Grantee & Partner News


April 10, 2014

Grantee News From One Million Bones:

One of the things that is most important to us in wrapping up One Million Bones is to be able to share with you and the over 150,000 people who participated in the project what the installation on the National Mall looked like. Your efforts, and those of your students, classmates, family members and friends, are what made One Million Bones possible. The 20 minute film that has been created, and that we are so happy to be able to share with you, is our way of honoring your work, your compassion, and your effort on behalf of peace and justice in the world.

Please watch it.  Please share it.  Please screen it for your classroom, friends and family. Above is a link to the trailer.  If you’re interested in making it a public event, we’re happy to provide whatever support we can so that you can do a community screening.  We have a press release template, and posters that you can print out.   If you’re doing a public screening, you can contact us to decide the best way to share the film with your audience. By sharing it widely, you can help us thank and honor everyone who participated and continue to raise awareness of the ongoing genocides and mass atrocities. We’re planning our Albuquerque screening for Sunday, May 4th. We suggest you schedule public screenings the same day, and school screenings on Monday, May 5th.  Of course, whenever you can screen it is fine, we’d just love to create a buzz! You can email us and let us know the best way for you to access the film, and how we can help.

We are so very grateful to Sarah Skibitzke-Donnell and Bryan Donnell who volunteered tirelessly for months leading up the installation to film around the country, and then spent more than a week filming with us on the National Mall. They have created a beautiful and meaningful film that captures both the project and the installation, and we thank them!

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Magnum Foundation announces 2014 Emergency Fund Grantees & Human Rights Fellows

March 26, 2014

Grantee News From Magnum Foundation:

The Magnum Foundation Emergency Fund (EF) awards grants to a diverse group of independent photographers who anticipate critical stories ahead of the media and seek to extend ongoing projects on underreported issues. We believe that powerful images and rigorous documentation can open minds, galvanize communities to action, and plant seeds for positive social change.

Our 2014 EF Grantees are:

Oscar B. Castillo
Our War, Our Pain, Venezuela
Qinggang Chen
Patients at Muli County, China
Edmond Clark
Unseen Spaces of the Global War on Terror, USA/Afghanistan
Carolyn Drake with Ashley Cleek
Invisible Bus, USA
Zann Huizhen Huang
Remember Shatila, Lebanon
Kai Löffelbein
Death Metals, Indonesia
Laura Morton
Wild West Tech, USA
Ed Ou
North, Canada
Alessandro Penso
Refugees in Bulgaria, Bulgaria
Christian Werner
Depleted Uranium – The Silent Genocide, Kosovo

2014 Human Rights Fellows

Fragile Minds: Inside an Iranian Mental Hospital, Tehran, Iran, 2012.
Abbas Hajimohammadisaniabadi

Magnum Foundation offers scholarships to photographers
from non-Western countries to support their participation in the six-week Photography and Human Rights Program.
Co-organized by MF and NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, this intensive program focuses students on strategies for creating effective visual storytelling that advances human rights in their home countries.

This year we received nearly 600 applications from across the globe and are excited to announce the following photographers will be joining us this summer:

Mohammed Elshamy,19, Egypt
Abbas Hajimohammadisaniabadi, 30, Iran
Yuyang Liu, 22, China
Loubna Mrie, 22, Syria
Pedro Silveira, 29, Brazil
Sumeja Tulic, 28, Bosnia & Herzegovina

New Partners & Initiatives
Call for Entries:
The Arab Documentary Photography Program

The Arab Fund for Arts & Culture (AFAC), in partnership with the Prince Claus Fund and the Magnum Foundation, is launching The Arab Documentary Photography Program, to support creative documentary photographers in the Arab region. A jurors’ committee comprised of Arab and international experts will select up to 10 grantees for financial and professional support to complete their proposed documentary photo-essay projects. Proposals are now being accepted. Click here to apply!

The Abigail Cohen Fellowship in
Documentary Photography

At a moment when the world is more engaged with China than ever before, ChinaFile and the Magnum Foundation are pleased to announce the Abigail Cohen Fellowship in documentary photography. We have joined together to provide grants to enable photographers to address pressing social issues that are impacting China and that have not received the attention they deserve. ChinaFile and the Magnum Foundation will offer two Fellowship grants each year to support the creation of new work. This year’s inaugural Fellows are Ian Teh, a Chinese-Malaysian photographer based in the UK and Tomoko Kikuchi, a Japanese photographer based in China.

