Building Political Power

Written by: Fiona Gettinger, Fiona is a Sophmore at the Univerisity of New Hampshire majoring in Environmental Conservation Studies, she is also a campus coordinator with the Greenpeace Student Network and the President of the Student Environmental Action Coalition. This post was originally published as an Op-Ed in the "The New Hampshire"

Charles Dickens once described a future of contradictions, writing that, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us...” More than any other era, that time is now. We are off balance at a precipice of inevitable change; we have an ever expanding technological horizon, rapidly diminishing natural resources, an out of control global population and a planet at capacity.

Two months ago, five UNH students met with some of the most senior level administrators of our university to discuss the possibility of divesting the endowment from fossil fuel corporations, and reinvesting in socially and environmentally responsible companies. As we found out, investments are actually made by an external company, Prime Buchholz, and major decisions go through the Foundation’s Board of Directors, and the Investment and Finance Committee. They declined to provide a position or opinion on divestment at the time, however, last week the Student Environmental Action Coalition received the official statement of the UNH Foundation regarding its stance on divestment from fossil fuel companies.

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Election season is over, and organizers are finally seeing some blank spaces on their calendars. Even beyond the presidential race, the climate movement has made some real progress. Going forward, how can we convert our momentum into meaningful change? This is a great forum to generate new ideas, and I've got some thoughts to get us started.

First, let's look at where we stand now. As a group, young voters reasserted our power in this election. Despite some predictions, youth turnout was even higher than in 2008, swinging at least eighty electoral votes . Meanwhile, several states chose climate-friendly congresspeople over their anti-environmental opponents.

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Welcome back to the Week in Green Politics, where I know that most of you are sick of politics by now. So I'll keep it quick.

Obviously the most timely issue in the climate world is Hurricane Sandy. If you're on the East Coast, I hope you're staying safe.

From a political point of view, one pressing question is whether the candidates will mention climate change in the context of extreme weather. And that brings us to our first headline:

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As I stood ankle-deep in sea water on the corner of 10th and Alton Street, one of the busiest intersections in Miami Beach, I wondered what else it was going to take to get our candidates to recognize the urgency of climate change. When we say its the most important issue of our generation, we’re not kidding. Because of sea-level rise, Florida is already experiencing the effects on climate change in our coastal cities. Check out the new study done by the Union of Concerned Scientists with all the details here.

Together with Climate Parents, Union of Concerned Scientists, the CLEO Institute, and Urban Paradise Guild, we came together on Thursday to call on President Obama and Governor Romney to be leaders on climate change. We can no longer deny its existence or ignore it for the sake of political gain. We must take action now. Take a look at the video above, and spread the word.

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Last Thursday, October 11th, students from Florida International University made their way over to one of President Obama’s many campaign stops in Florida. The mission: shake the President’s hand, while asking him to support real clean energy solutions, and break the silence on climate change.

It was a tall order. Not only were there about 10,000 other people also trying to get into the campaign event, but trying to bird-dog the President was a mission in itself.

After waiting in line for nearly three hours under the blazing South Florida sun, student leaders Alexandra Colby and Javier Zapata were finally able to get through the airport-tight security and make it inside the Bank United Center, where they were determined to get close to Obama, who has been campaigning heavily in Florida over the past few months. By the time we got in, the event was nearly over, and we were ushered into a small room where the President would be greeting constituents right after his speech.

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