University climate activists fight for fossil fuel divestment


An overview of New York’s newest guaranteed income program, and more.

University climate activists fight for fossil fuel divestment

Students from Yale, Princeton, Stanford, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Vanderbilt have filed legal complaints against their universities for what they say are illegal investments in fossil fuels.

The plaintiffs argue that the Uniform Prudent Management of Institutional Funds Act requires universities to invest their resources in “socially beneficial purposes,” and that this conflicts with the school’s current investments, the Washington Post said.

“It’s crazy,” Molly Weiner, organizer of the Yale Endowment Justice Coalition, told The Post. “I study environmental politics here, but my school is contributing to the climate crisis.” Last June, Yale announced a list of companies that would no longer be eligible for investment, and MIT has reduced its fossil fuel investments over the past 15 years.

Town governments have also pledged to divest in the name of fighting climate change. In December, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu sign an order requiring the city to divest from the fossil fuel, tobacco, and private prison industries by the end of 2025.

Steven Bloom, assistant vice president for government relations at the American Council on Education, doesn’t think the students’ legal complaint will go far, however: “It seems like a stretch, if you look at the law itself, that they have failed to act in accordance with their legal requirements.

Editor’s note: Next City is hosting a roundtable on February 23 to talk about climate change, clean energy, cities’ progress on environmental justice and more. Details here.

New York artists can apply for the Guaranteed Income Program

Creatives Rebuild New York, the state’s new guaranteed income program, will provide financial support to local artists, according to The New York Times reports.

Sponsored by the Mellon Foundation, the $125 million initiative is two-pronged; up to 2,400 artists will receive $1,000 per month for 18 months, and 300 creatives will be employed in a community organization or municipality for a salary of $65,000.

This support is important because Americans for the Arts research found that 63% of artists were unemployed at the height of the pandemic. The nonprofit arts industry has suffered a financial loss of nearly $18 billion, and while job losses have rebounded, employment rates are still below pre-pandemic levels.

“As we continue to envision and work for our post-pandemic reality, it is essential that we do not neglect the working artists whose work is an essential part of our economy and whose continued work sustains us,” said the president of the Mellon Foundation, Elizabeth Alexander.

New York is not the first to support artists who have struggled during the pandemic. Next City previously reported on a similar scheme in St. Paul which launched in April last year. And the San Francisco organizers 18 month projecthope to extend aid beyond 2023.

Applications for the New York program are open until March 25. Learn more about the guaranteed income programs Next City follows here.

Appeals and progress on reparations in three cities

Locals and students living near the University of Chicago are requiring the institution provides more than $70 million annually to promote affordable housing and education programs in Chicago’s Southside neighborhood.

Activists point to the university’s past support for restrictive regulations — a rule requiring residents to agree not to sell to people of color — as evidence of its contribution to gentrification. And while a university spokesperson pointed to free college-prep programs and millions spent on purchases from local businesses as proof of their commitment, residents believe UChicago’s help to the community does not exceed their costs.

” Most people [living near campus] won’t go to this school, so the inherent public good of school is never felt by people,” said Dixon Romeo, a South Shore resident and member of Not Me We.

Elsewhere, Asheville, North Carolina, interviews candidates for its Reparations Commission, ABC13 News reportsAnd Evanston, Illinois, which already spear a reparations program, announced the first cohort of recipients to receive $25,000. The money should be used for a down payment on the house, paying a mortgage, or home repairs.

Ramona Burton, one of the 16 recipients, said, “I just hope everyone who signed up eventually gets selected and I hope it can be expanded to more and more cities in the United States.”

Solcyre (Sol) Burga was an Emma Bowen Foundation Fellow with Next City for the summer of 2021. Burga is completing her degree in political science and journalism at Rutgers University, intending to graduate in May 2022. As a Newark native and immigrant, she hopes to elevate the voices of underrepresented communities in her work.

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