Launched in February 2013, ChinaFile is a project of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at Asia Society. ChinaFile’s mission is to broaden its readers’ understanding of China and to spark new conversation about China’s place in the world.

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The Lexicon of Sustainability: Know Your Food Web Series Episodes

Grantee News From The Lexicon of Sustainability and PBS:

Watch these short films!! The Lexicon of Sustainability’s Know Your Food series introduces consumers to key terms and principles that can help them make more informed decisions about the food they eat. PBS Food will release a new episode every Thursday until June 19th.

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Announcing the premiere of our PBS short film “Economies of Community”

March 12, 2014

Grantee News From the Lexicon of Sustainability:


The Know Your Food short film series continues to premiere this season on PBS Food. One film will be released every Thursday until June 19, 2014. Click here to watch!

Please share with your network, and help us bring transparency to the food we eat.

With many thanks to our film series supporters including ITVS, PBS & KQED!

Use Your Words.

You are the Lexicon from lexicon of sustainability on Vimeo.

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The ballots are in! (Drumroll please)

March 4, 2014

Grantee News From: Real Food Media:

This year, you helped us launch a whole new kind of project: a grassroots truth-telling platform where people submitted more than 150 powerful short movies, sharing their stories about the good and bad of our food system, as part of our Real Food Media Contest.

And these past few weeks, people around the world (from more than 40 countries!) watched and voted on the top submitted films. Over 100,000 viewers have put the spotlight on a stunning range of food and farming stories, and now we’re announcing the winners.

Watch the top films and congratulate the winners by spreading these inspiring stories far and wide!

The winning films are diverse in style, perspective, and place, but they share common themes at the core: revival of pride in farming as a way of life, resilience of rural communities and cities growing food sustainably, and renewal of respect for the labor and natural resources at the heart of food production.

The powerful winning films are streaming online now on Will you watch and share their stories?

Seen through the lens of the filmmakers, these stories illustrate the deep connections between all of us to our food, farmers, beekeepers, seeds and soil. Thank you for being a part of launching this project with us! We look forward to sharing more stories and taking on more food myths with you.

Happy watching!
Anna and the Food MythBusters team

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Social Change and the Shadow Side of Passion

February 10, 2014

News From Stanford Social Innovation Review:

Major opportunities to change the world often lie within our biggest personal challenges.

It is now widely acknowledged that doing work that follows one’s passion leads to a sense of purpose, and increased satisfaction with career and life. This brings up two questions: First, how do we get to that place of alignment of passion and purpose, and second, how do we retain that passion day-in, day-out. These questions are especially important to those of us doing social innovation work, because it is often incredibly demanding (both personally and professionally) and financially under-valued.

But we’re making progress answering these questions. A wonderful study published in the winter 2014 issue of SSIR discussed the transformative potential of doing social innovation work from the inside out. Likewise, but in a different corner of the world, we collaborated with life coach Louisa Barnum to introduce something that resonated deeply with our students at the Amani Institute: the Wound-Gift Concept, which is the notion that a major opportunity lies within our biggest personal challenge.

Today, we are beset with calls to follow our passion. The Hedgehog Concept—a proverbial sweet spot where your passion, talents, and the market come together—is one example, but we obviously need to know what our passion is before we can create this convergence. That’s not easy for most people. To do it, we must look beyond “being passionate about something” and unravel passion, looking at it as an inner burning that generates both pleasure, and discomfort or pain. This is because passion often has a doppelganger, a shadow, a deep personal wound that we usually see as an obstacle—something to push away or overcome. One of the most widely shared New York Times articles in recent weeks has been Sam Polk’s confession of how the money addiction that drove him in his Wall Street career stemmed from inner wounds that he acquired during childhood. Brene Brown also partly explores this idea in her famous TED talk on vulnerability.

This interplay of meaning and shadow goes a lot deeper than the finding-your-passion stream of our modern narrative. At times, we cannot explore the potential of our passion because that inner burning is too hot. Perhaps you care deeply about poverty or climate change, but are paralyzed by the size of the problem. Maybe your passion lies in dancing or painting, but you don’t see how that could be financially viable or make a difference to society.

