Rockefellers Join $50B Divestment from Fossil Fuels
At a press conference today in New York City on the heels of yesterday's massive People's Climate March, the international Invest-Divest coalition announced commitments for more than $50 billion in assets that will be divested from fossil fuels and moved into clean energy to address climate change. They include scores of foundations, faith groups, health organizations and major NGOs from around the world as well as wealthy private individuals. More than 800 global investors have now committed to divest their holding in fossil fuels.
The press conference was moderated by Ellen Dorsey, the executive director of Wallace Global Fund, whose mission is to direct its money to further environmental protection. Participants included Stephen Heinz, president of the Rockfeller Brothers Fund; Agnes Aboum, principal at the World Council of Churches; David Blood, co-founder of Generation Investment, and actor Mark Ruffalo, as well as Archbishop Desmond Tutu by video.
"Climate change is the human rights challenge of our time. We can no longer continue feeding our addiction to fossil fuels as if there is no tomorrow, for there will be no tomorrow," said Archbishop Tutu, a leading advocate of the divestment movement. He called for a freeze on all new fossil fuel exploration as the companies cannot safely burn 75 percent of known reserves.
These divestment commitments will be presented to the world leaders, including President Obama, at the UN Climate Summit tomorrow as evidence of the growing pressure to "move beyond the fossil fuel era," as Archbishop Tutu puts it.
"John D. Rockefeller, the founder of Standard Oil, moved America out of whale oil and into petroleum," explained Stephen Heintz, president of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. "We are quite convinced that if he were alive today, as an astute businessman looking out to the future, he would be moving out of fossil fuels and investing in clean, renewable energy."
"We encourage heads of state meeting at the United Nations to join with all people to take decisive steps to reverse climate change," said Dr. Agnes Abuom, moderator of the World Council of Church's Central Committee. "Let us move together to rebuild, restore and reclaim a life-giving and life-empowering world where all live in dignity, peace and justice."
The Divest-Invest coalition just formed in January, but the number of commitments it's already gotten illustrates the urgency about saving the environment felt by wealthy investors and organizations as well as the now reported 400,000 grassroots groups and ordinary citizens who attended yesterday's march.
This morning Scott Wallace, co-chair of the Wallace Global Fund, which has coordinated the Divest-Invest effort, was on Democracy Now! He is the grandson of Henry Wallace, who served as Franklin D. Roosevelt’s vice president and ran for president in 1948 on the Progressive Party ticket. Watch the interview below:
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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