Regret Measures (STENCIL project)</a>, focused on the German island of Sylt, a popular vacation spot.</p><p>About 1 million cubic meter of sand per year is used to maintain the coastal area of Sylt, STENCIL project head Schimmels said. That's about 100 million 10-liter buckets of sand.</p><p>When sand was extracted off the coast of Sylt, underwater craters were formed. "You can still detect these craters even decades later," Schimmels told DW.</p><p>"Also when you add a couple of meters sand onto the beach — you essentially bury all things that do creep and fly," he said. "How quickly will they recover?" Schimmels said more research was needed as there was still too little known about long-term effects on the environment. </p>
Criticism Piling Up<p>As for Manila's artificial white sand, it looks like some might have already been blown away by a recent storm. DENR claims it wasn't washed away, but said that grayish sand, stones and other material had simply piled up over the dolomite sand. People in Manila have tweeted photos showing how the storm has ravaged the beach. </p>
<div id="adc0b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="98f9390db6bb81cb421aaf0bb9d9a6fb"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1318816633280851969" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Exactly one month after giving excited netizen a glimpse of Manila Bay white sands, look what happened now after ju… https://t.co/X0Z9i0bPB0</div> — M*A*S*H (@M*A*S*H)<a href="https://twitter.com/Magtira_Matibay/statuses/1318816633280851969">1603265362.0</a></blockquote></div><p>Authorities have been called tone-deaf for spending around 389 million pesos ($8 million) on a beach nourishment project in the middle of a raging pandemic.</p><p>An image of cake iced with the words "It really hurts - that's [worth] 389 million pesos?" has since gone viral.</p>
<div class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4387aad52ea316e4db7330052318ca2f"><div class="fb-post" data-href="https://www.facebook.com/theweekendpatisserie/posts/144564207350008"></div></div><p>"It's just a waste of precious resources," Torres said. </p><p>The environmental activist now also worries that she might be labeled a terrorist for speaking out under the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/philippine-anti-terrorism-law-triggers-fear-of-massive-rights-abuses/a-53732140" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Philippines' controversial new anti-terrorism law</a>. She says she could be arrested for inciting fear when talking about environmental dangers.</p>
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