Thus, we learn to cover the glowing coals with the sand of daily life and carry on. Yet, when something or someone touches this wound, we are deeply moved; sometimes we even react with cynicism or rejection. Has this happened to you? These are signs to go and take a closer look. If you explore your reaction further, it could reveal your pathway to change the world.

For example, Jerry White, a leader in the International Campaign to Ban Landmines transformed a very literal, life-threatening wound into a gift for the world; instead of submitting to the trauma of stepping on a landmine at the age of 20, he joined his personal struggle with the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, which eventually won the Nobel Peace Price in 1997.

Martin (name changed), an aspiring leader in Ghana, has a seemingly lesser challenge: his height. Again and again, people discount his ability due to his physical stature. The issue seems so petty that he is quick to dismiss it himself but continues to struggle with it internally. What he didn’t know is that most CEOs are tall—regardless of gender or ethnicity. In working through his own responses to this vulnerable and oddly global challenge, he is becoming a leader and role model for all those facing similar biases in our societies.

Thus, the medicine you create for yourself while healing your wound can become a gift to the world. But how do you go about it? It starts with allowing and exploring vulnerability. Whether through therapy, life coaching, or mindful self-inquiry, this requires doing inner work. There is no way around it. Thinking or reading about it won’t get you there. And transforming your wound doesn’t mean letting your emotions rule you and your interactions with others. It means getting to know the wound and all that comes with it, and carefully crafting a way—your way—of dealing with it. Practicing mindfulness can help acquaint you with this shadow. Seeking the support of an empathetic mentor or friend as you step into vulnerability can be tremendously helpful too. Doing inner work here is not a single step but a process— and all the self-help books in the world won’t help if you don‘t actually take one step and then another one. Repeatedly. Slowly understanding how you acquired your wound and realizing its potential to become a gift helps make sense of your biography; it provides a sense of alignment and direction.

For Geraldine (co-author of this post), the wound is the accumulation of outside pressure to do great things and not “waste” her talent. This led to feeling paralyzed by the scope of the world’s problems. Her gift is that she knows the struggle to overcome these expectations and can support other people in navigating it. Doing this makes her feel most alive. And people—even complete strangers in a café or during a train ride—are drawn to her for it.

For Roshan (also co-author), the wound comes from feeling like a global citizen but, by virtue of his Indian passport, having fewer rights in the world than Americans or Europeans. It’s also feeling the injustice of those with even fewer rights than he has—citizens of Afghanistan or Sudan, for example. It takes a superhuman effort not to let the dumb luck of your birthplace dictate your destiny. Transcending the arbitrary walls and boundaries we put up, not so much in the world as in our own minds, is the journey of his life.

Both in our work and outside of it, we’ve seen that the gifts we’ve developed by repeatedly facing our wounds attract people who need exactly that medicine, even if their wound is quite different. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to change your profession once you find the “gift” that heals your wound—but finding it can help realign your life and work in a direction that’s more meaningful to you. Which is also what the world is asking of you.

Stanford Social Innovation Review

By Geraldine Hepp and Roshan Paul

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How went from “strange kid” to head of the green class

February 6, 2014

Grantee News From Grist and

May Boeve grew up in the ’90s, in a world where environmentalism was presented less as a social movement than as a personal lifestyle choice: buy a car that doesn’t use much gas, insulate your house, use energy-efficient lightbulbs, compost.

So when she was an undergraduate at Middlebury College, she and a group of friends set out to practice environmentalism differently, taking their cues from the social justice movements they were learning about in history class (civil rights) and seeing play out in the world around them (marriage equality).

“Clearly, a lot of people were concerned about climate change,” Boeve said in an interview earlier this year. “But it didn’t look like the movements we’d studied in school, with protests and songs and visual imagery and analyses of power and all these intricate things.”

May Boeve., May Boeve


Today, Boeve is the executive director of, an environmental organization that she and that same group of friends cofounded specifically to work on climate change. The group is cut from a different cloth than its more mature green-activist siblings; a recent survey of movement groups described it as “the slightly strange kid” of the green class.

