Since its inception in the fall of 2012, Bowdoin Climate Action (BCA) has been dedicated to pursuing the goal of climate justice, on our campus and beyond. Thus far, our endeavor to further that goal has largely manifested in the form of a campaign to divest the College’s endowment from the top 200 oil and gas companies. Although our mantra has always been “divestment is the tactic, climate justice is the goal,” BCA has over the years become synonymous with the divestment movement. Our overarching goal has always been climate justice, and the current political moment requires a change. We are proud of the campaign we’ve run, but for now, it is time to shift the tactic.
If the most recent election cycle has taught progressives anything, it is that looking ahead there must be a sharpened focus on state and local politics. The federal government, for the foreseeable future, is no longer a viable avenue for advancing a progressive agenda. However, the grave threat of a climate crisis looms on, immaterial of who roams the Oval Office. BCA sees Maine’s impending gubernatorial, senate and state legislature elections in 2018 as a ripe opportunity to further our ultimate goal of climate justice. We can be instrumental in making climate change one of the top priorities for the Maine public and politicians alike in this coming election cycle.
Climate justice is about people, not endangered polar bears and melting ice caps. It operates in the intersection of the racial, social and economic inequalities perpetuated by climate change. This moral crisis, caused by the disproportionate effects of climate change, necessitates bold action. As Ben Bristol noted in his piece last week, the economic and social roots of climate change in our society are firm and deep. No amount of recycling can extricate us from this crisis; it is only through institutional change and grassroots organizing that meaningful climate action can occur. As students and young people, we are a rare breed in a state with the oldest population in the union. We hold a unique position and carry a powerful voice. Imagine a Maine where no politician could run a viable campaign without embracing a viable climate platform. Imagine a Maine economy and energy grid powered by renewables. Imagine a Maine that ensures the health and protection of the Penobscot River, a body of water integral to the culture of Penobscot Indians. This is the future we are fighting for. This is the future which BCA believes we can achieve if the vociferous voices of students are raised ardently and in unity. This is our vision of climate justice.
Our Bowdoin educations not only provide us with the tools to enter the realm of Maine climate politics, but also the frame to understand why it is imperative we do so. In my Gulf of Maine Oceanography class last spring, I learned that the Gulf of Maine is warming faster than 99.9 percent of all ocean waters—this warming will have a devastating economic effect on the lives who depend on it. Our government department just recently hosted two Maine state representatives, including Speaker of the House Sara Gideon (D-Freeport), who spoke to the gridlock that prevented her from passing a sensible net metering bill, which would increase incentive for people to install solar energy. As an institution, Bowdoin preaches a commitment to the common good and a connection to place. What better way to connect these aspects of our education than to join students around the country in leading the way towards climate justice? We have a unique opportunity to delve into our relationship to the state we live in and challenge the political structures that have the power to confront the climate crisis head on and move towards a more just and equitable economy.
We realize the ambitious nature of this new plan. Achieving our goal of elevating climate in political discourse and voting in climate leaders in Maine’s 2018 elections will require a thunderous chorus of young voices. So if you share our vision for the future of climate justice in Maine, join us next fall. We need every voice we can get.
Isabella McCann ’19 is a co-leader of Bowdoin Climate Action.
Editor’s Note, April 15th, 12:00 pm: this article appeared in print and earlier online with the headline “BCA ends divestment campaign.”