Despite (or because of) its unorthodoxy, and working with a budget and staff a fraction of the size of those of major environmental organizations like the Sierra Club and the Environmental Defense Fund, has sparked two of the highest-profile environmental campaigns in recent history: the effort to stop the Keystone XL pipeline and the fossil fuel divestment movement. This Monday,, together with the Rainforest Action Network, the Sierra Club, Credo Mobile, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, organized hundreds of vigils across the country in protest of the State Department’s Environmental Impact Review of the Keystone XL pipeline.

How has the organization done it? Boeve talked with me recently about the origins of — and what they have to do with network theory, the internet, and not knowing entirely what you’re getting into.

Q. So you and a group of friends started organizing while you were in college. Did you plan to keep doing it after college, or did it just sort of happen?

A. We were a group of friends about to graduate from college who had been very active in the Campus Climate Challenge movement. We decided that we wanted to work together when we graduated. So we devised this plan where we were going to move someplace where there was a lot of coal on the verge of being mined and burned. We made a GIS map overlaying coal reserves, wind energy potential, universities — and microbreweries.

Q. Why microbreweries?

A. We thought it was a good proxy of a place that we would enjoy living.

Q. That’s a good matrix.

A. It’s a useful matrix for sure. We decided on Billings, Mont. We all agreed we were going to move there when we graduated in 2007.

At the same time, Bill McKibben, who we knew a little bit, organized this five-day walk across the state of Vermont, which had turned out to be a big event. So he asked us if we would be willing to help him organize a national version of this march, and that’s what Step It Up became. We shelved the Billings idea.

And then, after Step it Up, at the end of 2008, we really came together to form

Q. I feel like you were one of the first environmental organizations to really get social media. How much of the organizing you do is over the internet, and how is the way that you’ve done it changed since you started?

A. When we started, we organized by sitting down with our laptops at seven chairs and one folding table. We emailed everyone that we knew, which wasn’t a lot of people. Then we emailed everyone Bill McKibben knew, which was a whole lot of people. We asked if they would be interested in participating in a national Day of Action on climate that would call on Congress to cut carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050. The seed of what eventually became, was, if we could make all these connections from one place to the U.S., wouldn’t that also be possible around the world? So technology has been central to what we think about the possibility of our work from the beginning.

What’s interesting to me is as we’ve grown, we’ve done broad organizing, but we’ve also expanded how much deep organizing we do. Technology is important to both — whether you’re having a meeting to support an organization trying to get a divestment resolution passed in their community, or getting hundreds of thousands of comments to the State Department about Keystone. Digital technology can facilitate network-building, and is often followed up by the direct, “old-fashioned” technology of face-to-face meetings.

Q. And so by deep organizing, do you mean — if someone wants to do a campaign and they don’t have much experience, would do more work with them one-on-one, in how to organize?

A. Exactly. We organized a summit this June called Global Power Shift. Our goal was to bring together leaders we’d encountered around the world. There were workshops on campaigning, creative activism, online strategy. Every participant connected with a regional organizer who is on’s staff, and those regional organizers since that time have helped support training within their region.

Q. I was just talking to someone who was involved in the SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) and that sounds a lot like how that aspect of the civil rights movement was run. Or is that more of a standard model?

A. It’s a traditional mode of organizing, but it seems like more and more organizations are trying to make a networked approach, which relies less on central control and more interconnectedness among networks. So instead of us sending out a press release to all of the networks, they share it with each other.

We’re participants in something called the Network Innovation Lab, which is trying to gather lessons learned and effective models. The boundaries between people who are on staff and people who are not on staff are much more porous in a network. We have lots of local groups who have their own funding sources and are technically independent.

Q. I was talking to Marshall Ganz a few days ago and he was talking about developing a network plan like that several years ago for an environmental organization. The staff of the organization didn’t want to give up the control. And so the plan wound up not being used by the organization it was made for, but it was used years later as the structure for the Obama campaign.

A. It’s a really live question. We’re at a place where we could go forward with a more traditional chapter model. We’ve never had that before. And because all of this interesting work that is being done around networks and because of what we’re observing in our own community — there’s lots of benefits to a more informal peer network. But it’s a very live question.

Q. In organizing, are there any models that you look up to?

A. One group that I’m really a fan of is the National Domestic Workers Alliance. They’ve got a relatively small central staff but most of their power and strength lies in their network, which is mostly state-based affiliate groups. The groups in many cases were already active and then decided to affiliate with this national agency. The NDWA organize in the U.S., but they’re also part of an international network.

I often look at their website in terms of how they describe what is the NDWA. It’s staff. It’s affiliates. It’s partner organizations. It’s a new way of thinking certainly about a nonprofit organization and about how to do things internally.

We’ve been working within with a group called 350 Australia which started very soon after we did, in 2008. There’s an incredible organizer there named Blair Palese. She really liked the way we were campaigning and thought it could work in Australia, so she registered and started fundraising and has had a staff there for many years. They’re running a divestment campaign that is incredibly successful but they’re also their own independent entity. We’re often trying to figure out the best way to provide the kind of support they need from us while recognizing that in their independence they derive a lot of value.

So as we’re growing, and we have more and more incredible local leaders, the question of the relationship to our central team is one that’s incredibly interesting. For the moment we’re just experimenting — try different things, see what works, see what can be applied more broadly across the network.

Q. When you make a big shift — like to do direct action for Keystone — was that a decision made by the central group?

A. It was something we considered very thoroughly. Most especially with groups and networks that were doing work with tar sands already, like indigenous peoples, farmers and ranchers, and the Tar Sands Coalition. Before, we’d been relatively quiet on the topic of tar sands, but we thought this Keystone pipeline would be a very powerful way to galvanize the climate movement. It required a presidential permit. It was good timing to influence the president before the election took over every news story. There was all this existing campaigning and organizing happening.

So a lot of the early work was on that sphere and then thinking: “Who knows how to do this?” And thankfully there are a lot of people in the environmental movement who are great direct action organizers, some of whom now work with us. We pulled from a network of existing direct action trainers. A lot of them were with the Ruckus Society.

Something you may know already is that Tar Sands Action — the entity that put that on — we organized as a separate project.

Q. So Tar Sands Action didn’t exist before then? Does it exist now?

A. Not really. I characterize it more as a network. There were 1,250 people who were arrested during the two-week sit-ins. There was an incredible sense of identity connected to that — there will always be, to people who participated.

But subsequently began to do a lot of Keystone campaigning ourselves. And so that’s how that evolved. Now has a big Keystone campaign, and we continue to collaborate with many other organizations and networks.

Q. Why create a separate organization?

A. The main reason they were separate was for legal reasons. We had never organized something of this nature and there were legal considerations, so that was the rationale there.

Q. What’s the difference going from leading a student organization to leading a national one?

A. All the cofounders and a lot of the people who work on our team were part of this early wave of the youth climate movement — the Energy Action Coalition and the Campus Climate Challenge campaign, which was about getting our colleges and universities to commit to strong sustainability principles.

It was incredibly exciting. I can’t underscore enough how it felt. The late-night meetings and actions and strategy sessions with my friends — it was incredibly exciting. The work is still meaningful, but for an entirely different group of reasons. Because now we’re influenced by a wider range of ideas — including what our base is interested in.

Which is, in many cases, fossil fuel infrastructure projects in their backyards, from India to Vietnam to California. And as the fossil fuel industry continues to find new resources to exploit, the battle only gets bigger. More and more people are finding themselves a part of this movement because there’s a pipeline running through their backyard. People are being sucked into this, and that influences our work a lot. And so does working with other organizations for whom climate change is not a top priority, but who see it as an incredibly important issue.

A lot of my thinking has been influenced by work in the New Economy. Thinking about an economy that does not exploit workers and does not exploit natural resources. One that’s actually a restorative economy, where people are … happier. Not to be cheesy. But, there’s a lot of interesting work being done by the New Economics Coalition and the Institute for Policy Studies to try to take some of the best examples of the state and local and national policies that put workers and the environment first.

There’s more and more — the face of environmentalism is changing, as some people have said. And it’s increasingly not environmental organizations but people who are trying to enact climate solutions where they live. We’re living in a particular moment where a lot of people are dissatisfied. There are austerity measures in Europe and mass unemployment all over the place and that’s very connected to what happened in the Arab Spring. We see all this stuff as connected. It’s because of and it helps explain why we work in a network.

Q. And in the lessons learned department? What do you know now, that you didn’t know then?

A. The fight’s much bigger. The allies are much bigger. One of the toughest lessons has been that, despite how urgent the issue is and despite knowing the scientific relationship between how many more carbon emissions are being put in the air now and how severe the impacts will be in the future, it’s really really difficult to get the kind of sweeping action we need in the near term, no matter how much we pour into absolutely everything we do. It’s been hard to recognize that here we are, the year before 2015, the year that we’ve been believing for years that emissions have to peak.

We want to be continually more ambitious — that’s why campaigns like divestment are so important. But it’s difficult to see what’s happening in Congress and see what’s happening with politics and know about how far off we are from an international agreement.

That wasn’t something I really understood when we were getting started. Which I think was a blessing. I really tried things that I don’t know that I would try now, necessarily.

But I’m fundamentally an optimist. Now there’s widespread agreement about combating the fossil fuel industry all over the world. There’s not a whole lot of difference of opinion about whether to do that.

There’s a whole lot of difference of opinion about strategy, but with that all understood, all we have to do is figure out how to make that happen on the best timeline we can. Not in an arrogant “we figured it out” way but “the only limitations we have are our own imaginations.” And what we’re capable of.


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Keystone XL has a Job for You!

February 5, 2014

Grantee News From Movement Generation:


Today (February 5, 2014) is the opening day of the State Department’s new public comment period on Keystone XL. For us here at Movement Generation — this video is our public comment.

Combining environmental justice politics with hilarious satire straight out of the Daily Show, ‘Keystone XL Has a Job for You!’ is the first comedic video released by MG. Written by and starring Josh Healey (MG Culture Shift Fellow) and Donte Clark (of RAW Talent), the video is a comedic twist on one of today’s most serious environmental issues — the Keystone XL pipeline and tar sands oil development.

The video dismantles the false division between a strong economy and a clean environment. The oil industry claims that the Keystone XL pipeline would create thousands of jobs. But in a project fueling so many environmental and health risks, what types of jobs would it really create? “Keystone XL has a Job for You!” answers that question through brilliant, outrageous satire.

And the video doesn’t just confront the problem — it also offers solutions. In real life, four of the actors represent unions and community organizations that are creating quality jobs and building alternatives to the extreme energy industry. These groups are building resistance and resilience in Richmond, CA and beyond. In addition, MG is using the video to amplify the Our Power Campaign, a national grassroots effort to create millions of climate jobs – jobs that meet people’s needs while caring for natural resources and ecosystems.



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Foundations Band Together to Get Rid of Fossil-Fuel Investments

January 30, 2014

News From The New York Times:

Ellen Dorsey of the Wallace Global Fund, which is coordinating foundations’ efforts to sell off coal, oil and gas production stocks.

Seventeen foundations controlling nearly $1.8 billion in investments have united to commit to pulling their money out of companies that do business in fossil fuels, the group plans to announce on Thursday.

The move is a victory for a developing divestiture campaign that has found success largely among small colleges and environmentally conscious cities, but has not yet won over the wealthiest institutions like Harvard, Brown and Swarthmore.

But the participation of the foundations, including the Russell Family Foundation, the Educational Foundation of America and the John Merck Fund, is the largest commitment to the effort, and stems in part from a push among philanthropies to bring their investing in line with their missions.

“At a minimum, our grants should not be undercut by our investments,” said Ellen Dorsey, executive director of the Wallace Global Fund, which is practically divested of fossil fuels already and is coordinating the effort among foundations. “If you owned fossil fuels in your investment portfolio, it became increasingly clear to foundations that they own climate change, and they’re potentially profiting from those investments,” at the same time as they make grants to fight the issue.

She said she expected several larger foundations to commit to the effort, which includes moving investments to renewable energy or other sustainability ventures, in the coming months.

Among the largest in the current group is the Park Foundation, with a portfolio worth roughly $335 million, and the Schmidt Family Foundation, with about $304 million, co-founded by Google’s executive chairman, Eric E. Schmidt.

The divestiture campaign is modeled on earlier efforts aimed at ending apartheid in South Africa and ceasing to support tobacco companies. Many groups are involved, but the movement has largely been escalated by a grass-roots organization,, whose name refers to 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which some scientists say is the maximum safe level, a threshold already exceeded.

In addition to the foundations, 22 cities, two counties, 20 religious organizations, nine colleges and universities and six other institutions had signed up to rid themselves of investments in fossil fuel companies, frequently defined as the top 200 coal-, oil- and gas-producing companies identified in a report from the Carbon Tracker Initiative based in London.

The campaign’s expansion comes as institutions like public pension funds are changing their investment strategies to reflect a calculation of the so-called carbon bubble. That idea holds that most of the coal, oil and gas reserves owned by fossil fuel-based companies cannot be burned without dire climate consequences, meaning that the value of those companies will plummet once governments start strictly limiting emissions.

Some pension funds, like those of California and New York, are looking to pressure conventional energy companies to address the risks of climate change. But in some cities, like San Francisco and Boulder, Colo., officials are urging their pension funds to divest themselves of the investments.

Bill McKibben, president and co-founder of, said he had been encouraged by the spread of the argument “that fossil fuel companies as they’re currently incarnated are essentially rogue companies, that they have in their reserves far more carbon than any scientist thinks it’s safe to burn.”

Divestment advocates have run up against opposition from some of the major academic institutions, which argue that the move would have little practical effect on the activities of fossil fuel companies and that institutions would be better positioned to press for change through their roles as shareholders. Endowment officials have also said that their primary purpose is to maximize returns.

“Universities own a very small fraction of the market capitalization of fossil fuel companies,” Drew Faust, Harvard’s president wrote in a statement in October of the university’s decision not to sell. “If we and others were to sell our shares, those shares would no doubt find other willing buyers. Divestment is likely to have negligible financial impact on the affected companies. And such a strategy would diminish the influence or voice we might have with this industry.”

But the foundation executives, whose organizations are at different stages of examining and shifting their investments, said they were convinced that the more compelling action was to take their money away.

Olivia Farr, chairwoman of the John Merck Fund, said there had been concern about financial performance among some board members at first. “But that was pretty quickly alleviated as we got excited about some of the new investments we were making,” she said, adding that the fund, which is about 97 percent divested of fossil fuel, was up roughly 20 percent last year.

Executives said they had become convinced that the move made economic sense.

“Freeing up resources through the divestment allows us to concentrate on the renewables future,” said Richard Woo, chief executive of the Russell Family Foundation, “and to really see the marketplace as a platform for this kind of change.”




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Fixing old water and gas pipelines would create far more jobs than building Keystone XL

January 29, 2014

Grantee News From Grist:

In the coming months, President Obama will decide whether to approve the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport crude tar-sands oil from Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico. We know that the pipeline would greatly aggravate climate change, allowing massive amounts of the world’s dirtiest oil to be extracted and later burned.

The payoff, say supporters such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, is a job boom in construction industries, which are currently suffering from high unemployment. Earlier this month, Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Donohue called on the president “to put American jobs before special interest politics.”

If you believe headline-grabbing challenges such as Donohue’s, the president is painted into a corner on the KXL pipeline — trapped by a stagnant economy and an ailing environment.

The president knows KXL’s jobs promises are way overblown. In July, he explained it this way to The New York Times: “Republicans have said this would be a big jobs generator. There is no evidence that is true.” The most realistic estimates, said the president, show that KXL “might create maybe 2,000 jobs during the construction of the pipeline, which might take a year or two.” And after that, “we’re talking about somewhere between 50 and 100 jobs in an economy of 150 million working people.”

Still, even a few thousand construction jobs can’t be dismissed out of hand, in an industry where nearly a million people are estimated to be out of work. Those jobs would put food on the table and pay mortgages. They would alleviate a lot of pain, even if only temporarily. As a country, we’re still hungry for jobs. It seems as if we’re collectively out on the street and KXL is the only offer that has come along.

But that’s not actually the case.

According to “The Keystone Pipeline Debate: An Alternative Job Creation Strategy,” a study just released by Economics for Equity and Environment and the Labor Network for Sustainability, targeted investments in our existing water and natural-gas pipeline infrastructure needs along the proposed five-state corridor of the KXL pipeline would create many more long-term jobs than Keystone XL, both in absolute terms and per unit of investment.  More>

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